– Jessica Luther, “Practical Feminism With Sunny Clifford,” Flyover Feminism 2/25/13 (via racialicious)
Q: How would you characterize your activism? In my mind, I think of you as a Lakota reproductive justice rockstar. Is that accurate? Why or why not?
A: I would characterize my activism as bringing awareness about the injustices and atrocities that Indigenous women (which also boils down to all women) have faced historically, as well as currently. Specifically I feel it’s necessary to have my focus of discussions about Native women as I’ve always felt left out of mainstream media and culture because I am a native woman.
Q: What are one or two pressing issues that you wish people were paying more attention to? Why?
A: I wish more people were paying attention to the Violence Against Women Act with provisions for tribal women, immigrants, and LGBT communities. I also wish more people paid attention to the exploitation of lands the world over, as it is a direct exploitation and assault against women’s bodies.
Q: What do you love about South Dakota?
A: I love the land in South Dakota. We have a vast prairie, with one of the largest natural prairie eco-systems in the world; the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. I love listening to the Western Meadowlark, with its cheerful song that celebrates the summers on the prairie. I love seeing various birds of prey on any given day, sitting alongside the road or flying high in the sky, searching for their meal. I love the Red-Tail Hawk’s piercing song. I love the prairie sunsets with various colors of pastels streaming across a never ending sky over a sea of golden grass. I love the summer time in South Dakota.
You are a sorceress, and if your husband consents to your use of contraception, he is a sorcerer! One cannot practice sorcery and genuinely believe in Christ.–
A comment on the most amazing advice column ever written. It’s all about the evils of contraception and birth control.
Here’s a gem from the article itself:
Let’s begin by making a few things clear. Contraception artificially blocks the life-creating potential of the sexual act between a man and woman. There are many ways contraception can do this. Acondom blocks fertility by keeping the man’s sperm from entering the woman’s body. The pillchemically blocks fertility by keeping the woman’s body from ovulating. There are many forms ofchemicals (spermicides, implants such as the IUD) that either kill sperm or impede a woman’s natural fertility cycle. There is also vasectomy that unnaturally blocks tubes that are designed to carry sperm out of a man’s body.
Happy weekend to you all!
. @maehemsez made me the most awesome shirt! #RepealHyde
A shirt my good friend made for me.
This past weekend I was excited and honored to participate in the Take Root conference in Norman, Oklahoma. It was the 3rd annual conference to focus on red state perspectives on reproductive justice, something near and dear to my heart.
There were activists there from at least Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Mississippi, Virginia, Minnesota, Missouri, and Alabama.
The conference was spearheaded by the group from OK4RJ (Oklahomans for Reproductive Justice), which is a favorite site of mine (and I often talk about wanting to directly copy their effort but do TX4RJ down here). Sandra Criswell, who is executive director of OK4RJ, said that Take Root was started after a group of students from the middle of the country traveled to the CLPP conference in Amherst, Massachusetts one year and they came away from it realizing that the problems and solutions offered up there did not mirror the problems and solutions in the red states. That even the urban/rural divide, which is real even in so-called blue states and an issue that needs to be pursued more, is different in the low-density states of the middle and southern US.
Part of what was so exciting for me about this particular conference was that I was finally able to meet a lot of people whom I’ve had lots of contact but never met in person, like Shark Fu, Tannis Fuller, Erin Matson, Robin Marty, and a whole lot of the OK4RJ crew including Sandra Criswell, Jen Cox, Pearl Olsen, and Mallory Carlberg.
Here are some things that I heard over the weekend that I have been thinking about ever since:
Loretta Ross defined reproductive justice this way: “the right to have a child, the right not to have a child, and the right to raise your child in a safe and healthy enviroment.”
Ross discussed how the reproductive justice framework, which was drafted by 16 women of color in the mid 1990s, was based not on the US idea of equality but on the idea of human rights. As the Sister Song site explains: “Human rights provide more possibilities for our struggles than the privacy concepts the pro-choice movement claims only using the U.S. Constitution. Reproductive justice emerged as an intersectional theory highlighting the lived experience of reproductive oppression in communities of color. It represents a shift for women advocating for control of their bodies, from a narrower focus on legal access and individual choice (the focus of mainstream organizations) to a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on our power.” Ross stated that in the US the idea of “equality” masks the very real way in which different people will need different things in order to have their human rights honored. Treating everyone “equally” will not result in everyone’s human rights being met.
Reproductive justice is a big umbrella. Valencia Robinson, an activist in Mississippi who is the executive director of Mississippi in Action, spoke about the initiatives in Mississippi last year for both personhood and voter ID. As someone who cares about reproductive justice, Robinson recognized that BOTH issues were human rights issues and needed to be fought in order for justice to occur. Many people in the reproductive rights movement, though, were only interested in personhood. In the end, personhood was defeated, which was good, but voter ID passed and for Ross and Robinson, this was NOT a win.
I was on a panel with Shark Fu (Pam Merritt) and she said, “reproductive health is not reproductive rights. And reproductive rights is not reproductive justice. And that’s okay.” In fact, she argued, we need all three, we just need to recognize the difference between them and not conflate them. Planned Parenthood does reproductive health and they have a lobbying arm that does reproductive rights. But PP is not reproductive justice. That’s okay as long as we are all aware of that. As Loretta Ross said, “We didn’t design reproductive justice to replace pro-choice. If you’re doing abortion rights work, pro-choice is a fine frame.”
