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  • Why did the people running this society think it would be in their best interest to bring back the oppression of women?
    If this took place in an alternate history, where women's status never changed and they never gained any more rights than they had centuries ago (and still do in many non-first world countries), the premise could make sense. But it takes place in a North America that used to be just like our world's, where the protagonist went to college and had a husband and child and lived with the same rights and freedoms North American women have now. Then that changed, and a new tyrannical regime took over that set all kinds of new restrictions, on men, as well, but mostly on women. Does the novel ever explain, why? What led people to the conclusion that these changes would serve any purpose? For that matter, what purpose are they supposed to serve? Even if it was a selfish purpose, like ensuring wealth and power for a select few, or an illogical purpose that a second look would show these methods would never accomplish, is one provided? For example, due to declining birth rates caused by radiation poisoning, the society wants more babies to be born. Well, they have access to the same scientific knowledge our society does that shows that men can be sterile as well as women, so why would they decide it was in their best interest to deny all those scientific facts and instead re-adopt the debunked superstition that only women can be infertile and that it's always and only the woman's fault if she can't conceive? Adopting and enforcing this superstition as fact only sabotages their efforts to produce more healthy babies. Yes, that's the point — the novel's demonstrating that oppression of women hurts society — but why would a society adopt rules that only hurt its goals? The rules imposed by the societies of Brave New World and 1984 are unjust, but they serve the purpose of the regimes imposing them (the problem is that either that purpose itself is horrible, or the methods used to reach it have a huge price tag). Here, it seems the rules of this dystopian regime don't serve any purpose at all (unless the rulers just hate women and want them to suffer no matter what the cost to society?). What's the motive?
    • Fucking. YES. THIS is exactly why The Handmaid's Tale is bad Science Fiction. The power dynamics don't make sense at all. In a world where few women are fertile and capable of the continuation of the entire species, there is NO WAY they would become second class citizens. They would get to pick and choose who they'd choose as their mates, and anyone close to the handmaids would become the upper class by virtue of having access to the only way to continuing their genes. Has anyone here read Y The Last Man? A freak accident kills all the males of every species on earth, leaving one guy alive. He instantly becomes a celebrity, because he's the only way anyone can have sex/children anymore. Am I crazy here? Handmaid's Tale doesn't make any sense, if you think about it for more than two minutes.
      • The Handmaids aren't chosen because they are infertile and then put into slavery. They are sentenced as moral degenerates, lesbians, women who marry divorce men and single mothers. Most moral degenerates are killed but the Handmaids are fertile and do the equivalent of 'pleading their belly' to get slavery instead of death.
      • Not necessarily the case. Serfdom and the like often arose to prevent people from exerting their power when there was a shortage. Russian serfdom developed when opportunities to go east to the frontier opened up, creating a labor shortage. ...Or So I Heard. Also, in Japan through The ’80s and possibly beyond, when university graduates from the top schools were in high demand, companies did dirty tricks to take and bind workers to them. Consider A Brother's Price, in which a severe male shortage made them valuable property or serfs.
      • Because the bible says so. Or at least a bad interperatation of the bible. Also, the thought of a few women having that much power might have given the rulers the bejeebers.
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    • There are lots of societies that do things that hurt them. Also consider that in times of fear and chaos, many people turn to extremism is one form or another. And then, consider that there are lots of people who believe the values of the Republic. It could be a matter of a minority gaining power and exerting it over an unwilling majority. That does happen. It's possible that many supporters of the movement were of the type that says "Well, I don't agree with everything they say, but I support them because of X reasons". There's a good chance that the leaders gained power that way (for example, many low income people who rely on social assistance programs will still vote for politicians who disagree with those programs, because they might agree with their stance on abortion or gay marriage). Serena is a clear example of a woman benefiting from equal rights while arguing against them. The book establishes that the Republic of Gilead wasn't stable and didn't last very long.
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    • Also, there are plenty of instances throughout history where people who previously had rights lost them later. It's not unfeasible. Some of the Middle Eastern countries that have oppressive laws toward women were actually more progressive decades ago. It's possible to regress.
    • It's not their best interest, fine, but they believed it to be God's best interest.
      • Why? How did this movement start in-universe? A nuclear war?
      • Probably after the birth rates dropped due to radiation and STDs. That could cause people to do things they wouldn't otherwise, in fear of going extinct.
      • Hillary got in in the 2016 election. Most of the alt-right broke up, what was left got even more right-wing and developed into the 'Sons of Jacob'. June and Moira's 'college' scenes are the summer of 2017 where everyone who would have been marching and protesting is in fact chilling out and partying in their bubble of happy smugness. For a similar real-world example, see the 'cool britannia' period at the end of the 90s after the conservatives were booted out of the UK parliament, followed by the rise of UKIP, Farage, the BNP...
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    • Keep in mind that there are some devout Christians (and other religious people) that tend to be very skeptical towards science and see it as contradictory to their faith. For one: the Vatican didn't really accept Galileo's observation about the Earth's position in the universe until the 1990s.
      • Not actually true, that's just when they apologized over it.
      • You don't even have to go that far back in history - you can turn to many contemporary examples. For example, there are many fundamentalist Christians who deny the scientific consensus of evolution because it doesn't comport with the Biblical story of creation by God. Many, many members of religious faiths (including fundamentalist Christians) also continue to support abstinence-only sexuality education despite the abundance of data that it does not work, and continue to assert that abortion causes depression and raises breast cancer risk when these have been roundly debunked as well. It's not even isolated to religious faith; there are giant swaths of people in many developing nations who believe HIV/AIDS can be cured by having sex with a virgin or that gay people don't exist in their country. Most societies in history have rejected some form or version of science in favor of whatever is more convenient or comfortable for them to believe. That's nothing new.
    • The book was written in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution; where Iran went from a secular government affording women nearly equal rights to one of extreme religious fundamentalism. A point of the book is to point out that the US of the 80s wasn't so different to Iran of the 70s. And once you've fallen to religious fundamentalism, all the logic and science in the world can't change the beliefs of the people in charge. In fact, you can see *many* of the same behaviors and beliefs in fundamentalist theocracies today. The book was written around the time of Ronald Reagan's growing popularity during the 1980s where women's rights and feminism ended up in the backseat due to the rise of the "New Right" and "Moral Majority" due to Reagan's charisma that made conservative Christianity mainstream and made American society more hostile towards feminism and women's rights. The book highlights the horrors and evils of religious fundamentalism where it goes too far and abandon the secular principles for a more totalitarian theocracy (in both Muslim AND Christian circles).
      • If that was Atwood's inspiration, why did she use Christian fundamentalism instead of Islamic fundamentalism or instead of making up a religion that combines multiple ones like in Brave New World?
      • Because it was about North America, where she is from.
      • It's also something of a Call-Back to historical New England. The theocratic laws, medieval punishments, and treatment of women in Puritan New England were damn close to the same laws and punishments shown in Gilead, right down to the stoning, hangings, enforced dress codes, and bans on women reading.
    • The book is also based directly on the US's Christian fundamentalist movement. As in, things that evangelical churches have literally advocated as public policy, and everything that's exaggerated based on the same bible passages favored by dominionist and evangelical protestant churches. Many of the nastier passages are direct quotes... and not all from obscure sects, either, the primary source of idea-mining is the Southern Baptist Council. Gilead is pretty much the state that the SBC has openly professed to wanting, but with all of the ramifications explored semi-realistically instead of taking their claims of how they'd end up at face value. So while I don't have the "why would they want to do that" answer for you... the largest Christian denomination in the United States has in fact wanted to do it for at least half a century now, whatever the reason is.
  • Offred mentally chastises Janine for making a big deal about the pain of giving birth, saying to herself "She's given birth before - she must remember how much it hurts." But she also notes that "They don't believe in pain relief" for childbirth - so why doesn't it cross Offred's mind that perhaps Janine received pain relief during the birth of her first child, and that this is the reason for Janine seeming to be unprepared for the pain of birthing her second child?
