Season 4 Of The Handmaid’s Tale Turns Feminism On Its Head

Warning: spoiler alerts ahead.


Based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale has been gripping viewers since its release in 2017. The dystopian drama is known for its thrilling storyline in which women known as “Handmaids” are subjected to child-bearing slavery.  

Over the course of three tumultuous seasons, audiences have borne witness to countless, horrifying scenes – including mutilation and systematic rape, that verges on torture porn. 

Difficult to watch at the best of times, the latest season of the unmissable series has got us all tuned in for a different reason entirely - it’s ever-changing portrayal of women. Or, as we like to put it – a f**ked up display of feminism.  
June Osborne: Anti-Hero or Superhero  

Season 4 sees June (Elisabeth Moss) become somewhat liberated. After an exhausting “will she or won’t she” when it comes to her escape, Moss’ character eventually hops on a boat to Canada – finally claiming her one-way ticket to freedom. However, it soon becomes evident that June never really leaves Gilead.  

As a victim of unimaginable trauma, June’s transition into “normal” civilian life is anything but clear-cut. The rage and pain which has now come to define June, has left her with a taste for blood, which can never be truly satiated.

Her brutal yet equally cathartic killing of Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) shows us what she has become. As the handmaids gather round to hunt down the Commander, like a pack of wolves; the shift in tone is clear – these women are no longer suppressed, they are active feminists on a warpath.  
Serena Joy: Victim Or Villain  

Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) is one of the great anti-feminist villains. Her superiority coupled with her venomous wit always gives us the chills.

However, since being held in Canada, and falling pregnant – we start to see a different side to her character. During her pivotal confrontation with June, for a split second – we almost empathise with Serena. After all, she must possess some humanity if she has the sense to apologise.  

Her emotional state this season seems forever intertwined with her quest to be a mother. The only way that Serena can be rid of her own demons is to mask them with what she calls “domestic feminism”.  

The irony speaks for itself – having stressed the importance of women being able to bear children, which is what helped build Gilead – Serena has been left a victim of the very institution she created.  
Aunt Lydia: More Than Meets The Eye  

Cruel but occasionally empathetic – this season Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) experiences an internal crisis. From ever-changing power dynamics to the soft-spot she has for Janine – Aunt Lydia is a complex character to say the least.  

As more of her emotional layers are revealed, it becomes clear that living under the Gilead regime is about survival.  

Her ability to not only stay alive, but be in charge, and retain her authority is testament to the gravitas and resourcefulness of her character.  

These fictional females are redefining what it means to be feminist or anti-feminist, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for season 5!  

In case you missed it, Why It’s Good to Be Bad: The Female Villains We Can’t Get Enough Of