Everything except the wings around my face are red: the color of blood, which defines us. The skirt is ankle length, full, gathered to a flat yoke that extends over our breasts the sleeves are full,” (9). Through this detailed imagery, the quote shows the restrictions on the handmaids and how they can’t expose themselves to the men of Gilead, the color and appearance of the clothing is simple and boring, reflecting on their jobs as handmaids who just have one specific duty and that is to repopulate Gilead, their lack of freedom is shown as they have no choice, personality and individuality.
The shoes “flat-heeled” shows that they can’t present their sensuality, on the other hand, the wives that wear high heels shows power, control and a stimulant for sexual needs. The importance of the color red to the comparing of blood symbolizes fertility and womanhood; it also symbolizes danger for the people of Gilead to stay away from the handmaids. It also reminds the reader of a fairytale “the little red riding hood” hence, it is ironic because the life of a handmaid is nothing like a fairytale and they are represents political prostitutes.
Moreover Gilead’s regime is extra strict on females, the violence towards is seen during the mass execution. “Beneath the hems of the dresses the feet dangle, two pairs of red shoes, one pair of blue. If it weren’t for the ropes and the sacks it could be a kind of dance, a ballet, caught by flash-camera; mid-air. They look arranged. They look like showbiz. ” (346), through this visual imagery and simile, something brutal like death is presented as a performance of some sort.
In this extract, Gilead is shown to have power and isn’t afraid to take lives of females, and someone’s life has no value in Gilead, because everyone can be easily replaced. Furthermore, the men in Gilead are sexist; they enforced strict laws on the women of Gilead so they wouldn’t be able to commit sinful acts like rape. Even though these laws were there to protect women, through the character of the Commander and the doctor the reader sees their sufferings and their manipulation of the law to get what they want, sex.
The women in this novel, more specifically the handmaids symbolize sex because they are victims of this sexual thrust that the men of Gilead face. Through the Commander, the reader learns about his perspective on women of pre-Gilead and Gilead. “Inability to feel. Men were turning off on sex. ” (263) The commander states that he had to make these laws so the men of pre-Gilead could feel, but the Commander didn’t care for the females and their emotions, he had an anti-feminist perspective and decided to categorize females for his advantage.
Likewise, it illustrates how men only want women to fulfill their sexual needs. In fact, they would not want to deal with elements of relationships such as love and emotions. Another example of sexism is at the night of the ceremony where the male figure, the commander is given the authority and power to begin the ceremony. “He’s like a man toying with a steak, behind a restaurant window, pretending not to see the eyes watching him form hungry darkness.
“(110) The commander’s character represents a figure of power and authority in this context, Atwood displays him as a leader of the household but him abusing his power to visit clubs like Jezebel proves that he has no respect for females and the laws that he enforced on the males and females of Gilead doesn’t apply to him because he thinks’ of himself as a superior being, over the guardians and angels. In fact, they would not want to deal with elements of relationships such as love and emotions.
Moreover, certain men in Gilead had the power to accuse women of acts that they didn’t commit. The character of the Doctor is an example of this, who abused his power to victimizes a females and get sex. Upon seeing Offred’s body, he try’s to force Offred into having sex with him and he manipulates her by stating that he can get her pregnant and no one know. This is evident through the quote, “He takes his hand away, lazily almost, lingeringly, this is not the last word as far as he’s concerned.
He could fake the tests, report me for cancer, for infertility, have me shipped off to the Colonies, with Unwomen. None of this has been said, but the knowledge of his power hangs nevertheless in the air as he pats my thighs” (76). This illustrates how male could easily break the rules without getting in trouble while the females of Gilead have no rights or power. Even if the doctor was to be reported, the authorities would take his side instead of the woman. Therefore, such characters with power seem to get what they want and they misuse females for their sexual pleasures.
Hence, females have always been victims of these sexual predations. In addition to this, there is sexism in the futuristic society after Gilead, where the speaker, Professor Piexioto, jokes about the Underground femaleroad, and refers to as a frailroad, meaning a weak or breakable road suggesting that females are weak and easy to repress upon. The professor seems more interested in the identity of the Commander but not the human sufferings of Offred who was victimized by the Commander and the regime of Gilead.
It is ironic that during this conference the minority were females, only one female professor was present at the conference which proves that even though this society, the society of 2195, is still sexist, some female rights have been reclaimed. In conclusion, The Handmaid’s tale presents extreme forms of sexism and hatred towards females, and repetition of this sexism is present in culture’s preceding and following Gilead which proves that sexism is widespread in societies, today.
Usually females are targeted to physical and emotion abuse from men, this is not only wrong but something that scars one for life. Men are men and women are women. Both have some specialties. And in that particular area one should be respected by the opposite and should be assigned to lead. So leading an example and not becoming a bystander will contribute to the awareness of sexism and equality can be formed.
And even though it is in human nature for men to manipulate and take advantage of females, females should take a step and fight for their rights. Therefore, the message is that females should not be contended within their society and should change for their benefits.