    • Janine is sort of Offred's mental scapegoat, because Offred sees the girl as weak and a kiss-up. It's not nice or sympathetic of her, but she thinks Janine might be trying to gain extra sympathy, and she's a little envious that Janine has carried her baby to term so she's mad at her.
    • It's part of the subtle brainwashing that the women are made to hate each other so that they don't retaliate against the men. To June, having to attend her birth is no different than having to hang out with the bitchy popular girl because your mom made you.
  • Offred mentions that only the Wives are 'allowed' to get sick; the Marthas must avoid being seen to be past their prime lest they be forcibly 'retired' and the Handmaids must avoid being reported for infertility lest they be declared Unwomen. Offred remembers when one of Serena's Marthas caught the flu and, rather than taking bed-rest as a Wife would, continued performing her duties as well as she could. When Serena saw her collapsing from one pillar to the next and questioned her, the Martha blamed it on a 'slight cold'. Wouldn't being reduced to fainting onto pillars by a slight cold be more indicative of overall bad health of the sort that would get one retired than being affected that way by the flu? And fertile women can catch the flu just as much as infertile women, and both will recover perfectly well with a week's rest, so why the need for a Handmaid to disguise the symptoms of her flu lest she be reported for infertility?
    • Probably because a Handmaid is expected to be healthy, as her main purpose lies in her phisiology. Besides, most babies who are being born are implied to be sick in some ways, so it's likely that there are draconian measures in place to ensure that nothing about a Handmaid can affect a baby negatively, even things that from our perspective (or from a common sense perspective) would have no effect on her pregnancy.
    • It's also an example of the terror under which these characters live. They're all easily replaceable, and if they don't "earn" their place in the household, they will be sent to the Colonies or shot.
    • But if your goal is to make the limited number of fertile women produce as many babies as possible, what is the motive for reducing your pool of fertile women by discarding ones who get sick with something that does not affect their fertility? Such actions/policies make sense if your motive is to torture women even at the expense of reproduction (less babies is worth it to keep women in their place), but not if part of your motive for oppressing women is producing babies.
      • You're trying to make Gilead make sense. Gilead will make a lot more sense if you stop expecting it to make sense. If it made sense, it wouldn't be such an awful place. Countries have nonsensical policies all the time. In the book, Gilead was also racist, despite the fact that excluding women of colour from their system would only hurt their birth rate. Sometimes, and for various reasons, people's actions don't match their goals. Sometimes goals conflict with each other — one of Gilead's goals is to produce babies, but another of their goals is to oppress women, and sometimes these goals are mutually exclusive. For example, in the show, Fred refuses to let the best neonatologist in the country examine Charlotte, because she's a woman. This goes against Gilead's goal of producing and protecting babies, but it certainly lines up with their misogynist rules, which ban women from such careers. And of course, sometimes individuals have very different goals than the institutions they serve. Fred seems much less concerned with increasing Gilead's fertility than with following the rules about oppressing women and keeping wives obedient to their husbands. In many ways, Gilead does prefer to torture women even at the expense of reproduction, even if this isn't necessarily conscious or deliberate. As for the rules about Marthas and Handmaids not getting sick, Gilead isn't exactly known for its perfect adherence to sound medical ideas. This is not new, nor is it unique to Gilead; plenty of people and societies in real life follow superstitious, illogical practices that are detrimental to their actual goals. There's such a thing is being irrational or ignorant. These rules are irrational and ignorant. It's really as simple as that.
  • The doctor who examines Offred mentions that it is more than possible that the guys the Handmaids are allotted to are sterile... or simply too old. Which they could very well be given only the highest echelon gets Handmaids, but is a serious Idiot Ball from the Gilead society. Seriously, if you want to propagate and even punish women for not conceiving, shouldn't you send them with the young and virile ones?
    • The Idiot Ball is to be expected of those rulers: they're not exactly intelligent, only murderous. Also, Heaven prohibit that the Handmaids actually enjoy the sex. Anything other than IKEA Erotica is antithetical to their sense of propriety.
    • But why? What purpose does this attitude serve? What event(s) transpired to make some people desire and adopt this attitude? Why does the government not only desire that fertile women shouldn't enjoy sex but decide it's in their best interest to ignore the fact that younger men are more fertile than older men? If they want babies to be born, what purpose does ignoring the knowledge their world has that older men are less fertile serve them? If they decided ensuring women don't enjoy sex is more important than babies being born, why go through the farce of assigning them to likely infertile men? The adult heroine was an adult before this society arose; it hasn't been around that long. Even if this society believes female oppression is more important than propagation, there's no point in wasting energy and resources putting women and older men in a set-up you know accomplishes nothing.
      • The stated purpose of sex, in Catholic Christianity's dogma, is for procreation inside marriage. To that end, any sex which isn't for procreation inside marriage is sinful. Gilead made an end-run around this to combat the plague of infertility with its warped interpretation of Genesis 30:4 — and to maintain the power of those who overthrew the previous government in the first place, obviously the coup leaders must be the ones who can propagate humanity. (Where this falls apart swiftly, beyond just the horrific situation of the Handmaids, is that it'll be very difficult to maintain the structure of serving Marthas given that A: they aren't having children to bring up in an oral tradition of how to cook and prepare food from scratch, and B: without the permission for the Marthas, or any woman, to write down or read recipes and cooking tips, the ruling caste will likely die of malnutrition eventually because they'll have no idea how to prepare food themselves.)
    • Don't expect ANYTHING in a fascist regime to make logical sense. Have you heard the argument that people only deserve health care if they're worthy, because they've "led a good life" (ie. born rich and without any genetic "flaw" to make them sick)? This is a different side of the same coin. The ruling class, in this case rich white extreme right wing religious fundamentalists, believe that they are chosen by God to forge a new society based on things cherry-picked from the Bible. If God hasn't given them a baby yet, it's because there is something wrong (likely her sins) with the "vessel" in which they're putting their sacred seed, not because of the seed itself. So they'll keep trying different vessels until one makes a baby.
      • Yes - stereotypically folks in this group are not known for strong beliefs in science and medicine, either. Who knows what they believe - but it may not be that men grow less fertile as they get older. There are a lot of people who AREN'T religious fundamentalists who don't realize that.
    • Many fascist, communist, autocratic, probably even democratic regimes throughout history have created some kind of convoluted justification system for the way things are set up to lend some credence to it. In most regimes in which women are oppressed, some reason is invented or stated - that women need protection from male others; that women are incapable of rational thought; that it's to preserve women's health and safety; etc. In some cases, the ones in power may even believe their spiel; the 2017 television show seems to hint so far that some of the men may actually buy into pieces and parts of the structure, while others don't. But the reality is - many, perhaps even most, of the men with the most power are likely to be older and less fertile. There's no way in hell, however, they're going to deny *themselves* the opportunity to have power over a sexual slave in their own household.
  • Why the weird handmaid uniform? This isn't an Alternate History. The world it takes place in already had a uniform designed to conceal a woman's body and reinforce her second-class citizen status — it's called a burqa. This world designing a different uniform for the same purpose that doesn't do the job as well seems like the equivalent of a society in a book (written in, say, 2000) set in the future of our own world having a wheeled horseless vehicle that runs on gasoline and the reader being expected to act as if this is some sign of how different this society is just because said vehicle isn't called a "car."
