Dear Dakota, Jezebel, Bronte, Caprice, Cher et al.,
I don’t mean to single anyone out here, but as an Indigenous woman it behooves me to point out that while I perfectly understand your fondness for The Handmaid’s Tale as a white feminist anthem, I can’t help but feel all kinds of something about it. Each week when all of you are discussing and posting recaps of the latest episode on Facebook, I’m resisting the urge to cram my face into the couch pillows to keep from screaming. I don’t mean to point blame on anyone, per se, but I’m talking to you, Katniss, Guinevere, and Fig.
You see, Veronica, while The Handmaid’s Tale presents a dystopian world ruled by a white totalitarian and fascist regime, and while it appears to bear some similarity to the United States’ current conservative administration, Reese, might I offer a reminder that the Republic of Gilead is in fact fictional. And at least for the time being, Flora, white women are not being forcibly recruited into brothels, work farms, or as baby-making vessels for the Republic.
But if I may be so bold, do you know what’s actually not fictional, Kinsey? The Indian Maiden’s Tale. Yes, Indigenous women are well-acquainted with that American dystopian nightmare. At the risk of sounding like old-broom-up-her-ass Aunt Lydia, an episode from The Indian Maiden’s Tale is when Indigenous children were torn from their mothers and confined to residential boarding schools, forced to contend with all manner of horrors and abuse — a hellscape of horrors and abuses, not so very different than those portrayed in your favorite TV programming. So, Waverly, I hope the next time you cozy up with a box of wine and watch another thrilling episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll pause and reflect on Indigenous women and children who have endured unconscionable suffering.
And during commercial breaks, Fiona, may I also remind you that Indigenous women suffer violence and rape at astonishing rates: The Department of Justice Survey in 2016 reported 56 percent of 2,000 women surveyed, had experienced sexual violence. And if that doesn’t have you reaching for the smelling salts, Eloise, sterilization of Indigenous women was a rampant practice; the U.S. General Accounting Office reported that the Indian Health Service sterilized 3,406 Indigenous women between 1973 and 1976. And according to a report compiled by the Lakota People’s Law Project, Lark, Indigenous women are incarcerated at six times the rate of white women. I hope you’ll think of that the next time Offred debases herself by saying “blessed be the fruit,” or Mrs. Waterford sits pensively in her blue frock in her blue sitting room thinking about how miserable her life is and how she wants to disappear into the wallpaper forever.
As entertaining as The Handmaid’s Tale is for fans of Orwellian, nihilistic programming, Madison, it does not represent all of society. But it does effectively represent the cultural and historical amnesia of America, Saffron. And maybe you will switch to the history channel and watch an episode of The Indian Maiden’s Tale instead, Hyacinth.