Intersectional Feminism and Reproductive Justice
Listening to the women that came before us so we can protect and expand our rights
This is the text of a speech I gave as part of a panel discussion for the End of the Line Humanists group.
Thank you to Cynthia Quam, End of the Line Humanists, Kelly O’Keefe and Oak Park Progressive Women, and Jerry Delaney at DPOP for giving me the opportunity to speak about women’s rights issues and where they stand in our current political climate.
The day after President Trump’s inauguration we saw the largest mobilization of women in all 50 states, and in every continent around the world. The Women’s March served as a clarion call to women from all walks of life, that we must stand together, in an intersectional way, to fight for our rights, as women, working women, mothers, gay women, transgender and queer women, women of color, women from all socioeconomic classes; we all have to fight with and for each other, both as allies and as accomplices in order to protect our rights.
In 2017 we’ve already seen women’s rights being challenged and stripped away at both the state, and national level with the fight to save the Affordable Care Act, and strip women of the essential health benefits they need to survive; we’ve seen the impact of the executive orders — the Muslim ban, on women that are trying to escape domestic violence, and are afraid to go to the police and call the authority for fear of deportation.
At the state level, in Illinois, we’re seeing lawmakers from both sides of the aisle that aren’t standing up and fighting to ensure a woman’s right to choose if Roe v. Wade was overturned; a possibility given Judge Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination. HB-40 is a bill that should be passed to protect the right to choose of a woman in Illinois and we have Democrats and Republicans that aren’t supporting it (I’m calling you out Rep. LaShawn Ford).
On the other extreme, in the state legislature in Texas, laws are being introduced that could give a doctor the legal authority to lie to a pregnant woman about the health of her unborn child, if that doctor feels like that woman is thinking of getting an abortion. Let’s repeat that — a doctor can lie to their patient, and this is protected under state law if this bill is passed. There are 2 other bills in the state legislature in Texas that are further eroding abortion access and rights.
Let me make one thing clear — a woman’s right to choose isn’t the only fight we need to worry about. We need to listen to our black sisters and become accomplices in the fight for reproductive justice. “Rooted in the internationally-accepted human rights framework created by the United Nations”, Reproductive Justice combines reproductive rights and the fight for social justice issues into one framework that recognizes the that the intersectionality of issues is what we need to fight for, and not a single issue by itself.
Because if we fight only for abortion rights, without fighting for economic equality, equal pay for equal work, access to a good education, criminal justice reform, and access to an affordable healthcare, then we’re only fighting for a small portion of all of the rights that are needed for a woman to fully live her life in the multifaceted way that we live our lives.
For example, as a woman of color working in tech, I would remiss if I only fought for equal pay, without fighting for greater representation of women of color in tech, or ignoring sexual harassment and human resource reforms that are desperately needed to protect and keep women in tech.
Similarly, as a veteran, I would be remiss if I only fought for veterans issues without fighting for sexual assault protections for women that currently serve, or without highlighting how Trump’s federal hiring freeze adversely impacts single mothers serving in the military (like me when I served), by causing daycare centers on base to close because they don’t have the staff needed to keep the day care centers open.
For those of us that are just coming to this fight, we need to respect the work that’s been done before we got here. Reach out to organizations like SisterSong, an group born right here in Chicago, that created the framework for Reproductive Justice, and has now expanded the fight to be a multi ethnic, all encompassing fight for women’s and reproductive rights.
In order to keep moving forward to progress and expand women’s rights, we need to keep working together, hand-in-hand, black, white, brown sisters and brothers; so that women’s rights are protected for generations to come.
I want to end with a quote from Audre Lorde — a civil rights activist and feminist, that is pulled from her book of essays Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. This quote speaks to the non-intersectional feminism that is present in our society, and how we must acknowledge it and work to widen the scope of feminism, so that we can work to fight for Reproductive Justice.
“Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”
— Audre Lorde