Political News

'Handmaids' descend upon Hill to protest health care bill

Posted June 27

A group of about 30 women dressed in "Handmaid's Tale"-inspired attire -- red cloaks and white bonnets -- walked the US Capitol grounds Tuesday to protest the proposed GOP health care bill

The activists were part of Planned Parenthood's staged "Peoples' Filibuster" protest against the GOP health care bill, which -- like the House bill passed in May -- aims to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. It would also defund Planned Parenthood for one year.

Margaret Atwood's bestselling book, published in 1985, takes place in a dystopia called the Republic of Gilead -- a totalitarian society, formerly known as the US, where a class of women called the handmaids are subjugated and used only for reproduction.

Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale," which ended its first season earlier this month, has inspired a handful of protests across the US, including in Texas and Ohio.

Elena Lipsiea, a Planned Parenthood volunteer who was dressed as a handmaid from the Hulu show, told CNN she was contacted by Planned Parenthood about an opportunity to participate in Tuesday's protest.

"We deduced to dress in the 'Handmaids'-inspired costumes because the novel/television series presents a dystopia where women's bodies are not their own," the 21-year-old student, from Albany, New York, said. "This narrative is all too real. We want our senators and administrators to know just how serious we take their legislation and our right to health care. The costumes make a visual statement and demonstrate how seriously we take this."

She said the group protested "on and off" for about three hours Tuesday.

This isn't the first time pop culture has influenced political movements. But in the Trump presidency, dystopian films, TV shows and books have commonly been used in protests.

In January, following President Donald Trump's inauguration, Sinclair Lewis novel's "It Can't Happen Here," about a gradual fascist takeover of the United States, and George Orwell's "1984" topped Amazon's list of its best-selling books. "The Handmaid's Tale" also found a new spot lower down on the bestseller list, joined by "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley, "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury and "Animal Farm," also by Orwell.

Even Atwood, showrunner Bruce Miller and cast members have spoken about the similarities between the show and modern-day politics. But the series was picked up in April 2016, before Trump even became the Republican nominee.

In one episode of the show, Offred -- played by Elisabeth Moss -- says: "I was asleep before, that's how they let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn't wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didn't wake up either. Now I'm awake."

Hulu declined to comment on the growing popularity of protests utilizing attire inspired by the show, and Planned Parenthood did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. However, Atwood has frequently retweeted images of protesters dressed as handmaids, including those in DC. By Tuesday afternoon, "handmaids spotted in DC" became a trending Twitter moment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will delay the vote on the Republican leadership's health care bill until after the July 4 recess.

"We were seen and heard," Lipsiea said. "Now we want our legislators to listen."

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