Margaret Atwood, bestselling author of The Handmaid’s Tale (a 1985 book with a recent Hulu adaptation), has come out with a sequel, The Testaments. In one of her many interviews for the new book, she set the record straight about President Donald Trump and the oppressive misogynistic dystopia of Gilead that appears in The Handmaid’s Tale. Pro-abortion activists have long attacked the Trump administration as a real-life Gilead, demonizing any effort to protect the unborn as reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale. [See: “Hillary Clinton on Brett Kavanaugh and Planned Parenthood.”] Even Atwood thinks that’s nonsense.
First, a little context: The oppressive society of Gilead emerges in response to a global fertility crisis. The government takes away all rights from women — the right to work, the right to own property, the right to read — and turns fertile women into “handmaids” (based loosely on Genesis 30). Powerful men ritually rape these women in order to have children by them, and the children are taken away from their mothers. It’s a horrible dystopia that bears no resemblance to the religious right and every resemblance to modern Iran.
In an interview with Esquire‘s Amy Grace Loyd, Atwood explained why some women in her dystopia collude with the misogynistic Gilead.
“Totalitarian regimes rely on collusion. Why did people like Aunt Lydia collude? One: they’re true believers, two: they’re opportunists – what’s in it for them? – three: they’re scared. It can be one of these things or a combination of two or all three. If they don’t cooperate and collude they will be killed or their families will be or all of the above,” she explained. “That’s how those regimes put pressure on people. If you read about Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Germany or the other kinds of regimes like that, some of which are in power right now, using these methods right now, you’ll find all this.”
Atwood went on to note that in totalitarian regimes, people either rise in the ranks or they get killed. “In regimes like that you don’t get fired. You do or die. Frequently both.”
At that point, Loyd brought up the “purging” in the Trump administration.
Immediately, the author said the turnover in the Trump White House is “different.”
“For the moment you and I are not in danger of getting arrested by the NKVD [Stalin’s security force]. You think Gilead is bad or that the TV series is too violent? Look up the NKVD. It’s important to have that perspective,” she said.
Then Atwood directly addressed the comparison between Trump and Gilead. “People are saying Trump is re-creating Gilead. That’s not true. If it were, we’d not be having this conversation,” she said. “He’s not even a particularly Gileadean figure, more like a Nebuchadnezzar of the right. That guy went mad.”
While Trump certainly has the pride of a Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps the more accurate Ancient Near East comparison would be to Cyrus the Great — who restored Israel and paid to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, while Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Judah. Yet that’s beside the point.
Atwood clearly admitted that Trump is not recreating Gilead, and this is spot on. If Trump had one ounce of Gilead in him, he would not be celebrating the surge of jobs for minority women. He would not be fighting to decriminalize LGBT lifestyles across the globe.
Naturally, the Esquire reporter didn’t process Atwood’s statement very well.
“But it’s hard to miss the divisiveness being promoted in this country and elsewhere, how the anger we’re all feeling, is informing and deforming our national conversation. We’re all dismayed and many people are afraid,” Loyd began.
“So suck it up! Why are you so afraid? No one is going to kill you right now. Anybody banging down your door?” Atwood asked. Naturally, she still urged Loyd to vote against the trends toward Gilead, perhaps because she champions abortion on demand. “What you should be doing is figuring out who to vote for in the next election. Which candidate is going to take you the farthest he or she can from Gilead? Panic isn’t helpful.”
Loyd wouldn’t move on. “Yes, but let’s take Twitter, where you’ve amassed such a following,” she began.
For the second time, Atwood cut her off: “Twitter is not the real world.”
Atwood was spot on about Trump not creating Gilead, but there’s a reason Loyd pushed back. Over the past few years, The Handmaid’s Tale has become a rallying cry for far-left activists.
In May 2017, pro-abortion activists compared Trump’s attempt to repeal Obamacare to The Handmaid’s Tale. Also that month, Hillary Clinton claimed that defunding Planned Parenthood — America’s largest abortion provider — would take the U.S. a step toward Gilead. During the summer of 2017, activists started dressing up as handmaids to protest against bills that would restrict abortion, despite the fact that abortion restrictions are popular.
Planned Parenthood celebrated the Hulu series’ success at the Emmys in 2017, and protesters dressed up like handmaids to sing impeachment carols at the White House at Christmas that year. In January 2018, the cast and producer of the show said they had joined the anti-Trump resistance. Alyssa Milano joined other protesters in dressing up like a handmaid to oppose Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. When Alabama passed an abortion law directly challenging Roe v. Wade earlier this year, the handmaid costumes again came out.
This handmaid hysteria took off partially because of a well-researched phenomenon called Christianophobia. Conservative Christians would never dream of advocating a system like Gilead, as any liberal would quickly learn in any serious conversation with one. Ironically, Elisabeth Moss, the star of the Hulu series, belongs to a secretive cult that forces women to get abortions.
With Trump Derangement Syndrome reaching historic heights in the impeachment inquiry, Margaret Atwood’s statement about Trump not setting up The Handmaid’s Tale is a welcome breath of fresh air. Atwood is still a radical pro-abortion activist, of course. But at least she acknowledges the obvious: that Trump isn’t out to set up Gilead. Sadly, the liberals aren’t likely to listen.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.