September 7, 2009

Every Body! Again

Artist Bonnie Fortune, organizer and curator of the exhibit “Every Body!,” asked some of us to reflect on these questions, or similar ones:

  • How feminist health movements challenge/change the images of  women and/or men and health?
  • Where do you think the visual representation of  bodies in feminist health movements needs to go, and/ or the new concerns they must grapple with?
  • What is the future feminist health movements in general?

Here’s what I wrote:

Dorothy Roberts pondered in Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, “how is it possible that Black women’s reproduction has been subjected to so much degradation and intrusion?” Roberts published her book in 1997, but after more than a decade, I still agree with her that we in the feminist health justice movement must focus “on the connection between reproductive rights and racial equality.” This is not an abstract connection, given that entrenched social injustices prevent many women the choices that the government supposedly protects. These deep injustices mean that we white, well-off women also have to examine our own collective past–organizers in the birth control movement who collaborated with eugenicists; or opposition to sterilization reform by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League because the reforms seemed to make access to sterilization difficult for middle-class women. We must expand what we mean by “reproductive rights” beyond “right to abortion” and tackle other hard realities: the rights to a healthy pregnancy and parent-child relationships along with safe, fail-proof, and non-coercive birth control. My own challenges include coming to terms with artificial reproductive techniques: While not discounting the emotional costs of infertility, I’m not sure that anyone should use them. But that only the wealthy can do so, points to a profitable and questionable system of access that again excludes the poor and not white.

Dorothy Roberts' book

Dorothy Roberts