The Handmaid’s Tale is a book and a television show about the dangers of uber-patriarchal societies. Margaret Atwood wrote the novel in 1985, and it immediately entered the literary canon as a seminal work of speculative feminist fiction. Yet the debate has raged on as to whether The Handmaid’s Tale classifies as a fully feminist novel, and the discussion was aroused once again when it was adapted into a TV series for Hulu in 2017.
In her prolific body of work, Margaret Atwood often explores the subjugation of women by men, yet she has consistently balked at being labeled a feminist writer. In The New York Times, she wrote, “First, is The Handmaid’s Tale a ‘feminist’ novel? If you mean an ideological tract in which all women are angels and/or so victimized they are incapable of moral choice, no. If you mean a novel in which women are human beings — with all the variety of character and behavior that implies — and are also interesting and important, and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure, and plot of the book, then yes. In that sense, many books are ‘feminist.'”
While to you and me, portraying women “with all the variety of character” that it means to be a human being is obviously a huge part of what makes a work feminist, Atwood comes from a generation that has defined feminism differently throughout the years. And she has now used her outdated and old-fashioned perceptions of feminism in a more unfortunate way — to disparage the #MeToo movement and question the motives of all the brave women who have come forward to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.