May 26, 2017

CHARLOTTE ALLEN: We’re Living The Handmaid’s Tale Now, But Not The Way Feminists Think:

At first I scoffed. There couldn’t be any more unlikely a theocrat than Trump, what with his misquotes from the Bible and speculation that he hasn’t been in a church more than twice since the inauguration. But then I realized that the liberal paranoiacs were right. Except not in the way they think. Instead of seeing Atwood’s fictional Gilead as a near-future militant fundamentalist Christian elite dystopia, we should see it as the mostly secularist elite dystopia we live in right now.

Take those elite-class Wives. Liberals typically assume the 1% consists of striped-pants tycoons off the Monopoly board who reliably vote Republican and want to cram retrograde religious ideas down people’s throats. In fact, as social scientists (Charles Murray in “Coming Apart”) and political analysts (Michael Barone, writing recently for the Capital Research Center) have observed, it’s the Democratic Party that’s the party of the 1%: the tech and finance billionaires, the media and entertainment moguls who cluster in expensive ZIP Codes around metropolitan Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington.

Those folks aren’t known for their church-going, and they vote in favor of liberal social and economic causes from abortion and immigration rights to sustainable energy to higher taxes. They contribute heavily to political campaign, and with their upper-middle-class epigones they run the culture, deciding who gets banned on Twitter, which kinds of “diversity” are allowed on campuses, and what television programs we’ll be allowed to see. Today’s overclass Wives typically hold Ivy League degrees, “lean in” to high-status careers, and stand with Planned Parenthood.

We also have a rigidly defined caste of Marthas (and “Marthos,” their male counterparts), because the Wives and their high-earning husbands need them to mop their floors, care for their children, mow their lawns and trim their trees, all for bargain-basement wages. And so we have the irony of Malibu declaring itself a sanctuary city out of “solidarity” with its servant class, many of whom are in the country illegally, who can’t afford to live anywhere near their wealthy and high-minded masters and mistresses.

Finally, the Handmaids. As in the fictional Gilead, real-life elite-class Wives have something of a fertility problem, although it’s related not to environmental degradation but delayed marriages and childbearing attempts of women who pursue high-power careers. Thanks to 30 years of advances in egg-transfer technology since Atwood published her novel, today’s gestational surrogates don’t have to get into embarrassing “threesome” sexual positions with the Commanders and their Wives in order to do their jobs. And they tend to be drawn not from the ranks of political dissidents, but from the financially strapped Econowife class (military bases are common surrogate-recruiting centers) who are willing to put up with a year’s worth of uncomfortable hormone treatments and possible pregnancy problems for the $40,000 or so that they receive.

Related: How Serfdom Saved The Women’s Movement.

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