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This collective terror also allowed Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority to lobby successfully against the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982.The United States is one of the last remaining countries in the world without a constitutional clause that protects the rights of women as full and equal citizens with men, and this prevents us from participating in key international coalitions against gender discrimination (like CEDAW, which we haven’t ratified either).
The Moral Majority effectively took the United States backwards a century policy-wise — and we still haven’t fully recovered.
It was during this rise of the Moral Majority that Atwood wrote and her creative process for it, but the thing that stands out to me the most is her comment that she made a rule for herself not to include anything in the novel that hadn’t already been done by some society, somewhere. And so, as I read the book for the first time that cold morning in 2010, the fictional world sounded a whole lot like my real life.
They celebrated Ronald Reagan’s presidency and encouraged his refusal to act on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which was killing thousands, largely because they saw it as fundamentally a judgment from God on the “immoral” behavior of homosexuals. As a result, President Reagan eventually did act, releasing a series of PSAs about the epidemic…but these were all focused on kids, the future of the religious crusade for a Christian United States.
Also part of this movement was the rise of Operation Rescue, a Christian group that encouraged protest (and, loosely, some terrorist-style) tactics against abortion practitioners and those receiving abortion services.
We’d chosen to wait initially for a host of reasons, the strongest one for me being that I had been raising kids for the last ten to twelve years of my life and couldn’t see myself having the energy to plunge back into the world of poopy diapers and snotty noses. “I just think that I could love you again if you were a mother.” Speechless, I told him to get out of the car. “There’s no way in hell I’d bring a kid into this mess if we can’t fix this on our own.” It was our last big fight.
Two years into our marriage, I’d had a few pregnancy scares and each time as I waited for my period, I had had nightmares and panic attacks, unable to shake a deep-set terror of being trapped at home with a baby and no life outside the home. We stopped communicating shortly thereafter, and the next time I had a real conversation was at the courthouse after our divorce hearing. Because I was running late for my gynecologist appointment to get myself an IUD.
Now we all sat there sipping our coffees, waiting for the hardest class of the year to get rolling.
Our literary criticism professor paused as he announced the optional reading titles on our list for the next week, a funny look on his face. It was written in 1984, published in ’85 or ’86, and was a reaction against the rise of the religious right — against the values that places like our school stand for.
Young girls who led the congregation wore white dresses and were stripped of identifying features — no jewelry, no nail polish, hair tied back and not in the face — while wives were submissive helpers to their husbands, with my mother used as the fertile ground for my father to breed a quiver full of Christian culture warriors. As was common in the movement, I was my mom’s right hand.