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It’s a Handmaid’s Tale Holiday: Our First May Day Living in This IRL Gilead

We intend to survive.



The term “mayday” has long been used by the crews of ships and airplanes as a cry for distress. The term comes from the French m’aidez, which translates to “help me.” The word is fitting, then, for the name of the resistance in The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as its password into the movement. The word is designed, as Ofglen tells Offred in the novel, “So you can tell … Who is and who isn’t.”

Today is the first of May, also known as May Day. And while the holiday (it’s International Workers’ Day) and the cry for help don’t actually have anything to do with each other, historically, it’s hard to ignore the possibilities for coalescence. This is, after all, our first May Day in this IRL Gilead (the country’s new name in the world of Margaret Atwood’s all-too-real dystopia) we find ourselves living in.

So, if we whisper “mayday,” which of you out there “is”?

For those who are, how will you be recognizing the day? Here are just a few suggestions:

1. Catch up on The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu.

Hulu went and released three episodes all at once, so that’s three hours of gut wrenching emotional turmoil you’ve got waiting for you! New episodes come out every Wednesday, and no, they don’t get any easier to watch as they go on.

2. Read (or re-read, or re-re-read) the novel.

I don’t think it’s hyperbolic (although it is just an opinion) to say that the Hulu show is one of the best adaptations ever made. As we see over and over again, it’s nearly impossible to adapt a great book into a great show or movie. The new show has created something perfectly synced tonally with the original source material, but able to stand on its own as a work of brilliance.

They are different enough, though, that if you’re into the show, the book is absolutely still worth reading, or re-reading if it’s been awhile.

3. Listen to the novel.

Also, as an audiobook fan, I have to recommend the audio version of Handmaid’s Tale. The book is naturally suited to being heard aloud, and Claire Danes’ narration is perfection. Also, did you catch the news that Margaret Atwood wrote additional material for a new audio version, exclusive to Audible? There’s a whole new ending, a whole 17 minutes of brand new material, just waiting for you! (Psst, Audible also offers free trial periods.)

4. Gaze in amazement at this incredible art installation.

Unfortunately, this amazing installation closed today, but check out these pictures of how the Mayday resistance took over New York’s High Line.

The 40’ x 12’ ft. interactive mural housed 40,000 copies of Margaret Atwood’s novel, available for free for passersby. As the books were removed, resistance slogans were revealed.

The graphic artists who created the installation, Paula Scher and Abbott Miller, described the motivation behind their work: “The installation we designed shows how these dark messages are often accompanied by bombastic language and imagery: spectacle becomes a form of persuasion. Cracks in the floorboards reveal empowering texts, glimpses of resistance for an uncertain age.”

This is just the latest in a long trend of Handmaid’s Tale totally nailing the intersection of advertising and emotionally visceral art.

5. Join a protest

Again, May Day is historically dedicated to issues of workers’ rights. But this year, thousands of people are expecting to turn out for protests relating to issues from immigrants’ rights to women’s rights to LGBTQ rights.

Fernanda Durand of CASA in Action, a group leading about 10,000 people in a march for immigrants’ rights in Washington Washington D.C., told USA Today, “There’s a real galvanization of all the groups this year. Our presence in this country is being questioned by Donald Trump. We are tired of being demonized and scapegoated. We’ve had enough.”

Beyond the Movement is another organization joining together a multitude of different groups with different focuses for unity against the current administration’s attacks on all our rights.

Once you’ve read, watched, looked, and listened ’till your Gilead-residing heart hurts, there are lots of opportunities to get out there today to make sure the administration knows you’re not onboard for their stripping of workers’, women’s, LGBTQ, immigrants, and literally anyone else’s rights.

Don’t let the bastards grind you down.


(image: Hulu)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.