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Feminism, Foucault & The Handmaid's Tale

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Feminism, Foucault & The Handmaid's Tale

  1. 1. IDEAS AND ISSUES IN SOCIETY AND THE HANDMAID’S TALE
  2. 2. THEOCRACY • DICTIONARY DEFINITION • YOUR DEFINITION • IN SOCIETY • IN THE BOOK • RELIGIOUS RIGHT IN AMERICA
  3. 3. HETERONORMATIVE • WHAT DOES IT MEAN? • HOW DOES IT PLAY OUT? • WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE IN THE BOOK? • WHERE DO THE NOTIONS OF “NORMAL” COME FROM? • WHAT IS REQUIRED IN ORDER TO THINK WITHIN THE HETERONORMATIVE FRAMEWORK?
  4. 4. FEMINISM • YOUR DEFINITION • IN SOCIETY • IN THE HANDMAID’S TALE • CAN BE A SPECIFIC POLITICAL MOVEMENT, BUT ALSO A WORD THAT DESCRIBES A VARIETY OF CRITICAL THEORIES • TO SOME DEGREE, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SEPARATE THESE TWO MEANINGS, IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT FOR CRITICAL THOUGHT TO SOMETIMES DISTINGUISH BETWEEN FEMINISM AS A POLITICAL MOVEMENT, AND FEMINISM AS A SET OF VARIOUS PHILOSOPHICAL INQUIRIES.
  5. 5. FIRST, FEMINISM AS A POLITICAL MOVEMENT • WOMEN ACHIEVE THE VOTE IN 1920. • ON NOV. 2 OF THAT YEAR, MORE THAN 8 MILLION WOMEN VOTE FOR THE FIRST TIME. • IN THE YEARS TO COME, CULTURAL SHIFTS OCCUR, SUCH AS: • THE ROARING 20S, THE GREAT DEPRESSION, AND THEN WORLD WAR II.
  6. 6. WORK IT
  7. 7. AND THEN CAME THE ‘50S • MAJOR EMPHASIS ON FAMILY • SOCIETAL PRESSURE ON WOMEN TO MARRY • AND TO HAVE CHILDREN YOUNG AND KEEP ON HAVING THEM.
  8. 8. WHICH THEN LED TO… • THE 60S • THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION • A MASSIVE SHIFT IN THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT, KNOWN AS THE SECOND WAVE • GOVERNMENT APPROVES THE PILL IN 1960 • BETTY FRIEDAN WROTE “THE FEMINIST MYSTIQUE.” • FIRST FEMALE PROTEST: 1968, MISS AMERICA PAGEANT.
  9. 9. SECOND WAVE OF FEMINISM • WHAT WERE THE TWO MAJOR ISSUES THAT SHIFTED WOMEN’S PRIORITIES? • WORK EQUALITY • IN 1964, TITLE VII OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT PASSED BARRING EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION FOR RACE AND GENDER. • REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM ISSUES. • 1973, ROE V. WADE LEGALIZED ABORTION.
  10. 10. AND NOW WE HAVE A THIRD WAVE • ALTHOUGH IT IS SLIGHTLY AMBIGUOUS, IT INCLUDES: • EMPHASIS ON DIVERSITY OF RACE, RELIGION, GENDER IDENTITY • STILL LACKS A LEGAL CONNECTION THAT THE FIRST AND SECOND MOVEMENTS HAVE, SUCH AS THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE.
  11. 11. CRITICAL ANALYSIS • ONE WAY OF APPROACHING FEMINIST (AND OTHER GENDER-RELATED BELIEFS IS AS FOLLOWS: • ASSIGN THE ISSUE IN QUESTION INTO EITHER NORMATIVE AND DESCRIPTIVE GROUPS IS A WAY OF CREATING A FRAMEWORK FOR DISCUSSING A LOT OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONCERNS. • NORMATIVE= HOW THINGS SHOULD BE • DESCRIPTIVE= HOW THEY ARE • CONSIDER THE SOURCE OF THE BELIEF: • BIOLOGICAL? • SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED? • ECONOMIC?
  12. 12. GENDER • HOW DO YOU THINK ABOUT IT AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN? • HOW DOES IT PLAY OUT IN SOCIETY? • HOW DOES IT PLAY OUT IN THE BOOK?
