On Tuesday, women took to Capitol Hill to protest the American Health Care Act, a bill that threatens to slash funding to Planned Parenthood and further limit women’s access to birth control. To really drive home their point that such attacks on reproductive rights in addition to the myriad of state-level abortion restrictions making abortion more difficult to access and, as a result, more dangerous, the protesters came dressed in costumes from the Hulu original series, The Handmaid’s Tale.
In The Handmaid’s Tale, a story set in the not-so-distant future, under a theocratic government women have essentially been reduced to baby-making machines; they have no bodily autonomy and serve the singular purpose of giving birth. Of course, this isn’t quite the case yet in the United States, but with low-income women facing all kinds of barriers to access contraception and abortion, and the religious beliefs of politicians increasingly dictating women’s options — surely you get the sentiment.
And yet, still, despite the powerful symbolism of the protesters’ costumes, their message was lost on conservatives. At The Federalist, one article entitled, “Hey, Planned Parenthood, Learn To Make Better Handmaiden Costumes” focuses on the protester’s outfits. “Learn to sew,” the article’s subhead reads.
Because what do women face while protesting sexism? More sexism, of course.
The article feeds right into the overarching narrative of The Handmaid’s Tale, in which women have no options to learn or do anything meaningful outside of their master’s house, and criticizes the women for not knowing how to sew, as if women should still all be responsible for knowing how to perform 18th century household chores.
“Can we please talk about those head coverings? It looks like they’re wearing white pieces of paper folded in half,” Bre Payton writes. “You can do better than that, ladies!”
Payton adds, “Not only is the reasoning behind the costumes totally absurd, they don’t even look convincing.”
The ultimate message of the costumes, of course, is that this is the path we’re going down if we continue to limit and infringe on women’s access to health services that enable them to make choices about their bodies, little-by-little. It may not happen overnight, but at the rate we’re going, it could very well happen soon — especially if we’re too focused on women’s outfits to notice the changes.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.