My wife and I recently completed bingeing The Handmaid’s Tale. This was really a well done series. Elizabeth Moss is wonderful in anything she does. It’s a very popular series and in that lies some of my issues with it. Why is it so popular? Does it have anything to do with today’s popular culture?
The thumbnail of the story is that sometime in the future, some medical event happens where the vast majority of women on earth can no longer bear children. Those that can are classified as “Handmaids”. At the same time, the US government has been taken over by religious kooks who designate the Handmaids as essentially slaves that are assigned to couples in the upper class trying to have kids.
The “consummation” is a ceremony that the wife takes place in by laying in the bed with the Handmaid’s head in her lap while the husband does the deed. It’s really creepy and it is also makes you think “Is this what women think about sex? Do they feel like victims being dominated by their male patriarchs? I suspect mostly not.
I think it’s very trendy these days to champion the victim and to shame the victimizers. That all sounds logical and right. But the problem is that there are more victims and victimizers than there ought to be. As a white male who has a little money, I’m suspect number one. I’m part of the patriarchal system that keeps all the victim class down. But I don’t really think that I victimize anyone.
As that white male, there are some that might think that I started on the opponent’s five yard line. But I’m pretty sure that I at least started on my side of the fifty. My senior year of high school, we were poor. My Dad had lost his job as a bank VP and we moved to my grandmother’s farm house (not any better than a mobile home, really). That year, we had no income. And the area we were in really had no opportunity.
Living in the US should automatically advance you to about your own 30 yard line. Maybe the fact that I had both parents living under the same roof gives me about 10 more yards. I had no college because we couldn’t afford it. I joined the Navy instead. So, I’m putting myself on about my own 40 yard line. (note that some people couldn’t get in the military because of failed drug tests...15 yard penalty!)
Now there are folks out there that started pretty far behind me. I’m not so naive to think that I don’t have some privilege, but I don’t control that. We all start where we start. The important thing is that we move the ball forward, get first downs and try to score.
Back to Victimhood
My point is that it’s far too trendy to be that victim and complain about your field position. How can we possibly score with where we are on the field? How can we score when the refs are against us? How can I, as a (name your victim group of choice), make it when the “Man” keeps us down?
I was talking to a cousin a couple of years back about a similar topic, and though I don’t remember the exact point I was trying to make, but her response was “Well, that’s easy for you to say, you’re white, tall and male”. Is it fair that we all start from different places? Maybe not, but in a free society, I can’t imagine how you “fix” that.
Was the Handmaid a victim? Of course. And there’s not much she was able to do to change that in the series. But in the real world, more often than not, you just follow your blocks, try to get open, make good decisions and you’ll find that you’re moving the ball.