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Fri Apr 12, 2019, 02:07 PM

Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding (very important, lengthy read)

(deepest thanks to DU'er CousinIT for bringing this article to my attention)


Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding

The pursuit of reproductive freedom and civil freedom need to be seen as one and the same.
By JoAnn Wypijewski



I hate liberalism’s language of “choice.” I always have. Redolent of the marketplace, it reduces the most intimate aspects of existence, of women’s physical autonomy, to individualistic purchasing preferences. A sex life or a Subaru? A child or a cheeseburger? Life, death or liposuction? In that circumstance, capitalism’s only question is, Who pays and who profits? The state’s only question is, Who regulates and how much? If there is an upside to the right’s latest, seemingly loony and certainly grotesque multi-front assault on women, it is the clarion it sounds to humanists to take the high ground and ditch the anodyne talk of “a woman’s right to choose” for the weightier, fundamental assertion of “a woman’s right to be.”
That requires that we look to history and the Constitution. I found myself doing that a few weeks back, sitting in the DC living room of Pamela Bridgewater, talking about slavery as the TV news followed the debate over whether the State of Virginia should force a woman to spread her legs and endure a plastic wand shoved into her vagina. Pamela has a lot of titles that, properly, ought to compel me to refer to her now as Professor Bridgewater—legal scholar, teacher at American University, reproductive rights activist, sex radical—but she is my friend and sister, and we were two women sitting around talking, so I shall alternate between the familiar and the formal.


. . . . .

Pamela Bridgewater’s argument, expressed over the past several years in articles and forums, and at the heart of a book in final revision called Breeding a Nation: Reproductive Slavery and the Pursuit of Freedom, presents the most compelling conceptual and constitutional frame I know for considering women’s bodily integrity and defending it from the right. In brief, her argument rolls out like this. The broad culture tells a standard story of the struggle for reproductive rights, beginning with the flapper, climaxing with the pill, Griswold v. Connecticut and an assumption of privacy rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and concluding with Roe v. Wade. The same culture tells a traditional story of black emancipation, beginning with the Middle Passage, climaxing with Dred Scott, Harpers Ferry and Civil War and concluding with the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Both stories have a postscript—a battle royal between liberation and reaction—but, as Bridgewater asserts, “Taken together, these stories have no comprehensive meaning. They tell no collective tale. They create no expectation of sexual freedom and no protection against, or remedy for, reproductive slavery. They exist in separate spheres; that is a mistake.” What unites them but what both leave out, except incidentally, is the experience of black women. Most significantly, they leave out “the lost chapter of slave breeding.”

I need to hit the pause button on the argument for a moment, because the considerable scholarship that revisionist historians have done for the past few decades has not filtered into mass consciousness. The mass-culture story of slavery is usually told in terms of economics, labor, color, men. Women outnumbered men in the enslaved population two to one by slavery’s end, but they enter the conventional story mainly under the rubric “family,” or in the cartoon triptych Mammy-Jezebel-Sapphire, or in the figure of Sally Hemmings. Yes, we have come to acknowledge, women were sexually exploited. Yes, many of the founders of this great nation prowled the slave quarters and fathered a nation in the literal as well as figurative sense. Yes, maybe rape was even rampant. That the slave system in the US depended on human beings not just as labor but as reproducible raw material is not part of the story America typically tells itself. That women had a particular currency in this system, prized for their sex or their wombs and often both, and that this uniquely female experience of slavery resonates through history to the present is not generally acknowledged. Even the left, in uncritically reiterating Malcolm X’s distinction between “the house Negro” and “the field Negro,” erases the female experience, the harrowing reality of the “favorite” that Harriet Jacobs describes in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

We don’t commonly recognize that American slaveholders supported closing the trans-Atlantic slave trade; that they did so to protect the domestic market, boosting their own nascent breeding operation. Women were the primary focus: their bodies, their “stock,” their reproductive capacity, their issue. Planters advertised for them in the same way as they did for breeding cows or mares, in farm magazines and catalogs. They shared tips with one another on how to get maximum value out of their breeders. They sold or lent enslaved men as studs and were known to lock teenage boys and girls together to mate in a kind of bullpen.They propagated new slaves themselves, and allowed their sons to, and had their physicians exploit female anatomy while working to suppress African midwives’ practice in areas of fertility, contraception and abortion.Reproduction and its control became the planters’ prerogative and profit source. Women could try to escape, ingest toxins or jump out a window—abortion by suicide, except it was hardly a sure thing.

. . .


https://www.thenation.com/article/reproductive-rights-and-long-hand-slave-breeding/

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Reply Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding (very important, lengthy read) (Original post)
niyad Friday OP
SunSeeker Friday #1
GemDigger Friday #2
CrispyQ Friday #3
stuffmatters Friday #4
rurallib Friday #5
stage left Friday #6
smirkymonkey Friday #7
Lonestarblue Friday #8
WhiskeyGrinder Friday #9
niyad Tuesday #10

Response to niyad (Original post)

Fri Apr 12, 2019, 02:09 PM

1. K & R

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Fri Apr 12, 2019, 02:22 PM

2. Kick

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Fri Apr 12, 2019, 03:05 PM

3. Kick & rec. -nt

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Fri Apr 12, 2019, 03:27 PM

4. Thank you,niyad & CousinIT.Excellent history of sameness tween slaveholders & forced birthers

"Scratch at modern life & there is a little slave era just below the surface." Nowhere is that more apparent than in the perpetual war ag a woman's right to own her own body.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Fri Apr 12, 2019, 04:41 PM

5. Thanks much for pointing this article out

Great read on a forgotten piece of history that is now causing repercussions

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Fri Apr 12, 2019, 04:44 PM

6. K&Rnt

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Fri Apr 12, 2019, 04:51 PM

7. K&R

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Fri Apr 12, 2019, 05:04 PM

8. I'm not a fan of the word choice either in opposition to the forced birther crowd.

Each of us has a right to make our own decisions to try to control our own destiny, like making decisions about college, career, and where to live. Making a decision about an unintended or life-threatening pregnancy falls into the category of a major life event that affects personal destiny. No one else should have a right to control my destiny—that is a woman’s right, so I use the phrase personal right to reproductive privacy.

Thanks for posting this. It’s an important article.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Fri Apr 12, 2019, 05:06 PM

9. Reproductive justice without racial justice is nothing.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Tue Apr 16, 2019, 11:17 AM

10. . . .

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