With the latest Texas abortion ban restricting abortions for women who are more than six weeks pregnant, TikTokers have been expressing their outrage by claiming that The Handmaid’s Tale is unfolding right before our eyes. The fact that people on the internet are comparing the ban of a fictional show to forms of oppression that have been happening to real American women of color throughout history, is insensitive, and quite frankly, shows white feminism. Comparing the ban to fiction turns a blind eye to the years of oppression WOC have faced regarding their reproductive rights. Yes, the abortion ban is a disappointing, infuriating setback to Roe v. Wade, but comparing the ban to fiction is a setback to feminism.
Let’s start with how the pioneering of gynecology was carried by the abuse of African American women’s bodies. In the 19th century, the father of American gynecology, James Marion Sims, performed horrific operations and experiments on black women without anesthesia, since Sims saw them as “flesh”, not human beings. Sims used slavery as an excuse for using Black women’s bodies for experimental surgeries that left his test subjects disfigured. Also, let’s not forget the years of sexual abuse Black women suffered at the hands of their white slave-masters as they were raped and their bodies commodified to “breed” more slaves for the plantations.
In 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson passed legislation that banned sex-selected abortions—abortions done to select a baby’s gender. Governor Hutchinson referred to China during his advocacy for the legislation, invoking frustration in the Asian American community because they believed the ban was stereotyping them. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Aliya Khan, a representative for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), stated that “This ban is based on the false premise that AAPI families prefer sons over daughters and will seek abortions because of that preference… politicians continue to use these awful stereotypes to advance their anti-abortion agenda.”
For Hispanic women, a sadistic common occurrence repeatedly happens where sexual abuse persists in migrants’ journeys to the United States. Crossing the border is already dangerous, and female migrants have the additional fear of sexual abuse on the journey such as from smugglers seeking sex for payment. Even when crossing the border, many unaccompanied minors and female migrants report sexual abuse while in custody at the hands of U.S. border officials.
Considering all these real-life examples, white feminists referring to The Handmaid’s Tale is a major slap in the face for WOC. If the only comparison you can make to the Texas abortion ban is a fictional television show, that it is a problem you need to self-reflect on.