In Hulu’s latest original television show, The Handmaid’s Tale, a theocratic regime has risen in place of the American government we know in a not-too-distant future. Some women can no longer have children. Some women can and are made to serve those powerful but barren couples as surrogates. There is a strict and gendered system of living, a return to “the old ways,” the Bible is used as law and boy, it’s pretty fuckin’ bleak.
It’s not tough to see the parallels between America in 2017 and Gilead, the fictional new country in The Handmaid’s Tale. In both worlds, there is a constant war on women’s bodies. While women in America still (luckily) have access to birth control and abortions, this is an impossibility in Gilead. While American politicians in various states attempt to take away the rights women have to control their own bodies — be it over health care, birth control, sexual intercourse or even how we dress — in Gilead, male politicians control it all. There’s no room to be LGBTQ in Gilead, nor is there room to be politically subversive, push against binary gender norms or even choose your place in the world.
If we’re going to contemplate how prescient The Handmaid’s Tale is, then I think it’s only beneficial that we talk about how you should resist in a time like this. Seeing as I’m a woman and women are constantly caught in the crosshairs in The Handmaid’s Tale, here’s how I would resist.
Access information as best as possible
Knowledge is power. Power is freedom. If I were living in the oppressive state of Gilead, especially as a handmaid, I would do whatever I could to get the news of the day. It would be of the utmost importance to keep access to books, television and even others who might be connected to free communities outside Gilead. It’s not easy, but when the state attempts to control you, it’s crucial to stay as woke and connected to reason as possible. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred (the protagonist) is alerted to the existence of a growing rebellion in Gilead. She is aware of a spy network and she slowly aligns herself with them. She finds a way to access the library of her owner, The Commander, in order to keep her mind sharp.
Don’t let them break you
As a woman, I feel like my mental and emotional strength would be the first to go. Watching The Handmaid’s Tale, you see how quickly government enforcers, like Aunt Lydia, ingrain into the handmaids’ heads what is wrong with them, why this is happening to them, what they can do to be better. Resistance looks like strength.
Tear down the institution from the inside
In the life of a handmaid in a place like Gilead, keeping your enemy closer is absolutely a good way to resist. If the opportunity to take down your oppressor presents itself as a path of covert resistance, you can take it. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred is offered the opportunity to get closer to her oppressor, namely The Commander. Invited to play secret Scrabble games, Offred is given the opportunity to gain The Commander’s confidence and trust without having to lift a finger. While it’s implied this new layer in their relationship will become beneficial later on, seeing that she has found a way to insert herself into this oppressive framework and work it to her advantage is empowering to the viewers.
Find your safe space and plan your resistance
In a controlling, oppressive, über-Christian society like Gilead (yes, Gilead, and not America, surprisingly), you must remember you can control your body. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred has her own room. The ability to have your own safe space is key. There, you can maintain your sense of self, find a place for clarity. It also doesn’t hurt that a safe space allows you the comfort to take care of your needs. All your needs. You feel me?
Support women, people of color and marginalized groups
In Gilead, a push for heteronormativity is a very real threat. There is no room for the LGBTQ community (those deemed “gender traitors” are killed or castrated) and there are few people of color or differently-abled citizens in The Handmaid’s Tale. Living in a world like this means being able to use your privilege where you can to support other women, protect and shield those who need you and try to grow stronger together.
Never stop fighting
It’s that simple.