Atwood presents us with passive, useless characters who are totally flat or static. Although she has been called a “feminist”, she seems more anti-feminist to me. She has often rejected the label herself, but other writers are convinced she is feminist. Here’s why I think she’s anti-feminist:
“The Edible Woman”
Not only is the title incredibly sexualising as it sees women as food, Marian loses her identity as the novel progresses. First, she becomes passive about getting married, and then compares herself to a steak, sympathising with it. If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, her airhead friend Ainsley deliberately allows Len to take advantage of her and seduce him, because she doesn’t want a husband. Then there is Clara, who is constantly pregnant and a housewife. Are these women either objects or reproducing machines? Once her devouring boyfriend Peter leaves, Duncan polishes off the remains of the cake-woman, meaning Marian has gone from one man devouring her to another. Not only does Marian loathe food, but she is constantly defined by men writing meaning on her. So much for a regaining of identity.
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
Women are separated into several classes ruled by men in Christian Patriarchal society. Offred, a concubine, is an illiterate slave who serves no other purpose than to get pregnant. Her name means “Of Fred”, symbolising that she has no identity. Even though she begins to read magazines, the only power she has is via The Commander, who is her Master. Even Serena’s Joy, the infertile wife of The Commander, has all power taken away from her and infertility is blamed upon her. Both women are victims and are renamed by The Commander. Offred is a slave and Serena is the trophy wife.
“The Robber Bride”
Zenia is a ghost who manipulates three women and stole their boyfriends whilst she was alive. She seems to abuse sisterhood and undergoes abusive relationships with men and women alike. Like in The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood successfully forms a new kind of misogyny; women mistrusting and hating other women.
Yet another negativity junkie, Rennie has a sadomasochistic relationship with a man named Jake. He remodels her apartment and eroticises her body, which Rennie passively accepts. Even though Jake is eventually driven away by her accepting nature.
So there we have it. Atwood says she isn’t Feminist and even if the female characters didn’t succeed they could at least have some guts or fire to them.