*Spoilers for season 2, episode 9 of The Handmaid’s Tale*
The scenes on The Handmaid’s Tale this week were reminiscent of what we have seen in Britain over the past few days. The commander and his wife Serena, architects of the Republican State of Gilead, visit Canada on a diplomatic trip. Not only is this headline news which dominates the Canadian media, but it is to the disgust of the Canadian people that they have been invited. The anger and resistance they meet when they arrive is a force to be reckoned with: placards calling them out on Gilead’s dystopian policies as angry protesters smash through police barriers.
An entire country up in arms about an unwelcome foreign guest, famed for his misogyny and intolerance. Does it remind you of anything? I refuse to believe it was a coincidence that Channel 4 aired this episode on the final day of Donald Trump’s visit to the UK.
From the minute the Waterfords arrive in Canada, they are greeted by a sea of protesters. This country has followed the policies of Gilead closely: they know that the Republic functions by enslaving fertile woman as ‘handmaids’ who are subjected to monthly rape rituals in an attempt to impregnate them and halt the declining birth rates. They know the women in Gilead have no rights, and no freedom of speech, even those who are wealthy and considered moral and pure, like Serena Waterford, the commander’s wife. Women are merely objects for the men of Gilead to control and have their way with.
When I attended the London rally against Donald Trump’s visit on Friday 13 July, many of the placards were outraged by his blatant and unashamed misogyny, and his infamous line “Grab them by the pussy” was referenced 1,000 times over.
Serena Waterford, the commander’s wife, for all her cruelty towards their handmaid, is also a victim of Gilead. She stands by her husband’s side obediently, supporting his diplomatic mission to bring the ways of Gilead to the rest of the world, all whilst becoming more acutely aware of her oppression. She is the silent wife, the trophy wife without a voice. I cannot speak for Melania Trump on her behalf but the similarities between her and Serena in this episode appear uncanny.
Eventually the Canadian state turns on Gilead, when letters from hundreds of trapped women are released into mainstream media. But before they are booted out the country, the commander makes a passing remark about the “extradition of illegal immigrants” and extra “border security” - which is chilling when you pause to think about Trump’s current immigration policies which are separating families at the border, and leaving children locked in cages. This was another hotly contested policy by the protesters this weekend.
My favourite moment of the whole episode by far was of course, the comment of the Canadian diplomat who says to the commander that he “enjoyed visiting America with my [his] husband”. Of course, Gilead hates the gays, and hangs them as gender traitors. I have no idea whether Donald Trump hates the gays or not, but I thought I would wear my Pride outfit to the Trump protest just in case he does.