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Sources 2 cut

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Reading, Writing, and Ambivalence in Narrative by Women. Ed. Carol J.
Singley and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney. New York: State U of New York P,
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Macmillan, 2005. Print.
6. Katz-Roy, Ginette. Sexual Politics and Textual Strategies in Margaret
Atwoods The Handmaids Tale. History, Politics, Identity: Reading
Literature in a Changing World. Ed. Marija Kneevi, Aleksandra
Nikevi-Batrievi, and Peter Preston. Newcastle upon Tyne:
Cambridge Scholars, 2008. 111-133. Print.
7. Kauffman, Linda. Special Delivery: Twenty-First-Century Epistolarity in
The Handmaids Tale. Writing the Female Voice: Essays on Epistolary
Literature. Ed. Elizabeth C. Goldsmith. Boston: Northeastern UP, 1989.
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Sarwal, and Andy Sawyer. Jefferson: McFarland, 2010. 171-187. Print.
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Atwoods The Handmaids Tale. Un-Disciplining Literature: Literature,
Law and Culture. Ed. Kostas Myrsiades and Linda Myrsiades. New York:
Peter Lang, 1999. 219-245. Print.
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Literature, Science, Psychoanalysis, 1830-1970. Eds. Helen Small and
Trudi Tate. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. 212-232. Print. Woolf, Virginia. A
Room of Ones Own. The Longman Anthology of Womens Literature.
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Novels of Margaret Atwood. Massachusetts: University of
Massachusetts Press, 1993. Print.
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15.Rich, Adrienne. Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.
Signs: Women, Sex and Sexuality. Summer 1980: 631-660. JSTOR.
16.Rubin, Gayle. The Traffic in Women: Notes on the Political Economy
of Sex. The Second Wave: A Feminist Reader. Linda Nicholson, ed.
New York, NY: Routledge, 1997. Print.
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Meets Queer Theory. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997.
Print.
18.Sinfield, Alan. Sexuality and Power. New York: Columbia University
Press, 2004. Print.
19.Travis, Cheryl Brown and Jacquelyn W. White. Sexuality, Society, and
Feminism. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association,
2000. Print.
20.Sandra Lee Bartky

1AC #1
"We are for breeding purposes: we aren't concubines, geisha girls, courtesans.
On the contrary: everything possible has been done to remove us from that
category .... We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory
chalices" (176).

This expert is from our reading of, The Handmaids tale by


Margaret Atwood, acts as an interrogation of our current
understanding of the feminine body and the surveillance
placed upon it. We see a world where the feminine bodies
are placed into categories based on their reproductive
value. Where only men control the government and
determine the value or another. A world where everything
you say and everything you do is seen or heard by the
Eyes. Men have dominated this altered world but its not a
dystopia, its a world some of us will live to see if we
dont change the way we survey bodies. Claire and I are
calling for a critical examination of the way surveillance
impacts feminine bodies in the status quo compared to a
world so close to us.
Claire Lauterbach, 3-6-2015, ("International Women's Day: How
surveillance is used to assert control," No Publication,
https://www.privacyinternational.org/?q=node/503, accessed 7-12-2015)
This Sunday is International Women's Day. You could celebrate the considerable progress in legislating for
women's equal rights. You could join a protest against political and legal inequality, discrepancies in
women's access to healthcare, education and other social goods. You could thank your mom for delivering
you. Here at Privacy International, we want to commemorate the importance of this day by looking at
some of the ways surveillance technologies can be used to control women and how the fight for women's
equal rights and for privacy have more in common than you might think. Say it with spyware What could
40 get your favourite lady? Maybe a couple dozen roses? How about a one-month subscription to FlexiSpy
to track her at all times? FlexiSpy is a startlingly invasive piece of commercial spy software to track a
target's phone, capturing call, SMS data uploaded to an online account for viewing. It is actually
specifically marketed for spouses to install on their partner's phone to find out if they are being unfaithful.
It boasts that you can Always Know...What they're seeing... What they're hearing...What they're
saying...What they're doing. Not only does it invade a loved one's privacy, it plays on our worst fears by
giving complete monitoring control. Of course, women can use this product to target their partners, and
FlexiSpy is one of the dozens of commercially available spy gadgets out there. But its marketing hits on an
important point when it comes to surveillance control, specifically, complete control and power over

The United Nations defines violence against women as a


manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and
women" and that "violence against women is one of the crucial social
mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position
compared with men. It calls out by name physical, sexual and psychological
violence in the family, general community and as perpetrated or condoned
another.

by the State. Surveillance's effect on the psyche has been long documented.
So when it comes to a man having the power to spy on a woman, the control
is not only exerted over that specific woman but falls in line with historical
and systemic issues of unequal power relations between men and women. Last
October, the High Court in Lahore, Pakistan accepted to hear the plea of a woman who accused her
husband of installing a tracking device in her body. Sughran Bibi alleged that her husband with an
accomplice had affixed a tracking device inside her as she lay unconscious, chloroformed. She pointed to
other classic signs of abuseabuser signs her husband had been blackmailing her and brought X-rays to
prove her point that a tracking device had been inserted. In Saudi Arabia, communications providers
notified male relatives or 'guardians' by SMS of whenever their wives or other 'dependents' left or arrived
in country. The automatic system prompted an outcry both in and out of the country where women are still

case we are tempted to think that this only happens in certain


countries with discriminatory laws or where women are less likely to control
household incomes: it doesn't. The same technologies that are used around
the world to track your pizza delivery are also used by abusive partners to
keep tight control of their targets. These are usually and overwhelmingly women. A December
legal minors. In

2014 study by UK-based Digital-Trust quoted domestic violence counsellors and victims' accounts of

hacking. A series of
parliamentary answers revealed that UK police received over 10,000 reports
of computers being compromised by spyware and malware (malicious
software) in one year. In parallel, researchers have demonstrated that digital
abuse frequently accompanies other forms of domestic violence. Control is
the bottom line At Privacy International, we're usually busy keeping tabs on spying by governments
stalking by way of GPS trackers, smartphone spyware, bugs and

around the world, including the activities of GCHQ, the NSA and their Five Eyes partners, looking to
develop mass surveillance systems or use powerful spyware to intimidate their supposed opponents. At
the heart of those issues, and of the surveillance cases mentioned above, is the same principle: that
surveillance is about control. The interpersonal, tech-enabled spying described above results mainly from
the popularisation of surveillance as a legitimate way of engaging with another human being, and the
unequal economic, political and social status women still overwhelmingly occupy to varying degrees
worldwide. Or, more precisely, the many obstacles to addressing those problems that from lack of
political will to educational inequality, to health inequality are too numerous to discuss here. The fact that
globally we still even legislate for women's, rather than men's, inclusion in various benefits like equal pay
is the strongest evidence that exclusion is still the default. Men can and do have their privacy invaded.
Technologies like FlexiSpy can be used to target men. There are also particularly strong stigmas that
prevent men from reporting domestic violence including the invasive surveillance and stalking is

While surveillance of anyone, no matter their gender, is


problematic, the surveillance of women by men reinforces existing power
imbalances. Take, for example, Girls Around Me. The winner if not a strong contender in the unofficial
commonly associated with it.

'creepiest app' awards, the program detects women who, by voluntarily sharing their GPS location data
with social media app Foursquare, 'check in' to locations like restaurants and cinemas in a users
neighborhood. Girls Around Me does what it says on the tin: displays a list of local ladies, helpfully
geocoded, and potentially any data on their social media pages. It's not surveillance, per se, but definitely
a privacy-invasive use of consumer data according to Foursquare. Girls Around Me is called that for a
reason, though technically a user can search for both men and women maybe if only to give its mostly
male users favourable guy-to-girl ratios. .Not all of these latest technologies are surveillance
technologies; but all are invasions of the right to human right to privacy. For instance, it is overwhelmingly
the explicit private images of women that former intimate partners post against their wishes to 'revenge
porn' websites. This latest development in tech-enabled sexism continues a long history of literally
stripping bare women's right to control how and why their bodies are displayed.Personal, political privacy.

The right to privacy is conceived of as a protection against potential abuses


by the state. Yet state surveillance, too, when its target is a woman, often
takes a specific gendered form. Security agents who spied on Colombian
journalist Claudia Duque and her communications were instructed to threaten
to abduct and rape her daughter; a high-ranking official was convicted of
Duque's 'psychological torture' late last year. Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova,
noted for her high-level investigations into government corruption, had several of her explicit photographs
sent to her in the post with a letter calling her a 'whore' and telling her to 'behave' (an unfortunately
frequent demand of 'troublemaking' women). An explicit video of Ismayilova allegedly recorded by hidden
camera was posted online when she refused to desist. Azerbaijani authorities are currently detaining
Ismailova on vague charges.The personal is political to repeat the feminist adage. Privacy is both. The

idea that 'a man's home is his castle', an early manifestation of the right to privacy based on preserving
(traditionally men's) property rights and protecting against undue scrutiny has been used to deny women
safety from domestic abuse in their own homes. Women can and should reclaim the 'right to privacy' to
guard against unwanted intrusion into their lives to give them ultimate control over their information,

Surveillance technologies are impersonal in the way they


operate but surveillance can be conducted against women to specifically
target them as such, whether by an angry lover or an angrier state. Physical
and digital surveillance and harassment of women thrives because
monitoring others' daily lives is widely accepted as as a legitimate practice or
at least 'not that bad' we do voluntarily forklift loads of our data into social
media sites and because of the overt or implied desire to control women or
at least view them as auxiliary to men (see: all of human history). As privacy advocates, we
bodies, and lives.

can at least work on one side of the equation. Happy International Women's Day now go call your mother

My red skirt is hitched up to my waist, though no higher. Below it the


Commander is fucking. What he is fucking is the lower part of my body. I do not
say making love because this is not what he's doing. Copulating too would be
inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved. Nor does
rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven't signed up for. . . . [The
Commander] is preoccupied, like a man humming to himself in the shower without
knowing he's humming; like a man who has other things on his mind. It's as if he's
somewhere else, waiting for himself to come, drumming his fingers on the table
while he waits. (121-122).

Margaret Atwoods society is predicated off the ideas of rape culture. The fact that
the first question we always ask is what was she wearing? or was she sober
enough to say no? Is taken to a new level when the victims believe they are
objects to be used. They attend the ceremony where they are raped in hopes of
being impregnated, but their belief is that they asked for it and this is what they
signed up for. The angels have taken away all weapons, no rope, no razor
blades, in fear that they will kill themselves when they realize what they are doing.
They dont even have the right to take their own life. They are kept alive to suffer.
Helen Jones, 2005, (" No Publication, http://www.surveillance-andsociety.org/articles2(4)/visiblerights.pdf, accessed 7-12-2015)
We live in a world where our lives are tracked, monitored and controlled to a
degree that would surprise even Orwell. We are rich in data-knowledge about
human movement and behaviour, yet despite this mass of knowledge,
impunity for violence against women continues. Statistical details abound.
The collection of data is of course important but only in so far as it can be put
to practical use. Data flows and accompanied technology are not valuable
merely as things in themselves. The unresponsive eye of the CCTV camera
cannot stop violence; it can only observe and record. In the same way,
observing and recording violence against women is only valuable if it has a
human result: if it works to end violence. This article examines the
intersection of surveillance and privacy in relation to violence against women
and how knowledge constructed from such surveillance affects the privacy of

the violated and the violator. The article also considers campaigning as a
vehicle for surveillance of nation states. Womens rights groups are
increasingly utilising human rights instruments to help illuminate violence
against women but it is important to note that in the creation of much
international human rights law, women, because of their sex, were excluded
from participating in its early creation (Charlesworth, 1994). This has resulted
in the invisibility of gender issues, creating and shielding gender-based
abuses from public scrutiny and public condemnation (Amnesty International,
2004). Privacy may be held to 1 Institute of Culture, Gender and the City,
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. mailto:h.jones@mmu.ac.uk Jones:
Visible Rights Surveillance & Society 2(4) 590 be a human right, one that
many people strive for (Lyon, 2002), but the concept is also a contested one
frequently based on concepts of individualism and separation [that]
applies a 19th century conceptual framework to a 21st century problem
(Stalder, 2002: 122). Rarely is gender seen as a salient variable but for many
women, privacy is little more than the right of men to abuse women. We
know that domestic violence is the major cause of death and disability for
women aged 16 to 44 and that it accounts for more death and ill-health than
cancer or traffic accidents (Council of Europe, 2002). What is the use of such
data? In their 5th Periodic Report to the United Nations CEDAW Committee
the Russian government estimated 14,000 women were killed by their
partners or relatives in 1999, yet the country still has no law specifically
addressing domestic violence. A UN expert on CEDAW, Aurora de Dios, was
cited in Crawford (1998) as asking a group of women to guess in which
country a woman suffered from violence every 20 minutes. She surprised the
group by revealing that the country was Sweden. In Sweden the ideological
imperative to be seen as the most gender equal nation within Europe has
been an important issue. The early to mid 1990s saw a feminist challenge to
the illusion of Swedish democracy. Elman (2001:39) has argued how this
illusion rested on the denial of violence against women. Across the globe
there may have been an explosion of paper rights for women, the fact
remains that women are routinely ignored and rendered invisible whilst
subjected to torture, starvation, rape and mutilation, despite the fact that we
have international documents which mandate the equality of women. Rape,
as a weapon of war, has been seen in every region of the world. Geraldine
Brooks (1995: 183) discusses how during the 1991 Gulf war, Kurdish women
were raped by Iraqi soldiers as part of the regime of torture ... Others had
been raped as a means of torturing their imprisoned fathers, brothers or
husbands. Not only were women systematically raped they were filmed
whilst being raped. The dehumanisation of the woman through this process is
used to persecute the community to which they belong. This highlights the
paradox of individual womens invisibility in the face of systematic
surveillance and abuse. Her individuality is of no importance: in this context
any woman would do. Without a real commitment of political will to recognise
such abuse, the invisibility of violence against women in the face of
overwhelming evidence continues. The paradox of individual womens
invisibility in the face of systematic surveillance and abuse is epitomised in

the example of Afghani women under Taliban rule. Under the Taliban, a brutal
regime was constituted that oppressed and terrorised Afghan men, women
and children. The organisation, Human Rights Watch, argue that women have
borne the brunt of this violence: women have suffered massive, systematic,
and unrelenting human rights abuses that have permeated every aspect of
their lives on the basis of both gender and ethnicity. (Human Rights Watch,
2001:2) Under such a regime women only became visible through rulebreaking. Women who had sex outside of marriage or were accused of being
prostitutes were executed. Married women who were raped were deemed to
have been unfaithful and faced being stoned to death. Girls were Jones:
Visible Rights Surveillance & Society 2(4) 591 only allowed to attend school
until the age of 9 years old while women were banned from universities and
not allowed to work. The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention
of Vice enforced restrictions against women through public beatings.
Deprived of the means of earning a living, many women, especially widows,
were reduced to begging on the street to feed themselves and their children,
relying on being given or buying mouldy bread or other unfit food. Forbidden
from leaving home alone, unless they were accompanied by a male relative,
women were forced to wear the all-encompassing burka, a top-to-toe veil and
gown that created invisible, subservient nonentities who had to walk three
paces behind the man. It has been argued that The Northern Alliance (NA)
may be viewed by the West as a great improvement on the Taliban, but
Afghan women do not see it that way. In 1992, after the NA entered Kabul
and other cities, it embarked on a spree of murder, rape, plunder and torture,
attacking men and women from 7 to seventy. They killed more that 50,000
people in Kabul alone between 1992 and 1996 (The Guardian, 7 March
2002). Just imagine, 50,000 people; that would more than fill a football
stadium. Indeed, many of the executions took place in sporting stadia, under
full public scrutiny. Rendered individually invisible, yet collectively constantly
monitored for rule-breaking, the women behind the burka, fought back.
Foucault (1977) suggests that power is always accompanied by resistance
and in Afghanistan the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan
(RAWA)2 used weapons not of destruction but of freedom. For example, they
held illegal educational classes for girls and secretly photographed human
rights violations to inform the West of the atrocities of the Taliban: the
surveyed became the surveyors. Generating knowledge and transmitting
knowledge are powerful weapons. RAWA taught women about basic human
rights and educated them about the position of women in other countries.
They also advocated the use of nail polish and lipstick these symbols of
femininity were seen as powerful tools against the oppression they faced.
However, women caught defying their subordination, perhaps by wearing
lipstick under the burka, faced a flogging or had their fingernails pulled out
for committing such a crime. RAWA activists speak of the irony of the burka.
A tool of oppression, of rendering women invisible, the burka provided privacy
from surveillance and was used to conceal the activities of RAWA activists
smuggling materials into the secret schoolrooms. The activities of RAWA
illustrate how invisible women can resist. But the way women are perceived

affects their human rights. Made invisible by the burka, under the Taliban
they were treated, at best, as though they were not there, as though they did
not exist. Many of these atrocities continue. Amnesty International argue that
in the power vacuum that has existed since the fall of the Taliban in
November 2001, armed groups have abducted, raped and abused women
and girls with impunity (2004: 57). Recommendations from the organisation
Human Rights Watch include the demand that the Taliban and other political
factions be held accountable for their massive and systematic violations of
womens human rights (Human Rights Watch, 2001:4) 2 http://www.rawa.org
Jones: Visible Rights Surveillance & Society 2(4) 592 The denial of rights was
written on the bodies of women in Afghanistan, in the form of the burka but
this was not a hopeless cause. Women resisted the violence and women
continue to strive for their rights. But a word of caution is necessary here
about what is responsible for the violence and denial of rights. The burka is
just an item of clothing. In itself it is not violent or abusive. It is the meaning
that is attached to the burka that is important and the power of those who
impose that meaning. Many women behind the burka and many women
without the burka live in terror. Outside of Islamic fundamentalism, women
are also objectified; the burka is nothing more than another tool that has
been used to oppress women. In constructing identity, symbols such as
clothing gives us a location within society, it links us and the society in which
we live. Our bodies are mediums through which we present ourselves to the
world. Foucault has suggested: The body is directly involved in a political
field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it,
train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit
signs. (Foucault, 1977:25) Our bodies may present the uniqueness of an
individual but, through being observed, monitored and controlled, they also
serve to demonstrate collective identities. Seen in this way, our bodies are
projects which may claim or subvert identity; alternatively, control over the
body may be taken and identity negated. The body, as represented within
any particular culture, will reflect the values and anxieties of that culture. To
use the example of Afghanistan, the burka provides a symbol of the anxieties
about the strict social boundaries that existed between men and women. In
the West there are assumed to be more relaxed boundaries. But, across the
globe, violence continues. After military conflicts have ended, women
continue to endure violence. The private realm of the home, free from
surveillance and outside interference, provides the privacy necessary for
domestic violence. The World Health Organisation suggests that in many
countries that have suffered violent conflict, the rates of interpersonal
violence remain high even after the cessation of hostilities among other
reasons because of the way violence has become more socially acceptable
(2002: 15). Even where the end of hostilities is brought by peacekeeping
forces women are not safe. The power of the military to control the peace
extends to controlling the abuse of women. Amnesty International provide
examples of Kosovo where women have been trafficked into the country for
forced prostitution by the military, Somalia where a teenage girl was bought
as a birthday present for a Belgian paratrooper and reports of sexual violence

committed by Italian peacekeeping forces in Mozambique (Amnesty


International, 2004:54-5). Nation states have duties under international law
to respect, protect and fulfil womens rights: in other words, to take effective
steps to stop violence against women. Governments continue to fail to
demonstrate due diligence, regardless of the mass of information that is
known. On a local level, justice systems often fail to deliver justice despite
clear evidence. Although legislation may exist to protect women in theory,
social tolerance of violence, cultural norms and a lack of political will, often
combine to nullify the law in practice. Invisible women suffer invisible
violence and violators act with impunity, because police forces are
uninterested, justice systems are Jones: Visible Rights Surveillance & Society
2(4) 593 expensive and are ridden with discriminatory attitudes. An example
of this can be found in Spain when, in 1995, Rita Margarete Rogerio was
raped by a police officer. Despite a lower court finding it luminously clear
that she had been raped, the Supreme Court acquitted the implicated officers
(Amnesty International, 2004: 83). International scrutiny is therefore useful in
holding states to account and the creation of the International Criminal Court
has increased the potential for crimes of violence against women to be
addressed. Womens rights groups recognise the limitations, not only of local
level legislation, but also of international conventions, treaties and courts to
protect women from violence. Fortunately campaigning by womens rights
activists continues to scrutinize and challenge violence against women.
Violence against women exists everywhere but it is not an inevitable feature
of life for all. The power to invade the private realm of womens bodies is not
easily curtailed by scrutiny and surveillance or by policies and legislation but
campaigns are having an impact. Whether the violence is committed in war,
in terror, by governments, by peacekeepers or by husbands in the privacy of
the home, what is known is that violence against women, throughout the
globe, has become more visible, due to the challenges from women speaking
out and demanding to break the silence of privacy that underpins violence
against women. Privacy is sustained by lack of accountability at the level of
the state, the community and the individual. Only by opening each level up to
scrutiny will violence against women begin to be achieved.

This society forces women to have babies in order to keep


the world populated, but they are not allowed to keep
their children. Children are taken away where men are
created to be patriarchs and girl are turned into more
means or production.

I'm running, with her, holding her hand, pulling, dragging her through the
bracken, she's only half awake. . . . I pull her to the ground and roll on top of her to
cover her, shield her. Quiet, I say again, my face is wet, sweat or tears. . . . I curl
myself around her, keeping my hand over her mouth. It's to late, we come apart,
my arms are held, and the edges go dark .... I see her, going away from me,
through the trees which are already turning, red and yellow, holding her arms to
me, being carried away. (96-97)

Thus Claire and I, advocate that we should substantially


curtail its surveillance of the feminine body through the
narration and discussion of Margaret Atwoods science
fiction novel The Handmaids Tale.

Modules

Straight up Gender/Feminist POV

Test 1ac
(IDK I PUT ALL THE CARDS WE HAVE THAT WE TALKED ABOUT IN HERE IN NO
ORDER BUT ITS 2AM AND I NEED SLEEP SO THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE FOR NOW
FML)
"We are for breeding purposes: we aren't concubines, geisha girls, courtesans.
On the contrary: everything possible has been done to remove us from that
category .... We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory
chalices" (176).

This excerpt is from our reading of, The Handmaids tale


by Margaret Atwood, acts as an interrogation of our
current understanding of the feminine body and the
surveillance placed upon it. We see a world where the
feminine bodies are placed into categories based on their
reproductive value. Where only men control the
government and determine the value or another. A world
where everything you say and everything you do is seen
or heard by the Eyes. Men have dominated this altered
world but its not a dystopia, its a world some of us will
live to see if we dont change the way we survey bodies.
Claire and I are calling for a critical examination of the
way surveillance impacts feminine bodies in the status
quo compared to a world so close to us.
Margaret Atwood 2010 (October 16, 2010, L/N, Saturday Edition 1;
National Edition Stranger than fiction; Twenty-five years after its publication,
Margaret Atwood considers the prescient nature of The Handmaid's Tale,
Accessed 7/14/15, EHS MKS)
Twenty-five years ago my novel The Handmaid's Tale was published. That was in 1985, but 1986 in the UK
and the United States. I had started this book several years earlier, but had been frightened by it and had
set it aside in favour of something less bizarre. But in 1984 I stopped dithering and tackled The
Handmaid's Tale head-on. Writing it gave me a strange feeling, like sliding on river ice - exhilarating, but
unbalancing. How thin is this ice? How far can I go? How much trouble am I in? What's down there if I fall?
These writerly questions were reflections of more general questions about the position of women. How thin
is the ice on which supposedly "liberated" modern Western women stand? How far can they go? How much
trouble are they in? What's down there if they fall? There's yet another set of questions underlying the
book. If you were attempting a totalitarian takeover of the United States, how would you do it? What form
would such a government take? How much social instability would it take before people would renounce
their liberties in a trade-off for safety? Since totalitarianism has attempted to control reproduction - limiting

My
rules for The Handmaid's Tale were simple: I would not put into it anything
that humankind had not already done, somewhere, or for which it did not
have the tools. As for the strictures on clothing and sexual behaviour, these
are so ancient and pervasive that our present freewheeling sartorial era
seems like a mere blip. The cover-ups worn by the women in The Handmaid's
births, demanding births, specifying who can marry whom - how would all that play out for women?

Tale have been variously interpreted as Catholic (as in nuns) or Muslim (as in
burkas). The truth is that they were inspired by the Old Dutch Cleanser figure
of my childhood, but they are also simply old. I prefaced the novel with three
quotations. The first is from the Bible - the passage in which the two wives of
Jacob use their female slaves as baby-producers for themselves - and ought
to warn the reader against the dangers in applying every word in that
document literally. The second is from Swift's A Modest Proposal, alerting us
to the fact that a straight-faced but satirical account - such as Swift's
suggestion that the Irish poverty of his times could be alleviated by selling
and eating babies - is not necessarily a recipe. The third states a human
truth: we don't prohibit things that nobody would ever want to do anyway,
since all prohibitions are founded in human desire.

My red skirt is hitched up to my waist, though no higher. Below it the


Commander is fucking. What he is fucking is the lower part of my body. I do not
say making love because this is not what he's doing. Copulating too would be
inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved. Nor does
rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven't signed up for. . . . [The
Commander] is preoccupied, like a man humming to himself in the shower without
knowing he's humming; like a man who has other things on his mind. It's as if he's
somewhere else, waiting for himself to come, drumming his fingers on the table
while he waits. (121-122).

Margaret Atwoods society is predicated off the ideas of rape culture. The fact that
the first question we always ask is what was she wearing? or was she sober
enough to say no? Is taken to a new level when the victims believe they are
objects to be used. They attend the ceremony where they are raped in hopes of
being impregnated, but their belief is that they asked for it and this is what they
signed up for. The angels have taken away all weapons, no rope, no razor
blades, in fear that they will kill themselves when they realize what they are doing.
They dont even have the right to take their own life. They are kept alive to suffer.
Helen Jones, 2005, (" No Publication, http://www.surveillance-andsociety.org/articles2(4)/visiblerights.pdf, accessed 7-12-2015)
We live in a world where our lives are tracked, monitored and controlled to a
degree that would surprise even Orwell. We are rich in data-knowledge about
human movement and behaviour, yet despite this mass of knowledge,
impunity for violence against women continues. Statistical details abound.
The collection of data is of course important but only in so far as it can be put
to practical use. Data flows and accompanied technology are not valuable
merely as things in themselves. The unresponsive eye of the CCTV camera
cannot stop violence; it can only observe and record. In the same way,
observing and recording violence against women is only valuable if it has a
human result: if it works to end violence. This article examines the

intersection of surveillance and privacy in relation to violence against women


and how knowledge constructed from such surveillance affects the privacy of
the violated and the violator. The article also considers campaigning as a
vehicle for surveillance of nation states. Womens rights groups are
increasingly utilising human rights instruments to help illuminate violence
against women but it is important to note that in the creation of much
international human rights law, women, because of their sex, were excluded
from participating in its early creation (Charlesworth, 1994). This has resulted
in the invisibility of gender issues, creating and shielding gender-based
abuses from public scrutiny and public condemnation (Amnesty International,
2004). Privacy may be held to 1 Institute of Culture, Gender and the City,
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. mailto:h.jones@mmu.ac.uk Jones:
Visible Rights Surveillance & Society 2(4) 590 be a human right, one that
many people strive for (Lyon, 2002), but the concept is also a contested one
frequently based on concepts of individualism and separation [that]
applies a 19th century conceptual framework to a 21st century problem
(Stalder, 2002: 122). Rarely is gender seen as a salient variable but for many
women, privacy is little more than the right of men to abuse women. We
know that domestic violence is the major cause of death and disability for
women aged 16 to 44 and that it accounts for more death and ill-health than
cancer or traffic accidents (Council of Europe, 2002). What is the use of such
data? In their 5th Periodic Report to the United Nations CEDAW Committee
the Russian government estimated 14,000 women were killed by their
partners or relatives in 1999, yet the country still has no law specifically
addressing domestic violence. A UN expert on CEDAW, Aurora de Dios, was
cited in Crawford (1998) as asking a group of women to guess in which
country a woman suffered from violence every 20 minutes. She surprised the
group by revealing that the country was Sweden. In Sweden the ideological
imperative to be seen as the most gender equal nation within Europe has
been an important issue. The early to mid 1990s saw a feminist challenge to
the illusion of Swedish democracy. Elman (2001:39) has argued how this
illusion rested on the denial of violence against women. Across the globe
there may have been an explosion of paper rights for women, the fact
remains that women are routinely ignored and rendered invisible whilst
subjected to torture, starvation, rape and mutilation, despite the fact that we
have international documents which mandate the equality of women. Rape,
as a weapon of war, has been seen in every region of the world. Geraldine
Brooks (1995: 183) discusses how during the 1991 Gulf war, Kurdish women
were raped by Iraqi soldiers as part of the regime of torture ... Others had
been raped as a means of torturing their imprisoned fathers, brothers or
husbands. Not only were women systematically raped they were filmed
whilst being raped. The dehumanisation of the woman through this process is
used to persecute the community to which they belong. This highlights the
paradox of individual womens invisibility in the face of systematic
surveillance and abuse. Her individuality is of no importance: in this context
any woman would do. Without a real commitment of political will to recognise
such abuse, the invisibility of violence against women in the face of

overwhelming evidence continues. The paradox of individual womens


invisibility in the face of systematic surveillance and abuse is epitomised in
the example of Afghani women under Taliban rule. Under the Taliban, a brutal
regime was constituted that oppressed and terrorised Afghan men, women
and children. The organisation, Human Rights Watch, argue that women have
borne the brunt of this violence: women have suffered massive, systematic,
and unrelenting human rights abuses that have permeated every aspect of
their lives on the basis of both gender and ethnicity. (Human Rights Watch,
2001:2) Under such a regime women only became visible through rulebreaking. Women who had sex outside of marriage or were accused of being
prostitutes were executed. Married women who were raped were deemed to
have been unfaithful and faced being stoned to death. Girls were Jones:
Visible Rights Surveillance & Society 2(4) 591 only allowed to attend school
until the age of 9 years old while women were banned from universities and
not allowed to work. The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention
of Vice enforced restrictions against women through public beatings.
Deprived of the means of earning a living, many women, especially widows,
were reduced to begging on the street to feed themselves and their children,
relying on being given or buying mouldy bread or other unfit food. Forbidden
from leaving home alone, unless they were accompanied by a male relative,
women were forced to wear the all-encompassing burka, a top-to-toe veil and
gown that created invisible, subservient nonentities who had to walk three
paces behind the man. It has been argued that The Northern Alliance (NA)
may be viewed by the West as a great improvement on the Taliban, but
Afghan women do not see it that way. In 1992, after the NA entered Kabul
and other cities, it embarked on a spree of murder, rape, plunder and torture,
attacking men and women from 7 to seventy. They killed more that 50,000
people in Kabul alone between 1992 and 1996 (The Guardian, 7 March
2002). Just imagine, 50,000 people; that would more than fill a football
stadium. Indeed, many of the executions took place in sporting stadia, under
full public scrutiny. Rendered individually invisible, yet collectively constantly
monitored for rule-breaking, the women behind the burka, fought back.
Foucault (1977) suggests that power is always accompanied by resistance
and in Afghanistan the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan
(RAWA)2 used weapons not of destruction but of freedom. For example, they
held illegal educational classes for girls and secretly photographed human
rights violations to inform the West of the atrocities of the Taliban: the
surveyed became the surveyors. Generating knowledge and transmitting
knowledge are powerful weapons. RAWA taught women about basic human
rights and educated them about the position of women in other countries.
They also advocated the use of nail polish and lipstick these symbols of
femininity were seen as powerful tools against the oppression they faced.
However, women caught defying their subordination, perhaps by wearing
lipstick under the burka, faced a flogging or had their fingernails pulled out
for committing such a crime. RAWA activists speak of the irony of the burka.
A tool of oppression, of rendering women invisible, the burka provided privacy
from surveillance and was used to conceal the activities of RAWA activists

