Handmaid’s Tale: Women’s Role in a Totalitarian Society

handmaids tale
The main character in the HULU series Handmaid’s Tale played by Elizabeth Moss, can be you, could be me in this totalitarian society. When I watched the first episode of the Handmaid’s Tale, I nearly died.  How could the world create such an existence when men removed the woman’s role in this alternate universe known as the Republic of Gilead?  Women are stripped from their family, from their education, from their profession, from the existence they know – to forcefully become a part of this society. A society powerful white men decided was the right way based on a bible also created by man. If you haven’t watched not one episode, just be prepared for a spoiler or two. I am Ofred. Ofred is formerly known as June.  June was a woman who was married, but then had an affair and was divorced. Besides the whole married and affair part, I would be Ofred, formerly known as Katricia.  I too, am an unwed mother of one living in sin, according to the book created and recited by man and woman.  Within this society, women have no rights if you have divorced your husband, lived an unholy life or whatever this world deems to be lower than “holy”.  Whatever that means.  So the infertility of all the holy women creates a slavery of the unholy to be raped by their husbands and bear children – which the wives steal once they are born.

Who are the handmaids?

The unseen women, known as Marthas are the housemaids.  These women serve no purpose to this society since they are not able to reproduce so they are only able to work in the kitchen either as the housekeepers or cooks. They wear a dull color and literally are unseen unlike the handmaids who wear bright red, like the color of our monthly cycle to remind the new world of the role of the woman – to recreate life for the elite wives who are not able to do the job themselves. Let’s not forget the ACS of handmaids, Aunts – dressed in brown, these women train and discipline the handmaid’s.  Any woman who was in their prior lives a lady of the night, is hidden away to continue these acts for the elite men of the new society. When season 3 premiered, I opted to wait until the entire show completed before binging – like I like to do.  So much has happened from seasons 1 and 2, the communication between June and her first daughter’s “new mother” and then the conversation between June and Serena was one of the best transition scenes ever.  How one mother, June, must co-exist in a world where her voice doesn’t matter because her children are now being raised by these elite women of society with their Commander husbands.  I would never want to be in a world where my child would be within the same air but I could not touch her or talk to her without being killed.  I think I’d rather we be killed than to be in that type of environment.

Vocabulary used in The Handmaid’s Tale

  • Angels: heroes in Gilead, high-ranking soldiers who fight against enemies and keep guard of locations
  • A Woman’s Place: ironically a book Serena Joy wrote prior to her existence in Gilead
  • Birth mobile: a van that transports handmaids to another handmaid’s Commander house to witness the birth of a child
  • Blessed are the silent“: a quote by an Aunt that teaches the handmaids to be silent and submissive
  • Blessed be the fruit“: greeting amongst the handmaids to encourage fertility
  • Ceremony: a time when the handmaid is ovulating and invited to the Commander’s room in hopes to create a child while laying between the wife’s legs. Yes weird and the whole scene is disturbing.
  • Commanders: high-ranking men in the Gilead
  • Eyes: the secret police that see and hear everything.  Think of Big Brother.
  • Gender Traitor: men and women who engage in gay and lesbian lifestyle are banned to colonies or hung on the wall
  • Gilead: What the United States became after a theocratic military dictatorship.
  • Guardians of the Faith: low-ranking men in the Republic of Gilead.
  • Handmaid: a fertile woman who is assigned to a Commander and his wife to conceive for the couple.
  • Jezebels: prostitutes who are employed by the government to entertain Commanders and foreign ambassadors.
  • Keepers: healthy babies born
  • May the Lord open“: Another greeting amongst the handmaids to encourage fertility.
  • Rachel and Leah Center: the handmaid’s training center and home in between assignments.
  • Sons of Jacob: the religious group that formed Gilead
  • Wings: the white bonnet worn by handmaids to hide their faces and allows them no vision to see around them,
  • Tokens: currency for handmaids with pictures since they are not allowed to read.
  • Under His Eye“: how the handmaids formally say goodbye to each other.
Handmaids Tale Today’s America is not so far from this televised series.  Men with power deciding that slavery of any type is the best way of keeping order in a society ruled by power and money.  Armed men at entrances and exits.  Men deciding what you are allowed to do, who you are allowed to do, what you are allowed to say and allowed to wear is beyond the scope of my sanity to stay alive.  Similar to watching slavery movies, I could not imagine such a life where the rights of any human being is stripped away.  Where you are killed just for the idea of you doing something outside of what is supposed to be normal. The ideology that a man who steals from those with less is not the powerful one but the one who is deemed weak or they wouldn’t have to steal in the first place.

Have you watched The Handmaid’s Tale?

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4 thoughts on “Handmaid’s Tale: Women’s Role in a Totalitarian Society

  1. I hadn’t watched because typically I watch more reality tv but reading this it sounds really interesting… the ceremony sounds gross… but I’m gonna watch.

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