The Handmaid’s Tale: Privilege Numbs

Yesterday I caught up on The Handmaid’s Tale (I was an episode behind). I’ve been struggling how to define this show. It’s feminist, but it’s more than that. It explores the potential dangers of the white patriarchal culture beyond the frame of gender. I particularly enjoy though, how it explores the importance of intersectional feminism through its exclusion.

The story focuses on a white female, Offred, who has lost everything due to the rulers and rules of Gilead. Her husband, her child, fundamental human rights. But, many of the things she has lost, only a privileged person could lose. She is every white feminist out there. Offended by sexism (corrected her future husband when he makes assumptions about female sexuality and lesbianism) and oppression but blind to half of the signs of what can come due to her status.

Before Gilead (from what I have seen on the show and read in the book), Offred fought against anti-feminist actions as they came to her. These were slight, and not anything near what minority women face. She protested on the streets, but only when the signs of oppression were ridiculously obvious. She missed the warning signs because as a white female of middle-class status they didn’t immediately affect her. She could still live in her protective bubble with her wonderful husband and Anthropologie.

It is very easy not to be active when the patriarchy grants you privileges. It is very easy to ignore the hurt that others feel when the same pains cannot touch you. The media and society place white women and minority women in a dichotomy for a very long time. There are the good white girl and the bad African American woman. Neither side is actually freeing, although the privileges that white women experience keep them in a much more comfortable existence.

Essentially, this dichotomy traps both sides as seen by Offred’s fate. Privilege should not be allowed to blind and numb people to the oppression that surrounds them and threatens them.

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