Sexism and Misogyny in The Republic of Gilead
In “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, a prominent theme that can be seen in the novel is that sexism and misogony is deeply embedded within every society. The mistreatment of women can be seen in both pre-Gilead and in the current Republic of Gilead, showing the many inequalities and abuses faced by women world-wide in the past and currently. The existence of pornography, rape, sexual harrassment and sexual abuse were prominent in the pre-Gilead world, and prominiscuity was also exploited as seen when Offred talks about the past in the quotes “Now we walk along the same street, in red pairs, and no man shouts obscenities at us, speaks to us, touches us. No one whistles. There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from.” (23). and”We’ve given them more than we’ve taken away…Think of the trouble they had before” (219).
Meanwhile, in the Republic of Gilead, sexism and misogny also exists because Gileadean women have all their liberties taken from them, from the right to choose their clothes to the right to read. To add to this sexism and misogny, a woman’s status is also largely determined by her birth, loyalty and reproductive function, which put them in certain roles such as handmaids, who are basically sexual slaves. Handmaids are subject to a rigorous health regimen: no smoking, no drinking, no sweets. Even their three meals are regulated by the state because Handmaids must eat whatever meal they are served, and they must eat it all or the Marthas are required to report the transgression to the Commander’s Wife. These Handmaids can be seen as having it the toughest because they are regarded as sexual objects and exist solely to give birth, nothing more. They are mere vessels that are empty until filled with child. In order to be “good” Handmaids, they must empty their minds as well, so that they remain open to “the Lord’s gifts”, causing a Handmaid’s life to be especially dull. Handmaids even have their identity taken by the males who control them because they are forbidden to use their real names, but are instead made the property of their masters: Ofglen, Ofwarren, Offred etc. Offred has much suffering because she is a female, as seen in the quote: “Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler the universe who has not created me a woman”(Atwood 52). Because Offred just so happens to be a female, she cannot read, write or even think freely, and this sexism and misogony can be seen in the quote “A roll of a dice: XX or XY, submission or dominance, what will it be” (211), indicating this oppression of females due to their gender. If Offred had been born a man, her life would have been much better because at least she wouldn’t be a vessel in both figurative and literal means.
Furthermore, even women in positions of power such as Serena Joy, are unhappily trapped in a world where they are confined to the household, showing that even the most powerful females in the society of Gilead are not content with their lives due to this kind of sexism. This is seen when Offred quietly observes Serena Joy, stating that “She doesn’t make speeches anymore. She has become speechless. She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be now that she has been taken at her word” (46). While powerful men have lucrative jobs such as being an Angel, powerful females are stuck in the household staring into space. This shows that the quality of life for women in Gilead is very restricted due to the existence of oppression towards females.
In conclusion, the issues of sexism and misogyny are very prominent in the novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The novel explores many themes related to sexism and misogyny, such as how women cannot escape from sexism and misogyny in society. I have written a persuasive essay titled “No Escape from Sexism and Misogony in Gilead” on my views of sexism and misogyny in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I have also illustrated the elements of the novel in a well-organized and colourful CONCEPT MAP. The different media texts that I have developed, helped me to effectively communicate my ideas about the novel. Overall, “The Handmaid’s Tale” was a great read and provided great insight into the topics of power, freedom and of course, sexism and misogyny.