There was a time last year when it felt like women were on the brink of a grand, historic, monumental leap toward progress — an ephemeral but exhilarating stretch shattered within one utterly defeating day. The months since have somehow been even more dispiriting, and it often feels like we're grasping at straws to salvage what should be cogent, rightful decency. As we press, painstakingly, forward, there were inevitably be moments that we need a rallying cry of encouragement, even in their most unlikely forms, and Offred's speech to Moira on The Handmaid's Tale is as invigorating as they come.
Moira, like many American women, had been at the threshold of a critical juncture. She'd successfully escaped the Red Center — a menial and toxic place where handmaids go to be trained before being passed off to their male owners — and made it to the border, only to be dragged back to Gilead's oppressive confines and sentenced to a life as an illicit sex slave. Her best friend, Offred (the series' quick-witted and indignant protagonist) had believed she was dead until her Commander snuck her into the brothel where Moira was working as some demented power play. At first, Offred is overjoyed to find her friend alive, but upon a second visit, she quickly realizes Moira is not the same strong, joyful woman she once knew.
Instead, she is vacant, dejected, broken by the hellish nightmare that now defines her world. When Offred asks her to get a package that could help with the handmaid's brewing resistance, Moira demurs. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm a prisoner. And a whore," Moira says. "Stop. Just stop. Go home and do what they say."
Offred is floored, then furious. She reminds Moira that she promised her she'd help her find her daughter, telling her how broken she'd been when she still thought Moira was dead. "I thought they killed you. I thought they strung you up somewhere to rot. It tore me apart, but I didn't give up like a coward," she hisses.
And in that moment, Offred shook Moira back to life. At first, they part bitterly, but it's later clear that Offred's words had profound, empowering weight. Moira gets Offred the package she requested, seemingly kills one of her suitors, and steals a car, fleeing Jezebels in pursuit of the freedom she once clung to.
And that's exactly what we should be doing, too, albeit less violently. If there is even a gleam of a silver lining to be taken from the last year, it’s that it’s awoken this frenzied, forceful drive to resist, to shout, to refuse to settle. It may be 2017, some may think sexism is no longer a problem, and we may be bounds and leaps from a repressive autocracy like Gilead, but The Handmaid's Tale is a profound and deafening plea to stand up while we still can. Our issues may be smaller than Offred and Moira's, but that doesn't make them any less significant.