In "The Handmaid's Tale", who is Atwood blaming most for the society of Gilead – males or females?
Because women are treated as chattel and as baby-making machines, it is tempting to say that Atwood is primarily blaming males for what Gilead has become. It is the traditional male qualities and behaviors having to do with control, violence and domination that characterize the reproductive enslavement of women in Gilead. However, there are also women in this culture who could be said to be complicit in this enslavement as well. The women enslaved and forced to bear children via rape and confinement are mostly young and supposedly fertile. They bear babies for couples who tend to be of the wealthier classes. These wealthier women are infertile because they are older or have physical problems that affect their reproductive health. Because they want the imprisoned women to bear babies for them, these wealthy older women are also to blame for Gilead's social structure.
As well, Atwood suggests that the imprisoned young women are themselves to blame for their predicament. The novel's expoitory sections suggest that one reason why Gilead's society evolved the way it did was that previously in its history young women were delaying childbearing until they were too old, or opting not to have children at all so they could focus on their careers. This trend led to fewer children being born and various factions of the society decided to implement the extreme solution of imprisoning women and forcing them to bear babies..