Fear and clothing: Wake up, we’re living in real-life Gilead
A weekly column on the vagaries and charms of fashion
Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale has just started. Apparently it is relentlessly violent and if possible even more disturbing than the first series. What has given many reviewers pause is that it really digs down into the way women are complicit with their own extreme subjugation in this dystopian world.
The worst offenders in the show appear to be the women who have somehow benefited from the new ecosystem – the infertile but socially superior wives and the completely terrifying female enforcers. “Wake up people. Wake up,” said Elisabeth Moss as she reflected on the new season. “This is happening in your real life.”I was thinking about this when I read about the virulent backlash Scarlett Johansson faced for daring to wear Georgina Chapman’s Marchesa brand to the Met Ball this week. If this is too obscure a fashion reference, let me explain. Georgina Chapman is the estranged wife of Harvey Weinstein. She is in the process of divorcing him.
Consider for a moment the implication of getting angry with either of these women for wearing and making this dress respectively. For one, Harvey Weinstein has been shown to be an absolute boor and bully. What gives anyone the right to assume they understand what was going on in his marriage with his wife? The speed with which she cut ties with him may be indicative of something – but that aside, her clear unequivocal statement of shame and sympathy with the women calling him out should be enough for anyone. But not for the baying chorus of voices who believe they hold the moral high ground or all the feminist credentials.If Weinstein goes down, Chapman must go down with him. So must her business partner (another woman), and so must Scarlett, for daring to break the ranks of all the women who have refused to wear Marchesa since this entire scandalous situation unfolded. Goddamn this stuff is complicated.
Take the case of the attorney-general of New York, Eric T Shneiderman, who like a knight in shining armour had stepped in to lead the forces of aggrieved lady justice against Weinstein and the pussy grabber in chief, Donald Trump. He was even awarded and lauded by several feminist organisations for his great efforts for women’s justice.
Shneiderman is best known for legislation he passed to make strangulation a punishable offence. Except he seemed to enjoy a spot of strangulation in the bedroom, and no, it was not the consensual kind. Seems the good attorney-general had a problem with aggressive, violent behaviour towards his long-term girlfriends, who independently of each other eventually decided that this farce had to stop. He could not publicly declare himself the best fellow traveller to the feminist movement and privately beat up and psychologically torment his lovers any more. He stepped down this week, all the while claiming the violence was consensual and they loved being called his “little brown slaves” and his “whores”. Apparently not.
His ex-wife, however (like Bill Cosby’s wife), has stood by him. She also runs his political career. Stop me if this is reading like a script worthy of Gilead. The reason the women gave for not reporting him to the police earlier (although they kept records of the abusive behaviour), told their friends (Salman Rushdie no less), and continued to date him long past the point of despair, was because he was doing such a good job for the feminist movement. Like I said: goddamn this stuff is complicated.