Colonization and Slavery Leads to Reproductive Sterilization

In the three year period from 1973 to 1976, 3,406 American Indian women were surgically sterilized (Staats 1976). Hysterectomies have occurred as young as eleven-years-old for American Indian girls (Carpio 2004). These non-consenting sterilizations of marginalized groups such as American Indian, African American, Mexican, and Puerto Rican women in America have been happening for years, but became well known in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s (Volscho 2010). Surgical sterilization, also known as tubal ligation, is when the fallopian tubes are cut, tied, or blocked in some way to permanently prevent pregnancy (Mayo Clinic 2018). For minority groups, especially African American and American Indian women, this is thought to occur through coercion (Shreffler et al. 2015). This pressured surgical sterilization of marginalized women originates from several corrupt ideologies such as racism, imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy.

Racism in the Americas (specifically North America) stems from the colonization of the Americas by the Europeans who utilized African people as slaves and forced American Indians out of their land and homes so they could colonize and develop the land of America for themselves (Volscho 2010). African women, when forced into slavery, were also forced to “breed” to produce children who the Europeans could utilize as slaves in the future. The control that slave owners had over the reproduction of African women later led to the mentality that people had when forcing sterilization on African American women (Volscho 2010). There is also speculation that sterilization of African American women originates from images in the media, specifically the Jezebel image of women during slavery (Volscho 2010). This image of promiscuity links to the belief in sterilizers that these women are objects, not people, who need to be controlled. The sterilization of American Indian women stems from the American image of the women in media as Squaw, which is a derogative term insinuating “dirty, subservient, abused, alcoholic, and ugly” (Volscho 2010) women in need of sterilization so not to further contaminate the population in America. This image may have also developed from the Europeans belief that Native Americans were savages in need of taming and segregation from the civilized population. While racism is the main reason that marginalized women are sterilized, several of the aforementioned ideologies also play a role in the twisted reasons why women are coerced into sterilization. Capitalism, industrialization, and patriarchy has increased the interest in prevention of the “lower-class,” or the marginalized groups, from having children (Carpio 2004). Once again colonialism by Europeans of American Indians and enslavement of African people has a correlation with this need for control of American Indian and African American women’s fertility. Therefore, as a result of the colonization of the Americas and the enslavement and segregation of both African and American Indian people, the surgical sterilization of women has become a silent scourge on women of color.

As a result of many of the women being coerced into this permanent surgery, Dr. Connie Uri fought to protest the duress that American Indian women were under when pressured to undergo the sterilization. Dr. Uri brought a case to the attention of the 1976 General Accounting Office (GAO) and Senator James Abourezk of South Dakota where an American Indian woman, at the time 26-years-old and an alcoholic, was given a hysterectomy and sterilized, while the doctor told her she could get a womb transplant when she was ready to have children (Carpio 2004). The GAO reported that there was “no evidence of IHS [Indian Health Services] sterilizing Indians without a patient consent form on file” (Carpio 2004). Carpio points out that a consent form alone is not an adequate way to investigate this allegation; this investigation ignored the possibility of abuse or coercion of women into having this sterilization process (2004). The investigation only looked at documents and did not talk to staff or any of the sterilized women, so this investigation was most likely biased (Carpio 2004). Dr. Uri actually said in a radio interview that many women were medicated when given consent forms, many didn’t know that tubal ligation was irreversible, and many were afraid to argue with the doctor and were not advised on other birth control methods (KPFK 1974). Dr. Uri therefore organized a protest outside the hospital with the nurses, which eventually helped lead to more stringent laws regarding tubal ligation surgeries (KPFK 1974).

In conclusion, racism, which stemmed from the colonization of the Americas and enslavement of African and American Indian people, led to the reproductive surgical sterilization of marginalized women. Dr. Connie Uri helped to fight against this injustice by protesting the coercion of patient consent forms to perform this surgery. Ultimately, though sterilization of marginalized women still occurs (Reuters 2013), through the activism of Dr. Uri and the nurses of that hospital, there are more resources to help prevent coerced surgical sterilization from happening.

