Quantcast

«

»

Jan 21 2012

Defending Our Mother’s Gardens: In Observance of Roe v. Wade

By Sikivu Hutchinson (reprinted from blackfemlens, March 30, 11)

In her landmark work In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, Alice Walker wrote: “What did it mean for a black woman to be an artist in our grandmother’s time? Our great-grandmothers’ day? Did you have a genius of a great-great-grandmother who died under some ignorant and depraved white overseer’s lash? Or was her body broken and forced to bear children (who were more often than not sold away from her)—eight, ten, fifteen, twenty children—when her one joy was the thought of modeling heroic figures of rebellion?” Many of my students do not know who Walker is. But as they listen to me read her words during a discussion of Women’s History Month they are quiet as death, contemplative, and, perhaps, newly enflamed. As students of female sacrifice, many of them know the savage politics behind her canvas. They are intimately aware of the blood price women of color must pay to be free in this so-called post-feminist society in which white male lawmakers trivialize sexual assault with dangerous tautologies like “forcible rape.”

Recently, the mainstream media buzzed with news reports that a Libyan woman had reported being gang-raped to a group of foreign correspondents. A MSNBC reporter described the victim as middle aged, well-spoken and respectable (the victim was actually estimated to be in her 20s or 30s), implying that her credibility was beyond reproach. As a “respectable,” upstanding woman, her rape would surely be an affront to her community. Preemptive reference to rape victims’ social station is a now familiar device in the rape reporting game. Over the past few weeks, the gang rape of an 11 year old Latina girl also made headlines, eliciting controversy over the girl’s portrayal in both mainstream media and in the community where the assault occurred. Whenever a rape case becomes high profile, the inevitable questions about the victim’s reputation, race, whereabouts, and alleged complicity in the assault are trotted out. Yet seldom is there any analysis of the sociopolitical conditions that legitimize rape and the connect- the-dots rape reporting game. And seldom is there any analysis of what gives men license to violently occupy women’s bodies. There is never any connection made between this kind of sexual terrorism and state power. Hence, these connections are especially urgent now given the unrelenting wave of anti-choice anti-abortion legislation that has swept the nation since the midterm elections.
South Dakota recently passed a law requiring pregnant women to wait three days before they made a decision about terminating their pregnancies. Under the new mandate, championed by the state’s governor, women must receive counseling from a doctor before they have an abortion. It is the only state in the nation to impose such a requirement. Other pending legislation includes requiring that women receive ultrasounds before they make a decision to terminate. Health care reform foes have also spearheaded legislation that restricts private insurers who participate in new government mandated health exchanges from providing abortion coverage.
One of the most pernicious civil liberties’ rollbacks is HR.3, the House-sponsored legislation that would give the I.R.S. the right to question women who had abortions about whether they became pregnant by rape or incest. The bill has been dubbed “Stupak on Steroids,” after Democratic Congressman Bark Stupak, who crusaded against abortion coverage under health care reform. According to Mother Jones magazine, the bill “extends the reach of the Hyde Amendment—which bans federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake—into many parts of the federal tax code. In some cases, the law would forbid using tax benefits—like credits or deductions—to pay for abortions or health insurance that covers abortion.” Women who are audited could be forced to reveal why and how they had an abortion, further ensuring Big Brother’s reign over their bodies and destinies.
There is a connection between this kind of state-sponsored terrorism and the brutal occupation of women’s bodies through rape. Yet in the U.S., the term terrorism is only used when dark-skinned racial others are the perpetrators of “strategic” geopolitical violence. Violence against women can be isolated to aberrant male predators, not the predatory terroristic human rights violations of the state.
Recently, a student in my Women’s Leadership Project group expressed her vehement opposition to abortion. She argued that a woman who has sex should be prepared to accept the potential consequence of an unplanned pregnancy. Like most young women she was taught that going through with an unplanned unwanted pregnancy is a supremely moral decision. After all, self-sacrifice under inhumane conditions is what is expected and required of women. Validation through a baby that one cannot take care of is ok, while validation through sex is not. In this regime, the consequence of pregnancy for women is a biologically determined life sentence, one that males cannot and will not be forced to serve. Women who don’t agree to this life sentence are immoral, rather than the society that does not provide for every child regardless of class or race. Some of the most vitriolic responses I’ve ever gotten to my writing were from anti-abortion foes, primarily men, who see a white supremacist plot behind black women’s support for abortion. But it is not white supremacy that dictates black women’s allegiance to the legacy of female ancestors who could not control their own destinies. And this is perhaps the profound power of Walker’s work. In search of her mother’s garden, she “found (her) own.” Honoring the great grandmothers whose artistry and personhood were denied symbolizes the revolutionary right of women to control their own destinies, tend their own gardens, to ensure that terrorism cannot continue to disguise itself as legitimacy and law.