    • Just a guess, but a fundamentalist Christian regime probably would shy away from using a burqa or any clothing associated with Islam. Also, you're asking why a government founded on irrational beliefs would act irrationally by putting people in ridiculous costumes? It's really a question which answers itself. Moreover, this is Margaret Atwood's explanation for the uniforms: "The modesty costumes worn by the women of Gilead are derived from Western religious iconography — the Wives wear the blue of purity, from the Virgin Mary; the Handmaids wear red, from the blood of parturition, but also from Mary Magdalene. Also, red is easier to see if you happen to be fleeing. The wives of men lower in the social scale are called Econowives, and wear stripes. I must confess that the face-hiding bonnets came not only from mid-Victorian costume and from nuns, but from the Old Dutch Cleanser package of the 1940s, which showed a woman with her face hidden, and which frightened me as a child. Many totalitarianisms have used clothing, both forbidden and enforced, to identify and control people — think of yellow stars and Roman purple — and many have ruled behind a religious front. It makes the creation of heretics that much easier."
    • Adding to what the above poster said: Atwood has noted that when she was writing the novel, she was thinking about sumptuary laws throughout history. Besides being Color-Coded for Your Convenience , the clothes serve a purpose in defining who belongs to what class. And, as noted above, it's easy to find the rule-breakers when everyone is forced into these narrow categories. As just one example, medieval prostitutes wore yellow.
    • Also, burqas are far from the only body-concealing uniform even in contemporary society by religious fundamentalist sects. The dresses and bonnets that female Old Order Mennonites and Amish ("plain dress") wear, for example, are actually VERY similar to the Handmaid's uniforms in the 2017 television series (and thus the ones described in the book). Some Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish women dress very conservatively. Women in fundamentalist Christian cults often wear dresses similar to those seen in the television series, as well. Think also of traditional nuns' habits, which many orders of nuns still wear today. You don't have to go to the Middle East to see examples of conservative clothing designed to hide women's bodies; there are plenty examples in the Western world as well, and Atwood was clearly using those as examples.
  • Hannah looks way too dark to be June's and Luke's daughter in the miniseries. She seems to have much more melanin than both her parents. Poor casting choice-when everything else was done so well and cautiously.
    • It can and does happen where a child with two lighter black parents can come out darker than either, just like a child with two dark parents can come out light; the genetics of melanin often aren't that cut-and-dried.
    • It could also be a lighting issue. The actor who plays Luke can have a big bright light pointed at him, while a tiny baby cannot, and thus will look darker.
    • Babies of high melanin content have been born to two white parents just because one has had someone of African or Indian heritage in the family, from maybe 2 generations back.
    • The books mention that June didn't really know her father, because Holly only slept with him to get pregnant and let him be as involved as he wanted, which entailed getting a birthday card and an occasional Christmas card. There is a chance June could be mixed race, too, and because of the recessive trait, Hannah could be darker skinned.
  • How the heck are a group of armed men with machine guns break into what is suppose to be one of the most secure places in the country? Machine guns are big and heavy, and Washington DC has a ban on assault weapons. No one with any common sense would have failed this sort of spot check. I get that it's suppose to explain the background of the story, but this explanation stretches the suspension of disbelief a little too far.
    • It's very likely they had collaborators in the government assisting them. Also, Rule of Drama.
      • Yeah, it's stated to be an extreme faction within the government which did this.
    • More to the point, where was the designated survivor when this happened? I suspect they were most likely in on it. And why would the United States even *need* to enact emergency / martial law? Most functions of the federal government are repeated at state level, and if not, just appoint a few more ministers till a new senate / house can be convened. The whole thing just points to an underlying conspiracy, where far-righters have infiltrated the state at many levels.
      • The designated survivor was Mike Pence.
      • The books are from a perspective of an Unreliable Narrator, so the event could've happened differently, just that was the official story, and since June can't read and was around propaganda constantly, she likely believes that happened.
      • It's likely that A) members of the Government were in on it, as American politicians often must wear their faith on their sleeve when campaigning, and all denominations of Christianity have had representatives at one point or another, B) martial law can be declared in times of severe unrest, like riots and rebellion, so assuming that the attack on the Capital comes out of the blue a la 9/11 and there's mass panic across the country, whoever is in the chain of command, be it the newly sworn in President or even State Governors, has the ability to declare martial law, which can C) last for a limited period of time, but provides space for a takeover of the crippled power structure when it's in a complete mess and Gilead's founders mobilize a march in force to seize what's left. People forget, the Russian and Iranian Revolutions didn't start with protest marches calling for tyranny. Interim governments were created during both, and both were co-opted by extremists who returned from abroad preaching a new ideology with an army of their followers seizing control of state operations.
  • Don't know if this happens in the show, but in the book, were the executed abortionists whose bodies are displayed on the wall operating in a foreign country or something? There's no reason why any woman in Gilead would ever need or want to abort a child. Non-handmaids can't get pregnant, and handmaids need to have children. Where would the market for abortions be in this society? Handmaids who hate their job and don't want to have children? The alternative for being forced into handmaid slavery is being sent to the colonies, and the punishment for staying but not producing a child is... being sent to the colonies; any woman who, faced with this Sadistic Choice, chose slavery over death would not do something to sabotage her chances, and any woman who preferred death over slavery wouldn't need to game the system. Wives or Marthas who somehow slipped by screening, were actually fertile, and unexpectedly got pregnant? Is it a crime in Gilead for women who aren't handmaids to turn up pregnant? Given how children are a rare, coveted, hot commodity in this society instead of an economic liability or nuisance, what woman who never thought she could get pregnant would want to get rid of a child she unexpectedly had? Even if the woman (handmaid or no) got pregnant as the result of an affair, a society that abandoned all technology and knowledge that says this system cannot work would not have the technology or knowledge to perform paternity tests. So what opportunity would those executed abortionists possibly have for performing such a service unless Gilead is run so efficiently and has such an abundance of resources and a reputation for strength and invincibility that it can pursue and execute citizens of foreign countries with impunity?
    • They're abortion doctors from before the regime change. Basically, they're being executed ex post facto for having, at the time, performed legal abortions that under Gilead became capital crimes retroactively.
      • Or rebels who the regime is saying are abortion doctors. The 'rapist' executed was actually a rebel.
    • Gilead is also only operating in part of the country, while the rest of the country is in a civil war. And it's possible that what they're actually being hanged for has nothing to do with what Offred and the others are told. Offred is an unreliable narrator, and it's a society built on withholding information.
    • Also, there are more than simply so-called "practical" reasons for a woman to have an abortion, if it happened post-Gilead. It's shown in both the book and television series that many women take risks to do things simply because they want to, or as an act of rebellion - joining Mayday, having same-sex relationships, stealing cars, kidnapping their own children from their Commanders and Wives - despite knowing that they may die for doing so. A Handmaid may do the same thing if she really cannot stomach the idea of being pregnant by her rapist and/or as an act of rebellion against them.
      • Also, some women have health problems which make pregnancy risky. The Church is probably quite willing to pray for them and risk their life for the baby.
    • There's also no real reason to believe that non-Handmaids can't get pregnant - Gilead managed to round up and tag women they know to be fertile, but that doesn't mean that they haven't left out women whose fertility status is unknown for whatever reason. (Rita, for example, mentions having had a 19-year-old son before.) It's very likely that there are Marthas being coerced into sex or raped (or willingly having sex) with their Commanders, and some of them could potentially get unexpectedly pregnant. It may be a crime for Marthas particularly to turn up pregnant, because they're definitely not married and are not supposed to be having sex with anyone. Besides, if they are discovered to be fertile, there's a chance they might be forced to become Handmaids, and for many (most?) being a Martha may be preferable to being a Handmaid.
      • Quite the opposite, the books says that the Econowives end up outbreeding the Handmaids. Not all women were tested for fertility, just the ones who were arrested for being moral degenerates. Eventually, they expanded the definition of who was a criminal from what we see, to anyone who wasn't married in the Church of Gilead so they could steal the children and fertile women in those marriages.
    • There are also the women in Jezebel's, who may not desire to be pregnant as it would likely take away from their ability to transact business, and also may not want to be pregnant with or give birth to the children of men they are coerced to have sex with.