  13. 13. MICHEL FOUCAULT • FRENCH PHILOSOPHER/HISTORIAN. DIED IN 1984 OF AIDS. ALTHOUGH NOT TECHNICALLY A GENDER/QUEER THEORIST, HE IS CONSIDERED A GRANDFATHER OF QUEER THEORY BECAUSE MANY OF HIS IDEAS FORM A BASIS FOR CONTEMPORARY GENDER AND QUEER THEORY. • MUCH OF HIS WORK IS CONSIDERED PHILOSOPHICAL BECAUSE IT CRITIQUES THE USUAL UNDERSTANDING OF CERTAIN TOPICS. • FOR EXAMPLE, HISTORY OF MADNESS IN THE CLASSICAL AGE, WHICH HE PUBLISHED IN 1961, DEVELOPED FROM FOUCAULT’S STUDY OF PSYCHOLOGY. IT EXAMINES THE MODERN CONCEPT OF MENTAL ILLNESS
  14. 14. THOUGHT VERSUS REALITY • FROM THERE, FOUCAULT EXAMINED A VARIETY OF PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHT, MAKING DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN THOUGHT AND OBJECT. • SO, FOR EXAMPLE, THE PHILOSOPHER DESCARTES IS THE SOURCE OF THE FAMOUS “I THINK THEREFORE I AM.” IN A VERY BROAD NUTSHELL, FOUCAULT MIGHT SAY, AREN’T YOU MORE THAN YOUR THOUGHTS. MOREOVER, DOES AN IDEA OR CONCEPT EQUAL THE REALITY OF SOMETHING?
  15. 15. CONTROL • IN THE MID 70S, FOUCAULT MOVED ON TO EXAMINE FORMS OF CONTROL AND CRIMINALIZATION (DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH) • LOOKS AT THE WAY THAT SOCIETY STARTED TRYING TO REFORM RATHER THAN PUNISH PEOPLE WHO BROKE LAWS, AND THE WAY THAT MODE ALSO SEEPED INTO OTHER PLACES BESIDES PRISONS. • HIS MAIN POINT IS THAT DISCIPLINE BECOMES ABOUT CREATING NORMS. THERE’S NORMAL BEHAVIOR AND ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR. • HOW DO WE SET ABOUT CREATING/ENFORCING SOCIETAL NORMS?
  16. 16. SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH GENDER THEORY? • FOUCAULT’S WORK SET ABOUT SHOWING THAT THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT SEXUALITY (AND OTHER TOPICS) ISN’T “ESSENTIAL” OR “INEVITABLE.” THAT, RATHER, ALL OF THE THINGS WE BELIEVE ABOUT SEXUAL IDENTITY ARE ATTACHED TO OTHER TYPES OF DISCOURSE (RELIGION, POLITICS, SCIENCE). • IN OTHER WORDS, OUR BELIEFS ARE CONSTRUCTED. • THIS IDEA, OF A CONSTRUCTED IDENTITY, IS AT THE HEART OF THE LEADING GENDER AND QUEER THEORISTS.
  17. 17. CATEGORIES • FOUCAULT ARGUES THAT MANY OF THE “CATEGORIES” USED FOR SEXUAL AND/OR GENDER IDENTITY ARE JUST INVENTED, NOT INHERENT, BUT THAT THEY HAVE BEEN SO WIDELY ACCEPTED THAT REVEALING ONE’S CATEGORY IS LINKED WITH TRUTH AND IDENTITY. • THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS HIS WORK HAS BEEN OF INTEREST TO FEMINISTS AND OTHERS IS THE IDEA OF SEXUALITY AND GENDER AS SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS VERSUS BIOLOGICAL ONES • HE ALSO WAS INTERESTED IN THE IDEA THAT BECAUSE OF HOW THESE CATEGORIES HAVE EVOLVED, WE DON’T NEED ANYONE ELSE TO MONITOR US BECAUSE WE MONITOR OURSELVES AND CATEGORIZE AND LABEL OURSELVES, WILLINGLY. WE SEE BEING HONEST ABOUT “WHO WE ARE” AS A PART OF BEING HONEST.
