Teachers start powerful #ArmMeWith movement to speak out against guns in classrooms

In the wake of yet another tragic school shooting, teachers have started an eye-opening movement on social media to let the world know what preventative measures really need to be taken seriously to protect students.

In response to the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Trump suggested that some teachers receive gun training so they can be armed in their classrooms. But rather than adding more guns to educational environments, teachers are using the hashtag #ArmMeWith to share far more peaceful resources they wish to be armed with, such as school supplies, mental health resources and funding, impactful changes in curriculum, and stronger gun control legislation.

The movement was started by two educators: Brittany Wheaton, a teacher in Utah, andOlivia Bertels from Kansas. Both 27-year-olds met through Instagram, according to Buzzfeed, and eagerly asked the online teacher community to share their personal thoughts on how to ensure the safety and proper education of students.

Teachers across the U.S. have been using the hashtag.

One high school English teacher requested a “curriculum that tells the truth, the ability to teach the truth, a society that believes the truth, and political leaders who make laws based on the truth.”

Others asked to be armed with more on-site mental health professionals, like school counselors and social workers, as well as self-care classes, bullet-proof glass, an enhanced library, and a range of other resources that focus on the physical, mental, and emotional care of students and faculty members.

#Armmewith is a movement by @thesuperheroteacher and @missbertels_ and I invite you to join in! Skip through my pics and post your own (I’ve included a blank template) or go to goo.go/52XggF to print your own out! . . . The Arm Me With movement is to make our leaders aware of what teachers really need in the classroom. As some of you know, I’m a gun owner and I can shoot a gun, but I do not believe guns belong anywhere near a classroom. Teachers have enough burdens and the classroom is an unpredictable place. Also teachers are outnumbered by kids 30:1 oftentimes. Guns are not the solution here, and I think they’d be catastrophic. Please flip through my ideal solutions and feel free to use the blank picture to create your own solution! . . . . . . #armwithme #schoolsafetynow #educatorsagainstgunviolence #teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers

A post shared by The Whimsical Teacher (@the_whimsical_teacher) on

“Since teachers are the individuals in the classroom when it happens, I like to think we know what’s best for our students,” Wheatontold Buzzfeed. “If you’re an educator, you know that [more guns] is not a solution to stopping the violence that’s happening in our schools.”

For those looking to participate in the movement, Wheaton has shared a blank #ArmMeWith template that can be downloaded and filled out. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/02/23/armmewith-twitter-teachers-guns/

The world is watching: How Florida shooting made U.S. gun control a global conversation

AR-15 "Sport" rifles on sale at deep discounts in an Arizona store.
Image: john moore/Getty Images

When you move to America from a country with more effective gun control laws, one of the first things you learn is how hard it is to talk to Americans — even on the sympathetic side of the political divide — about the gun issue. 

It was particularly difficult when I arrived on these shores in 1996, direct from living in Scotland during its (and Britain’s) worst-ever school shooting. In the tiny town of Dunblane, a 43-year old former shopkeeper and scoutmaster brought four handguns to a school gymnasium full of five-year-olds. He shot and killed 16 of them and their teacher, then turned his handgun on himself.

After Dunblane, the British plunged into a state of collective mourning that was at least as widespread as the better-known grieving process for Princess Diana the following year. (Americans don’t always believe that part, to which I usually say: the kids were five, for crying out loud. Five.)

In a country where nobody would dream of pulling public funding for studies into gun violence, the solution was amazingly rational and bipartisan. After a year, and an official inquiry into Dunblane, the Conservative government passed a sweeping piece of legislation restricting handguns. Then after Labour won the 1997 election, it passed another. Britain hasn’t seen a school shooting since. (Same with Australia, which also passed major gun control legislation in 1996). 

But trying to talk about all that in America over the last two decades, I’ve learned from experience, has been like touching the proverbial third rail: only tourists would be dumb enough to try it. Even gun control advocates now think they’re dealing with an intractable, generational problem. Many tell me that we need to tackle mental health services or gun fetishization in Hollywood movies first. The legislation route couldn’t possibly be that easy, they say.

