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This Handmaid’s Tale Sketch Perfectly Illustrates How Privilege Works

I apologize for hitting you with two Saturday Night Live posts in a row, but this one was too good not to highlight. Last night, the cast began a Handmaid’s Tale sketch that started out by playing it straight. “In the not-too-distant future, the world is a dystopia,” says the narrator. “Women are enslaved. We have no rights and no freedoms, forced by an oppressive government to bear children under penalty of death.”

Four Handmaids then run into two male friends from their past lives.

Chris Pine, playing one of the men, throws up his hands and greets the ladies as “Girl Squad” before saying, “You guys missed my Cinco de Mayo half-birthday! What’d you do, flake or what?”

“Do you not know?” asks one of the Handmaids. “It’s the Republic. Everything is different now.”

“Different how?”

“We’re Handmaids.”

“Huh?”

“The government subjugated the women.”

“Who did?”

“They took our money. And our jobs. And our kids.”

“Oh, right!” says Pine’s character. “I think I actually read something about that, but…super busy with work lately.”

Then another one of the men’s friends, Damon, shows up. Pine’s character and his friend then try and inform him about the current political situation. “Damon, I don’t know if you heard about this thing with the women? It sucks.”

“Oh, yeah,” says Damon, “I heard a little something about that. I didn’t know if it was, like, for sure happening. Isn’t there a protest or something?”

“Yes,” answers one of the Handmaids. “Several years ago.”

“Yeeah, I meant to go to that.”

This sketch really captures one of the many benefits of privilege – that you can afford to shut off the news, or “forget about politics” for long periods of time. (We all, obviously, need and deserve regular time off from reading about the constant onslaught. Take care of yourselves, readers.) Privilege means that you can afford to forget the ways that the government, or society at large, is attacking the marginalized – because these attacks have no effect on your life.

While this sketch is specifically centered on the ways that men can get away with ignoring the struggles of women, its message applies to pretty much any schematic of privilege. Citizens can ignore the plight of immigrants, white people can ignore the struggles of people of color, able-bodied people can neglect accessibility issues, cis people can forget about trans issues, straight people can shrug off LGBTQ oppression, and  non-natives can ignore crimes against indigenous peoples.

But just because we can get away with it, that doesn’t mean we should. While this sketch is primarily built to make people laugh, I’m glad that it also reminded me to speak up and read up on those issues that don’t directly affect me or my loved ones.

(Via Saturday Night Live; image via screengrab)

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