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Government Control & The Handmaids Tale

Shangavy, Luckshmi & Devshree

Shangavy Sathy

on 29 May 2014

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Transcript of Government Control & The Handmaids Tale

Government Styles
Democratic: people have a voice
Dictatorship vs. Totalitarianism
Dictatorship: rules are enforced by one person or one body of people.
Gilead is...
- Totalitarian Government:
- China's strict one child policy
As a Result
- 336 million children were aborted
- 196 million surgical sterilizations
- Punishments include: forced abortions, and heavy fines
Relation to THT
Government Control & Punishments
NOT present in Gilead because other than the commanders, no one else has a voice.
Aristocracy: ruled by people who have money or are well educated.
Not the overarching government style but is present in the form of the Commanders
- Dictators believe that they are leaders of a democratic government
Totalitarianism: strict government style in which the government has 100% control
-the women of Gilead have no voice and are forced to do what the commanders believe is right.
- Policy started because of food shortages
- Became official on September 25, 1980
- Was supposed to be temporary but remained a rule because the government felt is was effective
- 113 boys born for every 100 girls
- Most families wanted a male child therefore abortion rates increased
Mother & her 7 month old still born baby
CAUTION: the image you're about to see is disturbing
- Governments focus on controlling reproduction
Amnesty International
an organization committed to ensuring that all humans around the world are able to practice their basic human rights
described as a global movement currently containing over 3 million supporters, and activists
attempt to make a difference in various countries through
letter writing (online +offline)
direct lobbying of people with power and influence
Real Life Examples
women's human rights
human rights education
freedom of expression
Women's Human Rights
women often do not understand that they deserve equality
women do not hold the right to make choices regarding their bodies in various countries
countries around the world are condoning child marriage while banning abortion and sex outside marriage
El Salvador - abortion is illegal
Ireland - women face up to 14 years in prison for having an abortion UNLESS their life is at risk
Rural Nepal
average age women are married off is 16
25% give birth to a child before they are 18
blood and bodily secretions associated with childbirth are considered unclean and polluted
attitudes of women towards pregnancy can be described as the shame and fear of loss of dignity and prestige
many women do not talk about pregnancy-related problems until complications arise
Khumeni, a young girl living in a small community in Nepal, married when she was 15, and has experienced 10 pregnancies; she was banished to family's cowshed each time she gave birth
The Handmaid's Tale
Child Marriage - girls in the novel are married off at ages as young as 14 ("Even though some of them are no more than fourteen" (Atwood 274).)
Choice - the handmaids are not given a choice about their bodies; they must reproduce, and the child must be with the Commander they are assigned to. Failure to do this could result in death, or banishment to the colonies.
Abortion - extremely taboo, women who are somehow successful in aborting their child face dire consequences
Humans Rights Education
human rights education is a deliberate practice that focuses on empowering individuals/groups/communities through cultivating knowledge, skills, and attitudes that coincide with human rights principles
this education is extremely fundamental for addressing and putting a stop to human rights violations, abuse, and discrimination. it also helps promote equality and democratic decision-making
The Handmaid's Tale
Human Rights Education is ABSENT in the novel
in fact, the handmaids are exposed to the opposite type of atmosphere; they are denied their right to knowledge and are brainwashed to believe that there are religious and ethical justifications for the stripping of their rights ("Then comes the moldy old Rachel and Leah stuff we had drummed into us at the Centre.
Give me children, or else I die
" (Atwood 110).)
this absence influences the beliefs of many of the handmaids, who start to believe what the Aunts are telling them, which leads to their loss of spirit ("I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will . . . Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping" (Atwood 91).)
Freedom of Expression
individuals throughout the world are subject to harassment/punishment for exercising their right to freedom of expression
FOE is important for personal development
linked to the freedom of thought and religion
human rights defenders are often subject to punishment (torture, imprisonment, and even death)
The Handmaid's Tale
no one is allowed to verbally oppose the beliefs of Gilead ("In the past this would have been a trivial enough remark ... Right now it's treason" (Atwood 210).)
When describing how Gilead came into place, Offred mentions that there were some protests and riots but they quickly stopped because "the police, or the army ... would open fire almost as soon as any of the marches started" (Atwood 226).
Religious Totalitarianism
Analysis and Comparison of the Government Systems of Gilead and the Taliban Regime

Fundamentalist State/ Society: a society in which order is maintained through religious principles and ideologies

In some parts of the world fundamentalist groups have a huge political influence i.e. the Islamic Fundamentalist group The Taliban

