Rape Fantasies Questions and Answers
by Margaret Atwood

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How do TV stereotypes relate to the story Rape Fantasies by Margaret Atwood? Think of some television shows that utilize stereotypes of men and women. Do you think they are accurate? Do you find these stereotypes offensive?

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Stereotypes are inaccurate because they present people in limited capacities. Much of this limitation can be seen in Estelle's narration in "Rape Fantasies."

There are several examples of television stereotyping women in this limited capacity.  For example, shows like "The Bachelor" depict women in a narrow manner.  A group of women compete for the affections of a man.  They fight, and reveal some of the worst attributes in human nature in order to "get a man."  Such limited capacity can also be seen in television comedies, such as "2 Broke Girls" or "How I Met Your Mother."  These shows frequently depict women as one dimensional or just plain stupid.   Beauty pageants such as Miss America continue to reduce women to some of the lowest denominators, such as "butt- glue" or answering questions about the existential threat posed from the Islamic State, or ISIS,  in under thirty seconds.  These television experiences reduce the complexity of women as human beings to simplistic constructions and help to reinforce gender stereotypes.

Such reduction can be seen in Estelle's narration in Atwood's "Rape Fantasies."  Estelle describes Chrissy as  "...pretty but cool as a cucumber, like sheʼs been painted all over with nail polish, if you know what I mean. Varnished."  In another instance, she describes an older man as a "poor old thing" that is incapable of rape because of his age and the perceived insufficiencies attached to it.  Men are referred to as the "Clint Eastwood type" or as simply ugly.  Estelle's narration reflects a reductive approach to the world, in many cases reaffirming gender stereotypes can be seen in television.  Atwood might be suggesting that the complex issue of rape and sexual violence cannot be fully understood through stereotypes.  If individuals wish to understand the full implications of sexual control, we must embrace seeing people as full and complex, as opposed to reductive elements.

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