Feminist Reading Journey: Margaret Atwood ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

Let me start this by saying no I haven’t seen the Hulu TV series yet but I fully intend to! This post however isn’t about the tv series, or the film adaptation, it’s about the novel. I actually read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ as part of my undergraduate university degree, but I had read the novel before then because, well, because I like reading!

I also want to quickly address for anyone following this series that I will be reading some new books soon, and the series will be continuing. It’s just on a little bit of a hiatus while I try to finish my dissertation and sort my life out. When it properly comes back I’ll make a blog post letting everyone know, and hopefully have my reading list on there in advance so people can read along with me if they want to. I also want to take more care with the authors I select so that I can actually start to read a variety of different experiences. I try and make my feminism intersectional, and I know at the moment I’m not doing my best to represent that in these blog posts. In terms of a time scale, posts will also be every 2 weeks so that they are not rushed. However, for everyone who hasn’t been reading the rest of my blog posts, sorry about that ramble, and don’t worry I’m going to get on to this blog post now.

First of all, there is a reason that ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is a classic, and for those of you who have burned before (like me) by the term ‘classic’ being bestowed upon a book because it is incredibly long and difficult to follow; don’t worry this isn’t the case here. The story (for those who don’t know) follows a woman called Offred (though this isn’t her ‘real’ name) and her life as a handmaid in the fictional dystopian future of Gilead (a military dictatorship). Her position as a handmaid in this dictatorship means that she is kept for reproductive purposes and her ‘job’ is to reproduce in an elaborate ceremony with The Commander (the male head of the household she lives at) with his wife attending (it’s as bad as it sounds).

Image: @aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Instagram 

I’m not going to say anything more about the plot than that as I don’t want to ruin anything, but think about the way reproductive rights are in the US (and continue to be in Northern Ireland, and other countries in which there are restrictions on abortion laws or abortion is illegal) and you get a sense of what is going on. Although, there was some positive news recently that women from Northern Ireland will be able to get an abortion in Britain for free. However, this verdict also came on the same day that: “Belfast’s Court of Appeal ruled abortion law in Northern Ireland should be left to the Stormont Assembly, not judges – effectively overturning an earlier ruling that the current abortion laws were incompatible with human rights laws” (Source: BBC News).

While a lot of people might argue that ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is not necessarily about abortion (which, I agree with to a certain extent); because in the tale the women desire to have a baby. However, they are still being controlled and forced into that one position- their reproductive rights are being taken away from them. I’m also not the only one to have made this link as women have been seen sporting robes similar to the ones depicted in the Hulu TV series in a number of protests related to reproductive rights and the fight against misogyny.

It for this reason that the quotation I ended up choosing is: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down”. And this week the quotation is very apt not only in terms of equality, but in my own life. I’m coming up to the period where I’m at a bit of a transitional period in my life where I’m not quite sure where I will end up or where I will be. There is something also truly horrible in not knowing, which I hate more than just generally being in a horrible situation. However, I know I’ve just got to get on with it and things will turn around. And at a much faster rate than if I just let life take me where it may. But it’s hard, and I know my friends are finding hard, so basically in a round about way I just want to say if you’re finding everything hard that’s ok. Just try your best to let someone know that you’re finding it hard.

As always the quotation for ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has been beautifully illustrated by  Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective:

The Handmaid's Tale Image

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

In regards, to the quotation it is also incredibly relevant recently, as the fight for equality has felt difficult, especially with the series of headlines hitting the media regarding gender parity. Perhaps, the most famous of which is the news of the gender wage gap within the BBC, as well as the controversy surrounding the price of the morning after pill in Boots. Especially, considering Boots’ response that if the pill was priced cheaper it might mean that Boots is “incentivising inappropriate use”. Now then more than ever we need to be banding together to fight for change, while not letting these hits grind us down. And there has already been action with a number of female stars from the BBC acting together to write a letter urging the director general to fix the pay gap.

And this links to the main thing I have seen written about ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and that is that the story is not just a tale: but a warning or a sign of what is happening in our world (particularly, in the Global North, and specifically in America right now). I’ve touched on this already by discussing some of the restrictions placed on women having an abortion, but there is much more that is happening against gender equality and equal rights for everyone whatever gender they identify as (I don’t mean this remark as a flippant ‘whatever’ but as a way to include the variety of different genders people identify as) in Trump’s America.

The author of the article I just linked under ‘gender equality’ also mentions how President Trump doesn’t believe in climate change. In fact he actually pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord, which is horribly ironic considering that the reason why the majority of people in Gilead are infertile is due to radioactive pollution.

