I Am A Handmaid
I am a Handmaid
I first read A Handmaid’s Tale when I was 16. It had been written a year before. Dark, disturbing and brilliant, but I couldn’t relate to Offred. I was full of hormones, MTV, and tips from Cosmopolitan.
Flash forward a year and I’m 17 and pregnant. There was never a doubt that I was going to have an abortion. It was the best choice for myself and my life at that time. When my Mother and I pulled up to the clinic in Philadelphia, I was surprised to see the crowd out front. They turned to us as we approached and unleashed the vilest obscenities and hatred that I have ever experienced. We literally had to push our way through a gauntlet of threats, bloody doll parts, brandished crucifixes and growling dogs. I was suddenly a murderer, a whore, and about to be butchered. This according to total strangers who unfathomably judged me on first sight.
In my head, I heard the Handmaids from the book yelling ‘Shame, shame, shame.’ All of the sudden my body was not my own territory. I left the clinic hours later an activist.
Flash forward ten years. I’m 26 and struggling in a short, ugly marriage to a short, ugly man. I’m taking classes at Rutgers- which he was ok with- until it interfered with his sports schedule. My Women’s Literature class was reading A Handmaid’s Tale. When he made me choose between school and him, it was an easy choice.
A decade later, I’m 36. I have lots of credits but no degree. After years of serving drinks and corralling drunks, I decide to leave the city and become a nurse. G.W.B was president and I suddenly want to put my hands and heart where all the letters and marches fell short. I took a job at an abortion clinic and I re-read the book, by now dog-eared and worn.
For four years I answered phones, held hands, rinsed away blood and tears, and heard the stories of my sisters. It brought home what I knew at 17. We need to have complete bodily autonomy to be free. Administrations changed and I became complacent.
Now, here we are ten years later. Our country led by an actual game show host, with a VP who prays for Gilead waiting in the wings. Violence at clinics is again increasing, dress codes are imposed on women in the halls of Congress, and some states require a man’s permission for a woman to choose what is best for her. Our voices, letters and concerns are again and more ominously being drowned out by men who think they know what is best for us.
Stop asking why we are donning the red cape and wings. Ask yourself why you are not.
Jessica - New Hampshire