CLPP 2011 Closing Plenary: Bringing the Revolution Home

A discussion on how we can wage peace at home and work across movements to rebuild community and realign national priorities. Speakers from different countries and contexts discuss how the struggle for reproductive and sexual rights is intricately linked to movements for economic, social and environmental justice and peace. Together we build a vision for the future of our movements and map out how we can work together to achieve reproductive justice in our own communities.

Anders Zanichkowsky spoke about the “Budget Despair Bill” in their home state of Wisconsin that is an attack on unions, state health care access for people near the poverty line, and access to food stamps. They talked about the powerful protesting that has happened in the state, but also questioned some problematic aspects of the rallying. They asked, why did this become just a labor rally? Why were folks saying this wasn’t about the money?

It’s because the face of this protest is overwhelmingly white and middle class. And it became a rally about the rights because people bargained at the top said OK we won’t talk about the money, we’ll just talk about labor rights.

Sheriff Mahoney stood up for labor rights but is pushing anti-immigrant legislation.

Why were we given the benefit of the doubt by the police? Because the main face of the protest were not homeless and on food stamps, they were the white middle class.

Anders spoke about attacks on health care and food stamps as attacks on women – yet male involvement in the rallies was where power was found.

There’s so much potential for solidarity. But is it happening?

Sylvia “Guy” Estrada Claudio was supposed to speak but had her visa to the US denied. Andrea Ritchie spoke instead and linked Guy’s exclusion from the US to perceived sexual deviance of international women of color that has been used to keep them out of the US.

The policing of sex and gender and the punishment of gender non-conformity has been and is instrumental to the colonization of this land, the slave trade between Africa and the US, chattel slavery, and the mass incarceration of people of color. It’s something that began when Columbus first appeared on these shores and projected wholesale images of deviance and gender non-conformity on the people of this land [and it has continued in our laws to this day in places like sodomy laws that overwhelmingly target people of color.] The middle class commuter is not ticketed for sleeping on the train on their way home from work. It’s the homeless LGBTQ youth of color who’s ticketed for sleeping on the train because they have nowhere else to sleep. [Especially for LGBT people of color] If a police officer can’t put you in one of their two gender boxes they literally ticket you for being disorderly.

Because the mainstream gay movement “has framed distance from criminality as a necessary prerequisite for equality” the movement is not doing anything about the legal attacks on queer folks who are attacked through the legal system because of things like the criminalization of sex work and trans bodies. Andrea insisted (and I could not agree more) that Secured Communities is a national emergency for LGBTQ folks.

Silvia Henriquez spoke about transitioning out of a visible movement leadership position as the Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and into a different sort of leadership position, including in the home and raising children.

As leaders there comes a moment where you have to have some self reflection about what leadership is, so [I am] stepping back because I feel it’s time for other people to do this job.

Silvia spoke about childcare at the CLPP conference as a model we need to emulate so folks can raise families and continue working in the movement.

Loretta Ross challenged us to move away from the missionary mentality where we go to other countries to supposedly work for justice but ignore the imperialism in our country.

We must confront injustices within our own communities before we go abroad. I think it’s ironic that I can write any number of letters to free political prisoners but step over a homeless person to mail it.

Loretta spoke about the racist billboards as forcing us to look at where we are in this movement for reproductive justice.

It’s amazing how our opponents are more culturally competent than our allies in some ways, that they’re really drilling down and targeting in some critical ways.

Loretta asked how much supposed movement allies of women of color really care if they are not even talking about women of color who are drug abusing or incarcerated when pushing for abortion rights.

If you don’t care about the abortion rights of an incarcerated woman and care for the rights of women who can buy private insurance – fuck you. If you are going to pimp the reproductive justice framework expect us to call you on it for not getting it right. Every time they twin the conversation of race and abortion our leading feminist organization stutters. [To Planned Parenthood:] You had 90 years to message on Margaret Singer and you couldn’t get it right! We did it in a night!

At the same time we have to push back against a simplistic understanding of the leadership of women of color. If you cannot challenge injustice in your safe and comfortable spaces you are not really being an ally, because you can challenge it in those safe and comfortable spaces I may never be invited to.

We as Americans are expert at complaining about our oppressions. What we are not good at is being accountable to our privilege. Bringing the revolution home is more than just a phrase: it has to be a philosophy, it has to be a practice, and it means taking risks. Because in creating a revolution you’re going to mess up again and again but you have to take that risk. We have to admit that we’re not about creating safety, we’re about creating change.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

Read more about Jos

Join the Conversation