The Handmaids Tale-The Paradox of Serena Joy

The season 2 finale of the Handmaids Tale has left many of us in a state of emotional paralysis. There were moments of supreme triumph, tears, utter astonishment and bitter disappointment.  I didn’t know I was capable of feeling such joy at the sight of someone getting stabbed in the back nor so delighted by the phrase ‘Go fuck yourself Fred’.

Over the last several weeks, I like many others, have been somewhat masochistically looking forward to my weekly hit of the incredibly disturbing, yet completely addictive dystopian series. What I have found most fascinating is the evolution and some would argue redemption of the character Serena Joy. The audience is positioned to feel both intense loathing for this character and a kind of sympathy for the brutality in which she too falls victim. Serena was one of the architects behind the ruthless subjugation of her own sex, she is an accomplice in the rape, torture and murder of countless human beings, worse still she justifies these crimes under the guise of her religiosity. She adopts the arrogance of all fundamentalists by claiming her actions are those willed by God. Her heinous crimes compounded by her grotesque righteousness render her a figure of the utmost contempt.

However, in season 2 it’s clear Serena experiences moments of doubt, in such moments we are positioned to believe that her sense of dogmatic fundamentalism is waning. From the very beginning it’s obvious that Serena doesn’t consider herself intellectually nor spiritually inferior to her husband or indeed any man. Rather she accepts her subjugation as the necessary price she must pay to achieve her ultimate dream, motherhood.

However, she only appears to openly question the laws of Gilead when she herself becomes the object of physical brutality. After Fred is injured in the explosion, instigated by one of the handmaids, Serena with the help of June, quickly steps in to prevent any potential backlash on their household. The pair go as far as to forge documents arresting a commander who they suspected was a threat to their own safety. However rather than praise her for her pragmatism and quick thinking, once recovered, Fred punishes Serena by striking her with his belt. He demeans her for daring to act on his behalf in a ritual that is as degrading as it is uncomfortable to watch.

We could consider Serena to be a self-loathing character, filled with a sense of inadequacy and extreme frustration at being unable to bear a child. She projects this frustration by abusing the women around her. She slaps Reida in the face at the baby shower after June absent-mindedly reminisces out loud about her own shower when she was pregnant with Hannah.  It’s clear that Serena resents this ‘adulteress’ this ungodly, underserving woman who so easily had been given that which Serena craves most, a child and the love of a husband. Serena further manifests this resentment through degrading June in front of Eden. After she is abused by Fred she seems to have made the belatedly sobering realisation that she is essentially powerless and thus rather desperately seeks to assert her power in the only way she can, by further subjugating the other women around her. In this context Serena manifests a trend commonly identified by sociologists within oppressed minority groups. When a group of people face severe discrimination they often project their frustration by mistreating the only people deemed less powerful then they are, which are often the women of their own community. This is a dynamic that has often been associated with African American men and women.

Serena’s doubt in Gilead seems to be further amplified after the visit to Canada. To see herself through the eyes of others as the object of derision and scorn is something she clearly finds difficult to stomach. When she and Fred first arrive, the commander is quickly whisked away to discuss important manly things whist she is given a picture-based itinerary of ‘cultural activities.’

It is clear that she resents this patronisation. These feelings are compounded by the fact that she is clearly more intelligent, articulate and far more competent then her husband but is treated, even by those outside of Gilead as little more than an invalid.  Her conversation with her female host reminds her of the life that she has given up and the intellectual pursuits that she has forfeited. Her meeting with the American envoy further exacerbate the seeds of doubt. However, it is of course her confrontation with Luke that is the most rattling. How can one be expected to react when ones husband is called out as a rapist?