But what if it is that easy? What if the rest of the world also loves Hollywood action movies and has mental health problems, but manages to have fewer shootings simply because it has fewer guns available? What if the rest of the world has been shouting at America for years that gun control is less intractable than you think — you just have to vote in large numbers for the politicians that favor it, and keep doing so at every election? 

If that’s the case, then perhaps some powerful, leveling international marketplace of ideas could help the U.S. see what everyone else has already seen. Something like social media. 

In one sense, Wednesday’s massacre in Parkland, Florida — a school shooting as shocking and senseless as Dunblane —  was evidence that America was further away from a gun control solution than ever. In 1996, buying an AR-15 assault rifle was illegal under federal law. Now, in Florida and many other states, a 19-year old can walk into any gun store and walk out with this military-grade weapon of mass destruction. 

Yet anecdotally, I have noticed one glimmer of hope. Since the last American gun massacre that got everyone talking, there has been a small shift in the online conversation. It has become a little more global. The students of Parkland have been broadcasting to the world via social media, and the world is taking notice. 

I’m not suggesting some kind of slam-dunk situation where every American on Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat has an epiphany about gun control because they’re more frequently interacting with people from other nations with different laws. 

But I am saying it’s noticeably harder for pro-gun accounts to spread lies about the situation in other countries without people from those countries chiming in. 

Meanwhile, there is a mountain of evidence that Russian bots and troll accounts are attempting to hijack the online conversation using the same playbook from the 2016 elections — manufacture conflict to destabilize American discourse. That means taking the most trollishly pro-NRA position they can think of, in a bid to counteract the large majority of Americans who want sensible gun control. 

So the voices from other countries are chiming in just in time. If anything, we need more of them to balance out cynical foreign influence in a pro-gun direction. 

How effective gun control can happen

Twenty years of trying to have this debate in the U.S. have worn me down. As you might expect, I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of Second Amendment-splaining from the pro-gun lobby. (Yep, I’m very familiar with the two centuries of debate over the militia clause, thanks.) I’ve been told I didn’t understand the power of the NRA (which, again, I’m quite familiar with: the organization supported sensible gun restrictions until it was radicalized in 1977).

I’ve heard every argument you could imagine: the notion that British police must now be lording it over the poor defenseless population; the blinkered insistence that there must have been a rise in crime with illegal guns and legal knives now all the good people with guns have been taken out of the equation. (Violent crime is still too high in the UK, but it is a fraction of America’s total — and has declined significantly since 1996.) 

I no longer have the dream that a UK-Australia-style handgun ban would work here. There are as many as 300 million firearms in private hands, according to a 2012 Congressional estimate; even though most of them are concentrated in the hands of a small percentage of owners, it’s simply impractical to talk about removing a significant percentage of them from the equation. 

But if anything, I’m more aware of creative legal solutions: laws that require gun insurance the way we require car insurance, or tax ammunition, or hold manufacturers responsible for gun deaths. I’ve seen my adopted state of California implement some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, laws that just went into effect. The fight to prevent future massacres is just getting started.

And any time you want to talk about how it can happen, the rest of a shrinking world is listening — and ready to talk. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/02/17/gun-control-social-media/

4 strategies to avoid #resistance burnout

Image: vicky leta / mashable

I was listening to The Read recently — it’s my favorite podcast — and I was struck by co-host Kid Fury’s observations about reaching the end of the year and feeling tired. 

I posted how I felt on Instagram: “Can’t add one more plan tired. Hard to get excited about exciting things tired. Can’t project, assume, or read minds tired. I’m letting myself be tired, be imperfect, be how I am. It is time to hibernate and make meaning of this year, understand the lessons.”

Five hundred people gave it a heart within a few hours. People reached out to me to say they are also tired — exhausted, really. Falling out in meetings, losing things, fighting with loved ones, letting hopelessness have our tongues. 

