Females are treated violently almost everywhere in the world. A recent motorway incident is an eye-opening event that occurred in this society. There is a need to change the barbaric ways of systems and societies with females by influencing it through education and knowledge. This can happen permanently in the future if we start right now so that the injustice happening now with females would not happen in the future. This endeavor is also carried on by a famous American author, Margret Atwood in her last year’s publication The Testaments.
The novel, in itself, is a form of feminist knowledge production as it is written from a female perspective, by a female, for females. It is from the point of view of women and not just one, three different views about the political and social injustices with females. The leading character of Aunt Lydia started to resist in secret by influencing the patriarchal systems to demolish them. She also created a memoir so that whoever reads it, can continue what she started and know its importance, also, to create a counter-narrative that can prevail since writing preserves the narrative.
This novel is also an attempt to generate a spark in women to write for females as pointed out by Helene Cixous in her essay The Laugh of Medusa that “Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies-for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. A woman must put herself into the text-as into the world and into history-by her movement.” One is the state narrative. What state tells about its policies and what they do and believe in. But female protagonists in the novel are creating a counter-narrative about what state does.
This point leads to rewriting histories or ‘her-stories’. They, both author and the protagonist, are writing counter-histories and revealing the actual truth about the state that what is done by the state, despite the narrative they(state) generate. The secrets that are not in the official documents and are kept hidden from the outer world. And what is missing in the documents is their (females) own existence, like handmaids and the cruel behavior of the state towards them.
The fake truths of the state are dismantled by counter-knowledges and counter-narratives generated by females themselves because the memoir of Aunt Lydia is not just personal history. It is political and social history as it tells the stories of other women of the state as well and generating ‘her-story’. The information given by the officials is not the whole truth so she shared the actual deepest, darkest secrets of the state with the other two protagonists and carried out a whole resistance movement against Gilead with their cooperation.
The novel is an account of three females who tell the readers the actual truth and political history of the authoritarian regime and their narrative is countering and dismantling the state narrative. By telling their own stories, they are rewriting the official state narrative. “Forbidden things are open to the imagination” suggests that the mind and therefore, imagination needs to be strong to resist and take a stand (Atwood 19). It is only possible through education. The books they read, the archives and documents they write and keep hidden, secretly reading, and most importantly, writing their narratives is rewriting history and producing feminist knowledge by generating her-stories because the novel, in itself, is a piece of knowledge and narrative they made. A special stature of knowledge is being shown in the novel as, “Knowledge is power, especially discreditable knowledge” (Atwood 35), highlighting its importance.
History is written by the point of view of the victor. In the case of authoritarian regimes, the victor is men. But it does not paint the full picture. It is never the whole truth. History is made up but here, in the novel, history is told and written by females, those who are absent in official documents and marginalized. That hidden darkness is revealed by women. Hence this novel and therefore, this article is an attempt to develop counter-knowledges that weakens and challenges state narratives and state-authorized histories. Also, it is an attempt to break new ground on feminist studies and women’s writing.