The catalyst to what may be considered Serena’s quest for redemption comes after the death of Eden. A pious and devout child’s life is extinguished in an utterly senseless fashion. There is a supreme irony in the logic of a society which puts fertility and childrearing at its foundation and yet kills people with impunity and shows such a callous disregard for the value of life itself. It is after the death of Eden that Serena has her metaphoric ‘come to Jesus moment,’ finally realising that no man, woman or child is truly safe in the world she helped create. After the urging of June, and the wellbeing and future of her daughter in mind, she thus seeks to incrementally change Gilead by asking the commanders to allow women and girls to read the bible.

In Gilead, as in medieval Europe, reading the bible is a privilege reserved for the elite. Indeed, for much of European history leading up to the 16th century it was illegal to possess a bible in one’s own language. Those who occupied the upper echelons of society considered the idea of the common man reading the bible to be an affront to the status quo. Much better for him to rely on the interpretation of his betters and not disrupt the delicate balance of power, a sentiment shared by the commanders of Gilead. By asking for girls and women to be permitted to read the bible Serena is literally asking permission for the acquisition of knowledge. This notion is abhorrent to the commanders. In this society only men have the right to knowledge and the power it bestows.

Serena is punished for reading the bible by having her ring finger removed, in accordance with the laws of Gilead. The fact that Fred allows this to happen is extremely telling. The flashbacks reveal that Fred once respected and supported Serena and encouraged her to pursue her ambitions. His allowance of this abuse reveals that all relationships, including that between a man and a wife become warped and distorted in Gilead.

However, in the closing minutes of the season, Serena proves that she is not wholly without a soul. By allowing June to escape with the baby she willingly forfeits her right to motherhood, the thing she desired above all else. She realizes that this world of her making is no place for a child, especially not a daughter. Her love for Nicole transcends her own religious dogma.  To her credit, it takes no small degree of heroism and humility to realise that your child would be better off elsewhere. June’s decision to honour Serena’s choice of name shows if not a belief in redemption, than at least gratitude for Serena’s selfless gesture.

 

 

Advertisements

How I can help your business

At Constantly Curious we love to play with words. We create intelligent, thought provoking and engaging content to help grow businesses and inspire, educate and inform consumers. We specialise in providing small to medium sized businesses with exceptional content and offer a range of affordable copywriting packages.

About me

Hi there I’m Claire, a self professed word nerd, coffee enthusiast, Netflix junkie and the  curious woman behind CC. I’m a passionate writer and communicator with accomplished editing skills. I write engaging, well researched and expertly crafted content. I have a background in journalism and possess a strong understanding of SEO, digital content as well as excellent research and analytical skills.

I am a versatile and creative writer. I am currently completing a masters of international relations and bring a specialisation in areas such as environmentalism, sustainable fashion, global politics and gender. I could write about Donald Trump, US China Relations and the next season of the Bachelorette all day long, what can I say I’m a women of diverse tastes. When I’m not busy writing you’ll usually find me with a glass of Pinot Grigio in my hand and a good book.

 Whether your looking for help with your online copywriting material, blog writing or social media management I’m your girl!

                                                                                   Blog Posts

Untitled design

let’s face it, a lot of the internet is just noise.  To ensure that your brand stands out you need quality content that is insightful, engaging and of genuine interest to readers.

I take the time to understand your brand and audience. I write targeted, thoroughly researched and expertly crafted articles and blogs posts to help grow businesses.

Blog posts are a great way to improve the SEO of your business but it can be a time consuming and laborious chore for business owners and managers. That’s where I come in.  I am able to write and edit long and short form articles and blog posts and produce intelligent, witty and engaging content to help convert traffic into sales and spread the word about your great products and services.

                                                                  Website/ Email Copywritingcopy-of-constantly-curious.jpg

I craft compelling and engaging copywriting material to help consumers engage with your brand. Your website and email copy are the ‘voice’ of your organisation, as such you want it to represent you in as positive a way as possible.

                                                                                  Social Media

p05v8wh7.jpg
Keeping up with the every growing world of social media can be a headache for business owners and managers. I can optimise blog and copywriting material for social media channels and create a content calendar and social media schedule. I can also create a bespoke social media plan.