Works Cited

Carpio, M. (2004). The Lost Generation: American Indian Women and Sterilization Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/29768273.pdf?refreqid=excelsior:80c6f1b81cd21325444eeb758113dd4eb

Indians and medicine : Sterilization and genocide / Dr. Connie Uri ; interviewed by Jim Berland. (1974, September 25). Los Angeles, California: KPFK Pacifica Radio.

“Ligation Images.” Shutterstock, http://www.shutterstock.com/search/ligation.

Reuters. “California Bans Sterilization of Female Inmates Without Consent.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 9 July 2013, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/womens-health/california-bans-sterilization-female-inmates-without-consent-n212256.

Shreffler et al. (2015). Surgical sterilization, regret, and race: contemporary patterns. Social Science Research. 50, 31-45.

Staats, E.B. (1976). Report to Senator James Abourezk. Investigation of Allegations Concerning Indian Health Service. Released November 23. Washington, D.C.: General Accounting Office.

“Tubal Ligation.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 Mar. 2018, http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/tubal-ligation/about/pac-20388360.

Volscho, T. W. (2010). Sterilization Racism and Pan-Ethnic Disparities of the Past Decade: The Continued Encroachment on Reproductive Rights. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/380293/pdf

Stonewall Riots of 1969

Stonewall Riots of 1969

On June 28, 1969 in Greenwich village, New York at the Stonewall Inn violent riots broke out by members of the LGBT community in anger against the police raid that took place there. People were angered by the blatant discrimination they were being treated with by society and had finally had enough. 

Some of the most prominent figures of the riots included, Storme DeLaverie, a butch Lesbian and Drag Queen credited with throwing the first punch at cops during the riots. Other prominent figures include, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Johnson was a Genderqueer and self-proclaimed Drag Queen often credited with throwing the first brick at the police. However, the historical accuracy of this is often debated. Rivera was a Trans Activist and also a self-identified Drag Queen who, like Johnson, was also credited with throwing the first brick at the police. Rivera was cited to be friends with Johnson as well. There has been a continuing debate on whether either of them were there at the riots at all in the first place.

A little bit before the Stonewall Riots, there was an emergence of the “Homophile Movement,” organizations demanding equal rights regardless of gender or sexual identity in the 1950s. The term Homophile, is translated as “Loving all the same” in Greek to show that LGBT activists would rather combat hatred with love instead of fight with the same hatred shown to them. Unfortunately, the organizations were conducted and enforced by majorly white men who focused on themselves and not on other diversities, gender, etc. 

Many of the original protestors were white men.

Fact: An interesting fact on the matter is that during this time, homosexuality was illegal in all states except for Illinois 

American leftists rebelled against the so-called American values that invoked hatred inside people by creating an Anti-Patriotic and Anti-Americanist culture. Society’s inability to stop the Vietnam War (1955-1975) was a contributing factor to people rebelling against America. The Gay Rights Movement prevailed soon after the Stonewall Riots and showed that many people had not yet given up on America with their determination to fight for equal rights for all. In this way, patriotism came in a new way from the people where they did not have to simply accept the norms of society as they thought, but instead to strive and fight to change it. Many could say that John F. Kennedy’s legitimization of social activism influenced people to take action in protests and activism. The Declaration of Independence was an important tool used by protestors to get their demands across.

“In 1968 a flyer distributed by activists asked: ‘Are we guaranteeing to all of our citizens the rights, the liberties, the freedom, which took birth and first form in the Declaration of Independence?’”(Hall, 544). 

While the Homophile Movement was led and mostly focused on white men, the Stonewall Riots were organized by a diverse range of people that were angry at the treatment they were receiving and the silencing of their voices. Some of the range of protestors and riot coordinators include, but not limited to:

  • Drag Queens
  • Street Queer Youth
  • Queer People of Youth 
  • Butch Lesbians 
  • Transgender People

The riots stemmed from the police raids that took place at the Stonewall Inn, which was also a Gay Bar, when people refused to leave the area passively. These people were tired of the common raids of gay bars as they fought back against the police. The bar was damaged as it was set ablaze and calmness was not restored until 3:35am. It has been reported that many of the protestors threw shot glasses and high heeled shoes at the police. 13 People were arrested and many were severely injured. Word of the violence spread rapidly through the mainstream media and gay press and the violence continued for the next three nights as the patrons fought for their rights to remain at the bar. 