15 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Brea Plum

    As a woman living in Texas, it infuriates me how often the new law in Texas refers to the new requirement merely as an ultrasound. It is, in fact, a transvaginal ultrasound, performed by inserting a 9 inch plastic probe into the vagina. Some female legislators actually brought the probe into the chamber to make sure the lege knew exactly what it was voting on. It made no difference to the men (of course). When the female legislators tried to explain the impact this would have on women who were pregnant as a result of rape or incest, that this would in effect be a second rape, a second violation, the men (and self-hating women) representatives were completely incapable of comprehending.

    Women are second-class citizens in Texas. We are probed and violated, indeed, pseudo-raped, by force of law if we choose to terminate a pregnancy. We are lied to (doctors are forced to provide completely inaccurate information) by force of law if we choose to terminate a pregnancy. Poor women have great difficulty obtaining contraception (and cancer screenings and prenatal care and STD screenings/treatment) because the Texas legislature has almost completely defunded Planned Parenthood.

    1. 1.1
      blackskeptics

      It is state-sanctioned terrorism, pure and simple. Where do the so-called left-leaning libertarians infatuated with Ron Paul’s appeal to a so-called new right-left coalition stand on this one?

    2. 1.2
      rowanvt

      Transvaginal ultrasounds are also eminently uncomfortable and sometimes somewhat painful. I had one when the doctors were initially determining if I was having unusually bad ovulation pain or appendicitis. Turned out to be the latter, but they did find several cysts on my ovaries that explain why I also know when I’m ovulating.

      To go through that after being raped? I don’t want to imagine. It horrifies me to think of it.

      1. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

        I’ve had them for my constant pelvic pain, and they are really uncomfortable-to-painful to me as well. And definitely unpleasant as a rape survivor, even years later.

  2. 2
    Zebralily

    Thank you for reprinting this.

  3. 3
    San Ban

    Thank you for writing so eloquently on this issue of the right to bodily autonomy for women of color. It’s so disturbing to me to see our sisters shouting Hallelujah (Ahmeen) at the misogynistic diatribes of fundamentalists of all stripes. What can waken them to an awareness of their rights as full members of the family of humanity?

  4. 4
    dubliner

    ” Like most young women she was taught that going through with an unplanned unwanted pregnancy is a supremely moral decision. After all, self-sacrifice under inhumane conditions is what is expected and required of women. Validation through a baby that one cannot take care of is ok, while validation through sex is not. In this regime, the consequence of pregnancy for women is a biologically determined life sentence, one that males cannot and will not be forced to serve. Women who don’t agree to this life sentence are immoral, rather than the society that does not provide for every child regardless of class or race. ”

    I live in a country which exports all women requiring abortions to a neighbouring country. We ironically call it an Irish solution to an Irish problem. One of the most difficult attitudes to combat is precisely as you’ve outlined – that there is something wrong/immoral with a woman deciding to do what is best for HER life rather than for the blastocyst. Time for women to stop sacrificing their futures because others expect them to fulfil that sacrificial role.

    1. 4.1
      blackskeptics

      Thanks for highlighting the atrocity of the “Irish solution” vis-a-vis the violation of women’s right to self-determination. Ireland and the U.S. remain the two most virulently anti-abortion “first world” nations. Patriarchy, heterosexism and religious fascism always go arm in arm.

  5. 5
    gwen

    Thank you for this article. I remember when abortions were illegal. I wish someone would speak with the children whose mothers died from illegal abortions, or died from pregnancy complications because a doctor would not perform one. Societies have short term and selective memories.

  6. 6
    Bob of Quantum-Faith

    There must be political considerations when debating the topic of abortion. I am a black bull who has a relationship with a cuckold couple. While black women should have the right to abortion I do not believe that white women should when it comes to being pregnant to a black or non-white man.
    To deny the chance for a black baby to be born is racial discrimination and a denial of reparations to the black race.
    These are serious considerations.

    1. 6.1
      Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

      No woman owes any person, religion, country, or race a baby.

      You’re a creep.

    2. 6.2
      HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

      Your fetish is not a legitimate claim that human rights should be ignored. You are not owed consent-irrelevant access to women’s bodies for any reason.

  7. 7
    resident_alien

    #6:You’re a misogynist jerk who’s read “Soul on Ice” one too many times. You refer to yourself as a “black bull”,thus collaborating with the very real racism of likening POC with animals entirely driven by instinct and have the nerve to complain about an entirely imaginary racism that you’ve made up from thin air and your thick male privilege.

  8. 8
    Kaley Castin

    It’s the second time when i’ve seen your site. I can see a lot of hard work has gone in to it. It’s really great.

  9. 9
    Topogane | Tobogane | Topogane Ieftine

    certainly like your website however you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very troublesome to inform the reality however I will surely come back again.

  1. 10
    topogane

    topogane…

    [...]Defending Our Mother’s Gardens: In Observance of Roe v. Wade | Black Skeptics[...]…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite="" class=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>