 

If you’re keen to get started  please feel free to contact me below and I will be in touch as soon as possible.

Moving towards the circular economy- the experts speak

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with some of the movers and shakers of the sustainable fashion industry as part of this year’s Vivid Ideas Exchange. I heard from a truly marvellous group of creative women who are disrupting the fashion industry as we know it in search of a more thoughtful, sustainable and in particular, less wasteful industry. The theme of the presentation was on the importance of transitioning from a linear, take, make and discard model of production and consumption to a more positive, regenerative circular system. The circular economy, as the presenters argued, is a system where waste becomes obsolete, it is literally designed out of the system.

Studying environmental politics as part of my postgraduate studies means that I spend a significant amount of time listening to academics who are not particularly hopeful about the state of our planet. Therefore, it was quite refreshing listening to a group of entrepreneurs, designers and writers working in the sustainable fashion industry that had a more uplifting perspective. One of the industry powerhouses that was present at the event was Clare Press, sustainability editor at Vouge.

35482232_642508829432797_6236091281689280512_n

Clare spoke passionately about the need to change our current patterns of consumption.She argued that on average a person only wears a garment between 4 to 10 times before throwing it away. The majority of these clothes end up in landfill and due to the dyes and toxins used in the manufacturing of most garments it can take on average 200 hundred years for an article of clothing to biodegrade. Furthermore in 2015 less than 1% of clothes were recycled into new garments. Although many of us donate our clothes to charities and op-shops less than 15% of clothes given to op-shops are actually in good enough condition to sell. Consequently, the fashion industry is enormously wasteful.

Today’s system of production and consumption is prefaced on a model of deliberate obsolescence. We are not encouraged to ‘fix’ or treasure the things we own but enjoy them for a short period of time and then replace them.

The idea of the circular economy by contrast, is one in which there is no end of life to the clothes we wear. Clare argued that we should move from considering ourselves as consumers but rather as makers, sharers, borrowers and embrace an upcycle system. She certainly has a point, businesses like Uber and Airbnb enable people to share both their cars and homes with strangers, why then should sharing our clothes be any different? In the course of her speech Clare confessed that the stunning designer jacket she was wearing was not in fact hers but rather she had rented it through one such system. This struck me as rather brilliant idea. After all I can’t be the first to have ever bought a dress or outfit for a particular occasion only for it to end up in the abyss of my wardrobe, seldom ever to see the light of day again.

Also present was Tonia Bastyan, creator of Chalk Re-Design an organisation that educates and inspires the apparel industry to become conscious global leaders. Tonia left the fashion industry as we know it to create a kinder one after becoming disillusioned with the level of waste and lack of value and connection in today’s conventional fashion world.

Tonia argued that a designer in a major fashion house has no connection with their fabric or the people that make the raw materials that go into their designs. We need to restore a fibre to hanger mentality, simplify our supply chains and restore a sense of meaning and connection with both our clothes and consumers, she argued.  Tonia also reiterated the idea that we need to dramatically change our approach to waste and recycling, in a circular economy there should be no end of life by a process of constant rejuvenation.

In reference to this idea Tonia spoke of her own brand Conscious Swim, an ethical children’s swimwear brand that uses econyl, a recycled material made from fishing nets. In doing so Tonia said she hopes to inspire and educate children to think about waste.

Tonia also argued that whilst Individuals and consumers certainly have significant power to drive change, institutional and macro level commitment is also vital in securing a sustainable future. How fabulous would it be, she asked, if nippers decided to exclusively use recycled material in their swimwear?  Or school uniforms for that matter? This is certainly an excellent point. The problem with fast fashion and waste production is a systemic and institutional one and therefore requires an institutional response. “creating a community of change makers is crucial” were the words reiterated by Ellen MacArthur, an advocate for the circular economy.