I am a social justice facilitator, practicing and teaching a methodology called Emergent Strategy. The goal is to learn how we do justice work that is adaptive, focuses on the small things that make up all large systems, and prioritizes critical connections over critical mass. I am also a visionary fiction writer (part of the Octavia’s Brood team) and a pleasure activist, which means I believe pleasure is an important measure of freedom, and that we need to make justice the most pleasurable experience we can have. 

And, even as someone focused on ease, nature, future, and pleasure, 2017 was a daunting year. 

And, even as someone focused on ease, nature, future, and pleasure, 2017 was a daunting year. But I am still going. Movements for social and environmental justice are still moving forward. 

Which gets me curious about how we are surviving, how we are generating energy to move forward in 2018 when everything is heavy and everything hurts. 

What do we do? 

The first thing is to give ourselves lots of room and respect for whatever we have done. It got us this far. So, shout outs to alcohol, sugar, sex, and weed, which have been doing the work of comforting and numbing millions. After the 2016 election, drinking definitely became one of my coping mechanisms for that “They all want my death” feeling that has become daily life. 

I know the newness of feeling this every day is as much an indication of my privilege as it is of political change; things aren’t getting worse, they are getting unveiled. Whatever I didn’t see before this moment is a sign that I was somehow benefiting from not seeing it. It feels worse nonetheless. 

But we need to be careful about numbing. The long-term impacts of numbing move us away from the very aliveness we are fighting for, that erotic level of presence, alertness, and feeling our miraculous existence in real time. Audre Lorde taught us that, “In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”  

I wanted to offer some strategies beyond numbing that have helped me protect my aliveness. I invite you to practice these throughout 2018.

1. Reconnect with our movement ancestors. We are not the first to be in impossible conditions. And what we know is that we have survived, that our ancestors found ways to survive, to be in dignity and resistance. Focus on ancestors of your own lineage, knowing that every lineage on earth has individuals and groups who have left lessons behind. For me this year has been lit by the north star of Harriet Tubman. You might call on freedom fighters like Berta Cáceres or Bobby Sands — there are so many who inspire. Ancestors can and should humble us. 

2. Tune in to the three Gs every day: gratitude, good news, and genius. If you look, all three are within reach.

a) Start and/or end the day with gratitude. It’s a gorgeous world; pay attention to the beauty, the connection, the generosity and growth.

b) Read between the lines and find the good news. It’s always there, but it might be very small. For me, it’s often in the news of what movements for social and environmental justice are doing to resist. Boost it, grow it with your attention.

c) Our continued survival is actually a long, iterative practice of collective genius. Pay attention to the people and organizations who are doing more than reacting to the daily news or pulling each other down. Tune into the work of the Movement for Black Lives, the Women’s March, #MeToo, Cooperation Jackson, Movement Generation, #ourpowerpr, Mi Gente. These initiatives are attempting audacious, visionary, and difficult work that relies on the genius that arises from people working together across difference to address the challenges and opportunities of their real lives.

3. That thing about putting on your oxygen mask before helping others? It’s real. It’s not like other masks that hide your true face from others, which is an important distinction here. You don’t need to put anything over your truth right now to cover the emotional rollercoaster of being a human who is paying attention. But you do need to take care of yourself at a material level. Soothe without numbing, rest without guilt, hydrate to replenish your foundation, and use your body while there is still miracle in it. Hibernate: turn inward, get still, write down what you have learned from surviving the last year as well as what has been liberated within you, and what you are ready to grow. 

4. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t remind y’all that an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away. Remember that your body is literally wired to feel good, thread with nerves that communicate pleasure and let you know what to move toward. And you can choose between the orgasm and the orgasmic — do a massage exchange with friends, eat delicious home-cooked meals, watch comedy shows. There are so many ways to turn up your aliveness.

None of these practices are small or trite. We are in the worst of times right now. If you need to be convinced to care for your body, mind, and spirit so that you can care for your community and this planet, let’s just review the past 12 months. 

There was a period of denial and grief for many of us. Perhaps you also spent some time under a blanket, wondering why our species is so self-sabotaging and embarrassing? Maybe you too called friends to discuss where you could run to, and realized, again, that there was no place far enough, no place beyond the reach of the United States?

