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Meet the man who mansplained The Handmaid’s Tale … to Margaret Atwood

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale

By David Futrelle

With the right slowly but surely winning its war on the right to abortion, in both legal and practical terms, you might expect Margaret Atwood — you know, the author of the Handmaid’s Tale, the dystopian novel about an oppressively patriarchal state that’s been turned into a really very depressing Hulu series — to be feeling more than a little angry about the state of women’s rights in the US today.

And you’d be right. Indeed, last week she retweeted a Guardian piece comparing Alabama to her novel’s Republic of Gilead.

But not everyone thought it was such an apt comparison, including one fellow who took to Twitter to tell her that she seemed to be missing the point of … the show based on her book, for which she is also a consulting producer.

https://twitter.com/Modbrat/status/1146018670520365056

Yeah, dude, I think I’m going to go with her interpretation on this one.

But he’s already heard that, well, roughly 250 times already; indeed, apparently happy at all the attention, he’s happily retweeting the various Twitterers who’ve stepped up to call him out as the idiot he is.

Which raises the question: is he “just trolling?” He might be trolling, but not “just.” A look through Mr. Modbrat’s tweets reveal him to be a seemingly sincere right-wing Australian and a big fan of failed-comedian turned alt-lite interviewer Dave Rubin.

So whatever his intent with the tweet, he’s definitely a huge idiot.

H/T — Comic Sands

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Ohlmann
Ohlmann
1 year ago

I need a freackin’ drink.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
1 year ago

I saw that a few days ago. Did he ever explain why he thinks the Alabama to Republic of Gilead comparison isn’t apt though? Gotta admit I’m curious.

MJ
MJ
1 year ago

Goes with the usual incel take on THMT, which is that it is a guidebook on how things “are supposed to be.”

In a universe where women are told that they’re to blame if they’re raped, what happened to Marshae Jones is right in line.

Fabe
Fabe
1 year ago

5 internets says he has no idea that the TV series was book first or that Margot Atwood wrote it

Victorious Parasol
1 year ago

I’m semi-curious about why he doesn’t think Alabama passes the Gilead test. So often it seems that the answer is “I just don’t” or “It’s not, that’s all.”

I still remember an Atwood interview that came out when the book was first making a noise, and how she said her American friends were telling her “That really COULD happen here.”

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

Look, if Alabama isn’t passing legislature which would literally rename the State to “Republic of Gilead” then it’s just not becoming an actual real-life counterpart of the Atwood novel or the Netflix series, okay? 😒

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

(Forgot to add: I am aware that Netflix doesn’t actually produce the series. But there are people are prone to thinking that if it’s available online, it’s “Netflix”.)

Victorious Parasol
1 year ago

@ Snowberry

Oh, of COURSE. Guess that means I’m safe until they order Mr. Parasol to make me wear an Econowife dress. 😛

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

Sorta related: I bet incels would like The Handmaid’s Tale becoming a reality. It seems to really fit into their vision of entitlement and male supremacy.

Jurgan
Jurgan
1 year ago

I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong to say you interpret a story different than its author. I tend to go with the “Death of the Author” theory and say my interpretation of the text is as valid as anyone else’s. Still, you should probably have a little humility about it if you’re going to challenge the author directly, and it also makes it sound like he doesn’t even know it was a book.

(Also I’m getting tired of comparing things to Handmaid’s Tale. There are better dystopias.)

Big Titty Demon
Big Titty Demon
1 year ago

@Naglfar

Only because they believe they would be the Commanders with the handmaids at their disposal. In reality, they would be the sexless cannon fodder comprising the army.

@Jurgan

What do you mean by “better”, exactly? More horrific? Less horrific? Why are you tired of comparing things to the Handmaid’s Tale, even if, indeed, there are better dystopias?

Ichthyic
Ichthyic
1 year ago

(Also I’m getting tired of comparing things to Handmaid’s Tale. There are better dystopias.)

oh? and which of those dystopias are closest to affecting you, personally?

vaiyt
vaiyt
1 year ago

I tend to go with the “Death of the Author” theory and say my interpretation of the text is as valid as anyone else’s.

That’s… not what Death of The Author means. If your interpretation is unsupported by the text, it’s still wrong.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Big Titty Demon
You’re right. Of course, even if they did get handmaids they would complain that their handmaids weren’t as attractive as they wanted and that Chad got a more attractive one.

Diptych
Diptych
1 year ago

But Margaret Atwood is still alive! If she dies, then we can start disregarding her extratextual commentary when interpreting her work.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

I never could read or watch the handmaids tale. I saw a trailer for the show one time on a YouTube ad while I was getting ready for school and it gave me ptsd flashbacks. Had a full on panic attack. This was in high school when I still had to go see my abuser everyday. Wasn’t a fun time. For that reason alone I think it’s the perfect dystopia novel to describe what’s going on in the world today.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
1 year ago

If the conditions aren’t exactly identical in every respect, then right wingers will disqualify any analogy that makes their policies look bad.

For example, immigrants being rounded up and herded into cages aren’t concentration camps, even though that’s the literal definition of a concentration camp. We aren’t allowed to call them that, because Hitler and swastikas aren’t involved and it’s not World War 2. Being literal-minded lets them just gaslight everybody into pretending that it’s not happening again, precisely so that it can happen again.

TheKND
TheKND
1 year ago

@Buttercup Q. Skullpants

I disagree. Everything that a lefty does or says is instantly compared to George Orwell. And it it’s only “Be polite to others”.

