When Women’s Liberationists Could Imagine Fighting Violence Against Women Without Relying on the Prison System

The new book, All Our Trials: Prisons, Policing and the Feminist Fight to End Violenceis a history of activism by, for, and about incarcerated domestic violence survivors, criminalized rape resisters, and dissident women prisoners in the 1970s and early 1980s.”

How Feminists Resisted Prisons and Policing in the 1970s

“Anticarceral feminist politics grew in the cracks of prison walls and at the interfaces between numerous social movements, including those for racial and economic justice, prisoners’ and psychiatric patients’ rights, and gender and sexual liberation. Through the process of building coalitions that transected these social justice struggles, the activists at the center of this study produced a broad and layered understanding of ‘violence against women’ that encompassed the structural violence of social inequalities, the violence of state institutions and agents, and interpersonal forms of violence, including rape, battering, and sexual coercion. This expansive analysis directly clashed with the “tough-on-crime” ethos of the 1970s and the mainstream women’s movement’s increasing embrace of criminalization as a frontline solution to interpersonal violence.”

All Our Trials shows how the focus on the lives of marginalized women demonstrated that incarceration was a source of further harm rather than justice and safety.  The book is well worth a read.

The 2019 U. S. Women’s Soccer Team is Remarkable for Both its Wins and its Radical Feminism

 

Members of the U.S. women’s soccer team, this year’s World Cup champions, are using their public platform to speak out about economic and racial issues, in addition to their demands for equal treatment relative to the men’s U.S. soccer team. Indeed, they sound like the radical feminists of the1960s joining all these issues together. Making clear the idea that none of us is free as long as one woman is unfree.

Amy Goodman, host of the news program Democracy Now interviewed two women about the feminist politics expressed by members of the U.S. women’s soccer team. The guests were Shireen Ahmed a writer, public speaker, award-winning sports activist focusing on Muslim women in sports and Dr. Amira Rose Davis, an assistant professor of history and African American studies at Penn State. Both women are involved in creating the weekly Burn It All Down sports podcast.

In discussion of the lawsuit the team has filed against the U.S. Soccer Federation Shireen Ahmend said, “So, effectively, the players of the U.S. women’s national team are unhappy, and setting an incredible precedent for women around the world to say, ‘We want equal pay. We want fairness. We want to talk about rights, maternity leave. We want to talk about healthcare. We want to talk about anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-oppression.’ That’s what they’re doing. So it’s a really important case.”

At one point in the interview Amira Rose Davis commented on the whiteness of the team. Goodman asked her to say more about that, to talk about “how the team is constituted, and [about] the women’s activism around the issue” of whiteness. Dr. Davis responded, “in the United States the access issue to soccer is vast. It takes a lot of money, very early on, in youth sports. And one of the consequences of that is that we don’t see a large amount of diversity and lower-income players represented on the team. … But this team has been very vocal about all of their intersecting identities. When asked to put names on the back of their jerseys to honor various women, for instance, Rapinoe chose Audre Lorde and said, ‘She’s an intersectional feminist, and that’s what I want my politics to be.’ Christen Press, one of the women of color on the team, said, ‘This is about pay equity. It’s about gender equality. But we also are talking about racial equity here. We’re also talking about what’s going on in terms of why Rapinoe chose to kneel.’” Davis goes on to say about Rapinoe that she’s “clear about being an ally, in saying, you know, ‘Yes, these are my fights, and I’m bringing a lot of clear visibility, and I’m talking a lot about pay equity, but I also am acknowledging the fact that I’m not policed in the same way, and I’m not dealing with relatives being shot dead in the street.’ And even when asked how she felt about patriotism, she’s like, ‘I feel deeply American, but we have to reckon with the fact that this country was founded on slavery.’”