The presenters argued that shifting mindsets is a priority and that we must nurture the belief that there are other ways to do things, we must disrupt the damaging system of linear economics and make way for a more positive, regenerative circular system.

 

Planning a European holiday? Here’s what you need to know

  1. Book a Tour

Tours are not necessarily for everyone, some people are happy to travel and explore on their own. Good for them, whoever they are. For most of us however, especially first-time travellers, the prospect of travelling to another country, where you don’t speak the language, have no local knowledge or first-hand experience of, can be somewhat daunting. One of the best parts of doing a tour is that it offers you peace of mind. Having your logistics taken care of is an immense relief as this is often one of the most stressful parts about travelling overseas.

Tour guides are also veritable sponges of local knowledge. They can offer you invaluable advice not just on great local places to eat, drink and visit, but also inform you of the rich history and culture of the places you visit.

Picture3.png

Not to mention they can offer you tips and tricks and wonderful little nuggets of wisdom you never would have known otherwise, for instance, did you know there are actually 6 different entrances to the louvre?

The two main tour companies for young people are of course Contiki and Topdeck. No matter where you want to go, what your budget is or how long you want to travel for, I guarantee that out of the plethora of options available through these two companies you will be able to find a tour you are happy with.

Picture2.png

Tours are also great if you are travelling solo like I was. It gives you an opportunity to meet people and make friends. I made some awesome friends on my trip and there was lots of other guys and girls travelling solo as well. But even if you are travelling with a friend or a group, you may also enjoy the experience of meeting new people. After all spending 24/7 with the same people can often drive even the most patient of person a little nuts. It’s good to mix it up and mingle with others a bit. Ultimately the hardest part of a tour is fighting your hangover and making it onto the bus on time on your drive days.

2. Book activities in advance

When you can, I would also advice to book some of your activities in advance. I booked my entrance into the Palace of Versailles and my transport arrangements from Paris and back before I left and when I got there I was bloody glad that I did. The line looked like it was stretching into outer space. I definitely believe that you should leave room for some spontaneity in your trip, but if there is something that you are absolutely desperate to see (for me that was Versailles) and you are on a limited time frame, than I definitely think it’s worth it to plan ahead and book in advance. Major attractions like the Vatican and the Sagrada Familia give you the option to pre book.  Vivator is a great site where you can book tones of activities and tours and the app has extensive reviews and descriptions.

Picture4.png

3. Get used to paying for things you don’t back home

Travelling abroad can be an enlightening experience in many ways, for one it can illuminate the profound privilege we enjoy back home in Oz, one such privilege is the liberty to use a public bathroom without paying for it.  That’s right, in Europe and other parts of the world public bathrooms are not free. It’s not exactly expensive, the going rate to use the loo usually comes in under a Euro so it’s definitely essential to have some change on you at all times. Tipping is also big in Europe particularly in restaurants and cafes. Sometimes your bill will come with a tip included, you don’t have to be too daunted by the idea of tipping, typically a couple extra euros per person is considered acceptable. Also there’s no such thing as free table water in Europe.

4. Download city maps 2 go

This little app saved my life! I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are like me and have absolutely no sense of direction and are inept at reading maps than fear not, all you need is this app and you can get yourself anywhere and I do mean anywhere! In fact I still use this to get myself around Sydney and virtually anywhere I’ve not been before. City maps to go enables you to download maps offline so you can access GPS when you are out and about and not drain you spending budget dry by racking up a colossal phone bill. That’s another thing, remember to switch your roaming off or you could end up with a horrifyingly expensive phone bill.

You are entitled to one free map when you download the app. You can get a subscription for $15 a month and download as many maps as you like, which is of course helpful if you are travelling all over Europe. Or if you are a scab like me you can delete and reinstall the app as you travel to each new city.

