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Gender and Politics Paper, IAH 201

Gender and Politics Paper, IAH 201 - Round 1 Language of...

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Round 1: Language of Difference vs. Language of Equality In the history of the women’s movement, there has been much debate about whether or not to emphasize the differences between men and women, or to show that women are equals with men. It has appeared in novels like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Persepolis 2. When thinking about the differences between men and women, some might think of countries where this divide is so prominent, it affects women’s daily lives, like in Iran. However, some would think of the feminist movements within our own country, where women’s groups used these differences to explain why they should be able to vote and have some of the same rights men do, in what is referred to as the “language of difference.” Yet some might think of its counterpart, the “language of equality”, which was used to promote the similarities between the two genders in order to gain women’s rights. Overall, each language had its victories and its defeats, and both were effective at different periods of time in our country, and possibly in others, when women were fighting for their respective rights. Each was more effective than the other at different times, but the combination of both languages has been the most effective in promoting women’s rights throughout the years. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood uses the language of difference to explain why women were in situation they were. She uses both, though, in different parts of the novel. When speaking about the Republic of Gilead, she is focusing on the language of difference. Atwood tells the reader that women were used to breed and were kept around for their inherently female qualities, like child rearing and child birth, and were not allowed to do what some would consider male roles in society, like read or drink. Describing Gilead in this way shows how the society focused on these differences and used them to separate women from men. Conversely, Atwood also discusses the language of equality, when Offred has flashbacks about having her
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own money, her own job and her own rights (Atwood, 176-177). In Atwood’s novel, the repercussions that came from women being different, and that emphasis that women aren’t equal to men makes the reader think that the language of difference can be dangerous. This is a cautionary tale that says that while emphasizing differences can help you obtain your goal, those same differences can be have detrimental repercussions. It warns that some might see it as more
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