Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Three Cheers for Reproductive Rights...just not for you.

This past week was the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the laws that legalized abortion on a national scale. All around mainstream pro-choice blogs, newsletters, and campus mailing lists, I saw a lot of people really excited about the anniversary...with little to no mention of all the women left out of the mainstream reproductive rights movement (i.e. immigrant women, women of color, disabled women, working-class women, women on welfare/Medicaid, women in prison, and so on). You all know the drill; nothing new, huh?

The language usually used to talk about reproductive rights is about "choices," having the "choice" to have access to an abortion or access to contraceptives. But this ignores the lack of choices a woman has when her very residence in this country is not a free choice, but a move pushed by forces like NAFTA; when her family is already below the poverty line and she can't feed another child; when she is uninsured and has to take what she can get from Medicaid, if she can even get that much; when she has already been denied autonomy over her health by rape or incest; when she is in prison (and likely unfairly so) and therefore denied abortion access in many states; or when the combination of religion and shame have denied her comprehensive sex education to even know where to begin. Calling reproductive justice a "choice" is only easy for some.

Of course, it is great how far reproductive rights have come, but no victory is worth winning if the fight isn't inclusive. So instead of merely throwing Roe a birthday party, I'm rounding up a few articles as a starting point in the reproductive justice movement outside the cozy confines of the mainstream:

* "Expand the Pro-Choice Dialogue," and anything else you might find on the SisterSong Collective's website.

* "Demanding Reproductive Justice for Latinas"

* "Latinas and Abortion Access," and anything else from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

* Holla!, a newsletter put out by Sistas on the Rise, an activist group for teenage women of color's reproductive rights & education

* We Got Issues, from the National Asian/Pacific American Women's Forum, on the absence of API women from the reproductive health movement

* An Open Letter on the ableism buried, not too deeply, within much of the mainstream movement

* "Reproductive Rights in Theory and Practice: The Meaning of Roe v. Wade for Women in Prison"

And with that, I wish you a happy Roe v Wade week.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Achola Obama

So I finally read Steinem's op-ed published earlier this week. I thought Steinem raised a solid point about how we understand women's accomplishments in terms of relationships, rather than individual successes. But it also revealed the inadequacy of the message Hillary Clinton is currently campaigning behind.

The figurative punch of her lede—the mysterious, unelectable black woman—comes from our attribution of the woman's accomplishments with those of her husband, children, and the people around her. That is, her marriage to a corporate lawyer and raising of two children is right up there with her work as a community organizer and a state senator. Hell, she can't even choose her racial self-identification ('in this race-conscious country she IS CONSIDERED black). It's a classic example of having her identity as a woman defined by her relationships, and by those standards alone we would dismiss her candidacy prematurely.

It's a valid point, but it also happens to be the substance of Hillary's entire campaign. Hillary seems to bring Chelsea to events not to add another voice to her campaign—Chelsea doesn't speak to reporters or supporters—but to reaffirm her status as a mother. Bill stands right beside her, reinforcing the fact that her "experience" is based on eight years as the wife of the sitting president. I don't honestly believe she or the American public would say an additional four years in the US Senate is enough to deduce that she has more experience to lead. I also don't think Laura Bush or Nancy Reagan somehow have significantly more experience than any junior senator. But while Steinem decries our unwillingness to look beyond gender and see the true accomplishments of the individual, Hillary is, in essence, asking us to wait a couple of months before heeding Steinem's advice.

Hillary Clinton is definitely qualified to run for president and lead the country. But I really don't think her campaign of experience is challenging us to look critically at how we perceive gender, either.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I cannot believe this...

Barack Obama just won my home state.
The first caucus of the year.
How in the world?
I am hopeful.
This is history.