“I remember the rules, rules that were not spelled out but that every woman knew; Don’t open your door to strangers, even if he says he is the police. Make him slide his ID under the door. Don’t stop on the road to help a motorist pretending to be in trouble. Keep the locks on and keep going. If anyone whistles, don’t turn to look. Don’t go into a laundromat, by yourself, at night.”
This quote is taken from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
The story takes place in the Republic of Gilead in the not-so-distant future. We follow Offred in a world where women have lost power and independence, and the Handmaids are nothing but procreators of the future for the elites.
Before even picking up the book, I have always thought about the freedoms of women.
So, as a woman, are my freedoms always going to be limited?
This is a question I always ask myself, and I will tell you why.
There are moments in history that have allowed women today to have the right to vote, the right to participate in government and create a safe environment for all women. But it has taken time and strength. The Women’s March that took place worldwide in 2017 was not just to advocate for legislation and policies regarding women’s rights, but human rights, healthcare and immigration reform, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, gender pay equality, work rights, environmental rights, and more. Women are persistent fighters. We always have been.
But even though, we as American women have more freedoms than women in other countries, we have to realize that there will always be an unseen limitation to being a woman. And this really angers me to think, say, and write about, but it needs to be done.
We have to be careful about everything that we do, how we should act and react and live our lives. There is no getting drunk enough to pass out, due to fear of being sexual assaulted. There’s no going out for a run without always being on alert, for fear that you might be abducted. There is always that fear that became an instinct ever since the day that your parents found out that you were a girl.
You can’t have sex whenever or with whoever, or you’ll be labeled a whore or a slut. And there always remains the fear of pregnancy. If this does happen, especially if you are a teenager, you are told it’s the end of your life.
There is no freedom of wearing what you want because wearing that short skirt means you’re asking for it. Your exposed shoulders have the added horror of distracting the boys from getting their education.
You can’t walk or run with your music too loud because you need to hear the footsteps if someone is coming. You know, just in case.
You fear going out late at night because you might get kidnapped or even sexually assaulted.
Men sometimes wonder why women go to the bathroom together as a group. I sometimes ask myself that question. What I could gather–other than the fact it is a place that we can socialize, oddly enough–is that it is a place of vulnerability, where anything can happen. So going to the bathroom as a group prevents sexual assault from taking place.
We all have to be aware of the consequences and have responsibilities. But why can’t we, for once in our lives, have that sense of freedom that men have?
Oh, it is because if we have sex and end up pregnant, we become the first to blame, as if a baby is made by just a partnerless party. What about his consequences and his responsibilities? Why is it easier to blame women? How is that beneficial?
How have we become a society that tears women down? A society that dehumanizes women?
All I am saying is that we all have to suffer the consequences, but to some the consequences are more lenient and the energy that freedom is supposed to live within our environments are sometimes chained to the ground.