Refusing To Call ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ A Feminist Story Does Us A Disservice

Trigger warning: this post contains discussion about rape, sexual abuse and mistreatment of women.

She’s special. She’s a princess. She has magic powers. She’s fertile. She has something they want and she’s locked up.

Women in captivity fascinate us. In ratios somewhat disproportionate to real life, subjugated women drive the plotlines of movies and television. Browse lists of the most acclaimed and most popular entertainment and you will surely find the theme of the caged woman. Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones, Ma in Room — heck, even little Eleven from Stranger Things fits the profile.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that, yet again, a woman imprisoned, this time by an oppressive and religious government, is the protagonist in the brilliantly-crafted offering from Hulu, The Handmaid’s Tale.

Like a good feminist, I read Margaret Atwood’s chilling novel. Truth be told, the book disturbed me so much that I couldn’t finish it. I found the story bleak enough that I abandoned it just before the last 30 pages and read the Wikipedia plot summary to find out the ending.

Being kidnapped, held against my will and raped is one of my strongest fears. I consider this fear nearly every single day, certainly every time I’m returning home late at night. Why? Because I have to. Because I was raped. Because I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Because as women in this world, my fears aren’t irrational; they are real threats.

It’s been stated extensively in the coverage of this series that the very reason The Handmaid’s Tale is so eerie is its plausibility. The circumstances seem familiar because they are familiar. We live in a patriarchal society. Women are currently enslaved, worldwide. A notorious abuser of women is the leader of our country. It isn’t unimaginable that we could return to a time in which all American women are treated as chattel, traded, controlled. In fact, part of the tale’s effectiveness is that it reminds you how little time we’ve actually been “free” and how, in many ways, we take our rights for granted — as if freedom, once won, need never be fought for again.

I found it unnerving when I read that the cast, and even the producers, were diluting the message about female oppression. “I don’t feel like it’s a male or female story; it’s a survival story,” said showrunner Bruce Miller. Bullshit, I say. The show’s lead, Elisabeth Moss, told Vanity Fair that, in her opinion, the show is “not a feminist story.” She justified her statement saying, “It’s a human story, because women’s rights are human rights.” But she’s not quite right is she?

Hillary Clinton and other women use the phrase “Women’s rights are human rights” as a rallying cry for a reason; declaring our equality loud and proud isn’t stating the obvious — it is an attempt to point out the injustice women currently face. For similar reasons activists yell, “Black Lives Matter!” These social movements call out the gaslighting to which we are subjected. Women’s rights are under attack. Black people are not treated equally. We march and scream because we know that oppression is real — even if those in power swear and up and down that it isn’t.

So, why are female characters always being locked up? That’s a question I’ll discuss in my next column, which explores the fear of female sexuality.

I’ll be blogging about The Handmaid’s Tale each week. See you next Thursday, and until then, I’ll meet you on Twitter.

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Powerful Viral Photos Show The Unstoppable #BlackMenOfYaleUniversity

Akintunde Ahmad has established some great friendships on campus as a student at Yale University, and he wanted to bring together some of his closest peers to capture the beauty of their bond.

So he hired professional photographer Vivian Dang to take images of him and eight of his black male friends. He then posted the pictures to Twitter earlier this week with the hashtag #BlackMenOfYaleUniversity. The tweet, which included four group photos, immediately went viral:

Black students make up just 10 percent of the student population at Yale, and Ahmad, who is a 21-year-old junior majoring in sociology, said he intentionally included the hashtag to make a bold statement about their presence on campus. 

“By no means do we represent all the black men at Yale (there are hundreds of us), but we hoped to just give a glimpse as to what OUR daily lives look like,” Ahmad told HuffPost in a email. “We hope that these photos serve to dispel some of the negative stereotypes surrounding black men, but also act as a positive, uplifting and inspiring image of black men on college campuses.”