Picture5.png

Things to bring I wish I had remembered

Travel pillow

For some reason I was dead set against brining a travel pillow. Maybe because they always reminded me of that scene in New York Minute, where one of the Olson twins pisses of the guy next to her by inflating her bright pink travel pillow in his face. For whatever reason I didn’t bring one and lived to regret it. The 26 hour flight there and back was a long one and I barely slept a wink. Not to mention I think I was the only one on the bus who didn’t have one. I eventually bought one in a servo station somewhere and it was like resting on a cloud.

Portable phone charger

This was something I honestly didn’t think of until after I left. When you are out and about all day, especially if you are using your app to get around you really do need to be able to recharge your phone.

Corkscrew

You may laugh at this but let me tell you there are few things more frustrating in life then buying a bottle of wine and then not being able to drink it! It’s an experience that I do not intend on repeating, from now on I never travel without a corkscrew.

Waterproof jacket

Even if you are going in the middle of summer like I did no place on earth is impervious to rain. So always plan for wet weather.

 

Is public disclosure the answer to pay inequity?

One of the truly great achievements of the #Me Too movement has been to point out the prolific and unsettling pattern of pay inequity, something that critics have historically dismissed as hyperbole.  The often times enormous pay disparities amongst executives and high profile personalities in the media, not to mention sport, which is often guilty of the most egregious pay disparities has become the subject of contention and increased scrutiny of late.

Despite competing in the same sport, in the same ocean and in the same conditions as her male counter part. Female surfer Zoe Steyn claimed half the prize money as male surfer Rio Waida at the Billabong Pro Junior series in Ballito, South Africa, on the weekend.

36249874_10157841872023508_481155264796426240_n.jpg

The gender pay gap is often clouded in a degree of confusion. Most young people would regard it as incomprehensible that a man would be seen by some to be intrinsically more valuable than a woman or offered more money for the same job.

For most of us, our first jobs are subject to an award wage. Whether it be hospitality, retail, ect. In this case a man and woman of equal age that perform the same job are entitled to the same wage. If a company chooses to pay a male employee in such circumstances more than his female colleague, then she would have grounds to sue that company for discrimination.

Women that are in mid to senior level professional positions are often times vulnerable to gender pay inequity as these are the types of jobs that often offer the potential to negotiate on salary.  It’s in these circumstances where men seem to commonly be offered a disproportionality higher amount of money than their female colleagues.

The reasonable question to ask is how do companies get away with paying female employees less than their male colleagues? Ultimately what it essentially boils down to is secrecy. Often times people simply don’t know how much money their colleagues are making. Most of us have been raised to think that it is impolite to talk about money and certainly in many cases this is true. It can be seen as boastful and obnoxious to talk about what your salary is or intrusive and indelicate to ask your colleagues about their own. But what if it was all public information?

In Norway this is indeed the case. If you want to know how much money your boss, doctor or teacher makes you can simply look that information up. There are pragmatic reasons for this policy. Norway is one of the most highly taxed countries in the world with an average income tax rate of 40% therefore having an increased level of transparency to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share is seen as acceptable.

The Scandinavians are pioneers when it comes to wacky social policies but they consistently rank in the top 5 for happiest people on earth so maybe we could learn a thing or two from them.  The idea certainly has its merits, one would hope that employers wouldn’t dare pay their female employees half the salary of their male colleagues for fear of public outcry and the backlash it would inevitable ignite. Most people simply do not accept the notion that a woman should be paid a cent less than that of a man for doing the exact some job. If salaries were public record it would hold employers to that standard and force them to make it reality.

At the very least perhaps we should revise the taboo about discussing money amongst colleagues and friends.  Knowledge after all is power. The Me Too movement also highlighted the fact that female actors of colour are routinely paid significantly less than that of white female actors. A fact that was in part, brought to light by women of different races discussing their salaries amongst each other. If we were encouraged to be more forthcoming with one another it could help to identify exploitation and recognise disparities.

