Trump's "Christians First" Policies Make 'The Handmaid's Tale' Feel More Real

by Lani Seelinger
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Margaret Atwood's novel-turned-TV series The Handmaid's Tale depicts a terrifying, if fictional, dystopian state. However, that alarming dystopia is getting scarier by the day as today's political climate mirrors The Handmaid's Tale in an ever more disturbing way. That's the thing about stories like that — including The Hunger Games, or Divergent — they're only really enjoyable while they remain squarely in the realm of the unreal. Considering everything that's going on in the U.S. now, The Handmaid's Tale is really starting to hit home in all the wrong places.

In Gilead, the fictional version of the U.S. depicted in Atwood's 1985 classic, a strict theocracy has replaced the democratic government, and it endeavors to keep women under very strict control by taking away first their money, then their reproductive rights. The basis of their government is a certain dangerous reading of Christianity and white nationalism, and any effort at resistance is quickly quashed. Instead of having their own lives and choices, women are shunted into one of four roles and then forced to carry out their duties accordingly. For the titular Handmaid, this means taking part in monthly sex ceremonies so that she can be a surrogate for a Wife who can't conceive — talk about anti-choice.

Enter real life. Trump has expressed admiration for authoritarian leaders and exhibited signs of wanting to be an dictator himself. His administration makes no secret of its tendency to respect Christianity — especially in its most conservative form — above other faith traditions. Whether Trump is a devout Christian himself is up for debate, but he certainly caters to voters who are. This is visible most recently in Trump's executive order about religious freedom, but it's also been proven in his choice of extreme Christian conservative Mike Pence as his vice president and his statements about how his Supreme Court nominee would have to be pro-life.

The way this is playing out on the ground, though, is that women's reproductive rights are being attacked on several fronts. The president has said that he would like Roe v. Wade to be overturned, and coupled with the ongoing attacks on reproductive rights in several states and the renewed push to repeal and replace Obamacare with a slew of misogynist provisions, the state of reproductive rights today draws frightening parallels to The Handmaid's Tale. If the Republicans' health care bill somehow passes the Senate and ends up on Trump's desk, then having been raped, having been pregnant, or postpartum depression could all become pre-existing conditions that will allow health insurance companies to price women out of coverage.

Unlike in The Handmaid's Tale, women aren't yet being forced out of their marriages and American democracy by and large is still going strong — albeit with some frightening non-democratic elements at the moment. But the prioritization of one religion over all others and the increasing attempts to limit women's reproductive rights? There's a lot that The Handmaid's Tale has gotten right so far, and I don't know about you, but I'm not interested in seeing how much more like real life it could become.