In the TV series The Handmaid's Tale we see a dystopian future where people live in classes.

I have heard of:

  • Ant - A worker
  • Eye - Spy/Secret Police
  • Aunt - Keeper of the Handmaidens
  • Commander - Boss of some kind (I don't know if it is political or military)
  • Martha - housekeeper
  • Handmaid - Walking baby machines

Are there any other classifications and what do they mean?


These are all the classes from the book by Margaret Atwood, which the TV show is based on. Presumably they all exist in the show as well, but we haven't seen all of them yet. You can also see a list on Wikipedia.


  • Legitimate women

    • Wife – Married to a man of the ruling class (wears blue, or black if she's a widow)
    • Daughter – Natural or adopted female child of the ruling class (wears white until marriage)
    • Handmaid – Fertile women of a lower class (who have broken gender/social laws) who bear children for infertile wives (wears red)
    • Aunt – Keeper of the Handmaids, as you say; often older, infertile or unmarried women (wears brown)
    • Martha – Housekeeper; older infertile women (wears green)
    • Econowife – Married to a man of a lower class; are not assigned Marthas or Handmaids (and wears a multicolored red, blue and green dress because they fill all these functions). As far as I remember, this hasn't been seen in the show yet, but I don't think it's much of a spoiler to mention it.
  • Illegitimate women

    • Unwoman – Can't be integrated into society, who are exiled to the Colonies
    • Jezebel – Prostitutes and entertainers of the higher class


  • Legitimate men
    • Commander – The ruling class, often with a high political status as you say (think "members of the Party" in the USSR)
    • Men – "regular" men of lower classes; can marry Econowives and hold regular jobs
    • Eye – Secret police
    • Angel – Soldiers
    • Guardian – Police/security force and other menial functions
  • Illegitimate men
    • Gender Traitors – homosexuals and similar, who are either executed outright or sent to the colonies

I can't recall "Ants" having been mentioned. Are you sure you didn't mishear "Aunts"?

  • episode 5 the commander mentioned an ant running across the border to Canada. He was sitting at a table speaking to his wife about it. I think it was "Ant" i heard.
    – Cherubel
    May 24 '17 at 8:31
  • @Cherubel Pretty sure that was an Aunt. Turn on closed captions to verify (or I can do it later today).
    – tobiasvl
    May 24 '17 at 8:35
  • 2
    Why the one spoiler?
    – SQB
    May 24 '17 at 8:42
  • 6
    @SQB The existence of that particular class of women was a fairly major unveiling. I see that it's been spoiled in a comment to the question already, though, so I guess it's not really that important.
    – tobiasvl
    May 24 '17 at 8:50
  • 1
    @tobiasvl what about the men doing all the menial labor? in the show we see a few men digging, handling dead bodies etc... i dont suppose that the other classes of men would do this job as they have to stand there with their guns looking menacing and listening to some idiot on the radio the entire time!
    – Cherubel
    May 29 '17 at 6:03

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