logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: feminism
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-05-14 17:57
On the Relevance of The Handmaid's Tale -- A Book Published More Than Three Decades Ago!
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

 

 

The Prose

Books set in post-apocalyptic settings usually have an ominous feeling about them. You will start to get that vibe from the very first line. The Handmaid's Tale (THT) wasn't different in that regard.


Consider the following lines and you will see what I mean:

"We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.
...for the games that were formerly played there
...the hoops for the basketball nets were still in place, though the nets were gone."

If you were to ask me to name one thing that I liked and disliked about the book, it would be the same:

It horrified me.
 
There is a certain sensuality and ripeness in the prose that on certain occasions became almost obscene to read. Two examples of the latter kind can be found below:
The stains on the mattress. Like dried flower petals. Not recent. Old love...
They touch with their eyes instead and I move my hips a little, feeling the full red skirt sway around me.
There were other examples like the ones mentioned above. I think the book was already amazing without them and they weren't really needed. On the other hand, the instances where the succulence of the prose worked for me were beautiful. Look at the greetings that Offred and Oflglen use, for instance:
"Blessed be the fruit..."
"May the Lord open..."
There is something about them that will make you downright uncomfortable. Then, there's a scene where Offred and the Commander are playing Scrabble. To Offred, spelling is a novelty and each word a tasty morsel:
 
http://www.foliosociety.com/images/books/illustrations/lrg/HDT_13500351810.jpg

 

We play two games. Larynx, I spell. Valance, Quince. Zygote. I hold the glossy counters with their smooth edges, finger the letters. The feeling is voluptuous. This is freedom, an eyeblink of it. Limp, I spell. Gorge. What a luxury.
Following are some of my favorite quotes:
 
2.jpg
3.jpg
4
5
Image from here

The Symbolism

 

The Color Red

 

https://midureads.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/a5c48-the-handmaids-tale-s1-teaser.jpg


The book is littered with all kinds of symbols yet one is obvious and is constantly highlighted. The color red can be found in the Handmaids' dress, as well as, other places. For instance,
A Sister dripped in blood.
Hope is rising in me, like sap in a tree. Blood in a wound. We have made an opening,

The Relevance Today

 

There are certain themes that make this book highly relevant even after three decades. Let us look at some of them:

 

Hoarding of Knowledge (Religious and Otherwise)

If the masses are denied knowledge, a society hastens toward its decline. It has long been the tactic of rulers to divert the attention of the public with some distraction. The Ancient Roman emperors did it with gladiator fights. Nazi Germany did it by motivating people to snark on each other. Today's politicians do it with sports' tournaments. In THT, we find Nazi style has been adopted. People are too busy finding out what their neighbors are up to, which prevents them from focusing on what is going on around them.
 
Another way of making the public stay in an uneven footing is by allowing a privileged few access to religious knowledge. Regardless of the religion in question, a clique forms and the members of that esoteric group are the only ones who know what god requires from them. The rest of us are left floundering. Unable to verify the veracity of the claims being made in the name of a deity, we have no choice but to either denounce our faith or join the flock.
 
This Salon article raises some interesting points on the underlying themes in THT. It also discusses the next topic that I have in mind viz...
 

Women's Position in Society

I won't get into the things that will be obvious to most readers, such as women considered assets and being denied reproductive rights etc. It happens in the book, which was published in 1986. The fact that it is still being talked about today makes anything I say redundant. Let us look at some other interesting things that stood out to me:
 

Women's efforts and sacrifices being undermined constantly

Consider the scene where Janine is about to give birth. The instruments and methods being used are outdated. One of them, the birthing stool, can seat two persons, instead of one. To me, it felt like the construction of the stool had two purposes or one depending on how you choose to see it:

 

  1. The Wives being reminded of their inability to produce children by having to sit on the stool during the delivery and be humiliated.
  2. The Handmaids being reminded that all the sacrifice that they went through didn't change anything. Their seat is also lower than the Wives', which pretty much sealed the deal for me.

Getting Used to Something Equated with Things Getting Better

For the generations that come after, Aunt Lydia said, it will be so much better. The women will live in harmony together, all in one family; you will be like daughters to them, and when the population level is up to scratch again we’ll no longer have to transfer you from one house to another because there will be enough to go round.
This is the sole scrap of comfort that the "Aunt" had to offer to the Handmaids she was training. It reminds me of something I read on Facebook:
Image result for why we need feminism it could be worse
Things don't become right just because they have been going on for years. Telling us that our daughters would accept the situation because they didn't know any better does not cut it anymore. Saying that things could always be worse shouldn't be enough.
 
It isn't just feminism that this thought process can influence. The current events being recorded will soon become part of textbooks. Right now, the people who are alive in this time can differentiate between what happened and what was written down. For the future generations, the textbook version would become history.
 

Racism/Discrimination

Racism is very much a part of our society even today, as is discrimination. While the three main groups of women, Marthas, Handmaids, and Wives weren't from different races, they might as well have been.
 
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/static/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2012/1/23/1327327126981/Margaret-Atwoods-The-Hand-002.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=2e59089f6535ab6c2e173e8913218da0

Provided that this comes to us via Offred, here is a look at what the Wives thought of the Handmaids:
Will Serena Joy talk about me like that, if I do as she wants?Agreed to it right away, really she didn’t care, anything with two legs and a good you-know-what was fine with her. They aren’t squeamish, they don’t have the same feelings we do. And the rest of them leaning forward in their chairs, My dear, all horror and prurience. How could she? Where? When?
You can see the discrimination in the naming of all the servants, Marthas, and the Handmaids being named after the Commander they are currently serving. Offred and Ofglen aren't their real names.
 
One of the throwaway lines from the book mentions that at first, the people thought that Islamic terrorists had taken over the government. I was surprised to find that reference in THT. When I look at the phobia that is still a part of today's society and the misconceptions surrounding my religion, I can see that this isn't something new.
 

Women Subjugating Women

If there is one thing that we need to stop doing, it is demeaning other women. You can see evidence of it in the book and you can see this happen in the real world. The "historical notes given at the end of the book had this to say about the "Aunts":
...the best and most cost-effective way to control women for reproductive and other purposes was through women themselves. For this there were many historical precedents; in fact, no empire imposed by force or otherwise has ever been without this feature: control of the indigenous by members of their own group.

Our attitude towards each other is largely responsible for how the rest of the world treats us. This was as relevant 30 years ago as it as today!

The excerpt below combines all of it: the gender discrimination, the generational brainwashing, the knowledge hoarding etc.

https://canadianartjunkie.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/balbusso_ceremony.jpg?w=1112
Are they old enough to remember anything of the time before, playing baseball, in jeans and sneakers, riding their bicycles? Reading books, all by themselves? Even though some of them are no more than fourteen – Start them soon is the policy, there’s not a moment to be lost – still they’ll remember. And the ones after them will, for three or four or five years; but after that they won’t. They’ll always have been in white, in groups of girls; they’ll always have been silent.

 

Other Thoughts

Moira

I am at odds while trying to see if I like Moira as a character or not. Offred is one of the wimpiest heroines I have read about, so she wasn't the one who made an impression on me. It was Moira who was intriguing. For instance, look at this exchange between them:
Women can’t hold property any more, she said. It’s a new law. Turned on the TV today?
No, I said.
It’s on there, she said. All over the place. She was not stunned, the way I was. In some strange way she was gleeful, as if this was what she’d been expecting for some time and now she’d been proven right. She even looked more energetic, more determined.
After reading this, I started thinking maybe she was feeling vindicated. Did that mean she hated men? I wasn't so sure about that when I read how she escaped and was grateful to the people, including men, who helped her escape.
 
We see another positive side of hers in the way she deals with a shell-shocked Janine. And finally, we see her giving up and resigning herself to a life of prostitution. Her character changed over time while Offred spends the whole book without evolving in any way.
 

Issues I Spotted

The book wasn't perfect and had some issues, including the fact that the main character doesn't really change over the course of the story.

I also found the ending somewhat a letdown. After investing so much of my emotion into reading what went on with Offred, I think I deserved to know what happened to her.


https://i2.wp.com/www.scrivler.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/handmaidstale.jpg
There was a scene where Japanese tourists encounter Offred and Ofglen. It is made clear that the Japanese do not have the same custom. However, if radiation sickness and infertility are making Offred's people take such desperate measures, why isn't the rest of world doing the same?
 

Allusions and Similarities

When Offred is talking/praying to God, her words are:

I wish You’d answer. I feel so alone. All alone by the telephone. Except I can’t use the telephone. And if I could, who could I call? Oh God. It’s no joke. Oh God oh God. How can I keep on living?
I felt as if the author was alluding to the song, What If God Were One of Us. It is a favorite of mine. You can listen to it here.
 
The Underground Femaleroad reminded me of the people who used to help Black slaves back in the day when slavery was legal.
 
The Salvaging scene that ends with the Handmaids mobbing and mauling a man who supposedly raped a pregnant Handmaid put me in mind of a gruesome incident that took place in my country recently. Since I don't believe in promoting violence, I won't include the link here. I will include the link to a piece that I wrote on the event though. Read it here.
 
THT might have issues but it also highlights the issues of our society beautifully. It might seem like it is talking about an outrageous situation when in fact, it is only holding up a mirror for us.  It isn't the story of one nation's nightmare. It is, "While we weren’t looking, the book became our reality."
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-05-07 22:40
Toni FGMAMTC's Reviews > Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman - Lindy West

4.5 stars

 

A lot of the material in this really hit home for me. She talks about feminism and body image issues in a way that I completely get. I think she gets the point across in a positive and interesting way also. She isn't preachy or attacking. She's honest and humorous. She gives some important points so I recommend this to everyone.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-05-05 15:25
What a Wonderful Legacy
My Life, My Love, My Legacy - Coretta Scott King

I have to say that this book was very eye-opening to me. I did not know about half the things that Mrs. King goes into with this memoir. I say it was very much like reading a history book in which you already know the names, places, and people, but it feels like you were there. I will say that the shifting timelines through me a bit here and there though. I like to read memoirs in a linear format since jumping around back and forth can be confusing. Also, some parts of this memoir at times felt unfinished. I wanted to go back and ask a question which of course I can't do.

 

"My Life, My Love, My Legacy" is Coretta Scott King's memoir. It talks about her childhood, her marriage to Martin Luther King, Jr., and all of her efforts to keep preaching his beliefs about non-violence being the way forward for African Americans in the United States. She also provides details into her friendships with some very powerful leaders in their own right (Indira Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Betty Shabazz, and Myrlie Evers-Williams). 

 

I think the book is a bit slow to start. When Coretta Scott King begins her tale of her childhood and her parents it definitely holds your attention. But I think that it ended up a bit garbled here and there just because of the time-line jumping. I also wish that we had heard more about her family throughout the book. We hear about her parents earlier on, but don't go back to them much until the very end of the book. 

 

From there we go into Mrs. King's affinity for music. I honestly had no idea that she was an accomplished singer and had gone to school to train to become a classical singer. I also have to say it was eye-opening to read about her thoughts and feelings about the Civil Rights movement. It seems even now many of us don't know much about the women involved with the movement beyond Rosa Parks. I was surprised to see how heavily Coretta Scott King and other women were involved. 

I also have to applaud her candor talking about how chauvinistic the Baptists were with regards to women leaders. She is upfront about it and also upfront about the sad fact that other countries in the world had elected women to the highest levels of government, yet the United States was (and still is) lacking in the regard. 

 

I also love her for confronting the rumors of her husband's infidelity. I had heard a little here and there about J. Edgar Hoover's hatred of Dr. King, but when you read this book and read all of the things he got up to. Yeah...I am good with still not being a fan of that man. 

 

Though the book jumps around, it does hit upon some dates of importance in the civil rights movement in the United States. We get to her Mrs. King's thoughts on women and African American men and women running for office, apartheid, and even her comments on whether James Earl Ray acted alone. Can I say though, I had no idea there was even a trial looking into the government's involvement in the assassination of Martin Luther King. When you read what Mrs. King presents I just shook my head. I can sadly believe it. 

 

I also loved reading about her thoughts and opinions about other leaders she met like President Johnson, Carter, Nixon, Bush Sr., Kennedy, etc. I also felt for her for having to learn a lesson about publicly endorsing a presidential candidate at all due to some people taking it the wrong way and or being angry that she wasn't doing what they thought she should do.


And reading about the struggles to get the King Center up and running and the break that she had with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and her thoughts on Reverend Jesse Jackson.

 

I loved reading this book since it reminded me of listening to an older aunt that just wants to give you some hard lessons about life and how one must go on even when you don't know if in the end you are going to be able to get to where you need to go.

 

The book then ends a bit abruptly and then goes into afterwords written by close friends of Mrs. King such as Maya Angelou, her daughter, and others. Some of these I found to be quite moving. She definitely touched a lot of people and I can't imagine the strength she had to go on and keep doing what she believed while also raising her children and dealing with being the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King. She astutely points out that she and the widows of other famous civil rights leaders at the time (Betty Shabazz and Myrlie Evers-Williams) had to deal with so many people's opinions about what they should do and how to act. 

 

I do have to say that reading this book showed me definitely how far the United States has come as a country that seemed apathetic to the concept of civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s. However, it definitely shows me how much further we still have to go. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-05-04 20:38
Reading progress update: I've read 33%.
My Life, My Love, My Legacy - Coretta Scott King

All caught up!!

 

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

 

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

 

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

 

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

 

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

 

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

 

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

 

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

 

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

 

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

 

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

 

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

 

I have a dream today.

 

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

 

I have a dream today.

 

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

 

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

 

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

 

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

 

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

 

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

 

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

 

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

 

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-05-04 20:36
Reading progress update: I've read 31%.
My Life, My Love, My Legacy - Coretta Scott King

Recounting the beginnings of the march on Washington and "I Have a Dream". I do love Coretta Scott King calling out the leadership at the time for the chauvinism they had and not allowing women civil rights activists to give a speech. 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?