Superiority leads to exploitation. To exploit is to make full use of and derive benefit from a resource. Margaret Atwood exposes male exploitation of power leading to the oppression of women.
“We are two-legged wombs, that’s all:” Women, the protectors of life,’vessels’ for the future, life forms of independence and of overcoming a challenge, this is how women should be portrayed, how they should be understood. We know that society today is utterly convoluted, with no morals that stand alone, but a weaved web of contradiction. “The circumstances of human society are too complicated to be submitted to the rigor of mathematical calculation.” ‘The Handmaids Tale’, a dystopian piece of literature where Margret Atwood portrays a society of hierarchy (male control). Dystopian literature leads readers to believe that a society like Gilead could never take place in the world today. Atwood alludes to various times in history, recapitulating that this could undoubtedly occur in the future, and to many people’s disbelief, happens in this twisted society we exist in today.
To be stripped of everything that stands for your freedom, for your independence, is to be left an empty shell, an empty “womb”. Imagine serving no purpose in society. Women in Gilead have no addition to their society, other than for the services that men physically cannot provide due to their biology. A capitalist society where men have utter control and power over women, where fear and manipulation is the underlying pull that wrenches women into their so-called “place”, Gilead. “Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in ancient Greek: Freedom for slave owners.” The handmaids are essentially the commander’s fertility slaves. Showing us that the lack of freedom allows control. “Modesty in is visibility never forget it. To be seen to be seen is to be penetrated. What you must be girls is impenetrable.” Continuously, the Handmaids are controlled, they are lead to believe that they only serve one purpose in society, to bear children. They are controlled by stripping away any account of freedom. Offred’s personal bank account was drained. “Any account with an F on in instead of an M. All they needed to do is push a few buttons, we’re cut off.” Handmaids have no access to books, to anything that would allow them to service a place in society disregarding fertility. Any type of intelligence would be threatening towards the Men. Nazi Germany, a time of oppression, a reflection of Gilead. Hitler promised his followers a new Germany with family values. However, this dramatically turned into an oppression, for any who did not share his vision. Books that were considered undesirable were burned by the Nazis. In Gilead women are controlled through freedom of education, therefore, the men of Gilead placed extreme restrictions on literature, resulting in women of no access to any paper, pens, books ect. “The pen between my fingers is sensuous, alive almost, I can feel its power, the power of the words it contains. Pen Is Envy,”
A student from UCB brought up a point that women’s status in society is determined by the environment they live in (geographically, historically or culturally), which relies on different influences and circumstances. In Gilead, circumstances were formed due to the decrease in birth rates. Gilead is structured around the strict hierarchy (men in power.) centered around the controlling of women for their procreation purposes. Therefore the society of Gilead has an extreme impact on women’s status in it. Through control of sexuality is one of the means that the men hold the women in their control. “I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation . . . Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am.” Offred reflects on her naked body and reviews the contrasting nature of her sexuality, how it has changed. Concluded from the utter control of sexuality, Offred and the women of Gilead no longer have any control over their sexuality. They have been controlled and manipulated into believing that their sexuality is purposeful for their procreation uses only.
“It’s a risk I say more than that. It’s my life on the line. But that’s where it will be sooner or later” Fear is a concept that drives us all. Fear often driving us away, Atwood depicts how the men of the Gilead control through fear, knowing that fear kicks us down when our longing is to stand up. “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life…Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” Offred prevails through fear and love, the love and the longing to see her daughter and to survive in hope. Contrasting to the day-to-day fear she withstands and is faced “Before the main gateway there are 6 more bodies hanging, by the necks.” I believe that Offred and many of the other Handmaids have the fear of the unknown and a fear that their life may always lack in purpose. Fear that they cannot change their future. Fear of the unknown.
Margret Attwood revitalized how Men exploit their power over women to strip away all that is freedom from them to the bare minimum of their benefit. ‘The Handmaids Tale’, a piece of dystopian literature fostering a warning to the readers that male superiority leads to exploitation of power and oppression of women. Through various allusions of the past, Atwood warns our future society. Through control of women, control of sexuality and the overriding control through fear, the Handmaids Tale displays men in Gilead manipulating women, through control reducing them to their procreation purposes. Showing us that male superiority in history and most likely the future, leads to exploitation of power, oppressing women to the bare minimum of their benefit in any given situation.