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
Tale by Margaret Atwood, and
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.
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