Ponder: The Handmaids Tale and COVID-19

I was not sure which word to use for this post, celebrate, ponder, question or affirm because either of them would work.

Have you read (or watched the series) the Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood? This book and series challenge your mind to consider, could this happen? And then, remind yourself that similar events in our history have happened. Rhoda Keener suggested I read this book a few months ago and I did. I struggled with it mostly because even though I understood what was happening to the women it seemed futurist. No real threat for me personally, and then COVID-19.

I have so much to talk about that this simple blog post would never have the space to address. But two things are pressing in my mind. How close are we to losing all of our freedoms? And what happens to our sisterhood when constant trauma and isolation are a daily part of our lives?

First, our freedoms. Many people would say, something like this will never happen but I am not sure about that. In the book, the heroine talks about the fact that we gave up more and more of our liberties until it was easy for the government (or new regime) to simply take the rest. In the book all the women find without warning that all their money had been taken from them and given to their husbands or their closest male relative. Women were no longer allowed to own property; all their resources had been stripped. This concerns me because our government was able to simply drop $1200 in our bank accounts. If they can put money in, then they can take money out. What liberties have we already given up? Consider because of COVID-19, entire cities came to a complete halt. We were told to go inside and stay off the roads and within days, we did.

Now I know many people will say, but that was because of a virus that has killed and will likely kill more people if we do not. I agree and feel like staying home is the right choice in this current crisis. But what else is this moment informing others about us? And how will that knowledge be used in the future?

Second, to what extent our we as women willing to save ourselves over the life of another? In the Handmaids Tale, women are pitted against each other in ever aspect of their lives. The Handmaids do not trust other handmaids. They are forced to degrade and belittle one another. They are not sure if the other woman is a spy who will turn her in if she speaks negatively about the new world order. The barren wives are forced to participate in the rape of the handmaids by their husband which in turns causes her to hate the handmaid. Even women in power, who could put a stop to the entire practice of enslaving women for a prescribed ideology, do not because of their own fears of a world without new life which comes in the form of a child.

How far will you go to protect the human species? We have countless examples throughout history of leaders and regimes going to unprecedented lengths to advance their cause, beliefs and even more scary their own people. And it often starts with the idea that the other is threating their way of life and or what God has ordained.

So, I am looking for women to join me in a conversation. Coffee and Conversation is one of the ways MW USA has invited women into gather with other women to discuss issues facing our families and communities. But because of COVID-19 we are not able to gather in person, so MW USA would like to visit with you virtually. If you are interested in joining me and other women to talk about The Handmaids Tale and how it relates to women today, please reply to this post. You will be sent a personal invite for the Coffee and Conversation.

Or if your women’s group would like to host a Coffee and Conversation with me please contact our office to schedule a time.

4 thoughts on “Ponder: The Handmaids Tale and COVID-19

  1. Thanks Cyneatha. This book has always haunted me. I decided to watch the series on a streaming service when COVID19 started. Big mistake! Made the anxiety about the virus much worse. I would like to talk about this and process. Thanks.

  2. Lynda Hollinger-Janzen on said:

    Cyneatha, Thank you for your many provocative reflections and questions since you have begun leading Mennonite Women. I would like to join the Coffee and Conversation about The Handmaid’s Tale.
    Blessings,
    Lynda Hollinger-Janzen

    • Cyneatha Millsaps on said:

      Tammy would you contact our office so we can send you a link to the upcoming coffee and conversation? We are excited about joining women’s voices at this interesting time in our history.
      Thank you, Cyneatha

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