The Handmaid’s Tale, by Canadian author Margaret Atwood has inspired communities of women to protest against the anti-choice legislations that have been challenging societies. Though Atwood’s book depicts a dystopian society, women donning the scarlet robes and white bonnets remind us that reality is facing the challenges the fictional society faced in the novel.
In March 2017, a group of women marched into Texas’ state capitol building, dressed in the iconic scarlet robes and white bonnets that were worn to limit sight in one direction, forward. This came before the release of the Hulu hit series based on the book, but was not an act of fandom. The women had dressed in the attire to protest against a bill that would restrict abortions in the state. From the balcony, surrounded by police officers, they turned cosplay into a political act that would start more. An act that would start a global movement against anti-abortion legislation.
The momentum was passionate, six weeks later protesters in Missouri dressed similarly to protest against a budget provision that would bar uninsured women from getting services from doctors that would refer them to abortion facilities. The movement has gained a lot of attention on social media as well as media in general, with twitter being key in expressing opinions on the protests but also its relation and impact with the hit TV series.
Emily Morgan is an important figure in this movement, as after recognising the potential to expand the protest nationwide, she set up a website called The Handmaid’s Coalition. The website offers tips on making costumes and gathering participants for the protests, ultimately acting as the central source for pushing this movement forward. The movement later hit Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, and has now gone international.
The most recent protest consisted of four women dressed in Handmaid attire in Queensland, Australia. This comes ahead of the state elections on the 25th of November, in an attempt to remind voters that whether or not abortion remains a crime under state law depends on who wins in the upcoming elections. Abortion is still a crime in Queensland, and only unlawful if the fetus is a detriment to the women’s physical or mental state. Renee Carr, the executive director of Fair Agenda, and independent lobby group, told Buzzfeed News “Right now there aren’t enough pro-choice champions in parliament to end these cruel and degrading laws. But at this election we can change that.”