Ahmad’s personal story is quite inspiring itself. He grew up in Oakland, California, and graduated from high school with a 5.0 GPA, 2100 SAT score and acceptances into almost every Ivy League school in the nation. But his success did not come without him overcoming much adversity ― growing up, his brother followed a different path and fell victim to gun violence and street crime before he was incarcerated for several years in 2013.

Ahmad says his studies are focused on social inequalities in America, and that he plans to pursue a doctoral degree in sociology and create a new field of research that focuses on the effects of gun violence and trauma in urban education. He also hopes to teach one day and perhaps become a consultant for government and education agencies.

“For me, being a black man on Yale is something that I embrace with pride,” he said, noting how he and the men in the picture all come from different communities and how grateful they are to have each other for support.

“I try to live every day to its fullest potential,” he added, “because I know how so many other black men in America haven’t been afforded the same opportunities that I have.”

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John Legend Adorably Gushes Over Fatherhood

John Legend is loving fatherhood.

Appearing on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday, the singer gushed over his 1-year-old daughter, Luna.

“It’s a different kind of love. It’s very pure. It’s unconditional,” he said. “But they haven’t earned it yet. They didn’t do anything. They just exist,” he joked.

When Colbert asked Legend about the the first time he held Luna, the artist got sentimental.

“It’s beautiful, it’s very emotional, and it brings you and your wife closer together,” he said. “It’s a very powerful feeling to see the product of your love right there in front of you.”

Happy birthday, Luna Simone!

A post shared by John Legend (@johnlegend) on

Since becoming parents last April, Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, have been very open about their wild ride.

During his “Late Show” appearance, the dad spoke about how having a child changed their perspective on their own parents and how much they loved them. 

“Chrissy says, ‘If (our children) don’t want to come have dinner with us when we’re old and they don’t want to hang out or call us, I’m gonna be so sad,’” he said. “We put so much love into this.”

During the show, Legend also did a segment called “John Legend Makes Mundane Things Sound Sexy,” in which he sang about everyday tasks that parents know all too well ― like doing laundry and going to Costco. And of course, made them sound sexy.

John Legend is totally … legendary. 

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‘Sheeple’ Has Been Added To The Dictionary

We all know Merriam-Webster rivals Hannah Horvath in being the voice of our generation. The dictionary is also very involved in the Twitterverse, particularly when it comes to politics, subtly throwin’ shade like it ain’t no thang.

So, it makes sense for this to be the latest Merriam-Webster addition: “Sheeple.”

“Sheeple,” a portmanteau of “sheep” and “people,” is defined as “people who are docile, compliant or easily influenced.”

Because, you know, sheep are really chill and can be pretty much herded wherever. It’s similar in sentiment to the word “lemming.”

Merriam-Webster uses the word in a sentence that hits deeply close to home: Apple’s debuted a battery case for the juice-sucking iPhone — an ungainly lumpy case the sheeple will happily shell out $99 for.”

But, despite that iPhone realness, the most-known example of the word is likely “Wake up, sheeple!”

“Wake up, sheeple!” is a well-circulated meme that appears to date back to an “xkcd” web comic from 2012. The comic, according to Know Your Meme, is about “a civilization of sheep-people hybrids who are awakened from their underground slumber after a man yells, ‘Wake up, Sheeple!’”

That’s obviously incredibly literal, but “sheeple” has also been used as a politically-charged word ― apparently since the 1940s.

W. R. Anderson, in his column “Round About Radio,” published this line in 1945: “The simple truth is that you can get away with anything, in government. That covers almost all the evils of the time. Once in, nobody, apparently, can turn you out. The People, as ever (I spell it ‘Sheeple’), will stand anything.”

More recently, in 2004, an Urban Dictionary entry gave a usage example stating that sheeple supported the war on terrorism:

Hmm… By adding “sheeple” to the dictionary now, in 2017, could Merriam-Webster be making another kind of statement? 