The whole interview can be watched and/or heard here: https://www.democracynow.org/2019/7/8/seg_1

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Abortion is a Woman’s Fundamental Right

Our world is crying out as abortion bans are sweeping through conservative parts of the country, particularly the southeastern United States, the historical site of much slavery and the largest African American communities, as well as a stronghold of white Christian patriarchy. While some women in the liberal northeast and west coast may never experience these bans, Black and U.S. Native American women (groups who researchers say have the highest risk of dying in childbirth) as well as poor, young, and rural women (who cannot as easily access affordable health care) will be primarily impacted by these bans. In addition, the Journal of Perinatal Education states that unintended pregnancies — which abortion allows us to stop — are associated with increased likelihood of risk factors causing death in childbirth, which also happens to vary by state. Women will always attempt to obtain abortions, whether or not the abortions are legal. Women die from both unintended pregnancies and attempted unsafe abortions all over the world, and lack of access to safe abortions (caused by outlawing abortion) puts them at risk. Therefore, the bans on abortion amount to the state-sanctioned murder of women, especially those of less social privilege. All of the country is ablaze with fury and apprehension, and we are seeing even women who were previously apolitical now come forward to speak with their families and communities on the right of a woman to abortion.
The male supremacist right wing sees women as vessels to produce the working class, soldiers to uphold their various patriarchal nationalisms — and not as full human beings unto ourselves! As radical feminists, we vehemently reject this ethos. These are the hateful convulsions of an anti-abortion movement that knows many of these bans are nearly impossible to enforce. This round of bans are purposely unconstitutional, designed to force a Supreme Court case that (they hope) would overturn Roe v. Wade. But we women won’t let them. We have a vast number of sympathetic medical personnel nationwide and can end unwanted pregnancies privately during the first 9 weeks with the medications misoprostol and mifepristone.
Abortion rights have been whittled away, step by step for decades, starting with the Hyde Amendment. Because legislators couldn’t take abortion away from us immediately, they have been doing it slowly. Parental Consent & Notification laws, TRAP laws, mandated sonograms/guilt trips/”waiting periods” — an astonishing array of laws designed to deprive us of our bodily autonomy. When Donald Trump took office, his Supreme Court picks were specifically for overturning Roe v. Wade, and one of his first executive orders was an attack on abortion. As Planned Parenthood Action Fund states: “The global gag rule was first introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. On January 23, 2017, in one of his first acts as president, President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded the global gag rule. … The global gag rule prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money.”

Trump’s executive order, which was essentially an imposed sanction on women’s bodies around the world, severely hampers women’s ability to obtain abortions and other sexual health care, regardless of the legality of abortion in their own countries. It even prohibits health care providers’ ability to treat AIDS, a crisis which Trump boasted about attempting to fix. The terrible impact is felt “especially in places where maternal deaths, HIV rates and unmet need for contraception are unacceptably high. Communities have lost access to essential life-saving services such as HIV testing, antiretroviral medications, nutritional support, birth control and pregnancy care,” says Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood.

It’s a United States tradition for the ruling elite to practice human rights abuses overseas before bringing them home. This year, we are seeing a wave of abortion bans. The New York Times (pdf) has the rundown. As of May 2019, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi severely limited abortion rights to the first trimester. Alabama eliminated abortion rights entirely, even in cases of rape and incest. Utah, Arkansas, and Missouri all reduced abortion rights farther back into the 2nd trimester, away from the framework established in Roe v. Wade.

The bans are being met with fierce resistance. Kansas just added abortion protection to its constitution. New York enacted a law that will preserve access to abortions, protect medical professionals who perform abortions from being criminalized, allow medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions, and allow abortions to be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or to protect the life of the woman. Vermont is about to pass a bill allowing abortions with “zero” limits, as a “fundamental right”, and prohibits government entities from interfering with or restricting access to abortion, “ensuring that any pregnancy may be terminated for any reason at any time.” Some Democrats have claimed that the Vermont bill goes”too far“! And this isn’t the first time Democrats started sounding like Republicans: in New Mexico, eight Democrats crossed party lines to defeat a pro-choice bill. Nor is it simply a matter of going “too far”. A milder law comparable to New York’s was proposed in Virginia by Kathy Tran, who immediately faced death threats, and the Republicans spread fake news that the bill was about legalizing “infanticide”. The Virginia bill removed some restrictions on abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy, allowed abortions during the second trimester to take place outside of hospitals, and made it so only one doctor would be needed to determine that pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health.

We’ve never had full abortion rights. All the ways that the patriarchy nitpicks a woman’s right to abortion into “trimesters”, “medical” necessity, conditions of rape, harsher restrictions in some regions, etc, only serve to divide women and distract us from the fundamental right that women have to abortions on demand without apology, without approval, and without being treated as criminals.

