Human rights are the freedoms that all individuals are entitled to, regardless of their sex or gender. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood portrays a dystopian society where women are governed by the dominance of men. Human rights, for all women, are taken away under the rule of The Republic of Gilead, where women are perceived as property and lose their independence. Atwood portrays a society that attempts to reshape the role of women to “keep them safe” in a male dominant society which progressively leads women to oppression.
In this new Gileadean society, Atwood gives women a false perception of being further “protected” under the restrictions of The Republic of Gilead. In reality, women are being enslaved by the societal changes and stripped of their power. The sole purpose of this new Gileadean society, is to settle the issue of a dramatic decrease in birth rates. Atwood approaches this by sacrificing the natural rights of women under the state government. Although acts of rape and violence have been abolished from society, fertile women have lost their rites to their bodies, sex lives, communication, self expression, and power.
In this new society, fertile women are forced to become Handmaids, whose sole purpose is to reproduce. Handmaids lose all independence and must live in captivity under their Commanders. Offred, the main character who is a Handmaid and narrator, loses her name, as she takes on the name of her Commander. Her name is “Offred,” meaning Property of Fred, which reminds her and every other Handmaid, that they exist as property of their Commander. With these names, the society of Gilead exercises its control over women by stripping them of their individuality.
Women in this sexist society, are deceived into believing they are the cause of temptation. Gilead views the female gender as a threat and wants to take precedence in controlling the female body. Under these conditions, women are forced to dress conservatively, covering their arms and legs, and have restricted contact with men. Women are lead to believe that nudity and their sexual appearance is criminal which becomes evident as Offred expresses herself during a mandatory bath day. The bathroom has no mirrors, razors or locks on the doors. This puts women under control giving them no privacy and inhibiting them from attempting any form of escape. As Offred undresses for her bath, she says, “My nakedness is strange to me already. My body seems out-dated. Did I really wear bathing suits, at the beach? I did, without thought, among men, without caring that my legs, my arms, my thighs, and my back were on display, could be seen. Shameful, immodest” (63). Women fear their own body image as they have been taught that way and lose site of the power and beauty of the female body. By lowering the self esteem of these women, Atwood is hindering the power, voice, and confidence that is required to advance within the boundaries of a society.
Atwood deems to be protecting...