What is happening to Gileadean women?
We came along eight episodes in the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale. The series offers so many points to get frustrated that each of you can focus on diverse problems. What disturbs me really, really is the attitudes of women towards their same-sex friends. I keep asking myself what is going on there, why they haven’t been able to learn to support one another in this period of many years.
Let’s run through the major issues of the plot for a second. At the very beginning, we have our besetting, blue-eyed boy: patriarchy. Men have grown up with fake masculinity; they are taught to be powerful and invulnerable, they are justified to dominate women who are simply not regarded as human beings. The Republic of Gilead, which is the extreme representation of this oppression of virility and hatred towards women, captures fertile women for the sake of their authentic means to increase the reproduction rate. In this process, they adopt a well-functioning Machiavellian strategy. They don’t care anybody or anything in their aim to increase the rate. They constitute a category of fallen women whom we call independent nowadays and they reduce these females to their reproductive organs.
Our so-called fallen individuals (if they are fallen, God knows how to define those men with their disgusting masculinity) are separated from their families, are tortured, are even killed. They have no rights of their own, they are not allowed to speak except that their lordly Commanders, Mistresses or Aunts ask them to do. They are regularly raped. Neither sexual intercourse and violent rape mean anything, anymore in this society.
The objectification of women reaches to the maximum extent. Red women are there to give children, blue women are there to symbolise the modest household, grey women are responsible for cooking, cleaning and raising babies. Brown women are to teach that everything is women’s fault to their properly-raised girls. The stereotypes, which have been attributed to females for centuries, are embodied differently in these women. In other words, female bodies are made common properties.
The Wives’ passionate desire to have children, the Handmaids’ rebellious acts and the Aunts’ severe punishments haven’t enabled women to build solidarity so far. When all hopes start to fade away, we are introduced with another group of females, the new generation: all the expected babies for whom all the struggles have been given.
New babies are the source of hope, fertility and future for the members of Gilead. The birth-rate increases successfully, blessed be the fruit! Yet, the new generation also brings a terrifying scenario. The Wives have yearned to have these babies but they haven’t thought about what kind of future they are going to have in Gilead, and they are finally disillusioned with the unfortunate and unfair end of Eden: Eden will not be memorised as the Garden this time.
When Eden was sentenced to death because she fought for her true love, and when she was drowned like an old village witch in a gymnasium filled with spectators; the feeling which Offred, Serena, Rita and Nick were sharing was the same: fear. What have they created? What is going to happen now?
This unfortunate event raised our hopes since June and Serena began to collaborate together: they finally admitted their nightmarish future. This future wouldn’t allow their daughter to read even the Bible and if they did, their husbands or fathers would cut their body parts just like Serena’s finger. So, June and Serena helped Nichole to get rid of Gilead, they struggled together to have voice and independence as women in the community, they helped each other to see their daughters. They bestowed us the power of female solidarity, it was a small but bright spark: they could revolt and bitch up Gilead like when Serena literally fired the spark and June saved her from being burnt in the fire. But, the events took a totally different turn.
As June and Serena deepened their relationship, I sensed I was being recovered from their enmity, which was dominant in the previous seasons. I felt the genesis of their unity would trump the oppressive system which they were exposed to. I know the Handmaids already carry one another and seek for escape-ways. This season has introduced me with the organisation of the Marthas and how their collaboration is necessary. Now the Wives are also rising and they can have a voice to dominate heteronormative masculinity. And Aunt Lydia can remember she was a kindhearted, working woman with her own voice. She obviously couldn’t stand seeing the Handmaids of Washington have their mouths wired shut. This Republic was going to the extreme, it wasn’t what they imagined at the beginning. It was a real trauma. Yes, they would have baby girls, but these girls wouldn’t have a humane future. They would grow up learning how to obey their husbands. Sad, isn’t it?
My frustration point was the moment when Serena refused to collaborate with June, again. I think it was also June’s limit to have bats in her belfry. June has fought for herself, her friends, her daughters, her family. She has been always the righteous one. She has recently shown us how to believe in God as a sensible individual in this theocratic society. I have seen June as a heroine, as a strong woman through the series. Why has she given up now? Why have her behaviours started to disturb me? Why has she taken up a Machiavellian attitude like this restrictive system and hurt her female friends?
I remember June’s motivation and love for Janine when Janine was about to give birth. That moment was free of disturbing details of Gilead, the Handmaids were together and were supporting one another. June’s sincerity made my heart melt away. The same scene happens here while Ofandy is trying to give birth, nothing changes except for who June is. She does not even join the cycle or does not attempt to comfort the Handmaid who just had seen her dead baby. With her new attitude, June seems to have given up other values when she lost her great expectation to save Hannah.
I know June never intended to hurt Hannah’s Martha. She froze up as well when she saw the Martha in the gallow. But still, June’s reckless attitudes led this Martha to that situation. She has been recently ignoring the fact that they live in Gilead and every tiny act comes with a terrible consequence. She has witnessed every type of tyranny in the Red Center. When she saw the Martha’s scary face, she should have realised these facts. She need not have countered with an attack upon Ofmatthew.
The crowning touch: Ofmatthew. She is an interesting point in this problematic female unity. June may want to punish Ofmatthew in some way but she becomes harsh and hubristic. June has constrained herself so hard not to become the madwoman in the attic since the beginning. She has always known Gilead’s influence in playing with people’s minds. Now, she is very happy to see Ofmatthew crack. To watch Ofmatthew beating everyone near her, taking the gun and ignoring her life is kind of therapeutic for June.
Ofmatthew was already depressed about her pregnancy. She did not want to leave her baby, again. It was the same concern which June and other Handmaids were having. She was the person to help Janine in the same situation and to bring her back to life. It was difficult in the case of Ofmatthew, but June was always having difficulties. She could have at least ignored her at first and then tried to talk to her like she did with everybody, instead of provoking her directly.
The friendship plot of Moira and Emily is not coincidental to this season. They give another scenario of what June has forgotten to do. June, Natalie, Moira, Emily… It is tragic but their attachment point is their traumas. But it is a step not to be alone in this cruel world. Moira and Emily performed violent acts as well. I mean, Emily is the most rebellious and fierce woman of the show. She stole a government car and intentionally struck a guard, she stabbed Aunt Lydia in the back and the rest. Moira killed a Commander, and they probably would have done more if needed for the sake of their escape.
The point I’m trying to establish here is that Moira, Emily and June we have (used to) hurt people who had hurt them in the first stage, the people who were responsible for their repressed lives. There is no rebellion in history which is succeeded with love and affection. But what Moira and Emily were trying to do wasn’t related to June’s reckless attitudes. They have to help each other regardless of what is happening. They are all together in this shit.
The Republic of Gilead is a world in which you aren’t even allowed to fight for your life. The only fight, which you can go in for, happens inside your soul. Everyone is prowling ways to hurt you, torture you and hang you. The countenance is needed. If they are determined to reduce females to terrible conditions, you have to hold arms of one another and rise up. This world is difficult to establish unity, but not impossible.