A Call for Proposals for Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics –
Edited by Alisa Bierria, Jakeya Caruthers, and Brooke Lober
Nearly 20 years ago, prison abolitionist organizations, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and Critical Resistance produced the pivotal “Statement on Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex.” This was a broad call for movements that creatively and effectively respond to the mutually constitutive relationships between the carceral state and the constancy of domestic and sexual violence, as well as movements that catalyze a vision of worldmaking “based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity.”
Carceral systems structure and secure a racist and sexist world; legacies of abolition feminisms have created insurgent possibilities that dismantle those systems and invent new forms of relationality. This CfP for Abolitionist Feminisms, a special issue of Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics, aims to explore and extend abolitionist feminist thought and action. Our focus on Abolitionist Feminisms arises from our commitments to feminist approaches to racial justice, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, and other political philosophies and formations that constitute a genealogy of anti-carceral feminist epistemologies, strategies, and rebellion.
There have been significant expansions in civil and human rights for queer and trans people, yet systemic power relations that cause violence and harm continue. How might we account for this contradiction? This article examines how this problem does not exist in the “misapplication of rights” but rather in the root connections between heteropatriarchy, settler colonialism, and universal rights. This article argues, by way of engagement with a genealogical inquiry into the colonial disciplining of “civility” through the imposition of the gender binary and heterosexuality, that demands for LGBT inclusion into the sphere of universal protection via rights-based redress is inherently limited because of its colonial construction. This article builds from contemporary queer and trans critique of the mainstream gay rights agenda, and aims to demonstrate that incorporation through the achievement of rights-based inclusion ultimately will not shift the deeper power dynamics of heteropatriarchy within settler colonialism.
by Brooke Lober
Sexism, gendered harassment, and sexual assault are so common in our culture that they constitute norms; the phrase “rape culture” puts a name to this phenomenon. While assault and harassment remain rampant, a renewed sexual conservatism—consonant with the current right-wing power-grab and evacuation of the already ravaged social safety net—reproduces systematic inequity through an overt culture of misogyny, along with the privileging of marriage and monogamous partnership, heterosexuality, and sex/gender normativity. This hierarchy is produced at the expense of sexual outsiders including survivors of rape, abuse, and harassment, who lead the current public outcry on gender-based violence.
For the last forty years and more, feminist and queer movements have arisen to identify and resist the conditions of social subordination that are created through sex and gender hierarchy, while at the same time, these movements propose expansions of sexual freedom and gender self-determination. The current wave of protest and public speech against sexual violence, under the sign of #MeToo, while extraordinary, is not without precedent. But it offers a renewed chance to synthesize a popular framework for freedom through which we can work toward two longstanding feminist goals: freedom from sexual violence, and freedom to enact and celebrate all forms of consensual sexuality. Two feminist actions demonstrate these two aspects of sexual liberty. Since 1975, Take Back the Night marches and rallies have provided space for the outpouring of stories of sexual assault; and since 2011, Slutwalk has offered a site for the reclamation of self-determined sexuality as a public, political, and participatory act. While often emerging as opposed interests, freedom from violence and the struggle for sexual liberation are linked. As Adrienne Marie Brown writes, “Your strong and solid no makes way for your deep, authentic yes.” Feminist movements including women of color feminism, abolition feminism, and the sex-workers’ rights movement all offer possibilities for the integration of freedom from sexual coercion, and the freedom to engage in all consensual forms of sex. The radical imaginaries offered by these movements are crucial for activists who are now considering the next steps for countering omnipresent sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.
Renée M. Byrd
In the absence of a critique of the logics at the heart of the prison industrial complex, seemingly progressive trends such as prisoner reentry initiatives will simply bolster racialized state violence. This essay grapples with questions of representation and power, and details how the disposability of imprisoned people is reproduced and renaturalized through carceral practices. Academic accounts continue to be complicit in this process, without a complex theorizing of subjectivity, representation, and state violence. This essay uses interviews with formerly imprisoned people in the Twin Cities to disrupt the way that formerly imprisoned people’s narratives are “mined as rich sources” in pathologizing and voyeuristic ways. Prisoner reentry programs appear progressive on the surface; however, they expand the prison industrial complex through perplexing logics that make it harder for women to navigate toward freedom. I use the notion of perplexity as a rubric for understanding penal logics and subjectivities as they emerged in my interviews with people recently released from Minnesota’s only women’s prison and analyze how they reproduce the vulnerability of people leaving prison. The gender-responsive façade of this unique prison and the surveillance orientation of reentry programs naturalized imprisonment as a solution to social problems in deeply problematic ways.
Caption this: white ladies hugging Black cops in pussyhats. It goes deeper than the multiculturalist perfection of absorbing a racialized threat as justification for the continued exploitation of those deemed unassimilable. A Black man donning a uniform and a pussyhat at once obscures and reveals the historical relation of the symbols he now sports. This is what an analysis of heteropatriarchal white supremacy must account for, and what carceral psychology cannot. Literally embracing cops illustrates the ongoing investment in police as “benevolent” masters over an abstract notion of safety that criminalizes people of color. A system rooted in racialized social control cannot get an antiracist makeover through a few public dialogues between cops and community members. As Tariq Khan writes, “Heartwarming Barbecues and Hugging Cops Ain’t the Solution.” This obsession with individual acts of peace-making with cops is the liberal face of carceral psychology.
by Anastazia Schmid (artist/activist/scholar, currently incarcerated at the Indiana Women’s Prison)
Captive women were the prime candidates for experimental gynecological surgeries due to their invisibility, and due to the voicelessness of their social position. …
The violence, sexual abuse, medical experimentation, sterilization and death of a few hundred captive women in the 19th century laid the foundation for the field of gynecology to expand into evolving eugenics practices (albeit in more clandestine forms) across time. Our nation’s first women’s prison housed only 17 women when it opened in 1873, today there are over 115,000 women incarcerated nationwide. One out of every three women incarcerated in the world is incarcerated in the U.S. Numbers fail to illustrate the sobering reality of incarcerated women’s lived experience and loss of humanity.
[The following is a recent interview Abolition Journal conducted with a reporter from Gazete Şûjin, an all female news agency based in Diyarbakır (Amed), Turkey.]
Şûjin means “packing needle” in Kurdish. It refers to two important meanings of the word “jin” in Kurdish: women and life. Şûjin, or the packing needle, was invented by women. A needle created by women is, of course, a part of their own life. And we began our journey by saying “As we dig the needle into ourselves, we also dig the packing needle into the patriarchal media, in order to shake up and break down its masculine structure and language, and to promote women’s consciousness and feminist discourse. In a world of those who say “shut up as a woman,” we will raise women’s voices and words in the media with our female-oriented journalism.”