Handmaid's Tale - on The Mary Sue
A website I have been reading for years is The Mary Sue. It’s a fun source of nerdy goodness, with an emphasis on diversity and feminism. The articles are cool, but I particularly enjoy the discussions in the comments. Russian trolls regularly attack it, but it is still one of those comments sections I fell very comfortable haunting, unlike somewhere such as YouTube, which has comments that are a cesspit of the worst impulses of humanity.
The reason I want to talk about The Mary Sue is that one of its articles is attracting a lot of attention. The article is about Serena Joy Waterford, a character on The Handmaid’s Tale, and the article is written by Chelsea Steiner.
On the show, Serena Joy Waterford is a former televangelist but the state took away her power and public recognition, and tries to hide her past as a television figure. Offred, the protagonist, recognizes her master’s wife because she has seen her on TV. Joy is believed to be sterile (although the suggestion is made that the Commander is sterile, Gileadean laws attribute sterility only to women), and so she is forced to accept that he has use of a handmaid. She resents having to take part in the monthly fertility ritual.
What the article says about this character’s predicament, and what it teaches us about current American politics, is quite thought provoking. It starts in a very relatable way, with something I think we have all been feeling. Steiner says:
As I’m writing this, it’s been 597 days, 9 hours, 51 minutes and 22 seconds since Trump was elected. And still, as I lay awake at night, I stare at the ceiling and wonder about the 53%. The number bounces around my brain, keeping me from sleep. It reappears after every new injustice, every brick broken off of our democracy. The 53% of white women who voted for Trump in the general election. Who are they? What were they thinking? As a white woman myself, I continually found myself at a loss to reconcile what the fuck happened to make these women vote for an openly misogynistic pig who gleefully bragged about sexual assault. What self-respecting woman in her right mind would condone this behavior?
She goes on to say:
Then I started watching The Handmaid’s Tale and realized the truth. The 53% were, quite simply, Serena Joy Waterford
What is so interesting about Serena Joy is that she is complicit in the system that has stripped her of her power. She was an Ann Coulter-style author and public speaker. She pushes a right-wing agenda and wants to completely transform society. By the time the show starts, she and her allies have succeeded in bringing about that transformation.
The article draws parallels between Serena Joy and the white women who voted for Trump, and therefore helped him squeak into the White House via the back door provided by the Electoral College. Just as Gilead wouldn’t work without the complicity of the wives and the aunts, Trump wouldn’t have won the election without the complicity of that 53%. The article puts it very colorfully:
No matter how many lies they tell themselves, no matter how much sanctimonious self-righteousness they wrap themselves in, these women are one and the same. Justifying hideous behavior with scripture and turning a blind eye to the violent offenses of the men who lead them. Willfully brainwashed into surrendering their rights, as long as those rights supersede those of the people under their heels.
It is a fascinating idea and an interesting article, but as usual there is even more wisdom in the comments, such as Meghan who says:
I also suspect that Serena Joy thought she’d be the exception, the rules wouldn’t apply to her since she was so instrumental to the creation of Gilead. (Think about how she had a speech ready to give after the coup, only for Fred to tell her they refused to let her talk.) She realized too late that whoops, the new laws extend to her too but she’s in too deep and is too stubborn/prideful to admit she fucked up and is unhappy with the way things turned out. To quote a tweet I can’t find at the moment: “I didn’t think the leopards would eat MY face, sobs woman who voted for the Leopard Face-Eating Party.”
Oh… I should warn you that some of the comments are left by Russian trolls and robots, trying to get everyone to argue about race and religion in Putin’s ridiculous attempt to destabilize the West. Luckily, most of the posters on The Mary Sue comments board are savvy enough not to let themselves be sidetracked by all that negativity.
The last comment on the article, at least when I was looking at it, is by anjileen, and I think it’s very insightful.
This post is slick because it acts like it’s holding white women as accountable as white men for racism, but it’s actually saying when white women ACT racist they are being traitors to white womankind, reinforcing that racism is really just a white man thing when historically, that has never been the case.
So check out the article, it’s good and there is a reason it has gone viral, but don’t forget to check out the comments, too. Oh, and you could even watch the show. The Handmaid’s Tale is a tough watch because it is so timely, but well worth it.
Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy
Galaxy Dog is an epic space opera. What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet, brings to light an ancient archaeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy. This is the story of his rise, and the story of the fierce and independent woman and the feisty robot who help him.