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Feminist Issues in The Handmaid’s Tale

Feminist Issues in The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood, can be classified as a distopic novel. The Republic of Gilead in The Handmaids Tale is characteristic of a distopia in that it is not intended as a prediction of the future of our society, but rather as a commentary on current social trends. Atwood has created this nation by isolating what she might consider the disturbing aspects of two diametrically opposed factions of our society (namely the religious right and radical feminism) as a theory as to what would happen if these ideals were taken to an extreme. Because she points out similarities in the thoughts and actions of the extreme religious right and certain parts of the feminist movement, some critics have labeled The Handmaid’s Tale as anti-feminist. I would like to discuss the specific parts of the novel that lead to this opinion, and then discuss whether I believe this novel was intended as or can be seen as an attack on feminism.

The issue of pornography is one of the most significant in the Republic of Gilead. Pornography has become illegal and is used as a generalized illustration of the many perceived societal problems before the theocracy gained power. While receiving training at the hands of the Aunts the handmaids are repeatedly shown violent pornographic videos to demonstrate how much better off women are in this time as opposed to previously. Offred’s experience of watching these videos is intertwined with her memories of her mother and her participation in anti-pornography riots and magazine burnings.

By placing these instances side by side Atwood shows that pornography is a point at which two extremes of society (here feminist and religio…

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…feminism. By taking this view we can see that Offred could be considered a feminist and that people involved in women’s right’s movements over changing times may come to represent completely different values than they did originally (which explains the occasional overlap of feminist and religious movements, assuming that religious ideals are static). Freedom from subjugation is at the heart of all feminist movements, regardless of what form they take.


Leavitt, JW, Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Moore, Pamela, Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid’s Tale. Boston, MS: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.

Wertz RW, Wertz DC, Lying-In: A History of Childbirth in America. New York, NY: Free Press, 1977.

The Problems of Cloning

A cloned ewe, born after the famous cloned sheep named Dolly, died after a few weeks due to underdeveloped lungs. Both were cloned by the same group at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh. The first mammalian cloning was produced by embryonic nuclear transfer and was conducted in 1983 (“Timeline”). In fact, the Basic Science Partnership at Harvard Medical School states that actual cloning of animals can dates back to the 1960’s. Cloning is achieved by taking stem cells from an embryo and influences it by releasing chemicals that manipulate the cell into turning into a certain tissue. This in return, produces an artificially created life form. Some believe that cloning could provide agricultural and medical benefits. Although cloning could be used for agricultural and medical purposes, it should be banned because it harms more than it helps.
Cloning is unethical because cloning of any kind goes against human dignity and morals, and in turn harms animals and plants. Cloning would ultimately, “take the humanity out of human reproduction” (Kontrovoch 29). According to E.V. Kontrovoch, author of “Human Cloning is Inherently Unethical”, cloning would lead to kids in an orphanage to overflow because of the lack of adoption taking place due to couples wanting to clone instead (29). Kontrovoch also states life would be seen as worthless because there would always be the option to replace a life that was lost (29). The ability to make copies of a living or once-living organism would slowly make life less appreciated. Not only would the value of life become the equivalence of ink in a printer, but it would also hurt the “naturally born” humans and animals that, instead of being adopted, are being turned away from a family that would have ca…

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… and heart problems due to the lack of space (Learn). Although the clone could survive, the large organs that it could develop upon birth would bring torture and discomfort from the day the clone is born to the day it passes away. This would ultimately cause more harm than any good to the clone. Sequentially, cloning brings too much danger to the clone that there would be no great benefit that could capitulate from the procedure of cloning.
Cloning could possibly bring some agricultural and medical help; however cloning could bring more harm than the benefits it could bring. A potential solution to cloning would be to stop the development of this technology and relocate the funding towards actual medical such as new procedures and medicines. Also, placing funding to research for agricultural yield such as new methods of producing quality meat and more crop yield.

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