One of those feminists

Chloe Angyal

When I first heard that Rewire was starting reader diaries, I was excited. As a feminist who staunchly supports reproductive rights, I have come to rely on RH Reality check for information and commentary, for updates on legislation and policy, and it’s been an incredibly valuable resource.

When I first heard that Rewire was starting reader diaries, I was excited. As a feminist who staunchly supports reproductive rights, I have come to rely on RH Reality check for information and commentary, for updates on legislation and policy, and it’s been an incredibly valuable resource. I’ve been writing feminist columns and blog posts for the past year, and while many of them have touched on reproductive health, very few of them have addressed reproductive rights. It’s not that I don’t believe in a woman’s right to choose – on the contrary, I am a fierce believer in abortion rights, in access to affordable birth control, in improved prenatal and childcare, and in comprehensive sex ed.


But when I first started the blog Equal Writes, which I edited and ran until a few months ago, I wanted to launch something of a PR campaign for feminism. My own public “coming out” as a feminist in my college paper exposed me to many women –and men – of the “I’m not a feminist, but…” variety. That is, I met a lot of people who told me that while they agreed with the idea that women should be treated equally in the workplace, or that a sexual assault is a real problem and that gender inequality is partly to blame – people who held feminist beliefs – but who shied away from calling themselves feminists. When I asked why, many of them expressed their concern at associating themselves with “radical feminism.” You know, the man-hating, hairy-legged, womyn-studying lesbian radicals. You know, those feminists. Ok, you probably don’t know those feminists, and I don’t either, but it was clear that when these people thought “feminist,” a very negative image came to mind.

 

But most of all, my informants told me, feminists, those man-and-razor-spurning spinster cat-ladies-in-training loved abortion. Do it on Saturday nights for kicks. They hate babies, they want all women to be irresponsible sluts and selfish career women, and as a result, they love abortion. And abortion, as anyone who has spent more than five seconds in America knows, is an incredibly divisive issue. Pro-life, pro-choice, pro-abortion, anti-choice – whatever label you use, chances are it plays a large role in your political and personal decisions. And feminists’ perceived love of abortion, and their fierce defence of a woman’s right to obtain one, makes them rather unpopular in many parts of this country.

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Equal Writes was intended to be a PR campaign for feminism, a chance to correct some of the misconceptions, from the most basic (feminists are all women) to the most discriminatory (feminists are all lesbians) to the more laughable (feminists are man-hating harpies and when they take over the world they’ll make everyone listen to Ani DiFranco all day, every day). I tackled most of these misconceptions head on. But the one misconception I couldn’t bring myself to tackle was the one that feminists supposedly love and never stop talking about: abortion. Knowing how much backlash it would incite, knowing how much personal criticism I would have to deal with scared me from raising the issue of reproductive control as a central feminist issue.


For a while, I rationalized it. There are other issues to write about, right? What about sexual assault? What about childcare? What about equal pay and body image and media sexualisation of young girls? I didn’t want to be one of those feminists, you know, those feminists who think abortion is the most important thing in the world? No, you don’t know those feminists, and neither do I, because they’re a myth. They’re a myth concocted to scare people away from feminism – a very effective myth in a country like the US, which is so heatedly divided over abortion. They’re a myth I bought into. But not anymore.

 

I have come to realize that access to birth control and to safe, legal abortion are human rights. The means by which women control if and when they have children are among the tools that allow women to control their own bodies. When men are denied control over their own bodies, we call that a violation of human rights. To choose when one becomes pregnant, to choose what happens to one’s own body, is nothing less than a human right, and it is a human right that is denied to millions of women here in the US and abroad. When a nine-year-old girl is raped and her life-saving abortion is condemned by the Church and by anti-abortion activists, or when a nineteen-year-old woman faces more than a decade in prison for procuring her own abortion, they are being punished for asserting their own human rights.


And as unpopular as it might be, as divisive and incendiary as the abortion debate is, I cannot in good conscience call myself a women’s rights activist if I fail to actively defend women’s human rights. I cannot call myself a feminist if I shy away from writing about an incendiary but essential human and women’s issue. So here ends my attempt to make feminism more appealing or more marketable by deliberately avoiding writing about abortion and reproductive rights. Here ends my tolerance for people who claim to be feminists but who work to curtail women’s reproductive choice. Here ends my fear of being tarred with the same brush as those terrifying feminists who “love” – that is, advocate and fight for – safe, legal abortions. I am proudly one of those feminists.

News Human Rights

Feds Prep for Second Mass Deportation of Asylum Seekers in Three Months

Tina Vasquez

Those asylum seekers include Mahbubur Rahman, the leader of #FreedomGiving, the nationwide hunger strike that spanned nine detention centers last year and ended when an Alabama judge ordered one of the hunger strikers to be force fed.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for the second time in three months, will conduct a mass deportation of at least four dozen South Asian asylum seekers.

Those asylum seekers include Mahbubur Rahman, the leader of #FreedomGiving, the nationwide hunger strike that spanned nine detention centers last year and ended when an Alabama judge ordered one of the hunger strikers to be force-fed.