Those of us with an intersectional analysis of our current situation know that every uphill battle we’ve been fighting is at least twice as steep. We are looking ahead at battles around the tax plan, net neutrality, protecting the planet as a livable planet for our species, resisting a police force encouraged to unleash increased violence on our devastated vulnerable communities. All while watching 45 play nuclear roulette with North Korea on Twitter.

For those of us working to create social change, 2017 was a wild year. We take our whiplashed necks and try to keep up the pace as we run from protest to petition to planning meeting. We have held some lines, we have shown up and said no to racist bans and efforts to strip us of hard-won rights, and we have reached for each other. We’ve been surprised and excited as scientists marched and national parks workers used Twitter to resist fascist policy making.

And, in our exhaustion, we have sometimes turned on each other. Interpersonal beef drains organizational resources. Tactical differences become landmines. Places where we could learn together instead become battlegrounds that play out on social media. We long for something different but are stretched too thin to practice new approaches. We want each other to be perfect and to be transparent about our flaws. We are punitive and transformative in the same breath. 

We are in a fight for our survival and there’s no turning away from it, no turning back. 2017 was a reckoning, an unveiling. An embarrassment, yes, but it’s honest. And now we are at a very real risk of becoming too exhausted to continue our fight, our journey. 

Ella Baker taught us that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” 

Ella Baker taught us that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” I wrestle with these words all the time, because I believe in freedom, and I believe my body is a crucial part of the fight for freedom. So I interpret these words through my work. I do not rest in terms of how I work. I tirelessly show up for movements I believe in, to hold planned or unexpected hard conversations and mediations, to invite transformation in the face of frustration. I tirelessly seek out old and new ways of moving through our current paradigm and into a viable future. 

But when it comes to my body, I rest. I rest in myriad ways that allow me to show up fully for each facilitation. I ensure that I have quiet time each evening, a bath when there’s a tub, at least seven hours of sleep each night. I want to give us more permission to rest our bodies so that we don’t burn out our spirits and minds in our lifelong commitment to liberation.

It is in that spirit that I invite you to honor your ancestors and remember that they believed in you before your first breath. They believed you could generate gratitude, uplift good news, contribute to genius. Put on your oxygen mask and open to the pleasurable experiences of life. This is our moment to shape.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2018/01/12/resistance-burn-out-activism-new-year/

Bill Gates announces major donation to advance the fight against Alzheimer’s

Bill Gates speaks speaks at the Goalkeepers 2017 event on Sept. 20, 2017, in New York City.
Image: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill Gates just donated a piece of his fortune to advance the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

The philanthropist and Microsoft founder announced in a blog post Monday that he will give $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund, a public-private partnership that invests in innovative dementia research. Gates will also donate another $50 million in startups working in Alzheimer’s research.

Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates has a long track record of supporting research to eradicate diseases like malaria and polio. But Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia that progressively affects memory and other brain functions, is the first noncommunicable disease he’s fighting.

The $100 million is his own investment, not his foundation’s. That’s, in part, because it’s personal. 

“This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s.”

“It’s a terrible disease that devastates both those who have it and their loved ones,” Gates wrote in his blog post. “This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s. I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. An estimated 5.5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, and someone new develops the disease every 66 seconds. People of all ages are affected, but 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

Gates said he spent the last year learning everything he could about Alzheimer’s disease, speaking with researchers, academics, and other industry experts. Those conversations led him to focus on five areas: understanding how the disease unfolds, figuring out how to detect it earlier, funding more innovative and lesser-known drug trials, making it easier for people to enroll in clinical trials, and using data to inform better approaches.

Gates’ investment in the Dementia Discovery Fund will help support startups as it explores “less mainstream approaches to treating dementia,” he explained.

“The first Alzheimer’s treatments might not come to fruition for another decade or more, and they will be very expensive at first. Once that day comes, our foundation might look at how we can expand access in poor countries,” Gates wrote, explaining how he might look at the issue beyond his personal investment in the future.

The announcement is timely, coinciding with National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in November. The goal of the month is to increase awareness and drive home the fact that as many as 16 million people could live with Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2050.

