As the citizens of Gilead fall into their designated jobs and lose their individual identity, they internalize the repression they receive from other members of society. Offred feels the loss of her identity because she and the rest of the Handmaids are defined by the red outfits they are required to wear and by their healthy reproductive systems. Without their individual identity, the Handmaids are forced to obey the roles required of them simply because they don’t have any other identity to claim as their
Handmaid’s whom are the fertile women in the Gilead society, are stripped from all freedom and rights, banned from knowing any form of literature and have to be submissive to men, allowing their bodies to be sexually used to produce children. In contrast, women who are not fertile such as Wives have their freedom taken away too as they are confined to doing assigned jobs around the house. In contrast, the Aunts and the Commanders are shown to have the highest rankings in the Gileadean society. They are powerful figures, with privileges such as the Aunts being allowed to read and write and the Commanders being permitted to get married and have a handmaid's assigned to
It is narrated by the protagonist, Offred who is a handmaid forced into sexual servitude. Facing a plunging birth rate, the fundamentalist regime treats women as property of the state. Handmaids are the few of the remaining fertile women and their sole purpose is to help the government into re-populating their society, where a lot of people are left sterile. The Handmaid’s Tale deals with the theme of women in subjugation to misogyny in a patriarchal society, primarily. It shows the struggle that women have to go through in that society, as a Handmaid or as not being able to be one.
For centuries, women have been exploited by the society. Events of women being prohibited from doing things like voting or working and being forced to behave the way it is considered to be socially acceptable have been jotted down in history. Until today women are still viewed as the weaker sex. In some countries, women are regarded less than human and are treated like slaves. Khaled Hosseini goes into the oppression of women in his novel A Thousand Splendid Suns.
Although Mama Elena is biologically a woman, she has almost identical characteristics as men do. Usually, fathers have masculine characteristics as a head of household where they are tyrannical, fearless and give strong impact on their kids. Mama Elena perfectly plays the role of masculinity as a way of being despotic and a male figure. Throughout the novel, Mama Elena’s conspicuous masculine figure is clearly portrayed as she still gives masterful influence on Tita even after her death. The author evidently shows Mama Elena’s tyrannical personality and absolute power over her daughters as Mama Elena follows the Mexican tradition where mother forces a youngest daughter to take care of her mother rest of her life.
In The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, there are many moments that establish Gilead, the fictional world the novel is set in, as a corrupt society. Gilead is incredibly segregationist, with minorities and women specifically being targeted. It has an incredible lack of reproductive rights for women, and sexual shaming and blame are very prevalent. Margaret Atwood herself stated that she based The Handmaid's Tale only on events that have happened in the past, so aspects of the novel will always exist and can happen again (Atwood Emma Watson interviews). Like Atwood predicted, themes in this novel are still relevant in today's society.
Through Tita, Gertrudis, Mama Elena and other characters actions, it is shown that women do have a tremendous amount of power in regards to what they do. Such is shown through, feminism, gender role reversals and cultural symbols. Mama Elena displays traits of gender role reversals. Throughout the novel, Mama Elena is seen as a tyrannical figure, hindering her daughters’ lives and causing an inconvenience to those around her. However, no one seems to take into account the backstory that hangs over Mama Elena like a giant thundercloud.
Weak and irrational, are just a couple terms used to describe women. These terms paint women as things that must be controlled, cause if not, they are not only a detriment to themselves but society as well. Very rarely is a woman described as strong, brave or independent, instead such terms are implied, forcing a reader to read between the lines. St. Perpetua is a prime example, she fights against the patriarchal society, breaking through stereotyping and emerging a new woman both strong and brave. Stereotyping is a very dangerous tool used to force a person into a specific role.
As long as internalized sexism remains unaddressed and unhealed, mistrust and “horizontal oppression” will continue (Szymankski 103). Internalized sexism “[reinforces the] web of insecurities and rigidities” between women (Pheterson 159). Relationships between women in The Handmaid’s Tale reflect this. The acrimony between Offred and Serena Joy or Aunt Lydia and the novice handmaids both reveal the same truth; the female characters in The Handmaid’s Tale antagonize one another because of the toxic situation in which they must live. In their attempt to survive, they become complicit in the society that restricts women.
Women have found themselves at the bottom of society’s hierarchal pyramid for eons. Even though females make contributions that prove vital to the world’s function, they are still regarded as the weaker link. The female plight of constantly facing debasement is a pawn used to ensure compliance. It is a common notion that if one is demeaned enough, he or she will conform to the suggested persona. Society tests this notion through its treatment of women.