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Culture & Resistance Posts

Moira’s Fate and the Jezebels

In this section we were introduced to the concept of the “Jezebels.” The Commander instructed Offred to dress up in a gaudy outfit with makeup in order to come with him to a secret club. The “club” is actually a hotel where Gilead prostitutes known as Jezebels reside. It seems like even in the harsh Gilead society there is leeway for accepting prostitutes as a means of pleasing the Commanders. It seems strange to me that a society that preaches such extreme oppression of women’s rights in the name of religion would allow this. The women that become Jezebels seem to do so as an alternative to being sent to the Colonies or being executed.

In this section we also learn the fate of Offred’s old friend Moira. After her escape attempt from the Red Center she was recaptured and faced with the choice I mentioned above. In this case, Moira chose being a Jezebel to the radioactive death that the Colonies present. I found it interesting that Moira said the Jezebels get 3-4 years to live. I wonder why this is. This section interested me though because it showed that despite the harsh rules of Gilead these women were presented with an option that seemingly grants them some autonomy over their bodies.

The last part of this section showed the Commander trying to enjoy “real” sex with Offred but she does not enjoy it. She forces herself to fake it and act like she was enjoying it. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me because how could she ever shake the image of the Commander as nothing more than her “boss.” The whole scene is just strange to me because the Commander wants more out of Offred than she is willing to give and it makes me kind of uncomfortable at times.


The Race Card

Michele Norris, Peabody Award-winning journalist and founder of The Race Card Project, gave a talk in the Queally Center this Tuesday, November 12th, called “The Race Card: Observations on Race, Identity, and Inclusion.” Norris notes from the beginning of her talk that conversations, like this one about race, are not ones well-received nor do most people desire to engage in these kinds of conversations typically. Norris notes that, “a lot of things we don’t talk about, loom large in a room.” Even in her own life, Norris comments that although the effects of historical racism have effects that still loom over her family, race and racism is still something that is rarely discussed among them. Wanting to encourage this kind of discussion in a more natural and low-pressure way, Norris began The Race Card Project. This project collects cards where people across the country can write six word sentences regarding their experience with race. 

Norris found that the cards that came in to her team were more honest than what she expected based on her previous experiences of discussions surrounding race. Some of these cards include “Black babies cost less to adopt,” and “Lady I don’t want your purse.” Norris showed various other cards, including some surprising ones such as, “I’m white and I pay the price.” I initially assumed Norris would condemn this card and whoever wrote it, but instead she stated that this was this man’s truth, and that is what The Race Card Project is about- listening to people’s truths. Norris ends the talk by challenging students, like us, to continue the conversation and engage in important discussions surrounding race.

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Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

In this section, we see a new phase of Offred and The Commander’s relationship. The Commander takes Offred to a secret club for upper-level generals. Offred has to wear a ridiculous, overtly sexual outfit and apply makeup in order to look the part of a woman that would be at the club. This scene feels as though The Commander is dressing up Offred as his toy and taking her out to show her off. Offred notes that she feels The Commander showing her off at the club and also sees him showing himself off in front of the other generals. He wants to look important for Offred, maybe he actually cares about her opinion of him. The Commander seems to regain the power by taking Offred out and displaying her in front of his colleagues. Offred is an object being used for The Commander’s pleasure, any benefit Offred is getting out of the situation seems minimal.

The only positive for Offred is that she is finally reunited with Moira. We get a retelling of Moira’s elaborate failed escape that she details to Offred. Moira, the former activist, is now content in her place as a Jezebel and Offred is rather disappointed to see her seemingly give up on her future. Moira sees how her place in society is better than that of many other women and is a bit out of touch with how the greater community of women are still being treated in Gilead. Moira gets to drink, do drugs, and have sex with whoever she wants, but any other woman in Gilead would be killed for committing those acts. The reunion of Moira and Offred seems hopeful, maybe they can work together and find a way out of Gilead, but we end the scene being told by Offred that she never saw Moira again.

Offred’s trip to Jezebel’s ends with her being in a situation that she knows all too well. She knows that she is supposed to have sex with The Commander, but she does not want to. Offred is constantly being put into situations by The Commander where she has no escape. She does what he asks because she has no power to say no, but he interprets it as her doing what he asks because she wants to. Offred seems practically numb to the idea of having sex with a man that she does not desire to be intimate with. She simply disconnects her mind from her body and does what she needs has to do. The arrangement between The Commander and Offred playing games and reading magazines seemed rather harmless and mutually beneficial until it is realized that all The Commander really did want was sex, and he was going to get it.