  18. 18. SEXUALITY • WHAT IS IT? • HOW DOES IT PLAY OUT IN OUR SOCIETY? • HOW DOES IT PLAY OUT, SO FAR, IN THE HANDMAID’S TALE? • PROCREATIVE • SUBVERSIVE • POWER/POLITICAL
  19. 19. GENEOLOGY • FOUCAULT THEN WROTE HISTORY OF SEXUALITY, USING THE SAME APPROACH HE’D TAKEN TO STUDY THE HISTORY OF PUNISHMENT. • THIS APPROACH IS KNOWN AS “GENEOLOGICAL,” WHICH MEANS LOOKING AT THE PAST TO UNDERSTAND HOW WE GOT TO THE PRESENT. • SO WHEN HE EXAMINES THE HISTORY OF SEXUALITY, IT’S TO SHOW THE WAYS IN WHICH OUR CONTEMPORARY IDEAS OF SEXUALITY ARE INTRINSICALLY TIED TO POWER STRUCTURES • SEXUALITY, HE ARGUES, IS LIKE CRIMINALITY IN THE WAY IT WORKS. IT’S A SUBJECT OF SCIENCE, STUDIED, REQUIRING KNOWLEDGE. IN OTHER WORDS, PEOPLE SELF- IDENTIFY AND CONTROL THEMSELVES BASED ON THE SOCIETAL NORMS.
  20. 20. LET’S PLAY THE FOUCAULT GAME • TAKE OUT A PIECE OF PAPER AND A PEN • WRITE DOWN A CATEGORY YOU THINK OTHERS MIGHT PUT YOU IN BASED ON OBSERVING YOU IN LIFE, CLASS, SOCIAL MEDIA ETC. • NOW WRITE DOWN A CATEGORY YOU MIGHT PUT YOURSELF IN WILLINGLY BASED ON YOUR OWN SENSE OF IDENTITY • LET’S READ THESE OUT LOUD AND DISCUSS THE DISCREPANCIES (IF THERE ARE ANY) AND/OR WHAT THESE CATEGORIES TELL US ABOUT OUR OWN REALITY
  21. 21. THE HANDMAID’S TALE • LET’S LOOK AT THE EPIGRAPHS: • REFERENCING ANCIENT HEBREW TIMES IN WHICH PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY WOULD LEGITIMIZE A MAN TO HAVE SEX WITH/HAVE CHILDREN BY SERVANTS, PARTICULARLY IF HIS WIFE WAS INFERTILE. • JONATHAN SWIFT EPIGRAPH • THOUGHTS ON THE SUFI EPIGRAPH?
  22. 22. WHAT IF…? • “IN CANADA THEY SAID, ‘COULD IT HAPPEN HERE?’ IN ENGLAND, THEY SAID, ‘JOLLY GOOD YARN.’ IN THE UNITED STATES, THEY SAID, ‘HOW LONG HAVE WE GOT?” (ATWOOD, NY TIMES) • WORTH NOTING THAT ALDOUS HUXLEY (BRAVE NEW WORLD) ONCE SAID THAT “A BOOK ABOUT THE FUTURE CAN INTEREST US ONLY IF ITS PROPHECIES LOOK AS THOUGH THEY MIGHT CONCEIVABLY COME TRUE.” • DOES THE HANDMAID’S TALE RESONATE NOW AS A PARTICULARLY AMERICAN WARNING? HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR ITS RISE SINCE PUBLICATION TO BECOME A CANONICAL TEXT?
  23. 23. QUESTIONS FROM OUR READINGS • WHAT DO WE LEARN JUST FROM THE FIRST SENTENCE? • WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE LEARN ABOUT THIS NEW SOCIETY’S RULES? • WHY ARE THE IMMEDIATE SUPERVISORS OF THE NEW HANDMAIDS WOMEN? WHAT MIGHT BE ATWOOD’S THINKING BEHIND THE CREATION OF THE AUNTS?
