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Monday, January 03, 2011

Ross Douthat wants a "Handmaid's Tale" world
Posted by Jill | 6:14 AM
For those who haven't read A Handmaid's Tale (or seen the movie), it takes place in the United States after the government is overthrown and replaced with theocrats. Not so far-fetched, eh? In this world, fertile women are captured and become the property of infertile couples, particularly of the men in such couples, for the sole purpose of conceiving children for them. The story is told from the viewpoint of one such woman, Offred (because such women are only recognized by to whom they belong, in this case "of Fred"). A fuller symopsis is offered at the novel's Wikipedia entry.

In the movie, Offred is portrayed heartbreakingly (doubly so now) by the late Natasha Richardson, and the couple by a creepy Robert Duvall and equally creepy Faye Dunaway, who keeps a lovely upper-class home and spends her days clipping lovely flowers in her garden. The movie provides a somewhat more upbeat conclusion than the book, but the story still resonates with women like me who are old enough to remember when girls in junior high and high school would "go to visit grandma for a while" after putting on some weight and then come back slimmer and usually quieter and sadder. These girls didn't have abortions. These girls were sent away to have their babies out of sight of their parents' friends and of their classmates, and to hand those babies off to strangers. Because before Roe v. Wade, that's what young girls did who became pregnant and whose parents didn't know any doctors who would perform a then-illegal abortion.

Access to abortion has become more limited in the last decade, as American terrorists continue to kill doctors who perform them and state legislatures continue to enact laws to restrict access. A meme persists on the so-called "pro-life" right (which cares little or nothing about babies who are born, unless they are white and handed off to affluent white families) that teenaged girls AND adult women decide to have an abortion as easily as they decide to get their nails done or get a latte at Starbucks.

This segment from an MTV program which aired December 28 would give lie to that notion in a sane world:

But we do not live in a sane world. The Handmaid's Tale is a work of fiction. But in the insane world in which we live, Ross Douchebag at the New York Times feels free to articulate the notion right out of that novel that young women with unwanted pregnancies have a moral obligation to carry their babies to term so that affluent, infertile women can have children to raise:
In every era, there’s been a tragic contrast between the burden of unwanted pregnancies and the burden of infertility. But this gap used to be bridged by adoption far more frequently than it is today. Prior to 1973, 20 percent of births to white, unmarried women (and 9 percent of unwed births over all) led to an adoption. Today, just 1 percent of babies born to unwed mothers are adopted, and would-be adoptive parents face a waiting list that has lengthened beyond reason.

Or as TBogg so succinctly says:

Shorter Ross Douthat:

Poor uneducated pregnant women should waste not so that upper middle-class women will want not.

I wonder if I'm the only one who finds it creepy that so many adult conservative males are so utterly obsessed with the reproductive functioning and the sex lives of teenagers.

UPDATE: Because Douchebag's utopian vision of a Nation of Breeders is so mindbogglingly fucked-up, here's more from:

  • Amanda
  • Melissa (despite her irritating habit of insisting that everything come with a "trigger warning", as if all feminists were fragile flowers who might be pushed off the deep end at the slightest provocation)
  • Jill (no, the other one)

(more as I find them)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
You are absolutely right. As a woman who has had an abortion, I feel that men should have no say about abortions since they can never get pregnant and have to decide whether or not to have a child or to abort. It is not an easy decision, but all women must have the right to safe and legal abortions so they have the control over their own bodies. There have always been abortions as long as there have been pregnancies, it's just that women used to die from them or become sterile from lousy botched abortions.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Well, what did you expect?

Never mind that Declaration of Independence stuff. This is now a country of the rule "of the rich, by the rich, for the rich"...certainly so, in Ross Douchebag's dream world.

Blogger D. said...
I always thought the idea of dystopian sf was to warn people off, not to make it happen!

And I particularly resent Mr. Douthat fouling what should be your column in the New York Times.