Many of the practices within the novel are also present within other countries in the world not just America, particularly regarding same sex love  (in the novel women are circumcised as a punishment for this, and this is something that is still carried out today though not necessarily as a punishment for homosexuality). This practice may be more familiar to you under the name FGM or Female Genital Mutilation, which can “lead to severe bleeding, pain, complete loss of sensitivity, complications during childbirth, infertility, severe pain during sex, recurring infections and urine retention. And in some cases it is lethal. Unlike male circumcision, female genital mutilation also inhibits sexual pleasure”.

I think then now is a good a time as ever to read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (perhaps the best time) and think about how the practices described are similar or the same to practices inflicted against either gender (as there is not a lot of mention in the novel of how these practices would affect people who exist outside the gender identities of male or female) within the world. Think about then how the world Atwood describes would be like for those who exist out of the 2 gender binaries just mentioned. Most of all, write, talk and protest about the injustices that too closely mirror our own.

After all, Margaret Atwood is being heralded as the ‘voice of 2017‘ so you might as well see for yourself what she has to say. As for me I’m finally going to watch the TV show, and not let anyone grind me down any longer.



Lazy Oaf Sample Sale Haul

So I went to my first ever sample sale yesterday! All in all it was definitely crazy. I also had no sleep before so was basically a walking zombie (along with my significant other, Martin, who I dragged along). We got a 4am train into London, that’s how committed I was. I was not however first in the queue! I am though determined to be next time. For reference I got there at 6am, and so I suspect the people who got there before me had been there from about 5am. Though I couldn’t physically get there any earlier, as I left on the earliest train from where I live, so am not sure what to do for sales in the future.

However, I managed to pick up some amazing bits with the help of my new friend Ellen, and my friend Caroline (who you may know from illustrating my feminist reading journey blog posts). It was though quite terrifying. When the doors open everyone literally rushed in and by the time we got in (we were in about the first 20 people I think) half the stuff I wanted was already gone. This unfortunately included the two items I really wanted, which was the Hello Kitty denim jacket that I’d tried on in store (but had been waiting to buy, as I was hoping it would be at the sample sale because I can’t really afford it full price), and the Esther Loves You Bunny Backpack. Though I have a bit of gossip for you, apparently some of the backpacks might be restocked on the website soon!!! As for the denim jacket that’s going to take a bit of saving up for!

Hello Kitty JacketThe denim jacket of my dreams!

Image: @lazyoafs/ Instagram 

By the time I got in literally 70% of that view had already disappeared. 

There was also a few other pieces I missed out on like the rainbow cardigan (Ellen and I was glaring at everyone who had one!), as well as some of the other Hello Kitty and Esther Loves You pieces. I did however get some pieces that I kind of bought in the frenzy of the moment, or didn’t fit me when I got home so I’ve already sold them on.

For those of you who are worried about going to sample sales because they are violent and people get mean; I wanted to also share my experience in that regard. Personally while there was a lot of people (which I know can be overwhelming); the venue of the sale had quite wide walkways, which really helped. No one physically pushed or snatched anything out of my hands. If someone knocked into me they apologised. Also, for example someone grabbed a pair of the Hello Kitty jeans I wanted and said they’d give it to me if it wasn’t there size, but unfortunately for me it was, but I hope they love and enjoy them (to be honest they’d probably rock them better than me!). However, they still offered, which was still super nice.

The only thing that happened that many people might not like is that people will grab a lot of items. There was a few people who grabbed what to be honest looked like it could be 50 items, and considering that there is a 15 item limit I will admit it felt a little unfair. As obviously they weren’t able to get everything they grabbed so had to put things back, but the only way to tell would be to awkwardly hover near them. I don’t mind that people might want to decide what they want, but I will admit it was a bit excessive. However, I acknowledge that at the end of the day they got there first so I can’t really be too upset about it.

Other than that my only other complaint is that the air conditioner was not turned on until we were in the queue and already all sweaty and gross. Also, there was not that much stock. I felt sorry for the people behind me in the queue, as they only had out what was on the racks so by the time the first group had picked their stuff; there really was not a lot left.

However, enough about all the drama, let’s get to what I bought!

Lazy Oaf x Disney Cinderella Dress 

Price I paid £35.00.

Original price: £80.00 (though according to the website it do go on sale for £50.00 at one point).

My new friend Ellen very kindly grabbed this for me and I love it so much. Mainly because it’d be such a good item to wear next time I go to Disneyland (which, I’m planning to go to next year, and I can’t wait till it’s finalised so I can talk more about where in the world I’m planning to go!).

I really love the collar detail of the dress and although the fit is VERY oversized, I’m not going to lie it’s very comfy. It’s worth it for the adorable birds on the collar at the front (see the second picture) and the collar at the back (see the third picture). I think it’s also quite a good dress for walking around all day too just because it’s not restrictive in any way. I do understand how the fit wouldn’t be for everyone though, especially as the one I’m wearing is the smallest size they do.

