“In the desert there is no sign that says, Thou shall not eat stones.” This quote, a Sufi proverb in the epigraph to THE HANDMAID’S TALE, struck me as particularly relevant these days. It could be taken in different ways. On the one hand, it might be saying, It’s so obvious that you shouldn’t eat stones that we don’t need a sign for it. But on the other hand, You might be so desperate that, hey, we’re not going to stop you.
Margaret Atwood’s brilliant dystopic novel, though published in 1986, burns with relevance even today, 26 years later. It describes a world in which the men have destroyed women’s lives, taking away their economic independence (freezing their credit cards and bank accounts) and their control over their own bodies. The men have assigned different roles to different women: Wives, Handmaids (who bear their children), Marthas (servants)…. None of the women are happy, and for that matter, none of the men seem to be, either.
It is a world where men make the rules for women. Sound familiar?