Friday Feminist Fuck You: Arkansas

Arkansas is getting ready to execute eight men in 10 days.

No state has ever executed so many people in such a short period of time. The apparent reason behind Arkansas’s decision to do so now? The state’s supply of Midazolam, the drug Arkansas will use to execute the men, is set to expire next month.

Midazolam, which states administer in executions as the first of a three-drug cocktail, is intended to render individuals insensate, so that they cannot feel the painful effects of the other drugs, which trigger paralysis and cardiac arrest. But evidence suggests that Midazolam is not strong enough to block the pain of these drugs. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her Supreme Court dissent in 2015, Midazolam “produces a nightmarish death: [t]he condemned prisoner is conscious but entirely paralyzed, unable to move or scream his agony, as he suffers what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.”

If Sotomayor’s “burned at the stake” language calls to mind centuries of state sanctioned misogyny — think “witch” burnings — there’s a reason. Capital punishment, or rather opposition to it, is a deeply feminist issue. As our own Meghna reminds us:

The racial disparity in capital punishment sentencing is well documented [. . .] The ugly history of white feminism embracing the lynching of African Americans—the informal state sanctioned death penalty of its time—further underscores a feminist imperative to stop the state sanctioned death penalty of today.

Further, academic literature suggests feminists “are in the best position to unmask the hypocrisy of the state in its role as executioner” and that a feminist critique of capital punishment can make the legal system more fair and holistic.

You can read more about why abolition of the death penalty is a feminist issue here, here, here, and here.


New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and the co-founder of Know Your IX, the national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She's also a student at Yale Law School, and you can find her on Twitter at @danabolger.

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and a student at Yale Law School.

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