The values that we developed in response to the Coronavirus have flipped the script on the battle between self-ownership and ‘the greater good’.
In the universe of The Handmaid’s Tale there are some very real problems threatening the existence of humanity – the results of climate change and a plague of infertility. A new ruling class emerges in the former United States that understands one fundamental fact, that the values and expectations which humans had developed before these crises would prevent them from making the sort of extreme sacrifices that would be needed to turn the things around this late in the game. Through theocratic fascism they bound society under a new narrative that would justify the draconian measures they would have to take for humanity to survive. Or, at least, so they thought. They took control of production and consumption, and assigned child-raising to those with the most emotional and socioeconomic resources. Tyranny for the greater good.
What June represents in that universe is the most fundamental claim of feminism, that of self ownership, bodily autonomy and personal agency – EVEN ABOVE SAFETY AND SURVIVAL. June represents a world worth living in, not a survivalist nightmare where we destroy our most sacred values to fear and obsession. This is not to say that June is a symbol for surrender or some other cynical worldview, she does not stand for destruction, but about radically accepting loss – even our own – before corrupting the integrity of the self and the selves of others.
This is to say, considering how rhetoric has shifted in response to the worldwide Coronavirus event, far towards the side of safety, survival, obedience and the ‘greater good’, in terms relative to our world June has become the villain. The anti-masker, super-spreader, won’t-comply-to-safety-protocol-scofflaw antagonist – most notably so in regards to the demographic which tends to appreciate The Handmaids Tale.
Doesn’t June realize how much our collective survival is threatened? Why can’t she see that the handmaid system is logically a far better way of preserving humanity than just letting people go about it the old way? Doesn’t she care? Why is she so selfish? Who cares about her self-ownership, bodily autonomy and personal agency, damnit, when there are lives at stake?
The hypocrisy of this eats me up. It burns like a white hot glowing ball of frustration in my chest. It seems to me that people no longer choose their positions based on their values, but choose their values based on their position, and that is some dangerous intellectual territory to land on. You cannot have authentic and trustworthy communication between people who remain obstinately unanchored from any central moral/ethical thesis, and who are willing to shift in any given moment in order to place themselves in some culturally manufactured identity construct that has nothing to do with consistent, foundational principles and premises.
Blessed be the fruit of rational and ideological consistency.
Post Script: I continue to read the same complaint about this article, which is that rape and mask wearing are not the same thing. Why do you think rape is wrong?Lets walk through this.
Rape is wrong because it violates…
1) Your freedom – self-ownership.
2) Your body – bodily autonomy.
3) Your choice – personal agency.
These are the foundational moral premises which lead to the position that rape is wrong. That rape is wrong is a position. That position is based on those three premises. In order to take the position that rape is wrong you must accept that the premises leading to that position are correct. If you then fail to apply those premises to other positions, you become an inconsistent hypocrite. Any time you force people to do things against their will, you violate the same premises which lead to the position that rape is wrong. Premises before positions.
Response to the suggestion that rape is more wrong than other types of force on the basis of trauma:
It is not a trauma competition. That is not how morality works. Acts which violate individuals are not on a scale of okay to not okay. If you do not believe it is always wrong to violate individuals with force, then you don’t really believe rape is wrong. You believe trauma is wrong, but trauma is dependent on the individual and circumstances and there have been individuals who experienced rape without trauma. According to your logic that is a moral rape. A rape in which the victim is not traumatized, perhaps because they are unaware they are being raped due to grooming, coma, etc. – according to your moral logic would be okay. Based on my moral logic it would not be okay. You get it yet?
“I feared for my life.” – Every Killer Cop Ever
When fear is a loophole, your morality doesn’t exist. And this is why we continue to brutalize one another. You’re doing this with your neurotic aversion to risk and death, and persistent refusal to apply reason consistently. The cruelty of the world is a consequence of your cowardice and stupidity