Altogether, I personally love this dress even though Cinderella isn’t usually my go to princess at all.

Lazy Oaf Haul

Cinderella collar


Lazy Oaf x Disney Marie Top 

Price I paid: £20.00

Original price: £42.00

This is another purchase that Ellen secured for me (I am determined that I will make sure I get something she wants next time). I love stripe-y tops anyway but this is made even better because it has one of my Disney favourites, Marie on it. This would look so cute with some skinny jeans for a low key Disney inspired everyday look though I’m planning to wear it with some pink denim dungarees for Disney. Who knows I might even put it with my Marie denim jacket and go completely full blown with it!

The fit is also perfect for me, as it is not too long. However, I’m quite short (about 5ft 2) so for anyone tall this might be a problem. It’s also one size only so obviously it’s going to fit different sizes more oversized and less. In comparison, to the new Hello Kitty oversized black t-shirt (which, I managed to scoop up) it’s a lot shorter and a lot less oversized.

Marie top sale

Lazy Oaf x Disney Marie Cap 

Price I paid: £10.00

Original price: £28.00

So I now basically have every Marie piece bar two, which makes me very happy. Also, the reason I was so happy when I saw they had this cap (they had lots of them by the way) is because I get way too hot in the sun too easily (there’s a reason most people think I’m a natural ginger), so I like to always have a hat for hot days. And this is a lot more adorable than your usual dad cap (well it was but these kind of caps are in trend right now so I have seen some pretty cute one admittedly).

I thought this also would be a cute alternative to ears for Disneyland if it’s a bit too hot when I go! Especially, when you look at the cute ribbon detailing at the back, which just makes the hat for me (and you can use to adjust the size). The only thing I don’t like about the hat is that if you look too closely Marie looks a bit demonic, and I’m not sure if that is my hat, or if all the hats look like that.

Marie Top and Cap

Marie Trash

Being full on Lazy Oaf Marie trash and I love it. 

Marie Hat Ribbon Detailing

Lazy Oaf x Esther Loves You Crop Top 

Price I paid: £20.00

Original price: £42.00

So I just noticed that the bunny is smoking, which puts me off a tiny bit, as I’m really not a fan of smoking, but I still love this top and I didn’t notice until I noticed the item description on the original listing. Fit wise it’s about what I’d expect, but I didn’t think it’d be as super soft as it was and I think it is such a cute top for under dungarees and pinafores. Although it would also look great with a high waisted skirt or jeans too.

I’m not sure if I would have bought this if I was not just going for whatever Esther Loves You stuff that was left; but after trying it on I do quite like it so it’s still a win for me. The top is also worth it for the little Esther Loves You sticker that comes on the tag, which I’m going to spend hours debating where to stick!

Smoking bunny

Eshter Loves You Crop

Esther Loves You Sticker

Personally, I wish this was the bunny on the top, but I guess at least with the other one I’m slightly more sassy (because of it’s expression, not because of the smoking). 

Hello Kitty x Lazy Oaf Cap 

Price I paid: £15.00

Original price: £25.00

I don’t know why I really need two caps, but since I have a lot of the Hello Kitty pieces for it to go with I thought I’d get it. Plus, it was one of the few Hello Kitty items left and I really wanted to come out of the sale with some Hello Kitty bits. I actually do prefer this to the Marie one though because Hello Kitty doesn’t look sinister.

Lazy Oaf x Hello Kitty Black Oversized Top 

Price I paid: £20.00

Original price: £40.00

I have to admit this is a bit too oversized for me, and I would sell it but I think it could still look cute underneath things and I might just purposely try and shrink it in the wash a bit. I do wish it was a bit shorter because I’m a short fry as well (as it’s definitely longer than the Marie oversized top). The sizing is also confusing as mine says OS on the label which usually indicates one size but on the Lazy Oaf website they said it came in either S/M or M/L so it might just be a manufacturing error (and hence why it was in the sale).

Hello Kitty Black Top

Lazy Oaf x Disney 101 Dalmatians socks 

Price I paid: £7.00

Original price: £10.00

To be honest, this is the only thing where I feel like there should have been a bit more of a discount. I know £7.00 is a lot to pay for socks, but I’ve always wanted a pair of their socks because they’re super cute and thought this might be my only chance at a discounted rate.

Lazy Oaf Alien Tops 

Price: Free

The lovely lady at the till also put two of these alien slightly cropped tops in my bag, which although are not really my style; but are loose and comfortable and will work well for bed time. I don’t know if these were put in everyone’s bags though as my boyfriend said he didn’t see her put them in the person before or being served next to me.

Alien Top