On mandatory motherhood
Steve was bugging me about the fact that I haven’t said much over the last months of crazy that is politics in this election year. “I would think you’d have a lot to say about these things,” he said. (Or at least that’s what I think he said. There was Two Gingers whiskey involved.)
I tried to explain to him the difficulty of sorting through what the past months of gender politics in this country has felt like to me. I am of an age where I can recall vividly the women of my mother’s generation facing unwanted pregnancy with resignation because that was all they could do. Their health be damned, their financial stability be damned – there was no choice. I’m also of an age where my daughters never have faced a world where they didn’t have the power to control their destiny.
I also tried to explain what it was like to watch five clerics – yes, that’s what those men who testified at Darryl Issa’s committee are – insist that to allow women their freedoms is to somehow infringe on the freedom of male clerics.
That is, until I ran across JoAnn Wypijewski’s article in The Nation, “Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding,” which connects the coercive nature of slave breeding directly to what women are seeing in state legislatures across the country. Recalling a conversation with Professor Pamela Bridgewater, Wypijewski remarks on the fundamental fact of coercive breeding:
Bridgewater argues that because slavery depended on the slaveholder’s right to control the bodies and reproductive capacities of enslaved women, coerced reproduction was as basic to the institution as forced labor. At the very least it qualifies among those badges and incidents, certainly as much as the inability to make contracts. Therefore, sexual and reproductive freedom is not simply a matter of privacy; it is fundamental to our and the law’s understanding of human autonomy and liberty. And so constraints on that freedom are not simply unconstitutional; they effectively reinstitute slavery.
“They effectively reinstitute slavery.” That is what this spring is about. Nothing more and nothing less.
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