    • Gasp! I have to wonder if the (obviously male) original troper was kidding or something. Growing a child in your body for 9 months belongs to a completely different dimension than assessing how valuable a commodity it is! That would be like saying that anyone would prostitute themselves if their bodies were valuable enough (and by anyone I mean men, women, the elderly...). That is simply not how human beings are. Even beyond that, given how rape is clearly underreported — since women are explicitly taught that it is always their fault for leading the men on —, there would be a huge market for abortion in Gilead, as in the examples mentioned above with the Marthas. People should take their Econ 101 classes with a little grain of salt.
    • The books mention they outlawed all prenatal care, and the show mentions if you can get pregnant at all, the chances of a normal baby is 1 in 5. The reasoning behind outlawing prenatal care was likely a return to traditional values and the fact that if you know you're giving birth to a pinhead baby, why would you want to get rid of it?
  • Had Luke not left his first wife for June- had they not met till after Luke's divorce was finalized- would June still been deemed an "adulterous whore" and forced to become a handmaid? Also, what if Luke's first wife had died before Gilead took over? Would June's fate had still been the same- or would she have been allowed to remain a Wife?
    • I thought it was fertility that got a woman designated a handmaid. Is being made a handmaid used as a punishment? If so, how do they punish infertile women? Sent to the colonies with no choice? I didn't remember there were fertile Wives. If fertile women can be made Wives, why do they have the handmaid position at all? Why not just "reward" fertile women with the highest status and make all infertile women all servants? If this government has no objection to Wives being fertile, wouldn't it be more efficient from their point-of-view to just make all fertile women Wives and have them bear the children without the need to get a third-party involved?
      • So I think part of it is that women with "undesirable or immoral" traits that are fertile are forced to become handmaids as a way to atone for their sins, while infertile women with similar traits and histories are "sent to the colonies" instead. Meanwhile, loyal and "virtuous" infertile women are either made to be Marthas or Aunts, while wives are typically women who were married to commanders and other high-ranking members of society prior, regardless of their fertility. There are also econowives, who serve as wives, handmaids, and marthas for lower class men. So potentially, it's possible that had Luke and June not been deemed "undesirables" by the regime due to how their relationship began and progressed, they would have been allowed to remain married and June would have served as Luke's econowife. Of course, since being a feminist is considered an undesirable trait in Gilead, and I'm willing to bet they don't recognize divorce either, who knows whether they would have left June with Luke.
      • They were also being punished for trying to escape. She was captured. The Handmaids have a subtext of the history of slavery around them, and one type of slavery was that of war captives.
      • Wives, at this stage in Gilead's 'history' are the women who were already married to Commanders: i.e. just the women that the men liked for their own reasons prior to the coup. Their fertility is irrelevant as they are pure women who have desirable traits. Presumably there are fertile wives as, statistically, it would be unlikely for all the women in a friendship group to all suffer the same health problems in our own society and the infertility seems to be random (just a more extreme version of what is normal today). Plus, it is strongly implied that it's largely the men who are infertile, the Wives could indeed be fertile but not allowed to sleep with other men in order to procreate. If the cause of infertility is ST Ds, the Commanders frequent brothels in which the prostitutes have been sterilized or are infertile (i.e. you're probably not using condoms) and there is no investigation of male infertility it's possible that the Commanders are all catching this STD and are probably passing it on to their Handmaids. As for the idea of pregnant Marthas or other classes of women: the babies would probably be adopted by a 'Faithful' family.
      • Handmaids are women who commit crimes by Gilead standards, so for basically anything the same way they arrested Emily for being a lesbian college professor, and likely arrested Janine for being a single mother aka a "fornicator." June would've just remained Luke's Econowife, while Luke kept his profession, and if she did commit a crime, it's likely she would've become a Handmaid. We do see the example with Omar's family, where because of his rebellion and Islamic religion, he was hanged, while his son was given to another family and his wife made a Handmaid.
      • Or Luke's divorce may not have been recognized as valid, like with the Catholic Church.
  • Given that Gilead hasn't been around long enough for any adult citizens to have been born after the regime came to power and raised on its morals, the regime's ideas must have been very popular to have so many willing enforcers. For example, none of the Aunts were born and raised under this regime, but they seem more like soldiers passionately devoted to the cause than fellow slaves obeying their masters strictly out of fear of punishment (there's no rebellion or disapproval among the Aunts or anyone who shows genuine compassion to the prisoners) — were they all brainwashed and their memories erased with drugs, or do they genuinely like the new system and were part of the movement to start it? If the former, why is there anyone like June who's dissatisfied? Everyone should get that treatment if it works so well! If the latter, how did it get so popular among women who weren't raised to think women are dirty, inferior, and evil? We meet no Ofglen equivalent (rebels or malcontents) among Aunts, Marthas, or any other groups, do we?
    • Waterford and Serena discuss an Aunt who escaped to Canada and told her story to the Toronto Sun. So we haven't met a rebellious Aunt or Martha yet, but there's no reason to think they don't exist.
    • There are also subtle hints in the TV series that Aunt Lydia at least somewhat disapproves of some things: she was clearly miffed when Serena Joy told her to send the "damaged" Handmaids away from the fancy gala; and she gives Offred a long look after she discovers that the Handmaids are meant to be traded to Mexico as a commodity, which seems to imply that this is too far even for her. However, Aunt Lydia has been shown to do things "for the good of the many," so it's possible that she and many other Aunts maybe don't agree with 100% of what Gilead is doing but decide go to along because the overall structure/idea is appealing to them and they can overlook the small stuff.
    • Besides that, though, fear is a powerful motivator. Being an Aunt confers a measure of power and freedom from domestic or sexual slavery. Women have few choices in this world, and the other options for Aunts are all less appealing. It's probably easier to outwardly pretend to be a zealot and somewhat willingly enforce the rules than to betray and be tortured, enslaved, and/or worse.
    • It also goes along with the fact that Gilead is purposefully pitting women against each other so they fight each other and not the republic. Aunts get lots of privileges that women - including Wives - don't, like drinking coffee, and being allowed to read and write. If you lived in a society like Gilead, and got to do more than anybody else, I would probably get her cattle prod ready.
  • In the tv series, Ofglen is given an operation (which I assume is female circumcision, but I'm no expert) to remove her ability to enjoy sex as a punishment. Sex for pleasure is not a privilege in Gilead that pure or elite citizens are allowed to enjoy while others aren't; even Commanders aren't allowed to enjoy sex. In any event, no Handmaids (which Ofglen is) are allowed to enjoy sex, so why does the series portray removal of sexual pleasure as a punishment reserved only for criminals? If it was the pain of the operation itself that was the punishment, that would make more sense, but that's not the explanation given. Furthermore, since no handmaids are supposed to enjoy sex, why aren't they all given the operation by default? (The fact that they give it to a Handmaid proves its effect on her fertility is not a concern.)
    • My understanding was that the clitoridectomy was performed to stop her from engaging in lesbian acts, given how the Aunt tells her she "won't miss what she can't have" and has less to do with an outright ban on pleasure. Plus, if they were to perform the procedure on every single woman, there would be numerous factors to take in to account. Not only would they have to worry about the women needing some recovery time before they are able to perform their assigned duty again, they would also have to worry about the immense amount of medical supplies that would need to be used, and given that Gilead is very much a state in need of even the most basic supplies, it just would not be feasible or wise to devote the precious resources they do have to this task. Furthermore, those resources are better used to support their soldiers that are being deployed to fight dissidents and rebel groups. Finally, even with the modern medical practices that the doctors of Gilead would have, complications can still arise during the surgery, and afterwards, including infection and complications with pregnancy and childbirth, which would be counterproductive to the entire point of the Handmaids in the first place, no?