Every day things we can all do to help the effects of climate change

Climate change is among one of the most important issues for young people in Australia according to the Australian Youth Representative Consultation Report. This is no great surprise, sometimes it can feel as though we are only one mere disaster movie away from a true apocalypse.  Although it may seem tempting, we should not wallow in despair and lament the seemingly inept nature of our government and bureaucracy to enact sensible legislation on climate change. Time is of the essence and we must act now.

Although the government should certainly not be let of the hook, there are in fact many things that we as individuals and consumers can do in our every day lives that have a significant environmental impact.

Reduce your single use items

This is a pretty obvious one but it’s worth mentioning anyway. We use and  throw away an exponential amount of waste and a lot of it is completely unnecessary. Coffee cups, water bottles and plastic bags, we use a tremendous amount of these products and most of them are non recyclable. By 2050 it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember to bring your own coffee cup, water bottle and reusable grocery bag but forming these types of habits are extremely important in mitigating the levels of waste we produce. Furthermore we shouldn’t underestimate the power we have as consumers, if enough of us demand more of businesses then they will have little choice but to act.

replace some of your household items

One thing that doesn’t spring instantly to mind when looking to cut back on waste is toiletries, but these are things nearly all of us use in vast quantities are are largely non recyclable. In the US alone one billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away every year creating 50 million pounds of waste annually.  You can help make the world a little greener by switching to a non-toxic, silicone ISSA or bamboo based toothbrush.

Sanitary items also come with an exceptional amount of plastic and as women we go through an exorbitant amount of them over the course of our lives. Switching to a mensural cup can dramatically help reduce your level of plastic waste.

Eat less meat and dairy

Before you role your eyes I’m not suggesting a universal conversion to veganism, I’m a little more realistic then that. However the agricultural sector is highly pollutive, in fact more so than the transport sector. There are 1.5 billion cows on earth, each one produces 65 gallons of methane a day as they digest their food. Methane is a highly potent green house gas and traps 25% more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Furthermore enormous sects of land need to be cleared for the animals to graze on and to grow crops to feed the animals. In fact one third of our planet is now used for livestock. The clearing of land for livestock is a major cause of deforestation. This subsequently causes further problems as trees naturally absorb CO2.  Globally it is believed that the agricultural industry contributes to 15% of green house gas emissions.

In Australia and elsewhere in the developed world we consume exorbitant amounts of meat far more than is deemed necessary for our health. If we are to mitigate the more extreme effects of climate change we need to embrace something of a lifestyle change and that incudes consuming less meat and dairy.

Be mindful of where your clothes come from.

This one might take some people slightly off guard, the fashion industry is actually the second most pollutive in the world, right behind oil. This is primarily related to the emissions that are transmitted by the shipping of garments and raw materials from one continent to another across different stages of the supply chain.

Clothes today are not necessary designed to be particularly durable. With a surplus of affordable options available there is little incentive for us to keep our clothes for years and years. Subsequently 4 billion pounds of textile waste is put into landfill each year.  The chemicals used in the production of garments also mean that it can take up to 2 hundred years for a t-shirt to biodegrade.

However it’s not all doom and gloom, there is now a variety of purposefully designed sustainable fashion brands and online retailers who champion the idea of ethical fashion.  There are also several independent not for profit groups which seek to inform and educate consumers on which companies are seeking to lessen their environmental impact.Organisations such as Good On You, have a diligent team of researches who provide information to consumers on how companies are performing in terms of environmental impact, labour rights and animal welfare. Their website and app is a plentiful source of information for consumers who are in doubt of where to shop.  The aptly named ethi is an online retailer which only sells ethically produced clothing. Furthermore there are several companies and fashion brands which are embracing the idea of sustainability. Nudie Jeans Co offer special repair shops in which customers can bring in their jeans for a free fix up. If however they decide they no longer want to keep their garments customers can donate or hand them in to be recycled through the companies own recyclable program.