  24. 24. MORE QUESTIONS • MARTHAS AGAIN ARE A RELIGIOUS REFERENCE; IN THE GOSPELS, MARTHA AND MARY WERE SISTERS. MARTHA DID HOUSEWORK, MARY LISTENED TO JESUS. WHAT DO YOU THINK ATWOOD IS SAYING BY CREATING THESE ROLES OF MARTHAS? • WHAT ARE THE COLONIES AND WHO ARE THE UNWOMEN? • WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS THE RATIONALE USED BY THE FOUNDERS OF GILEAD FOR THIS SOCIETY? WE HEAR THAT BEFORE WOMEN WERE NOT PROTECTED, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
  25. 25. RACHEL AND LEAH • THE NEW HANDMAIDS ARE KEPT IN THE RACHEL AND LEAH CENTER. BOTH ARE CHARACTERS FROM THE BIBLE, TWO SISTERS WHO MARRIED JACOB AND GAVE THEIR HANDMAIDS TO HIM TO PRODUCE CHILDREN. • WHAT ARE SOME CONTEMPORARY IDEAS THAT RELATE TO THE NOTION OF HANDMAIDS IN ATWOOD’S NOVEL? • WHAT IS THE BASIC ASSUMPTION ABOUT CHILDREN?
  26. 26. OTHER HISTORICAL REFERENCES • PUBLIC EXECUTION • RELIGIOUS WARS • THE HANDMAID’S UNIFORM • PROPAGANDA/CENSORSHIP • RESISTANCE MOVEMENTS • UNDERGROUND RAILROAD • REWRITING THE PAST
  27. 27. MORE QUESTIONS • HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE NARRATOR, OFFRED? • WHAT ABOUT IN CONTRAST TO MOIRA? • WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE COMMANDER’S DESIRE TO PLAY SCRABBLE WITH HER? • ONE FACET OF ALL DYSTOPIAS IS THE RESISTANCE TO THE CONTROLS OF THE IMAGINED SOCIETY. WHAT FORMS DOES THE RESISTANCE TAKE?

Editor's Notes

  • 1963
  • This idea of normative, hetero or otherwise, becomes important when we think about feminism and gender. Obviously it’s important in this book.
  • #7; 10; Which country first country in 1893 All over the world, average delay between a voting right for a man versus a woman is something like 47 years Many things. There were the roaring 20s when women were hanging out in jazz clubs and gaining some independence, but still really couldn’t find work. And the 30s, depression era, and family desertion was high, and the 40s when, all of a sudden, women were courted to the workplace because so many men were at war.
  • From 1940 to 1945, the number of female workers rose by 50 percent, from 12 million to 18 million. In 1940, women constituted 8 percent of total workers employed in the production of durable goods. By 1945, this number increased to 25 percent. Government propoganda. But after the war, what happened.
  • Ww 2 38-45 Photo from 1942, a woman putting the finishing touches on a Navy bomber. And this was a massive shift, because before the War, women had jobs as secretaries, waitresses.
  • As a contrast to the Russians and communists, it was all about the nuclear family; the marriage rate was at all time high. College to get their mrs degrees.
  • Women protested the 1968 miss american pageant
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has 50,000 gender complaints in the first five years. Because people thought it didn’t respond, the National Organization for Women was founded in 1966. Let’s discuss Adrienne Rich’s essay on page 464. What do you think it means, this idea of making the personal political.
  • Mental illness was once considered in the Renaissance, cosmic and mysterious, 17th and 18th century, ore just renouncing logic and reason. Medicalization of mental illness and the treatment is now
  • Came from privilege, family was wealthy, self-harmed suicidal, was forced to see a psychiatrist, very smart
  • Schools, hospitals, factories; we enforce norms by information. We have to know what people are doing.
  • Structuralism versus post-structuralism
  • First volume in 1976
  • So many ways we monitor our behavior against standards of normality
  • Have someone read them
  • Pat robertson ran for president in 1988. a critic named gorman beauchamp in an essay called the politics of the handmaid’s tale suggests that the book is scary not because it should be but because it is appealing to be scared. That we experience joy from that fear. Can you talk about the experience of reading dystopias?
  • Declining fertility rates 15 percent among young women, large for hispanics highest, followed by african american women followed by white women 1960s paul erhrlich warmed of . Economic factors, attitudes about women in the workforce and as mothers
  • Read bible quote
  • Public executions happened in the US in the 18th century farly regularly considered deterrence with witnesses. retribution
  • Luke, the sex scene, why does offred keep saying it’s a reconstruction?
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