I’ve been sick today and binge watching The Handmaid’s Tale. My other recent shows have been Dear White People and Brooklyn 99, and having that depiction of the USA at the front of my mind makes it seem even stranger that The Handmaid’s Tale skirts over all race issues. Seems kind implausible that there are black handmaids? If the USA was taken over by these sorts of fundamentalist groups, they’d be white supremacists, surely? In the first episode we find out that June is married to a black man, and I thought there’d be a whole exploration of her as a “race-traitor”, etc, but nope.
Short fan fic / riff follows:
They gassed the men in prisons, early on in the revolution. The women’s prisons were turned into surrogacy centres around the same time. The Personhood Act mandated that viable frozen embryos with valid citizenship be immediately homed; so it was the obvious solution.
Women were given a star rating – I am what is known as a Pure Triple Star. White, viable eggs, hospitable womb, previous live birth. Unless you are the wife of someone high within the movement, a Pure Triple Star is the best hand to be dealt. On the back of my robes, the symbol of three bright white stars arranged in a triangle, visible for everyone – like a target but reversed. Don’t touch this one.
I live in relative freedom. I take the hormone pills, and submit to the egg retrieval process once every three months. It used to be once a month, but they have dialled it back. You want your prize breeding stock to have longevity. Four times a year, unpleasant, risky, but mostly bearable. We are reminded constantly that it is only a stroke of luck that separates us from the Bearers – women of colour, or white women whose eggs are unviable or undesirable, impregnated once a year like cattle used to be, in the days when there were cattle. Women in surrogacy centres have it worst. Not only the ones that used to be prisons, but newer ones too, purpose-built. Illegal immigrants forced to repay the debt to the society that hosted them, by becoming the hosts to the next generation of our society. And anyone who can’t be trusted to be a responsible Bearer on the outside.
Bearers get remuneration for their contribution, as do we Donors, set at the market rate of course. Outside the surrogacy centres, no-one is forced to be a Bearer. It is simply the only livelihood available. No-one is forced to be a Donor either. But the privileges are too high to turn down; and besides, women are barred from employment unless we are part of the reproductive programme. The Wives find it easy to justify. They are supporting young women to gain independence, by trading the only thing we have of value. It is all transparent, supply and demand. They have the resources to raise children, we have the resources to produce them. Everybody wins. The world is facing a unique challenge, there are too few babies – more specifically, too few white babies – and too many undesirable and unnecessary people, people who have nothing to offer, polluting the air, destroying the natural resources, bleeding us dry and making things worse for everyone. It is said that this has to be remedied, first in our own nation and then beyond.
You still see women of colour, pregnant bellies, a single brown star on their backs, or older women with no stars, looking after children, cleaning houses, making food, all the roles that the Wives do not want to do themselves. You never see black men anymore. Before the revolution, there was consternation about the alienated working class white men, struggling in the new economy. It was decided that the simplest solution was to cull the competition. After all, who is this country for?
I am privileged as a Pure Triple Star; but privilege is another name for complicity. They need us to enact Project Gilead Pure Forever, and we comply. Handmaids of the patriarchy, handmaids of white supremacy. They must have known we would comply. They would never have tried otherwise.