smuggling materials into the secret schoolrooms. The activities of RAWA


illustrate how invisible women can resist. But the way women are perceived
affects their human rights. Made invisible by the burka, under the Taliban
they were treated, at best, as though they were not there, as though they did
not exist. Many of these atrocities continue. Amnesty International argue that
in the power vacuum that has existed since the fall of the Taliban in
November 2001, armed groups have abducted, raped and abused women
and girls with impunity (2004: 57). Recommendations from the organisation
Human Rights Watch include the demand that the Taliban and other political
factions be held accountable for their massive and systematic violations of
womens human rights (Human Rights Watch, 2001:4) 2 http://www.rawa.org
Jones: Visible Rights Surveillance & Society 2(4) 592 The denial of rights was
written on the bodies of women in Afghanistan, in the form of the burka but
this was not a hopeless cause. Women resisted the violence and women
continue to strive for their rights. But a word of caution is necessary here
about what is responsible for the violence and denial of rights. The burka is
just an item of clothing. In itself it is not violent or abusive. It is the meaning
that is attached to the burka that is important and the power of those who
impose that meaning. Many women behind the burka and many women
without the burka live in terror. Outside of Islamic fundamentalism, women
are also objectified; the burka is nothing more than another tool that has
been used to oppress women. In constructing identity, symbols such as
clothing gives us a location within society, it links us and the society in which
we live. Our bodies are mediums through which we present ourselves to the
world. Foucault has suggested: The body is directly involved in a political
field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it,
train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit
signs. (Foucault, 1977:25) Our bodies may present the uniqueness of an
individual but, through being observed, monitored and controlled, they also
serve to demonstrate collective identities. Seen in this way, our bodies are
projects which may claim or subvert identity; alternatively, control over the
body may be taken and identity negated. The body, as represented within
any particular culture, will reflect the values and anxieties of that culture. To
use the example of Afghanistan, the burka provides a symbol of the anxieties
about the strict social boundaries that existed between men and women. In
the West there are assumed to be more relaxed boundaries. But, across the
globe, violence continues. After military conflicts have ended, women
continue to endure violence. The private realm of the home, free from
surveillance and outside interference, provides the privacy necessary for
domestic violence. The World Health Organisation suggests that in many
countries that have suffered violent conflict, the rates of interpersonal
violence remain high even after the cessation of hostilities among other
reasons because of the way violence has become more socially acceptable
(2002: 15). Even where the end of hostilities is brought by peacekeeping
forces women are not safe. The power of the military to control the peace
extends to controlling the abuse of women. Amnesty International provide
examples of Kosovo where women have been trafficked into the country for

forced prostitution by the military, Somalia where a teenage girl was bought
as a birthday present for a Belgian paratrooper and reports of sexual violence
committed by Italian peacekeeping forces in Mozambique (Amnesty
International, 2004:54-5). Nation states have duties under international law
to respect, protect and fulfil womens rights: in other words, to take effective
steps to stop violence against women. Governments continue to fail to
demonstrate due diligence, regardless of the mass of information that is
known. On a local level, justice systems often fail to deliver justice despite
clear evidence. Although legislation may exist to protect women in theory,
social tolerance of violence, cultural norms and a lack of political will, often
combine to nullify the law in practice. Invisible women suffer invisible
violence and violators act with impunity, because police forces are
uninterested, justice systems are Jones: Visible Rights Surveillance & Society
2(4) 593 expensive and are ridden with discriminatory attitudes. An example
of this can be found in Spain when, in 1995, Rita Margarete Rogerio was
raped by a police officer. Despite a lower court finding it luminously clear
that she had been raped, the Supreme Court acquitted the implicated officers
(Amnesty International, 2004: 83). International scrutiny is therefore useful in
holding states to account and the creation of the International Criminal Court
has increased the potential for crimes of violence against women to be
addressed. Womens rights groups recognise the limitations, not only of local
level legislation, but also of international conventions, treaties and courts to
protect women from violence. Fortunately campaigning by womens rights
activists continues to scrutinize and challenge violence against women.
Violence against women exists everywhere but it is not an inevitable feature
of life for all. The power to invade the private realm of womens bodies is not
easily curtailed by scrutiny and surveillance or by policies and legislation but
campaigns are having an impact. Whether the violence is committed in war,
in terror, by governments, by peacekeepers or by husbands in the privacy of
the home, what is known is that violence against women, throughout the
globe, has become more visible, due to the challenges from women speaking
out and demanding to break the silence of privacy that underpins violence
against women. Privacy is sustained by lack of accountability at the level of
the state, the community and the individual. Only by opening each level up to
scrutiny will violence against women begin to be achieved.

Thus ____ and I, advocate that we should substantially


curtail the Eyes surveillance of the feminine body.
This society forces women to have babies in order to keep
the world populated, but they are not allowed to keep
their children. Children are taken away where men are
created to be patriarchs and girl are turned into more
means or production.
CARD SHOULD BE HERE MAYBE?????

I'm running, with her, holding her hand, pulling, dragging her through the
bracken, she's only half awake. . . . I pull her to the ground and roll on top of her to
cover her, shield her. Quiet, I say again, my face is wet, sweat or tears. . . . I curl
myself around her, keeping my hand over her mouth. It's to late, we come apart,
my arms are held, and the edges go dark .... I see her, going away from me,
through the trees which are already turning, red and yellow, holding her arms to
me, being carried away. (96-97)

real world card


Claire Lauterbach, 3-6-2015, ("International Women's Day: How
surveillance is used to assert control," No Publication,
https://www.privacyinternational.org/?q=node/503, accessed 7-12-2015)
This Sunday is International Women's Day. You could celebrate the
considerable progress in legislating for women's equal rights. You could join a
protest against political and legal inequality, discrepancies in women's access
to healthcare, education and other social goods. You could thank your mom
for delivering you.
Here at Privacy International, we want to commemorate the importance of
this day by looking at some of the ways surveillance technologies can be
used to control women and how the fight for women's equal rights and for
privacy have more in common than you might think.
Say it with spyware
What could 40 get your favourite lady? Maybe a couple dozen roses? How
about a one-month subscription to FlexiSpy to track her at all times?
FlexiSpy is a startlingly invasive piece of commercial spy software to track a
target's phone, capturing call, SMS data uploaded to an online account for
viewing. It is actually specifically marketed for spouses to install on their
partner's phone to find out if they are being unfaithful. It boasts that you can
Always Know...What they're seeing... What they're hearing...What they're
saying...What they're doing. Not only does it invade a loved one's privacy, it
plays on our worst fears by giving complete monitoring control.
Of course, women can use this product to target their partners, and FlexiSpy
is one of the dozens of commercially available spy gadgets out there. But its
marketing hits on an important point when it comes to surveillance control,
specifically, complete control and power over another.
The United Nations defines violence against women as a manifestation of
historically unequal power relations between men and women" and that
"violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which
women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men. It calls
out by name physical, sexual and psychological violence in the family,
general community and as perpetrated or condoned by the State.
Surveillance's effect on the psyche has been long documented. So when it
comes to a man having the power to spy on a woman, the control is not only
exerted over that specific woman but falls in line with historical and systemic
issues of unequal power relations between men and women.

Last October, the High Court in Lahore, Pakistan accepted to hear the plea of
a woman who accused her husband of installing a tracking device in her
body. Sughran Bibi alleged that her husband with an accomplice had affixed a
tracking device inside her as she lay unconscious, chloroformed. She pointed
to other classic signs of abuseabuser signs her husband had been
blackmailing her and brought X-rays to prove her point that a tracking
device had been inserted.
In Saudi Arabia, communications providers notified male relatives or
'guardians' by SMS of whenever their wives or other 'dependents' left or
arrived in country. The automatic system prompted an outcry both in and out
of the country where women are still legal minors.
In case we are tempted to think that this only happens in certain countries
with discriminatory laws or where women are less likely to control household
incomes: it doesn't.
The same technologies that are used around the world to track your pizza
delivery are also used by abusive partners to keep tight control of their
targets. These are usually and overwhelmingly women. A December
2014 study by UK-based Digital-Trust quoted domestic violence counsellors
and victims' accounts of stalking by way of GPS trackers, smartphone
spyware, bugs and hacking. A series of parliamentary answers revealed that
UK police received over 10,000 reports of computers being compromised by
spyware and malware (malicious software) in one year. In parallel,
researchers have demonstrated that digital abuse frequently accompanies
other forms of domestic violence.
Control is the bottom line
At Privacy International, we're usually busy keeping tabs on spying by
governments around the world, including the activities of GCHQ, the NSA and
their Five Eyes partners, looking to develop mass surveillance systems or
use powerful spyware to intimidate their supposed opponents.
At the heart of those issues, and of the surveillance cases mentioned above,
is the same principle: that surveillance is about control. The interpersonal,
tech-enabled spying described above results mainly from the popularisation
of surveillance as a legitimate way of engaging with another human being,
and the unequal economic, political and social status women still
overwhelmingly occupy to varying degrees worldwide. Or, more precisely, the
many obstacles to addressing those problems that from lack of political will
to educational inequality, to health inequality are too numerous to discuss
here. The fact that globally we still even legislate for women's, rather than
men's, inclusion in various benefits like equal pay is the strongest evidence
that exclusion is still the default.
Men can and do have their privacy invaded. Technologies like FlexiSpy can be
used to target men. There are also particularly strong stigmas that prevent
men from reporting domestic violence including the invasive surveillance
and stalking is commonly associated with it.
While surveillance of anyone, no matter their gender, is problematic, the
surveillance of women by men reinforces existing power imbalances.
Take, for example, Girls Around Me. The winner if not a strong contender in
the unofficial 'creepiest app' awards, the program detects women who, by
voluntarily sharing their GPS location data with social media app Foursquare,
'check in' to locations like restaurants and cinemas in a users neighborhood.

Girls Around Me does what it says on the tin: displays a list of local ladies,
helpfully geocoded, and potentially any data on their social media pages. It's
not surveillance, per se, but definitely a privacy-invasive use of consumer
data according to Foursquare. Girls Around Me is called that for a reason,
though technically a user can search for both men and women maybe if
only to give its mostly male users favourable guy-to-girl ratios. .Not all of
these latest technologies are surveillance technologies; but all are invasions
of the right to human right to privacy. For instance, it is overwhelmingly the
explicit private images of women that former intimate partners post against
their wishes to 'revenge porn' websites. This latest development in techenabled sexism continues a long history of literally stripping bare women's
right to control how and why their bodies are displayed.Personal, political
privacy. The right to privacy is conceived of as a protection against potential
abuses by the state. Yet state surveillance, too, when its target is a woman,
often takes a specific gendered form. Security agents who spied on
Colombian journalist Claudia Duque and her communications were instructed
to threaten to abduct and rape her daughter; a high-ranking official
was convicted of Duque's 'psychological torture' late last year. Azerbaijani
journalist Khadija Ismayilova, noted for her high-level investigations into
government corruption, had several of her explicit photographs sent to her in
the post with a letter calling her a 'whore' and telling her to 'behave' (an
unfortunately frequent demand of 'troublemaking' women). An explicit video
of Ismayilova allegedly recorded by hidden camera was posted online when
she refused to desist. Azerbaijani authorities are currently detaining
Ismailova on vague charges.The personal is political to repeat the feminist
adage. Privacy is both. The idea that 'a man's home is his castle', an early
manifestation of the right to privacy based on preserving (traditionally men's)
property rights and protecting against undue scrutiny has been used to deny
women safety from domestic abuse in their own homes. Women can and
should reclaim the 'right to privacy' to guard against unwanted intrusion into
their lives to give them ultimate control over their information, bodies, and
lives. Surveillance technologies are impersonal in the way they operate but
surveillance can be conducted against women to specifically target them as
such, whether by an angry lover or an angrier state. Physical and digital
surveillance and harassment of women thrives because monitoring others'
daily lives is widely accepted as as a legitimate practice or at least 'not that
bad' we do voluntarily forklift loads of our data into social media sites and
because of the overt or implied desire to control women or at least view them
as auxiliary to men (see: all of human history).
As privacy advocates, we can at least work on one side of the equation.
Happy International Women's Day now go call your mother

Feminist science fiction makes us reflect on the history of


science and its impacts on women
Donawerth, 1990 (Jane Donawerth, Professor at the University of
Maryland, serves as Director of Writing Programs, has had multiple books
published, Utopian Science: Contemporary Feminist Science Theory and
Science Fiction, pp. 537-539, 1990, PDF from JSTOR, Accessed: 7/11/15 RH)

The concern for increased participation by women in science has an


analogous utopian reflection in science fiction by women. A crucial difference
between the science depicted in men's science fiction and women's science
fiction is, quite simply, the participation of women. In Metamorphoses of
Science Fiction, Darko Suvin has rightfully pointed out the lack of women
scientists in American science fiction (but failed to add that he had read
almost exclusively science fiction by men). Since at least the early 1960s,
women writers have regularly characterized women as scientists; examples
include Mary, biologist and specialist in alien communication in Naomi
Mitchison's Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962); the biologist Takver and the
physicist Mitis in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed (1974); Kira, biologist,
M.D., and "the de facto head of her department at the university" in Pamela
Sargent's Cloned Lives (1972-76); Margaret, the black computer expert in Up
the Walls of the World (1978) by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon); Varian, veterinary xenobiologist and co-leader of the expedition in Anne Mc- Caffrey's
Dinosaur Planet Survivors (1984); and Jeanne Velory, black physicist and
astronaut in Vonda McIntyre's Barbary (1986). Even the earliest woman writer
for the pulp magazines, Clare Winger Harris, in a 1928 short story, includes a
woman scientist: Hildreth, chemist and astronomer, assistant to her father in
his home laboratory and soon to be assistant to her new husband. This
interest of women science fiction writers in women scientists seems not only
a result of changes in women's careers in the 1960s but also of the struggle
to educate women in the sciences in the late nineteenth century.4 Women
scientists as characters in women's science fiction, moreover, seem a legacy
of the earlier feminist utopias. In Mary Bradley Lane's Mizora (1880-81), for
example, chemists and mechanical engineers make the all-woman society a
technological utopia. And in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland (1915),
female geneticists have bred crop-producing and disease-resistant trees, as
well as quiet cats that do not kill birds, while other women have developed
sciences unknown to Gilman's con- temporaries-language as a science,
sanitation, nutrition, and a kind of psychology-history. The feminist
utopias, as well as contemporary wom-en's science fiction, make us
see a history of women in science, not just a few great women who
seem to be historical anomalies. In one of the earliest feminist utopias,
ThreeHundred YearsHence (1836), written when most women were still
denied college educations, Mary Griffith shows a future historian relating a
woman's invention of a new power that replaces steam, as well as restoring
proper credit to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, "for introducing into England the
practice of inoculation for the small-pox." Such a vision of restoring women to
the history of science is shared by Naomi Mitchison in Memoirs of a
Spacewoman;her hero Mary reflects: I may be out of date, but I always feel
that biology and, of course, communication are essentially women's work,
and glory. Yes, I know there have been physicists like Yin Ih and molecular
astronomers-I remember old Jane Rakadsalismyself, her wonderful black,
ageless face opening into a great smile! But somehow the disciplines of life
seem more congenial to most of us women.5 In 1962, when many colleges
were still effectually segregated by race and want ads were still separated by

gender into male and female occupations, Mitchison presents, as a matter of


course, the participation of women of color in science. What these utopian
and science fiction writers offer, more importantly than portraits of individual
women scientists, is a revision of past and future science history that includes
women as rightful participants. In this way, they share a goal with feminist
historians of science.

Method
A feminist reading of the handmaidens tale to curtail the surveillance of the
female body feminist discussions k2 break silence

Surveillance
Male gaze type shtuff

Offense against ks
Ya know perms and shtuff
Women are always pushed to the back and silenced they are a recreation of
this

FW
Public sphere as masculine probs bad
f/w is surveillance of the female body

Storytelling

1ac Outline
Handmaidens tale discipline of the body***
Interpellation
Self discipline + interpellation of the feminist body
Method of writing HMT
Method of storytelling general
Advocacy a queer feminist reading to challenge the boundaries of
intersectional anti-queer violence

Cards 2 cut
Specific role of the readerDifferent interpretation of the oppression of the handmaidsQuotesConnection cards-

Cards cut
Offreds narration as an act of resistance + the role of the
reader
writing are acts of resistance the bodies of the oppressed are disciplined to
be silent. Writing in the world of the Handmaidens is reserved to those in
powers because only they are allowed to But writing allows for personal
expression Offreds storytelling is unique in that it breaks the silence of the
oppressed. Offred inhabits the room of a handmaiden who came before her
and left her own writing on the walls of te cell. Her writing motivated offredd
to begin her own. In this way writing and storytelling are ways of a3akening
resistance to systems of domination. Offred invents a story for the
handmaiden beofr3 her and in doing so breaks her own silence and begins to
reclaim her own body. The handmaidens tale is as a whole the writing left on
the wall for us. Our reading is a way of opeining a room for imagination and
theorizing of the experiences of female body.
Gerhard, 2012 (Julia. CONTROL AND RESISTANCE IN THE DYSTOPIAN NOVEL:
A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS. Thesis. California State University, Chico, 2012.
<http://csuchicodspace.calstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.4/434/4%2018%202012%20Julia
%20Gerhard.pdf?sequence=1>. 66-71 ZJN)
Before I discuss how writing in all three of these novels serves as the means for the main protagonists to
find their inner selves, recognize themselves as individuals, and thus resist the authority of the state, it

writing by itself manifests an act of resistance . Since in a


dystopian world individuality is suppressed by ideology and discipline, and
peoples actions and thoughts are constantly policed, writing presents a
serious threat to the state: it renders personal expression, self-reflection, and
authoritythings that empower people and prompt them to think critically. Not
only does writing invite a foreign thought that can question and challenge the authority of the State , it
also enables that foreign thought to move and spread, posing a tremendous
danger for the governments stability. Therefore, writing is banned in most dystopian novels
needs to be noted that

and is considered a crime. Hence, people who decide to take such a risk and engage themselves in some
form of writing already break the law and jeopardize their status as a citizen. The mere act of writing
violates the states law and thus, in itself, presents an act of resistance. From the first couple pages of
Orwells 1984, the reader learns that writing is a serious felony in Oceania and if detected it was
reasonably certain that it would be punished by death (Orwell 9). As he begins his diary, Smith admits
that to mark the paper was the decisive act and, knowing that it was punishable by death, he realizes
that the only thing he needs is courage, as the actual writing would be easy (10). If writing by itself
incorporates crime, then the content of the writing does not even matter. As Winston later contends after
he writes his brazen DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER in his diary, the writing of those particular words was
not more dangerous than the initial 67 act of opening the diary (19). Keeping a diary equals thoughtcrime,
the essential crime that contained all others in itself, and in consequence crystallizes Winstons daring
act of opposition to the tyrannical rule of Ingsoc and ideology of the Party (19). Winstons finding of the
corner in his apartment that allows him to hide from the Panopticon gaze of the telescreen and write his
diary symbolizes his attempt to find a way to defy and go against Partys dominant regime. As Tyner notes,
the simple act of purchasing and possession of a diary constitutes a punishable offence and thus may be
read as an act of resistance (144). He, however, contends that Winstons diary, which is written within
the spaces of the novel, reveals a more significant meaning of resistance, because despite the Partys
surveillance, as Smith shows, diaries do get writtenso little acts of revolt are possible in dystopian
society. In Atwoods novel, writing and reading is also banned. In this dystopian society, women according
to their new social functions do not need to read or write since their only purpose is to produce future

generations. Reducing handmaids human status to almost zero and denying them any power, even the
power over their own bodies, Gilead also prohibits any forms of reading and writing that might offer these
women any kind of agency or remind them of their other abilities. Thus, Offreds narration embodies a
great act of resistance, which by its sheer existence constitutes opposition and reluctance to accept

Offreds
story telling where she reconstructs the language definitely can be viewed as a brave act
of resistance. If Winston Smith in 1984 uses an archaic instrument, a pen, and buys an old book to be
Gileads new ideology. Since language is erased and words on signs are substituted by pictures,

used as his diary, Offred cannot even do that: women are completely divorced from any written documents

Offred does not write her


story; instead, she narrates her tale to the tape-recorder, which is later
discovered by future generations. The reason is obviouswriting is illegal and
Offred cannot have paper or pens in her possession: Its also a story Im
telling, in my head, as I go along. Tell, rather than write, because I have
nothing to write with and writing is in any case forbidden ( 52). When Offred goes to
and have no access to books, pens or paper. Unlike Smith and D-503,

the market, she observes how paintings eradicated words that were previously written on the wooden
signs of the shops and could still be seen through the paint when they decided that even the names of
shops were too much temptation for women (33). Women in Gilead ought not to be tempted by anything
except for fulfilling their duty of bearing children. Later on, Offred confesses that books belong to the black
market now and are nowhere to be found except in the possession of Commanders and the ruling elite.
When the Commander invites her to his room, Offred notices that around the walls there were many
bookcases filed with books. She concludes: Books and books and books, right out in plain view, no locks,

if Commander
holds power, books in his possession also symbolize a power that is not
attainable by Handmaids. In a way, Offreds narration becomes her book and
symbolizes the power she was able to acquire by composing it. Later on, while
playing Scrabble with the Commander, Offred experiences an inconceivable feeling of
freedom that overpowers her, as she continues to hold possession of words
that she composes and acknowledgesshe feels as if hes offered her
drugs (179). In a different scene, when Commander gives Offred a Vogue magazine, she is shocked to
no boxes. No wonder we cant come in here. Its an oasis of the forbidden (177). Thus,

see something that was supposed to have been burnt. She admits that 69 she wanted it badly with a
force that made the ends of her fingers ache (200). She further explains: What was in them [magazines]
was promise. They dealt in transformations; they suggested an endless series of possibilities . . .. They
suggested one adventure after another . . .. They suggested rejuvenation, pain overcome and transcended,
endless love. (201) In this sense, magazines represent feelings and thoughts Handmaids are not supposed
to have, something humane and spontaneous. Lastly, the sentence written on the closet wall by the
previous Handmaid in Offreds roomNolite te bastardes carborundorum intrigues and puzzles her
because she cannot understand what it means. Offred, however, is constantly communicating with and
thinking about the Handmaid that occupied her room prior to her coming here and admits that it gives her
joy to know that her writing, which she cannot even decipher, was at least read by one other person. She
knows it contains an important message, but cannot interpret it. She ponders: Why did she write this, why
did she bother? (190). This sentence becomes emblematic in a sense that if it cannot be decoded, it
means that the power lies in the writing itselfin the unknown message it was trying to articulate. It can

Offreds narration was inspired by it and becomes the embodiment of the message of
represents women in general, oppressed and silenced,
who were trying to speak, but could not be heard. Thus, now it is Offreds
duty to continue the message, to let it reach the unknown audience: You
dont tell a story only to yourself. Theres always someone else. Even when
there is no one. A story is like a letter. Dear You, Ill say. Just you, without a
name . . .. You can mean more than one. You can mean thousands . . . Ill
pretend you can hear me. (53) 70 By composing and recording her story in a
society where reading, writing or speaking is prohibited, Offred represents the
voice of the oppressed, and the act of her narration defies the rules of the
domineering regime. As Linda Kauffman points out, in The Handmaids Tale, the medium changes,
be argued that

this unknown woman, who

but the mode remains the same (222)Offred

challenges the system by speaking up


against it through stealing the language and spreading the message of the
silenced victims, thus making the act of her narrating a rebellion in itself:
Exiled, imprisoned, cloistered, or shut up, epistolary heroines are deeply
subversive because for them writing [or narrating] itself is an act of revolt
(226). Unlike 1984 and The Handmaids Tale, writing is not banned in Zamyatins We, but it has a limited
function. The purpose of art and poetry is purely panegyrical in Zamyatins dystopia; it has to eulogize the
grandeur and mathematically rational life of One State as well as the infallibility of the Benefector, evident
in the poems like Mathematical Rhymes, Daily Odes to the Benefector, Late for Work, Flowers of
Judicial Verdicts. As T.R.N. Edwards claims in his book Three Russian Writers and the Irrational: Zamyatin,
Pil`nyak, and Bulgakov, art and writing are subordinated to the purpose of propaganda, and serves a
utilitarian aim (69). Indeed, D-503 himself divulges that poetry today is not some impudent nightingales
pipingpoetry is government service, poetry is usefulness (Zamyatin 67). He finds it repulsive that poets
in the past wrote about whatever popped into their heads, but ends up doing it himself since the medium
he chooses for his writing suggests self-reflection and self-questioning rather than simple praise (66). As
Edwards puts it, what is intended to be a civic bequest to the inhabitants of other planets soon turns into
an intimate record of D-s love affair with Iand his growing awareness of his self (63). What is interesting
is that D-503 is aware of 71 his digression into his emotional world and his deviation from the original plan
to praise and record the infallible perfect life of OneState, and yet he continues to do it. As he mentions
himself, he wants to fit any absurdity of his narration into a syllogism, but obviously fails to accomplish
it, as he regretfully affirms: I am crushed to see that instead of the elegant and strict mathematical poem
in honor of OneState, its turning out to be some kind of fantastic adventure novel. Oh, if only this really
were just a novel instead of my actual life, filled with Xs, 1, and degradations. (99) Thus, his
continuation to record his feelings instead of composing a paean clearly shows his resistance to the rules
of OneState since, as he himself states, art is not supposed to be personal, but only utilitarian. He ignores
his duty as an orthodox dystopian citizen to pay tribute to the State and its values, and thus subverts the
ideology by his writing: Yes, duties, . . . in my mind I quickly went through the most recent entries in these
pages. The fact that there wasnt anywhere the least thought of any duty . . . (127). Ds heretical diary
not only reveals the irregularities of OneStates life, but also challenges States collective ideology through
his newly discovered individuality: Picture this: a human finger, cut off from its body, its hand . . . a
separate human finger, running hopping alone, all hunched over, on a glass sidewalk. I am that finger. And
what is strangest of all, most unnatural of all, is that the finger hasnt got the slightest desire to be on the
hand, to be with the others . . .. (100)

Reclaiming The body through writing


-

Theorizing the female body through writing allows for offred to reclaim
her body from the state and make it once more her own. She is able to
recreate an identity of her own. Writing can reconstruct the womans
body. It opposes the discipline put upon women. The reading of the
story simialarly acts as breaking the silence that fenmale bodies are
disciplined to have about the way that their body is interprellated in
society and claimed as public property.

