Show up to any feminist protest and you’ll see a sea of banners and signs bearing pro-choice slogans. “If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d fuck a politician” is one of my personal favourites. Access to birth control and abortion is a vital part of reproductive healthcare, and with conservatives attempting to legislate against that so often, I’m not really complaining. Yet, between the signs and the pink pussy hats, something feels wrong. The words might be right, technically, but the tone is off. It’s more than the very visible whitewashing along the surface, it’s more than the fact my vagina isn’t pink, it’s more than the fact plenty of women don’t have vaginas or uteri. It’s deeper and more insidious.
I think about the words we use to describe the movement: Reproductive rights. The right to choose: Reproductive justice. So where is the justice when you don’t have a choice? What happens to justice when racialised misogyny combines to leave you unable to choose to create life? Whether it’s Puerto Rican women being experimented on to develop the first hormonal birth control, or the 90,000 Romani women in the former territories of Czechoslovakia forcibly and coercively sterilised since 1980, where is the justice? Where is the justice for Native American women, who’ve been sterilized and had their babies taken into state care for manufactured reasons? Where is the justice for women of colour worldwide who are overwhelmingly the victims of environmental racism? When your oppressors try to deny you the right to reproduce, where is the line between racism at the base level, and an act of genocide?
Where is the justice for black women, who experience the highest rates of miscarriage (up to twice as likely as white women), stillbirth, pre-term birth, and even infant deaths, despite no common genetic cause or socio-economic factors besides their blackness being found? Where is the justice when one of the world’s most famous black women (Beyoncé) announces her pregnancy with twins in a truly awe-inspiring way, only for white women – that’s you, Ellen DeGeneres – to try to turn it into a joke, or refuse to understand why such an overtly beautiful display of black motherhood is such a big deal? Where is the justice when doping Sharapova loses to Serena Williams while Serena is pregnant and white women tweet that her win should have been counted as a doubles match?
Where is our reproductive justice? White women, have you seen it? To me, it feels like you took your reproductive justice at our expense. As if you took your birth control pills from our very bodies, plucked them right out of us like the ovum you don’t want fertilised. It feels like you want control of our bodies as well of yours. Like nothing has changed since the days of the racist Suffragettes. Wealthy white women can have as many babies as they want and nobody says a word, but as soon as a mother is too young, too poor, too brown, for your arbitrary standards, they earn your judgemental gaze.
If potential mothers are too young, poor or brown, they can see themselves manipulated by medical professionals into using birth control that comes with a whole host of unpleasant and painful side effects, and gaslighted into staying with that method long past the point where an older, wealthier, whiter woman would be given something else or sent home with a gentle reminder to use condoms.
White society doesn’t trust people of colour with our own reproductive systems, instead seeing us as animalistic, amoral, slaves (wordplay unintentional, but apt) to our instincts, incapable of controlling ourselves sexually. It’s played out in fictional tropes from the jezebel, to the seductive gypsy, the noble savage, and many more. We supposedly birth freely, as nature intended, and thus it’s up to the white people to save us from ourselves and civilise us, or punish us. But we’re human beings, and these white “interventions” have been killing us for generations.
We live in a world where white women choose to be child-free and look upon the child-bearing world with disdain. To these women, I have only one thing to say – our oppression is not the same. When your families expectantly ask when you’ll be expecting, is it more than a mild annoyance? Okay. If you can choose not to have babies as an act of resistance against patriarchy, then why can’t I choose to have babies as an act of resistance against white supremacist patriarchy? In a world that demands control over our wombs and who births how many new lives, people of colour having babies is resistance. Daring to love your babies knowing that the world wishes neither of you existed is resistance. Daring to raise beautiful, kind, loving children who will in turn raise their own beautiful, kind, loving children in the face of such cruelty is resistance. It’s resistance against settler colonialism, against assimilation, against white supremacy, against genocide.
Well, fuck your side-eye, fuck your judgement, fuck your attempts to hold our legs shut and bodies barren. If I want children, I’ll have as many as I can raise with love and compassion.