Roe v. Wade being repealed had immediate consequences.
Communities and industries are scrambling to navigate this new world. Doctors trying to make sense of vague legislative language, residents in Georgia can now claim their unborn child on their state tax returns and lawyers are already looking into privacy issues around health data.
So why are white feminists filling our feeds with comparisons from Margaret Atwood’s famous 1985 novel of dystopian horror The Handmaid’s Tale?
Hulu’s 2017 show based on Atwood’s novel is already in its 5th season, where it centers around the protagonist, Offred, as she navigates life in totalitarian Gilead. Gilead takes place in what used to be the United States after a radicalized religious sect calling themselves the Sons of Jacob following fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible removes women’s rights and enslaves all child-bearing women to be “handmaids.” These handmaids are tasked with raising birth rates within Gilead as the world is ravaged by pollution and radiation which has made most people, including men, sterile.
As the show progresses, you see women in the show lose their right to work, then their jobs, then their ability to own property, with these rights immediately transferring over to the immediate men in their lives. For some women, this means their husbands now own everything and for others it could be estranged brothers or even their fathers. Regardless of the situation they find themselves in, one thing is clear: women are not in charge of their own destinies anymore.
To declare that this fictionalized show is indicative of a possible future for themselves is tone-deaf and ignores the current reality of real-world horrors that have existed in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities for decades. Defacto forced births are not new to these communities.
It’s outlandish to see white feminists comparing the loss of abortion rights as comparable to those seen in the show. The fact that the defeat of Roe immediately inspired a leap to the only example of reproductively oppressed white women in mainstream media indicates how litle they are aware of the history of child separation, defacto and actual forced birthing, and physical and mental violence as a tool in communties of color.
\u201cOn The Handmaid's Tale: Margaret Atwood basically took what happened to Indigenous, Black and Brown women in the US historically and applied it to white women in a work of fiction. Then and only then did a log of white folks realize how horrific that stuff is. It's infuriating\u201d— Tanesha, BSN RN (@Tanesha, BSN RN) 1656174226
And the list doesn’t stop there. The United States disturbingly and famously used Puerto Rican and Black women as reproductive guinea pigs to test birth control both to test its safety for white women, and as a form of eugenics.
\u201ci've said it before and i'll say it again: your handmaid's tale allegories are tired and dusty. your turn to (white) fiction erases the very real history of gynecology and the continued sterilization of black, indigenous, and hispanic people\u201d— virgo's groove fan (@virgo's groove fan) 1656087531
So maybe let’s skip the shock value of comparing fictionalized suffering and get to work advocating for communities who are still reeling from the horrors of sustained reproductive abuse. It would be easy for women of color to say, “welcome to the club” but too much is at stake for everyone, including men. Now that so many more women are feeling the direct impact of the abuse, this makes it a perfect opportunity to work together to dismantle the club instead of welcoming more women into it.