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Big Wild Concert (Culture event #2)

Last weekend I went to a Big Wild concert at the National. For those who don’t know about Big Wild, his name is Jackson Stell. Stell is an electronic producer, composer, vocalist, and engineer.  In the last couple of years I have gained an increasing interest in related music genres such as electronic, trance, house, deep-house, funk, and dance. The community I have found in this world of music seems to be the epitome of ‘forget everything that is going on and just dance.’ Big Wild was able to create a great environment for a non-judgmental dance floor full of drugged twenty-something year olds in colorfully unique outfits. 

In this specific concert, Big Wild used a lot of visuals, singing, guitar, electronic maneuvering, and crowd interaction. I thought his visuals were beautiful and perfect mood setters for the songs he was playing/singing. On top of the psychedelic/rave aspect of the music, he beautifully sang choruses in his falsetto creating an almost floating feeling. Although I was an average fan of Big Wild before this concert, I have gained a higher profound respect for his musical ability as well as his ability to connect and incite a crowd. 

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Culture piece #1 Joker: Review+Influence

I saw Joker a couple weeks ago and although I am not very in tune with movie reviews, I know there are many feelings towards the film. A lot of people talk about the lack of action and use of ‘slow scenes’ as a reason for their bad ratings. Personally I believe the film was beautiful, bold, and informative. The cinematography was very different from the Dark Knight which for some reason I did not expect. Although there was much less action, the film held a similar graveness and power which was exemplified in the Dark Knight. Sidenote-I am comparing to the Dark Knight because I held a lot of pre-conceived ideas of what the film was going to be like compared to what it actually was. So when people asked me (tens if not hundreds of times), “Was it better/worse than the Dark Knight?” I answered, “I thought it was just as badass, but in different ways, such as Jaoquin Phoenix’s mental illness portrayal and the way we experienced his development” When I say ‘the way they filmed it,’ I am highlighting the use of emotion play and character development rather than the physicality and movement. 

In Joker, we watch as Jaoquin Phoenix acts as mentally impaired individual who only achieves happiness through evil acts. Before this movie, this concept was hard to understand. Why I think the movie did such a great job at portraying mental illness is because we were able to struggle with Phoenix through the painful scenes of transformation. The lack of control the Joker had while spiraling out and becoming an ultimate villain was not only awful/scary but beautiful because of his struggle. I almost felt sympathetic. Lastly, although I do not know much about superhero history,  this movie was a great incite into the batman story as well. 

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Transactional Relationships and the Spark of Rebellion

In this section of The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred and the Commander’s affair continues to grow. We also get more snippets from Offred’s perspective on her previous life before the war, specifically with Luke. Much of what Offred remembers before the war pertains to her husband, which she acknowledges was with someone else before herself. When Offred was initially with Luke, she mentions that it took over two years for him to leave his significant other. This was during a time that was much less oppressive than post-war and the way that she describes her affair sounds justified, as if what they were doing wasn’t so wrong. Now that Offred has many of her freedoms taken away, she describes her affair with the Commander as “sinful” on page 181. While the circumstances are extremely different overall, the same concepts remain: that both parties want what only the other person can offer.

This leads me to wonder where this “relationship” will end up. Although Offred obviously loves Luke, there were some alarming instances that she describes about his behavior. One of these occurred when Offred was “let go” from her job. Luke acted very paternalistically and Offred mentions that she felt owned in that moment. Although times have changed, the situation with the commander isn’t all that different in that respect. He still basically owns Offred and is using her for his own personal gain. It just happens that Offred also has, at least a little, to gain from this relationship as well. Is this the beginning of a rebellion, or is this something that the Commander does with all of his Handmades? Maybe that in itself is a form of rebellion.

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Handmaid’s Tale X-XI

I think Atwood has really brilliantly crafted the tension that exists in the Handmaid’s Tale. In this section, she has given us morsels to show that the people surrounding Offred may not be as against her as they first appeared. Specifically, I think of how Ofglen took a chance to comment and see if Offred was a true believer or not, and how the Commander openly shares information about the handmaid that came before the Offred we know without reprimanding her or denying her the information. However, I still read on, ridden with suspicion and paranoia that none of it is genuine, that at any second either one of these two people that Offred may consider something kind of like friends/allies/at least amicable acquaintances could betray her at any second. The constant fear of something turning horribly south is what makes the story so powerful and what propels me to keep reading.

