Of Handmaidens and Cheerleaders

After Texas handed down their new draconian restrictions on abortion and the Supreme Court upheld the law (for now), the image above started making the rounds on social media. It’s funny and striking at the same time. A state that loves its symbols is having one of its most famous shrouded in a play on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale. Women without control over their body or their means of reproduction, their bodies hidden from all but those with high enough rank to have access. They have no agency, something the Texas law chips away at.

Yet, the problem with the meme is that Texas, America, the Western world isn’t like this. Shrouding the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders makes no statement because, even in the march toward Gilead, we would never allow that symbol of good, old-fashioned football and sex to be hidden behind a visual metaphor as clunky as this one.

See, we need women to be beautiful and visual, sexually available and on display. The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders represent a free spirit of healthy masculine fun, the red-blooded man’s fantasy. The new law changes none of that. The new law does not restrict men’s access to women, nor give women more agency over their bodies. The new law isn’t a step toward the type of totalitarianism in The Handmaiden’s Tale, for the female body will never be forced to be covered under true capitalism. To shroud the female form is to eliminate one of the most lucrative commodities the Western world has ever seen. Sex sells in the West, but only while you can see it.

The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are athletes; probably underpaid performers; and one of the most enduring symbols of Texas. While the meme is worth of at least a smirk, the cynic in me understands that control over the female form already has a multitude of wardrobes, engineered for endless visual consumption.