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This Report Outlines All Of Trump’s Efforts To Undermine Free Expression So Far

In an effort to quantify the damage done against America’s constitutional belief in free expression, PEN America released a thorough survey of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office.

The organization, a nationwide community of novelists, journalists, editors, poets, playwrights and more, chronicled the president’s various statements that undermine the validity of news outlets, his lack of transparency and his choice to defund groups that support artistic expression. The report, titled “Trump the Truth,” explores a total of approximately 60 incidents in which the White House has undermined the press.

The 30-page memo focuses chiefly on how Trump’s administration treats journalists, citing some positive developments ― the administration offers “Skype seats” in its media briefing room for reporters outside of Washington, for example ― but mostly taking the opportunity to hone in on the president’s false indictments of “fake news.”

In the document’s introduction, the organization writes:

[…] what this Administration is doing ― the relentless lies, the constant efforts to chip away at public support for the press and trust in their reporting, the dismissal of peaceful public demonstrations as illegitimate ― is not normal.

PEN America concedes that, of course, all politicians “stretch the truth,” but emphasizes that several of Trump’s lies are in service of more malicious aims. Trump’s repeated assertion that voter fraud is widespread, for example, is unfounded, but could result in greater voting restrictions at the state level.

Similarly, the Trump administration’s unsupported claim that protest participants are paid “professionals” serves to “delegitimize the constitutionally-protected expression of dissenting viewpoints,” PEN writes, “and may feed into efforts by states to roll back protections on the right to peaceful assembly.”

The organization also calls special attention to Trump’s threats to loosen libel laws and the limited access he gives press to the State Department, disallowing cameras at press briefings. Moreover, it points out that his proposal to require travelers entering the U.S. surrender their personal devices ― including passwords and social media accounts ― “could have a widespread chilling effect on speech and would violate travelers’ human rights to privacy and free expression.”

When false and contradictory claims, and attempts to obfuscate the truth, are so constantly present, the effect can begin to feel diffuse. This document enumerates the actions the administration has taken to chip away at trust in the media and others whose role it is to hold the government accountable, bringing each of them back into clear focus.

You can read the report in its entirety on PEN’s website.

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‘World War Z’, ‘Split’ And ‘Chronicles Of Narnia’ Announce Sequels

Wednesday was a big day for sequels. (Then again, what day isn’t?)

M. Night Shyamalan announced he will make a film that connects “Split” and “Unbreakable,” the fourth “Chronicles of Narnia” installment is moving forward with “Jumanji” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” director Joe Johnston, and “World War Z” will receive the follow-up that Paramount Pictures had recently shelved

The Shyamalan news comes as no surprise, given the “Split” twist ending that reintroduces David Dunn, Bruce Willis’ character from “Unbreakable.” David appears as a diner patron who says the terrorist bearing similarities to James McAvoy’s murderous psychopath is Mr. Glass, whom Samuel L. Jackson played in the 2000 thriller.

Willis hinted that Shyamalan had a trilogy in mind back when “Unbreakable” first opened. The director denied it at the time, but the interviews he gave when “Split” came out in January made it clear he had a continuation in mind. 

Shyamalan announced the news in a series of tweets on Wednesday, saying Willis and Jackson will reprise their “Unbreakable” roles and McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy will resurrect their “Split” parts. “It was always my dream to have both films collide in this third film,” he wrote

The news about “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “World War Z” is more of a surprise.

With “Narnia,” rights to C.S. Lewis’ novels held by the franchise’s initial production company expired in 2010, leaving the author’s estate to cut a deal with a new studio. With “World War Z,” Paramount pulled the planned sequel from its release schedule after director J.A. Bayona exited the project in February.