    • Based on the Aunt's language ("now, you won't want what you can't have,") the folks in Gilead seem to believe that the clitoridectomy would reduce sexual desire in women or maybe particularly lesbians. Extremist Christian sects aren't really known for fine-tuned scientific details of women's health issues and it's already shown that Gilead would rather believe irrational misogynistic stuff than actual science (see also blaming all infertility on women).
  • Given its purpose and in-universe inspiration, wouldn't it have made more sense in-universe to call the prison designed to train women to do what Bilhah and Zilpah did for Leah and Rachel the "Bilhah and Zilpah Centre"?
    • The names aren't quite as attractive as Rachel and Leah. Rachel and Leah are identifiable as every day, modern names that any of the Handmaids could have, and subconsciously make the center sound a little more normal and less alien than Bilhah and Zilpah.
    • The Handmaids aren't being trained to BE Rachel and Leah, they are being trained to SERVE Rachel and Leah... Bilhah and Zilpah aren't the important parts of the story to Gilead Society. It's all about the Wives, from their role in the conception to their phantom labour pains.
    • And besides, Handmaids lose their names when they go to their Commanders anyway. Bilhah and Zilpah might as well have been called Ofjacob.
    • Gilead is pretty much a country full of Quote Mine. Bilhah and Zilpah were slaves not ladies-in-waiting like the word "handmaid" implies, the same way June or Janine are. In Biblical times, Hammurabi's Code existed, and it stated that if you and your wife couldn't conceive, you used her slave to do the job for her, and just adopted the child as your own. They use the Handmaid system to focus on Bilhah and Zilpah, but if you were to read of Abraham and Hagar, it is to warn against it. Sarah and Abraham wanted a child and were tired of God making them wait, so Sarah convinced Abraham to use her slave, Hagar, to get a child. Hagar was pregnant with Ishmael, but Sarah became jealous and ran her out of town, despite the fact she was probably forced to do so. The only reason Hagar returned was because an angel commanded it. Around a decade later, Sarah had Isaac and the half-brothers didn't get along.
  • The geography of Gilead really underscores Atwood's backward, historical focus. Even in the early '80s, and certainly today, it would make much more sense for a Christian theocratic Divided States of America to be centered around the Deep South rather than New England.
    • I believe that this issue was discussed in the novel, and is an occasional trope: a person or region apparently most opposed to something, becomes its most dedicated defender or champion, once he changes his mind.
    • Word of God: Apart from Boston's pre-revolutionary history, the novel was set where it was in order to show this could happen anywhere.
    • You may not be wrong (at least when it comes to the TV show). Some of the promotional interviews for Season 3 hint that the American South isworse than Boston. Which would indicate the Handmaids there have it good.
    • A reality-based explanation is that Atwood was simply not familiar, or not focused on, evangelical Christianity, which is infamous for the "purity culture" that would be right at home in Gilead. However, in-universe, such a denomination would be (and is) rather unpopular in the Northeast, and Mrs. Winslow even says that the previous inhabitants of the mansion she shows Serena were "Baptists" (most likely Southern Baptists, as the evangelical Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the US). The Sons of Jacob are more like incels running under a very thin veneer of Christianity.
  • Why did they age down the Commander for the series? This wasn't too apparent until Offred's visit to the doctor where the doctor says he can help her because the Commander is probably sterile anyways, just like he does in the book, but there his supposition made sense as one that could actually work and wasn't just for his entertainment because he was at least 2 decades younger than the Commander, whereas here they are about the same age.
    • I don't know why they aged the Commander down, but if memory serves, age had nothing to do with why the Commander's probably sterile — the Sterility Plague is actually effecting the men, not the women, but Gilead won't admit it.
    • My understanding is that the Waterfords were aged down to make Offred seem more like a genuine rival to Serena for the Commander's affections. It levels the power imabalance between Offred and Serena (albeit, in a very small way), and so increases the tension between them.
    • The Setting Update had to age Serena down considerably to make her a believable Blonde Republican Sex Kitten; while an older woman can easily be a televangelist (like book!Serena) it's harder to pass an elderly woman off as one especially in the age of Tomi Lahren and Lauren Southern, both young women.
  • In the series when they escape, Moira is in the guise of an Aunt, and asks for the correct train, leaving June a few paces behind. The soldiers get June, which was obvious they would as she is alone as a Handmaid which she isn't supposed to be, but why did it not occur to her to just say, "I am accompanied by that Aunt there"? The soldiers would have gone to Moira to ask if this is true, she would have said yes, and they would have let them go, probably even quick enough for both to board the train.
    • The soldiers had been asking Moira to show her papers and answer awkward questions about where they were going and why. June keeping quiet when she was asked what she was doing wandering around on her own provided Moira with the distraction she needed to slip away from the soldiers and get on the train. If June had blurted out, "I'm with that Aunt over there!" The soldiers would have remembered the suspicious Aunt who'd avoided answering their questions and detained her before she got on the train. Result: now both Moira and June are hauled back to the Red Centre.
  • How is the caste system sustainable?
    The status of women is based on their pre-Gilead status; those married to party members/soldiers are Wives, fertile single/remarried women are Handmaids, etc. But all female children, both born before the revolution and abducted or born after to Handmaids, are Daughters. When they're married off, like we see in the book, they become Wives. How will they perpetuate the system of Wives/Handmaids/Marthas/Aunts/Econowives (the latter being, thus far, exclusive to the book and unseen in the Hulu series), when all new women are Wives?
    • Wives give birth to Daughters, Econowives probably give birth to Econodaughters. Who might become eligible to be Wives if their fertility seems good. Fertility testing for single women before marriage will probably separate the Econodaughters into Marthas and those suitable for marriage.
    • Seemingly confirmed, as during June's "birth", Fred meets a recently promoted Commander, whose wife fell with child without a Handmaid and was promoted because of this.
  • In the series, Nick is noticeably darker than both Offred and Commander Waterford. Actor Max Minghella's ancestry includes Italian and Chinese. If Offred gives birth to Nick's baby, she runs the risk of it being a Chocolate Baby. Neither she nor Mrs. Waterford seem at all concerned about that and only worry about Offred getting caught in the act.
    • I mean genetics aren't that cut and dry all the time. Considering that Commander Waterford knows next to nothing about June from Before, she could easily just say "My grandfather was Italian" or something along those lines. Possibly could be backed up by providing him a picture of her daughter, since he doesn't know who the father is. It wouldn't be hard and I doubt he'd look into it much considering it wouldn't exactly be the most illegal thing that's happened in his house.
    • Given that Serena Joy all but throws it in the Commander's face with no ill effects for Offred (so far), a child is probably great enough of a boon for his career to make it unwise for him to start asking too many questions about the baby's parentage.
    • The books mention that June never really knew her dad because her mother only slept with him to get pregnant, and because she was a militant feminist, let him be as involved as he wanted, which entailed sending a birthday card and nothing more.
  • Doesn't the setting justify patriarchy, contrary to the author's intended message? If you have only N percent of women who are fertile, then each fertile woman needs to make 2*(105/N) children on average to maintain the population. If you have 10% of fertile women, that makes that each fertile woman has to have 21 children on average. The oppression of the handmaids may be horrible, but someone has to work to pay for everyone's retirement at some point. The infertility plague seems to be never actually explored in it's logical consequences, and the author seems to think that our current morality is still the best one in those society-changing circumstances.
    • Oh my god! So sexual slavery is justified if it pays people's retirements? Besides, the troper above is taking at face value the fact that the women are the infertile ones, while it has been pretty clearly hinted at that the men at least as infertile as them. Serena, e.g., might as well be fertile —- by your logic she should have sex with other men to maintain the population.
    • No.
      • Patriarchy is never a solution and that the original troper is really downplaying "the oppression of the handmaids" AKA women being forcibly raped repeatedly to bear children. The idea of the book is that extremism is toxic and can form our society into something monstrous. It would not be, nor ever be, the onus of women to sacrifice their own personal freedom to fix a world that, mostly, men corrupted. Also, science is working on making babies outside of human bodies, no sexual slavery required.
