Who Are The Women?

In the middle of a really good piece titled “The Reproductive Injustice and the ‘War on Women’ or, An Ode to the Intersections” Eesha Pandit at the Crunk Feminist Collective writes a stunningly important paragraph:

Who, we must ask, are the “women” in the “war on women” that many feminist organizations are decrying? Are they the women forcibly sterilized at the hands of the state? Are they the trans women that face repeated acts of aggression in the form of hate crimes and at the hands of law-enforcement officials? Are they poor women of color, immigrant women, queer women, and native women navigating a foster system that makes the right to have a family a matter of demonstrating fitness to parent? Are they Bfighting to keep their families together while navigating a punitive and racist immigration system? Who are those women? Am I one?

Think about it.  We’ve been tossing around the phrase with substantial force for well over a year now, and in response to what?  In response to what women being embattled?

Too often it’s women like me:  white, married, educated, employed, with insurance.  Our collective outrage really ramped up when state and national politicking threatened my (relatively) easy access to contraception.  Of all things!

To be clear, as Pandit also points out, there has been something about which we should be outraged because “there is indeed a deluge: a river of reactionary regressive political actions, one after another, in swift succession with the clear goal of making reproductive health care inaccessible.”  Exhibit: Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin …

But where was our ‘war on women’ rhetoric and organizing for the past decade, or two, or four, or more, when female inmates in California were being sterilized under pressure and without consent?  Where was it when immigrant women were being exploited and abused in the shadows of illegality?  When Native women were suffering and dying from exponentially higher rates of cancer tied to environmental degradation?  When trans* women were murdered simply for being?

Who counts as a woman?  What women does our politics and our social organizing and our theologizing really care about?

To answer this question, of course, we have to gather at the intersection of Race Boulevard and Class Street, as the Sexuality Bus drives up to Nationality Corner and the Age Sign blinks an ominous yellow.

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About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Steve

    Does a baby in the womb with two X chromosomes at 20 weeks, such that she can hear her mother’s voice and even react to outside noise (WebMD) count as a woman? Can we stop the war on those women by enshrining their right to live in law?


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