Your struggle is not the only struggle

TW: nativism, violence against protesters

Earlier today, the southern Californian chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union posted this on twitter:


(They were publicizing their meeting with Sandra Fluke, which admittedly would be what I would do in that situation too. From here.)

In the contextless post on twitter, it might be hard to realize what they’re talking about is the right to access an abortion. There’s misinformation out there, and not enough efforts in California to counter that, but no actual violations of the right to bodily autonomy, at least as far as that branch of the ACLU apparently sees it.

Twitter’s already started calling them out for the various other problems that such a statement ignores, but I think it’s worth noting here the lengthy history of undocumented immigrants throughout this country having basic protections denied to them. Since we’re talking about the threat to equality in California specifically, why not mention the lengthy history of police brutality against undocumented immigrants who politically organize? Or the campaigns to keep Spanish out of the public eye? Or the fact that some of the victories in extending equal rights to undocumented individuals has involved campaigns and policy solutions that focus on exceptional cases? As UCLA’s understandable push for equal student rights be extended to students without legal resident status worryingly put it, “[m]any undocumented students are honor students, athletes, student leaders, and aspiring professionals”. Will those who aren’t seen as remarkable get grandfathered in?

If anyone should be familiar with this sort of situation, you would think it would be advocates for reproductive freedoms and related feminist struggles. If there’s a short summary of what they’ve worked against in the past few years, it would be normalized inequalities and the struggle against them having to be expressed in terms of how exceptional and therefore worthy some marginalized people are. In other words, precisely the sort of nonsense undocumented immigrants have to wade through at the moment in California and much of the US.

We’ve moved beyond the time of Seneca Falls, where the Declaration of Sentiments, which decried the sexist legal codes of that time, protested that many rights were “given to the most ignorant and degraded men—both natives and foreigners”. We’ve gotten to the point where the core of the feminist movement has shed that past interest in the “right” women having a clear advantage over the “wrong” men, but that’s simply a negative space. To the extent that we can talk about it as a singular thing, feminism has stopped directly colluding with heterosexist, racist, classist, and assorted other hierarchic systems, to advance only the cause of comparatively privileged women. That’s great, but is that really enough? Haven’t we reached a point where feminist advocates would recognize that their struggle, no matter how important and far reaching, is not the only legitimate one? Haven’t we reached a point where feminist organization might not forget about those other modes of oppression?

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