    • The society as we know it in the western world — with state-paid retirements — has collapsed. Nobody in Gilead is going to receive any state-paid pension with the birth rate so low and their totalitarian politics, perhaps with the exception of Wives and Commanders, who probably accumulate wealth anyway. Rebels or nonconforming men are executed, Unwomen, old Marthas unable to work, rebelling Handmaids, Handmaids who failed to produce a child after three years and three tries, adulterous Wives... these all are executed or shipped off to colonies to clean toxic waste and to have slow and painful death. For Gilead it won't be that hard to dispose of their frail old men and women unable to work. And another thing — the sexual slavery very clearly doesn't work so you can't even say that the end justifies the means, because in the small community we see, there are only two births (Janine's and June's babies). Who would have guessed that ritualized rape and so much stress (from living as a sex slave) lower the chance of getting pregnant and giving birth to a healthy child?
  • Population Grown
    • The Handmaid's get passed around to various men to have children. Would the girls then grow up to be Handmaids and if so, wouldn't that lead to a lot of inbreeding due to lack of available men so you'd have to be a Handmaid to your cousin or something? Which also doesn't solve the lack of population if now you have to worry about genetic diseases.
      • I think the Handmaids are supposed to be like, a one-generation solution ideally. The daughters of the Commanders are Daughters and, assumedly, the fertile ones will be married off to the Sons of other Commanders/high ranking people and the infertile ones will most likely be Marthas or something of that nature. More realistically there would probably be Handmaids for a while and that inbreeding may occur, but I don't think that's the plan here.
      • In the book, they are supposed to be an example for others and in the transitional phase. Definitely not "one generation only" solution. The daughters to commanders and wives are going to grow into Wives, most likely, but if they disobey or sin, off with them to the training and shipping them to the next infertile couple. Unless they are executed or sent to colonies, probably depending on the "sin" and their repentance and willingness to atone.
  • Why were empty nooses hanging at the site of the Boston Globe massacre? The headlines on the stopped press and the driver's statement that the offices have been empty since "before the war" suggest that it took place shortly after the D.C. attacks and before Gilead had taken over which would eliminate the regime's usual M.O. of leaving victims hanging as seen elsewhere in the series.
    • They could've shot those in the office and then killed the stragglers with the noose.
    • It wouldn't shock me if they just did it for the shock value; that seems to be what most of the various methods of murder Gilead employs are for. It's not super necessary to hang someone from building equipment in front of her girlfriend but you're not doing it for efficiency, you're doing it to scare the survivor. We know they killed people in the office, we don't know if or how many people they kept alive and took with them.
      • This. Also, if the journalists were all killed via machine guns, the nooses may have been left as a warning to anyone prowling around and thinking of using the old newspaper printers against the regime.
  • On a practical level, how would a society like this not collapse for just economic reasons? Gilead has purposely removed half of the population from the workforce, meaning women will contribute almost nothing to gross domestic product (GDP). While some women are shown doing service jobs, like cooking and cleaning, the limits of being forbidden from reading and writing means they, and most certainly the generation of illiterate females which comes next, can't be skilled labor. Also, since women are non-persons, it's unlikely they can hold property or spend beyond what they're allowed in their roles as homemakers. The structure of Gilead's society doesn't seem like it serves any of the industries we know today, and probably has pissed away many of the advantages of the American economy. Consumer goods beyond necessities aren't apparent (e.g., I doubt anyone is carrying an iPhone, electronics like televisions aren't present in the homes we've seen so far, and things like clothing differences and other aspects of individual expression are gone), and I doubt many multinational corporations want to invest in the Christian dictatorship version of North Korea. Mention is made in the first season of an embargo/sanctions Gilead, and problems with Gilead's currency. Maybe in a world affected by fertility problems, pollution, and climate change (i.e., the Mexican ambassador states their staple crops are having problems growing) the bottom has already fallen out of the world economy. But still, stability is always better in economic terms, and Gilead seems like a society that would be a disaster from day one.
    • Honestly, if Gilead doesn't get shut down through force it's gonna collapse through the economy slowly and painfully. This is probably the reason they started the trade delegations with Mexico for Handmaid's—no one else wants to trade with them but other poor dictatorships and the only real thing they have to offer are their breeding chattel. Practicality wise this probably won't work out in their favor depending on how many Handmaids they deport this way, since according to the book only about 1 in 100 women can even bear children and not all of them would have been captured by Gilead during the takeover. They only have roughly 1.5 million Handmaid's to, apparently with this trade delegation, repopulate several countries. So, either they trade away most of their Handmaids and risk not being able to replace their own population or having to export another resource when it's kind of obvious that most of their food and other supplies are in short order since they need to be rationed and traded for. It's probably not gonna end pretty unless they figure their shit out.
    • The book had a brainwashed, Unreliable Narrator, and its implied the problem is more with the men than the women. Most of the Handmaids are women who committed some sort of crime against Gilead, like June committing adultery by sleeping with a married man or Moira being a feminist. Since they're fertile, they didn't get sent to the Colonies, with the Handmaid system acting as their redemption. So, yes, there's probably more fertile women, just some aren't Handmaids.
      • It may be a mixture of ideology and economics, like how North Korea still exists while suffering from constant famines and spending all their GDP on military, but they're propepd up by China as a deterrent against South Korea, Japan, and the States. Gilead's territory by contrast would be so broad that they don't need a China to prop them up- there's enough fertile land and infrastructure to keep things running for a little while. Meanwhile, the Gilead economy is gearing toward an "olden days" system to survive into the future. There's a Sci-Fi book series that shows this in a good way, 1632. Basically, aliens do something and an American coal mining town is transported to 1632 Germany, with all their modern tech and knowledge. The Americans realize that they can't bring the rest of the world to modern tech- they'll waste all their gasoline, bullets, and modern medicines in the process. So they begin a kind of controlled crash landing, aiming to scale their lifestyle back to the Industrial Revolution level, with allowances made for maintaining modern medicine and civics. Commander Lawrence might be guiding Gilead into a controlled crash landing so they'll survive when the birth crisis generation dies out in 30ish years. Returning to old farming methods, rapidly switching to sustainable energy sources, cleaning up radioactive sites while they have the bodies and technology to do so, cutting back on luxury to the point where clothing is uniform- they're literally preparing to live in the past during the future.
  • Speaking as someone who has not yet had a chance to read the novel, I'm not entirely clear on how the handmaid system works - or rather, who gets "chosen" for it. In season one I assumed that women who had previously given birth, and thus proven to be fertile, became handmaidens whether or not they had done anything wrong by Gilead standards (the exception being any commandor's wife who might be able to bear her own children). I understood it as Gilead attempting to increase their birth rates by having control over every fertile woman, and that commandors and their wives were considered the elite and therefore those men were seen as having the most desirable genes to pass on, and their wives seen as the most suited to raise the children. In season two, however, Nick's wife, while not yet proven able to bear children, is certainly expected to do so. Did I just get it completely wrong, and only women who were sinners in the eyes of Gilead were eligible to be handmaids? It seems strange to me that they would choose to pair those women up with the commandors, rather than to have women considered to be pure bear their children.
    • It's mentioned in a recent episode that an Econowife was caught breaking the law and was made to serve as a Handmaid to atone for her sins. It's also implied that June was forced in the same way because she was an adultress, she was Catholic, and she tried to escape. It's possible that if she had been Luke's first wife and they'd been the right religion, they would've been allowed to remain together. As for their purity, I think that's the purpose of the Ceremony and the Wife being present. The children are pure because in their minds God is creating a child between the Husband and Wife, the Handmaid is just a vessel.
    • In the books, that's the case, only Gilead gradually began to increase the number of crimes to increase the number of Handmaids.