The next “Chronicles of Narnia” installment is “The Silver Chair,” in which Aslan sends two children to find King Caspian’s kidnapped son. Joe Johnston, who has experience with franchise sequels via “Jurassic Park III,” has taken over for Bayona, the man behind next year’s “Jurassic World” follow-up. While the other three “Narnia” installments have revolved around the Pevensie children, this one focuses on their cousin, Eustace Scrubb. There’s no word on casting yet.

The “World War Z” sequel has faced the tougher road than “Silver Chair” and “Glass.” The 2013 original, a Brad Pitt zombie horror-fest based on Max Brooks’ novel of the same name, grossed an impressive $540 million worldwide, but the project was riddled with production woes. The budget ballooned to nearly $200 million, the production faced setbacks and release delays, and Pitt reportedly clashed with director Marc Forster. Now, A-list auteur David Fincher has signed on to helm the sequel, according to Variety. It’ll be Fincher’s first movie since “Gone Girl” in 2014.

Variety reported last summer that Pitt was wooing directors for a sequel. He specifically targeted Fincher, with whom he worked on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Fight Club” and “Se7en.” Apparently they are currently inking a deal, with production likely to begin in early 2018.

HuffPost reached out to Paramount reps to confirm Fincher’s involvement but did not immediately hear back. “World War Z 2” will mark the Oscar nominee’s first sequel since 1992’s “Alien 3,” which Fincher has essentially disowned. ”No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me,” he told The Guardian in 2009.

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Most Of The ‘Game Of Thrones’ Theories You’re Reading Are True, Says Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

All men must die, except Jaime Lannister ― he’s not ready yet. 

That’s according to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays the Kingslayer on “Game of Thrones,” set to return with Season 7 on July 16. During an interview with HuffPost on Build Series Monday, the actor refused to name the character he would like to see kill Jaime on the show, saying instead, “I don’t want Jaime to die. I want him to just slowly fade away. Just old age.”

As for other spoilers, Coster-Waldau says they’re definitely out there, and confirms that most of those leaks and theories on the internet are correct. 

“What’s interesting, though, is every year there are huge spoilers online where people find out real stuff and they will post it, and you go, ‘Oh my God, they just spoiled the whole season online!’ But then, because there’s 10,000 other spoilers out there, they’re not real. It just gets lost in the shuffle,” he told HuffPost. “So, it’s all out there by the way … if you can find it.” 

One of the biggest theories floating around Reddit after the Season 6 finale involved that look Jaime gave Cersei (Lena Headey) when he saw her sitting on the Iron Throne. Fans believe Jaime, like he did with King Aerys II Targaryen, will kill his own sister and lover, due to the fact that she’s slowly becoming the Mad Queen

“People are really reading into that look … I was just going through my grocery list,” Coster-Waldau joked before addressing the theory. “I was very into the scene. It’s interesting, though, how much you read into a look like that, because, it’s like, ‘Oh, clearly he’s going to leave her now. There’s no question. This is it. This is reminding him why he killed the Mad King. Now he’s going to go and kill Cersei. There’s no question about it.’ And it might happen, who knows? I mean, I know, but …” 

(TELL US! But, yeah, don’t.)

 As for Jaime’s former BFF and possible love interest, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), the actor says his character is not jealous in the slightest of her seemingly budding romance with Tormund (Kristofer Hivju).

“I don’t think [Jaime] gave her away. I don’t think he’s jealous,” Coster-Waldau said with a smile. “I think it’s a perfect couple ― I think Tormund would rock her world.” 

No matter who kills whom or who dates whom, “Game of Thrones” Season 7 is set to be epic. And, well, chilly. 

“Winter is here,” Coster-Waldau confirmed to HuffPost, adding of the season, “I hope [fans will be satisfied]. I know we did our best. Everyone worked their asses off.”

Watch the full interview with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, in which he talks about “Game of Thrones” and his new flick “Small Crimes,” below. “Small Crimes” hits Netflix on Friday. 

