Pushcart 2020 XLIV: Tiffany Midge, “An Open Letter to White Women Concerning ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and America’s Cultural Amnesia” (nonfiction) from McSweeney’s June 2018

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.

Complete story available online at McSweeney’s

Feminism has often had a class problem. While women were fighting to get to the highest levels of the corporate boardroom, and to be taken seriously as a candidate for president, other women were trying to raise children while meeting work requirements at minimum-wage or tip-driven jobs offering no health care or paid sick leave and putting up with all kinds of crap from the boss and customers because they couldn’t afford to lose their job even if Gloria Allred had been willing to swoop into Noplace, USA to work out a settlement three years later.

By placing her Indian Handmaid’s Tale along side the popular TV series based on Atwood’s book, Midge takes the the comedy-over-tragedy approach to communicate how, no matter how crappy life is for women in the corporate world, it’s crappier on the reservation, and while a rising tide lifts all boats, some boats seem to be forgotten about. Since it’s a short letter, and available online, I’ll leave it for readers to peruse.

One touch of irony I can’t resist mentioning: considering how she peppers the letter with cute white-girl names taken from white-girl literature and pop culture, consider the name Tiffany Midge. While its origins are Greek, it wasn’t really used as a name until the 80s and had more to do with the lives of the Rich and Famous than with the Epiphany. One set of statistics (reliability unknown) claims its use is 71% white, 16% black, and .7% Native American. As for Midge, well. Yet Tiffany Midge is indeed legally recognized as Sioux. She specialises in poetry and humor. I can’t say much about the former, but I give her points for the latter.

2 responses to “Pushcart 2020 XLIV: Tiffany Midge, “An Open Letter to White Women Concerning ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and America’s Cultural Amnesia” (nonfiction) from McSweeney’s June 2018

  1. I don’t really like the show Handmaid’s Tale. I think it takes some lazy and easy shots at a version of Christianity that’s fringe. And this open letter seems to take some easy shots at the show, and I’m not sure whether to take that as justice or two wrongs.

    • Never saw the show (though I have great fondness for Elisabeth Moss from her Mad Men role, I was tepid on her as Zoey Bartlet, or rather, I was tepid on Zoey Bartlet; Ellie was all kinds of fascinating). Never read the book. I think I saw the movie but I don’t remember it. I know it’s the sort of thing that’s supposed to enrage me, but it’s just another story.
      That said, I don’t see why it somehow diminishes the plight of American Indian women, any more than Black Lives Matter means nobody cares about white lives. Maybe I’m not tuned into this particular outrage.
      Or maybe that’s the point of the piece? That it doesn’t make sense, but someone’s going to get outraged anyway?
      In any case, this is not one of my better posts (I deliberately sidestepped analysis, leaving readers to themselves).

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