Please help me with the Handmaid's Tale

Hello forum people, I'm having a crisis here, and I am honestly asking for some advice:

Since The Handmaid's Tale (the book) became mainstream (maybe 3 years ago?) and the show came out I've had a lot of people in my real life trying to convince me to read the book and watch the show.  I became osmotically aware of the content from living in the world, and actively avoided it, except for the short reviews A.Ron and Cecily did that confirmed my hesitance in my mind.

I listened to the last two episodes of Red All Over, a recap podcast with Kelley Annekan (of Up Yours Downstairs) and the last episode made me cry.  They were being funny (and I think the podcast is great, its not the podcast's fault), but the idea of Gilead really breaks my heart and makes me feel vicariously helpless.

My problem is that I have had a lot of people trying to convince me of the importance of the show and book.  That reading/watching it is an obligation.  "Everything that happens on that show, happens somewhere in the world right now!"  I know that it is true, but I'm tired of arguing about it.

My mother grew up in a cult (I've posted about it before).  Her dad used the same justification the Commander did to beat his wife, to beat my mom.  A teacher's aide once paddled my adult mother (for disrespect at the Church's college) and then asked her to date him.  I don't mean to go into it, but these are things that have tortured me since I was a child because I couldn't do anything to help the young girl my mom was.  This stuff was wildly overshared with me from a young age, and I'm not joking when I say it gives me nightmares.

So here is my problem, how the hell do I get out of talking to someone (not the same person) about this once a week?  How do I stop having people lend me the book and get angry when I fail to read it?  I try to say I'm too busy, but that doesn't seem to be enough, and when I say that I can't handle it because of the family history, I've been told that's why I need to read/watch it.  Not everyone is that pushy, but its been three years and its starting to grate.

I don't want to use the word "triggering," because I think it has hit the cultural saturation point and now causes eye-rolls instead of sympathy, but this stuff honestly triggers me.  I honestly can't tell if I'm angry, hurting or sad.  Probably some variation of all three.  I grew up hearing "A Woman's Place" from my grandmother and my mom (she wasn't trying to indoctrinate me, she just didn't know any better).  This stuff traumatizes me.

So, is the book/show important enough that I should subject myself to them and suffer?  Am I less of a feminist If I do not suffer with the characters, since there are real women in the world suffering the same fates right now?  I'm truly asking, you guys seem reasonable, should I just deal with it? 

If not, what magic words can I say to bypass this, and "Fuck you" isn't among them, because I'm in a customer service field and have to be civil, to the point of niceness.


  • Frakkin TFrakkin T Currently Offline
    Thank you for sharing this. To state the obvious, you are under no obligation to consume any single piece of media. Also, "you're not a [blank] unless you watch/read [blank]" is the worst kind of fan gatekeeping. People who say that earn the brush-off you should give them. 

    If you don't want to say it triggers you, you can politely say "I know what it is, and I'm not interested, thank you." Anyone who pushes beyond that has earned a bit of a rude comeback from you, customer service or no. (I'm in customer service too, so I know the struggle. They're not always right, sometimes they are an asshole.)
  • MichelleMichelle California
    I think I would just try something like “Oh, I’ve heard a lot about it (whether it be book or show), but it’s not for me.”  and then try to change the subject.  If they get upset at you because you don’t want to read a book that they hand you without you even asking for it, then they have a problem that is nothing to do with you.

    I do agree that people can be persistent or insistent when it comes to a book or a television show that they believe strongly in. I get that the subject matter is of importance in this day and age, and is somewhat of a cautionary tale, but at the same time it doesn’t mean that everybody *has* to watch or read it.  Plus, as you know since you’ve seen some of it, it’s very dark and depressing, especially this season.  And that just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s totally ok.

    I also listened to the latest Red All Over podcast, and I was a bit surprised/put off at *how much* Kelly was bursting into laughter.  I like their podcast, but I will say that that (when it gets over the top) and a couple of other little things kind of get on my nerves from time to time, but overall I do think they’re very entertaining.

