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The Handmaid's Tale

Vox Populi

Miss Yuiko Yoshimura —

Welcome to Vox Populi, where Columba College ākonga cast a critical eye over pop culture happenings. This week, Yuiko Yoshimura (Year 12) takes us through the dystopia right on our doorstep, Margaret Atwood’s chillingly prescient The Handmaid’s Tale (1985).

Written by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale imagines a dystopian future in the US - now a totalitarian state - where the reproduction rates have declined, causing the need for ‘Handmaids’ - fertile women whose jobs are to bear children for higher status couples. Handmaid or not, all women’s property, money and jobs are taken away with the belief that women are inferior and men must be the ones in power.

The Handmaid’s Tale seems like another dystopian tale set in some place far, far away at first. However, what really makes this story chilling is that such a dystopia is closer than we think, with the recent news of ‘Roe v Wade’ being overturned in the US. The fact that women’s reproductive rights have been forcefully taken away shows just how prophetic Atwood’s words were. The events happening in the story were simply extreme versions of things happening in our world right now. Frighteningly, Atwood herself has said that none of the ideas or events in the story have been something she has come up with herself.

I think that this story is essential, eye-opening reading as most of us in this school are young women, and the issues raised in the novel are things we should care about. The Handmaid’s Tale shows us that we shouldn’t dismiss what we see in the news as something we have no control over - we are the ones living in this world, so we should be the ones to choose how we live.