Battering Lamb
Battering Lamb
1 year ago

I disagree. Everything that a lefty does or says is instantly compared to George Orwell. And it it’s only “Be polite to others”.

Sure, but when righty does it it’s satire, you see. As opposed to ‘overblown hysteria’ or something when a lefty makes such a comparison. Ugh…

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
1 year ago

And remember, the right wingers clutching their pearls over the use of the term “concentration camps” were comparing Obama to Hitler over the ACA. So, the rules about how analogies have to actually be literal only apply to others. Which is of course, how the right sees all rules.

Mike
Mike
1 year ago

Atwood is right because of the text not because of her being the author.

Texts belong to the readers.

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
1 year ago

oh? and which of those dystopias are closest to affecting you, personally?

… all of ’em, anymore….

https://assets.amuniversal.com/1475aec06ae10137a1d9005056a9545d

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
1 year ago

content warning for sarcasm…

https://www.theroot.com/son-begs-father-not-to-call-cops-on-black-man-for-stand-1836187493

cops show up, chastise the black man for using “foul” language in front of a child, then leave. The cops showed admirable restraint in not just shooting the thug…. See, I TOLD YOU “whiteriarchy” is dead….

Dalillama
Dalillama
1 year ago

Nah, that was part of the sarcasm; it was the caller who did that. Dude’s friend showed up before the cops did and they left together.

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
1 year ago

“daddy, PLEASE DONT CALL… I don’t want to spend the rest of my childhood as an internet meme…”

Katamount
1 year ago

I got retweeted by Margaret Atwood once comparing Mike Pence and Ted Cruz to Commanders during the 2016 election. Yeee, I brushed against greatness!

It’s rather startling to think that it’s been 15 years since I first read the book in high school. At the time, I thought it reflected shades of the culture war heating up during the decline of the Bush years, but was otherwise an extreme interpretation. A decade and a half later, those culture wars have been supercharged under Trump.

Then again, I thought Oryx and Crake was an extreme interpretation of internet-based nihilism and corporate ennui, but then GamerGate happened. Basically, I need to start interpreting speculative fiction authors as Cassandras, Atwood in particular.

Kevin
Kevin
1 year ago

@ Katamout

Er perhaps a different prophetess, as I understood it Cassandra was cursed to be totally accurate – but never believed.

Katamount
1 year ago

@Kevin

Believed Cassandras then…? *shrugged* I’m a little rusty on my classical prophetesses.

Moggie
Moggie
1 year ago

“Death of the author”, you say? I always like an excuse to link to Lindsay Ellis:

numerobis
numerobis
1 year ago

Buttercup: the same people arguing they aren’t concentration camps argued waterboarding, putting people in tiny cages so they couldn’t stand nor sit, and other practices literally taken out handbooks based on Stalin’s torture practices — weren’t torture because … and it’s overwrought to call it torture.

They invariably raise semantic arguments to distract from the issue. It’s what abusers do.

numerobis
numerobis
1 year ago

Katamount: I believe the term you’re looking for is oracles. They would give predictions just cryptic enough that people read whatever they wanted in them.

Jurgan
Jurgan
1 year ago

@Big Titty Demon:

Better written. I read the novel and found it a slog. Just my personal opinion on that one. On a more substantive level, I’ve heard people complain that fears of “what if someday we can’t control our reproduction” ring hollow to non-white women who’ve dealt with that very thing for generations. Ultimately, though, I just kind of feel it’s a cliche to compare every anti-woman measure to HT in the same way it’s a cliche to compare every surveillance program to 1984. Orwell said in Politics and the English Language that ready-made cliches can cause shallow political thinking, but I’m not going to pretend my reaction is that rational. I didn’t much care for the book, so it’s more of an emotional response that I get tired of people talking about it all the time.

@vaiyt:

Of course your interpretation has to be supported. I never said otherwise. But it bugs me when people act as though the author saying “this is the correct way to read it” instantly wins the argument. Granted, Twitter isn’t really the best place for detailed discussions, and I doubt this person has a very good explanation. But if someone did give a detailed explanation of how our world compares to this dystopia, Atwood can’t simply say “nope, I wrote it and I say you’re wrong.”

QuantumInc
QuantumInc
1 year ago

I think Incels would claim that we already live in the Republic of Gilead. Their core belief seems to be that women are inevitably attracted to “Chad,” and thus ignore the Incels. If anything they would claim that feminists want to Republic of Gilead, as it formalizes what they see as female desire. Like the “Redpill” crowd they claim that what women really want is to submit to the “Alpha-Male” AKA “Chad” AKA “Commander”. Obviously 99% of women say otherwise, but conveniently they claim that women don’t know what they want. Regardless of what she says, or is thinking on a conscious level, her instincts will inevitably lead her to Chad. This is about as realistic as believing that the Earth is flat, but there are a lot of people who believe the Earth is flat nowadays.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
1 year ago

Death of the author: the literary version of “intent is not magic”.

Allandrel
Allandrel
1 year ago

My favorite thing about Death of the Author is my certainty that if Barthes saw how people interpret his essay, he would say “That’s not what I meant at all.”

Prith kDar
Prith kDar
1 year ago

Ms. Magazine ran a short story in the October 1982 issue called “Prima Gravida: a not-so-far-out fantasy of reproductive tyranny” by Diane Sautter and Steven Feinberg. It’s not the best-written story I’ve ever read, but pretty much everything in it is, if not reality now, could be, since the technology now does exist, and the legal framework is all but entirely in place for it in some parts of the country.

I found it online a few years ago and saved the pages, but I can’t find it now. Maybe someone with better google-fu skills than I can dig it up.