  • Who is the figurehead of this regime? Even in the coup was mounted by a bunch of 'concerned citizens', someone would bite, bribe and bugger his way to the top. And his picture would be on all the walls as a result. Fictional regimes always lack an 'Exulted Leader' - except for Nineteen Eighty Four's Big Brother, who nonetheless may not even be a real person. The only real life authoritarian regime I can think of had no real figurehead was the last incarnation of Burmas' military junta and its' council of cleptarchs. Ironically in its' last days, pictures of Aunt Suu could be found everywhere.
    • There probably isn't one, besides God. Gilead is just run by Commanders of the Faithful.
    • At its heart, it is the Republic of Gilead. Who votes and who holds office are up for debate, but the title implies there is some form of twisted theocratic representative government. There may simply be a kind of Speaker or Prime Minister position that gets passed around the senior Commanders.
  • How did Lillie/Ofglen obtain a grenade? Who provided it to her? How did she get her hands on one? How did she manage to sneak it? Given how Handmaids are watched so closely, this is a plot hole. Did a Guardian provide it to her? Did she MacGyver one using previously learned skills?
    • Probably, it was a part of Mayday, and smuggled to her the same way Moira smuggled the letters. Because she couldn't talk, they figured she couldn't blab to anybody like Alma, or cause trouble like June. Possibly, you're right, as it could've been a Guardian, and someone who wouldn't cause trouble, or the like.
  • What happened to any remaining American embassies in other countries? Did agents of Gilead come to those other countries to destroy them? Were they reformed to be embassies of Gilead? Are they still being used by what is left of the United States?
    • It depends an awful lot about the timeline of events during the coup and whether any people at the top were in on it, which we still haven't got a full picture of. Most American Ambassadorships across the world are filled by the Spoils system- namely, they're appointed by the President after they win the election. Someone provides funding for the campaign, does work on the campaign trail, but doesn't have the expertise to make the Cabinet? Offer them the ambassadorship to a country. Assuming the President at the time of the coup was not in Gilead's pocket and everything happened in one day, it's likely the Ambassadors and their support staff either fled into exile abroad while the civil servants/security personnel who remained would have split down the middle- Gilead theocrats vs. American loyalists, mirroring the civil war breaking out back home. Violence and/or repatriation back to Gilead would then have followed by the host countries.
  • So, Fred raped June and Serena held her down, just so they could attempt to force June into labor faster. Last I heard of a man raping a pregnant handmaid, the baby died, and was sentenced to be executed by being beaten to death by a swarm of Handmaids. So if June's baby dies because of this rape, are Fred and Serena to be executed as that one nameless guard was in the very first episode of the series?
    • Considering how corrupt they are, and knowing the consequences, they could just claim something like June hemorrhaged and lost the baby, which would be pretty plausible, considering what happened earlier in the season, or they could blame it on Nick, so he won't blab. They obviously cannot execute them in a Salvaging, because it is hypocritical, and would cause outrage and likely rebellion. We saw what happened with Warren and Janine: Warren got his hand amputated, while Janine got sentenced to stoning/sent to the Colonies, so there'd be a double standard. Fred would likely get executed or something that would be a slap on the wrist in comparison, while Serena would be sent to the Colonies or hanged for helping.
  • Did I miss something or has Gilead lasted longer than a few years for Eden to be fifteen and have bought into its propaganda? But then, it doesn't take long for some of the adults given the trauma they've gone through.
    • It may be that the followers of Gilead are ok with some of its tenets because they were introduced to them early. When Serena flashes back to her college speaking tour, she says she doesn't think her speech will persuade anyone. Fred says that's not the point. The point is to put their ideas out there in the mainstream for people to hear about it and attract sympathizers- they wanted to shift the Overton Window before the coup. This was (and still is) a tactic of the Alt-Right in America. Go to a college campus, give a speech with sophisticated jargon but unpopular policy ideas, provoke a reaction from the crowd, set up your next gig and watch your book sell out online. The TV cameras show the "spoiled college kids" rioting, not the speech that quietly advocates for a "Peaceful Ethnic-cleansing" (to use one such speaker's words) so the viewer at home doesn't want to associate with rioting kids.
    • I think it's implied Eden's family was a highly fundamentalist family before Gilead. She was brought up on a farm, where she was probably indoctrinated by a fanatical mother and father. Gilead just happened to come at the right time for them. Perhaps, even, the Spencers could've been part of the Quiverfull movement, which promotes getting married as soon as possible to reproduce, and isn't shy about marrying off young women like Eden. It would be a reason why she likely can't read, and why she appears so brainwashed.
    • Commander Pryce tells Nick in a flashback that the Sons of Jacob have chapters in 30 states. So it's likely the Sons of Jacob were a widespread religious movement long before the takeover of the government. Quite possibly, there were isolated members living according to the beliefs and maybe compounds of members. It's not unheard of even now in the real United States, for instance, there's still a huge compound of fundamentalist polygamist Mormons in Texas that's seen a few raids. Their leader or "prophet" Warren Jeffs is in prison for child sex abuse. Sadly, such religious brainwashing sects do exist in this country, so it's not hard to believe that Eden has been believing the doctrine of the Sons of Jacob ever since.
      • There are whole towns in the American Southwest that have been quietly "conquered" by sects like these. Their prophet finds a small town off the beaten path, some infrastructure but nothing that puts it on the map (so to speak) and within months the population swells as religious fundamentalists buy up property. The newcomers immediately run for offices like mayor, sheriff, and town councilman, and because their members vote in a unified block, and begin passing laws and levying fines on non-believers until they're driven out of town or arrested.
  • Why did it take the publishing of the letters for Canada to reject Gilead? They've been taking in American refugees for years, so they know something's wrong; and at least one of the refugees (the Aunt mentioned in season one) had already gone public with what Gilead is like, so it's not like the truth about Gilead was a secret. And if nothing that came straight from the refugees' mouths has been enough to sway the Canadian government so far, why are some anonymous letters on the internet enough? Are the Canadian officials reacting purely to the public outrage? Because if so, I actually agree with Mr. Waterford — they're cowards. Not for kicking the Waterfords out due to public pressure, but for doing it only due to public pressure.
    • We don't know why Canada decided to meet with them. For all we know, they were going to discuss peace, until the letters made them realize the truth. Think about North Korea: we all know about the work camps and the totalitarianism, but nobody really does anything about it.
      • There seemed to be an element of 'For goodness sake Gilead is still around after five years so we have to deal with them' in the episode. Canada seems to be getting the majority of the refugees from Gilead since it's next door so it's not unreasonable for them to want to meet the leaders who started this mess. The Canadian leaders seemed to be looking at how to navigate relation and get a handle on the leaders despite their own feelings. The letters being published probably gave the people who were against the meeting the evidence they needed to point out that Gilead couldn't be negotiated with.
      • Also, there's the fact that Canada has a significantly lower population than the United States. Assuming the coup happened today, and only one-in-ten Americans decided to say Screw This, I'm Out of Here! and hoof it north, that would literally double Canada's population. Europe and Germany in particular experienced a huge political upheaval when one-million Syrians crossed the Greek border in 2015, with consequences that are still playing out as this troper is typing in 2019. If Forty-Million Americans fled to Canada, it wouldn't just put a strain on politics, it'd stretch their food production, their medical system, and basic civilian infrastructure to the breaking point. Luke would be lucky to get an apartment and not a shipping container or a tent to live in. In short, there would be real political pressure to send the refugees back.
  • How are the Handmaid's deemed to be fertile? Are all Handmaid's women who have already had children? And if they only want fertile women, wouldn't they want to test their fertility first before assigning them to be Handmaid's?
    • The women who become Handmaids are usually women who committed a crime and serve as one to avoid the Colonies. It's likely they test you before you get sent to the Red Center, though, so they don't waste, but knowing a woman had a child, it is probably self-explanatory.