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Dr. Luke’s Company Owes Most Of Its Billboard Success To Kesha

Dr. Luke’s ongoing legal battle with Kesha amid sexual assault allegations seemingly led to his long-anticipated removal as CEO of Kemosabe Records, The Hollywood Reporter noted this week

Quick reminder: Dr. Luke and his company, which he founded with Sony, owe the pop star most of its success.

Billboard produced a history of Kemosabe’s history on its top chart, the Hot 100, on Wednesday, reporting that 22 songs by Kemosabe artists have made the list. Of those, 13 came from Kesha. The company also holds two No. 1 hits: 2010’s “TiK ToK” and “We Are Who We R,” both by Kesha. Seven of the eight Kemosabe songs that have reached the list’s top 10 range belong to Kesha, too.

Kemosabe isn’t a big label, and Kesha is its most famous artist. Yet despite the fact that its biggest star claimed she was being abused by her producer, it took two and a half years before Sony nudged Dr. Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald, out of the picture. According to The Guardian, his role as CEO terminated on March 31

That sluggish decision reportedly came down to simple bad PR. A source told The Wrap that Gottwald’s legal entanglements, which date back to 2014, had turned into “a public relations headache” for Sony. Both sides have waged a war in the media, most recently as the singer released damning emails from Gottwald, prompting him to respond in turn.

Kesha now has not released an album since 2012’s “Warrior,” although a judge has ruled she is free to work with another producer under the Sony umbrella, and she released a song with Zedd one year ago.

The Hot 100 is waiting for her return.

Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.

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The Dark Version Of Hollywood In ‘The Arrangement’ Is All Real, Say Cast And Creators

From the beginning, E!’s drama “The Arrangement” attracted whispers that it was inspired by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ rumored contract marriage and their entanglement with Scientology.

Despite repeated protests from the show’s creator and cast, the press just couldn’t let the comparisons go. The Washington Post even ran a piece with the snarky headline, “Sure, ‘The Arrangement’ is totally fictional.” 

If you’ve been watching this season, which only has two episodes left to go, you’d know that although the contractual relationship between movie star Kyle West (Josh Henderson) and up-and-coming actress Megan Morrison (Christine Evangelista) is at the core of the story, that’s where any parallels to what we know of Tom and Katie’s relationship ends. Plus, there has been no allusion to Xenu or anything of that ilk when it comes to the show’s Institute of the Higher Mind, the creepy cult-like self-help organization that has its claws deep into Kyle and is coming hard for Megan. 

 But the Washington Post was right, in a sense. “The Arrangement” isn’t fictional ― at least, it’s rooted in reality. Part of what the show does best is shine a light on the darker and manipulative side of Hollywood. Beyond the control and privacy that Megan loses as she enters into a contract relationship, the series also excels at depicting smaller behind-the-scenes moments — publicist-staged meetings of famous exes, jealous co-stars, and actors losing roles to bigger names. 

The series’ leads say much of what viewers see on the show rings true to life. 

“I think [the series shows] a lot of what people are willing to do for fame or a job or for success,” Christine Evangelista told HuffPost in an interview shortly after E! had announced the series’ second season renewal.

To illustrate her point, the 30-year-old actress pointed to last week’s episode, in which Megan discovered that her friend Hope (Katharine Isabelle) had leaked Megan’s nude photos to the press.

“That happens all the time [in real life], where a relative or a friend will call up the press. Whether it’s for their own fame or for financial gain, they divulge unwarranted information. That happens all the time,” she said. 

“[It’s] the same thing with scripts or actors being dropped from movies because they’re not of a certain stature or for whatever reason,” Evangelista continued. “That happens all the time. So we really show the rejection and the pressures of Hollywood.”

Evangelista’s co-star, Josh Henderson, also believes the series’ depiction of Hollywood is “spot on.”

“I mean obviously, things can be dramatic because we’re doing a TV show, but when it comes to like the stories we’re telling within the industry. I think they are pretty spot on,” he said, adding that he couldn’t think of anything on the show that might not portray the industry in a realistic manner. 

