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The Handmaid's Tale (The Handmaid's Tale, #1)
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MAY/JUNE The Handmaid's Tale > Article on The Handmaid's Tale

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message 1: by Katrina (last edited May 29, 2017 04:22PM) (new) - added it

Katrina https://www.romper.com/p/the-one-thin...
Hello everyone!
I found an article today about The Handmaid's Tale that I felt would be interesting to share with the group and am excited to hear your opinions on it.
As I was reading the book, I never really gave much thought to the tension between Serena Joy and Offred. I had just assumed that it was solely due to the fact that Serena Joy was scared that her husband might be more interested in Offred than her or resentment over the fact that Offred, obviously or else this would not work, was having sex with her husband.
This article shed new light on that relationship and also made me reflect on the expectation that women must have children. In Gilead, this tension would be magnified due to the declining birth rate, and women's perceived inability to get pregnant. I say perceived as in the novel they seem to just assume that it would naturally be only the women who could be infertile, not the men.
I am interested to hear what everyone thinks about it!


message 2: by DebsD (last edited May 30, 2017 08:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

DebsD Keith wrote: "Not directly related to the article is the fact that the first successful IVF treatment was carried out in 1978, which is studiously ignored in the novel as a possible solution to the falling birth rate - no doubt as it may be seen to be an 'unnatural' way of conceiving in a theocracy..."

When Atwood was writing, IVF was still a very new technology, with low success rates (maybe 10% live births, if that), so while there *were* successes, it certainly couldn't have competed with assisted conception. It was also very expensive and there were few clinics offering it. Success rates are higher now, of course, but even now I would imagine that putting doctors to death for providing abortions would quickly lead to many clinics closing/docs choosing other, less personally dangerous fields of work.


Britt | 123 comments Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

The conclusion is so true:

In such times, it's critical for women to support other women. This is not an option for the women in Gilead, who face captivity or death should they show the slightest sign of resistance. When it is an option, however — when camaraderie and solidarity are possible and necessary — there's no viable reason not to challenge problematic institutions. There's no reason for women to play into the antiquated notion that tells us childlessness is synonymous with moral depravity; or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, that the ability to have children is a sign of a more fulfilled life.

We should be fighting for choice. We should be fighting for autonomy and equality. But we cannot do so if we are fighting each other. As long as we continue to allow patriarchal hierarchies and outdated ideals of what it means to be a woman define us, however, we risk living in a world that is not totally unlike Gilead. The critical difference is that, at least for now, we can choose to stand by each other.



Celia Walters | 2 comments This is so true. I love what the conclusion as one reader posted. Children do not make or define women. I am no more woman because I brought children into this world than my sister who chooses not to. However, society does not like or even accept my sisters choice to not bear children.


Shelby | 6 comments Really insightful article! I agree that there is a sort of unspoken tension (especially in Western society) for women to be married, settled down, & having a family by at least their 30s. Although we want to argue against this (myself included), it's obvious that anything outside of this pattern is a little unusual. This unspoken rule is constantly propelled by vocalized concerns like: oh you're still not seeing anyone? (If single) So, when will the two of you start having kids? (If newly married) or other similar questions. This book really, really opened my eyes to this concept, as well as the value a woman has, with or without being able to have children. Great read!


MaryJane Rings I agree with your comments. When my first marriage occurred in the late 60's, it was unspoken but really to please parents. I think my former husband and I liked each other but there was never the love between us that really holds a marriage together. Then we were pressured to have children. I love my children very much but I was expected to give up my career to become a full time mother. I did for a number of years but I wish they could have been raised in a home where the parents loved and supported each other the way a husband and wife should. We stayed together but my husband became physically abusive and we divorced as soon as our youngest turned 18. Child support laws were quite different back then. Maybe if we hadn't felt pressured to marry from our parents who thought they knew best, things would have turned out better. My children all became stable adults with families of their own. My daughters are much more independent than I was.


MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Children... never an easy topic for me. But I really need to say that this is somewhat a social norm, because my dad got asked maybe a few months ago when he would become a grandparent... that is so wrong!!! ( I am only twenty, and that is not the only problem I have with such questions...)

I understand the questions in general, because the birth rates are declining, but still...


message 8: by Ross (new)

Ross | 1444 comments Fascinating, does raise the issue of surrogacy which does exists all be it in a benign form in our world.

This is a very female discussions only those female of female identified can really appreciate it. But ironically it is at the heart of the male dominated Gilead.

Great article Mee.


Jessica Furtado (jjlynne) | 11 comments Thank you for sharing this article! As a young woman who has spoken openly about the fact that I do not want to have children, I often receive negative comments from family members and older friends, and I always think: "This is my body and my life. Why do you think you are entitled to an opinion on what I do with either of them?" Perhaps, like this article suggests, they butt in because society has conditioned them to do so.

A lesson that I learned as a small business owner in the creative field is that you are better able to thrive when you collaborate with others, rather than compete with them. This article points out that women would benefit from this advice. Why constantly be at odds with one another and spend our time judging and one-upping one another when we could instead support and encourage? It's a nice thought, and hopefully one that society will eventually embrace.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 66 comments As devil's advocate, I've been on both sides of the "when are children coming along" thing. Before I was married, it really was just a conversation starter with people. When you're in your late 20s and on up, one of the quickest ways that someone can form a connection with you is the shared experience of parenthood. Most people do still choose to have children at some point, and regardless of your career background (not everyone works in a restaurant or in a museum or in physics or as a teacher or...), if you DO have children, that is something in common that you can go from.

After being married, though, I definitely understand the negative side of getting asked when kids are on the way, because it's nobody's business for starters, but it also can affect your job (especially if you're a woman), or, if you've been trying to have children and have thus far been unsuccessful, it can even be a very painful question. And if you just don't want kids, it can get downright irritating. I don't mind too much when people ask me, because I DO intend to have kids eventually, but I try to avoid just accepting the question as inevitable, too, and steer the conversation away from it, for the sake of those who don't want children or are having trouble having children, because it SHOULDN'T be a question that people ask, because it's nosy. Again, it's always been culturally acceptable, which is why people do it, without intending to be rude... but just because it's been socially acceptable doesn't make it right, as history has certainly shown us!


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