“People should be able to enjoy their later years — and we need a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s to fulfill that,” Gates said. “I’m excited to join the fight and can’t wait to see what happens next.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/13/bill-gates-alzheimers-disease-donation/

Bearded dudes pose for merman calendar to raise money for a worthy cause

Behold the “Merb’ys”—a breed of Canadian bearded mermen flapping their fur and fins for a good cause. 

The gentlemen of Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club are posing in nowt but their merman garb for a dudeoir-style calendar to raise money for mental health organisation Spirit Horse NL.

And, the photos certainly don’t disappoint. The calendar—which can be previewed online—features bearded mermen posing in pumpkin patches, pubs, and on various beaches. 

The Merb’ys are thus-named because “the Newfoundland mermen are a different breed,” says Hasan Hai, founder of the beard and moustache club. Hai came up with the idea of a merman calendar after a friend of his posted a photo from a mercreature themed dudeoir shoot on his Facebook wall. 

He decided to organise a calendar, and posted an “open call to the universe” on social media, which received an unexpectedly high response. 70 or 80 people got in touch with Hai, offering to model or photograph. 

Hai knew he wanted to raise money for charity, but hadn’t yet settled on a charity. When he came across Sprit Horse NL and heard the stories of the people they help, he suggested using the calendar to raise money for the organisation. 

“It basically uses horses to provide equine therapy for people with mental illness, people who want to live better lives, people with physical limitation,” Hai told CBC. 

Donning a fin was a challenge for the men during the calendar shoots. “Moving around in a fishtail is not as easy as you would think,” Hai continued, adding that there was “a lot of hopping” and squirming involved behind the scenes.  

The calendar, which has received an overwhelming number of pre-orders, can be purchased online for $25 CAD ($19.70 USD, £14.99) from the Beard and Moustache Club website. 

Major props to the Merb’ys of Newfoundland!

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/10/mermen-dudeoir-calendar-newfoundland/

Google Doodle honors Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American to earn a medical degree

Google honored a deserving figure in American history on Saturday: Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American to earn a medical degree.

Picotte was illustrated as the Google homepage’s Google Doodle on Saturday in honor of what would have been her 152nd birthday.

Image: screenshot/google

Picotte was a doctor and an activist. The Omaha Native American physician advocated for land, and money for the sale of land to be paid to members of the Omaha tribe. As a reformer for public health, she was a leader in the temperance movement and fought tuberculosis on the reservation where she worked as a physician.

She also advocated for the elimination of communal drinking cups and the installation of screen doors to keep out disease-carrying insects, Google said in their description.

The Google Doodle features the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, where Picotte earned her medical degree, and the hospital she built on her hometown reservation in 1913.

Happy birthday, Dr. Sue!

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/17/dr-sue-google-doodle/

How ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has become the meme of the resistance

Image: Christopher Mineses / mashable 

Earlier this week, 18 women dressed up in red cloaks and white bonnets, stood in pairs in the rotunda of the Texas state capitol, and began chanting, “Shame!” in unison. They didn’t stop shouting for eight minutes.

They call themselves the Texas handmaids. You probably first saw them back in March, when images of their original protest in Austin went viral. That’s when they sat silently in the Texas senate gallery, watching as lawmakers debated bills that would make it harder for women to get an abortion.

What you may not know is that their demonstrations, inspired by Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale and Hulu’s vivid TV adaptation, are slowly spreading across the country.

Women are holding sewing parties to turn yards of blood-red fabric into capes. They’re swapping ideas on private Facebook pages about how to stage protests. They’re even planning a coordinated demonstration where dozens of handmaids simultaneously show up at state capitols or in other public places in cities across the country.

If the visually striking meme takes off, it could become one of the most effective acts of protest from the resistance. The sight of even a dozen women wearing the handmaid costume, while staying silent and keeping their heads down, offers a stark contrast to a group of mostly white men deliberating over what happens to their bodies. The imagery is practically made for the digital era.

The point, activists say, is to send a powerful message: We’re closer to a government that strips women of their bodily autonomy than you might think.