Gerhard, 2012 (Julia. CONTROL AND RESISTANCE IN THE DYSTOPIAN NOVEL:


A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS. Thesis. California State University, Chico, 2012.
<http://csuchicodspace.calstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.4/434/4%2018%202012%20Julia
%20Gerhard.pdf?sequence=1>. 33-37 ZJN)
narrating in Margaret Atwoods dystopia The Handmaids Tale
also plays a central role as the main protagonists way of resistance to the
theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead, where women are exclusively
valued for their reproductive function and are mentally and physically abused
by the patriarchal ruling class. While, in Zamyatins and Orwells dystopias, writing helps the main characters to
Writing or, to be exact,

Offred, the main heroine,


employs writing to reconstruct her body, which has been disciplined and
exploited for the states benefit. As Foucault puts it, the discipline that the state
employs to achieve its supremacy has to dominate and control the body to
achieve its total subjection: the discipline increases the forces of the body (in economic terms of utility) and
diminishes these same forces (in political terms of obedience) (138). Thus, she has to regain her body and
reclaim her authority, recreate her identity and challenge the states ideals
by narrating her story. Among the dystopian novels discussed in this chapter, Atwoods novel literally belongs to the
discover their individuality and reconnect with the past, in Atwoods futuristic world,

tradition of criture fminine and directly reflects the philosophies of the feminist writers on the role of women and their oppression in society.

women in Gilead are defined only through their social functions of


procreation, are treated as fertility machines, and have no power over the
autonomy of their own bodies, the only way to survive and resist the
repression is to attempt to regain their bodies (Freibert 282). Writing, subsequently,
becomes the avenue for the reconstruction and liberation of the womans
body, which has been taken away from her, rendering her voiceless and
powerless. As Cixous underlines in her essay The Laugh of the Medusa, writing enables woman to
return to the body which has been more than confiscated from her, which
has been turned into the uncanny stranger on display (395). Since the
woman is reduced to being the servant of the militant male, his shadow,
she has to rebel and let her body be heard through writing, an act which
will not only realize the decensored relation of woman to her sexuality, to her
womanly being, but also give her back her goods, her pleasures, her organs, her
immense bodily territories which have been kept under seal. Narrating her own story thus
Since

becomes essential for Offred, because through writing she recreates her body, reconstructs her identity, and remains human. As I discussed in

Offred, the main protagonist in The Handmaids Tale, always


refers to her body as something over which she does not have control
anymore, something that is foreign or distant from her, something that is
needed by the governing elite and thus treated as their property. In the Republic of
the previous chapter,

Gilead, where as a result of the military coup, religious fundamentalists obtain governmental power, women who can still reproduce become a
national resource, as nuclear pollution has rendered most women infertile (Atwood 85). Her role now is to give birth, and, if she is unable to
accomplish it, she will be labeled an unwoman and sent to the Colonies to toil laboriously until she dies. Aunts indoctrinate Handmaids to
think of themselves as seeds, but Offred refuses to be considered just a seed: she feels that as a human being she is entitled to have the 93
ownership over her own body and her self (25). Thus, since she is denied the ownership of her body, she must reclaim it through her story. As
Sheila Conboy assures in her article Scripted, Conscripted, and Circumcised, Offred refigures her lost body through the text, as she
imagines the narrative as a metaphorical body (356). The leitmotif of the dismembered body is vividly present in this novel and becomes the
metaphor for Offreds lost body to the ruthless values of Gilead, one she must reconstruct through her story. Images of and references to body
parts can be detected throughout the whole novel (Rubenstein 104). In this dystopia, handmaids are only viewed as two legged wombs
(176); the doctor who examines Offred deals with a torso only (78); the image of hands reoccurs multiple times when Offred thinks how
empty they seem to her, as they could be held, but not seen (Atwood 62; Rubenstein 104). When Offred has memories of her husband,
Luke, she confesses that she feels like a missing person and expresses the incredible urge to hold a human body: Can I be blamed for
wanting a real body, to put my arms around? Without it I too am disembodied. I can listen to my own heartbeat against the bedsprings, I can
stroke myself, under the dry white sheets, in the dark, but I too am dry and white, hard, granular; its like running my hand over a plateful of
dried rice; its like snow. Theres something dead about it, something deserted. (132) When women all of a sudden become powerless over
night as a result of the military coup that establishes the rule of the Judeo-Christian theocracy in Gilead, Offred recalls that she thought as if
somebody had cut off [her] feet (Atwood 232; Rubenstein 105). Interestingly enough, Offreds friend Moira, the one who tries to escape from
the Aunts controlling discipline and indoctrination, is punished mercilessly, and it is her feet that are tortured with steel cables, frayed at the

the propaganda
94 movies that Aunts show to the Handmaids, underscoring how women have
been mistreated in the past, contain dead and mutilated bodies and once
even show a woman being slowly cut into pieces, her fingers and breasts
snipped off with garden shears, her stomach slit open and her intestines
pulled out (152). All these images of the dismembering womans body symbolize
and highlight Offreds and other womens loss of any authority over their
bodies and become the metaphors of their shattered selves. Thus, Offred must revive her
ends since, as Aunt Lydia puts it, for our purposes your feet and your hands are not essential (118). Finally,

mutilated body through her narration, in which she recreates her identity, gains agency, and puts together the pieces of her dismembered
body. This symbolism of disembodiment is analyzed by Roberta Rubenstein, who asserts that Offreds text becomes an act of self-generation
that opposes the oppressive obligations of procreation and also functions as Offreds struggle to reconstruct her fragmented selfhood and to

justify the choices she has made (105). Conboy also discusses this theme in her article and states that Offreds textual body, this sad and
hungry and sordid, this limpid and mutilating story, replicates the narrators literal body, which is cut off from her free mind: both body and

Offreds
story serves as means to glue the pieces of her dismembered body and her
shattered self together. Another critic, Debrah Raschke, examines this idea as well in her work Margaret Atwoods The
text are experienced as parts which do not always cohere, as shattered wholes (Atwood 267-268; Conboy 356). Thus,

Handmaids Tale: False Borders and Subtle Subversions and illustrates how Handmaids names resonate with their distorted bodies and
selves. She explains that the newly created class of Handmaids is distinguished not only by their redcolored dresses and white wings of their
hats, but also by their new names, which are formed by a preposition and its objectOffredmeaning of Fred, Freds possession 95 that
mark them not only as claimed property, but as nonsubjects (259). She rightly suggests: Through the exclusive use of the preposition and
its object, the I and the connecting verb in this syntactical construction become eliminated entirely. By saying Of Fred instead of I am of
Fred, the subject (of the sentence) is effaced, thus diminishing the chances of a Handmaid constructing herself as an I (as a subject or a

etaphorically, the Handmaids, unable to tell


their own stories, are blank pages, untold storieswomens histories,
cultures, and writing that have been edited out of the dominant culture or
reformulated to fit the masculine mode (259). Because their selves are taken from them and even their
self). Total erasure (259). Therefore, she concludes that m

names are changed and mutilated, they are voiceless and powerless, and thus now must reclaim their authority and narrate their own story,
where they can recreate their identity, the one that has been edited out to fit the dominant culture. Another way that writing or authorship
functions in this novel is it provides the main protagonist with a space of her own since she literally does not exist in this dystopian society as
a persononly as a child-bearing machineor, as Raschke puts it, a baby maker, procreator, womb vessel (259). Consequently, writing
grants Offred an opportunity to express and repossess her self as a human being, and explore her identity as a personnot simply an
ambulatory chalice (176). The idea of a body being a womans dwelling place is introduced and explored by a feminist writer Nancy Mairs
in her essay Reading Houses, Writing Lives: The French Connection, where she claims that woman by embracing her body will find her own
private space in society. Mirroring Cixous idea of the body, Mairs affirms: 96 Still forced to function as mans Other and thus, alienated from
her self, she has not been able to live in her own house, her very body . . . Women havent had eyes for themselves. They havent gone
exploring in their house . . . Their bodies, which they havent dared enjoy, have been colonized. (412) Hence, she determines that writing
becomes womans living space, and through writing her body, a woman may reclaim the deed to her dwelling (412). The erasure of women
which Raschke and Mysriades talk aboutand thus their inexistence with no space of their own is evident in Gilead from not only the way
women are treated by the government and Commanders, but also by the way they live. After the military upheaval, women are stripped off
their jobs and bank accounts, their old clothes and names, their right to love and be with who they want, even the right to read and be
educated, and thus, as Ginette Katz-Roy puts it, they became anonymous workers in a society organized like a gigantic bee-hive or ant-hill
(119). Their invisibility is also underscored by their new dress code: a long red dress that hides the figure, red gloves and shoeseverything is
redthe color of blood, which defines them; the only thing that is white is the hat that has wings on the sides, which keep them from
seeing, but also from being seen (Atwood 11). As Aunt Lydia preaches to them, to be seen is to be penetrated. What you must be girls is
impenetrable (38). Offred resides in a small room with no windows or mirrors at the Commanders house, which is a compound with gates all
around for protection, like a prison (Katz-Roy 119). Offred admits: Now and again we vary the route; there is nothing against it, as long as
we stay within barriers. A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays within the maze (53). The old gymnasium where the
Handmaids undergo their education is always surveilled by the Aunts; they are constantly in view and have no privacy, or, as Virginia Woolf
puts it, no room of their 97 own. Once Offred is assigned to the Commander and comes to live with him and his wife, she refuses to call the
room hers as if she knows that once she acknowledges it, she accepts the rules of this game and succumbs to the regimes power. Thus,
Offred finds that room of her own through writing or to be exact narrating (since writing is not allowed there, she narrates her tale on the taperecorder), enabling her to become visible, gain self-autonomy and become human again. Since she is completely voiceless and powerless in
this society, she claims her voice and her body back by composing her story. As Coral Ann Howells points out in her book Margaret Atwood,

Offred refuses to be silenced, as she speaks out with the voice of late
twentieth-century feminist individualism, resisting the cultural identity
imposed on her (99). Linda Myrsiades also justly proposes that Offred, deprived of the room that was her own, . . . must
create a space she can claim as hers, a storied place that allows her to possess her whole self (230). Thus, Offreds
composition yields her an emergent place of her own, as she owns both
intellectual and property rights over that which she composes (234). Offred
claims power over her own body, the one that has been, as Foucault puts it,
manipulated, shaped, trained by the state, and her composing becomes
something that she can control: I would like to believe this is a story Im
telling. I need to believe it . . .. If its a story Im telling, then I have control
over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will
come after it (Foucault 136; Atwood 52). Offreds authorship becomes a very empowering and emancipating means to regain her

body and identity as she recomposes and reconstructs her story. Since writing enables one to invent ones language to resist the repression
from the domineering culture, and, as Althusser maintains, break through the ruling ideology, it allows one to 98 also recreate and even
change the reality because reality is expressed and perceived through language (139). Cixous comments on womens writing and the new
language they have to embrace: Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck
partitions, classes and rhetorics, regulations and codes, they must submerge, cut through, get beyond the ultimate reserve-discourse (399).
Offred certainly gains agency through language that she recreates with her narration, since writing and reading is banned in Gilead: even
public signs are replaced by symbols and pictures: Loaves and Fishes is fishmongersa wooden sign with a fish with a smile and
eyelashes (Atwood 212), All Flesha pictorial representation for the butchers shop, Milk and Honeya wooden sign with three eggs, a bee

Thus, Offreds text symbolizes the rebellion against the


erasure of the language and womens deprivation of literacy and education.
Obviously, language means power, but unlike its manipulation in 1984, in Gilead, language is
completely ignored and forgottenwomen are forbidden to read even the
and a cow (Katz-Roy 126; Atwood 34).

signs at the supermarket. Thus, as Katz-Roy contends, Offreds narration becomes a confessional sort of writing or storytelling which rehabilitates the female body as the origin of an alternative type of discourse (128). In her narration, Offred
does not only reflect on her past and her feelings, but also defines and redefines a lot of words and meanings, thus, holding the language in her power
and gaining authority. As Cixous emphasizes, feminine type of writing is highly stylized, never simple or linear because the
feminine writer doesnt deny her drivesshe lays herself bare (396). What Cixous advocates is a practice of writing that by sweeping
away syntax (399) becomes utterly destructive, volcanic, capable 99 of cutting through and subverting the official discourse (401).
Consequently, she concludes that this new insurgent writing (395) grants one freedom from the repression of the domineering ideology: . . .
it will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system; it does and will take place in areas other than those subordinated
to philosophicotheoretical domination. It will be conceived of only by subjects who are breakers of automatisms, by peripheral figures that no
authority can ever subjugate. (397) If we look at Offreds writing, it becomes apparent that it does fall into the category of the new insurgent
writing that Cixous is promoting. Offred narrates in a circular manner often offering plurality of meanings to many words, sometimes even
contradicting and doubting herself. For example, this is how she defines the word chair: I sit in the chair and think about the word chair. It
can also mean the leader of a meeting. It can also be a mode of execution. It is the first syllable in charity. It is the French word for flesh; none
of these facts has any connection with the others (Atwood 140). In this handling of multiple various connotations that she once learnt, Offred
obtains power and gains authority through authorship that comes from freedom to experiment with language and break through the
conventional definitions and labels. This power is also provided to her when the Commander suddenly invites her to his study and offers to
play Scrabble. She derives an incredible pleasure in playing the game, and, as Katz-Roy points out, among the words she composes are
larynx and gorgeorgans associated with the production of sounds, which stand for her desire to speak up and be heard (129). She
even finds a word that the Commander does not know, such as zilch, which gives her a sense of empowerment over him. As Conboy
maintains, the Scrabble game 100 represents in miniature the narrators text: she employs many words which reflect her bodily restrictions or
desires (larynx, zygote, limp); then she liberates herself as she shapes and tastes the words that she can substitute for those that have been
out in her mouth (Blessed be the fruit. . .). (356) As Offred confesses, I want to steal something, she accomplishes it in stealing and
recreating the language, and gaining control over her narrative: I would like to steal something from this room. I would like to take some small
thing, the scrolled ashtray, the little silver pillbox from the mantel perhaps . . . hide it in the folds of my dress or in my zippered sleeve . . ..

Thus, her narration


becomes something she could hide and keep for her own use, something of
her own that gives her power. Another aspect of her composing that resembles the kind of writing Cixous is endorsing
Every once in a while I would take it out and look at it. It would make me feel that I have power. (103)

is manifested in Offreds frequent manipulation of her own story: she provides three different descriptions of her date with Nick, three accounts
of Lukes departure and often doubts her own words and descriptions (Katz-Roy 130). By giving various options through her narration, Offred
offers some sort of freedom of interpretation and outcome that grants her authority and power to control. Therefore, the language that she
creates in her narrative empowers Offred to break through the conventions of Gilead, resist its rules and regulations, and get her body back by
recomposing it through her story. As Conboy asserts: Offred makes the body her bookone which she both reads and writes in a new mode
(Conboy 355). Indeed, when she narrates her story, she rewrites and reinvents her self: My self is a thing I must now compose, as one

All in all, being under the tremendous control and


surveillance that the state employs to discipline its people and their bodies,
dystopian citizens seek resistance through writing that grants them authority,
new identity and power. Writing becomes an 101 essential part of survival
under oppressive rule, as it not only allows people to express themselves and
find their individuality, but also endows them with voice and agency that
liberates them from the Partys dogma and grants them self-autonomy in
these suppressive conditions. As Anzalda assures, women, or anyone subjugated by the dominant culture or
composes a speech (Atwood 86).

authority, should write to record what others erase, to become more intimate and preserve oneself because the act of writing is the act
of making soul, . . . the quest for the self (319). As a consequence, in a dystopian novel, where the concept of individuality is vanishing
personal life merges with the social, human body and mind are appropriated according to the communal needs of the statewriting becomes
an imperative mode to free oneself from the collective ideology and gain personal independence, discover ones true identity and recreate
ones own body and mind. When peoples body and mind are constantly manipulated and exploited, narration or writing becomes a vital
agency that can put the pieces of their mutilated bodies and tortured minds together and offer them a space for recreation, remembering and
reconstruction of the self. Whether writing allows dystopian citizens to see themselves as individuals with their own personal feelings and
ambitions (We), or enables them to reconnect with their past and regain their memories (1984), or permits them to reconstruct their bodies
(The Handmaids Tale), it grants them a sense of authority and identity and presents them with an opportunity for revival and rebirth.

The Docile Female Body Where Resistance Starts


The Handmaids Tale The Female Body as a Site of Resistance
Julia Pei-Hsuan Hsieh
The Handmaids Tale The Female Body as a Site of Resistance
Julia Pei-Hsuan Hsieh
The female body in the handmaidens tale is formed as the object of gaze
interpellated and possessed by the dominant groups. The society is

cannibalistic in the way that it consumes the female bodies for its own
growth. 3
Analysis of food
Offreds rebellious thinking develops as she receives more and more control
on her body, and it manifests itself first in Offreds observation of her own body and then through her relating her body to food.
With her body being disciplined, she also has changed her attitude toward
her own body. She reflects the big difference between her concept of body as
concrete, substantial and multifunctional in the old time, and the void she
feels within herself after her body becomes docile: I used to think of my body
as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement
for the accomplishment of my will. [ ] There were limits, but my body was nevertheless lithe, single, solid, one
with me. 11 Now the flesh arranges itself differently. Im a cloud, congealed around
a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am
and glows red within its translucent wrapping . [ ] It transits, pauses, continues on and passes out of
sight, and I see despair coming towards me like famine. To feel that empty, again, again. (74) Here the sense of emptiness is dubious to say

The want of
conceiving a baby drives Offred desperate: in a way, she needs the baby to
survive in the Gilead since she has no chance left after the previous failures
in the other two households. In another, Offred experiences the despair of
loss and the dread of being left empty with nothing once more. To her, this
baby is not merely a new life for the household, but a new life for her . Atwood further
the least. In one sense, Offreds body is a docile one, concerned with not having a fetus fill up her empty womb.

illustrates how the female body, extraordinarily, can be torn apart in Gilead society. Through Offreds experience of her separated body and
her sense of self, she reveals her shameful feeling of looking at her own body: My nakedness is strange to me already. My body seems
outdated. Did I really wear ething suits, at the beach? I did, without thought, among men, without caring that my legs, my arms, my thighs and

Shameful, immodest. I avoid looking down at my body,


not so much because its shameful or immodest but because I dont want to
see it. I dont want to look at something that determines me so completely.
(63) Here, her body has become something, an it that she does not feel
like claiming hers. Likewise, she experiences the separation of her body from
herself by composing her own body as a thing (66). Her identifying herself as a cloud that congealed
back were on display, could be seen.

around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than [she is] and glows red within its translucent wrapping
somehow may explain both her desire of conceiving a child and her complicated inner transition of separating her body and her self. That is
why she sometimes fails to tell the reality from her dream, because she recollects the dream in which she was with her child, and then feels
desperate and despair about her situation. Sometimes Offred reminisces and expresses her desolation: Maybe the life I think Im living is a

she becomes
devastated owing to the separation of her body and self. With an attempt to
keep her identity, this experience of the separation of the body and the self,
however, further enables Offred to realize how her female body is the object
of gaze, the object of desire, and is materialized as objects. Making the female body
paranoid delusion (109). And sometimes, she hears something inside her body fall apart (146). All in all,

objectified, the Gilead authority penetrates their power throughout the nation. And that further drives Offred to the edge so as to cherish her
scarce power that she 12 secretly maintains for retaining her identity and her name from the past. She remembers how she and all of the
women in the pre-Gilead society lost their power to the Gilead authority. With her financial accounts frozen and her job taken away, Offred
feels white, flat, thin and transparent; back then, she started to question: Surely they will be able to see through me. Worse, how will I be
able to hold onto Luke, to her [ ] (85). She feels as if she is made of smoke, and the sense of being penetrated and seen through further
deprives her of the calm, confidence and power. Then she later experiences similar nakedness and transparent when she is in the

Whatever she does, her body is always scrutinized and studied


like an object by the Commander. Offred recollects her uneasiness under his
gaze: While I read, the Commander sits and watches me doing it, without
speaking but also without taking his eyes off me. This watching is a curiously
sexual act, and I feel undressed while he does it (184). The Commanders demonstration of his power
Commanders study room.

does not simply take place when he concentrates on Offreds body and movement. The night at the Jezebels, Offred is completely conscious
the Commander uses her to show off. That night when she dresses up to the Jezebels with the Commander, she is aware of her body as a
body wearing a purple evening rental tag. Or, there are times Offred perceives how the Commander patronizes her as if she is an almost
extinct animal when he looks at her. Nevertheless, there are times that Offred enjoys being watched, for the scarce power that she

experiences. When her power is reduced to almost none, she uses her body as a source of power that further assists her to confirm her
subjectivity. She uses her body as a seductive apparatus as she faces the checkpoint Guards: They touch with their eyes instead and I move
my hips a little, feeling the full red skirt sway around me. Its like thumbing your nose from behind a fence and teasing a dog with a bone held
out of reach, and Im ashamed of myself for doing it, because none of this is the fault of these men, theyre too young. Then I find Im not
ashamed after all. I enjoy the power, power of a dog bone, passive but there. (22) And yet it is not merely Offred that is the target of gaze in
Gilead. She is conscious that her body is taken as a freight of hope of others, for she acknowledges others expectation on her; she realizes
that herself is like a queen ant with eggs and the vehicle of others hope (135). Through all the images of numerous objects and items,
Offred understands very well how much her body and her womb have been objectified, and how much she is reduced to the basic level of
biological function of a female body, and that makes her even more anxious to restore her subjectivity. With her five senses becoming keener
than ever, Offred is also more critical in her observation of her body and the food. Here I would like to do a closer inspection on 13 Offreds
resistance through the correlated imagery of the female body, food and eating in The Handmaidss Tale. As in The Edible Woman, patriarchal
control of women and womens resistance in The Handmaids Tale find a powerful expression in the comparison of the female body to foods,
and the issue of who gets to own or consume these foods. In the epigraph, Atwood quotes from Swifts The Modest Proposal. Critics like Karen
Stein compares Atwoods The Handmaids Tale with Jonathan Swifts The Modest Proposal; this comparison somehow explains that the images
of food, eating and the body, particularly the female body in The Handmaids Tale (as well as in The Edible Woman) is closely associated with
food such as meat, as Stein points out, The cannibal theme is carried out in several ways in Tale. On some level, the foods the handmaids eat,
symbolic representations of wombs and fertility (pears, eggs, chickens, bread described as baking in the oven), are analogues for their bodies.
Additionally, one of Offreds flashback memories recounts her childhood fear of cannibalism. [ ] By means of this digression, Offred makes
explicit the analogies between Gilead and Nazi Germany, and between her tale and A Modest Proposal (66-7). While trying to maintain her
bodily consciousness, Offred uses smell to make associations with the past, and with the women around her. From Marthass kitchen, for
instance, she recollects the smell of her kitchen in the old times, of the days when she was still a mother, still had a mother, and of the food
smell. Also, she sympathizes with Marthas owing to their constraint with endless chores in the kitchen and she is eager to communicate and
connect with other women. The imagery of food is scattered in the text: The table has been scrubbed off, cleared of flour; todays bread,
freshly baked, is cooling on its rack. The kitchen smells of yeast, a nostalgic smell. It reminds me of other kitchens, kitchens that were mine. It
smells of mothers; although my own mother did not make bread. It smells of me, in former times, when I was a mother. (47) How does

these imagery of foods arouse her self-awareness and provoke her the want
of self-preservation? Offred regards this kitchen full of smell of food a past memory and a warning as a treacherous smell
that she should keep away from. Nonetheless, she reveals her longing of her old identity as a mother and a daughter. Furthermore, her keen
senses dwelling on the memory of being a mother and a daughter lead her to explore the smell that she notices in the sitting room and with
Serena Joy. Offred has complicated feelings toward Serena Joy, who may be her surrogate mother, that ought to look after her in the
household. Truth is, Serena does not actually care for Offred as a daughter. On the first day of Offreds arrivel, Serena makes Offred understand
her stance of the lady in the household, stressing on the unchangeable relationship with 14 her husband, and her principle of seeing Offred as
least as possible. Her cold attitude and sexless smells along with the tasteless collections in the sitting room, in a way, have frustrated Offred
and reminded her of the past when she was still a mother and still had a mother. Offreds frustration in failing to connect with Serena,
therefore, has hardened her loneliness in the spatial constraint, and yet made her determined to move beyond her spatial limit. Through
Offreds narration, in Gilead society, womens bodies are very often compared to food. Hence, the food connected with the female body further

. Not only is the female body conditioned and


kept in fixed positions in society, but womens diet is strictly controlled.
Womens pregnant bodies collage with images of foods such as pears, eggs,
oranges and lunch. Offred herself treats her body as food : she sways her body like a dog-bone
reinforces the fact that the female body is materialized

to seduce the Guards and the Angels as if they are dogs longing for food. Similarly, she compares herself as a ripe melon when she uses her
body to imagine manipulating man: Did the sight of my ankle make him lightheaded, faint, at the checkpoint yesterday, when I dropped my
pass and let him pick it up for me? No handkerchief, no fan, I use whats handy. Winter is not so dangerous. I need hardness, cold, rigidity; not
this heaviness, as if Im a melon on a stem, this liquid ripeness. (154) On the Birthday, Ofwarren, whose real name is Janine, requests for extra
sugar and is instructed that too much sugar is not good for her body. Likewise, from time to time, Offred feels tempted whenever she sees Nick
and the Wife smoking. And when she is offered one cigarette from the Wife, she is warned not to have too much of it. Furthermore, food in
Gilead does not simply mean the food that people eat, it can also be an indication to social status. That is why when Offred brings home a
bony chicken, Martha Rita complains about it, for she thinks the Commanders rank should make Offred be brave enough to speak up and get
a better one (48). Later on the Birth day, Offred also notices that at the Ofwarrens household, there are oranges which may stand for the
higher status of the whole household. In short, the abundant images of food in The Handmaids Tale first indicate how the female body can be
controlled by the regulation of diet and hence correlated with Atwoods concern of social cannibalism. Like the food bearing something
meaningful more than its substantial function, the body appears in a form of a collage of food. That is, the body is compared to food and
collaborated with the image of food. Like The Edible Woman, Atwood connects the female body with the food in The Handmaidss Tale and
strengthens her observation of the analogy between the two. Womens bodies of the past are compared to meat by the Aunts so as to stress
on the inappropriate exterior decoration: 15 The spectacles women used to make of themselves. Oiling themselves like roast meat on a spit,
and bare backs and shoulders, on the street, in public, and legs, not even stockings on them, no wonder those things used to happen. [ ] Such
things do not happen to nice women. And not good for the complexion, not at all, wrinkle you up like a dried apple. (55) For the Aunts,
dressing with exposure of the female body is improper and justifiable reason for rape to take place on women. In a way, remarks on the female
body in the past for Aunt Lydia and Offreds Commander are like meat. While the Commander and the Aunts comparing the female body to
food, Offred feels that the female body in Gilead is food, or is treated as if it were food. Here and there, I see Offred relate the female body to
food. At the doctors office, she is aware of the doctors calling her honey, which is a generic terms that Offred thinks it could represent all
women. Among Marthas talk, she feels uncomfortable when Rita is tenderizing the chicken and asks Cora to bathe Offred at the same time.
The chicken reminds Offred of Handmaids body and Aunts teaching on the importance of healthy food and Handmaids body: The thigh of a
chicken, overcooked. Its better than bloody, which is the other way she does it. [ ] You have to get your vitamins and minerals, said Aunt Lydia
coyly. You must be a worthy vessel (65). And later that night, though Offred feels repulsive, she does not dare throw up so she chewed and
swallowed, chewed and swallowed until she feels the sweat come out (65-66). Yet she does save some butter and hide it secretly for herself
to use later at night. The Aunts have been instructing the Handmaids that they are containers, only the interior body parts are important (96),
in that case, Handmaids are not to tend to the appearance of the female body. As in other novels by Atwood, the image of egg and the female
body is connected, so can this be proved in The Handmaids Tale. Imaginative as Offred is, when eating, she imagines the egg being what
God must look like, and she remembers, Women used to carry such eggs between their breasts, to incubate them (110); old memory of the
past like this makes her pleased and desire for one. Here, the egg becomes a metaphor and a pun in Offreds narration which reveals her
crave and nostalgia. Food as it is, the egg later becomes a suggestion to Offred of how much a pregnant woman could be operated on like the
food people eat with the knifes and spoons. That is, the image of Janines pregnant body as the food that is cut open by doctors knife and
brought up when she eats up her food and the teaching she receives: Once they drugged women, induced labor, cut them open, sewed them
up. No more. No anesthetics, even. Aunt Elizabeth said it was better for the baby, but also: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy
conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. At lunch we got that, brown bread and lettuce sandwiches. (114) 16 For Offred, she uses
butter to maintain her body. This gesture of connecting food with her body, which she compares to food from time to time, indicates how the
female body is treated like edible in Gilead. As she recalls that her body is supposed to be a useful one that produces babies, she also
remembers, when she was young she had mistaken her mothers story about the Jews in the old time: she thought the Jews were cooked in
the oven like food. Furthermore, she later compares the conceivable female body to an oven with bun and a chalice with wine. Hence, words,

the food she eats and the female body she sees have all become one in a very restricted circumstance under Gileadean surveillance, and that

Once the female


body is regarded useful and edible like food, it is hard for Offred to maintain
her identity intact since her body becomes consumable in the cannibalistic
Gilead society. After the Salvaging ceremony, death triggers Offreds
appetite. This implication, in one way, consolidates Atwoods picture of a
cannibalistic society, and in another way, empowers her protagonist to
transform her bodily resistance to thinking and to the use of language.
somehow has colluded to the Commander and the Aunts remarks on the female body which is like meat.

The Writing Self in an Active Female Body A Site of


Resistance and Construction for Subjectivity
The Handmaids Tale The Female Body as a Site of Resistance
Julia Pei-Hsuan Hsieh
AT FW
-Offred rewrites the past fo the female body thus reclaiming it. Control is
omni[present oin gilead society but her capabiulity to use language grants
offred power. The aunts siulenmce unwanted speech
Besides keeping her bodily consciousness as a way of preserving her identity,
Offred actively resists the overall control by criticizing the present and
revising her past. In a way, beneath her apparent passivity, she has been
reflecting, revising, criticizing and reconstructing her past as well as her
present more and more actively. And in this aspect, she has been a storyteller in her mind, a composer of her body, even before she disappears from
Gilead and tells her story into the tapes. The written body thus gets merged
into the writing subject, and it all starts with Offreds sensitivity to and
revision of Gileads languages control. To maintain her subjectivity and to
rediscover her power, Offred tells the story, reconstructs her story, rephrases
what she has learned and heard, and shows her power in narrating what has
happened in Gilead. She rebuilds her subjectivity through her strong senses.
Keen sensitivity helps her sharpen her imagination and observation that are
important to narration, and also helps remind her of the past and preserve
her real name. Only by sticking to refreshing her memory of her identity and
life in pre-Gilead society can Offred reconstruct her subjectivity and reaffirm
her existence as an individual. By investigating how Offred uses her narration
as well as her body to resist Gileads severe control, I intend to show the way
she gradually discovers her power through language, imagination, memory
and, most importantly, her bodily actions. 17 Control is everywhere in Gilead,
just as Offreds subtle revision of its verbal control. Offreds hiding of her real
name and revision of her given name, first of all, shows her resistance.
Offred, an indication of patronymic ownershipof Fredis turned in her
mind into off red, or evading the Handmaids sign of red color. Also, Offreds
sensitivity of verbal constraint makes her notice that the stocks of biblical
phrases and teachings that all the Handmaids are forced to bear in mind
contain a great deal of ironies. For instance, the literal biblical dialogue of
Leah connects giving birth with death. She uses puns to interpret the words

she hears with different meanings such as the word Mayday, as Maidez, a
French distress call, and date rape as a French dessert name. Mario Klarer
regards Offreds narration and searching for different meanings of words as a
process that is not only the key to gaining access to the past, but also
provides the possibility of anticipating the future, or that which does not yet
exist (134). That is to say, in the language-forbidden nation where words are
reduced and simplified as wooden signs and biblical scrolls, language assists
her to retain her subjectivity and struggle for a possible future. Though her
body is a docile one, her capability in using the language is a kind of power.
As Stein indicates, with the red robe and white wimples, the Handmaids are
all synchronized as one so that the central power of Gilead may deprive their
individuality, and Marian does not feel comfortable with the color-coded
dress. By revealing the discomfort in her red dress, Offred insinuates her
capability in using the language to construct her identity and subjectivity:
and myself in it like a distorted shadow, a parody of something, some fairytale figure in a red cloak, descending towards a moment of carelessness that
is the same as danger. A Sister, dipped in blood (9). This paradox in a way
shows that Offred tries to turn the traditional meaning of the fairy tales or the
biblical teaching into a paradox, attempting to use language to mock Gilead
society and vents her dissatisfaction of the restricted reality. Another revision
of the Aunts lesson is in the teaching of not to think, which is later proved to
be impossible for Offred. At night and when left alone in her bed, she first
consoles herself that if she wants to last, she has to listen to aunts advice:
not to think too much because [t]heres a lot that doesnt bear thinking
about (8), since thinking can possibly ruin her chance and she intends to
strive for living. Then, in allowing herself to think, she associates Aunt Lydias
instruction with that of a ballet class teacher in the past: She said, Think of
yourselves as seeds (18)that is, seeing the present self-preservation as a
seed for future rebellion and changes. Offred learns to indulge herself to
swerve from the reality and wander in the word-plays. Since Gilead is a
confining realm that strictly controls the peoples movement and language,
Offreds secret word-plays becomes a monologue that also brings along
moments in her past life. It is this severe confinement in body and language
that forces her to 18 develop her individuality through imagination, reflection
and rebellion. As Stein has mentioned, the Aunts act out as women
surrogates of the patriarchal power, for [they] transmit the words of the
patriarchal government, and they silence unwanted speech (271). The stock
of biblical phrases stressed by the Fundamentalism is a measure of
controlling, brainwashing and constraining. Teachings such as Pen is Envy,
Blessed be the meek, and Blessed are the silent are short memorable and
yet ironical to all Handmaids. The Handmaids are made to rehearse,
memorize and thus internalize the sayings given in the Red Center. All of this
emphasis on silence and meekness makes their bodies disciplined and
without really suppressing their desire for a pen or penis. What is more
ironical is the teachings like Give me children, or else I die, which
emphasizes womens own desire for bearing children, but actually suggests
the consequence of failing to apparently perform this obligation. Ironically,

then, giving birth becomes literally a life-and-death matter for women even
without the risks of dystocia. In addition to the birth-death irony, the Aunts
teaching of Pen is Envy also explains that verbal constraint collaborates
with bodily constraint. The rigorous regulations in Gilead forbid women to
speak freely, to have access to anything concerned with language and words,
for silence and meekness are considered virtues. Here, again Atwood plays
with words through Offreds narration. The phrase itself could be a pun. In the
realm of Gilead, where words and any tools leading for knowledge are
banned, as a writing tool, pen becomes the source of envy for Offred. During
the secret meeting with the Commander, she is allowed to read magazines
and even to write with a pen when she tries to ask a question to the
Commander. As Offred recalls, the momentary gesture of writing and holding
a pen in her hands becomes erotic and sensational so that she even feels like
breaking the rule and stealing it as another act of rebellion. The pen between
my fingers is sensuous, alive almost, I can feel its power, the power of the
words it contains. Pen Is Envy, Aunt Lydia would say, quoting another Center
motto, warning us away from such objects. And they were right, it is envy.
Just holding it is envy. I envy the Commander his pen. Its one more thing I
would like to steal. (186) Apparently, Offred breaks the ban on pen Gilead
puts on women. However, one cannot help being reminded of Freuds famous
description of womens Penis Envy. As Psychoanalysis would not be the
theoretical reference for this thesis, I would like to simply say that Atwoods
witty word-play is a sarcastic comment on man power whose absoluteness
has been supported by not only Gilead but also Freud. As the word-play
games show Offreds imagination and sensitivity to language, the puns
related to body also disclose her rebellion in a way. As Lawrence Davies 19
conceives the idea of puns and breaking language bars, he connects Offreds
punning gesture to the behavior of someone that both exhilarated and
alarmed by language, by its power of making and of breaking bonds (210).
No matter what this word-playing or elaboration indicates, making/breaking
the boundaries or denying connections between words, in any ways, Offreds
power grows as she gets access to words. For instance, Offred ponders on
habit that the Handmaids are wearing: Habits are hard to break (24-5).
What she means may be ambiguous due to the meaning of the word habit.
It could indicate both a certain of religious ropes like the red ones that the
Handmaids wear and the custom or practice that Offred she has. She could
have referred to the prison-like durable clothing she wears, but she could also
mean the word-playing games that go on and on within her mind or her other
habitual secret practices in life. Also, when Ofglen circumambulates with the
password of Mayday, Offreds afterthought reveals her longing for her past.
Mayday used to be a distress signal, a long time ago in one of those wars we
studied in high school. I kept getting them mixed up, but you could tell them
apart by the airplanes if you paid attention. It was Luke who told me about
mayday, though. Mayday, mayday, for pilots whose planes had been hit, and
ships. (41) She then recalls the real meaning in French, help me. This short
passage speaks Offreds nostalgic feeling about the old days and her keen
awareness how words can bear different meanings and serve different

functions. Most of all, accesses to words and language have become a luxury
and power in the forbidding status of an autocratic government. As changing
the language and the connection with the people surrounding her gives
Offred a sense of power, likewise, through her body, food and eating, she
discovers her power little by little. In terms of the act of seduction, she uses
her body as food to perform her scarce power. She also feels the power when
she plays the scrabble with the Commander. On the touch of the scrabble
counters, Offred feels tempted by the wooden words and would like to
swallow the scrabble counters so as to retain the power. The power that she
has received from playing the scrabble game comes from her access of
language and knowledge, and makes her want to eat up the wooden word
counters. Also, the words on the scrabble board somehow remind her of the
past, which reaffirms her identity secretly. And reading as fast as possible
whenever she is given the chance of reading indicates her longing for
knowing and for remembering. Gilead bans the language and words which
are powerful keys to knowledge, and this restriction reminds Offred how
much she is confined; more and more, she acknowledges what a passive role
she is playing as a Handmaid. Both Klarer and Madonne Miner discuss this
language ban on reading and writing: Klarer sees it as a measure of
preventing the privilege of objectivity from getting into the hands of 20
women (134) whereas Miner considers this ban of language an easy way for
men to claim the authority and deprive women of their power. Without
freedom in articulation and in knowledge, at times Offred feels distressed. In
the Commanders compound, she misses the old times and decides to take
advantage of her imagination and her memory of the old days. Like a
chipmunk trapped in her cage, the room she is not yet familiar with, she
strives to explore the room gradually. And the more she observes her
surroundings in her own space, the more she thinks of the past and is
attacked by solitude: I looked up at the blind paster eye in the ceiling. I
wanted to feel Luke lying beside me. I have them, these attacks of the past,
like faintness, a wave sweeping over my head. Sometimes it can hardly be
borne. What is to be done, what is to be done, I thought. There is nothing to
be done. They also serve who only stand and wait. Or lie down and wait. I
know why the glass in the window is shatterproof, and why they took down
the chandelier. I wanted to feel Luke lying beside me, but there wasnt room.
(52) The blind paster eye in the ceiling is the result from a cruel past, a
story and a legend of the dead Handmaid before Offred. In this passage, she
describes her loneliness and emptiness caused by the limited, prison-like
constraint; she uncovers her sense of helplessness when she thinks of her
destiny which may be like the former Handmaid or be unknown as yet. She is
not left with many choices and she is very much restricted in the space which
is severely watched and controlled. She realizes her situation as being
confined by the limited space and movement. Worst of all, she is always
awaiting, for the demands, expectations and the time for rituals and routines.
Not only is Offred like a waiting woman in the attic, awaiting for the
Ceremony and calls from the Commander, but her body and mind is full of
memory in terms of the consistent search of her past experience by

sensational touch and creative imagination when she is with herself. Indeed,
Offred is very much framed in Gilead, just like certain fairy tale figures
framed in the fixed spot. Her red habit makes her identify herself with the
fairy-tale figures, possibly the Little Red Riding Hood or Repunzel. In a way,
she is like Little Red Riding Hood, whose body runs for others demands. For
instance, she is sent to run the chores by the Marthas. Later in the novel, she
is also sent to Nick by Serena Joy. While the Marthas and Serena Joy serve as
the role of the practical surrogate mothers for Offred, she is aware of her very
restricted and scrutinized condition. Besides, Offred also resembles the fairy
tale figure Rapunzel. She spends most of her time waiting in her room for the
summons from the Commander, the Wife or the Marthas. Her long waiting
posture in the attic and her long hair makes her a Rapunzel. Gilead requires
the Handmaids to keep long hair. Offreds long hair may not be as 21
beautiful as Rapunzels, however, the hair does not offer any power at all, for
all the Handmaids are required to put on the wimple which blocks their sight
and forces them to look straight ahead. In other words, for Offred, Gilead
becomes a forest where all the gestures and languages become dangerous as
a Little Red Riding Hood, as well as for rebellion; where Offred is, like
Rapunzel, given a mere window to look at the world. Only when she is alone
in the room does she use her keen sensation to search for clues of the room
in the past, to reflect on her identity, and memory in the past. Yet, strained as
her body is, Offred knows she has to break the bond and struggles to move
ahead beyond the spatial constraint. Therefore, in her own room, where she
uses her imagination to move beyond the limited space and preserve her
name, dreaming of one day that she could tell someone about her real name.
Namely, her room gives her a sense of self-preservation through which she
retains her identity and her name. Besides repeating her name secretly and
reminding herself her real identity, Offred uses her sensitivity to preserve her
identity. As she grows to be more sensitive to smell and taste, she also recalls
more of her past life even when she is trapped in the sitting room or
anywhere in Gilead. In her own room, Offred learns to preserve her body with
the butter, which further indicates her instinct of maintaining her own body
like the old time. Through these gestures of self-preservation, Offred reveals
her strong intention of retaining her old identity, not as Offred, but as herself
with a real name that identifies her as an individual. More actively, she begins
to rebel through various bodily actions and attempts. First, she attempts to
steal something from the sitting room, as she reveals, I would like to steal
something from this room. I would like to take some small thing, [ ] secret it
in my room (80). Then she wishes further to steal Luke from the past into
her present room because she feels like being sure of her identity and lusts
for a body: I want Luke here so badly. I want to be held and told my name. I
want to be valued, in ways that I am not; I want to be more than valuable. I
repeat my former name, remind myself of what I once could do, how others
saw me. I want to steal something. (97) It is the lack of identity that makes
Offred a needy person that drives her to convince herself that Luke is
somehow alive. She even believes that Luke will have a message [s]lipped
into [her] hand as [she] reach the tokens across the counter in All Flesh

(106). When her hope for Luke gradually fades away, she turns to Nick to
satisfy her needs for self-assertion. Nick becomes someone that she tells her
real name to, and someone she goes to secretly, even without the consent of
Serena Joy. This, too, can be considered a proof of Offreds bodily action of
rebellion against the powerful Gilead authority. Finally, her turning everything
unspeakable about Gilead, about her past and herself 22 into audible texts is
by all means a form of resistance against the language-banned society. Her
thoughts, views, memory and what happened to her have all been
textualized as tapes, and that has somehow become a latent threat to and a
possible obsolete of Gilead society. That is to say, through Offreds storytelling, she has turned her mouth a tool of resistance because narration can
be taken as an act of reconstruction and imagination, which indeed occurs
once in a while when she tells the story. As Celia Flor?n indicated: the
transmission of the story is frequently being questioned by the narrator
(258), at times, Offred distrusts her own story and revises her story from time
to time. But the act of revising the story, in a way, reinforces her power of
narration. She becomes an author who manipulates the audio texts. And by
simply telling the story and revising the story, she has the power of
demonstrating her resistance to Gilead. She shows the same resisting spirit
when she tries to find out Ofglens whereabouts. Later she realizes that
Ofglen sacrifices herself to protect her; Offred becomes willing to identify with
the rebellious organization at the end of her story. Though suspecting Nicks
betrayal, she cooperates with Nicks instruction and get onto the Eyes van.
To this extent, she is not as passive as before and takes a more active
attitude in rebelling against the regime. In addition to her bodily action
against the totalitarian, there are two attempts of hers that show her active
resistance against Gilead one is her attempt to make connections with
people around her and with the past, and the other is her attempt to change
the language she has been forced to adapt to. Not merely with Ofglen does
Offred try to connect herself with, but with other Handmaids, the Marthas,
and Nick. By building connections with people around her, she gets to feel
more strength and find out more about whats happening. Knowing is in itself
a power, and by getting to know and to express through the connection with
others, Offred gets more power and further acts out her alternative
resistance. Moreover, by reflecting on the past, she gets to be more
affirmative and determined to retain her identity. Through repetitively
assuring herself of who she really is and what has happened in the past, she
keeps her faith in living/surviving. Offreds other attempts of challenging the
meaning of the language. In many biblical phrases and teachings that she
has been forced to memorize, she criticizes and corrects Aunts
interpretations. When Nick speaks to her, she merely nods and recalls what
she is told by the Aunts: He isnt supposed to speak to me. Of course some of
them will try, said Aunt Lydia. All flesh is weak. All flesh is grass, I corrected
her in my head. They cant help it, she said, God made them that way but He
did not make you that way. He made you different. Its up to you to set the
boundaries. Later you will be thanked. (45) Her sensitivity to language makes
her pay attention to even detail and little things in peoples talk. She corrects

and criticizes those she does not agree with and try to 23 rephrase what she
has heard. For instance, she reflects how Aunt Lydia admonishes women in
the past that have made spectacles by showing off their flesh. Aunt Lydia
concludes that things happened to these women with a reason and lectures
to Handmaids to be good because [s]uch things do not happen to nice
women. And not good for the complexion [ ]. Those things she mentions
do hard to womens complexion and made women like dried apple (55).
Meanwhile, Offred recalls that it is Aunt Lydia herself that has told the
Handmaids not to pay attention to their complexions. In other words, Offred
mocks Aunt Lydia for her contradicting herself in the talk addressing to the
Handmaids. Little rebellion like this brings Offred more strength of remaining
her subjectivity and identity because she realizes that she has the power to
change something, like language. As she compares her reading with eating
voraciously, her bodily resistance also becomes more active than before. In
the mean time, that she reckons the Commander needs her empowers her.
Gradually, Offred perceives her little power not merely from men, but from
women superior to her status. As she thinks of the possible consequences of
being caught of secretly meeting the Commander, she knows that the
Commander would not risk saving her. However, somehow she feels the
power over the Wife, for she reckons: Also: I now had power over her, of a
kind, although she didnt know it. And I enjoyed that. Why pretend? I enjoyed
it a lot (162). Flor?n discovers a circle of deceit among the Commanders
household, and in the circle, The handmaid deceives both the husband and
the wife with Nick and the Commander, respectively (255). This deception
further accounts for Offreds experience of power over both the Commander
and the Wife. All in all, Offred discovers her power and realizes that she could
derive the power from her body, food and the act of eating. Although the
ending of The Handmaids Tale does not reveal Offreds hwere about or
whether she is dead or alive, she has constructed a sense of subjectivity by
telling the story as a record for the post-Gilead society. Through her
narration, she uses her mouth as a weapon of rebellion, and resists the
severe control and surveillance of the totalitarian Gilead regime. With very
limited power that she has received from her rare chance of reading and
performing seductively in the face of men, Offred smartly uses her body, the
act of eating, food and the connection of food and her body to perform her
power. In the search of herself, her past and her identity, the power helps her
build a sense of subjectivity. As she calls her own room a treacherous
territory, she rediscovers her strength and manages to move beyond the
limited space where she is trapped. Against a powerful society like Gilead as
she may have confronted, Offred struggles to find a way for her to withhold
her identity and subjectivity under an absolute patriarchal sovereignty. It is
hard to tell if Offred is rescued or betrayed at the 24 end of her story, which
are tape records later transcribed and rearranged into the novel by two male
professors in the post Gilead time. But with one glimpse on Atwoods ending
in The Handmaids Tale, it is not hard to find how neither the society before,
nor after Gilead, regime has been different that much from each other.
Namely, patriarchal domineering power which is still active in the post-Gilead

society. how the female body has always been treated as objects of male
dominance. It is, finally, to such similar situations in Taiwan that I will turn to
in my conclusion.

Science fiction helps to destroy hierarchys- means SF is


key to destroy patriarchy
Fekete, 1 (John, Professor Emeritus of Cultural Studies and English
Literature at Trent University, as well as a member of the Cultural Studies PhD
Program and the Centre for the Study of Theory, Culture, and Politics.
Recognized as an international figure in the field of modern and postmodern
theory and in the antifoundational transformation of theory from the 1970s,
March 2001, Doing the Time Warp Again: Science Fiction as Adversarial
Culture, Science Fiction Studies, #83 = Volume 28, Part
http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/review_essays/fek83.htm)
Able to create radically different forms of thought form post discourses (?)
Science fiction commentary today largely presupposes the democratization
and decentralization of the modern system of Art, and the revaluation made
possible by the loosening of the value hierarchy that had authorized the
exalted status of a centralized high Art canon and the correspondingly low
status of the popular or commercial literatures and paraliteratures (to which
sf has tended to belong). The nuts and bolts discourse on sf nowadays shows
little anxiety about the genres non-canonical status. The agendas of Science
Fiction Studies, the pre-eminent regular home of academic sf scholarship, for
example, have shifted during the 1990s, as indeed the journal anticipated at
the beginning of that decade (Csicsery-Ronay Jr., "Editorial"). As a result, a
variety of deconstructive and counter-canonical readings have increased the
theoretical density of the journal and given it a new-left intellectual face that
is double-coded, Janus-like, turning both to cultural critique and to a critique
of the traditional presuppositions of critique. It is interesting to note a
continuing consensus in sf scholarship on advancing the adversarial culture
and producing an alternative discourse around creative writing of an
alternativist character. At the same time, critiques frequently "post" their own
grounding, as happens with other double-codings of postmodern culture,
where the basic intellectual categories (certainties) of modernity are called
into question and recoded. Feminist and post-feminist, Marxist and postmarxist, modernist and post-modernist, humanist and post-humanist,
historicist and post-historicist, gendered and post-gendered analytic and
theoretic modes of discourse step by step refashion a dialogic space that
begins to appear post-critical. It is probably fair to say that the "posting" of
the adversarial culture foreseen in Baudrillards hypothesis of the hyperreal
reduction of distance between the fictive and the real, in Lyotards libidinal
aesthetic, and in the assumptions of a number of postmodern
antifoundationalists, has not yet been robustly theorized or persuasively
disseminated. Nevertheless, the post-critical horizons of science fiction
discourse have been announced, even if related agendas are only slowly and

cautiously emerging. Into this context arrives Carl Freedmans Critical Theory
and Science Fiction. In a science fiction milieu where dedicated works of
theory reflecting on the nature of science fiction itself are relatively rare, such
a book is to be welcomed, especially as it makes a real contribution by
drawing attention to relationships between critical theory and sf. At the same
time, the book has a strong adversarial parti pris that seems emblematic of
an earlier time, or perhaps of the more traditional pole of an emerging
debate. The books twin purposesto show that science fiction is an
intrinsically critical-theoretical generic mode, and to establish canonizing,
critical-theoretical readings of five best-of-type sf texts by Stanislaw Lem,
Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Samuel R. Delany, and Philip K. Dickdraw a
line in the sand. The proposed generic definition and related critical canon
will select out much of known science fiction and select in a limited array of
texts grounded on historiosophical or philosophical premises that have much
in common with the foundations of the selective traditions of elite Literature.
The bottom line is that a highly selective generic definition of the kind that
Freedman proposes would substantially narrow the legitimate membership of
the sf genre and dovetail at least in part with impulses toward the kind of
legitimation that is neither in the interests of the wide audiences that
appreciate sf for its variety, nor any longer necessary as a strategy for
drawing academic attention to sf. On closer scrutiny, indeed, the exclusionary
legitimating argument turns out to be working the other side of the street,
using the known and demonstrable appeals of sf to legitimate a narrowly
critical reading strategy.

Feminist science fiction theorists are key-instead of


seeing women and nature as objects to be mastered
they counter this normative notion with an alternative
mindset of pressing on the importance of connection, not
exploitation, of the Earth. People would no longer seek to
dominate the nature, but seek to understand their
entanglement and relationship with nature.
Donawerth, 1990 (Jane Donawerth, Professor at the University of
Maryland, serves as Director of Writing Programs, has had multiple books
published, Utopian Science: Contemporary Feminist Science Theory and
Science Fiction, pp. 548-550, 1990, PDF from JSTOR,)
Feminist science theorists have shown that male scientists from the
seventeenth century on have conceived of nature as a potentially unruly
woman to be mastered and penetrated for her secrets. "The image of
nature that became important in the early modern period was that of a
disorderly and chaotic realm to be subdued and controlled," argues Carolyn
Merchant. Nature is conceived of by scientists as associated with
women, according to Sandra Harding, and "an immensely powerful threat
that will rise up and overwhelm culture unless [it] exerts severe controls."'9As
an alternative to the destructive view of nature in traditional male science,

feminist science theorists posit a revision of nature and humanity's relation to


her. "Women's identification with earth and nature," argues Joan Rothschild,
must form "the basis for transforming our values and creating new ecological
visions." Such a new science, according to Haraway, would stress
connection to, not domination over nature; according to Evelyn Fox
Keller, it would see nature not as passive but as resourceful; according
to Merchant it would be as "antihierarchical"; and according to Rose it would
stress "the feminine value of harmony with nature" (according to Rose).
Such a science would seek "new and pacific relationships between
humanity and nature and among human beings themselves," argues
Hilary Rose; and according to Keller, it would seek "not the power to
manipulate, but empowerment-the kind of power that results from
an understanding of the world around us, that simultaneously
reflects and affirms our connection to that world."20 Such a vision of
nature has long been implicit, and more recently, explicit in women's science
fiction. In Andre Norton's Breed to Come (1972), for example, humans return
to an earth their race had almost destroyed and tell the intelligent felines
who have risen to civilization, "Do not try to change what lies about you;
learn to live within its pattern, be a true part of it." The former Terrans are
warning the current ones not to produce a destructive technology but to
develop a partnership with nature. The view of nature of men and women in
works by women is often sharply different. In Sargent's The Shore of
Women(1986), women's scriptures record "the spirit of Earth, in the form of
the Goddess" speaking to women: "You gave men power over Me, and they
ravaged Me. You gave them power over yourselves, and they made you
slaves. They sought to wrest my secrets from Me instead of living in harmony
with Me." As a result, women assume political power, and enforce separation
from men as well as limited technology and limited reproduction that keep
the ecology in balance. Even in the prototype of all science fiction, Mary
Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), the concept of harmony with nature is implicit,
a concept that Frankenstein violates with his science. Whereas Elizabeth's
relation to nature-"the sublime shapes of the mountains, the changes of the
seasons, tempest and calm, the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence
of our Alpine summers"-was one of "admiration and delight," Frankenstein's
view of "the world was . . . a secret which I desired to divine." His obsession
begins when he leaves for the all-male society at the university where there
"were men who had penetrated deeper" than those who "had partially
unveiled the face of Nature, but [to whom] her immortal lineaments were still
a wonder and a mystery." In utopian fictions by women science fiction writers,
the most common metaphor for the relation of humans to nature is "the web
of nature." In Piercy's, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) Luciente warns
Connie, "We're part of the web of nature," when she urges putting
immortality, or at least longevity, as a major goal of science; and in Joan
Slonczewski's Door into Ocean (1986), scientists facilitate nature's own
processes, "when the web stretches . . . to balance life and death." Thus
feminist science theorists and women science fiction writers share a utopian
vision of nature and science in partnership.2' As a result of the inclusion of

women in science, feminist historians of science and science theorists have


argued that a revised science would be different because of the culturally
different qualities assigned to women. A feminist science will include
acknowledgement of subjectivity in its methods; it will look at problems
not just analytically but also holistically; it will aim for the complex
answer as best and most honest; and it will be decentralized and organized
cooperatively. In all these ways, a feminist science is utopian, since these
conditions, values, and goals do not describe contemporary science. In
feminist science theory, subjectivity as an ideal includes feelings, intuition,
and values. "A feminist epistemology [for the sciences]," writes Hilary Rose,
"insists on the scientific validity of the subject, on the need to unite cognitive
and affective domains; it emphasizes holism, harmony, and complexity
rather than reductionism, domination, and linearity." In A Feeling for
the Organism, Evelyn Fox Keller reads Barbara Mc- Clintock's scientific career
as an example of allowing "the objects of . . . study [to] become subjects in
their own right," thus "fostering a sense of the limitations of the scientific
method, and an appreciation of other ways of knowing." A study by scientist
Jan Harding suggests that girls in our society who choose scientific careers
more often than boys who do so recognize that "science has social
implications," and choose science as a means of developing "relatedness,
capacity for concern, and an ability to see things from another's perspective."
Subjectivity in science must also encompass values and ethical context:
science must be "context dependent" according to Merchant, connected to
"social implications" according to Jan Harding, based on "relational thinking"
according to Hein, grounded in women's experience and, so, a "labor of love"
according to Rose.22

Feminist science fiction makes us reflect on the history of


science and its impacts on women
Donawerth, 1990 (Jane Donawerth, Professor at the University of
Maryland, serves as Director of Writing Programs, has had multiple books
published, Utopian Science: Contemporary Feminist Science Theory and
Science Fiction, pp. 537-539, 1990, PDF from JSTOR, Accessed: 6/25/14, RH)
The concern for increased participation by women in science has an
analogous utopian reflection in science fiction by women. A crucial difference
between the science depicted in men's science fiction and women's science
fiction is, quite simply, the participation of women. In Metamorphoses of
Science Fiction, Darko Suvin has rightfully pointed out the lack of women
scientists in American science fiction (but failed to add that he had read
almost exclusively science fiction by men). Since at least the early 1960s,
women writers have regularly characterized women as scientists; examples
include Mary, biologist and specialist in alien communication in Naomi
Mitchison's Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962); the biologist Takver and the
physicist Mitis in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed (1974); Kira, biologist,
M.D., and "the de facto head of her department at the university" in Pamela
Sargent's Cloned Lives (1972-76); Margaret, the black computer expert in Up

the Walls of the World (1978) by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon); Varian, veterinary xenobiologist and co-leader of the expedition in Anne Mc- Caffrey's
Dinosaur Planet Survivors (1984); and Jeanne Velory, black physicist and
astronaut in Vonda McIntyre's Barbary (1986). Even the earliest woman writer
for the pulp magazines, Clare Winger Harris, in a 1928 short story, includes a
woman scientist: Hildreth, chemist and astronomer, assistant to her father in
his home laboratory and soon to be assistant to her new husband. This
interest of women science fiction writers in women scientists seems not only
a result of changes in women's careers in the 1960s but also of the struggle
to educate women in the sciences in the late nineteenth century.4 Women
scientists as characters in women's science fiction, moreover, seem a legacy
of the earlier feminist utopias. In Mary Bradley Lane's Mizora (1880-81), for
example, chemists and mechanical engineers make the all-woman society a
technological utopia. And in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland (1915),
female geneticists have bred crop-producing and disease-resistant trees, as
well as quiet cats that do not kill birds, while other women have developed
sciences unknown to Gilman's con- temporaries-language as a science,
sanitation, nutrition, and a kind of psychology-history. The feminist
utopias, as well as contemporary wom-en's science fiction, make us
see a history of women in science, not just a few great women who
seem to be historical anomalies. In one of the earliest feminist utopias,
ThreeHundred YearsHence (1836), written when most women were still
denied college educations, Mary Griffith shows a future historian relating a
woman's invention of a new power that replaces steam, as well as restoring
proper credit to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, "for introducing into England the
practice of inoculation for the small-pox." Such a vision of restoring women to
the history of science is shared by Naomi Mitchison in Memoirs of a
Spacewoman;her hero Mary reflects: I may be out of date, but I always feel
that biology and, of course, communication are essentially women's work,
and glory. Yes, I know there have been physicists like Yin Ih and molecular
astronomers-I remember old Jane Rakadsalismyself, her wonderful black,
ageless face opening into a great smile! But somehow the disciplines of life
seem more congenial to most of us women.5 In 1962, when many colleges
were still effectually segregated by race and want ads were still separated by
gender into male and female occupations, Mitchison presents, as a matter of
course, the participation of women of color in science. What these utopian
and science fiction writers offer, more importantly than portraits of individual
women scientists, is a revision of past and future science history that includes
women as rightful participants. In this way, they share a goal with feminist
historians of science.

Blocks
Method
There are two facets of this method
1. Writing and storytelling is an act of resistance the bodies of the
oppressed are disciplined to be silent. Writing in the world of the
Handmaidens is reserved to those in powers because only they are
allowed to But writing allows for personal expression Offreds
storytelling is unique in that it breaks the silence of the oppressed.
Offred inhabits the room of a handmaiden who came before her and
left her own writing on the walls of te cell. Her writing motivated
offredd to begin her own. In this way writing and storytelling are ways
of a3akening resistance to systems of domination. Offred invents a
story for the handmaiden beofr3 her and in doing so breaks her own
silence and begins to reclaim her own body. The handmaidens tale is
as a whole the writing left on the wall for us. Our reading is a way of
opeining a room for imagination and theorizing of the experiences of
female body.
2. Feminist stuff as a whole is Able to create radically different forms of
thought form post discourses

Answers to Other Ks
Dystopias open up a space for critical analysis and radical otherness
Multiple stories necessary offreds contruction fo stories forms the view of the
society each provides different parts and experiences-- perm
Pushing of womens stories to the back- instead perm

Surveillance
The surveillance of the female body which leads to its public ownership and
interpelation
The surveillance of writings and story to reclaim the female body

Fw Answers
Limiting of creativity
They play the role of the aunts they rule out which discourse is considered
unnacceptable
Attempt to make real
Refuse the personalization fo the 1ac returning the female body to the
public domain
Their fw is the male gaze censoring our writing even if it is a better method
this inherently takes out any solvency

Being Cut
http://academinist.org/wpcontent/uploads/2010/06/MP0304_02_Steuber_Atwood.pdf
In this section of the novel, the community Prayvaganza takes place to
reaffirm the stratification in the Gilead society. Because the kinship system is
endorsed through rituals and gains momentum and strength through public
rituals, the Prayvaganza is an exemplary mode of obedience to the system.
Ranks of folding wooden chairs have been placed along the right side, for the
Wives and daughters of high-ranking officials or officers, theres not that
much difference. The galleries above, with their concrete railings, are for the
lowerranking women, the Marthas, the Econowives in their multicolored
stripesOur area is cordoned off with a silky twisted scarlet rope. (Atwood
213-214) What Offred describes is the visual separation of the women at the
Prayvaganza by the level to which they belong. Atwood pays special attention
to the detail of the language in this passage to emphasize the boundaries
between the different women that intensify the levels of oppression. Her use
of the words ranks of folding chairs to describe the higher-ranking women,
who are recipients of the exchanges of Handmaids along with the
Commanders, places MP: An Online Feminist Journal Spring 2012: Vol. 3, Issue
4 20 distinct emphasis on the social status of the Wives and their proximity to
the militaristic state the enforces the laws of Gilead. When describing the
Marthas and Econowives she uses concrete railings to describe the barrier
and relate it directly to the strong undesired mixing with the other members
at the Prayvaganza. The description of the Econowives wearing multicolored
stripes elicits two associations for the reader, one of convicts and the other
as a potential reference to ethnicity that really depicts their status as
inescapable. Finally, the Handmaids are separated with a silky twisted
scarlet rope that is reminiscent of fertility, blood, and even female anatomy;
this description and the softness of the language reflects the kind of physical
care that is extended to the Handmaids. After all, the women in good
working condition, ready to produce babies. This kind of kinship
stratification in society produces the utmost level of control as portrayed in
the novel. While all the women are assigned specific roles within the family
of the household, the emotional bonds and true camaraderie are eliminated
by additional restrictions such as prohibiting conversation on the street and
the Handmaids responsibility to have a child on behalf of the Wives. The
women are oppressed as an entire group as a gender by the kinship system
in Gilead, and also oppressed within their social divisions within the gender.
This Gileadean society, where men have more opportunities to exercise
freedom, also enforces a strict gender/sexuality prescription through its
kinship organization that requires the men to conform to the system as well.
For although he wants to make Offreds life more bearable and although he
can be positively daddyish in his behavious, he also affirms the male

supremist ideology which subordinate and sexually enslave women (Bouson


145-146). Offred, as a Handmaid, is seen only has a vehicle of reproduction,
but the Commander struggles with this separation of emotion from the
physical coital connection. He desires a deeper connection with her
emotionally and intellectually through the Scrabble game and he desires a
freer sexual connection with her that he attempts to fulfill at Jezebels. Hes
stroking my body now, from stem as they say to stern, cat stroke along the
left flank, down the left leg. He stops at the foot, his fingers encircling the
ankle, briefly, like a bracelet, where the tattoo is, a Braille he can read, a
cattle brand. It means ownership (Atwood 254). This passage clearly reveals
the Commanders desire for physical contact that has feelings behind it, but it
is clear, from the Braille tattoo, that he is not capable of attaining that in this
society. While behind closed doors he feels comfortable extending more
conventionally romantic emotions, but in the public eye of Jezebels he must
treat her as property: He retains hold of my arm, and as he talks his spine
straightens imperceptibly, his chest expands, his voice assumes more and
more sprightliness and jocularity of youth. It occurs to me he is showing me
off (Atwood 236). Therefore, attending a place like Jezebels allows the
Commander to both subvert the lack of lust and feeling in society and also
further exercise his place in the kinship system. He affirms his place in
society as an owner of women and also shares an intimate moment of
forbidden physical contact with Offred. MP: An Online Feminist Journal Spring
2012: Vol. 3, Issue 4 23 The power of males in these groups is not founded
on their roles as fathers or patriarchs, but on their collective adult maleness,
embodied in secret cults, mens houses, warfare, exchange networks, ritual
knowledge, and various initiation procedures (Rubin 34). Jezebels becomes
the place where sexuality is enforced and sexuality is also explored. These
elements of enforcement and creation are further explicated in Davina
Coopers Power in Struggle: As a form of disciplinary power, sexuality
organizes identityand social interactions around particular desires, libidinal
practices and social relations. At the same time, it constructs and articulates
desires, libidinal practices and social relations (Cooper 67). Jezebels is the
intersection, in the novel, where control, power, and gender/sexuality meet. It
is the one place where women have some power over their own sexual
expression and also they have power over the sexual needs of the men of
Gilead.
The relationship between these two characters is truncated in the novel but it
offers adequate interaction to explicate the old and new views on sex that
Atwood satirizes. Offred sees Moira as someone with courage but also is
intimidated by her assertiveness and contentment with her existence in
Jezebels. J. Brooks Bouson has asserted that the Handmaids also find
something frightening in Moiras freedomUltimately crossquestioning the
possibility of female heroism in such a regime, the narrative, while MP: An
Online Feminist Journal Spring 2012: Vol. 3, Issue 4 29 typecasting Moira as a
feminist rebel, also dramatizes her defeat. Caught, tortured, and then forced
into prostitution, Moira ultimately loses her volition and becomes indifferent

