If you haven’t listened to the Feminist Current podcast interviewing Civia Tamarkin about her documentary “Birthright: A War Story,” you should – especially if you live in the United States. The damage to reproductive rights that the Trump administration and their state government minions are inflicting on US women – and global women through international policy – is a continually developing tragedy. Here in Missouri the governor is in the midst of passing a law in which landlords can decline/ evict unmarried women who use birth control and get abortions. No word yet as to how this would be even be enforced.
So, during this interview, Tamarkin asks something that my mother asked about a month ago: where are all the women protesting these attacks on women’s reproductive freedom?
Tamarkin brought up an especially good point about college campuses. Generally a hub for social change, college campuses presently seem particularly silent when it comes to rallying for reproductive rights – especially compared to the increasing right-wing college organizing AGAINST women’s reproductive freedom. I believe we all know the reason for this bizarre silence – the rise of liberal feminism and gender studies.
This part of the conversation brought me back in time to my days with the WOMEN’S studies department at the University of Pittsburgh and its close ally the Campus Women’s Organization. The CWO, many of whom were in the women’s studies department, constantly held reproductive rights rallies. This was also when Plan B was becoming over the counter, thus the rallies were about abortion AND birth control. I recall one particular rally when we spread hangers all over a sidewalk that was strategically located in front of a church. We Pitt feminists of the early 2000s never lost sight of the fact that if women lose their hard-fought reproductive rights, all other freedoms become a moot point. Thus reproductive rights were always at the forefront of our agenda.
It seems that was the end of an era.
The mainstreaming of liberal feminism and queer theory as the de facto feminism has completley upended the prioritising of reproductive rights in feminism. Go on any liberal website and you will see articles about violence against women alongside articles supporting “sex work,” A LOT of articles on trans rights, and plenty on how fashion and popular culture are supposedly feminist. All the featured activists tend to be under 30 and none are true reproductive rights activists.
What we are witnessing is the result of the deconstructing of biology by queer theory and the influence of neo-capitalist, individualist values withtin the feminist movement. The sting of accusations of “cissexim” from the women’s march are still fresh in my mind, and thus I will continue to be very vocal of the influence of trans activism within feminism. Women were effectively silenced by trans activists, mainly MTF, and their liberal feminist minions, despite the VERY REAL threat to women’s reproductive rights. So is it any surprise that feminists are not marching, nationwide, for reproductive rights? Is it any surprise that after being chided for referring to our ovaries and uteruses, women feel wary of publicly rallying for reproductive rights?
Tamarkin mentioned this fraction of feminism, but she only attributed it to issues of race and class within feminism. I believe this is limited, because plenty of women of color showed up to the women’s march despite the earlier controversy. At least in St. Louis they did. So, despite initial racial fracturing, women were able to unite for the most part. Furthermore, many feminist of color are completely aware of how they are particularly impacted by a loss of reproductive rights.
The real reason for the fracture within feminism is between liberal feminists and pretty much all other feminists who do not wish to accommodate trans identity politics at every event and in every discussion. Or who do not wish to legalize prostitution. Or incorporate makeup tips into feminism. On Guerrilla Feminism there was actually a video in which a young feminist talks about the need for complete decriminalization of prostitution while applying makeup. I didn’t watch past this scene because WTF!?
The fracture within feminism is an ideological rift spread literally along the lines of liberal feminists and the feminists they so readily label SWERFS and TWERFS. How can feminists have a serious discussion and rally regarding reproductive rights when mainstream feminist websites such as Everyday Feminism are telling feminists how to center transwomen within FEMALE reproductive rights and claiming that “people get pregnant?” How can a feminism based on individual empowerment rally to protest for the collective?
There is one other trend I want to touch upon that I am witnessing with liberal feminism. The stories being published on sites such as Guerrilla Feminism also include stories specifically about men. These may be minority men, or involve class issues, but they are male-focused all the same. Now, as a feminist I support class and racial justice rights that impact men, but on a FEMINIST site these issue should be focused on WOMEN. Because let’s be honest. Minority and lower income men are not going to be affected by reproductive rights or any other issues that specifically impact women – and these same men can act as oppressors to minority women, particularly in the realms of domestic violence and reproductive freedom. A feminist site should not be covering every social justice problem in existence. That is not the point of feminism. This diffusion of feminism takes important energy and resources away from the individuals who need feminism the most: women, including minority and poor women.
So, what is the solution? I have no idea. I work a 40 hour job not specifically within women’s health/ rights, so I don’t have time to organize to mend this ideological rift – especially considering that the rift is being widened by liberal feminists. If radical feminists along with other feminists are continually banned from sites and no platformed, how can we even communicate? Truth is, I suspect the ideological fracture won’t be mended until the US is about to literally become some softer version of the Republic of Gilead. Afterall, as Tamarkin herself discusses in her podcast, pregnant women in the US are already being imprisoned, forcefully hospitalized, and are dying…and it is for the most part being met with silence from mainstream feminism.