One thing that really stuck out to me in my read through of The Hand Maiden’s Tale was the color coded dress. I thought it was a really neat way to subtly show how much society objectifies the women. Think about types of things that are color coded in life – Tupperware, binders, clothes, building plans – objects are color coded for their function to make the system more efficient. However, these objects probably don’t take too much offense to being color coded due to the fact that they are objects. However, it’s a different story for the women in the novel. One quote in the novel reads,
“There are other women with baskets, some in red, some in the dull green of the Marthas, some in the striped dresses, red and blue and green and cheap and skimp, that mark the women of the poorer men. Econowives, they’re called. These women are not divided into functions. They have to do everything; if they can.”
Marthas wear green dresses, handmaids wore red – even the wives had to wear a certain color! Even more than stripping these women of their individuality, its stripping them of their humanity. It’s telling them they are nothing but their functionality in the world. All they contribute is their assigned profession. I’m sure that doesn’t feel super lovely, being demeaned like that – but thankfully, our culture doesn’t do that…right?
Well, maybe not to the same extent, but our culture definitely has a tendency to objectify women. We may not color-code them, but we fit them into our preconceived prejudices and clichés. This is a phenomenon that I like to think is changing in the world, but it certainly is still present, and is certainly still worth writing about.