Shark Fu also discussed the reality that when you are working in reproductive justice and you have privilege (I’m looking at you, white cis hetero women), know that you will at some point fuck things up. She asked that when this happens and someone else points it out to you, that you respond with open ears and listen, apologize, move forward, and change your behavior. This seems simple but I have seen so many people in the short time that I have been a part of the movement respond to good faith criticism with defensiveness and they dig in their heels. That changes nothing and only perpetuates a harmful, unjust system.
Ariel Dougherty from the Media Equity Collaborative talked a lot about how we need better media here in the red states and that one way to achieve that is to create alliances among activists in conservative states so that we can build networks. I want to do that. How do we start?
Wyndi Anderson spoke about the special space that those of us who grew up in or have lived for a long time in these traditionally conservative places occupy: we can navigate in between the conservative and the progressive because we understand both sides, we care about people on both sides, we exist in “the spaces that are split.” As she said, “I don’t wanna be at choir practice. I want to be in the spaces in between.”
Deborah Small used the final talk of the conference to discuss how we each approach the activism we do and about the hard work of self-awareness that is key to this work: “You are reflected back to yourself the things you see wrong in the world. Where am I unjust? Where am I unfair? Where am I oppressive?”
Small also talked a lot about love: loving each other, loving our selves. Small said: “I want to be the strongest link that I can be in the chain of justice.” Small encouraged us to ground our activism not in anger but in love: ”It is up to us to provide something different. And that something different is rooted in love.”
It was the perfect end to this wonderful conference.
Overall, it was a great, challenging, thought-provoking, and fun weekend. I hope to be at Take Root 2014. Hopefully you’ll join me there.
Here are the links to the storifies of the panels, workshops, and addresses (I *seriously* suggest you take the time to at least read through the one for Loretta Ross’ keynote address):
Queer Health Workshop: This workshop helps to educate participants on queer and trans* terminology, HIV/AIDS prevention, and related issues. This is our guide to why queer health IS part of our fight for reproductive justice and helpful ways to talk about it in your work and activism.
Nothing About Us Without Us: Red State Narratives in New Media: This roundtable discussion addresses new media platforms and strategies that are transforming RJ conversations and organizing approaches.
Plenary: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice: This large session addresses all Take Root participants about red state challenges and solutions in reproductive justice, reflecting the organizing principles of the conference.
Keynote Address: Loretta Ross
Reproductive Justice Policy Roundtable: This roundtable discussion covers current pro and anti-reproductive justice legislation trends in red states along with strategies to address them.
New Tools in the Box: Remote Organizing in Flyover Country: This panel features stories and strategies from organizers in red states who take virtual organization beyond the symbolic and into the applied realm.
Depriving People of their Personhood: This mixed format session features discussion and individual panelist presentations about dehumanization experienced during pregnancy, transition, travel, and documentation processes.
Reproductive Justice At Any Stage in Life: Health and Service Provision within RJ Framework: This panel explores the ways in which service providers are giving comprehensive and full-spectrum care in least accessible and hostile states.
Consent, How Does It Work? Intimate Partner Violence Prevention Workshop: This workshop helps educate participants on how to negotiate consent, disclose STI status, and develop concrete communication strategies for healthier relationships.
Hostile Attitudes, Hostile Environments: From tense conversations with neighbors to clinic violence, how we all negotiate standing for reproductive justice in hostile environments.
Stories from the Movement: Powerful stories from members of all ages in this movement toward reproductive justice; wisdom from every step of the way, whether you’re just beginning or you’ve been here from the start.
Closing Remarks: Deborah Small
I wrote this once in a post after working the phones for my local abortion fund, The Lilith Fund. It’s forever true.
So we are NINE DAYS away from the Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice where LORETTA ROSS is giving the keynote speech and I’m so stoked I could cry.
The conference is FEBRUARY 15-16 in NORMAN, OKLAHOMA at the University of Oklahoma. You’ll get to hear from other speakers like PAMELA MERRITT (Shark-Fu), LYNN PALTROW, RICKY HILL, JESSICA LUTHER, BLOGGERS FROM OK4RJ, and a whole bunch more omg.
It’s $25 for students, $40 for non-students. You can pay at the conference site if you have to! But you MUST REGISTER so that your dietary needs are accommodated.
We are now only FOUR days away and I am the Jessica Luther they mention as being one of the speakers at this year’s Take Root Conference, sponsored by one of my most favorite sites on the internet — OK4RJ.
If you in or around Norman/Oklahoma City, OK, I hope to see you there.
I’m still on a break. I’ve been fighting a pretty substantial bout of depression and anxiety and I’ve found that paying attention to the horrific state-level anti-choice/anti-repro health legislation being pushed through right now does not help my recovery. It’s bad, guys. Alabama, Mississippi, South Dakota, etc.
But I’ve logged back on because I have started fundraising for the my local abortion fund (they do a bowl-a-thon each year) and last year, Tumblr peeps, you helped me raise so much money.
I miss this space and I still hope to be back soon. Keep fighting the good fight.
TEXANS: Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade at the capitol on Tuesday. 11:30 - 12:30p
[NB: more people than just cis women need and want access to affordable reproductive health care, including abortion.]