Haunting words from Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale that summarise how fertile women are dehumanised in the dystopic fictional nation of Gilead, enslaved and forced into pregnancy and birth through a process of ritualised rape.
A nightmarish reification of anti-choice rhetoric, this seminal feminist text has informed and mobilised pro-choice movements throughout the world. Protesters in Europe, the US and Latin America have donned the handmaids’ iconic costumes – blood-red robes and isolating white bonnets – to advocate access to abortion.
As readers devour The Testaments, the eagerly anticipated sequel to the original book, we are forced to ask why, in 2019, the tale of an authoritarian regime where women lack bodily autonomy resonates so acutely in the current political climate. As Atwood has remarked, momentum has shifted in recent decades and, with the election of Donald Trump, “Gilead moved a lot closer”.