“The easiest way we try to explain it is that the handmaids represent a future where women are nothing more than their reproductive capacity,” says Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. “Unfortunately, with the laws that are being passed, that future is not so unrealistic and not so distant.”

We’re closer to a government that strips women of their bodily autonomy than you might think.

The idea to enlist Texas women as handmaids started with Busby a few months ago. She happened to see women dressed as the title character from The Handmaid’s Tale at South by Southwest. That was a marketing stunt by Hulu, the streaming entertainment provider that brought Atwood’s novel to the small screen.

But Busby then joked on Facebook about how someone should send the handmaids down to the capitol, where lawmakers had been busy introducing bills that would curtail abortion rights. Soon NARAL Pro-Choice Texas ordered white bonnets from Amazon Prime and a volunteer rented red capes. A small group of volunteers quickly drew up a plan. They liked the element of surprise in showing up at the capitol in costume and wanted to let legislators know that women were watching.

After that yielded local and national press coverage of the legislative agenda in Texas, activists around the country started reaching out to Busby for tips on how to start their own handmaids brigade.

You could argue that all of this is moot, that the United States is nowhere close to becoming the Republic of Gilead, The Handmaid’s Tale‘s totalitarian, theocratic state that freezes women’s bank accounts, forbids them to work, sends them to re-education camps, and forces many of them to bear children for leaders and their wives.

The New York Times‘ conservative columnist Ross Douthat argued this week that liberals are seeing the wrong parallels. On the same day, Times op-ed contributor Mona Eltahawy wrote that the Republic of Gilead already exists in Saudi Arabia, where women can’t drive and may be imprisoned for disobedience. For her part, Atwood has said that nothing in her novel hasn’t already happened before in history.

“I still have a credit card, I still have a nice car, but I can feel the future here.”

For the volunteers who are deep into the work of creating and wearing the costumes in public, it’s not about whether they still have credit cards or the right to get a job. What they see is the federal and state governments largely in the hands of conservative, even authoritarian, men who’ve vowed to defund Planned Parenthood and roll back reproductive health rights like abortion and access to affordable birth control. At the same time, those men plan to funnel money to abstinence-only education and vouchers for “school choice,” which includes religious schools.

The fact that they’re led by Donald Trump terrifies these women.

“We have somebody in the White House who thinks it’s OK to grab women and do whatever he wants, and I’m supposed to sit back and be cool with that?” says Emily Morgan, executive director of Action Together New Hampshire, an activist group that emerged in the wake of Trump’s election.

Earlier this month, Morgan contacted Busby for details on how to create handmaid costumes. But instead of bringing women into the New Hampshire legislative gallery during a debate or hearing, Morgan and her co-organizers asked them to appear at a press conference calling for the resignation of Rep. Robert Fisher, a Republican who The Daily Beast identified in April as the creator and former moderator of Reddit’s popular men’s rights “Red Pill” forum. The message board bills itself as a “discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men,” and Fisher regularly questioned whether rape is real, according to The Daily Beast. (Fisher resigned later in the day following the press conference.)

A sexual assault survivor with handmaids demanding Rep. Robert Fisher’s resignation, on May 17, 2017, in Concord, N.H.

Image: Granite State Progress

“Fisher and the Red Pill embody exactly what The Handmaid’s Tale is a foreshadowing of or is a warning against,” Morgan says. “Saying that we’re not there it’s sort of degrading to what’s actually happening to women.”

In the days before the press conference, volunteers made six costumes, but some of the women bowed out after learning the media would be in attendance. Morgan says they feared in-person and online harassment. Nevertheless, she thinks more women will step forward to participate in upcoming demonstrations, particularly since volunteers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire are sewing new cloaks so that activists in New England quickly have access to them for future protests.

The time-intensive, costly aspect of buying the bonnets and making the cloaks is one challenge to growing the handmaid ranks. There’s also the danger that different groups will splinter in an effort to launch the first nationwide demonstration. Morgan is moderating a private Facebook page to coordinate a national action. A similar page started by one of the Texas handmaids has close to 300 members.