I also think that the more comfortable Offred feels with the people around her (even if it is just understanding how to work around them better), the more she settles into herself and the ways in which she can push the envelope. It was very refreshing to me to see that when the Commander asked what she wanted, she asked for knowledge, because knowledge really is power in this story. It also reminded me of our conversation about the hierarchy of needs. She’s clothed, fed and sheltered, so her next greatest priority is attaining knowledge of what exactly is going on, so she can keep herself safe and have the power to make the correct decisions to further protect herself.


Ch. X-XI

This section of The Handmaid’s Tale delves deeper into the changing relationship between Offred and the Commander. Offred and the Commander’s relationship continues to grow and become less professional and more casual. The Commander loves to indulge Offred’s questions for him as he enjoys her childlike curiosity and acts as a paternal figure in a way. Offred notes that their relationship gives her a sense of worth that she had been lacking before. She says that, “to him I’m no longer merely a usable body. To him I’m not just a boat with no cargo, a chalice with no wine in it, an over — to be crude — minutes the bun. To him I am not merely empty.”(163) Offred had previously felt she had little value to offer to society. Her worth as a human in this society was completely dependent on her ability to conceive, and without a child, she had little to offer anyone. Spending time with the Commander, someone who enjoys her company and presence, finally gives here a feeling of self-worth that she had been missing. Even their interactions in the Ceremony becomes less robotic as they begin to have a connection. These small things give Offred a small feeling of normalcy in this newly changed world. 


The Handmaid’s Tale Ch. X-XI

This section of The Handmaid’s Tale provides greater insight into the how the Gilead assumed power. We learn that after “the catastrophe,” members of the Gilead “shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress” (174). Offred recounts that in the moment, these acts were blamed on “the Islamic fanatics” (174). After these attacks, the Gilead authority suspended the Constitution. New regulations were implemented: newspaper censorship, roadblocks, and closure of “Pornomarts,” “Feels on Wheels vans,” and “Bun-Dle Buggies” (174). These changes reflect the beginning of a shift towards a conservative society. Offred notes that Moira worked for a women’s collective at the time that the Gilead assumed power. Moira worked in the publishing division and “they put out books on birth control and rape” (178). I found this piece of information interesting; prior to the Gilead, Moira worked as an activist for women’s rights, yet we know that Moira defied authority and escaped the Center as a mechanism for survival/maintaining autonomy. I think that her occupation prior to the Gilead and her decision to the escape from the Center relate in the sense that both decisions reflect a desire to stand up for what she believes in.

I am very interested to see how Offred’s relationship with the Commander continues to develop. In this section, we learn that the previous Handmaid gathered the phrase “nolite te bastardes carborundorum” through visits she had with the Commander. Moreover, we learn that the previous Handmaid hung herself from the light fixture in her room. This helps to explain why the Commander continues to invite Offred into his office – to make sure her life is “bearable” (187). This confirms that the Commander’s own feelings serve as motivation for his actions.


No one is happy

The most interesting part of this section for me were the continuous references to the alliances between groups. In class we talked about the inability to rid of human nature. In this section we are reminded of this by the continuing underground communication between the handmaids. I think about the similar bond the handmaid’s have to students or prisoners. As they all exist in this oppressive environment together, they find ways to communicate and share information which is forbidden. We see the disconnect between power structures when Aunt Lydia questions Janine about Moira’s escape. Although there must be some Handmaids who have information on Moira, Aunt Lydia will probably never find that information because of the strong bond between the Handmaid’s, built in this oppressive state. Ultimately they all hate the system and take any liberty to defy it without being caught. 

The second part I want to highlight is the interaction between Offred and the Commander. This scene highlights another instance of the inability to prevent humans from being entirely disciplined. Both the Commander and Offred know what they are doing could end in punishment, however the natural lust seems to drive Offred’s curiosity and the commander’s insistence. With the knowledge that everyone is lonely in this environment, the Commander invites her in his private room with hope that he can find some meaningful relationship. Such a simple act as playing a game of Scrabble can ignite emotions of the past which are now deemed useless and even sinful.