Gender In The Handmaid's Tale

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Hello, all! Welcome to The Books Today, where we take a look at novels of the past comment and how they relate to the events of the modern world. I’m your host, Erin Grasmeyer, and today’s episode will be discussing Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale and how our world may not be so far off from becoming just like Gilead. For those who don’t know, or need a refresher of the contents of the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale follows the story of a woman named Offred, who is a Handmaid in Gilead, a totalitarian state rooted in sexist values. Reproductive rates in Gilead are low due to extreme chemical pollution, and so Handmaids, such as Offred, are assigned to infertile families to bear their children. Every month, Offred must…show more content…
Before Gilead, Serena Joy an advocate for maintaining “traditional family values”, essentially meaning she campaigns for old gender roles. Gender roles that have negative impacts on women, that keep them in their homes, saying they are only good for doing housework and taking care of children while the men provide for the family. Gilead takes this idea to the extreme, so why is Serena Joy so miserable throughout the novel? Women are confined to the house, and are not allowed to leave, unless they are a Handmaid going shopping, and not only must they be accompanied by another Handmaid, but the Eyes, who are the secret police of Gilead are watching their every move. They are also kept completely illiterate, even the signs on stores are images instead of words, because why the hell would a woman need to know how to read?! Some women (namely the Handmaids) are not even allowed to have names, rather they are called who they belong to. Of Fred. Of Glen. Of Warren. “Traditional family values”, when spoken of in this way, are used as an excuse to be misogynistic. And the world here is behaving very much the same. Just last week, Russia recently decriminalized domestic violence as their president, Vladimir Putin, uphold those “traditional family values”, even though an average 10,000 Russian women die every year as a result of domestic violence. According to the charitable organization, Plan International, there are still 62 million girls around the world, and some of the barriers preventing them from achieving this education include gender norms, violence towards girls in school, and forced early marriage and pregnancy. In Vatican City, women still do not have the right to vote. In Yemen and in Afghanistan women cannot leave their house without their husband's permission. The lists go on and on and on. “Traditional values”, “gender roles”, in many ways these words can be used to mean, “Make women lesser beings than men”. And that

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