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Mrs. Cooper
AP English 12 H
11 December 2013
The Portrayal of Women in Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood
Margaret Atwood once wrote that she asked a male friend and a group of women why
they feel threatened by the opposite sex. He replied that men are scared of women laughing at
them. The women replied, Were afraid of being killed (qtd. in Dickson). Their fears do not
appear farfetched as Oryx does in fact end up murdered by a man, serving as a pawn in the larger
scheme of Crakes plan. Is this due to the Oryxs special circumstances, or are women more
vulnerable than men are? In the first and second novels of Atwoods MaddAddam trilogy, Oryx
and Crake and The Year of the Flood respectively, women take various roles as sex workers,
stay-at-home and working mothers, and child pornography victims in order to make a statement
about the effect of systematic sexism on women.
Educated women with higher socio-economic statuses, such as Jimmys mother and
stepmother have careers unrelated to sex although sexism is still pervasive in their lives. Sharon,
Jimmys mother, worked as a respected microbiologist before her mental illness, which would be
impossible for girls like Oryx who are born into poor villages. However, the fact that they are not
sexualized as much as other female characters does not mean that they do not face difficulties as
women. Despite Ramonas technical genius and proficiency as a lab technician, she talks like a
shower-gel babe in an ad (Atwood 34). Jimmys father explains this to Jimmy as the majority of
company employees are numbers people instead of words people, but other numbers people
Jimmys father, Sharon, Crakedo not suffer from the same problem. Combined with her

tendency to eat salads and overuse of eye shadow, Ramona appears to be more self-conscious of
appearance than male characters. If not that, she at least buys into the vain consumerism of a
society in which companies such as Nooskins can ensure that the looks of the wealthy will never
age. It is clear that both women and men have become very body-oriented, but women are
discriminated against more so than men are. At the HelthWyzer Compound, Sharon complained
that the guards liked to strip search people, women especially. They got a kick out of it (60).
The upper class women of society have opportunities equivalent to those of men yet still face
subtle sexism.
Whereas women who have received other opportunities can take jobs in STEM fields,
Ren works at a sex club in order to support herself. As a resident of the Pleeblands, Ran most
likely was not afforded the same opportunities that women like Sharon and Ren were given.
However, Ren does not appear to hate her job. In fact, the women working at Scales and Tails all
appear to be confident in their sexualities and uncoerced into such a business. It appears ironic
that the government outlawed the pimps and the street tradefor public health and the safety of
women when this sex club treats its girls well and provides adequate medical care (7). Maybe
Atwood wanted to make a statement that sex work would not necessarily be detrimental to
women, but this is merely an extrapolation. On the flip side, some women are scientists and sex-
workers; however, a small portion of women are forced into illicit work by sex-traffickers. It is
left open to interpretation whether or not the young girl in the video is Oryx; however, the
existence of child pornography and sexual slavery is unquestionable. mother of Oryx sold two of
her children at the same time, not only because she was hard up.
Women appear equal to men in the wealthy compounds. The lower the class of society,
the more obvious the inequality of sexes becomes. The objectification of women leads to the

view that women are expendable tools for pleasure. Ironically, in the post-human world of the
Crakers, females are viewed as more important because of their ability to give birth, and males
are only given the ability to mark territory with urine because Crake viewed stereotypically
masculine activities as useless and destructive.

Works Cited
Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. New York City: Doubleday, 2003. Print.
Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2009. Print.
Dickson, Mary. "A Woman's Worst Nightmare." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.