Week 4 Day 1 Discussion Question 3

Consider this passage from The Handmaid’s Tale:

That’s it: she said we were going to feed the ducks.

            But there were some women burning books, that’s what she was really there for. To see her friends; she’d lied to me, Saturdays were supposed to be my day. I turned away from her, sulking, towards the ducks, but the fire drew me back.

            There were some men, too, among the women, and the books were magazines. They must have poured gasoline, because the flames shot high, and then they began dumping the magazines from boxes, not too many at a time. Some of them were chanting; onlookers gathered.

            Their faces were happy, ecstatic almost. Fire can do that. Even my mother’s face, usually pale, thinnish, looked ruddy and cheerful, like a Christmas card; and there was another woman, large, with a soot smear down her cheek and an orange knitted cap, I remember her.

            You want to throw one on, honey? She said. How old was I?

Good riddance to bad rubbish, she said, chuckling. It okay? She said to my mother.

            If she wants to, my mother said; she had a way of talking about me to others as if I couldn’t hear.

            The woman handed me one of the magazines. It has a pretty woman on it, with no clothes on, hanging from the ceiling by a chain wound around her hands. I looked at it with interest. It didn’t frighten me. I thought she was swinging, like Tarzan from a vine, on the TV.

Don’t let her see it, said my mother. Here, she said to me, toss it in, quick.

          I threw the magazine into the flames. It riffled open in the wind of its burning; big flakes of paper came loose, sailed into the air, still on fire, parts of women’s bodies, turning to black ash, in the air, before my eyes. (38)


In this passage, Offred and her mother attend a pornography burning.  Can you relate this passage either to Morgan’s or Snitow’s arguments about anti-pornography feminism?  How does this passage relate to Atwood’s critique of radical feminism in general?



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