Hulu’s serial adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale concludes this week, just in time for every radical feminist’s favorite annual celebration of patriarchal oppression: Father’s Day. Conveniently, we are also smack in the middle of LGBT Pride Month, which includes contradictory factions who both advocate and oppose surrogacy. While there are some LGBT advocates who insist that the inherent inability of same-sex couples to conceive is a form of discrimination, there are also lesbian and feminist factions around the world who strenuously object to gay men using women as incubators for artificially created children.
In the Trump era, liberals are obsessed with dystopian fiction, such as imagining themseles as part of a true-life Resistance like that portrayed in The Man in the High Castle which not-at-all-coincidentally released its second season just weeks after the election. Comparisons with The Handmaid’s Tale take an equally unsubtle tone. As one article puts it, “Now that Mike Pence is our vice president, the entire country will look more like Gilead, too,” because evidently opposition to abortion is tantamount to forcing women into a totalitarian nightmare of slavery and glorified rape.
There is a certain irony in this article written by a woman which is full of invective against other women (conservatives, naturally), when much of the drama and character development in The Handmaid’s Tale reveals that a brutal patriarchy is only possible when women attack other women. Although a man can never ever be excused for his ignorant microagressions and boorish mansplaining, it’s at least understandable, because he is a clueless and useless drone after all. Speaking of drones, the behavior of female bees is particularly instructive for explaining the true horror of Margaret Atwood’s dystopia where the women in power have highly specific roles and carry out much of the cruel work of oppressing one another. Mother Nature does not take any prisoners:
When a young virgin queen emerges from a queen cell, she will generally seek out virgin queen rivals and attempt to kill them. Virgin queens will quickly find and kill (by stinging) any other emerged virgin queen (or be dispatched themselves), as well as any unemerged queens…When the after-swarm settles into a new home, the virgins will then resume normal behavior and fight to the death until only one remains. If the prime swarm has a virgin queen and the old queen, the old queen will usually be allowed to live. The old queen continues laying. Within a couple of weeks she will die a natural death and the former virgin, now mated, will take her place.
Like The Highlander, there can be only one. Within the LGBT movement itself, there are competing grievances with seemingly irreconcilable differences. One the one hand, transsexuals reject the gender binary as a social construct and argue for a fluid understanding of sexual attraction while on the other hand gays and lesbians maintain that they are “born this way” and, whether because of genetics, hormones, or both, their sexual attractions are hard-wired from before birth. Like the virgin queen bees, it’s unlikely that these contradictions can coexist within a movement that demands absolute adherence to its articles of faith, where even gays who support President Trump are deemed insufficiently gay to be included in a gay pride parade.
Like the article which criticizes conservative women as unwitting tools of the evil patriarchy, the Women’s March in January made headlines for refusing to allow pro-Life women who wanted to participate in shared opposition to the President’s past misogynistic and regressive bad behavior, which is probably just as well considering the counterproductive vulgarity displayed by many of the participants. Happily, radical feminists and pro-life Catholics in Europe have managed to avoid the vicious self-destructive internecine fights of the bee colony, but have instead found common cause in their opposition to surrogacy, which is, you know, what The Handmaid’s Tale is actually about, as opposed to any imagined parallels with the Trump administration.
Gilead is not a product of religion so much as your more run-of-the-mill totalitarianism, and in this respect, the left would profit as much as the right from a little critical self-examination. Although the regime uses Christian imagery, it perverts all Christian understanding of morality, sexuality, and the family. Surrogacy–whether brutally enforced by the state or by exploiting the most vulnerable women in developing countries–demotes the sacred space of the womb to a purely mechanical function while separating it from the emotional and sensual connections formed by marital relations and also from the deep biochemical connections formed between mother and child through the course of pregnancy even if they do not share any genetic material. If there is a lesson for our own time from fictional world of Gilead, it is that when we dehumanize our children, we also dehumanize ourselves.
Indeed, although Atwood’s real-life nemesis was the Catholic Phyllis Schlafly, the former’s book is at least nuanced enough to recognize that Gilead is a world where Catholics as well as liberals would be persecuted. Whatever one wants to take away from The Handmaid’s Tale, the Catholic Church remains a consistent and unyielding voice for the sanctity of life and against the objectification and victimization of women and the commoditization of children. Furthermore, even most Protestants would never submit to a perverted theology that condones Eugenics and Nazi-style breeding programs. Catholics like Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein died for their faith, but so did Protestants like Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
We live in strange times when the deplorable Femen are desecrating a church on one day but marching in solidarity with pro-life mothers on the next, but a stopped clock is right twice a day and all that. While Justice Kennedy may have overruled the democratic process on same-sex marriage with his opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, the legal ramifications for children remain very much an open question. Father’s Day would not be possible without the mothers who bring life into the world, but it also would not be possible without those dear bumbling drones that we call Dad either, and no law can pretend otherwise.