The handmaids’ signature costumes are also a relatively obscure reference compared to pussyhats, the knit pink caps that have become a symbol of the resistance. But they’re also memorable even if you don’t know the origin.

Ane Crabtree, the costume designer for the Hulu series, says the outfit’s visual power is rooted in both the bright red color, which can signify blood, birth, and passion, and how the cloak conceals women who wear it. The combination tells the viewer what she needs to know about how the body underneath the costume is oppressed.

“It’s an easy form of expression to say that everything’s been taken away and is being taken away, and its a real thing,” says Crabtree, who is encouraged and inspired by people making their own version of the costume.

Deborah Marsh, a 65-year-old retiree who is one of the Texas handmaids, says people who get the reference often approach her on the street or in the capitol’s rotunda to thank her profusely for the act of defiance. Some, however, have seen the symbolism and don’t like it. Marsh says a few people on the street have had “outbursts” or called the women “pathetic.”

Joe Pojman, executive director of the anti-abortion rights nonprofit group Texas Alliance for Life, seemed to criticize the handmaids a few times, focusing on the fact that they’ve used smartphones while silently protesting in the gallery, a silly point that Marsh feels makes their case about men who are obsessed with policing women’s behavior.

What Marsh didn’t expect was how confident she would feel while wearing the costume. “It’s such a bold costume, it’s making such a bold statement,” she says. “And my body is inside that costume, so why wouldnt I feel bold? Why wouldn’t I feel empowered?”

Among reproductive rights activists like Marsh, the Texas legislature is infamous for its anti-abortion legislation. In 2013, the state passed a law that effectively led to the closure of dozens of abortion clinics, which the Supreme Court found unconstitutional last year. The Republican-led legislature recently voted to ban the safest type of second-trimester abortion and require hospitals and abortion clinics to bury fetal remains, including those from miscarriages that happen at home. Texas has already moved to keep Planned Parenthood from state and federal funding.

In other words, as Texas limits access to both abortion and reproductive health care like birth control, it’s easy to imagine a future in which women have little practical control over how and when they have children. That vision shouldn’t be limited to Texas either; other Republican-dominated states are pursuing a similar agenda with regard to limiting access to reproductive health care, as is the Trump administration.

“I still have a credit card, I still have a nice car, but I can feel the future here,” Marsh says. “If [people] aren’t affected by it today, they are going to be affected by it in four yours. Texas is a little bit ahead of the game.”

“Am I going to change someones mind who is pro-life? I dont expect that. Im aiming higher. I want to change the culture.”

Stephanie Martin, a mom from Round Rock, in central Texas, who recently dressed up as a handmaid for the first time, says she’s realistic about who the message is going to reach.

“Am I going to change someone’s mind who is pro-life?” she asks. “I don’t expect that. I’m aiming higher. I want to change the culture.”

It’s still early to gauge exactly how that culture will respond beyond the videos and photos that have gone viral. But the parallel between the male aggression and control that characterizes Gilead feels particularly fresh in a week where a Republican congressional candidate body slammed a reporter for asking a question he didn’t like, and the president appeared to shove aside a European leader to get a better position in a photo-op.

Let’s not forget the complicity of Ivanka Trump, who promotes herself as a champion of gender equality but says nothing critical about healthcare and budget proposals that are arguably hostile to women. Nor can we ignore the benign-looking malevolence of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who couldn’t come up with a single instance of discrimination at publicly funded schools that would give her pause when asked about it at a congressional hearing. In Gilead, after all, the women who are not outrightly oppressed get the privilege of wielding what small power they have against the vulnerable and marginalized.

Morgan admits that some people won’t make connections between what’s happening today and Atwood’s fiction. Yet she urges skeptics to focus less on a dramatic, sweeping end to women’s rights. What’s more important, at this point, is the underlying implication of attitudes and laws that see no harm in making it more difficult or even impossible for women to determine their own fate.

“These are steps on the same path,” she says of the parallels between Gilead and Trump’s America. “You have to start somewhere.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/28/handmaids-tale-protests-costumes/