“The Feminine Mystique” and “The Handmaid’s Tale”

(I know I haven’t posted in ages, and this probably isn’t what people following my blog are looking for. I’ll resume posting writer-y stuff when I think of something writer-y to post. In the meantime, I need to write this down.)

Holy. Shit.

I’m reading The Feminine Mystique (by Betty Friedan, for those who have been living under a rock for the last fifty years), and I’m on the second chapter, which traces the development of the mystique through women’s magazines. It’s scary. The idea that women looked at themselves as having no identity outside being a woman is disturbing. It’s downright terrifying that American society tried to reduce women to a monolithic “feminine” ideal with no room for individuality. What really hit me in the gut, though, are the parallels with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I have no doubt that this is intentional on Atwood’s part.

It’s hard to summarize, but I can’t believe I never came across mention of these parallels when I did a high school research paper on The Handmaid’s Tale (Maybe I was reading the wrong critics?). It’s something about the focus on consumerism and appliances, the complicity of women who are willing to help force other women into an ideal in exchange for being allowed to exist on the margins of that ideal, and the initialization of women.

I should write something more extensive about this. Maybe I will. Until then… damn. Margaret Atwood is a damn good novelist, and it is downright terrifying what society has done with the idea of femininity — and women are a big part of that society. People oppressing themselves is downright masochistic.

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Categories: Life, Reading | Leave a comment

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