(Bouson 151). Bousons reading of Moira neglects to take into account any
lesbian/queer theory; the interpretation reflects the same ignorance that is
intended to be exposed through Moiras situation. A more accurate
interpretation is that Moiras existence among other women allows her to
express her true sexuality and experience female nurturing, while subverting
the hierarchy. Adrienne Rich points out that womens choice of women as
passionate comrades, life partners, co-workers, lovers, tribe, has been
crushed, [and] invalidated (Rich 632). Bousons interpretation perpetuates
this crushing of womens relationships in society. While Moira, lives only in
Jezebels, it is the only place where she can attempt to exercise the female
bonds and sexual expression that is prohibited in society proper. Moira is not
indifferent as Bouson asserts, but she is working to subvert the system in
ways that will benefit her sexual expression. Therefore, Bousons
interpretation perpetuates the misunderstanding of lesbian sexual
differencethat cannot be comprehended from within the most common
definitions of heterosexual difference (Adams 476). Atwoods inclusion of
Moiras inability to fit into the sexuality in the society has a direct correlation
to the instances of gay prejudice in contemporary American society. The
perceived dramatic nature of Moiras situation is also alluded to in the novel
because it is meant as a commentary on the concept of gender and sexuality
as a performative act. Moiras role as a heterosexual prostitute at Jezebels
illustrates the MP: An Online Feminist Journal Spring 2012: Vol. 3, Issue 4 30
falsity that socially constructed gender and sexuality pervades. In an
interview between Butler and Rubin the following comment arose: As soon as
you get away from the presumptions of heterosexuality, differences in sexual
conduct are not very intelligible in terms of binary modelsThere needs to be
some kind of model that is not binary, because sexual variation is a system of
many differences, not just a couple of salient ones (Rubin and Butler 81).
This assumption of a binary sexuality system is precisely the mindset that led
to the misreading of Moiras situation at Jezebels and the subsequent
assumption of her unhappiness. Moira concedes to Offred that its not so
bad, theres lots of women around. Butch paradise, you might call it (Atwood
249). Her happiness is in the freedom to express her sexuality and at
Jezebels she is able to do so; with her freedom of sexual expression Moira
may have her true identity within this niche in Gilead. Additionally, the
correlation to Moiras sexuality and her assertive desire for freedom and
power also aim to subvert both the Gilead society and contemporary society.
Sexual assertiveness and womens full, empowered participation in sexual
decision making are clearly restricted [in society]. Each of the factors
gender expectations, social controls, childhood victimization and the various
source of dependence on men can be conceptualized individually, but
operate in an interactive manner to limit womens sexual autonomy (Travis
and White 312). Womens power is controlled socially by both gender
stratification such as the kinship system and sexuality through MP: An Online
Feminist Journal Spring 2012: Vol. 3, Issue 4 31 performance acts. A
commonly held standard in contemporary society and in Gilead is that it is
unacceptable for women to be sexually forward and seek sexual power, as

Moira does in this novel. Atwood purposely foils Moira with Offred as to
compare two spheres: assertive and submissive, and homosexual and
heterosexual. By paralleling homosexuality with assertiveness and subversion
in Gilead, Atwood reveals the stereotypes and struggle that these women
experienced during the Womens Liberation and still experience in todays
society. However, Moiras personality and perseverance puts forth a hope for
the future of the sex/gender system. Moira makes multiple attempts at
escapes to attain some kind of ability to exercise freedom, while Offred is
content with merely fantasizing about subverting the system.
In this section of the novel Atwood combines despair and hope. While
Jezebels is a secret club that serves to support the power in the kinship
system, it is also a place where two of the oppressed women of Gilead are
able to find some kind of freedom, if only temporarily. Atwood uses Jezebels
to explore the readers prejudices against homosexuality and also to make
strong assertions about sexuality stereotypes in society. Masculine women
tend to be read, at least initially, as lesbians, while feminine lesbians tend to
be read as heterosexuals (Queen 293). The way that sexuality and gender
are fused together in Gilead is a direct parallel to the way they are linked in
contemporary American society. The prevailing hypocrisy in the novel is also
something worth noting: In order to survive they and the narrator among
them are constantly obliged to pretend to espouse a system of values which
denigrates and threatens to annihilate them (Hammer 40). The prevalent
correlation to contemporary social issues makes this novel a poignant piece
of satire. MP: An Online Feminist Journal Spring 2012: Vol. 3, Issue 4 34 While
some critics view The Handmaids Tale as a large satire of society and the
controls of society, it also delineates how social control can weave its way
into the most private and intimate aspects of life. The way that Gilead
devises a system to control the construction of the family unit, the
reproduction of people, and the conformity to strict sexuality codes is not far
off from social constructions of contemporary society. Though the kinship
system described by Rubin has evolved in the United States and women are
not only seen as a commodity in the home, women are still struggling to
achieve equality in the workplace. Although most women in the United
States are employed in the paid workforce, they have lower wages than men,
are concentrated in different occupations, and are thinly represented at the
highest levels of organizational hierarchies (Eagly and Wood 274). There are
also certain professions in which women are still not equally represented, and
ironically many lesbians are acting as the trailblazers in those fields because
they do not mind to be considered more masculine in doing so. Through the
various characters of The Handmaids Tale analyzed above, Atwood promoted
the possibility of social change. Moiras character champions the Womens
Liberation movement in areas of gender and sexual equality. Atwoods
depictions are particularly interesting considering that current research shows
the dominant ethos among lesbian, gay men, and bisexuals is of egalitarian
relationships (Sinfield 59). Perhaps with the deregulation of sexual
hegemony there can be a complete eradication of the oppressive kinship

system and also elimination of compulsory heterosexuality. Thus, the


disappearance of oppressive gender and sexual systems has the potential to
conjure heightened equality in society

Cards Cut
Analysis of capitalist privilege is key to understanding
intersectionality in the context of the Handmaids Tale
Many scholars, both male and female alike, dismiss the Aunts in Margaret
Atwoods The Handmaids Tale as having a token power granted to them by
the Commanders in Gilead. In fact, the males in positions of Commanders are
given full responsibility for creating and maintaining the Gileadan theocracy
many years after the dissolution of Gilead in the novels blatantly satiric
epilogue. Lee Briscoe Thompson in her book Scarlet Letters: Margaret
Atwoods The Handmaids Tale believes that lecturer Professor James Darcy
Pieixotos real interest is in the male power elite of Gilead which means
that he would dismiss any female involvement (53). Karen Stein in her article
Margaret Atwoods Modest Proposal: The Handmaids Tale describes the
dystopic Gilead in this manner: In the guise of a re-population program,
Gilead reads the biblical text literally and makes it the basis for the statesanctioned rape, the impregnation ceremony the handmaids must undergo
each month (195). The society is obviously founded upon principles that
negate the rights of women, which would lead readers to believe that no
woman, let alone a group of women, could have the type and the strength of
the power of the Commanders. Critics such as Roberta Rubenstein in her
article Nature and Nurture in Dystopia: The Handmaids Tale believe that
the Aunts only retain power in the puritanical state through their role as
indoctrinators of the handmaids (104). This paper would argue that the
Aunts were created by Atwood and portrayed in such a manner as to suggest
that they have as much if not more power as the Commanders have. Nebula
1.2, September 2004 Johnson: The Aunts as an Analysis of Feminine Power
69 Atwood has a history of placing powerful females in her novels who use
their power against other females, and the Aunts in The Handmaids Tale are
a clear type of this feminine power. The Aunts fall into the long tradition of
females with power in Atwoods novels. Cats Eye, Atwoods novel
immediately following The Handmaids Tale continues this tradition. While
most of the criticism concerning Cats Eye is about Elaine Risleys ability to
find her own power (after being tortured by her childhood friend), Cordelia
and her treatment of Elaine are reminiscent of the Aunts and their treatment
of females, and the handmaids in particular. According to J. Brooks Bouson,
The Handmaids Tale anticipates Cats Eyes dramatization of the femaledirected oppression of women (which begins during the girlhood socialization
process) and it describes the brutal reeducation of the Handmaids, who are
coerced by the Aunts to forego the ideology of womens liberation and to

revert to the traditional values of a male-dominated system (141). Atwood


intentionally created the Aunts as powerful females in a dystopia. In a radio
conversation with fellow writer Victor-Levy Beaulieu, she said that the
character of Aunt Lydia is based on the history of imperialisms. For example,
the British in India raised an army of Indians to control the rest of the
IndiansSo, if you want to control women, you have to grant some women a
tiny bit more power so that theyll control the others (Atwood and Beaulieu
78). In a BBC World Book Club radio program last year, Margaret Atwood
stated: I think the Aunts [in The Handmaids Tale] have quite a bit of power
Naturally, they would have to answer to a top level of men (4 Aug. 2003).
And during Professor Pieixotos examination of the Gileadan theocracy in the
novels epilogue, he clearly notes Atwoods observation: Nebula 1.2,
September 2004 Johnson: The Aunts as an Analysis of Feminine Power 70
Judd according to the Limkin material was of the opinion from the outset
that the best and most cost-effective way to control womenwas through
women themselves. For this there were many historical precedents; in fact,
no empire imposed by force or otherwise has ever been without this feature:
control of the indigenous members by their own group (390). By taking this
power offered to them, the Aunts were therefore able to escape redundancy,
and consequent shipment to the infamous Colonies, which were composed of
portable populations used mainly as expendable toxic-cleanup squads,
though if lucky could be assigned to less hazardous tasks, such as cotton
picking and fruit harvesting (390-91). According to Thompson, it is the
pleasures of power that seal the deal along with the small perks and
personal security. Thompson claims the Aunts to be a classic depiction of
Victim Position #1 as described in Atwoods analysis of victimhood in her
literary study Survival (51). While the Aunts may be victims of a male
hierarchy, they certainly choose to utilize the power that they have over
other women. Linda Myrsiades in her article Law, Medicine, and the Sex
Slave in Margaret Atwoods The Handmaids Tale simply categorizes the
Aunts as a class of women assigned to educate the handmaids to their roles
as surrogates (227). David Coad in his article Hymens, Lips and Masks: The
Veil in Margaret Atwoods The Handmaids Tale limits the role of the Aunts by
saying that they are merely sadistic propagandists (54). It could be argued,
however, that the Aunts are responsible for sustaining the rituals of the
Gileadan society, and not only the training of the Handmaids at the Rachel
and Leah Reeducation Center. When Janine, or Ofwarren, is ready to give
birth, Aunt Elizabeth Nebula 1.2, September 2004 Johnson: The Aunts as an
Analysis of Feminine Power 71 plays an integral part in the birthing process
for both Janine and the Commanders wife (158-62). At the assembly of the
Handmaids, Aunt Lydia directs both the Salvaging and the Particicution
ceremonies (352-60). Lucy M. Freibert in her article Control and Creativity:
The Politics of Risks in Margaret Atwoods The Handmaids Tale describes
both ceremonies in this manner: At the hangings each Handmaid must touch
the rope in assent to the murders. At Particicutions the Handmaids ritually
dismember any man accused of rape. The Aunts supply the rhetoric that
arouses the women to savagery (284-85). The Aunts are also responsible for

directing the females who are not Handmaids. When Offred goes with the
Commander to the club, which serves as a brothel for the Commanders, she
is surprised to see that an Aunt is responsible for regulating the behavior of
her friend Moira and the other prostitutes. The Aunt determines when the
prostitutes take their breaks and for how long the breaks are (313). The Aunt
also determines whether they need to lose weight in their positions and will
punish them if they are overweight (309). A comparison of the Aunts
responsibility and the Commanders responsibility shows that the
Commanders are in charge of much lighter duties. A Commander officiates
the arranged marriages service (282-83). The Commander is responsible for
reading Bible passages to his household (114). The Commander is also
responsible for impregnating the Handmaid in order to continue Gilead (122).
It is clear that that the Aunts have more responsibilities in the Gileadan
theocracy than merely educating women for service as Handmaids. Most
scholarly criticism focuses on the Aunts responsibility for maintaining the
Rachel and Leah Reeducation Center. According to Barbara Hill Rigney in her
book Margaret Atwood, the control agency in this novel is, not the
commanders, but the Nebula 1.2, September 2004 Johnson: The Aunts as an
Analysis of Feminine Power 72 Aunts, who run their re-education centres
with cattle prods, torture techniques, and brain washing slogans (118). The
Aunts have very clear goals that they want to accomplish with their training
of the Handmaids. The first is to delete the women from history: All official
records of the handmaids would have been destroyed upon their entry into
the Rachel and Leah Re-education Center (387). The second goal is to teach
women how to betray other women. Offred learns from the Aunts that the
only storytellings permitted or rewarded are informing on others or testifying
against oneself (Thompson 59). The handmaids learn that their behavior will
be reported if it is thought to undermine the Gileadan regime. According to
the Aunts, friendships were suspicious (91). Aunt Lydia wants Janine to
listen to the other handmaids and tell her if anyone had helped Moira to
escape (171). Ironically, after all of Janines efforts to appease the Aunts, she
has a mental breakdown when her baby is deemed a Shredder rather than a
Keeper (361). The Aunts final goal is to teach the handmaids that rape is
acceptable. They are able to utilize Janines gang rape to further this lesson
as they wear her down and make her realize that her gang rape was her fault
(93). The other handmaids learn how to call Janine a crybaby and jeer at her
when she cries and is upset (93). Janines gang rape story is a pivotal
element in teaching the handmaids that ritualistic rape at the hands of their
Commanders will not only be tolerated but also encouraged. Eleonora Rao in
her book Strategies for Identity: The Fiction of Margaret Atwood notes that
Moira is one female who survives intact the programme of conditioning into
the acceptance of female guilt and evil imposed on the handmaids at the
Centre (20). The Aunts are not only training the Handmaids, they are
creating women who will not only submit to their Commanders but also
further the goals of the Gileadan theocracy. Nebula 1.2, September 2004
Johnson: The Aunts as an Analysis of Feminine Power 73 A clear indication
that the Aunts have a more elevated status than other females in Gilead,

including the wives, is the power that they hold above other females.
Thompson agrees with me about this, describing the Aunts as a paramilitary
cadre in charge of indoctrinating Handmaids and enforcing female (even
Wifely) obedience to the new rules (32). Thompson goes on to say that the
Aunts wear army khaki without veils, befitting their quasi-military role, and
reminiscent of the fascistic Brownshirts of World War II (not to mention the no
less fascist childhood Brownie troop uniforms of other Atwood fiction!) (32).
Thompson states that the other females are not allowed to wear the Aunt
khaki since they have no administrative powers (32). Included in the Aunts
administrative powers is the use of violence and other methods to fight
resistance from other females. At the Rachel and Leah Reeducation Center,
the Aunts have the power to put some kind of pill or drug in the food to
keep the handmaids disoriented so that they wont resist in the beginning
(91). Offred notes that when Moira arrives at the Center she has a bruise on
her left cheek (91). When Dolores, a handmaid in training, wets the floor
because she isnt allowed to go to the bathroom, the Aunts haul her away
and the handmaids listen to her moan all night after she returns (93). For
Moiras first attempt at escaping from the Center, she is beaten with steel
cables on both of her feet and the other handmaids have to carry her
because she cant walk (118). The Aunts are very honest about their
willingness to use violence to accomplish their goals: Remember. For our
purposes your feet and your hands are not essential (118). The Aunts use of
violence is important because even the wives are not allowed to use force to
abuse or punish the handmaids. Another power that the Aunts have in
comparison to the other female characters is the permission to publicly read
and write. No woman is allowed to read and Nebula 1.2, September 2004
Johnson: The Aunts as an Analysis of Feminine Power 74 write in Gileadan
society. On the night of the handmaids impregnation Ceremony, the
Commander unlocks the drawer that holds the Bible and reads aloud to the
women in his household (112). Only the Commanders and the Aunts are
allowed to read and write. Central to understanding the power of the Aunts is
Moiras successful escape in the guise of an Aunt from the Rachel and Leah
Reeducation Center and future servitude as a handmaid. Moira forcibly
exchanges clothing with an Aunt and instantly becomes a respectable,
powerful woman in Gileadan society (170-71). Moira had previously
attempted to use her own power and wit by faking the symptoms of scurvy
and was unable to escape from the Center (115). Wearing Aunt Elizabeths
clothing, Moira walks out of the Center and past the barricades set up to
prevent women from leaving Gilead (170-71). Moira doesnt have to explain
the nature of her business to any of the male security personnel (170-71).
She does end up at the Commanders club under the watchful eye of an Aunt,
but she isnt executed nor is she banished to an Unwoman colony (324). As
Moira explains to Offred when they find each other at the club, I couldnt
believe how easy it was to get out of the Center. In that brown outfit I just
walked right through. I kept on going as if I knew where I was heading, till I
was out of sight. I didnt have any great plan; it wasnt an organized thing,
like they thought (317). Even Moira and Offred are surprised that Aunts are

respected in the Gileadan theocracy. The Commanders behavior is more


suggestive of freedom for women than the Aunts behavior. Sema Kormali in
her article Feminist Science Fiction: The Alternative Worlds of Piercy, Elgin
and Atwood states that it is the Aunts, as best exemplified by Aunt Lydia,
who are probably the most guilty of enforcing this patriarchal/totalitarian
Nebula 1.2, September 2004 Johnson: The Aunts as an Analysis of Feminine
Power 75 rule on the members of their own sex (75). Furthermore, Karen
Stein in her book Margaret Atwood Revisited states that the role of Aunt Lydia
[and the other Aunts] is to control womens appetites for freedom and
knowledge, slimming down their minds and behaviors to be acceptable to
Gileads social standards (82). When Offred goes with the Commander to the
club, she views her and the Commanders behavior as flaunting, such a
sneer at the Aunts, so sinful, so free (299). The Commander allows Offred
rights that the Gileadan regime and the Aunts deny her. In his study, the
Commander shares womens magazines such as Vogue and novels with her
(200-03, 238). Offred is able to write out words while she is playing Scrabble
with the Commander (199). Furthermore, Offred says the Commander was
patient when I hesitated, or asked him for a correct spelling (199). This
behavior of the Commanders demonstrates his willingness for her to possibly
relearn what she has forgotten and to increase her own vocabulary. Another
way that he helps her is by explaining what the saying Nolite te bastardes
carborundorum inscribed on her bedroom floor means (242). When Serena
Joy later reprimands Offred for spending intimate time with her husband, she
alludes to the fact that the Commander engaged in similar activities with the
former handmaid in their household (368-69). This admission of Serenas
confirms Offreds suspicion that she is not the only handmaid to have been
inside the Commanders study to learn what Nolite te bastardes
carborundorum means (240). While the Commanders are undermining the
Gileadan theocracy with their behavior, the Aunts are promoting the future of
Gilead. The Aunts consider the group of women that Offred is a part of to be
the transitional generation. It is the hardest for you.For the ones who come
after you, it will be easier (151). The Aunts tell the Nebula 1.2, September
2004 Johnson: The Aunts as an Analysis of Feminine Power 76 handmaids
that the next generation will accept their duties with willing hearts.
Because they wont want what they cant have (151). The Aunts have a
greater capacity for imagining what the future will be like for women in
Gilead: what were aiming for is a spirit of camaraderie among women
(287). Bouson finds this aim ironic because the Aunts uphold the male
supremist power structure of Gilead with its hierarchical arrangement of the
sexes, and they play an active role in the states sexual enslavement of the
Handmaids (141). When the Commander takes Offred to the club, he makes
it very clear that the club was created so that its like walking into the past
(306). The costumes that Offred and the other women wear at the club are
reminiscent of the time before Gilead. Even Offred is shocked: such cloth
feathers, mauve, pink (298). And when they arrive, the Commander
announces proudly to her that there are no nicotineand-alcohol taboos
here! (310). Offred observes that the Commander is in the courtly phase

like past relations between men and women (297). Not only has the
Commander kissed Offred on her mouth, which is a forbidden act between a
Commander and a handmaid, but also at the club he takes her hand and
kisses it, on the palm (310). As if they were two teenagers learning the rules
of love at a high school dance, at the club the Commander surprises Offred
with a room key: I thought you might enjoy it for a change (331). Corel Ann
Howells observes that in The Handmaids Tale individual freedom of choice
has been outlawed and everyone has been drafted into the service of the
state, classified according to prescribed roles: Commanders, Wives, Aunts,
Handmaids, Eyes, down to Guardians and Econowives (127-28). What stands
out in her observation is how she has used the word everyone, which
suggests that the Commanders do not have Nebula 1.2, September 2004
Johnson: The Aunts as an Analysis of Feminine Power 77 power over the
Aunts. In contradistinction, Freibert refuses to acknowledge that the Aunts
have any type of power or knowledge in Gileads society. She places the
Commanders, Eyes, Angels, and Guardians in a military hierarchy and only
points out that at the Rachel and Leah Center, the Aunts use electric cattle
prods to keep the Handmaids in line (Freibert 281-82). Freiberts hierarchy of
power is refuted by Atwoods own skillful portrayal of exactly how involved
the Aunts were with the design of the Gileadan society in a conversation
between Moira and Offred. Moira explains to Offred: What I didnt know of
course was that in those early days the Aunts and even the [Reeducation]
Center were hardly common knowledge. It was all secret at first, behind
barbed wire. There might have been objections to what they were doing,
even then. So, although people had seen the odd Aunt around, they werent
really aware of what they were for (319). The Aunts are part of the long
tradition of powerful females in Atwoods fiction and The Handmaids Tale
provides much evidence to support this claim. Atwood portrays the Aunts in
such a manner as to suggest that they have as much if not more power as
the males in positions of Commanders in The Handmaids Tale.

The state in a dystopian novel


Gerhard, 2012 (Julia. CONTROL AND RESISTANCE IN THE DYSTOPIAN NOVEL:
A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS. Thesis. California State University, Chico, 2012.
<http://csuchicodspace.calstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.4/434/4%2018%202012%20Julia
%20Gerhard.pdf?sequence=1>. 61-62 ZJN)
the dystopian novel depicts how the totalitarian state exploits,
regulates and controls the human body and mind via disciplinary coercions to
ensure its full productivity-potential and utter submission . According to Foucault, the
state treats the body as object and target of power (136), intending to eventually
To sum up,

produce a bodyweapon, body-tool, body-machine complex (153). This strategy fulfills two goals at once:
the more docile and obedient the body becomes, the more useful and productive a tool it evolves into.
Elaborating on this disciplinary tactic, Foucault argues that the disciplinary coercion establishes in the
body the constricting link between an increased aptitude and an increased domination (138).

Dystopian novels portray various disciplinary coercions that achieve both a

docile and productive body. The routine that the government instills in people warrants the
creation of docile bodies and ensures their docility in every aspect of everyday life. As Foucault contends,
the prescribed timetable develops a collective and obligatory rhythm, assures the elaboration of the act

prearranged social
functions, with which each dystopian citizen is labeled in dystopian society,
become another embodiment of the discipline. This type of disciplinary control ensures
itself, controls its development and its stages from the inside (152). Also,

that each body is used to its full potential and can be of advantage to the states well being. This in turn is
achieved through ideology and indoctrination so that the body becomes willingly submissive and fails to
view its exploitation as anything aberrant, or, as Althusser puts it, turns into the subject of ideology
(163). Besides the routine and social functions, reproduction and personal relationships fall into the iron
grip of government discipline as 62 well. With this eugenic control, the number of bodies that the
government owns can be easily regulated, thus increasing the productivity of the state. Since natural
forms of parenting are eliminated, the state can now raise and educate its young citizens through ideology
to produce obedient and industrious future generations. Lastly, to ensure the docility of the body, the state
employs a strict system of ubiquitous surveillance, which, according to Foucault, had to be like a faceless
gaze that transformed the whole social body into a field of perception: thousands of eyes posted
everywhere to police and monitor the actions and thoughts of each citizen (214).

Offreds narration as an act of resistance


Gerhard, 2012 (Julia. CONTROL AND RESISTANCE IN THE DYSTOPIAN NOVEL:
A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS. Thesis. California State University, Chico, 2012.
<http://csuchicodspace.calstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.4/434/4%2018%202012%20Julia
%20Gerhard.pdf?sequence=1>. 66-71 ZJN)
Before I discuss how writing in all three of these novels serves as the means for the main protagonists to
find their inner selves, recognize themselves as individuals, and thus resist the authority of the state, it

writing by itself manifests an act of resistance . Since in a


dystopian world individuality is suppressed by ideology and discipline, and
peoples actions and thoughts are constantly policed, writing presents a
serious threat to the state: it renders personal expression, self-reflection, and
authoritythings that empower people and prompt them to think critically. Not
only does writing invite a foreign thought that can question and challenge the authority of the State , it
also enables that foreign thought to move and spread, posing a tremendous
danger for the governments stability. Therefore, writing is banned in most dystopian novels
needs to be noted that

and is considered a crime. Hence, people who decide to take such a risk and engage themselves in some
form of writing already break the law and jeopardize their status as a citizen. The mere act of writing
violates the states law and thus, in itself, presents an act of resistance. From the first couple pages of
Orwells 1984, the reader learns that writing is a serious felony in Oceania and if detected it was
reasonably certain that it would be punished by death (Orwell 9). As he begins his diary, Smith admits
that to mark the paper was the decisive act and, knowing that it was punishable by death, he realizes
that the only thing he needs is courage, as the actual writing would be easy (10). If writing by itself
incorporates crime, then the content of the writing does not even matter. As Winston later contends after
he writes his brazen DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER in his diary, the writing of those particular words was
not more dangerous than the initial 67 act of opening the diary (19). Keeping a diary equals thoughtcrime,
the essential crime that contained all others in itself, and in consequence crystallizes Winstons daring
act of opposition to the tyrannical rule of Ingsoc and ideology of the Party (19). Winstons finding of the
corner in his apartment that allows him to hide from the Panopticon gaze of the telescreen and write his
diary symbolizes his attempt to find a way to defy and go against Partys dominant regime. As Tyner notes,
the simple act of purchasing and possession of a diary constitutes a punishable offence and thus may be
read as an act of resistance (144). He, however, contends that Winstons diary, which is written within
the spaces of the novel, reveals a more significant meaning of resistance, because despite the Partys
surveillance, as Smith shows, diaries do get writtenso little acts of revolt are possible in dystopian
society. In Atwoods novel, writing and reading is also banned. In this dystopian society, women according
to their new social functions do not need to read or write since their only purpose is to produce future
generations. Reducing handmaids human status to almost zero and denying them any power, even the
power over their own bodies, Gilead also prohibits any forms of reading and writing that might offer these
women any kind of agency or remind them of their other abilities. Thus, Offreds narration embodies a

great act of resistance, which by its sheer existence constitutes opposition and reluctance to accept

Offreds
reconstructs the language definitely can be viewed as a brave act

Gileads new ideology. Since language is erased and words on signs are substituted by pictures,
story telling where she

of resistance. If Winston Smith in 1984 uses an archaic instrument, a pen, and buys an old book to be
used as his diary, Offred cannot even do that: women are completely divorced from any written documents

Offred does not write her


story; instead, she narrates her tale to the tape-recorder, which is later
discovered by future generations. The reason is obviouswriting is illegal and
Offred cannot have paper or pens in her possession: Its also a story Im
telling, in my head, as I go along. Tell, rather than write, because I have
nothing to write with and writing is in any case forbidden ( 52). When Offred goes to
and have no access to books, pens or paper. Unlike Smith and D-503,

the market, she observes how paintings eradicated words that were previously written on the wooden
signs of the shops and could still be seen through the paint when they decided that even the names of
shops were too much temptation for women (33). Women in Gilead ought not to be tempted by anything
except for fulfilling their duty of bearing children. Later on, Offred confesses that books belong to the black
market now and are nowhere to be found except in the possession of Commanders and the ruling elite.
When the Commander invites her to his room, Offred notices that around the walls there were many
bookcases filed with books. She concludes: Books and books and books, right out in plain view, no locks,

if Commander
holds power, books in his possession also symbolize a power that is not
attainable by Handmaids. In a way, Offreds narration becomes her book and
symbolizes the power she was able to acquire by composing it. Later on, while
playing Scrabble with the Commander, Offred experiences an inconceivable feeling of
freedom that overpowers her, as she continues to hold possession of words
that she composes and acknowledgesshe feels as if hes offered her
drugs (179). In a different scene, when Commander gives Offred a Vogue magazine, she is shocked to
no boxes. No wonder we cant come in here. Its an oasis of the forbidden (177). Thus,

see something that was supposed to have been burnt. She admits that 69 she wanted it badly with a
force that made the ends of her fingers ache (200). She further explains: What was in them [magazines]
was promise. They dealt in transformations; they suggested an endless series of possibilities . . .. They
suggested one adventure after another . . .. They suggested rejuvenation, pain overcome and transcended,
endless love. (201) In this sense, magazines represent feelings and thoughts Handmaids are not supposed
to have, something humane and spontaneous. Lastly, the sentence written on the closet wall by the
previous Handmaid in Offreds roomNolite te bastardes carborundorum intrigues and puzzles her
because she cannot understand what it means. Offred, however, is constantly communicating with and
thinking about the Handmaid that occupied her room prior to her coming here and admits that it gives her
joy to know that her writing, which she cannot even decipher, was at least read by one other person. She
knows it contains an important message, but cannot interpret it. She ponders: Why did she write this, why
did she bother? (190). This sentence becomes emblematic in a sense that if it cannot be decoded, it
means that the power lies in the writing itselfin the unknown message it was trying to articulate. It can

Offreds narration was inspired by it and becomes the embodiment of the message of
this unknown woman, who represents women in general, oppressed and silenced,
who were trying to speak, but could not be heard. Thus, now it is Offreds duty to
be argued that

continue the message, to let it reach the unknown audience: You dont tell a story only to yourself. Theres
always someone else. Even when there is no one. A story is like a letter. Dear You, Ill say. Just you, without
a name . . .. You can mean more than one. You can mean thousands . . . Ill pretend you can hear me. (53)

By composing and recording her story in a society where reading, writing or


speaking is prohibited, Offred represents the voice of the oppressed, and the
act of her narration defies the rules of the domineering regime . As Linda Kauffman
70

points out, in The Handmaids Tale, the medium changes, but the mode remains the same (222)

Offred challenges the system by speaking up against it through stealing the


language and spreading the message of the silenced victims, thus making
the act of her narrating a rebellion in itself: Exiled, imprisoned, cloistered, or
shut up, epistolary heroines are deeply subversive because for them writing
[or narrating] itself is an act of revolt (226). Unlike 1984 and The Handmaids Tale, writing is

not banned in Zamyatins We, but it has a limited function. The purpose of art and poetry is purely
panegyrical in Zamyatins dystopia; it has to eulogize the grandeur and mathematically rational life of One
State as well as the infallibility of the Benefector, evident in the poems like Mathematical Rhymes, Daily
Odes to the Benefector, Late for Work, Flowers of Judicial Verdicts. As T.R.N. Edwards claims in his
book Three Russian Writers and the Irrational: Zamyatin, Pil`nyak, and Bulgakov, art and writing are
subordinated to the purpose of propaganda, and serves a utilitarian aim (69). Indeed, D-503 himself
divulges that poetry today is not some impudent nightingales pipingpoetry is government service,
poetry is usefulness (Zamyatin 67). He finds it repulsive that poets in the past wrote about whatever
popped into their heads, but ends up doing it himself since the medium he chooses for his writing
suggests self-reflection and self-questioning rather than simple praise (66). As Edwards puts it, what is
intended to be a civic bequest to the inhabitants of other planets soon turns into an intimate record of D-s
love affair with Iand his growing awareness of his self (63). What is interesting is that D-503 is aware of 71
his digression into his emotional world and his deviation from the original plan to praise and record the
infallible perfect life of OneState, and yet he continues to do it. As he mentions himself, he wants to fit
any absurdity of his narration into a syllogism, but obviously fails to accomplish it, as he regretfully
affirms: I am crushed to see that instead of the elegant and strict mathematical poem in honor of
OneState, its turning out to be some kind of fantastic adventure novel. Oh, if only this really were just a
novel instead of my actual life, filled with Xs, 1, and degradations. (99) Thus, his continuation to record
his feelings instead of composing a paean clearly shows his resistance to the rules of OneState since, as he
himself states, art is not supposed to be personal, but only utilitarian. He ignores his duty as an orthodox
dystopian citizen to pay tribute to the State and its values, and thus subverts the ideology by his writing:
Yes, duties, . . . in my mind I quickly went through the most recent entries in these pages. The fact that
there wasnt anywhere the least thought of any duty . . . (127). Ds heretical diary not only reveals the
irregularities of OneStates life, but also challenges States collective ideology through his newly
discovered individuality: Picture this: a human finger, cut off from its body, its hand . . . a separate human
finger, running hopping alone, all hunched over, on a glass sidewalk. I am that finger. And what is
strangest of all, most unnatural of all, is that the finger hasnt got the slightest desire to be on the hand, to
be with the others . . .. (100)

General Summary + bodily autonomy in the handmaides


tale
Gerhard, 2012 (Julia. CONTROL AND RESISTANCE IN THE DYSTOPIAN NOVEL:
A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS. Thesis. California State University, Chico, 2012.
<http://csuchicodspace.calstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.4/434/4%2018%202012%20Julia
%20Gerhard.pdf?sequence=1>. 61-62 ZJN)
The idea of human beings being exploited and appreciated only when they can accomplish their societal duty and benefit
the state is emphasized in Margaret Atwoods dystopia The Handmaids Tale. In this novel,

set in the Republic


of Gilead during the time when very few women are able to procreate due to
nuclear radiation and chemical pollution, women are valued only for their
bodies that can reproduce and supply the state with children. All people, especially
women, in this new theocratic republic, are divided into classes according to their social functions and have to wear colorcoded clothes to be easily distinguishable.

