Sexuality In The Handmaid's Tale

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A major theme in The Handmaid 's Tale by Margaret Atwood is how restriction of women 's sexuality leads to loss of power and is inherently anti-feminist. This is shown primarily in two major topics- ban of abortion and censorship of pornography; both topics are depicted differently in the classic novel and modern televised adaptation. Atwood’s writing shows strong pro-choice themes by incorporation of historic events in the context of the novel. Her dystopian society, Gilead shows the life of June, a Handmaid surviving in an oppressive society where women have been stripped of all rights and are forced to continually try for conception. The treatment of women in Gilead reflects past and present views of women in reference to abortion and…show more content…
Atwood incorporates this historical context by referencing the impact the continuation of laws and anti-abortionists opinions shared throughout this time period became a reality. Atwood does this by making readers imagine a strangely dystopian and yet worryingly relatable society. One such reference is Atwood’s reference to Ronald Reagan 's strict anti-abortion viewpoints. Reagan viewed abortion as a crime and sought to force women to carry the child to term. This is incorporated into the text when Atwood shows characters actively blaming others for miscarriages and subjecting the victims of such tragedies to scandal and humiliation. On page 215, Atwood writes in reference to a woman 's miscarriage, “It’s her fault… two in a row for being sinful”. A society that blames a women for her loss is a society that does sympathize with or care about empowerment for mental well-being of women. Another reference to the “Reagan Age” is Atwood 's views on the impact of criminalizing abortion (one of Reagan 's main goals in his term). The Handmaid’s Tale,on page 112, in reference to the lack of pregnancy scans, states “What would be the point of knowing anyway? You can’t have them taken out, whatever it is must be carried to term”. Atwood shows the lack of choice for women in severe abortion regulation in this scene by showing the women as powerless to their own biology.…show more content…
The banning of abortion is anti-feminist due to the motivating factors of fear, manipulation by encouraging “traditional” values, and marginalizing women’s opinions. To start, motivating by fear is a common tactic used to scare women to stop having abortions. Atwood’s inspirations were drawn from the agenda’s of severe anti-abortionists such as Reagan. One case, in particular, was the case of Akron V. Akron in 1983. This unconstitutional law proposed anyone seeking abortion must meet with a multitude of ridiculous standards, including such things as forceful reading of anti abortion material, parental consent, and a 24 hour waiting period. Though it overturned when passed, the law was still a looming possibility of loss in power for women. Another tactic of using fear as leverage was employed by editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association. This tactics was not allowing women treatment to any abortion induced medical complications until she ‘confessed’ to her abortion and cause of it. This tactic ruthlessly lead to many deaths in the late 1920’s.Anti abortionist recently used fear to influence people by setting up fake abortion clinics where they spread misinformation and intimidate women out of abortion, nearly 4000 clinics were set up, 5 times more than real abortion clinics in the United States. Atwood shows the motivation of fear in her novel by writing about a baby-obsessed society, who both revel in the joy of birth and kill those who ‘betray’ their
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