I keep thinking about the last scene of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” when Aunt Lydia (or Patty form “The Leftovers”) congregates the handmaids at an open field. One of them says, “God, I hate stonings,” like she has to listen to an election speech at a high school assembly. Then they cart out crazy Janine/Ofwarren, the rebellious unstable handmaid who lost one eye for being loud and combative, and most recently her baby. Everyone loves Janine and so June/Offred refuses to throw a stone. She will endure ritualized rape, having her body treated like an incubator, but fuck if she is going to throw a stone at crazy-one-eyed-blow-job-giving Janine. There is nothing if not female allegiance among the Handmaids. They have no choice but to ally. Because they have no choices.
The world of the Handmaid’s is not unlike what goes on in most of the non-Western world; women are brutally subjugated, in this case, not allowed to work, own property, control money, read and fed the message that unattached procreating is a high honor. Even Mexico wants American Handmaids (Side note: Mexico would never come to the US for fertile women…I love the show, but seriously, hire some Mexican writers!)
So, back in real-life present-day America, women don’t literally stone each other, just go after each other in Internet scandal dramas. Recently Iliza Shlesinger got hit big time for saying the following:
I could walk into The Improv, close my eyes, and I can’t tell one girl’s act apart from another. That’s not saying that 30-something white guys don’t all sound the same sometimes, but I’m banging my head against the wall because women want to be treated as equals, and we want feminism to be a thing, but it’s really difficult when every woman makes the same point about her vagina, over and over.
I don’t know Iliza, but if I sat her down, I doubt she would say that the subject matter of “vagina” is really the problem. I know comics who talk about their vag-es in original and unique ways that cause tears to roll down my face and because I don’t want to tell someone else’s joke, please, just see Judith Shelton perform. But more often what I hear from women about our shared bodily parts makes me uncomfortable because they seem unconscious of the possible underlying intenting on turning on horny twenty-something year old men, plugged into The Patriarchy, and unaware of their struggle to find their authentic voice. Unless your authentic voice is “I like anal sex…” you don’t fall in this category. I don’t blame young women new to comedy, I don’t hate them, I don’t think I am better than them, I just think, “Here is a young woman standing in front of a room full of mostly men asserting that she can make them laugh — a weird situation — she’s trying to figure out how to engage young men…” And how do you hold a man’s attention…hmmm…how?!”
For some reason the reaction from female comics who felt that Iliza’s comments were directed at them was to tear down Iliza Shlesinger. I guess she defended herself until she finally realized she is a grown woman and doesn’t have to explain herself, which is more than you can say about her attackers.
What surprises me (and when I say surprised I mean not surprised at all), is that female comics sit in rooms where men repeatedly call women whores, cunts, talk about beating up prostitutes behind dumpsters (I have heard this premise five or six times), joke about female rape and gang bangs. Personally, I don’t feel that this supports my heroine’s journey, but maybe that is rare. For some female comics its OK because of “free speech” and “art” and all this allegiance with male comics who — for the most part — don’t give a fuck about them. Who listens to female comics? Other women. Why? Because we are women, we are in very similar body suits and I am most interested in hearing a woman’s take on what it’s like to live with ovaries and hormones, and fear of a culture and society where women’s rights and freedoms seems so unstable that a show like “The Handmaid’s Tale” feels like a documentary of the future.
Over a year ago Gloria Steinem told Bill Mahr that young women supported Bernie Sanders because that’s “where the boys are” and women went after her as if she hadn’t led the women’s movement for forty years. Meanwhile stripper-loving Bill Mahr got off scot free and went on to test his white male entitlement by using of the n-word on TV. What shocking impropriety has Gloria Steinem gone on to do? Continue to be bas ass.
Oh, and do you remember Hillary Clinton? Yeah, women hated her, too. Well, good thing that didn’t hurt us at all…it’s disappointing because women are like lobsters in a pot that is boiling and yet we can only see far enough to the the lobster trying to get out of the pot. Not the society and culture that controls the heat nobs. In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Serena Joy, is more of an abusive bitch than her husband, but she is in the pot, she is part of the system. Iliza, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, these are all privileged white women, and maybe that privilege allows them the awareness g to know that there is this boiling turnt up situation going on. THEY ARE NOT THE PROBLEM.
The handmaid’s are more feminist than Ameircan women because that is what happens when you hit rock bottom. There is no more denial. There is no more, maybe I can just ignore my female-ness, or my skin color. It’s a place you get beaten down into.
Just please don’t stone me.