Women who still have viable ovaries belong to a


newly created social class, called Handmaids, who are assigned to the males
of the ruling class elite purely for reproductive purposes and are reduced to
fertility machines (Freibert 282). 34 They are selected and trained in indoctrination centers by Aunts, and, as
Roberta Rubenstein points out, are tattooed with cattle brands to embrace their new role and social function as a twolegged wombtheir duty now is to bear children (Rubenstein 106; Atwood 128). When the mission is accomplished and

Undoubtedly, in this dystopian


society, the woman is literally perceived as a body, a womb that can
produce offspring to be distributed and utilized in society however the state
desires. In fact, fertile women are considered property of the state: they are
assigned to Commanders and are treated not as human beings, but rather, as
proposed by Linda Kauffman, as a territory to master, a reproductive tool
that can be beneficial for societys stability (226). Linda Myrsiades addresses females new social
the baby is born, the Handmaid can be relocated to another Commander.

function in Gileads society in her essay Law, Medicine, and the Sex Slave in Margaret Atwoods The Handmaids Tale
and compares Handmaids to slaves, reproductive slaves, who are forced by the state to bear children and not entitled
to full human status (228). She asserts that women are stripped of their humanity and, instead of fulfilling their
traditional role of mothers, introduced into their new rolesthe role of surrogate, carrying on societys genes as the

The utilization of a human body is particularly


emphasized in this novel, since it is mainly a womans body that is being
controlled and disciplined in Atwoods dystopia. Women and their inferior
position to men have always occupied a prominent place in the discourse of
the body because they are usually depicted as emotional, irrational, driven by
the instincts of their corporeal needs, and going against the traditional maledominated beliefs. Moreover, women have frequently been the subject of 35
masculine control and have been subjugated and manipulated mostly
through their bodies. As stated by Angela King in The Prisoner of Gender: Foucault and the Disciplining of the
vessel through which they pass (228).

Female Body, women are usually defined according to their reproductive physiology, thus making them feeble and
passive, literally a receptacle for the desires of the male and incubator for his offspring, . . . a slave to her reproductive
organs/hormones (31). Likewise, in Atwoods futuristic world, women are only defined as reproductive tools for the future

The leitmotif of a womans body


being used solely for procreative purposes permeates the entire novel, and
the main protagonist, Offred, constantly observes, refers and analyses her
body as the story progresses. In the scene following her visit to the doctor,
Offred admits while undressing that she does not want to look down at her
body not so much because it is shameful or immodest, but because she
does not want to look at something that determines her so completely
(Atwood 82). She realizes that as long as she keeps birthing babies, she will be safe;
otherwise, she will be proclaimed an unwoman and sent to the colonies to
do hard manual work. The state does not offer women a variety of options, so they just follow along to avoid
of the state and reduced to the status of baby-making machines.

any repercussions and possibly death. Later in the novel, when Offred ponders over the past where she had a normal life

she confesses that she used to view her body as an


instrument of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the
accomplishment of her willsomething alive, lithe, single, solid, one with
her (95). However, now, since she has been reduced to a child-bearing
apparatus, an ambulatory chalice, her body, as Rubenstein puts it, exists
literally to be used against her (103). 36 She feels how her flesh arranges
itself differently and perceives herself as a cloud, congealed around a
central object, the shape of a pear with a space inside that is huge,
dark, and empty (Atwood 95). She feels that her body does not belong to
her anymore; it is now the states valuable asset, or, as Offred puts it herself,
its national resource and, thus, the state decides when and how her body is
going to be used (Atwood 85). Myrsiades states that Offred as a person ceases to exist (even her new
with a husband and a daughter,

given name seems to imply itbeing Of Fred, the name of her Commander, or offered) because she has been inverted
and engulfed in the dissipating egg her womb expels, provoking an image of an incubator housed in that which it

the governmental control reaches its highest goal: it has


stolen a body, thousands of bodies to be exactthe most private part of a
human beingrobbing people of their humanity, freedom of choice and inner
power, reducing them to apathy and servility, and, as expressed by Freibert,
violating their individual autonomy (283). In the case of Offred, her body has
not just become docile; it is completely absent and gone. Consequently,
Myrsiades proclaims Offred to be an absented figure, who is
unrepresented and erased (223). Establishing constant control over ones
body proves to be a very effective way for the ruling class to keep the
incubates (227). Clearly,

citizens in a submissive state and always working.

When the bodies relentlessly remain


exhausted and busy with activity, there is no time or desire for the mind to be active, since, when the body is drained and
feeble, it needs to regain its energy by being physically and mentally inert. Nevertheless, some people manage to stay
mentally active and alert, able to see all the gaps and cracks in the political and socio-economic systems and unveil the
states conniving master plan. Thus, this leads to the expansion of the governmental control of the body to the control of
the mind so that any misdemeanor or rebelling thought could be eliminated and the state could have a total dominion

In addition, to ensure that


bodies contribute to the economic wellbeing of the state and are utilized to
their full potential, they need to be indoctrinated and sincerely believe in
their actions. This is where ideology plays an enormous role in making
humans accept their social functions and becomes a powerful tool in
manipulating and controlling human minds. Thus, ideology turns people into slaves who will obey
over the human being: from the tips of their toes to the insides of their brains.

and do whatever the government assigns to them, disregarding their own personal ambitions. As Althuseer contends,
ideology endows every subject with a consciousness and ideas that his consciousness inspires in him and thus,
forces him to act according to his ideas, gratifying wholly the secret agenda of the government (157). This is where the
control of the body and mind as two separate branches of discipline have to be employed jointly for the ultimate effect of
total human submission to the states Machine: in order for people to act in a certain way, they have to actually believe in
the ethicality of their actions.

Reclaiming Agency through writing


Gerhard, 2012 (Julia. CONTROL AND RESISTANCE IN THE DYSTOPIAN NOVEL:
A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS. Thesis. California State University, Chico, 2012.
<http://csuchicodspace.calstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.4/434/4%2018%202012%20Julia
%20Gerhard.pdf?sequence=1>. 33-37 ZJN)
narrating in Margaret Atwoods dystopia The Handmaids Tale
also plays a central role as the main protagonists way of resistance to the
theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead, where women are exclusively
valued for their reproductive function and are mentally and physically abused
by the patriarchal ruling class. While, in Zamyatins and Orwells dystopias, writing helps the main characters to
discover their individuality and reconnect with the past, in Atwoods futuristic world, Offred, the main heroine,
employs writing to reconstruct her body, which has been disciplined and
exploited for the states benefit. As Foucault puts it, the discipline that the state
employs to achieve its supremacy has to dominate and control the body to
achieve its total subjection: the discipline increases the forces of the body (in economic terms of utility) and
diminishes these same forces (in political terms of obedience) (138). Thus, she has to regain her body and
reclaim her authority, recreate her identity and challenge the states ideals
by narrating her story. Among the dystopian novels discussed in this chapter, Atwoods novel literally belongs to the
Writing or, to be exact,

tradition of criture fminine and directly reflects the philosophies of the feminist writers on the role of women and their oppression in society.

women in Gilead are defined only through their social functions of


procreation, are treated as fertility machines, and have no power over the
autonomy of their own bodies, the only way to survive and resist the
repression is to attempt to regain their bodies (Freibert 282). Writing, subsequently,
becomes the avenue for the reconstruction and liberation of the womans
body, which has been taken away from her, rendering her voiceless and
powerless. As Cixous underlines in her essay The Laugh of the Medusa, writing enables woman to
return to the body which has been more than confiscated from her, which
has been turned into the uncanny stranger on display (395). Since the
woman is reduced to being the servant of the militant male, his shadow,
she has to rebel and let her body be heard through writing, an act which
will not only realize the decensored relation of woman to her sexuality, to her
Since

give her back her goods, her pleasures, her organs, her
immense bodily territories which have been kept under seal. Narrating her own story thus
womanly being, but also

becomes essential for Offred, because through writing she recreates her body, reconstructs her identity, and remains human. As I discussed in

Offred, the main protagonist in The Handmaids Tale, always


refers to her body as something over which she does not have control
anymore, something that is foreign or distant from her, something that is
needed by the governing elite and thus treated as their property. In the Republic of
the previous chapter,

Gilead, where as a result of the military coup, religious fundamentalists obtain governmental power, women who can still reproduce become a
national resource, as nuclear pollution has rendered most women infertile (Atwood 85). Her role now is to give birth, and, if she is unable to
accomplish it, she will be labeled an unwoman and sent to the Colonies to toil laboriously until she dies. Aunts indoctrinate Handmaids to
think of themselves as seeds, but Offred refuses to be considered just a seed: she feels that as a human being she is entitled to have the 93
ownership over her own body and her self (25). Thus, since she is denied the ownership of her body, she must reclaim it through her story. As
Sheila Conboy assures in her article Scripted, Conscripted, and Circumcised, Offred refigures her lost body through the text, as she
imagines the narrative as a metaphorical body (356). The leitmotif of the dismembered body is vividly present in this novel and becomes the
metaphor for Offreds lost body to the ruthless values of Gilead, one she must reconstruct through her story. Images of and references to body
parts can be detected throughout the whole novel (Rubenstein 104). In this dystopia, handmaids are only viewed as two legged wombs
(176); the doctor who examines Offred deals with a torso only (78); the image of hands reoccurs multiple times when Offred thinks how
empty they seem to her, as they could be held, but not seen (Atwood 62; Rubenstein 104). When Offred has memories of her husband,
Luke, she confesses that she feels like a missing person and expresses the incredible urge to hold a human body: Can I be blamed for
wanting a real body, to put my arms around? Without it I too am disembodied. I can listen to my own heartbeat against the bedsprings, I can
stroke myself, under the dry white sheets, in the dark, but I too am dry and white, hard, granular; its like running my hand over a plateful of
dried rice; its like snow. Theres something dead about it, something deserted. (132) When women all of a sudden become powerless over
night as a result of the military coup that establishes the rule of the Judeo-Christian theocracy in Gilead, Offred recalls that she thought as if
somebody had cut off [her] feet (Atwood 232; Rubenstein 105). Interestingly enough, Offreds friend Moira, the one who tries to escape from
the Aunts controlling discipline and indoctrination, is punished mercilessly, and it is her feet that are tortured with steel cables, frayed at the

the propaganda
94 movies that Aunts show to the Handmaids, underscoring how women have
been mistreated in the past, contain dead and mutilated bodies and once
even show a woman being slowly cut into pieces, her fingers and breasts
snipped off with garden shears, her stomach slit open and her intestines
pulled out (152). All these images of the dismembering womans body symbolize
and highlight Offreds and other womens loss of any authority over their
bodies and become the metaphors of their shattered selves. Thus, Offred must revive her
ends since, as Aunt Lydia puts it, for our purposes your feet and your hands are not essential (118). Finally,

mutilated body through her narration, in which she recreates her identity, gains agency, and puts together the pieces of her dismembered
body. This symbolism of disembodiment is analyzed by Roberta Rubenstein, who asserts that Offreds text becomes an act of self-generation
that opposes the oppressive obligations of procreation and also functions as Offreds struggle to reconstruct her fragmented selfhood and to
justify the choices she has made (105). Conboy also discusses this theme in her article and states that Offreds textual body, this sad and
hungry and sordid, this limpid and mutilating story, replicates the narrators literal body, which is cut off from her free mind: both body and

Offreds
story serves as means to glue the pieces of her dismembered body and her
shattered self together. Another critic, Debrah Raschke, examines this idea as well in her work Margaret Atwoods The
text are experienced as parts which do not always cohere, as shattered wholes (Atwood 267-268; Conboy 356). Thus,

Handmaids Tale: False Borders and Subtle Subversions and illustrates how Handmaids names resonate with their distorted bodies and
selves. She explains that the newly created class of Handmaids is distinguished not only by their redcolored dresses and white wings of their
hats, but also by their new names, which are formed by a preposition and its objectOffredmeaning of Fred, Freds possession 95 that
mark them not only as claimed property, but as nonsubjects (259). She rightly suggests: Through the exclusive use of the preposition and
its object, the I and the connecting verb in this syntactical construction become eliminated entirely. By saying Of Fred instead of I am of
Fred, the subject (of the sentence) is effaced, thus diminishing the chances of a Handmaid constructing herself as an I (as a subject or a

etaphorically, the Handmaids, unable to tell


their own stories, are blank pages, untold storieswomens histories,
cultures, and writing that have been edited out of the dominant culture or
reformulated to fit the masculine mode (259). Because their selves are taken from them and even their
self). Total erasure (259). Therefore, she concludes that m

names are changed and mutilated, they are voiceless and powerless, and thus now must reclaim their authority and narrate their own story,
where they can recreate their identity, the one that has been edited out to fit the dominant culture. Another way that writing or authorship
functions in this novel is it provides the main protagonist with a space of her own since she literally does not exist in this dystopian society as
a persononly as a child-bearing machineor, as Raschke puts it, a baby maker, procreator, womb vessel (259). Consequently, writing
grants Offred an opportunity to express and repossess her self as a human being, and explore her identity as a personnot simply an
ambulatory chalice (176). The idea of a body being a womans dwelling place is introduced and explored by a feminist writer Nancy Mairs
in her essay Reading Houses, Writing Lives: The French Connection, where she claims that woman by embracing her body will find her own
private space in society. Mirroring Cixous idea of the body, Mairs affirms: 96 Still forced to function as mans Other and thus, alienated from
her self, she has not been able to live in her own house, her very body . . . Women havent had eyes for themselves. They havent gone
exploring in their house . . . Their bodies, which they havent dared enjoy, have been colonized. (412) Hence, she determines that writing
becomes womans living space, and through writing her body, a woman may reclaim the deed to her dwelling (412). The erasure of women
which Raschke and Mysriades talk aboutand thus their inexistence with no space of their own is evident in Gilead from not only the way
women are treated by the government and Commanders, but also by the way they live. After the military upheaval, women are stripped off
their jobs and bank accounts, their old clothes and names, their right to love and be with who they want, even the right to read and be
educated, and thus, as Ginette Katz-Roy puts it, they became anonymous workers in a society organized like a gigantic bee-hive or ant-hill
(119). Their invisibility is also underscored by their new dress code: a long red dress that hides the figure, red gloves and shoeseverything is
redthe color of blood, which defines them; the only thing that is white is the hat that has wings on the sides, which keep them from

seeing, but also from being seen (Atwood 11). As Aunt Lydia preaches to them, to be seen is to be penetrated. What you must be girls is
impenetrable (38). Offred resides in a small room with no windows or mirrors at the Commanders house, which is a compound with gates all
around for protection, like a prison (Katz-Roy 119). Offred admits: Now and again we vary the route; there is nothing against it, as long as
we stay within barriers. A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays within the maze (53). The old gymnasium where the
Handmaids undergo their education is always surveilled by the Aunts; they are constantly in view and have no privacy, or, as Virginia Woolf
puts it, no room of their 97 own. Once Offred is assigned to the Commander and comes to live with him and his wife, she refuses to call the
room hers as if she knows that once she acknowledges it, she accepts the rules of this game and succumbs to the regimes power. Thus,
Offred finds that room of her own through writing or to be exact narrating (since writing is not allowed there, she narrates her tale on the taperecorder), enabling her to become visible, gain self-autonomy and become human again. Since she is completely voiceless and powerless in
this society, she claims her voice and her body back by composing her story. As Coral Ann Howells points out in her book Margaret Atwood,

Offred refuses to be silenced, as she speaks out with the voice of late
twentieth-century feminist individualism, resisting the cultural identity
imposed on her (99). Linda Myrsiades also justly proposes that Offred, deprived of the room that was her own, . . . must
create a space she can claim as hers, a storied place that allows her to possess her whole self (230). Thus, Offreds
composition yields her an emergent place of her own, as she owns both
intellectual and property rights over that which she composes (234). Offred
claims power over her own body, the one that has been, as Foucault puts it,
manipulated, shaped, trained by the state, and her composing becomes
something that she can control: I would like to believe this is a story Im
telling. I need to believe it . . .. If its a story Im telling, then I have control
over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will
come after it (Foucault 136; Atwood 52). Offreds authorship becomes a very empowering and emancipating means to regain her

body and identity as she recomposes and reconstructs her story. Since writing enables one to invent ones language to resist the repression
from the domineering culture, and, as Althusser maintains, break through the ruling ideology, it allows one to 98 also recreate and even
change the reality because reality is expressed and perceived through language (139). Cixous comments on womens writing and the new
language they have to embrace: Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck
partitions, classes and rhetorics, regulations and codes, they must submerge, cut through, get beyond the ultimate reserve-discourse (399).
Offred certainly gains agency through language that she recreates with her narration, since writing and reading is banned in Gilead: even
public signs are replaced by symbols and pictures: Loaves and Fishes is fishmongersa wooden sign with a fish with a smile and
eyelashes (Atwood 212), All Flesha pictorial representation for the butchers shop, Milk and Honeya wooden sign with three eggs, a bee

Thus, Offreds text symbolizes the rebellion against the


erasure of the language and womens deprivation of literacy and education.
Obviously, language means power, but unlike its manipulation in 1984, in Gilead, language is
completely ignored and forgottenwomen are forbidden to read even the
signs at the supermarket. Thus, as Katz-Roy contends, Offreds narration becomes a confessional sort of writing or storytelling which rehabilitates the female body as the origin of an alternative type of discourse (128). In her narration, Offred
does not only reflect on her past and her feelings, but also defines and redefines a lot of words and meanings, thus, holding the language in her power
and gaining authority. As Cixous emphasizes, feminine type of writing is highly stylized, never simple or linear because the
and a cow (Katz-Roy 126; Atwood 34).

feminine writer doesnt deny her drivesshe lays herself bare (396). What Cixous advocates is a practice of writing that by sweeping
away syntax (399) becomes utterly destructive, volcanic, capable 99 of cutting through and subverting the official discourse (401).
Consequently, she concludes that this new insurgent writing (395) grants one freedom from the repression of the domineering ideology: . . .
it will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system; it does and will take place in areas other than those subordinated
to philosophicotheoretical domination. It will be conceived of only by subjects who are breakers of automatisms, by peripheral figures that no
authority can ever subjugate. (397) If we look at Offreds writing, it becomes apparent that it does fall into the category of the new insurgent
writing that Cixous is promoting. Offred narrates in a circular manner often offering plurality of meanings to many words, sometimes even
contradicting and doubting herself. For example, this is how she defines the word chair: I sit in the chair and think about the word chair. It
can also mean the leader of a meeting. It can also be a mode of execution. It is the first syllable in charity. It is the French word for flesh; none
of these facts has any connection with the others (Atwood 140). In this handling of multiple various connotations that she once learnt, Offred
obtains power and gains authority through authorship that comes from freedom to experiment with language and break through the
conventional definitions and labels. This power is also provided to her when the Commander suddenly invites her to his study and offers to
play Scrabble. She derives an incredible pleasure in playing the game, and, as Katz-Roy points out, among the words she composes are
larynx and gorgeorgans associated with the production of sounds, which stand for her desire to speak up and be heard (129). She
even finds a word that the Commander does not know, such as zilch, which gives her a sense of empowerment over him. As Conboy
maintains, the Scrabble game 100 represents in miniature the narrators text: she employs many words which reflect her bodily restrictions or
desires (larynx, zygote, limp); then she liberates herself as she shapes and tastes the words that she can substitute for those that have been
out in her mouth (Blessed be the fruit. . .). (356) As Offred confesses, I want to steal something, she accomplishes it in stealing and
recreating the language, and gaining control over her narrative: I would like to steal something from this room. I would like to take some small
thing, the scrolled ashtray, the little silver pillbox from the mantel perhaps . . . hide it in the folds of my dress or in my zippered sleeve . . ..

Thus, her narration


becomes something she could hide and keep for her own use, something of
her own that gives her power. Another aspect of her composing that resembles the kind of writing Cixous is endorsing
Every once in a while I would take it out and look at it. It would make me feel that I have power. (103)

is manifested in Offreds frequent manipulation of her own story: she provides three different descriptions of her date with Nick, three accounts
of Lukes departure and often doubts her own words and descriptions (Katz-Roy 130). By giving various options through her narration, Offred
offers some sort of freedom of interpretation and outcome that grants her authority and power to control. Therefore, the language that she
creates in her narrative empowers Offred to break through the conventions of Gilead, resist its rules and regulations, and get her body back by

recomposing it through her story. As Conboy asserts: Offred makes the body her bookone which she both reads and writes in a new mode
(Conboy 355). Indeed, when she narrates her story, she rewrites and reinvents her self: My self is a thing I must now compose, as one

All in all, being under the tremendous control and


surveillance that the state employs to discipline its people and their bodies,
dystopian citizens seek resistance through writing that grants them authority,
new identity and power. Writing becomes an 101 essential part of survival
under oppressive rule, as it not only allows people to express themselves and
find their individuality, but also endows them with voice and agency that
liberates them from the Partys dogma and grants them self-autonomy in
these suppressive conditions. As Anzalda assures, women, or anyone subjugated by the dominant culture or
composes a speech (Atwood 86).

authority, should write to record what others erase, to become more intimate and preserve oneself because the act of writing is the act
of making soul, . . . the quest for the self (319). As a consequence, in a dystopian novel, where the concept of individuality is vanishing
personal life merges with the social, human body and mind are appropriated according to the communal needs of the statewriting becomes
an imperative mode to free oneself from the collective ideology and gain personal independence, discover ones true identity and recreate
ones own body and mind. When peoples body and mind are constantly manipulated and exploited, narration or writing becomes a vital
agency that can put the pieces of their mutilated bodies and tortured minds together and offer them a space for recreation, remembering and
reconstruction of the self. Whether writing allows dystopian citizens to see themselves as individuals with their own personal feelings and
ambitions (We), or enables them to reconnect with their past and regain their memories (1984), or permits them to reconstruct their bodies
(The Handmaids Tale), it grants them a sense of authority and identity and presents them with an opportunity for revival and rebirth.

Females as disciplined bodies


The Handmaids Tale The Female Body as a Site of Resistance
Julia Pei-Hsuan Hsieh
That womens bodies such as Handmaids are severely scrutinized has
explained how a body can be docile, especially the female body. As Michel
Foucault introduces how he sees the human bodies are those accustomed to being disciplined and

human bodies become docile so as to


reach the controlling powers goal of order and regulation. For him, human body
was directed and disciplined since birth ; ideologies such as sexuality and gender are
produced by discourses. This discipline not merely produces subjected and practiced
bodies, docile bodies (138) but also becomes an aptitude, a capacity that
dissociates power from the body. That is, the energy of the body is controlled,
disciplined and developed and later is reversed to be a restraint, a power of
subjection. Additionally, this control takes place in body, in space and morality, which is an ideological
regarded as docile ones in his Discipline and Punish,

control. Apparatus such as schools, military institutions, industrial organization, or a control 3 measure
dealing with outbreak of certain epidemic diseases all demonstrate the impact of the power of the control
over the body that is docile. In her Introduction to the Female, Jared Fox interprets how she perceives
Foucaults defining a docile body as one body that can be subjected, used, transformed and improved so
as to achieve demands of disciplinary actions (1). She further endorses her reading of Sandra Lee Bartky

our society that has made the female body the particularly
disciplined and docile one. Hence, with Foucaults concept of the docile body that is made to be
who criticizes

both useful and intelligible, in this chapter, I will present my discussion in three sections: in the first

Gileads control over all the women and especially the


handmaids, focusing on the site of the female body. Gileads disciplinary
technologies include: the way they categorize the female bodies, define
womens roles in a household as such that of the Commanders households,
constrain and put under surveillance womens movements, knowledge,
language and even thinking. All of these are done to make the female body
useful and intelligible. Then in the second section, I will move to analyze the bodily consciousness
section, I will examine

awakened by body and food imagery, which later awakens Offred to resist Gileadean control. I will argue

Offred, though seriously deprived and restricted, retains her bodily


consciousness through an analysis of the body and food imagery used in her
narration. And finally, I will examine Offreds stronger and stronger resistance
how

against the totalitarian and how she retains her individual consciousness and
subjectivity through memory, bodily functions and acts, and, finally, selfnarration.

Construction of the female body in the handmaids tale


The Handmaids Tale The Female Body as a Site of Resistance
Julia Pei-Hsuan Hsieh
-national property
-assigned color
- separation via class etc.
- Surveillance as a method of discipline
The female body in The Handmaids Tale is considered the national property.
This could be seen through certain functions of different female bodies in a hierarchical society like Gilead . For women of
different levels, the Gilead government appoints colored dresses for them. There
are seven categories of women dressed in different colors: the Wives dressed in blue, and always seen in cars, but not on the sidewalks; the

; the Handmaid in red, as Offred


describes, Everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of
blood, which defines us (8); the Marthas in dull green, functioning as cooks; the Econowives in the striped dresses
Aunts dressed in khaki with electronic cattle prod on their leather belts

composed of the color red, blue and green, and among them, the Widows dressed in all black; the Unwoman, who are to be starved to death

Besides being categorized by colors,


women are treated as national property in terms of their function as
rewards and prize for men, the leading characters of Gilead. Fertile women, for instance, are
or catch unknown diseases in the Colonies, are in gray overall. 4

made the Handmaids as prize objects sent to the Commanders households. Once the Handmaids are done with giving birth to a household,
she is to be redistributed to another household. As Offred recalls in her narration, I wait, washed, brushed, fed, like a prize pig. Sometime in

She thinks of herself as


objectified as a prize big when she is all alone in her room and can not do
anything but what she is asked to do: to be bathed, to be fed and to wait for
further demands from the head of the family or society. She is an example of how men in power,
the eighties they invented pig balls, for pigs who were being fattened in pens (69).

such as the Commanders and the Angels, are rewarded by fertile women. Likewise, the Virgins become brides to the Angels. The underground
prostitutes are another example of womens being prizes, which are used to reward and entertain Commanders and their foreign customers.

When speaking about spatial constraint, in addition, only by taking turns in


being sick and remaining in bed do the Wives get the chance of going out and
visiting each other. However restrained the Wives are, Offred realizes the
women from the lower status are even much more exploited and controlled. In
the similar way, she notices that Marthas are confined in the household as well. She feels that Marthas are involved in their endless household
chores in the kitchen and the compound. Offred knows that she is both the hope of them and the target of envy because she is allowed to get

Worst of all, the Unwoman exposed in the contaminated


environment are silenced in the real life and in the documentary. Being
segregated from society, the Unwoman only appear in documentary and in
the Handmaidss nightmares. They are victimized in the Colonies, cleaning
the waste and suffering from torment that later end them in the misery of
mysterious illness. As national property, womens bodies are expected to be useful and totally controllable by the men in
power. To be more effective, Gilead authorizes some unfertile women, the Aunts, as a
deputy of the central controlling power so as to reaffirm that all women are
under surveillance both ideologically and physically . Any rebellious female bodies are to be
punished and re-educated until they have become bodies that follow the order . To achieve the total surveillance,
first Handmaids are sieved out, disciplined and brainwashed with all the
around running errands.

doctrines. Moira, the distinctly rebellious woman, is to be punished due to her uncooperative behavior; when the Aunts realizes that
she may remain her position as a backlash against Gilead society, they send her to Jezebels, the underground night club which offers
Commanders and powerful figures of the country amusement such as sex service. In addition to being identified in terms of the one role
determined by the nation and 5 matched with one corresponding color, the women in Gilead, like the men there, are disciplined and organized

wherever they walk, they are under the surveillance of the


Eyes. In the heart of Gilead, there are posts everywhere with Guardians and
machines like the Compuchek to control and supervise everyone; no one is
allowed to move freely in the city without passes . While closing schools, churches and libraries, the
spatially in Gilead. First of all,

national machine provides the wall, the dead bodies as zeroes on the wall, as well as the ceremony of public execution, as a means of
education and a warning sign against any possible violation of rules and disloyalty. Under such strict surveillance of the Gileadeans bodily

The spatial control


in Gilead is an extreme form of what Foucault calls a carceral texture of society [with
its] capture of the body and its perpetual observation (304). The existence of the wall, like the
prison in Foucaults analysis, justifies societys disciplinary technologies and carceral forms. Situated in this carceral
texture and having their bodies controlled both spatially and physically, the
female bodies, whether they be those of the Wifes, the Marthas or Moiras
and Offreds, are by all means docile. With a closer look on the life of the Marthas and the Wife in her
actions, Offred is afraid of being caught at her secret rebellion such as her quiet communication with Ofglen.

