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In what ways is misogynism portrayed in Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale"

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Introduction

In what ways is misogynism portrayed in Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" In "The Handmaid's Tale" written by Margaret Atwood, Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States of America. Dangerously low reproduction rates mean Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving. Offred's name says that she, like all Handmaids, is considered state property. Handmaids' names simply reflect which Commander owns them. "Of Fred," This is very misogynistic as it shows that a handmaid, has lost her identity and her name and therefore every time the women hear their 'handmaid' names, they are reminded that they are no more than property. Having made it illegal for women to hold jobs, Gilead creates a system of titles. Whereas men are defined by their military rank, women are defined solely by their gender roles as Wives, Handmaids, or Marthas. Stripping them of permanent individual names strips them of their individuality, or tries to. ...read more.

Middle

Gilead seeks to deprive women of their individuality in order to make them trained carriers of the next generation. The central object is her womb, which is the only part of a woman that matters in Gilead. Offred's musings show that she has internalised Gilead's attitude toward women, which treats them not as individuals but as objects important only for the children that they can bear. Women's wombs are a "national resource," the state insists, using language that dehumanises women and reduces them to, as Offred puts it, "a cloud, congealed around a central object, which is hard and more real than I am." This idea that only the womb matters gets reinforced when Offred remembers Aunt Lydia's saying... "For our purposes your feet and hands are not essential" Aunt Lydia implies that only the wombs matter, and other body parts can safely be flayed and beaten. Pain and emotion do not matter; only childbearing does. When Janine tells the story of her gang-rape at the age of fourteen, the group, at Aunt Lydia's prompting, chants that the rape was Janine's fault, that she led them on, that God allowed the rape to happen in order to teach Janine a lesson. ...read more.

Conclusion

"It's an event, a small defiance of rule" When Offred attracts the Guardians, she feels this ability to inspire sexual attraction is the only power she retains. Every other privilege is stripped away, down to the very act of reading, which is forbidden. Women are not even allowed to read store signs. By controlling women's minds, by not allowing them to read the authorities more easily control women's bodies. The patriarchs of Gilead want to control women's bodies, their sex lives, and their reproductive rights. The bodies of slain abortionists on the Wall hammer home the point: feminists believe that women must have abortion rights in order to control their own bodies, and in Gilead, giving women control of their bodies is a horrifying crime Overall, The Republic of Gilead has an extremely harsh and terrifying misogynistic view of women. They see them only as fertile objects whose only use in the world is to bear children. They incorporate their views into society in the form of Handmaids whose only job is to conceive children to prevent dangerously low birth rates from occurring. Alex Seamark Page 1 03/05/2007 ...read more.

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