Thoughts on forced female submission in literature

This girl was flicking through the films on Virgin Media tonight and came across the Handmaid’s tale – which is based on a novel (by Margaret Atwood) she read of the same title in college 10 years ago. She had forgot she’d actually seen the film already until it started but it was interesting to watch again after so long given that she was now viewing it with the mind of an adult rather than a college student.

Handmaid’s tale

A review of the book :-

In this novel – which occurs around the time of the writing (1986) – women lose identity and become chattel. They were being abused before the government came to deliver this new protective life — so they are told. “There is more than one kind of freedom. . . Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from.”

The chosen few are afforded the opportunity of providing children for the most highly regarded males – Commanders. They are not concubines – emotions are not allowed. They are not prostitutes — no money passes hands. Instead, they engage in a monthly ritual devoid of emotions. A fornication which includes the Commander’s wife. A grotesque act which hopefully ends with a child – something which the Commander’s wife cannot produce.

This religiously tyrannical world blames the infertility issues among the women – not the men. And, as such, only those women who previously conceived and bore children can become a Handmaid. Dressed like a 17th century Pilgrim, treated like a black slave of the 19th century, and the envy of the other “Female Slaves” who clean house – called Marthas – we watch Offred become indoctrinated, and rebellious.

Patronymic changes are first – all of the Handmaid’s names change from their own to one beginning with “Of” and ending with their Commander’s first name. Our protagonist becomes Offred. Her watch – Ofglen, and so forth.

Then they live in the house out of reach from all. They are saved for the monthly ritual and between such anything-but-erotic sexual acts, they are fed, cleaned and clad as though they were premier mares – serving the exclusive purpose of making issue.

So ..can you believe this was a set-text for A-levels in 1997?! This girl thinks she may have actually watched the video in class…yes…imagine 17year old boys reactions to a sex scene where one woman is lying on the bed spread eagled veiled in blue, with another woman veiled in red between her legs being fucked by the woman in blue’s husband after a bible reading. It brings back weird memories.

The story does give a very strong theme of patriarchy and the idea that women are there only to procreate, to serve and to pleasure men, and that they are supposed to be thankful for being protected by such a society. Ok so its a bit far fetched, and the film is not one of the best made given that it includes Faye Dunaway & Robert Duvall (who this girl cannot take seriously as a Dominant figure just too creepy) but its still interesting from the point of one of those ‘what would happen if…’ perspectives.

This girl wouldnt want to feel like the main character in the film. Oppressed, used, degraded, or to feel as though she didnt have a choice or say in what happened to her or to feel that her only uses are those that relate to the fact that she is the woman who belongs and is controlled by a man for his own purposes.

But then sometimes she *does* want that. But because she chooses it . Because its a fantasy. Because its for the man she loves.

If someone were to come along and say…lets make Earth ‘gorean’ and every woman *has* to serve a man, please him,dress in a certain way,act a certain way and be his slave then we would rebel against it. If we were made to feel as though women were a commodity…we would hate it. We would hate having submission being the result of fear.

Being free and having the choice to be under a man’s control is rather more stimulating, and this girl wants that, but it only works because her submission has not been forced or inflicted, its because its asked for by a man she loves.

Being controlled works as a fantasy, because its a choice to accept it. To ask for it.

Its not forced, its not out of fear, its not out of anything bad. Once that control is accepted, then sometimes sure its still natural to want to rebel against it, to question it sometimes, but this girl does not want to escape it. Because she wanted this.

She wanted the fantasy of belonging to someone and wants to learn how to accept with more grace the things he wants of her, because it is fun, its a fantasy, and its rather special.

Here’s a clip of the movie if you want to see…the movie is quite interesting to watch the trailer doesnt really do it very good justice…just remember it was made in the 80s….

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