More than 2000 protestors had confrontations with the police during the Stonewall Riots, which ended in much violence and the event came to be known as “Year Zero” in the Gay Liberation Movement. 

As an aftermath after the riots, during the 1970s, queer Canadians staged many protests, almost as an inspiration from the Stonewall Riots. Notable participants started STAR – Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, after the erasure of this identity from Stonewall Stories.

The Stonewall rebellion created a new wave of groups willing to take direct action against anti-homosexual organizations and LGBT groups were able to acknowledge homosexuality more than they were before. These riots managed to greatly contribute to the Gay Liberation Movement and help push society a step forward in their fight for equal rights for all individuals.

To learn more about The Stonewall Riots and be better informed about the Gay Liberation Movement, visit the link: https://stonewallforever.org

Woman Noir: Black Women in Media

When coming up with an idea for my activist project I thought about what kinds of ideas and issues I am passionate about. Since we are in the age of technology I knew that I wanted to do a social media based project. I decided to focus on the image(s) of black women presented in popular media.

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Activist Project: Am I An Activist?

In early March I attended the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference. There I networked, learned how to utilize media in activist campaigns, and gained more knowledge about discourse. But was attending NYFLC activism? It didn’t feel like it. I had thought surrounding myself with activists would achieve something. I don’t know what that something was, but maybe that was enough? I doubted it.

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(An inspiration to us all)

Anxiety and depression played a part in this mediocrity. I don’t have much energy and motivation is rare. However, my friend Xixi attended the conference with me. She also acted as my motivation, dragging, or inviting me, to events on campus in April. She mollified my anxiety so that I could have fun at the conference and at on-campus events.

Two of the events she took me to were held by the Women’s Center; “Telling Their Stories” and “Take Back the Night”. It was great to see women of color dance, sing, and recite poetry at “Telling Their Stories”. A large crowd gathered in the Commons for TBTN to hear the stories of survivors of sexual violence. Everyone was respectful; each moment, even in silence, felt sacred. It was a spiritual experience.

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(TBTN)

But what affected me the most was the march held later that evening for TBTN. I never expected that I would ever be holding up a sign while loudly chanting and marching around campus. But I did it, and it made me feel that, in a small way, I was doing activism. I’m not a loud person, but it was comforting to be in a group so that I wasn’t the only one yelling in public.

Holding up painted cardboard and screaming was the most powerful experience I have had on this journey towards activism. It wasn’t a part of my original plan, but I think that’s a good thing, as the activism happened naturally. Overall, I feel my project is successful; I’ve learned activism can be impactful at a micro level.

I discovered that I have it in me to be an activist even if it’s a struggle. I aim to participate more in the future, look out for more events, and become more comfortable with myself. This is a never ending project; I can never stop learning about feminism and activism.

 

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot is a Russian activist punk band. They protest against Putin and want LGTBQ and women’s rights. Pussy Riot is best known for their performance in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, which a symbol of both government and religious corruption. The group performed the song “Holy Shit” and were arrested within a few seconds for hooliganism.

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The Tale of Three Sisters

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Originally, I was at a loss of what I could possibly do for my activist project, but then I remembered my grandmother-in-law. Unfortunately, due to complications between my grandmother-in-law, her two sisters, and the Federal Government, I cannot mention their names nor the photographs of the interviews. They were very conservative about this documentary being on the Internet, or any social media sites – which was my original intent.

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Say It Loud and Say It Proud: Vaginas!

Say It Loud and Say It Proud: Vaginas!

For our activist project, we directed and performed in WILL’s production of The Vagina Monologues. This project was very important to us because we both are invested in creating a culture that isn’t afraid of the word ‘vagina’. For some reason in popular culture, the vagina is terrifying. No one likes to say the word. As one of the monologues says, “it sounds like an infectious disease.” We wanted to be part of a movement that not only raised funds for Power Inside, an organization dedicated to protecting women and girls against violence, but one that empowered people to love their own vaginas despite what society might be telling them is wrong with their body. Since the show sold out for the first time and we had a packed house, we think we accomplished getting our message out there: we need to talk about vaginas. We think most importantly, however, the true sign of success is in the empowerment of the performers and audience members. We think we did accomplish that since we both felt more autonomous and confident after the show – and it seemed like the performers did too. Smiles all around. Continue reading