Commanders compound, Offred notices that most conformed women devot their energy and bodies to domestic affairs. Even though they are
given limited power, the Wives seem to be engaged in endless sewing, knitting and quilting for the frontier Angels. The quiet knitting image of
a mother further brings Offred to retrospect on Serena Joys eloquence in the old time and her silence at the present of Gilead. Offred recalls
the old days when she used to see Serena Joy preaching the fundamental doctrines in a theatrical way on television: She wasnt singing
anymore by then, she was making speeches. She was good at it. Her speeches were about the sanctity of the home, about how women should
stay home. Serena Joy didnt do this herself, she made speeches instead, but she presented this failure of hers as a sacrifice she was making
for the good of all. (45) Here Offred demonstrates her resistance through her observation and critical thinking, and through her sarcasm over
Serenas former life and current situation, she becomes powerful with her sharp awareness of control and her critical thinking and memory.
Offred recalls the past when she watches Serena (whose real name, Offred believes, was Pam) make hysterical speeches with tears and heavy
makeup wearing off with the tears, Offred feels frightened with Serenas earnest and enthusiasm. Then she considers Serenas silence to be a
powerless protest compared to her eloquence in the pre-Gilead society: She doesnt make speeches anymore. She has become speechless.
She stays in her home, but it doesnt seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that shes been taken at her word (46). 6 If the
Wives and Marthas bodies are framed within the household, Moiras is used secretly in a space beyond disciplinary boundaries and hidden in
one corner of Gilead, Jezebels, where womens sexuality is stressed and instrumentalized for sexual entertainment. In the second half of the
novel, Offred discovers that the female body is manipulated and decorated with an emphasis on femininity under severe control. It is not until

Gilead society not only manipulates the female body


like the pre-Gilead society, but also further exploits the female body with
extreme stress on female sexualityeven though the Aunts tell them that they are well protected from the
the night in Jezebels does Offred realize that

crimes connected to sexual liberations. As a rent-out at the night in Jezebels, Offred sees her friend Moira, dressed in the costume of a
typical playmate: the bunny suit, which stresses on the figurative shape of the female body. Through Moira, Offred is told about her mother
being exploited in the Colony and the life of the women in Jezebels. It is what Moira has told her that makes her reflect on how much the
female body is being exploited: the useless female body are treated as dirt and are exposed in a poisonous environment as a guinea pig,
whereas the rebellious but still useful female bodies like Moiras have productive ovaries taken away from them so as to make their bodies
become the source of pleasure and enjoyment for foreigners, guests of the state and the powerful figures in Gilead. In the Jezebels, Moira tells
Offred what she feels about her body: Well, shit, nobody but a nun would pick the Colonies. I mean, Im not a martyr. If Id had my tubes tied
years ago, I wouldnt even have needed the operation. Nobody in here with viable ovaries either, you can see what kind of problems it would
cause (249). Moiras nonchalant and cynical attitude toward where she is and how she is treated puzzles and makes Offred feel sad about the
changed attitude of Moira, who used to give Offred a string of hope, the hope to get over all the plight. Offred recalls that she is frightened at
hearing the indifference in Moiras voice, a lack of volition: Have they really done it to her then, taken away something what? that used to
be so central to her? And how can I expect her to go on, with my idea of her courage, live it through, act it out, when I myself do not? I dont
want her to be like me. Give in, go along, save her skin. That is what it comes down to. I want gallantry from her, swashbuckling, heroism,
single-handed combat. Something I lack. (249) It is also this hope and courage of Moira that supports Offred to rebel one way or another
against all sorts of confinement and restrictions secretly up to the point. Yet, Moiras indifferent attitude, suggesting her failure and selfresignation, makes Offred even more desperate at finding a way out. Ironically, Offred wants to be off-red, wants to reclaim her identity and
subjectivity whereas Moira has transformed to be a conditioned Jezebel that cannot be off the label nor be herself any more. 7 Realizing her
aloneness in the battlefield fight for her way out, Offred gradually finds herself chances to execute her resistance to actively break through her
constraint. Another, and, of course, stronger, stimulus for Offred to resist, is Gileads control over Handmaids bodies, including her own. To
begin with,

the Handmaids in the Red Center are completely under the control of

Aunts. They receive the doctrines defined by the Christian fundamentalism and are stocked with biblical teachings in their brains. Here I
use two examples to explain how the Handmaids bodies are docile and made useful in an extreme way. For one thing, the
Handmaids bodies are confined spatially and physically. As all Handmaids are
the objects under surveillance, their movements and bodies are the target of
the other spectators, including men and women. Not simply are they the target of the tourists, but
they are the perfect aims of the Wives and all the others in the Prayvaganza. In face with the limited freedom, she also tries to adapt herself to
it, for she knows that A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze (165). To sum up, there is no privacy for the
handmaids, and the obligation that the doctors examine the Handmaids bodies serves as another example. In public spaces or private spaces
like the doctors office, the Handmaids red habits mark them differently from other female bodies. After being examined over as a thing, the
Handmaidss bodies are materialized eventually. Under the Aunts teachings, Offred reminds herself of treating her own body as various items
and objects. Offred sees her body as a vessel, just as Aunt Lydia coaches the Handmaids to intake proper food and supplement for the sake of
their bodies, which can be taken as a container, because its only the insides of our bodies that are important (96); or as a pearl, seeds or
house chore that the Martha must tend to. Apart from physical constraint and surveillance, Handmaids are under severe ideological control,

and their bodies are strictly disciplined in order to be kept useful. For instance, the concept of the body that is enjoyable in the past has
become an object of instruction. In Testifying, Janine tells her gang-raped experience and is accused of being a seductive body: But whose fault
was it? Aunt Helena says, holding up one plump finger. Her fault, her fault, her fault, we chant in unison. Who led them on? Aunt Helena
beams, pleased with us. She did. She did. She did. Why did God allow such a terrible thing to happen? Teach her a lesson. Teach her a lesson.
Teach her a lesson. (72) This testifying experience exemplifies how Janines bodily experience of rape is turned into a lesson for her as well as
the collective body of the Handmaids: our contemporary idea of blame it on the rape victims here becomes a doctrine to 8 ensure that the
Handmaids bodies are deprived of all the signs of sexuality--which attract their own attention on their bodies as well as the rapists --so as to
be bodies purely for reproduction. Another disciplinary technology used to stop the Handmaids from having sexual desire is, ironically, in the
use of pornographic films. To start with, to prove that the female body is more privileged in Gilead society, the Aunts demonstrate how the
female body is manipulated during the pre-Gilead time. Various female body parts are shown as a cruel proof of how womens bodies are
abused and insulted. Nevertheless, the porno film that the Aunts use is just an extreme measure for them to brainwash the Handmaids and

The Aunts argue that Gilead society makes the


female body useful with their intelligible traits. The irony is, even though the Aunts put emphasis on the
abuse of the female body in the old time, it is exactly the Aunts that carry out the punishment on the
rebellious women through discipline and physical punishment on the their
bodies. And the tortures on the Handmaids bodies are not at all less abusive than what is shown in the film. Offred recalls the time after
Moira was snatched back to the Red Center from her first escape, her feet were beaten swollen by the steel cables: It was the
feet theyd do, for a first offense. [ ] After that the hands. They didnt care
what they did to your feet or your hands, even if it was permanent (92).
While the discipline and punishment used is partly for the Handmaids to be
useful receptacle of sperms, it is also to turn their images to be easily
intelligible and manipulable images of femininity . In many ways, the Handmaids are
taught and conditioned ideologically to retain their femininity . At Gilead, femininity is
justify their overall control in the totalitarian.

constructed as the female image of self-restraint, purity and submissiveness. In the Red Center, Offred learns from Aunt Lydia who reminds all
the Handmaids, The Republic of Gilead knows no bound. Gilead is within you (23). This powerful statement indicates how much Offred and
other Handmaids internalize the teaching and behave in accordance with others expectation, for they are forced to remember: The posture
of the body is important, here and now: minor discomforts are instructive (79). Besides having decent and self-erasing physical movements,
the Handmaids are also supposed to restrain themselves in eating. Apparently, all the Handmaids are on a regime of diet; they are not allowed
to take coffee, cigarette and anything in excess. In other words, they exist because their bodies are usable and useful, and the Gilead society
does not allow them to corrupt their bodies with anything. Although the Handmaids seem to have a bit more freedom in going around, they
have literally no freedom in aspects ranging from diet to thinking. One obvious piece of evidence is that the Handmaids diet is severely

Offred is accustomed to the Marthas waiting on her when it comes to


food and bath. As a prize pig or a thing, her body is also expected to
remain slender so as to remain in their working position. Moreover, one look on handmaids
planned.

greetings, we see that the mind-and-body-control is externalized and practiced in their language to ensure that they focus on their function of

. Their awareness of being watched


everywhere they go is reinforced in the farewell they bid each other: "Under
His Eye." All salutes and sayings are related to the sexual functions of the
handmaids bodies, and this can also be seen in their greetings Blessed be
the fruit; May the God open (19); Think of yourself as seeds. Likewise,
images with reproduction are everywhere so as to do with their abstinence in
both appearance, sex and foods Modesty is invisibility (28), Waste not,
want not (7). Besides lessons in the forms of praises and confirmation,
warnings are also given to the Handmaids to warn them against men. The
procreation and conform to the image of feminine self-restraint-and-denial

Handmaids are told that All Flesh is weak, that men could be tempted just as they themselves could be used as sex machines. After all, as

the female body has


somehow been instrumentalized and reduced as a reproductive machine, so
does the sexual desire can be seen as redundant and unnecessary . These teachings
the Aunts remind the Handmaids, none of the body parts is as essential as their wombs; and as

and sayings, in a word, impose on the handmaids mind and body two ideas: to keep low-profiled, because to be seen is to be penetrated
and they are expected to be impenetrable (28), and to keep focused on their bodies main function of procreation for the state. Made, or

. Since the reeducation session in the Red Center, the Handmaids are taught to reverse
views toward the female body as a body/product of freedom to to one body
of freedom from; in other words, from liberated bodies back to restrained
bodies. The Aunts lay stress on womens bodies as one unison body that is the property of the nation and one body that is to be given
forced to be, useful as well as completely intelligible, the Handmaids bodies, furthermore, is turned into one body

freedom from, instead of a body that is free to do anything. This unison body appears here and there in the story: in the ceremony, Offreds
body only has a meaning when her reproductive system is considered as Serenas; in other words, it is Offreds lower body part that counts.
Similarly, all Handmaids bodies are regarded as one body. Additionally, the chanting on the Birthday and the testifying in the Red Center also

For Gileadean authority, the female body is treated as if there


was only one body, a collective female body. Women are seen, not as
individuals, but as different groups of social roles. No matter what social
status one woman has, her body means nothing but its function, and she is
replaceable by anyone with the same function . It is especially sarcastic when the Commander confuses
present this one body.

his own wife, Serena, with Martha Cora. As 10 he reveals the death of the previous Handmaid, Offred reflects his words: She hanged herself,
he says; thoughtfully, not sadly. Thats why had the light fixture removed. In your room. He pauses. Serena found out, he says, as if this
explains it. And it does. If your dog dies, get another. [ ] I suppose it was Cora who found her, I say. Thats why she screamed. Yes, he says.
Poor girl. He means Cora. (187 emphasis added) Apparently, the Handmaids death is as meaningless and trivial as the woman that
discovered it because all women can be taken as one body for the Commander, who insinuates that the female body in the old days is the
meat market (219). Enlightened by Roberta Rubensteins discussion of blurred distinction between human and non-human, Karen Stein also
notices something that explains how the female body is objectified as one common thing, The hanged bodies of Gileads victims are
suspended from the walls of the former Harvard Yard like slabs of meat on meathook (64-5). In a way, all the strict control of Gileadian
womens, and in particular, Handmaids mind and body embodies to an extreme Foucaults theory of disciplinary power.

To make

womens bodies useful but not dangerous, Gileads discipline, to borrow Foucaults words,
is no longer simply an art of distributing bodies, of extracting time from
them and accumulating it, but of composing forces in order to obtain an
efficient machine (164). In this carceral society in Gilead, as I have tried to
show, womens identities are simplified into different roles, with each serving
only one role and all forming an efficient machine of household and
procreation. No social machines, however, can exert their waterproof control
on their subjects, and, in the case of Offred, resistance starts in her very
body.

The Docile Female Body Where Resistance Starts


The Handmaids Tale The Female Body as a Site of Resistance
Julia Pei-Hsuan Hsieh
The Handmaids Tale The Female Body as a Site of Resistance
Julia Pei-Hsuan Hsieh

Analysis of food
Offreds rebellious thinking develops as she receives more and more control
on her body, and it manifests itself first in Offreds observation of her own body and then through her relating her body to food.
With her body being disciplined, she also has changed her attitude toward
her own body. She reflects the big difference between her concept of body as
concrete, substantial and multifunctional in the old time, and the void she
feels within herself after her body becomes docile: I used to think of my body
as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement
for the accomplishment of my will. [ ] There were limits, but my body was nevertheless lithe, single, solid, one
with me. 11 Now the flesh arranges itself differently. Im a cloud, congealed around
a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am
and glows red within its translucent wrapping . [ ] It transits, pauses, continues on and passes out of
sight, and I see despair coming towards me like famine. To feel that empty, again, again. (74) Here the sense of emptiness is dubious to say

The want of
conceiving a baby drives Offred desperate: in a way, she needs the baby to
survive in the Gilead since she has no chance left after the previous failures
in the other two households. In another, Offred experiences the despair of
the least. In one sense, Offreds body is a docile one, concerned with not having a fetus fill up her empty womb.

loss and the dread of being left empty with nothing once more. To her, this
baby is not merely a new life for the household, but a new life for her . Atwood further
illustrates how the female body, extraordinarily, can be torn apart in Gilead society. Through Offreds experience of her separated body and
her sense of self, she reveals her shameful feeling of looking at her own body: My nakedness is strange to me already. My body seems
outdated. Did I really wear ething suits, at the beach? I did, without thought, among men, without caring that my legs, my arms, my thighs and

Shameful, immodest. I avoid looking down at my body,


not so much because its shameful or immodest but because I dont want to
see it. I dont want to look at something that determines me so completely.
(63) Here, her body has become something, an it that she does not feel
like claiming hers. Likewise, she experiences the separation of her body from
herself by composing her own body as a thing (66). Her identifying herself as a cloud that congealed
back were on display, could be seen.

around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than [she is] and glows red within its translucent wrapping
somehow may explain both her desire of conceiving a child and her complicated inner transition of separating her body and her self. That is
why she sometimes fails to tell the reality from her dream, because she recollects the dream in which she was with her child, and then feels
desperate and despair about her situation. Sometimes Offred reminisces and expresses her desolation: Maybe the life I think Im living is a

she becomes
devastated owing to the separation of her body and self. With an attempt to
keep her identity, this experience of the separation of the body and the self,
however, further enables Offred to realize how her female body is the object
of gaze, the object of desire, and is materialized as objects. Making the female body
paranoid delusion (109). And sometimes, she hears something inside her body fall apart (146). All in all,

objectified, the Gilead authority penetrates their power throughout the nation. And that further drives Offred to the edge so as to cherish her
scarce power that she 12 secretly maintains for retaining her identity and her name from the past. She remembers how she and all of the
women in the pre-Gilead society lost their power to the Gilead authority. With her financial accounts frozen and her job taken away, Offred
feels white, flat, thin and transparent; back then, she started to question: Surely they will be able to see through me. Worse, how will I be
able to hold onto Luke, to her [ ] (85). She feels as if she is made of smoke, and the sense of being penetrated and seen through further
deprives her of the calm, confidence and power. Then she later experiences similar nakedness and transparent when she is in the

Whatever she does, her body is always scrutinized and studied


like an object by the Commander. Offred recollects her uneasiness under his
gaze: While I read, the Commander sits and watches me doing it, without
speaking but also without taking his eyes off me. This watching is a curiously
sexual act, and I feel undressed while he does it (184). The Commanders demonstration of his power
Commanders study room.

does not simply take place when he concentrates on Offreds body and movement. The night at the Jezebels, Offred is completely conscious
the Commander uses her to show off. That night when she dresses up to the Jezebels with the Commander, she is aware of her body as a
body wearing a purple evening rental tag. Or, there are times Offred perceives how the Commander patronizes her as if she is an almost
extinct animal when he looks at her. Nevertheless, there are times that Offred enjoys being watched, for the scarce power that she
experiences. When her power is reduced to almost none, she uses her body as a source of power that further assists her to confirm her
subjectivity. She uses her body as a seductive apparatus as she faces the checkpoint Guards: They touch with their eyes instead and I move
my hips a little, feeling the full red skirt sway around me. Its like thumbing your nose from behind a fence and teasing a dog with a bone held
out of reach, and Im ashamed of myself for doing it, because none of this is the fault of these men, theyre too young. Then I find Im not
ashamed after all. I enjoy the power, power of a dog bone, passive but there. (22) And yet it is not merely Offred that is the target of gaze in
Gilead. She is conscious that her body is taken as a freight of hope of others, for she acknowledges others expectation on her; she realizes
that herself is like a queen ant with eggs and the vehicle of others hope (135). Through all the images of numerous objects and items,
Offred understands very well how much her body and her womb have been objectified, and how much she is reduced to the basic level of
biological function of a female body, and that makes her even more anxious to restore her subjectivity. With her five senses becoming keener
than ever, Offred is also more critical in her observation of her body and the food. Here I would like to do a closer inspection on 13 Offreds
resistance through the correlated imagery of the female body, food and eating in The Handmaidss Tale. As in The Edible Woman, patriarchal
control of women and womens resistance in The Handmaids Tale find a powerful expression in the comparison of the female body to foods,
and the issue of who gets to own or consume these foods. In the epigraph, Atwood quotes from Swifts The Modest Proposal. Critics like Karen
Stein compares Atwoods The Handmaids Tale with Jonathan Swifts The Modest Proposal; this comparison somehow explains that the images
of food, eating and the body, particularly the female body in The Handmaids Tale (as well as in The Edible Woman) is closely associated with
food such as meat, as Stein points out, The cannibal theme is carried out in several ways in Tale. On some level, the foods the handmaids eat,
symbolic representations of wombs and fertility (pears, eggs, chickens, bread described as baking in the oven), are analogues for their bodies.
Additionally, one of Offreds flashback memories recounts her childhood fear of cannibalism. [ ] By means of this digression, Offred makes
explicit the analogies between Gilead and Nazi Germany, and between her tale and A Modest Proposal (66-7). While trying to maintain her
bodily consciousness, Offred uses smell to make associations with the past, and with the women around her. From Marthass kitchen, for
instance, she recollects the smell of her kitchen in the old times, of the days when she was still a mother, still had a mother, and of the food
smell. Also, she sympathizes with Marthas owing to their constraint with endless chores in the kitchen and she is eager to communicate and
connect with other women. The imagery of food is scattered in the text: The table has been scrubbed off, cleared of flour; todays bread,
freshly baked, is cooling on its rack. The kitchen smells of yeast, a nostalgic smell. It reminds me of other kitchens, kitchens that were mine. It
smells of mothers; although my own mother did not make bread. It smells of me, in former times, when I was a mother. (47) How does

these imagery of foods arouse her self-awareness and provoke her the want
of self-preservation? Offred regards this kitchen full of smell of food a past memory and a warning as a treacherous smell
that she should keep away from. Nonetheless, she reveals her longing of her old identity as a mother and a daughter. Furthermore, her keen
senses dwelling on the memory of being a mother and a daughter lead her to explore the smell that she notices in the sitting room and with
Serena Joy. Offred has complicated feelings toward Serena Joy, who may be her surrogate mother, that ought to look after her in the
household. Truth is, Serena does not actually care for Offred as a daughter. On the first day of Offreds arrivel, Serena makes Offred understand
her stance of the lady in the household, stressing on the unchangeable relationship with 14 her husband, and her principle of seeing Offred as
least as possible. Her cold attitude and sexless smells along with the tasteless collections in the sitting room, in a way, have frustrated Offred
and reminded her of the past when she was still a mother and still had a mother. Offreds frustration in failing to connect with Serena,

therefore, has hardened her loneliness in the spatial constraint, and yet made her determined to move beyond her spatial limit. Through
Offreds narration, in Gilead society, womens bodies are very often compared to food. Hence, the food connected with the female body further

. Not only is the female body conditioned and


kept in fixed positions in society, but womens diet is strictly controlled.
Womens pregnant bodies collage with images of foods such as pears, eggs,
oranges and lunch. Offred herself treats her body as food : she sways her body like a dog-bone
reinforces the fact that the female body is materialized

to seduce the Guards and the Angels as if they are dogs longing for food. Similarly, she compares herself as a ripe melon when she uses her
body to imagine manipulating man: Did the sight of my ankle make him lightheaded, faint, at the checkpoint yesterday, when I dropped my
pass and let him pick it up for me? No handkerchief, no fan, I use whats handy. Winter is not so dangerous. I need hardness, cold, rigidity; not
this heaviness, as if Im a melon on a stem, this liquid ripeness. (154) On the Birthday, Ofwarren, whose real name is Janine, requests for extra
sugar and is instructed that too much sugar is not good for her body. Likewise, from time to time, Offred feels tempted whenever she sees Nick
and the Wife smoking. And when she is offered one cigarette from the Wife, she is warned not to have too much of it. Furthermore, food in
Gilead does not simply mean the food that people eat, it can also be an indication to social status. That is why when Offred brings home a
bony chicken, Martha Rita complains about it, for she thinks the Commanders rank should make Offred be brave enough to speak up and get
a better one (48). Later on the Birth day, Offred also notices that at the Ofwarrens household, there are oranges which may stand for the
higher status of the whole household. In short, the abundant images of food in The Handmaids Tale first indicate how the female body can be
controlled by the regulation of diet and hence correlated with Atwoods concern of social cannibalism. Like the food bearing something
meaningful more than its substantial function, the body appears in a form of a collage of food. That is, the body is compared to food and
collaborated with the image of food. Like The Edible Woman, Atwood connects the female body with the food in The Handmaidss Tale and
strengthens her observation of the analogy between the two. Womens bodies of the past are compared to meat by the Aunts so as to stress
on the inappropriate exterior decoration: 15 The spectacles women used to make of themselves. Oiling themselves like roast meat on a spit,
and bare backs and shoulders, on the street, in public, and legs, not even stockings on them, no wonder those things used to happen. [ ] Such
things do not happen to nice women. And not good for the complexion, not at all, wrinkle you up like a dried apple. (55) For the Aunts,
dressing with exposure of the female body is improper and justifiable reason for rape to take place on women. In a way, remarks on the female
body in the past for Aunt Lydia and Offreds Commander are like meat. While the Commander and the Aunts comparing the female body to
food, Offred feels that the female body in Gilead is food, or is treated as if it were food. Here and there, I see Offred relate the female body to
food. At the doctors office, she is aware of the doctors calling her honey, which is a generic terms that Offred thinks it could represent all
women. Among Marthas talk, she feels uncomfortable when Rita is tenderizing the chicken and asks Cora to bathe Offred at the same time.
The chicken reminds Offred of Handmaids body and Aunts teaching on the importance of healthy food and Handmaids body: The thigh of a
chicken, overcooked. Its better than bloody, which is the other way she does it. [ ] You have to get your vitamins and minerals, said Aunt Lydia
coyly. You must be a worthy vessel (65). And later that night, though Offred feels repulsive, she does not dare throw up so she chewed and
swallowed, chewed and swallowed until she feels the sweat come out (65-66). Yet she does save some butter and hide it secretly for herself
to use later at night. The Aunts have been instructing the Handmaids that they are containers, only the interior body parts are important (96),
in that case, Handmaids are not to tend to the appearance of the female body. As in other novels by Atwood, the image of egg and the female
body is connected, so can this be proved in The Handmaids Tale. Imaginative as Offred is, when eating, she imagines the egg being what
God must look like, and she remembers, Women used to carry such eggs between their breasts, to incubate them (110); old memory of the
past like this makes her pleased and desire for one. Here, the egg becomes a metaphor and a pun in Offreds narration which reveals her
crave and nostalgia. Food as it is, the egg later becomes a suggestion to Offred of how much a pregnant woman could be operated on like the
food people eat with the knifes and spoons. That is, the image of Janines pregnant body as the food that is cut open by doctors knife and
brought up when she eats up her food and the teaching she receives: Once they drugged women, induced labor, cut them open, sewed them
up. No more. No anesthetics, even. Aunt Elizabeth said it was better for the baby, but also: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy
conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. At lunch we got that, brown bread and lettuce sandwiches. (114) 16 For Offred, she uses
butter to maintain her body. This gesture of connecting food with her body, which she compares to food from time to time, indicates how the
female body is treated like edible in Gilead. As she recalls that her body is supposed to be a useful one that produces babies, she also
remembers, when she was young she had mistaken her mothers story about the Jews in the old time: she thought the Jews were cooked in
the oven like food. Furthermore, she later compares the conceivable female body to an oven with bun and a chalice with wine. Hence, words,
the food she eats and the female body she sees have all become one in a very restricted circumstance under Gileadean surveillance, and that

Once the female


body is regarded useful and edible like food, it is hard for Offred to maintain
her identity intact since her body becomes consumable in the cannibalistic
Gilead society. After the Salvaging ceremony, death triggers Offreds
appetite. This implication, in one way, consolidates Atwoods picture of a
cannibalistic society, and in another way, empowers her protagonist to
transform her bodily resistance to thinking and to the use of language.
somehow has colluded to the Commander and the Aunts remarks on the female body which is like meat.

The Writing Self in an Active Female Body A Site of


Resistance and Construction for Subjectivity
The Handmaids Tale The Female Body as a Site of Resistance
Julia Pei-Hsuan Hsieh
-reclaiming the past
Besides keeping her bodily consciousness as a way of preserving her identity,
Offred actively resists the overall control by criticizing the present and
revising her past. In a way, beneath her apparent passivity, she has been
reflecting, revising, criticizing and reconstructing her past as well as her

present more and more actively. And in this aspect, she has been a storyteller in her mind, a composer of her body, even before she disappears from
Gilead and tells her story into the tapes. The written body thus gets merged
into the writing subject, and it all starts with Offreds sensitivity to and
revision of Gileads languages control. To maintain her subjectivity and to
rediscover her power, Offred tells the story, reconstructs her story, rephrases
what she has learned and heard, and shows her power in narrating what has
happened in Gilead. She rebuilds her subjectivity through her strong senses.
Keen sensitivity helps her sharpen her imagination and observation that are
important to narration, and also helps remind her of the past and preserve
her real name. Only by sticking to refreshing her memory of her identity and
life in pre-Gilead society can Offred reconstruct her subjectivity and reaffirm
her existence as an individual. By investigating how Offred uses her narration
as well as her body to resist Gileads severe control, I intend to show the way
she gradually discovers her power through language, imagination, memory
and, most importantly, her bodily actions. 17 Control is everywhere in Gilead,
just as Offreds subtle revision of its verbal control. Offreds hiding of her real
name and revision of her given name, first of all, shows her resistance.
Offred, an indication of patronymic ownershipof Fredis turned in her
mind into off red, or evading the Handmaids sign of red color. Also, Offreds
sensitivity of verbal constraint makes her notice that the stocks of biblical
phrases and teachings that all the Handmaids are forced to bear in mind
contain a great deal of ironies. For instance, the literal biblical dialogue of
Leah connects giving birth with death. She uses puns to interpret the words
she hears with different meanings such as the word Mayday, as Maidez, a
French distress call, and date rape as a French dessert name. Mario Klarer
regards Offreds narration and searching for different meanings of words as a
process that is not only the key to gaining access to the past, but also
provides the possibility of anticipating the future, or that which does not yet
exist (134). That is to say, in the language-forbidden nation where words are
reduced and simplified as wooden signs and biblical scrolls, language assists
her to retain her subjectivity and struggle for a possible future. Though her
body is a docile one, her capability in using the language is a kind of power.
As Stein indicates, with the red robe and white wimples, the Handmaids are
all synchronized as one so that the central power of Gilead may deprive their
individuality, and Marian does not feel comfortable with the color-coded
dress. By revealing the discomfort in her red dress, Offred insinuates her
capability in using the language to construct her identity and subjectivity:
and myself in it like a distorted shadow, a parody of something, some fairytale figure in a red cloak, descending towards a moment of carelessness that
is the same as danger. A Sister, dipped in blood (9). This paradox in a way
shows that Offred tries to turn the traditional meaning of the fairy tales or the
biblical teaching into a paradox, attempting to use language to mock Gilead
society and vents her dissatisfaction of the restricted reality. Another revision
of the Aunts lesson is in the teaching of not to think, which is later proved to
be impossible for Offred. At night and when left alone in her bed, she first
consoles herself that if she wants to last, she has to listen to aunts advice:

not to think too much because [t]heres a lot that doesnt bear thinking
about (8), since thinking can possibly ruin her chance and she intends to
strive for living. Then, in allowing herself to think, she associates Aunt Lydias
instruction with that of a ballet class teacher in the past: She said, Think of
yourselves as seeds (18)that is, seeing the present self-preservation as a
seed for future rebellion and changes. Offred learns to indulge herself to
swerve from the reality and wander in the word-plays. Since Gilead is a
confining realm that strictly controls the peoples movement and language,
Offreds secret word-plays becomes a monologue that also brings along
moments in her past life. It is this severe confinement in body and language
that forces her to 18 develop her individuality through imagination, reflection
and rebellion. As Stein has mentioned, the Aunts act out as women
surrogates of the patriarchal power, for [they] transmit the words of the
patriarchal government, and they silence unwanted speech (271). The stock
of biblical phrases stressed by the Fundamentalism is a measure of
controlling, brainwashing and constraining. Teachings such as Pen is Envy,
Blessed be the meek, and Blessed are the silent are short memorable and
yet ironical to all Handmaids. The Handmaids are made to rehearse,
memorize and thus internalize the sayings given in the Red Center. All of this
emphasis on silence and meekness makes their bodies disciplined and
without really suppressing their desire for a pen or penis. What is more
ironical is the teachings like Give me children, or else I die, which
emphasizes womens own desire for bearing children, but actually suggests
the consequence of failing to apparently perform this obligation. Ironically,
then, giving birth becomes literally a life-and-death matter for women even
without the risks of dystocia. In addition to the birth-death irony, the Aunts
teaching of Pen is Envy also explains that verbal constraint collaborates
with bodily constraint. The rigorous regulations in Gilead forbid women to
speak freely, to have access to anything concerned with language and words,
for silence and meekness are considered virtues. Here, again Atwood plays
with words through Offreds narration. The phrase itself could be a pun. In the
realm of Gilead, where words and any tools leading for knowledge are
banned, as a writing tool, pen becomes the source of envy for Offred. During
the secret meeting with the Commander, she is allowed to read magazines
and even to write with a pen when she tries to ask a question to the
Commander. As Offred recalls, the momentary gesture of writing and holding
a pen in her hands becomes erotic and sensational so that she even feels like
breaking the rule and stealing it as another act of rebellion. The pen between
my fingers is sensuous, alive almost, I can feel its power, the power of the
words it contains. Pen Is Envy, Aunt Lydia would say, quoting another Center
motto, warning us away from such objects. And they were right, it is envy.
Just holding it is envy. I envy the Commander his pen. Its one more thing I
would like to steal. (186) Apparently, Offred breaks the ban on pen Gilead
puts on women. However, one cannot help being reminded of Freuds famous
description of womens Penis Envy. As Psychoanalysis would not be the
theoretical reference for this thesis, I would like to simply say that Atwoods
witty word-play is a sarcastic comment on man power whose absoluteness

