Skip to content

My dog, Gilead, and Breast Implants (?)

2009 March 15
by Michelle Bennett

My dog had to get a single stitch on his eyelid over break… (this is relevant, I promise)…And we had to get him one of those cone or lampshade looking things to put around his neck so that he couldn’t paw or scratch at his stitches, and it occurred to me that this device is probably really similar to the one Atwood imagined her female protagonists wearing (the “wings”). Although the comparison is a stretch, I think there is something to be said for the intentions I have for my dog in making him wear that thing and the intentions of Gilead’s government in cutting off the gazes of the women in their jurisdiction. It’s “for their own good.” But my dog can’t see the bigger picture and probably doesn’t realize what the collar is for, whereas Offred clearly sees what’s going on in her society. Despite being “winged.” I wonder if there’s a reason why Offred seems to be more aware of the horrors of Gilead than some of the other characters in the novel. Or perhaps it only seems that she’s more aware because it’s only her insight that we’re seeing.

This comparison also evokes questions of authority: who can decide what is best? Obviously Offred’s situation is very morally and religiously charged, but going back to issues of plastic surgery, who has the authority to decide what’s best for the client? I know we’ve discussed these issues in class, but I just wanted to mention one more case. Sheyla Hershey has the world record for largest silicone breast implants (38KKK). But she had to go to her native Brazil for all of the surgeries because Texas, the state she resided in at the time, had laws restricting the amount of silicone you could put in your body. (

This also raises issues about IVF that I came across in my research for the panels for the last couple of weeks. Is it the right of the patient, doctor, or some medical board to decide what’s best for the particular case of the patient? Atwood’s Offred seems to suggest that the individual’s rights are most precious, and are more important than the protection that the government could offer, but medical practices suggest otherwise. Why is there such a discrepancy between these speculations, between medicine and government? Both are held liable if something goes wrong.

2 Responses
  1. Natasha permalink
    March 15, 2009

    Yeah, the wings reminded me of those things horses sometimes wear, to keep them looking in a single direction. There’s a kind of technology, for you, the technology of the wings which is part of the larger system keeping women in check (and treated like animals).

  2. Marwa permalink
    March 16, 2009

    I think you are right – we only get to see Offred’s insight in depth, so we are not as aware of the insights of the other characters.

    I haven’t finished the book yet. I was wondering what Atwood said about individual’s choices and what exactly she said about it being “more precious.” Does she mean that individuals can make better decisions for themselves than the government? Or did she make other points/suggestions too?

Comments are closed.