Feminists in Struggle, like the early Second Wave Feminists, insists on FREE ABORTION ON DEMAND with zero questions asked. The only condition should be the consent of the woman who is pregnant. We also demand an end to the petty restrictions and code regulations (TRAP laws) that specifically discriminate against pregnant women and abortion clinics. We won’t stop there. We demand safe abortion access for women both in the United States, where we are based, and everywhere else. But because patriarchy divides women, the women’s liberation movement is divided into various camps. The Democratic party soaks up most of women’s political energy, preventing us from experiencing our full potential as a movement.

You must be wondering: what can radical feminists do? What can WE all do about this? Especially while we are still living out the war on feminism by dominant forces in the transgender movement, positioning radical feminists as underdogs in any discussion on feminism? Ridiculous rhetoric we’ve been peddled about “pregnant people” instead of “pregnant women” is now   becoming “abortions for people” instead of “abortions for women”. We consider abortion a right of the female sex, but for us to say that in progressive circles will bring controversy and distractions that women can’t afford.

As radical feminists, we can utilize our position as the radicals and underdogs to push harder and farther than anyone else will. Our hearts are with everyday women and our right to control our bodies and lives. We will do what the long arm of the Democratic party would never do. We will demand ABORTIONS ON DEMAND WITHOUT CONDITIONS. Not to mention, free health care that includes birth control and abortions.  No forced sterilizations.  And… END THE GLOBAL GAG ORDER!  100% of unwanted pregnancies are caused by MEN, yet no one holds the men responsible for the life-threatening condition of pregnancy!

If thousands of women join Feminists in Struggle and turn it into a powerful radical feminist movement, we would be able to organize and lead marches for abortion rights and pressure legislators to secure abortion as women’s fundamental right  We would be able to all strategize together in a bottom up democratic movement. However, because our organization is young and still small what we want and what is feasible are two different things.  We will often have to join in actions called and organized by liberal feminists and other more conservative sections of the movement. But still our voices as radical feminists can be heard.

We call for united mass action in the streets. We call for civil disobedience. We call for all women to speak up about abortion. We call for you and us to join the larger marches under the FIST banner and apply pressure there for people to take up more radical positions in support of the complete liberation of our sex.

We call for teaching women en masse how to use and smuggle the abortion pill, and perform menstrual extractions. We call for you, if you live in a state that protects abortion, to consider taking direct action to provide safe harbor for women seeking out of state abortions. Bring back the Jane Collective that performed thousands of safe abortions on women in Chicago before Roe v. Wade. We want to educate women about women’s self help groups who work to keep women’s health in women’s hands. Educate yourself and others on the use of plan B, a medication you can buy at the pharmacy that is effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 48 to 72 hours following unprotected sex. Educate yourself and others on misoprostol and mifepristone, which can end unwanted pregnancies privately during the first 9 weeks. Educate women on preventing pregnancy and obtaining safe abortions. Spread the word to women affected by these bans not to sign any waivers when they get an abortion. You can also agitate and get previously apolitical women involved in the broader struggle. And of course… Join FIST and get actively involved by becoming a member of FIST’s Feminist Assembly!

Women are half the population. Women have the numbers. We will prevail!

We have a few suggested chants and slogans:

“Our bodies, our spaces, our sex based rights.”

“My body, MY CHOICE!”

“Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!

“Women’s bodies are not incubators!”

“It’s not a womb, it’s a WOMAN”

“Abortion on demand, NO APOLOGY!”

“Birth must be voluntary. Abortion is health care. Health care is a human right.”

“Free Abortion on Demand!”

Failing to get Favorable Court Rulings, Gender Activists Go After Vancouver Rape Relief’s Funding

Feminists In Struggle urges all supporters of feminism and of democracy to support Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter in their continuing fight to preserve spaces for natal women alone.  According to VRR, gender activists have now convinced the city to discriminate against women in the name of inclusivity.  In the defense of their woman-only policy they raise some interesting comparisons to indigenous, ethnic, disability and other struggles. In their statement they note that many grants by the city of Vancouver are given to other organizations that serve other specific groups, but that “rightfully, none of these groups have been challenged with the demand that they demonstrate “accommodation, welcomeness and openness to people of all ages, abilities… and ethnicities,” as it would undermine their mission. However, this is precisely what they are doing in the case of VRR. The Vancouver City Council is ignoring previous court decisions affirming VRR’s right to offer some services to only natal females and attempting to force them to change this policy.  For more information on what has happened, go to their statement.

The Collective of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter