From ‘Ain’t I A Woman?’ To ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: It All Starts With Women

From ‘Ain’t I A Woman?’ To ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: It All Starts With Women

There is this steady march in this nation towards everything seen in The Handmaid’s Tale, or something out of Shakespeare — namely, Hamlet. There is a concept in Shakespearean literature is called primogeniture. This concept dictates there is a need to police and control female liberty, especially female sexuality. This need for this control is so there will be legitimate heirs to or in a family or familial line — thereby ensuring the legitimacy of inheritance.

Moreover, 176 years ago this past May, Sojourner Truth spoke about the matter of women’s rights at a Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. In the now iconic, often referred speech, Ain’t I A Woman?, shows her belief in women to be full participants in their own lives as well as her own need to be seen as both black and woman — when the nation in 1851, unwilling to recognize her as either, was 12 years away from emancipation.

Among the swampy Everglades nature of this administration, the now soon-vacated seat by 81-year-old United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for what can be determined has nothing to do with his age, but the fact his son is, or may be, a little dumber version of Meyer Lansky, it cannot be dismissed his replacement is one Brett Kavanagh. Rather than wax and wane about the murky nature of this, and the steady burgeoning constitutional crisis, I need attention to be paid to what it is to be female in a nation of chauvinists overseen by a man who admitted on tape he grabs women by their most intimate ladyparts. And no one saw this ‘locker room talk’ as a problem.

As a woman, I have learned to become vigilant about what is said, and more important of what isn’t said. With this decision and possible confirmation, the Supreme Court will become more conservative. From that shift, it is not a great leap to recognize the ability of women in this society to be constricted, autonomy to be compromised or maintain the integrity of self. These ideals hang from the 1973 Supreme Court Decision of Roe v. Wade, the Equal Rights Amendment as well as Title IX and Title X.

“I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart – why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. “-Sojourner Truth, Akron, Ohio, 1851.

Indeed, in the time where corporations are given more personhood as a woman, now with half the regulation, it cannot be ignored as to what potential is on the horizon for women. The conservative faction of the political spectrum has touted Roe v. Wade as something to be overturned in favor of ‘being pro-life.’ This argument has a false bottom. The right is pro-birth — all pregnant people need to have full-term babies. Being pro-life, you have the understanding that life goes beyond birth. This includes medical care, housing and clean water as a bare minimum. This includes the ability for women to have adequate wages to take care of those imminent to be born.

This society has a romanticized view of womanhood that being an actual woman in real life continues to shatter. Women in this nation cannot be viewed as complete people when the leader of the free world believes there should be some sort of punishment for any woman who has had an abortion. Not taking into account the nature of the decision any woman in that position has had to make, or the situation she may have been forced into where this decision has become a viable option. With the wage gap, also fueled by gender, we have to understand the value of women does not align with the nation’s romanticized ideal. It is expected for women to be demure, quiet and chaste. For women to not be those things, or not falling in any easily assembled category, seems to fuel the attitudes for regulating what women do with their bodies by men who have an idea of how the female body works.

In his recent decisions, we see Judge Kavanaugh is still quite conservative in his thinking about this topic of women and their bodies. With the stamp of approval of Vice President Pence and his obvious stance about abortion, it is not a far reach to believe with the United States Supreme Court with Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation will have five men and four women. There will be five people who have never been a position to be pregnant, may have needed access to resources which may have prevented a pregnancy, nor had to rearrange their lives to accommodate the birth of a child.

It is with cool logic, one can deduce the agenda present. If Roe v. Wade can be overturned, the Supreme Court could then begin to overturn other pivotal cases which have established or reinforced the need for change or progress in legally ambiguous, barren areas. Like with most sustainable change, it all starts with women.

Jennifer P. Harris

Jennifer P. Harris

Jennifer P. Harris is a lifelong St. Louis, Missouri resident, married mother of two, and founder of the blog The Ideal Firestarter ( since December 2016. She is a freelance writer, and contributor to the blog Write To Life. She is an independent author of several books available on Amazon, including the poetry series Love Songs Of the Unrequited, and her newest release, Writelife.