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Which Two Songs of Protest Have Reflected the Society of The

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 6 (1326 words)
Categories: Race, Race and Ethnicity, Society
Downloads: 20
Views: 1

In the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, she writes about a dystopian society called the Gilead in which women are deprived of their rights and live under male domination simply because they are women, and therefore are only meant for a position of servitude. The society took away women’s freedom meaning that they cannot do whatever they want, even wear what they want because they have to wear a specific color code in the terrifying society.

Meanwhile, the song, “Four Women” by Nina Simone, takes four stereotypes of black women, each having a different skin tone and each living at a different point in history. The song told the story of four black women: Aunt Sarah, Saffronia, Sweet Things, and Peaches, which addresses the problems confronting of their color and the hardships of being black women. Thus, this displays long history of race and gender oppression.

Likewise, the song, “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, is a powerful political and wakeful song.

Marvin Gaye tried to reach people in difficult times through his music, promoting recognition and awareness to others in the world around him. This song was set up with themes of violence, police brutality, and injustice. Also, in the lyrics he showed how fear is not the answer to the conflict and that we have to find peaceful ways to solve the problem. The protest songs, “Four Women” and “What’s going On”, have reflected the society of the Gilead in “The Handmaid’s Tale” as they are set up with concepts of social justice on the topics of discrimination, inequality, and stereotypes based on race and gender.

In the Gilead society, women are viewed as powerless and as a sexual vessel. Throughout the book, it is evident that women in the Gilead have no opinion or voice about anything and that men play the superior role in the ugly society. Women are not allowed to self-determinate their own identities; they can only define themselves through their social function. However, specifically, the Handmaid, are forced into sexual servitude as a last attempt to repopulate a devasted world, meaning sexual slavery. According to the novel, “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.

I’m 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” (Atwood 73-74). Offred’s musing shows that the Gilead treats Handmaids not as individuals, but as objects for the children that they can bear, and their body is only important for a central object, their womb. Similarly, in “Four Women”, Saffronia’s story discussed how her mother was raped by a rich white man. Her mother was an enslaved black woman, but at that point it was not illegal or uncommon for white men to rape enslaved black women. This meant that viewing women as a sexual vessel is based on what their position is. Nina Simone, the artist of the song, states,

Between two worlds

I do belong

My father was rich and white,

He forced my mother late one night (Simone 14-15).

Saffronia is stuck between two worlds because her mother is black, but she is able to pass as white. Therefore, Handmaids and Saffronia’s mother both have been sexually assaulted because of their position. Both female characters are a product of rape in the society.

In the society of the Gilead, gender stereotypes play a major role that is tied to gender performance. The Gilead preaches gender essentialism by creating various categories for women that all relate to their social standard such as: Marthas, Wives, Handmaids, and Econowives, that all invoke the association to roles being played of simply going through necessary motions. These women are losing their former identity and all categorized woman has a name that is given by the society. The society of the Gilead believes that a woman’s role in society is to cook, clean, or to be at the beck and call of males. Furthermore, every woman in that society has a different color code so people can know who they are and what their job is. The narrator states, “There are other women with baskets, some in red, some in the dull green of the Marthas, some in the striped dresses, red and blue and green and cheap and skimp, that mark the women of the poorer men. Econowives, they’re called. These women are not divided into functions. They have to do everything; if they can” (Atwood 24). At this point the narrator describes the categories of women in this society. The individuality of women within this society is completely stripped away. Likewise, in “Four Women”, the same issue comes up with stereotypes surrounding the dark skin color of the four women. These four women are categorized based on their skin tone and the name society gave them based on their societal standard. At this moment black women were defined by things they did not control. Simone notes,

My skin is brown

My manner is tough

I’ll kill the first mother I see

My life has been too rough

I’m awfully bitter these days

Because my parents were slaves

What do they call me

My name is PEACHES (Simone line 28-31).

Indeed, the society stereotypes are that she might be tough or rough because of her skin tone and because her parents were slaves. Actually, these perceptions are ones that she cannot control, nor did she create, but this is how society thinks about her. Thus, both societies’ women are viewed differently than others. Society forces them to do things that they do not want to do and society gives an identity that they never decided on.

The Gilead denies the right to liberty and security of females. The handmaids are threatened with violence and are physically abused if they do not submit to the new order. Also, the wife of Commander is often cruel to Handmaids if the Handmaids break any rules. This kind of abuse can amount to inhumane treatment and torture. There is also the “Guardian” who can treat Handmaids as badly as they can because they are the domain of the Gilead society. The narrator states, “Last week they shot a woman, right about here. She was a Martha. She was fumbling in her robe, for her pass, and they thought she was hunting for a bomb. They thought she was a man in disguise. There have been such incidents” (Atwood 20). This is understandable that the Guardian are the most dangerous in this society as they can even kill people for only a little shock. Similarly, in the song, “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, he sings about police brutality. In this society, they view black people as dangerous and due to this, the police can doubt them based only their race. According to Gaye,

Picket Lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

Talk to me, so you can see (Gaye line 13-15).

Even those that are innocent and did not bother anyone still were faced with police brutality. Meanwhile, as we can see, the police and the Guardian are both viewed as the protector for people, but, in both societies, they are more dangerous for people. Police brutality is dangerous for the people and a huge concern for the people.

The protest songs, “Four Women” and “What’s going On”, have reflected the society of the Gilead in “The Handmaid’s Tale” as they discuss prejudice, unfairness, and stereotypes established due to a person’s race and gender. The two protest songs talked about social issues that occur around us, which are defined by society. Sometimes, society can bring people down or destroy their lives. All around us people are always discriminated, stereotyped, and not treated equally because of their gender or race. As humans, everyone should be treated equally in their society.

Cite this essay

Which Two Songs of Protest Have Reflected the Society of The. (2019, Dec 18). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/which-two-songs-of-protest-have-reflected-the-society-of-the-example-essay

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