As some of you may already know, the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s seminal novel The Handmaid’s Tale is showing now in the UK. You may even be watching it. As an Atwood fan and an all-round advocate of great writing and the power of words, books, text-based art and the spoken word, I looked forward to this televisual feast of speculative, dystopian fiction. Right now, I’m about four episodes in and not sure how much more of it I can take.
The idea of speculative fiction is to envision a future based on things that are real in the here and now. Atwood’s book used some real-life issues in its narrative but it was still marketed and consumed as fiction. Not document or non-fiction, but fiction. What I am watching right now, however, is far from fiction. We have politicians making laws that dictate what a woman can and can’t do with her body. We have a justice system skewed by the patriarchy that created it towards the patriarchy it upholds. We have Female Genital Mutilation now. We have misogynistic cultures that suppress women's freedoms now. We have, right now in many countries, LGBT people being strung up, shot down, stabbed, burned, brutalised, tortured and much worse - all in the name of one god or another. It's illegal to be gay in over 80 countries in the world. For black people the free democratic world is a police state. And it's a simple act of luck that I am here and can type this and live in peace with the person I love.
You’re lucky that you can read this. Because it’s a terrifying and sad fact that what I am watching is a reality for so many people, and/or it could be soon. And now that our government is in bed with anti-choice, creationist homophobes I worry about the backwards slide away from some of the positive things that have changed for women and LGBT people. It’s time to start looking out for one another. There’s not a storm coming, it’s been happening for years but it’s about to get a lot bigger. We’ve got to prepare, and we must fight. I can’t remember if Atwood’s book has any kind of positive resolution, let’s hope it does. Let’s hope we all do.