“He doesn’t have a lot of respect for women. We might as well be handmaids.”
That was the feeling among of a group of Orange County residents who, as they gathered to mourn the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also found themselves in shock and fearful of how Donald Trump might fill her seat.
In that spirit, 50-60 O.C. residents gathered at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and US Courthouse in Santa Ana on Saturday for a vigil, but also to protest. There were kids, teens and adults, about 10 of whom dressed as handmaids from Margaret Atwood’s novel that became the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale.
“By next January, we’re all going to turn into Handsmaids,” said one of the event’s organizers, Lulu Hammad, who is founder of co-founder of Yalla Indivisible.
Hammad said that on Friday people she spoke with were “very sad and shocked that we lost RBG.” But, “the reason that we’re coming together,” she said, “is that all the women that I spoke to [on Friday], I heard terror in their voices.”
So they gathered up costumes that had been made for a 2017 post-election event and took to the streets. Little did they know how prescient the move was.
The event consisted of activists and also kids as young as 5, 6, plus some teenagers. They heard a speech from Farrah Khan, the Irvine City Council’s first Muslim member.
“She set the mood,” said Hammad, “reminding us who RBG was and that we shouldn’t despair; She left us with tools and we should continue the fight.”
Other people, including Hammad, spoke as well. There were candles, flowers and readings of quotes from Justice Ginsburg.
Hammad’s group is one of many local groups that are part of the national Indivisible movement, which has a stated aim of creating “iterative, and increasingly complex actions to resist the GOPs agenda, elect local champions, and fight for progressive policies.”
Other event hosts included Indivisible O.C. 45 and Indivisible O.C. 46, as well as Women For: Orange County, part of another larger national organization. Long time women’s rights advocate Sue Farokhnia also cohosted.
Wearing the costumes was, “more distressful than I expected it to be,” said Hammad.
But, she said, something even more distressful happened afterward.
After the event, organizers heard the news that one of President Trump’s top choices to fill Ginsburg’s seat was Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett, according to Newsweek, “is affiliated with a Christian religious group that served as inspiration for Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Her affiliation with the group, called People of Praise, was first revealed by The New York Times in 2017, when the then-law professor was being considered for an appeals court seat.
Some of the group’s practices would surprise many faithful Catholics. Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” for women. The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.
Current and former members say that the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children.
Hammad said that when the women who attended the vigil later found out that Barrett was a frontrunner the reaction was, “This is getting scarier than our wildest imagination.”
“We’ve regressed so much that now,” said Hammad. “We’re just in total defense mode.”
But, Hammad said, her group and others are planning another event in the coming weeks to protest.
“We have to double down on our efforts,” she said.