Thank you to all of the wonderful women who came to our meet up today ✨
We were amazed how many of us - over half - hadn’t read this iconic novel before. Here are some of our thoughts:
* The consensus was that we all absolutely loved the book. We were completely gripped but also terrified by it. * We were struck by how ahead of its time it was, despite being published in the 1980s it seems almost more pertinent today. * The theme of women, their bodies and their relationships to one another - Mothers, Daughters, Handmaids, Wives, The Aunts, June and Moir - the different roles these women play and how they can reinforce patriarchal systems of oppression towards each other. * The themes of seeing/being seen. The Handmaid’s visibility is limited, both in what they see - their winged hats restricting their view of the world and of each other - and in themselves; the way they are denied mirrors to see themselves in, and don’t have any control over their appearance or bodies. * Sexuality and the nuanced way it’s portrayed; the Handmaid’ sexuality and fertility is the reason they’re condemned to their role, but still also gives them power in certain circumstances. Also the recognition that sexuality and intimacy is important still even in that situation of exploitation. * Complicity; how responsible are the characters? What role do each of them play? What else could they have done? It was stark for us all to reflect on this as women and as feminists. How would we have reacted? Would we have been able to resist or would we have just accepted our roles and survived? * Language; the way it is restricted to the extent that ‘Hello’ is shocking, the way words are taken from them and how it limits them - from the scrabble tiles to the cushion in Offred’s bedroom.
* The book really shook us all in the way it portrays the gradual and step-by-step way things change, making it much harder to resist or fight against. Also how quickly the characters adapted to their new situation and restricted freedoms they are subjected to. It highlighted the contrast between individualism and collectivism; how powerful individual women are vs when they band together.