    Also, I’m really sorry for what happened to your mom. No woman - no person, really - should ever have to endure something like that.
  • You should have the strength to talk about it, but you should have the choice not to. I’m assuming you can tell whether you don’t want to get into it, or whether you can’t get into it. If it’s “can’t”, then maybe talk to a professional if it’s a boundary you don’t like. If it’s “don’t”, just say something like “I’m not into it.”
  • I appreciate that advice.

    Part of my discomfort, I think, is that the people who apply pressure really mean well.  They think I am missing out on something really relevant and along the lines of stuff I typically really enjoy.  I enjoy talking about shows like Westworld and the ethics of consciousness, so when people have a book or show that they want to do a deep dive of for better or worse I get recruited a bit.  Normally I don't mind.

    I appreciate the advice, and I think I will try the "not for me" tactic.  I was thinking of listening to the recap and faking it, but I hate being dishonest with people.  Honestly I really don't even like talking about it.

  • NoelNoel Dallas, TX
    Yeah I would just continue with the advice already given. It’s happened to me in the past where I got so irritated that I just said “would you just fuck off with *blank*?!” But that’s the asshole side of me that not everyone has. Everyone’s circumstances are different.

    Religion was a big part of my family for me growing up and I still see people (who I haven’t seen in a long time) become so surprised when I tell them I haven’t been to church in almost a decade. Because I don’t want to get into it, in those circumstances, I just give the calm “it’s not my thing” response.

    Hope you’re able to get through this!
  • It sounds painful. I could say “being a feminist means making your own choices, so others can’t define you.” But I’m a guy, I will say that being your own person means others can’t define you though.

    On the show itself, it is hard to watch for me. My wife loves it, but finds it depressing enough that we have to take breaks. When I see it, I equate it to American slavery bc that’s the closest thing I know. I can’t image living through anything similar. It definitely sounds traumatic. At least your aware of it and willing to address it!
  • DeeDee Adelaide
    I have this friend who is constantly on at me to watch/read/listen to things that I know are not my cup of tea for whatever reason. I just say, “Yeah, it’s on my list. I’ll get around to it at some point.” Then when she asks again I say, “Haven’t gotten to it yet - I’ll let you know when I do.” And if necessary I keep doing that until she stops asking. 
  • JaimieTJaimieT Atlanta, GA
    What @Dee said is perfect. If you give people excuses, they will try to knock them down.

    FWIW, I'm right there with you in finding the show triggering and not wanting to watch it. I have watched the 1st season but I don't think I'm interested in continuing. In fact, I just "lied" to a friend about my intent to watch season 2 the other day. (I say "lied" because for that brief moment I think I did intend to.) You saying this has actually given me some strength in this position. The show has always felt very much like torture porn to me... psychological torture porn. I don't judge other people for finding enjoyment in it, but it's a little too depressing for me.
  • manhattnikmanhattnik the big apple
    I agree totally, @JaimieT

    i was engrossed by Season One, but noped out after an episode or two of Season 2. Torture porn indeed. 
  • I'm a huge Game of Thrones fan, and I have a friend that hadn't seen it or read the books, and when I was like 'Oh my gosh, that show is fantastic!  You *have* to check it out!'.  She told me that she'd heard enough about it from other people and the internet to know that it was way too intense of a show for her, that she wouldn't be able to handle it.  That was all she needed to say to me.  I was like 'Oh!  I can understand that.  Ok!'  And that was that.
    The way I see it, A friend should respect your feelings about it and leave it at it. 
    And you are in no way required to watch any show or movie/listen to any podcast to be 'cool', 'in the know, or 'a proper feminest'.

    To my way of thinking, no form of media is more important than your sense of well being, so don't force yourself to watch it, or feel like you're missing out by not watching!
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