Under the Eye: “Women’s Work”

Blog art

“Man works from sun to sun, but woman’s work is never done” I never found it to be in the story’s favor that Offred was chosen to be the Unreliable Narrator. It gives a writer license to ignore his or her own rules in establishing narrative. Margaret Atwood wanted The Handmaid’s Tale to be a historical document, but instead it comes over as a made-up history. In a made-up history, you’re free to create the most unrealistic story possible to suit your needs while ignoring the rules and logic established in the framework. When we last left Serena and June, they were getting ready to establish new laws in Gilead. I had no idea Fred had this much power. Serena wants to end the nightly patrols and the executions. Serena is an idea woman, so she leaves it to June to edit her madness into readable paragraphs*. Serena (with June) is breaking the established laws. Writing requires reading, and reading is forbidden to women. The flaw in the logic is that no one else appears to take the reigns; that all of this is left up to Serena’s devices. How much control or influence does Serena have, and how much of Gilead is subject to her whims? I’ve looked at some maps. In the north, Gilead stretches from Maine to Wisconsin and goes south to the Carolinas. The outlying areas are delineated by the atomic wastelands known as the “Colonies.” Portions of Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and California are “rebel-occupied zones” otherwise known as The United States of America.

THT208 (1)

Based on the maps, Gilead occupies roughly two-thirds of the U.S.A., but more than half of that land is irradiated and unusable. How much of that land is under Fred’s (or Serena’s) control? Because I like to make sense, I have to put all of this in perspective. I have to assume that the high-ranking Commanders control specific sectors of Gilead. Fred’s territory was New England. How is Serena able to effect sweeping change? It doesn’t matter because Fred gets better and he’s able to come home. This is downright miraculous! It’s also unbelievable. All he has is a pronounced limp! Even as he exchanges forced pleasantries with the women-folk, I get the shivers. He locks Serena out of his (her) office. It would be yet another hard-reset, if not for the consequences of Serena’s actions, which are soon to come. For all her hard work, Serena gives Offred a charming little music box. One-eyed batshit-crazy Janine walks with June to a vegetable market where they speak of “blessings” and try to make conversation with an obviously miserable Emily, who tells them the only blessing bestowed on them was Ofglen the Second’s bomb. The talk of the neighborhood is the baby Janine was forced to have: Angela (or Charlotte, depending on who you ask). The baby is sick, and shockingly, nobody can figure out why. This freaks Janine out, as it should, but it really is none of our concern, right? If we detest the society that raped us and made us have their children, why should we care about the babies? Why should we care about anyone? There is no “love” in this schizophrenic culture. Only service. Serena wants to bring in a neonatal specialist, but the best one available is a Martha, and of course, she is forbidden to practice medicine. She goes to Fred but he shoots down her idea, citing “God’s will” or some such nonsense.

THT208 (1602)

This is where the episode loses me. How is it possible that no one has any practical medical training? They’d have to know that when you have a cut, you’re supposed to clean and bandage it, right? That’s medicine. They do use technology in their Gilead hospitals, so how do they not know what to do about this baby? June suggests to Serena that the baby might benefit from a visit by the birth mother. Serena takes that suggestion to the Commander and Mrs. Putnam. The Commander thinks it’s a good idea. The wife doesn’t. The wife (as with all the wives) hates Janine and the other handmaids (for reasons I don’t understand). They bring Janine into the hospital, but they don’t let her have physical contact with the child. Serena goes over Fred’s head to get the neonatal Martha into the hospital. She immediately starts ordering full physical work-ups for the child. Nobody else knows to do this? Her immediate superior even informs her he studied under a doctor who was one of her students! This makes no sense! Even more shockingly, the neonatal Martha can do nothing for the child. Guess who can? That’s right! One-eyed batshit-crazy Janine! She holds the baby in her arms and sings to her. The healing power of song miraculously HEALS THE BABY! You want to bet that’s just enough to reinforce everybody’s belief in “God’s will?” Don’t take the bet. When Fred discovers Serena forged his orders, he punishes her with a whipping right in front of Offred. Though Fred blames himself for Serena’s actions, he takes it out on Serena’s ass, horse-whipping her while he spews out verses from Ephesians. Nice place, isn’t it?

THT208 (1284)

Can we talk about Ephesians for a minute? There is nothing in Ephesians, or any other part of the Bible about viciously belting a woman’s ass. And if Gilead takes their law from literal interpretations of the Bible, it’s embarrassing to me (as an atheist) that the writers (or Atwood) have never actually read the Bible. They’ve simply done what they accuse others of — cherry-picking the verses they use to suit their interpretation. It is a “vocal minority” interpretation of Christians and Christianity. The overwhelming majority of Christians do not use the Bible as their personal justification for ridiculous and/or unacceptable behaviors. The vocal minority get the most Press coverage for the very reason that they make the news with their insane behavior. The Westboro Baptist Church does not represent all of Christendom. They represent a very small fringe element of Christianity. Again, I don’t think the writers (or Atwood) have ever read the Bible. If they did, they would understand (as most, if not all Christians I’ve spoken to) the Bible is a series of parables best suited to teach morality to those who seek wisdom, not to justify atrocity. They would also understand the need for medicine.

Matthew 9:12-13 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

You don’t have to be a Christian to understand that.

*Special thanks to my wife, Bronwyn Knox, who also edits my madness into readable paragraphs.

2 responses to “Under the Eye: “Women’s Work””

  1. Reblogged this on Misadventures in Blissville and commented:

    The overwhelming majority of Christians do not use the Bible as their personal justification for ridiculous and/or unacceptable behaviors. The vocal minority get the most Press coverage for the very reason that they make the news with their insane behavior.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: