The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
I said there was more than one way of living with your head in the sand and that if Moira thought she could create Utopia by shutting herself up in a women-only enclave she was sadly mistaken. Men were not just going to go away, I said. You couldn't just ignore them. (28.7)
A "women-only enclave" is not "Utopia" and neither is Gilead. Although women have a different quality of life in Gilead that could be said to include occasional improvements, they are definitely not in Utopia.
"Yes," I say. What I feel is not one simple thing. Certainly I am not dismayed by these women, not shocked by them. I recognize them as truants. The official creed denies them, denies their very existence, yet here they are. That is at least something. (37.10)
Here are women doing something they should not, existing, even though they should not. Are they any more or less womanly or feminine than the Handmaids? It seems they're better off in some ways and worse off in others. They're reduced to their sexuality just as Handmaids are reduced to their fertility.
"So now that we don't have different clothes," I say, "you merely have different women." This is irony, but he doesn't acknowledge it. (37.26)
In brief, Gilead happened, at least indirectly, as a way of controlling women who had too many choices. Men took them all away, but then they got bored because the women didn't seem individually interesting any more. Now they treat women like they're interchangeable. In a weird way, this is representative of the narrator's observation about casual dating, when "men and women tried each other on, casually, like suits, rejecting whatever did not fit" (9.7-8).