    • We know several of the handmaids have had children previously. June, Moira, Emily, and Janine have all had healthy pregnancies before. That's a good indicator, as a start. (Although secondary infertility is a thing that exists.)
  • What if a Handmaid gave birth to twins? Would they keep both? Would it be like The Giver where they keep the healthiest twin and kill the younger one?
    • I doubt that they would ever kill a child due to the scarcity of children, but I'd feel sorry for them in any case. If actual history is anything to go by, Gilead might be involved in eugenics, like doctors were in Nazi Germany. They wanted to research twins to hopefully increase the amount of Aryan children, and they also wanted to research how to limit Jewish (or any race that they deemed inferior) women's reproduction cycle or sterilize them all together. Those twins might be in for a life of tests. Hell, what's to say they wouldn't keep one child to study?
  • Following that last question, what if she gave birth to twins and one happened to be a Shredder?
    • As far as the safety of the Handmaid that had the kids would go, I imagine as long as she had proven she could produce at least one healthy child it wouldn't count against her. They'd probably be upset that both twins didn't live since there's a shortage of children, but punishing a Handmaid who did at least have one "good" baby seems a little ass backwards even for Gilead.
  • Perhaps I missed something, but in the show, why does so few handmaids appear to actually get pregnant? We see flocks of handmaids walking about in almost every episode, but from what I recall, none of them have any visible bellies. Perhaps most noticeably in the execution in the very first episode, Janine has a visible belly, meaning several months passed here, yet she appears to be the only one with one. I know it can take several tries for a woman to get pregnant, and you can argue that their cloaks could hide a visible belly, but the same goes for scenes where their cloaks are off such as the birth scenes or in other cases; 95% of the handmaids always appear to have flat bellies as only the main characters such as Janine and June are shown pregnant. Is it too expensive or complicated to have more of the actresses wear fake pregnant bellies or something?
    • It's not explicitly stated in the TV series, but in the film and novel, the Handmaids have a limited amount of "tries" or Ceremonies before they're posted to new houses. In the film, it was implied if a Handmaid had to be posted more than three times, she was shipped off to the colonies or possibly executed. Also, if you remember the fourth episode of Season 1 ("Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum"), during Offred's doctor visit, the doctor mentions midway through the exam, "Doesn't matter. Waterford's probably sterile. Most of those guys are." In Gilead, infertility is seen as a sin of the woman not be "fruitful", as evidence by Offred's following monologue: "Sterile.. That's a forbidden word. There's no such thing as a sterile man anymore. Only women who were fruitful and women who were barren." Because of this, Handmaids and Wives conspire other means of getting pregnant, like using doctors. In the 1990 film, during the Salvaging, a Handmaid is hung for consorting with a member of the medical staff. It's implied by Offred's and Serena Joy's discussion while in the garden as well, when Offred agrees to Serena's plan to have Nick attempt to impregnate her.
    • "Is it too expensive or complicated to have more of the actresses wear fake pregnant bellies or something?" — No, absolutely not. The thing is that pregnancies are incredibly rare, both in the book and in the TV series. It shows that no matter how the Gilead may try to parade the "handmaid program" as successful, it's actually not. One baby per year in the city that used to be Boston... the society is done and people are dying out. They could have more luck with medical care, fertility treatments, supporting marriages out of love at young age, young families... Considering the handmaids are tortured (cattle prodding? burning hands? tongues cut out? eyes removed?) and raped and treated as sinful sex slaves, it's a miracle there are any pregnancies. However, it's implied the situation's the same or worse in other countries (the Mexican politician says there has been no baby born in six years).
    • Also, their reproductive strategy is doomed to failure. Even if the Commanders and Handmaids were all fertile and perfectly healthy, it usually takes having sex more than once a month to get pregnant. It’s recommended that an every-other-day intercourse schedule maximizes ones chance of pregnancy. Also, they’re using no technology to pinpoint when ovulation occurs, other than the calendar method, which long before the 80s was no longer being taken seriously in the Natural Family Planning community (a whole array of signs and symptoms are collected and analyzed, not just based on timing of menstrual periods—-for example, temperature shifts were discovered in the 30s!). That’s one of the reasons I had a very hard time taking the book seriously, but whatever.
      • The doctor in the book chides Offred for not trying often enough. They're actually supposed to perform the ceremony for the 4 days around ovulation.
  • I realized this is incredibly nitpicky, but: in real life, knitting patterns are written. Even if they're in shorthand (for example, "k2p2 T 6 B p2k2"), they require an understanding of reading to know what they're short for. How are Serena and the other Wives able to knit? Or pass on their knowledge of knitting to "their" children?
    • I learned to knit (and crochet) from written patterns that is true. But, it is also possible to knit very complex patterns from a chart. So that combined with actual hands-on teaching make it very possible for a non-reader to learn handcrafts.
  • 'Off Red' reads like a name a person might have, and I'm not sure this wasn't an intentional brief misdirect in the book. However, the correct pronunciation should be 'Of Fred' given handmaids are designated Of [Man's Name]. Yet, in the series, everyone calls June by the 'Off Red' pronunciation. Why?
    • Probably just because it's less awkward to say. Most of the other names are things like Of Daniel or Of Lawrence, which have no choice but to be pronounced in a kind of stunted way. Also, pronouncing it Off Red brings more attention to the other meanings behind the name i.e., she's slightly Off Red and not very good at staying in her role and she is being Offered (Offred is another, older way of pronouncing it).
  • Does shoveling toxic dirt into bags actually DO anything to clean it up?
    • It's about removing the radionuclide-contaminated upper layers of soil and other organic matter. In theory they'd then bury the waste at a disposal site, leaving the site decontaminated.
    • See HBO's Chernobyl, Episode 4. The Soviet Liquidators did roughly the same thing to bury the radioactive particles, but with tractors and bulldozers instead of shovels.
  • Outside of plot said so, why didn't Emily's wife have an alert set up for if Emily arrived? Did she believe there was no chance Emily would ever escape? Was there an alert and Emily had the ability to override it being sent out?
    • She might have thought that Emily was as good as dead, mourned her, and decided to move on with her life to make the best future she could for their son.
  • There is an option no one has mentioned in the show yet, but it'd be a death sentence for June and possibly Nick: Release DNA results showing baby Holly Nicole isn't Fred's daughter. Or it's possible even just saying, 'Alright, Commander Waterford, let us take a saliva swab, and if it's confirmed that the baby in Canada is your biological daughter, she will be returned to the country containing both biological parents. If not, then, her stepdad keeps his daughter's biological half-sibling,' might work. My question is: If this something along either of these lines did happen, would this help other countries who want to bring to Gilead down, or would something like this make it even harder for them to do so?
    • Harder, most likely. Ever hear the words "Fake News?" Plus the Canadians are leaning into Realpolitik. Gilead, for all its problems, is still the Former United States with its vast arsenal, sitting on a largely undefended and open border. If Gilead wanted, they could probably bring Toronto crashing down within days, and Ottawa within weeks. And I'm not sure anyone in this universe is interested in "bringing Gilead down" so much as making sure their lunacy doesn't spread.
  • Fred's arrest
    • Why is it only now that he's being arrested? He went to Canada earlier, shouldn't he have been arrested then?
      • The same reason we don't arrest dictators at the United Nations General Assembly: diplomatic protocol. Also, it wasn't the Canadians making the arrest, it was the American Government in Exile. The better question is, what will happen when Gilead finds out American soldiers made an arrest on Canadian soil if the two aren't military allies?
  • We see a handmaid with her mouth stitched together. How does she eat?
    • Probably through a straw.
  • The Aunts are all older, likely post-menopausal women. Assuming they die at 70-80 let's pretend Gilead actually lasts more than 7 years, that's 20-30 years of service. Well done! But who replaces them? elderly Wives? Retired Handmaids? Trustworthy Marthas or Econowives?
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