The allegations against Roy Moore are as numerous as they are denied, and with a presidential endorsement for his Senate run, it’s easy to assume that the accusers have gone unheard. On December 5th, dozens of women rallied in Fairhope, Alabama as a reminder that they have not. As a physical and certainly distinct marker of their protest, they dressed as handmaids, alluding to the characters in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The statement inherent in this choice is one worth receiving.
The theme derived from "The Handmaid’s Tale" isn’t a new one, as it recognizes a world wherein women are mistreated at the witness of the law. In June, it appeared in numerous states when activists demonstrated against gender discrimination and infringement of reproductive rights. A movement in Ireland mirrored the image in September when hosting a pro-choice campaign. The dystopian novel centers around a futuristic United States called the Republic of Gilead. Run by a totalitarian government, it sees the complete degradation of the female identity. Women are made servants to male masters, denied even the names they were born with and forced to take on those of these masters. Their rights are minimal, if existent at all. To don the traditional red robes and white bonnets of the handmaids make for a powerful statement; absolute ignorance of the allegations equates to ignorance of the accusers’ identities.
At the protest, one demonstrator carried a sign reading “We want a senator, not a predator,” while others wore black tape over their mouths printed with the names of accusers. Echoes and signs of “No Moore” have become popularized. Protest organizer Michele Harmon was emphatic in her resistance, stating, “What I am is a girl born and raised in South Alabama and I’ve had enough!” She claims, “If Roy Moore wins the upcoming Senate election in Alabama, sexual predators will feel supported, powerful and emboldened to exploit and attack more women and children.” Harmon argues that there isn’t anything political about standing up for what’s right.
Protesters see a Moore Senate win as a marker of the repeated victimization that women who have come forward will face, and as a dismissal of their claims. Spokesperson Mette McCall provides, “Since the dawn of time people in power have used their positions to control and manipulate their victims sexually. They achieve this by threatening them with repercussions or the thought of not being believed.” Moore’s uninhibited success thus far certainly serves as a reminder of the aid that power has in permitting perpetrators of sexual assault to act without fear.
These women dressed as handmaids are a symbol, both of resistance and necessary change. So long as claims of assault go denied, particularly by people in positions of power, we face the threat of a world not so different from that of Gilead.