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  • Writer's pictureArchuleta A. Chisolm

Why The Handmaid's Tale Shouldn't Surprise You

As a black woman, the world doesn’t always listen to me or see me. I am constantly having my body policed, along with being told how I should act and what I should wear. I don’t want to admit that it’s a way of life. I want to believe things will change but it only takes reading the newspaper to diminish that hope.

Maybe that’s why The Handmaid’s Tale is so intriguing to me. If you’re unfamiliar with the Margaret Atwood novel and now Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale follows the story of June, who is given the name Offred. It is set in an imaginary, totalitarian future where fertility rates have fallen drastically. Gilead is rule by a fundamentalist regime where women are property of the state.

Women who are able to give birth are forced to join families as handmaids. They are routinely raped by the male head of the house in the hopes they will get pregnant and give birth to a child that joins the family. Essentially, they are forced surrogates. If the handmaids are not compliant, they are sent to colonies or put to death.

After each episode, it seems more of a possibility our country is headed in this direction. With our current leadership in the White House, and everything that has happened since "45" took office, the realities of this show don’t seem far fetched at all.

As Season 3 is now underway, there is still a lot missing from the show. There has been only one narrative around a black woman. Another black woman has been introduced this season; an unlikable, sarcastic handmaid that is not shy about calling others out. She's clearly showing effects of the brainwashing, including detachment.

Although a gay story line is present, there are no trans people. I guess we are to assume all the trans people escaped to safety in Canada. Yes, Canada is the prize in this series. Those lucky enough to escape there - men and women - have found asylum and live normal lives.

The show also doesn’t address race. Although sexism and misogyny are implanted in every single facet of life in Gilead, apparently racism doesn’t exist. The whitewashing in the show wouldn’t sting as much if the show didn’t rely so heavily on narratives taken from the lives of black people.

We don’t have to look further than our own families. In this country, black children were stolen from their black mothers, and black women were kept as domestic maids and routinely sexually assaulted by the men in the house while the women looked the other way.

The finances of many black people are controlled by the state through welfare. We too had and have white women who worked against us.

Today, we have white women calling the police, and white female teachers seeing black children as deviants and constructing problematical narratives before they’ve even reached kindergarten.

This season, June is extremely rebellious and has taken on sort of a savior mentality. She had a chance to get out but chose to stay, in order to get back her daughter that was taken from her. More glaringly, June is flexing her muscle in every way possible. She’s being bold, cunning, and absolutely unapologetic.

Sometimes I root for June. Other times, I want to smack the crap out of her. I am always engulfed by the development of each character. Nonetheless, the series is must-see television, even if just to witness the mind of Margaret Atwood and how she has mirrored a future existence with the present.


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