has been supported by not only Gilead but also Freud. As the word-play
games show Offreds imagination and sensitivity to language, the puns
related to body also disclose her rebellion in a way. As Lawrence Davies 19
conceives the idea of puns and breaking language bars, he connects Offreds
punning gesture to the behavior of someone that both exhilarated and
alarmed by language, by its power of making and of breaking bonds (210).
No matter what this word-playing or elaboration indicates, making/breaking
the boundaries or denying connections between words, in any ways, Offreds
power grows as she gets access to words. For instance, Offred ponders on
habit that the Handmaids are wearing: Habits are hard to break (24-5).
What she means may be ambiguous due to the meaning of the word habit.
It could indicate both a certain of religious ropes like the red ones that the
Handmaids wear and the custom or practice that Offred she has. She could
have referred to the prison-like durable clothing she wears, but she could also
mean the word-playing games that go on and on within her mind or her other
habitual secret practices in life. Also, when Ofglen circumambulates with the
password of Mayday, Offreds afterthought reveals her longing for her past.
Mayday used to be a distress signal, a long time ago in one of those wars we
studied in high school. I kept getting them mixed up, but you could tell them
apart by the airplanes if you paid attention. It was Luke who told me about
mayday, though. Mayday, mayday, for pilots whose planes had been hit, and
ships. (41) She then recalls the real meaning in French, help me. This short
passage speaks Offreds nostalgic feeling about the old days and her keen
awareness how words can bear different meanings and serve different
functions. Most of all, accesses to words and language have become a luxury
and power in the forbidding status of an autocratic government. As changing
the language and the connection with the people surrounding her gives
Offred a sense of power, likewise, through her body, food and eating, she
discovers her power little by little. In terms of the act of seduction, she uses
her body as food to perform her scarce power. She also feels the power when
she plays the scrabble with the Commander. On the touch of the scrabble
counters, Offred feels tempted by the wooden words and would like to
swallow the scrabble counters so as to retain the power. The power that she
has received from playing the scrabble game comes from her access of
language and knowledge, and makes her want to eat up the wooden word
counters. Also, the words on the scrabble board somehow remind her of the
past, which reaffirms her identity secretly. And reading as fast as possible
whenever she is given the chance of reading indicates her longing for
knowing and for remembering. Gilead bans the language and words which
are powerful keys to knowledge, and this restriction reminds Offred how
much she is confined; more and more, she acknowledges what a passive role
she is playing as a Handmaid. Both Klarer and Madonne Miner discuss this
language ban on reading and writing: Klarer sees it as a measure of
preventing the privilege of objectivity from getting into the hands of 20
women (134) whereas Miner considers this ban of language an easy way for
men to claim the authority and deprive women of their power. Without
freedom in articulation and in knowledge, at times Offred feels distressed. In

the Commanders compound, she misses the old times and decides to take
advantage of her imagination and her memory of the old days. Like a
chipmunk trapped in her cage, the room she is not yet familiar with, she
strives to explore the room gradually. And the more she observes her
surroundings in her own space, the more she thinks of the past and is
attacked by solitude: I looked up at the blind paster eye in the ceiling. I
wanted to feel Luke lying beside me. I have them, these attacks of the past,
like faintness, a wave sweeping over my head. Sometimes it can hardly be
borne. What is to be done, what is to be done, I thought. There is nothing to
be done. They also serve who only stand and wait. Or lie down and wait. I
know why the glass in the window is shatterproof, and why they took down
the chandelier. I wanted to feel Luke lying beside me, but there wasnt room.
(52) The blind paster eye in the ceiling is the result from a cruel past, a
story and a legend of the dead Handmaid before Offred. In this passage, she
describes her loneliness and emptiness caused by the limited, prison-like
constraint; she uncovers her sense of helplessness when she thinks of her
destiny which may be like the former Handmaid or be unknown as yet. She is
not left with many choices and she is very much restricted in the space which
is severely watched and controlled. She realizes her situation as being
confined by the limited space and movement. Worst of all, she is always
awaiting, for the demands, expectations and the time for rituals and routines.
Not only is Offred like a waiting woman in the attic, awaiting for the
Ceremony and calls from the Commander, but her body and mind is full of
memory in terms of the consistent search of her past experience by
sensational touch and creative imagination when she is with herself. Indeed,
Offred is very much framed in Gilead, just like certain fairy tale figures
framed in the fixed spot. Her red habit makes her identify herself with the
fairy-tale figures, possibly the Little Red Riding Hood or Repunzel. In a way,
she is like Little Red Riding Hood, whose body runs for others demands. For
instance, she is sent to run the chores by the Marthas. Later in the novel, she
is also sent to Nick by Serena Joy. While the Marthas and Serena Joy serve as
the role of the practical surrogate mothers for Offred, she is aware of her very
restricted and scrutinized condition. Besides, Offred also resembles the fairy
tale figure Rapunzel. She spends most of her time waiting in her room for the
summons from the Commander, the Wife or the Marthas. Her long waiting
posture in the attic and her long hair makes her a Rapunzel. Gilead requires
the Handmaids to keep long hair. Offreds long hair may not be as 21
beautiful as Rapunzels, however, the hair does not offer any power at all, for
all the Handmaids are required to put on the wimple which blocks their sight
and forces them to look straight ahead. In other words, for Offred, Gilead
becomes a forest where all the gestures and languages become dangerous as
a Little Red Riding Hood, as well as for rebellion; where Offred is, like
Rapunzel, given a mere window to look at the world. Only when she is alone
in the room does she use her keen sensation to search for clues of the room
in the past, to reflect on her identity, and memory in the past. Yet, strained as
her body is, Offred knows she has to break the bond and struggles to move
ahead beyond the spatial constraint. Therefore, in her own room, where she

uses her imagination to move beyond the limited space and preserve her
name, dreaming of one day that she could tell someone about her real name.
Namely, her room gives her a sense of self-preservation through which she
retains her identity and her name. Besides repeating her name secretly and
reminding herself her real identity, Offred uses her sensitivity to preserve her
identity. As she grows to be more sensitive to smell and taste, she also recalls
more of her past life even when she is trapped in the sitting room or
anywhere in Gilead. In her own room, Offred learns to preserve her body with
the butter, which further indicates her instinct of maintaining her own body
like the old time. Through these gestures of self-preservation, Offred reveals
her strong intention of retaining her old identity, not as Offred, but as herself
with a real name that identifies her as an individual. More actively, she begins
to rebel through various bodily actions and attempts. First, she attempts to
steal something from the sitting room, as she reveals, I would like to steal
something from this room. I would like to take some small thing, [ ] secret it
in my room (80). Then she wishes further to steal Luke from the past into
her present room because she feels like being sure of her identity and lusts
for a body: I want Luke here so badly. I want to be held and told my name. I
want to be valued, in ways that I am not; I want to be more than valuable. I
repeat my former name, remind myself of what I once could do, how others
saw me. I want to steal something. (97) It is the lack of identity that makes
Offred a needy person that drives her to convince herself that Luke is
somehow alive. She even believes that Luke will have a message [s]lipped
into [her] hand as [she] reach the tokens across the counter in All Flesh
(106). When her hope for Luke gradually fades away, she turns to Nick to
satisfy her needs for self-assertion. Nick becomes someone that she tells her
real name to, and someone she goes to secretly, even without the consent of
Serena Joy. This, too, can be considered a proof of Offreds bodily action of
rebellion against the powerful Gilead authority. Finally, her turning everything
unspeakable about Gilead, about her past and herself 22 into audible texts is
by all means a form of resistance against the language-banned society. Her
thoughts, views, memory and what happened to her have all been
textualized as tapes, and that has somehow become a latent threat to and a
possible obsolete of Gilead society. That is to say, through Offreds storytelling, she has turned her mouth a tool of resistance because narration can
be taken as an act of reconstruction and imagination, which indeed occurs
once in a while when she tells the story. As Celia Flor?n indicated: the
transmission of the story is frequently being questioned by the narrator
(258), at times, Offred distrusts her own story and revises her story from time
to time. But the act of revising the story, in a way, reinforces her power of
narration. She becomes an author who manipulates the audio texts. And by
simply telling the story and revising the story, she has the power of
demonstrating her resistance to Gilead. She shows the same resisting spirit
when she tries to find out Ofglens whereabouts. Later she realizes that
Ofglen sacrifices herself to protect her; Offred becomes willing to identify with
the rebellious organization at the end of her story. Though suspecting Nicks
betrayal, she cooperates with Nicks instruction and get onto the Eyes van.

To this extent, she is not as passive as before and takes a more active
attitude in rebelling against the regime. In addition to her bodily action
against the totalitarian, there are two attempts of hers that show her active
resistance against Gilead one is her attempt to make connections with
people around her and with the past, and the other is her attempt to change
the language she has been forced to adapt to. Not merely with Ofglen does
Offred try to connect herself with, but with other Handmaids, the Marthas,
and Nick. By building connections with people around her, she gets to feel
more strength and find out more about whats happening. Knowing is in itself
a power, and by getting to know and to express through the connection with
others, Offred gets more power and further acts out her alternative
resistance. Moreover, by reflecting on the past, she gets to be more
affirmative and determined to retain her identity. Through repetitively
assuring herself of who she really is and what has happened in the past, she
keeps her faith in living/surviving. Offreds other attempts of challenging the
meaning of the language. In many biblical phrases and teachings that she
has been forced to memorize, she criticizes and corrects Aunts
interpretations. When Nick speaks to her, she merely nods and recalls what
she is told by the Aunts: He isnt supposed to speak to me. Of course some of
them will try, said Aunt Lydia. All flesh is weak. All flesh is grass, I corrected
her in my head. They cant help it, she said, God made them that way but He
did not make you that way. He made you different. Its up to you to set the
boundaries. Later you will be thanked. (45) Her sensitivity to language makes
her pay attention to even detail and little things in peoples talk. She corrects
and criticizes those she does not agree with and try to 23 rephrase what she
has heard. For instance, she reflects how Aunt Lydia admonishes women in
the past that have made spectacles by showing off their flesh. Aunt Lydia
concludes that things happened to these women with a reason and lectures
to Handmaids to be good because [s]uch things do not happen to nice
women. And not good for the complexion [ ]. Those things she mentions
do hard to womens complexion and made women like dried apple (55).
Meanwhile, Offred recalls that it is Aunt Lydia herself that has told the
Handmaids not to pay attention to their complexions. In other words, Offred
mocks Aunt Lydia for her contradicting herself in the talk addressing to the
Handmaids. Little rebellion like this brings Offred more strength of remaining
her subjectivity and identity because she realizes that she has the power to
change something, like language. As she compares her reading with eating
voraciously, her bodily resistance also becomes more active than before. In
the mean time, that she reckons the Commander needs her empowers her.
Gradually, Offred perceives her little power not merely from men, but from
women superior to her status. As she thinks of the possible consequences of
being caught of secretly meeting the Commander, she knows that the
Commander would not risk saving her. However, somehow she feels the
power over the Wife, for she reckons: Also: I now had power over her, of a
kind, although she didnt know it. And I enjoyed that. Why pretend? I enjoyed
it a lot (162). Flor?n discovers a circle of deceit among the Commanders
household, and in the circle, The handmaid deceives both the husband and

the wife with Nick and the Commander, respectively (255). This deception
further accounts for Offreds experience of power over both the Commander
and the Wife. All in all, Offred discovers her power and realizes that she could
derive the power from her body, food and the act of eating. Although the
ending of The Handmaids Tale does not reveal Offreds hwere about or
whether she is dead or alive, she has constructed a sense of subjectivity by
telling the story as a record for the post-Gilead society. Through her
narration, she uses her mouth as a weapon of rebellion, and resists the
severe control and surveillance of the totalitarian Gilead regime. With very
limited power that she has received from her rare chance of reading and
performing seductively in the face of men, Offred smartly uses her body, the
act of eating, food and the connection of food and her body to perform her
power. In the search of herself, her past and her identity, the power helps her
build a sense of subjectivity. As she calls her own room a treacherous
territory, she rediscovers her strength and manages to move beyond the
limited space where she is trapped. Against a powerful society like Gilead as
she may have confronted, Offred struggles to find a way for her to withhold
her identity and subjectivity under an absolute patriarchal sovereignty. It is
hard to tell if Offred is rescued or betrayed at the 24 end of her story, which
are tape records later transcribed and rearranged into the novel by two male
professors in the post Gilead time. But with one glimpse on Atwoods ending
in The Handmaids Tale, it is not hard to find how neither the society before,
nor after Gilead, regime has been different that much from each other.
Namely, patriarchal domineering power which is still active in the post-Gilead
society. how the female body has always been treated as objects of male
dominance. It is, finally, to such similar situations in Taiwan that I will turn to
in my conclusion.

Working through the state isnt an option as that wouldnt


solve the everyday surveillance of women
AUTUMN WHITEFIELD-MADRANO 13 (Ill Be Watching You: NSA
Surveillance and the Male Gaze, June 18, 2013,
http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/the-beheld/ill-be-watching-you-nsasurveillance-and-the-male-gaze/, Accessed 7/17/15, EHS MKS)
I would give readers a quick 101 on the NSA surveillance scandal before I go on to make my point, but the
fact is, Ive got no facts. I saw the headlines, heard the occasional bits of cocktail party buzz, and saw a
flurry of blog postswhich I skimmed at best, or skipped altogethercrop up in my RSS feed. And then, I
shrugged. Apathy doesnt seem like the greatest reason to tune out of something that, intellectually and
politically speaking, enrages meor at least should enrage me, if rage were a rational response that arose
upon provocation of our most deeply held beliefs. But there it is: In a country whose founding principles
include freedom of expression, learning that the government iswhat, reading our e-mails? listening to our
phone conversations?this citizens response is meh. The longer this story has remained in the news, the

the reason the NSA


activities didnt upset me more on a visceral level, as opposed to an
intellectual one, was that my default assumption of day-to-day experience
was that I was being watched. Watched by Big Brother? Not so much. But
being watched, observed, surveyed, seen? Yes. Welcome to what its like to
be a woman, gentlemen. Consider the headline of this excellent piece by Laurie Penny in New
more bizarre my apathy seemed to me. Until it didnt. I began to wonder if

If you live in a surveillance state for long


enough, you create a censor in your head . Its an incisive, uncomfortable truth, and its
Statesman, spurred by the NSA revelations:

made all the more uncomfortable when coupled with one of my favorite passages from John Bergers Ways

A woman must continually watch herself. Whilst she is walking


across a room or weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid
envisaging herself walking or weeping . From earliest childhood she has been
taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. Men look at women .
of Seeing:

Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and

The surveyor of woman in herself is


male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object and most
particularly an object of vision: a sight. To conflate Penny and Berger: If you spend a lifetime
women but also the relation of women to themselves.

housing your internal surveyor, you might not be terribly surprised when you find that there are external
surveyors you hadnt considered. Not that women walk through our days consciously considering that men
might be looking at us. In fact, thats part of the point: Being seen becomes such a default part of the way
you operate that it ceases to be something you need to be actively aware of. Not that the cold slap of Hey,
baby is ever so far away as to keep women truly unaware of the public dynamic surrounding gender. In
urban areas (and plenty of non-urban areas too), we deal with street harassment so frequently that it

The
triumphant joke of the tinfoil-hat crowd rings frightfully true in the light of the
NSA activitiesjust because youre paranoid, doesnt mean theyre not after
youis yesterdays news to women. Am I actually being looked atspecifically by men, and
begins to feel difficult to overestimate just how much were actually being observed by passersby.

specifically as a womanevery time I leave my house? Probably not. But the expectation or possibility of
being seen has been there as long as I can remember. And the minute I think Ive slipped out of the
observation zoneby wearing a dowdy outfit that conceals my body, or simply by being in my own world
for a momenttheres a catcall there to remind me that even if Im not paranoid, that doesnt mean
theyrenot afterme (I hope!). But there, watching. Im trying to think of how Id process the news that our
for the people, by the people government can invade our privacy anytime it damn well pleases, if I
hadnt ever internalized the sensation of being observed. I imagine Id be more surprised, for starters, but I
also wonder if Im asking the wrong question here. As humans, we love little more than to watch each

Men are
observed toodifferently than women are, but its not like men are entirely
unaware that theyre being seen by others. Here I turn to Robin James, Ph.D., associate
other in a variety of ways (is TV anything other than controlled people-watching?).

professor of philosophy at UNC Charlotte: Im thinking that (properly masculine, i.e. white, etc.) men
experience surveillance in profoundly enabling ways, she wrote to me when I asked her to expand on a
Twitter exchange we had. [B]eing watched by someone who you know is your equal (that is, you watch
them, they watch you in return) is what reaffirms both of your statuses as equals, as subjects, etc. If your
gaze isnt returned in kind, that means youre not considered an equal, that youre not seen as a real

The point isnt that women


dont observe men, or that men dont observe one another, but that the
quality of the gaze is different. I dont walk down the street and feel like I have less cultural
weight than my male peers. But when youre 12the age I was when I heard my first
catcall from an adult man, and my young age here is hardly unusualyou do
have less cultural weight, you do have less power. You learn early on to
associate being observed for your femininity with powerlessness, and thats
not an easy mind-set to shed. (Which is exactly why street harassment has long been an
effective tool of oppression, but thats another story.) Broad strokes here: Men dont have that
experience. Rather, they didnt until it came out that the National Security
Agencya greater power than virtually every man in the countrycould
watch you whenever they pleased. Here are a few of the things that may result for women
member of society. All emphasis there is mine, and for a reason:

from objectification, whether it comes from others or internally as a result of being objectified by others:
Depression. Limiting ones social presence. Temporarily lowered cognitive functioning. (Of course, there are
also suggestions that self-objectification may boost some womens well-being. Another day, another post.)
When I look at these effects and compare them with where Im at intellectually about the NSA privacy
invasionsa shrinking of oneself versus righteous outward angerIm troubled. Would I feel more

righteous anger if I hadnt learned to absorb, possibly to my personal detriment, the effects of
objectification and tacitly accepted surveillance as something that just happens? And more importantly:
Has the collective energy of women been siphoned into this realm, leaving us less energy for, as they say,
leaning in? Im not saying that just because women might be used to being watched by men means that
were inherently blas about being watched by governmental bodies; in fact, Im guessing some women
are more outraged than they would be if they were male, even if theyre not directly connecting that
outrage with womanhood. (Also, I dont believe the male gaze to be wholly responsible for my indifferent
reaction here; its just the one thats relevant.) Lets also not forget that 56% of Americans deem phone
surveillance as an acceptable counterterrorism measure. And Im certainly not saying that we shouldnt be

not only are women more used to


being watched, we also have a worldwide history of dealing with our
governments jumping in where they dont belong. It feels invasive whether
that space is our phone line or our uterus. It just might not feel all that
surprising.
concerned about the NSA revelations; we should. But

SF Key
Science fiction helps to destroy hierarchys- means SF is
key to destroy patriarchy
Fekete, 1 (John, Professor Emeritus of Cultural Studies and English
Literature at Trent University, as well as a member of the Cultural Studies PhD
Program and the Centre for the Study of Theory, Culture, and Politics.
Recognized as an international figure in the field of modern and postmodern
theory and in the antifoundational transformation of theory from the 1970s,
March 2001, Doing the Time Warp Again: Science Fiction as Adversarial
Culture, Science Fiction Studies, #83 = Volume 28, Part
http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/review_essays/fek83.htm)
Able to create radically different forms of thought form post discourses (?)
Science fiction commentary today largely presupposes the democratization
and decentralization of the modern system of Art, and the revaluation made
possible by the loosening of the value hierarchy that had authorized the
exalted status of a centralized high Art canon and the correspondingly low
status of the popular or commercial literatures and paraliteratures (to which
sf has tended to belong). The nuts and bolts discourse on sf nowadays shows
little anxiety about the genres non-canonical status. The agendas of Science
Fiction Studies, the pre-eminent regular home of academic sf scholarship, for
example, have shifted during the 1990s, as indeed the journal anticipated at
the beginning of that decade (Csicsery-Ronay Jr., "Editorial"). As a result, a
variety of deconstructive and counter-canonical readings have increased the
theoretical density of the journal and given it a new-left intellectual face that
is double-coded, Janus-like, turning both to cultural critique and to a critique
of the traditional presuppositions of critique. It is interesting to note a
continuing consensus in sf scholarship on advancing the adversarial culture
and producing an alternative discourse around creative writing of an
alternativist character. At the same time, critiques frequently "post" their own
grounding, as happens with other double-codings of postmodern culture,
where the basic intellectual categories (certainties) of modernity are called
into question and recoded. Feminist and post-feminist, Marxist and postmarxist, modernist and post-modernist, humanist and post-humanist,
historicist and post-historicist, gendered and post-gendered analytic and
theoretic modes of discourse step by step refashion a dialogic space that
begins to appear post-critical. It is probably fair to say that the "posting" of
the adversarial culture foreseen in Baudrillards hypothesis of the hyperreal
reduction of distance between the fictive and the real, in Lyotards libidinal
aesthetic, and in the assumptions of a number of postmodern
antifoundationalists, has not yet been robustly theorized or persuasively
disseminated. Nevertheless, the post-critical horizons of science fiction
discourse have been announced, even if related agendas are only slowly and
cautiously emerging. Into this context arrives Carl Freedmans Critical Theory
and Science Fiction. In a science fiction milieu where dedicated works of

theory reflecting on the nature of science fiction itself are relatively rare, such
a book is to be welcomed, especially as it makes a real contribution by
drawing attention to relationships between critical theory and sf. At the same
time, the book has a strong adversarial parti pris that seems emblematic of
an earlier time, or perhaps of the more traditional pole of an emerging
debate. The books twin purposesto show that science fiction is an
intrinsically critical-theoretical generic mode, and to establish canonizing,
critical-theoretical readings of five best-of-type sf texts by Stanislaw Lem,
Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Samuel R. Delany, and Philip K. Dickdraw a
line in the sand. The proposed generic definition and related critical canon
will select out much of known science fiction and select in a limited array of
texts grounded on historiosophical or philosophical premises that have much
in common with the foundations of the selective traditions of elite Literature.
The bottom line is that a highly selective generic definition of the kind that
Freedman proposes would substantially narrow the legitimate membership of
the sf genre and dovetail at least in part with impulses toward the kind of
legitimation that is neither in the interests of the wide audiences that
appreciate sf for its variety, nor any longer necessary as a strategy for
drawing academic attention to sf. On closer scrutiny, indeed, the exclusionary
legitimating argument turns out to be working the other side of the street,
using the known and demonstrable appeals of sf to legitimate a narrowly
critical reading strategy.

Feminist science fiction theorists are key-instead of


seeing women and nature as objects to be mastered
they counter this normative notion with an alternative
mindset of pressing on the importance of connection, not
exploitation, of the Earth. People would no longer seek to
dominate the nature, but seek to understand their
entanglement and relationship with nature.
Donawerth, 1990 (Jane Donawerth, Professor at the University of
Maryland, serves as Director of Writing Programs, has had multiple books
published, Utopian Science: Contemporary Feminist Science Theory and
Science Fiction, pp. 548-550, 1990, PDF from JSTOR,)
Feminist science theorists have shown that male scientists from the
seventeenth century on have conceived of nature as a potentially unruly
woman to be mastered and penetrated for her secrets. "The image of
nature that became important in the early modern period was that of a
disorderly and chaotic realm to be subdued and controlled," argues Carolyn
Merchant. Nature is conceived of by scientists as associated with
women, according to Sandra Harding, and "an immensely powerful threat
that will rise up and overwhelm culture unless [it] exerts severe controls."'9As
an alternative to the destructive view of nature in traditional male science,
feminist science theorists posit a revision of nature and humanity's relation to
her. "Women's identification with earth and nature," argues Joan Rothschild,

must form "the basis for transforming our values and creating new ecological
visions." Such a new science, according to Haraway, would stress
connection to, not domination over nature; according to Evelyn Fox
Keller, it would see nature not as passive but as resourceful; according
to Merchant it would be as "antihierarchical"; and according to Rose it would
stress "the feminine value of harmony with nature" (according to Rose).
Such a science would seek "new and pacific relationships between
humanity and nature and among human beings themselves," argues
Hilary Rose; and according to Keller, it would seek "not the power to
manipulate, but empowerment-the kind of power that results from
an understanding of the world around us, that simultaneously
reflects and affirms our connection to that world."20 Such a vision of
nature has long been implicit, and more recently, explicit in women's science
fiction. In Andre Norton's Breed to Come (1972), for example, humans return
to an earth their race had almost destroyed and tell the intelligent felines
who have risen to civilization, "Do not try to change what lies about you;
learn to live within its pattern, be a true part of it." The former Terrans are
warning the current ones not to produce a destructive technology but to
develop a partnership with nature. The view of nature of men and women in
works by women is often sharply different. In Sargent's The Shore of
Women(1986), women's scriptures record "the spirit of Earth, in the form of
the Goddess" speaking to women: "You gave men power over Me, and they
ravaged Me. You gave them power over yourselves, and they made you
slaves. They sought to wrest my secrets from Me instead of living in harmony
with Me." As a result, women assume political power, and enforce separation
from men as well as limited technology and limited reproduction that keep
the ecology in balance. Even in the prototype of all science fiction, Mary
Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), the concept of harmony with nature is implicit,
a concept that Frankenstein violates with his science. Whereas Elizabeth's
relation to nature-"the sublime shapes of the mountains, the changes of the
seasons, tempest and calm, the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence
of our Alpine summers"-was one of "admiration and delight," Frankenstein's
view of "the world was . . . a secret which I desired to divine." His obsession
begins when he leaves for the all-male society at the university where there
"were men who had penetrated deeper" than those who "had partially
unveiled the face of Nature, but [to whom] her immortal lineaments were still
a wonder and a mystery." In utopian fictions by women science fiction writers,
the most common metaphor for the relation of humans to nature is "the web
of nature." In Piercy's, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) Luciente warns
Connie, "We're part of the web of nature," when she urges putting
immortality, or at least longevity, as a major goal of science; and in Joan
Slonczewski's Door into Ocean (1986), scientists facilitate nature's own
processes, "when the web stretches . . . to balance life and death." Thus
feminist science theorists and women science fiction writers share a utopian
vision of nature and science in partnership.2' As a result of the inclusion of
women in science, feminist historians of science and science theorists have
argued that a revised science would be different because of the culturally

different qualities assigned to women. A feminist science will include


acknowledgement of subjectivity in its methods; it will look at problems
not just analytically but also holistically; it will aim for the complex
answer as best and most honest; and it will be decentralized and organized
cooperatively. In all these ways, a feminist science is utopian, since these
conditions, values, and goals do not describe contemporary science. In
feminist science theory, subjectivity as an ideal includes feelings, intuition,
and values. "A feminist epistemology [for the sciences]," writes Hilary Rose,
"insists on the scientific validity of the subject, on the need to unite cognitive
and affective domains; it emphasizes holism, harmony, and complexity
rather than reductionism, domination, and linearity." In A Feeling for
the Organism, Evelyn Fox Keller reads Barbara Mc- Clintock's scientific career
as an example of allowing "the objects of . . . study [to] become subjects in
their own right," thus "fostering a sense of the limitations of the scientific
method, and an appreciation of other ways of knowing." A study by scientist
Jan Harding suggests that girls in our society who choose scientific careers
more often than boys who do so recognize that "science has social
implications," and choose science as a means of developing "relatedness,
capacity for concern, and an ability to see things from another's perspective."
Subjectivity in science must also encompass values and ethical context:
science must be "context dependent" according to Merchant, connected to
"social implications" according to Jan Harding, based on "relational thinking"
according to Hein, grounded in women's experience and, so, a "labor of love"
according to Rose.22

Feminist science fiction makes us reflect on the history of


science and its impacts on women
Donawerth, 1990 (Jane Donawerth, Professor at the University of
Maryland, serves as Director of Writing Programs, has had multiple books
published, Utopian Science: Contemporary Feminist Science Theory and
Science Fiction, pp. 537-539, 1990, PDF from JSTOR, Accessed: 7/11/15 RH)
The concern for increased participation by women in science has an
analogous utopian reflection in science fiction by women. A crucial difference
between the science depicted in men's science fiction and women's science
fiction is, quite simply, the participation of women. In Metamorphoses of
Science Fiction, Darko Suvin has rightfully pointed out the lack of women
scientists in American science fiction (but failed to add that he had read
almost exclusively science fiction by men). Since at least the early 1960s,
women writers have regularly characterized women as scientists; examples
include Mary, biologist and specialist in alien communication in Naomi
Mitchison's Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962); the biologist Takver and the
physicist Mitis in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed (1974); Kira, biologist,
M.D., and "the de facto head of her department at the university" in Pamela
Sargent's Cloned Lives (1972-76); Margaret, the black computer expert in Up
the Walls of the World (1978) by James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon); Varian, veterinary xenobiologist and co-leader of the expedition in Anne Mc- Caffrey's

Dinosaur Planet Survivors (1984); and Jeanne Velory, black physicist and
astronaut in Vonda McIntyre's Barbary (1986). Even the earliest woman writer
for the pulp magazines, Clare Winger Harris, in a 1928 short story, includes a
woman scientist: Hildreth, chemist and astronomer, assistant to her father in
his home laboratory and soon to be assistant to her new husband. This
interest of women science fiction writers in women scientists seems not only
a result of changes in women's careers in the 1960s but also of the struggle
to educate women in the sciences in the late nineteenth century.4 Women
scientists as characters in women's science fiction, moreover, seem a legacy
of the earlier feminist utopias. In Mary Bradley Lane's Mizora (1880-81), for
example, chemists and mechanical engineers make the all-woman society a
technological utopia. And in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland (1915),
female geneticists have bred crop-producing and disease-resistant trees, as
well as quiet cats that do not kill birds, while other women have developed
sciences unknown to Gilman's con- temporaries-language as a science,
sanitation, nutrition, and a kind of psychology-history. The feminist
utopias, as well as contemporary wom-en's science fiction, make us
see a history of women in science, not just a few great women who
seem to be historical anomalies. In one of the earliest feminist utopias,
ThreeHundred YearsHence (1836), written when most women were still
denied college educations, Mary Griffith shows a future historian relating a
woman's invention of a new power that replaces steam, as well as restoring
proper credit to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, "for introducing into England the
practice of inoculation for the small-pox." Such a vision of restoring women to
the history of science is shared by Naomi Mitchison in Memoirs of a
Spacewoman;her hero Mary reflects: I may be out of date, but I always feel
that biology and, of course, communication are essentially women's work,
and glory. Yes, I know there have been physicists like Yin Ih and molecular
astronomers-I remember old Jane Rakadsalismyself, her wonderful black,
ageless face opening into a great smile! But somehow the disciplines of life
seem more congenial to most of us women.5 In 1962, when many colleges
were still effectually segregated by race and want ads were still separated by
gender into male and female occupations, Mitchison presents, as a matter of
course, the participation of women of color in science. What these utopian
and science fiction writers offer, more importantly than portraits of individual
women scientists, is a revision of past and future science history that includes
women as rightful participants. In this way, they share a goal with feminist
historians of science.

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