Gender and Feminist Theory

Feminism is concerned with ‘…the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women’ (“Feminist”). In many stories, women are presented in many different ways. This includes how female characters are created and understood within any given story. These can range from marginalizing women to valuing them. In Margaret Atwood’s stories, however, there are many more examples of the marginalization of women than of valuing them in her stories.

To begin with, some stories show the marginalization of women and how society stereotypes the place a man and women have in a relationship. This can be seen in the short story, “Happy Endings”, by Margaret Atwood, where she states, “Mary falls in love with John but John doesn’t fall in love with Mary. He merely uses her body for selfish pleasure and ego gratification of a tepid kind” (Atwood 116). Mary lets John take advantage of her again and again. She gives her body up to him in hopes that one day his feelings of lust will turn into true love. In this scenario, it shows how if a man doesn’t want to commit to a woman, it is socially ok and not uncommon that the women can trade sex for his time and attention. Comparatively, Atwood also writes, “Yes, but Fred has a bad heart. The rest of the story is about how kind and understanding they both are until Fred dies. Then Madge devotes herself to charity work” (Atwood 117). Atwood illustrates the idea that a woman’s purpose should be to be a caregiver, a provider. After her husband dies she devotes her life to charity work. This is showing how women are expected to lead a life of service while men can pursue whatever pleases them.

On the other hand, there are instances where Atwood writes about how women can and would like to be valued. In the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood writes, “I want Luke here so badly. I want to be held and told my name. I want to be valued, in ways that I am not; I want to be more than valuable. I repeat my former name, remind myself of what I once could do, how others saw me” (97). The narrator misses other elements of being a woman and a person. For her, being held, named, and valued in the ways she used to be are what being a women is all about. She would remember what it was like to be valued and crave for that to come back. These examples can be seen throughout the book and they show how the women in the story would still like to be valued as they were before. In spite of that, this also shows how women are so dependent on a man to help her feel special. This in turn, helps promote the idea that women need to find a man in order for themselves to significant.

To sum up, feminism in stories can make women feel marginalized or valued. Whatever the case, gender identities affect people’s lives in all kinds of ways that aren’t always recognized, and feminist theory can help people understand a new way of what their gender means to them. Feminism opens up a brand new perspective to readers in this ever-changing world and without it, there would not be as much freedom of expressing oneself as there is today.

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Gender and feminist theory. (2022, Jun 28). Retrieved August 10, 2022 , from

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