Commanders Vs. The Taliban
both groups attempt to restore a society which they view as corrupt through the oppression of women

they use religion as a basis for their ideologies and strict laws/forms of punishment

different aspects of religious totalitarianism are similar and can be seen in both the Taliban and the way the Gilead society is run

Formation and Purpose
Aspect 1: Gain of Power:
Those who gain power in a Totalitarian government usually do so by removing those currently in power with the use of violence

Aspect 2: Restoring/Maintaining Social Order
at the cost of freedom of speech, right to individuality, and privacy

Taliban’s Formation and Purpose
restrictions placed on women first prompted when a Mujahideen commander abducted and raped three women during an incident in the 90s

Taliban promised to restore law and order in Afghanistan

Taliban exiled Afghanistan’s president in 1996 and then seized control of Kabul by putting their theocracy in place

Relation to THT
one of the aims of the creation of Gilead was to eliminate the high amount of sexual violence and rape against women

the President was exiled and the democratic government was replaced with a Christian theocracy

Gaining Support/Control of the Population
totalitarian governments often use tactics of manipulation and intimidation to prevent an uprising from society

their survival like any other government system relies on the minds of its people

Religion and the Law
Aspect 3: Religious totalitarians gain control by enforcing their rules/laws with interpretations of religious text because the public are made to believe that challenging authority in anyway is going against God’s intentions

The Taliban’s ideogies are based off of their interpretations of Sharia Law

“Purdah (veil) (is) not the injunction of the Taliban but order of Allah. Objection against it is point-blank Kufr (infidelity).”

Relation to THT
rules of Gilead claimed to be based off the rules of the Old Testament

e.g. the use of adultery for procreation , amputation and dismemberment of lawbreakers

Genesis 30:1-3:
When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, Give me children or I shall die! […] Then she said, Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees, and even I may have children through her.
Maid Bilhah= handmaids, Rachel=The Wives, Jacob=commander

Limiting Education
Aspect 4: Totalitarian governments aim to make people ignorant of their deprivation by restricting their access to knowledge

The Taliban and Education
The Taliban believed that the logical step to protecting a women’s virtue was to limit her time spent in public in the view of men-women essentially removed from society

Eventually eliminated girls’ schools as well as women’s involvement in the workforce as women could no longer appear in public- however ban on education for women was not limited to public schools- those who tried to run homeschools for girls were punished

Woman were only allowed to study the Koran

7,793 female teachers were dismissed, a move that crippled the provision of education and caused 63 schools to close due to a sudden lack of educators

The Taliban and Education Continued
i.e. Malala Yousafzai-activist for betterment of women’s rights in Aghanitsan

saw her as a threat to Islam and Sharia Law

she was shot by the Taliban and they justified her attempted murder by saying that it was justified by the Koran “then we can see the incident [in the Koran] of the killing of a wife by a blind companion of the Prophet Muhammad because she spoke insulting words about the Prophet. And the Prophet praised this act."

Relation to THT
the laws of Gilead are claimed to be based off the rules of the Old Testament however no one except the Commanders have access to it

"[The Bible] is an incendiary device: who knows what we'd make of it, if we ever got our hands on it?" Offred (pg____)

by keeping the bible hidden the Commanders not only have the power to completely make up its content to justify their punishments but they also provide no opportunity for the citizens to create interpretations of their own

a different interpretation would lead to the possibility of the creation of a new society

women have access to no other books except for the bible which is read aloud to them

Fear and Intimidation
Aspect 5: Instillation of fear in the public through violence and intimidation

punishments used by the Taliban include:

Capital punishment by stoning
amputation and dismemberment (particicution)
public flogging (lashing/whipping)

public flogging and execution ordered by the Taliban in
Afghanistan reached record numbers and prompted an intervention by the UN- similarly was used to enforce the power of authority and the fate of those who rebelled

Relation to THT
the hangings were used as a reminder for the people in Gilead of what would happen to those who tried to challenge authority

Freedom of Expression
List of some restrictions placed on women by the Taliban:

Ban on women studying at schools, universities or any other educational institution

Requirement that women wear a long veil (Burqa), which covers them from head to toe

Complete ban on women's work outside the home, which also applies to female teachers, engineers and most professionals. Only a few female doctors and nurses are allowed to work in some hospitals in Kabul

Ban on women dealing with male shopkeepers

Ban on women being treated by male doctors

Ban on women laughing loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman's voice)

- Government Styles
- Amnesty International
- Religious Totalitarianism
- Oppression
- Both governments set out to solve problems
ex/ Adolf Hitler - Totalitarianism
ex/ Vladimir Putin - Dictator
Totalitarian Government
Religion and Totalitarianism
Human Rights
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