In short, “The Arrangement” throws out the glamorous notion of Hollywood as a place of wealth and success with no downsides for celebrities. In promoting the show, the show’s stars have seen firsthand just how true to life its subject matter really is. 

“I think people do a very good job of keeping it under wraps a lot of the time, but it is sad,” Evangelista explained. “And as we’ve been doing these junkets and these interviews, people, I think they think they can just divulge information to me ― but people have come up to me to say that they know that this person has been in some sort of arranged relationship, or this person’s photo was leaked in a certain way. It happens and I think it’s kind of true and there is some sadness to that.” 

Similarly, when HuffPost spoke to series creator Jonathan Abrahams, he said that everything on the show is borne from personal experiences.

“In the writers’ room, we don’t have a stack of Star magazines, but what we do have is a bunch of people who have been in the industry, who have relationships with people in the industry, and we all have stories,” he said.

He gave the example of the speech that Deann (Lexa Doig) gives to Annika (Courtney Paige) in the pilot episode about force of personality and the difference between talent and success. 

“Somebody gave me that speech or something like when I was very young and impressionable and sort of desperate to have my movie made. It was kind of attached to an indecent proposal,” he said. “We’re not making up fantastical stuff. I think one of the things that was so interesting to me about doing this show, is when you are talking about a romantic relationship that requires intimacy and authenticity as this sort of bedrock, how do you do that in a world where authenticity is so scarce?”

Henderson and Evangelista said that viewers will need to brace themselves for the season’s final two episodes. 

“I keep saying that it’s like an atomic bomb dropped on everyone. The season ends in such a way that I don’t think the audience is going to expect,” Henderson told HuffPost, adding that the Institute will become a bigger character by the finale. 

A big theme throughout the season has been control,” Evangelista added. “And the Institute is much larger than Megan, it’s much larger than Kyle. It’s much bigger than their relationship, so how much that controls her and her decision-making, we’ll start to see, and if she’s even able to keep up with that.”

“The Arrangement” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on E!

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Ian Somerhalder And Nikki Reed Celebrate Wedding Anniversary With Touching Notes

If these two don’t make you want to hold your significant other a little closer, then you truly might be a vampire. 

“Vampire Diaries” star Ian Somerhalder and “Twilight” actress Nikki Reed took to Instagram on Wednesday to celebrate their second wedding anniversary. The pair each posted sweet notes and photos, sharing their love with each other and their fans. 

Somerhalder, 38, posted a close-up shot of himself and Reed on their big day, writing, “To the most amazing human in the world. Thank you for 2 incredible years of marriage. Today, two years ago to the minute, we said ‘I do’ and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful to you for this life. Thank you for being my best friend the hardest-working, kindest, most patient and most talented woman I’ve ever known. To you my love, I say that I know we will have so many of these we can’t even count them. Partly because I’ll be so old… I love you.”

Reed, 28, wrote an equally beautiful message to her husband, calling him “my guy, my man, my honey, my partner in this life, my better half in every way.” 

Alongside a black-and-white image of the two smooching at their wedding, she wrote, “At exactly this time two years ago today we walked hand in hand into the next chapter, our chapter, together. Every day gets better, every moment calling for even more. Navigating the waters of life with you is the greatest and most rewarding adventure I’ve ever known. We climb, we grow, and we laugh at all of it. Thank you for being exactly who you are, and for loving all of me. Thank you for your willingness to go even deeper. Until you, I had no idea what could be. Until you…Happy Anniversary ❤.”

Somerhalder and Reed tied the knot on April 26, 2015, during a sunset ceremony in Santa Monica, California. They began dating shortly after Reed split with her first husband, Paul McDonald, and Somerhalder ended his relationship with “Vampire Diaries” co-star Nina Dobrev. The couple got engaged in January 2015, and the rest is a lovely, romantic history. 

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