Like many a Twitter addict, I spent a good part of last week tweeting about intersectionality (or the lack thereof) in feminist movement.
The #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag started by the fabulous Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) has garnered outstanding coverage, including a great piece written by Kendall for The Guardian.
— HuffPost BlackVoices (@blackvoices) August 13, 2013
— Renee Bracey Sherman (@rbraceysherman) August 13, 2013
— Feministing (@feministing) August 14, 2013
— Tina Vasquez (@TheTinaVasquez) August 16, 2013
— Mary (@OHTheMaryD) August 16, 2013
The Harriet Tubman Sex Tape (not joking) launched last week by Russell Simmons’s new All Def Digital YouTube channel and produced by @UncleRush himself only made the conversation about the lack of real intersectionality within mainstream feminist movement even more relevant.
— Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) August 17, 2013
Crunktastic's latest on the travesty of the Russell Simmons & the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape. Check it. http://t.co/HgTc1gHlO9
— Crunk Feminists (@crunkfeminists) August 15, 2013
— Kirsten West Savali (@KWestSavali) August 16, 2013
— Mary (@OHTheMaryD) August 15, 2013
— Imani ABL (@AngryBlackLady) August 15, 2013
#solidarityisforwhitewomen also inspired two powerful spinoffs: #blackpowerisforblackmen started by Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) of Ebony magazine and #fuckcispeople by Laurelai Bailey (@stuxnetsource).
That these hashtags exploded within minutes and have continued to spark conversation about the problems mainstream feminist circles more than a week later means that feminists, especially those of us who are privileged enough to have access to national platforms, need to pay attention and make some serious and permanent changes to the way we think about and do feminism.
That being said, I’d like to make ten suggestions on how we, as student organizers, can make our reproductive justice truly intersectional.
1. Know what reproductive justice (RJ) means.
According to SPARK RJ, an amazing RJ organization based in Atlanta, reproductive justice is “a social justice movement rooted in the belief that individuals and communities should have the resources and power to make sustainable and liberatory decisions about their bodies, genders, sexualities, and lives.”
2. Make your messaging and programming trans* inclusive.
In most places in the United States, doctors can discriminate against transpeople, and transpeople routinely receive substandard medical care. It’s also still legal to discriminate against transpeople, and many who identify as trans* face significant barriers to finding housing and employment.
Watch Southern Comfort directed by Kate Davis. A few good reads are Violence Every Day: Police Brutality and Racial Profiling Against Women, Girls, and Trans People of Color by Andrea Ritchie, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law by Dean Spade, Transgender History by Susan Stryker, and Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex edited by Nat Smith and Eric A. Stanley.
Heterosexual ciswomen are not the only people who need abortions or reproductive healthcare. If you need to know what “cis” means, look it up.
"We must acknowledge and come to terms with the implicit cissexism in assuming that only women have abortions." http://t.co/P39sfvnmxY
— Lauren Rankin (@laurenarankin) August 1, 2013
Also, it would probably be good to stop saying things like “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” or (double-trouble) “I Stand with [insert geographic location here] Women.” People who don’t or can’t stand and their allies really don’t appreciate this kind of ableist messaging.
3. Work, and work hard, to get restrictions on public and private abortion funding removed.
The Hyde Amendment and President Obama’s Executive Order 13535, which affirms his administration’s support of the Hyde Amendment, bar federal Medicaid dollars from funding abortion services. Additionally, many government employees, military personnel, and Peace Corps volunteers who use federal health care programs (including any family members who are covered through these plans) cannot have the cost of abortions subsidized through their health insurance plans. Indian Health Services patients and federal prisoners are barred from receiving abortions as part of the medical services provided to them.
According to a Guttmacher Institute brief, 18 states restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans for state employees, 8 states restrict coverage in all PRIVATE insurance plans, 22 restrict coverage in plans offered through the insurance exchanges made available through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that are paid for with personal income, and 13 states have more than one of the aforementioned restrictions in place.
Also, many student insurance plans offered by colleges and universities do not offer abortion coverage.
These kinds of policies disproportionately affect people and families with low or no income, students, and anyone who can’t afford to pay the $470 needed for a first-trimester abortion. Often, this means that people who need abortions, yet can’t afford one during the first trimester, will have to wait longer and pay more for abortion services during later stages of their pregnancy to save money or find alternate sources of funding. Some won’t be able to afford it at all.
4. Join or start a campaign supporting Medicaid expansion in your state.
The PPACA allows states to expand Medicaid coverage for single low-income adults without dependents and families who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level. If you need a reference point, this would be about $15, 415 for an individual or $26, 344 for a family of three in 2012. In states like my home state of Alabama, Medicaid expansion would give insurance coverage to an additional 400,000 Alabamians!
To give states an incentive to expand Medicaid access (besides, you know, having healthy residents) the federal government will cover 100 percent of a state’s Medicaid costs until 2017, 95 percent until 2020, and 90 percent thereafter, leaving the state responsible for 10 percent of the total cost of the Medicaid expansion.
As of July 2013, many states have yet to make a decision to expand access.
Medicaid coverage (and not just coverage for reproductive health care) is a matter of reproductive justice because it provides people and families access to necessary medical care. If one cannot seek medical care for routine checkups, illness management, and emergency services, how can it be said that they are able to make liberatory and sustainable decisions for themselves, their families, or their communities?
5. Support the labor movement, advocate for living wage laws in your state, and oppose legislation that prohibits paid sick day policies.
The Living Wage Calculator can help you figure out what the living wage rates are in your state, county, and even has information for some cities.
Apparently, many states are passing or considering legislation that would block paid sick day legislation from even being introduced. Some of these bills even prohibit state lawmakers from considering living wage legislation. Without paid sick days, people who need abortions or other medical services or must provide care for sick dependents will be forced to miss work and risk losing an income source.
6. Oppose voter suppression laws in your state and help eligible folks vote successfully.
If you can’t vote, you don’t have the power to shape the governments that determine your rights and quality of life.
After the Supreme Court decided that that new voting laws in certain jurisdictions (mostly in the South where wonky laws, literacy tests, and poll taxes ensured a certain amount of voter suppression) would no longer be subject to review by the Justice Department or a federal court before they could take effect, many of these states are already instituting voter ID requirements and other policies that will keep many people of color, students, low and no income people, and the elderly from voting.
Find out what your state legislatures are doing in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, fight back, and figure out ways to help people register and vote successfully.
7. Actively oppose Stand Your Ground laws, Stop and Frisk policies, the criminalization of pregnant people addicted to drugs, coercive sterilization practices, and the shackling of prisoners giving birth.
These policies are racist and classist in their conception and implementation and do nothing to deter crime or maternal and fetal health.
8. Let your members of Congress and state lawmakers know that you support comprehensive immigration reform and oppose mass detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants.
Never describe an undocumented person as “illegal.”
Undocumented people come to the United States in search of better opportunities for themselves and their families. Furthermore, the United States economy demands and thrives as a result of the labor that undocumented people provide.
Check out the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (you’ll learn a ton!) and sign their petition to tell Congress that 15 years is way too long for immigrants to wait for healthcare access.
10. Do your reading.
The first things I’d recommend are Elena Gutiérrez’s Fertile Matters and Dorothy Roberts’s Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty. They will make you really f*ing angry, but you will walk away with a very comprehensive understanding of the effects of non-intersectional feminism on the lives of people of color.
For more readings, consult a great list of feminist texts written by women of color and a reproductive justice book club on Goodreads and the 15 Black Feminist Books for Everyone put together by TheRoot.com. Your chapter could start an amazing reproductive justice book club!