Rahman’s case is moving quickly. The asylum seeker had an emergency stay pending with the immigration appeals court, but on Monday morning, Fahd Ahmed, executive director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), a New York-based organization of youth and low-wage South Asian immigrant workers, told Rewire that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer called Rahman’s attorney saying Rahman would be deported within 48 hours. As of 4 p.m. Monday, Rahman’s attorney told Ahmed that Rahman was on a plane to be deported.

As of Monday afternoon, Rahman’s emergency stay was granted while his appeal was still pending, which meant he wouldn’t be deported until the appeal decision. Ahmed told Rewire earlier Monday that an appeal decision could come at any moment, and concerns about the process, and Rahman’s case, remain.

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An online petition was created in hopes of saving Rahman from deportation.

ICE has yet to confirm that a mass deportation of South Asian asylum seekers is set to take place this week. Katherine Weathers, a visitor volunteer with the Etowah Visitation Project, an organization that enables community members to visit with men in detention at the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama, told Rewire that last week eight South Asian men were moved from Etowah to Louisiana, the same transfer route made in April when 85 mostly Muslim South Asian asylum seekers were deported.

One of the men in detention told Weathers that an ICE officer said to him a “mass deportation was being arranged.” The South Asian asylum seeker who contacted Weathers lived in the United States for more than 20 years before being detained. He said he would call her Monday morning if he wasn’t transferred out of Etowah for deportation. He never called.

In the weeks following the mass deportation in April, it was alleged by the deported South Asian migrants that ICE forcefully placed them in “body bags” and that officers shocked them with Tasers. DRUM has been in touch with some of the Bangladeshis who were deported. Ahmed said many returned to Bangladesh, but there were others who remain in hiding.

“There are a few of them [who were deported] who despite being in Bangladesh for three months, have not returned to their homes because their homes keep getting visited by police or intelligence,” Ahmed said.

The Bangladeshi men escaped to the United States because of their affiliations and activities with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the opposition party in Bangladesh, as Rewire reported in April. Being affiliated with this party, advocates said, has made them targets of the Bangladesh Awami League, the country’s governing party.

DHS last year adopted the position that BNP, the second largest political party in Bangladesh, is an “undesignated ‘Tier III’ terrorist organization” and that members of the BNP are ineligible for asylum or withholding of removal due to alleged engagement in terrorist activities. It is unclear how many of the estimated four dozen men who will be deported this week are from Bangladesh.

Ahmed said that mass deportations of a particular group are not unusual. When there are many migrants from the same country who are going to be deported, DHS arranges large charter flights. However, South Asian asylum seekers appear to be targeted in a different way. After two years in detention, the four dozen men set to be deported have been denied due process for their asylum requests, according to Ahmed.

“South Asians are coming here and being locked in detention for indefinite periods and the ability for anybody, but especially smaller communities, to win their asylum cases while inside detention is nearly impossible,” Ahmed told Rewire. “South Asians also continue to get the highest bond amounts, from $20,000 to $50,000. All of this prevents them from being able to properly present their asylum cases. The fact that those who have been deported back to Bangladesh are still afraid to go back to their homes proves that they were in the United States because they feared for their safety. They don’t get a chance to properly file their cases while in detention.”

Winning an asylum claim while in detention is rare. Access to legal counsel is limited inside detention centers, which are often in remote, rural areas.

As the Tahirih Justice Center reported, attorneys face “enormous hurdles in representing their clients, such as difficulty communicating regularly, prohibitions on meeting with and accompanying clients to appointments with immigration officials, restrictions on the use of office equipment in client meetings, and other difficulties would not exist if refugees were free to attend meetings in attorneys’ offices.”

“I worry about the situation they’re returning to and how they fear for their lives,” Ahmed said. “They’ve been identified by the government they were trying to escape and because of their participation in the hunger strike, they are believed to have dishonored their country. These men fear for their lives.”

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Republicans Can’t Help But Play Politics With the Judiciary

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Republicans have a good grip on the courts and are fighting hard to keep it that way.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

Linda Greenhouse has another don’t-miss column in the New York Times on how the GOP outsourced the judicial nomination process to the National Rifle Association.

Meanwhile, Dahlia Lithwick has this smart piece on how we know the U.S. Supreme Court is the biggest election issue this year: The Republicans refuse to talk about it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging doctors to fill in the blanks left by “abstinence-centric” sex education and talk to their young patients about issues including sexual consent and gender identity.

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Good news from Alaska, where the state’s supreme court struck down its parental notification law.

Bad news from Virginia, though, where the supreme court struck down Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 felons.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will leave behind one of the most politicized state supreme courts in modern history.

Turns out all those health gadgets and apps leave their users vulnerable to inadvertently disclosing private health data.

Julie Rovner breaks down the strategies anti-choice advocates are considering after their Supreme Court loss in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.   

Finally, Becca Andrews at Mother Jones writes that Texas intends to keep passing abortion restrictions based on junk science, despite its loss in Whole Woman’s Health.