The Apocalypse Blog Book Club picks a different dystopian-themed novel to read each month and has an online discussion, as well as an in-person meeting in Milwaukee. Different club members will write reports on our selections each month for Pop Mythology. You can find more on the club and join here: teakrulos.com/the-end/
Our March selection was The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, first published in 1985 but still relevant today.
by: Ryder Collins
The Apocalypse Blog Book Club convened for the month of March at the Riverwest Public House, one of the only, or maybe the only, cooperatively owned bars in the US of A, to discuss the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Although handmaids have been spotted in Austin and at the Texas Senate, not one showed up in her red robe or with her flippy flying nun like white wings on her head.
Yet. Maybe next meeting…
The US of A is scaring all of us book club members though we still have access to our moneys. For now. (In the novel women are not allowed access to money).
As a few members mentioned at the beginning of our discussion for this month, Vice President Pence refuses to be alone with any adult woman other than his wife. This refusal demonstrates a decidedly patriarchal and archaic view of women; one which perpetuates rape culture in the U.S. and one which perpetuated/bolstered the entire social structure of the Republic of Gilead (the setting for the novel). Women, in Pence’s view, and in the autocratic view of Gilead’s rulers, are temptresses, are bombs, are sex, are the opposite of logical males: uncontrollable emotions and thus must be controlled. And/or men are logical creatures until confronted with the temptation of a woman and then—oh, s**t—they just cannot control the animal urges within. We, the Apocalypse Blog Book Club, know better than to buy into these false dichotomies.
We know better because we live and experience and analyze and also because we’ve read Atwood’s book where men have complete control over women, and we know the Commander (a high-ranking official in Gilead) does not immediately “succumb” to Offred’s temptations; instead, when alone, they play Scrabble. In fact, we recognize the hypocrisy behind this false dichotomy—that women are lesser than, are emotions, are sex, are sin, are temptation and must be PROTECTED FROM THEMSELVES AND/OR PROTECTED FROM MEN WHO WILL HARM THEM BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY ARE (BODIES/NOT INTELLECT). We recognize this hypocrisy in our leaders today (Alabama say much?) and in the leaders of Gilead.
There’s so much going on in Atwood’s book and in the world today that we ended up talking around and through the novel, which isn’t a bad thing. It is frightening how the issues surrounding gender, race, religion, and class in Atwood’s book are very much present in our Trumpian reality. But we have adopted Offred’s adopted motto: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum (“don’t let the bastards grind you down”).
Many of us (well, maybe just me) are thinking about getting this tattooed on our bodies.
Ryder Collins is the author of the novel Homegirl! and several chapbooks of fiction and poetry. You can find her blog here: bignortherngirlgoes.blogspot.com