I loved Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It was engrossing and fascinating, like watching a microcosm of an unknown world of ants at work. Recently, I’ve read some comments online saying this could never happen in this country now that women have equal rights and that it wasn’t a concern because it wasn’t something that would happen. I think they’ve missed the point of the book. The point of the book is that power can be exploited at any time in history to the detriment of many just to elevate a few. That is a real danger that faces us every minute that we are alive. You can ask how would such a world like this even come about now that we are equal, but it can.
Just recently in 1953, Iran experienced an upheaval and their relatively modern lives were plunged into the dark ages via a coup and religious enactments. This country was just like ours and then suddenly, women were forced back into roles they hadn’t been in for years. And in this country, it is happening at this very instant. The religious Mormon sect run by Warren Jeffs is the very embodiment of Atwood’s book. The ruling men have set up a society where they are in power and the women are their extended families. There is no alternative, for even the men who object to this are kicked out, which leaves no ways out for the women. The women are forced to become uniform and interchangeable through their clothing choices, hair styles, and beliefs. It is easier to bring a lamb to slaughter when the lamb is meek and docile.
I have no problems with polygamy itself as long as the persons entering this union are doing so of their own free will and have resources, but if they are conditioned to believe this is their only destiny and have nowhere to turn to if they disagree, then it becomes a cult. For the Amish, they have Rumspringa, where their youth can decide for themselves if this is the life they want to continue. If they choose not to continue, they are excommunicated, but at least they have recourse. Those in this Mormon sect have no recourse. A system where a single man can marry multiple wives is built on the backs of children and women who have no choices. They continue because they believe Jeffs is their prophet, and do not question the questionable at the expense of their children. A Handmaid’s Tale is a cautionary tale, but sadly, it is also about human nature, and human nature never dies.