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Margaret Atwood defends ‘I told you so’ mug likening America to Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood defends ‘I told you so’ mug likening America to Handmaid’s Tale
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ imagines a future in which the US has become a fundamentalist, authoritarian, theocratic regime known as Gilead

Margaret Atwood has expressed her dismay over current similarities between attacks on reproductive rights in the US and those portrayed in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

On 11 July, the author shared a photo on Twitter of herself holding a mug with the words “I told you so” written across it. She wrote alongside the image: “In Nova Scotia with appropriately sloganed coffee mug…”

The tweet received more than 65,000 likes, along with comments from some people who questioned the message behind the photo.

The image was a reference to the recent attacks on reproductive rights in the US. Last month, the US Supreme Court reversed the long-held Roe v Wade decision, which had protected abortion rights across the country since 1973.

The overruling of Roe v Wade caused many states to swiftly restrict abortion access via trigger laws instauring bans, designed to take effect after the reversal.

On 12 July, Atwood clarified what she had meant by the picture, writing on Twitter: “My goodness, some of you are good at misreading! To be clear: when Handmaid’s Tale came out in 85, there was disbelief. I thought a religious-right takeover was possible in the US, and was Crazy Margaret. Premature, but unfortunately too close. That doesn’t make me happy.”

The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopia published in 1985, imagines a future in which the US has become a fundamentalist, authoritarian, theocratic regime known as Gilead. Women are assigned roles, which include that of handmaid – a woman assigned to a high-ranking couple and forced to bear children for them.

<p>A fireproof edition of The Handmaid’s Tale on display at Sotheby’s in New York City on 3 June 2022</p>

A fireproof edition of The Handmaid’s Tale on display at Sotheby’s in New York City on 3 June 2022

Back in May, after Politico published a draft of the Supreme Court opinion that eventually overturned Roe v Wade on 24 June, Atwood wrote an op-ed for The Atlantic titled: “I invented Gilead. The Supreme Court is making it real.”

In the piece, Atwood explained she had initially stopped writing The Handmaid’s Tale “several times”, because she “considered it too far-fetched”.

“Silly me,” she added. “Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?”