I Think Margaret Atwood & Octavia Butler Called It

As we speed through another Women’s History Month I can’t help but wonder what unexpected events may occur. If you’ve been following some of the latest political shenanigans (and really you do need to pay attention) no one would blame you for expressing a myriad of emotions. It’s a three-ring circus with life-threatening consequences. The way certain male politicians are trying to dictate an agenda that removes choice and erases women is only as foul as the women who support it.

There’s always a multi-tiered plan in play. By pushing for extremes, it erodes present boundaries. You have to wonder if life has a way of shifting huge imbalances though. Those politicians like Rick Santorum trying to deny women not only contraception, but pre-natal care fueled an emboldened Rush Limbaugh to go so far off the reservation we’re seeing real accountability for the first time.

Writers have always observed and explained human behavior in creative ways. With our way of life being in such a massive flux right now dystopian stories seem to accurately depict societal turmoil. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. From Wikipedia:

The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead, a country formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America. It was founded by a racist, male chauvinist, nativist, theocratic-organized military coup as an ideologically driven response to the pervasive ecological, physical and social degradation of the country.

Beginning with a staged terrorist attack (blamed on Islamic extremist terrorists) that kills the President and most of Congress, a movement calling itself the “Sons of Jacob” launched a revolution and suspended the United States Constitution under the pretext of restoring order.

Taking advantage of electronic banking, they were quickly able to freeze the assets of all women and other “undesirables” in the country, stripping them of their rights.

The new theocratic military dictatorship, styled “The Republic of Gilead”, moved quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsorily Christian regime of Old Testament-inspired social and religious orthodoxy among its newly created social classes. In this society, almost all women are forbidden to read.

Kindred is considered one of literary greats and we could easily use other novels by Octavia Butler. From Amazon:

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

Many times throughout history sheer terror has been used to subdue a population and sap it of its strength. One only has to look at the Tsar’s of Russia like Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Stalin to realize the extent to which terror can be used to subjugate a people. The Southern aristocracy of the United States practiced a similar terror until 1864 and beyond.

If you’re unfamiliar with both works now would be a good time to acclimate. Both stories reflect adversity and challenges, but each heroine still makes a decision to survive her circumstances and we’re left with hope for a brighter future. Hollywood is way off-base for not making a movie franchise from Butler’s novels by the way.  Let’s take that message and run with it in real life.

1 comment to I Think Margaret Atwood & Octavia Butler Called It

  • Patricia Kayden

    Read "The Handmaid's Tale" in high school — very powerful (almost prophetic in some ways) story.

    Would love to see any of Ms. Butler's novels turned into a movie.