Zillah Eisenstein

My writings, thoughts, and activism.

Guilty of Sex Abuse (But Not Rape?)

On Contemptuous Men and the Women who Fight Back

A short note about the subtitle before I begin: it is interesting how these gender terms hold sometimes in all their simplicity and binary force. Other than the title, when I use the term woman/en it is inclusive of trans, gender-variant, queer, and nonbinary identities, across and through racial and class lines.

Before I share a critique of the verdict in the E.J. Carroll rape case, I want to say that this is a significant win of sorts. A woman charges a former President with rape and she is able to demand some accountability. Yet, everyone knows he is a letch. He has no credibility. He lies and makes up facts all the time.

But, still, it takes massive energy, and determination, and stamina, and money on the plaintiff’s part to take him to court. He is found culpable, but not quite. The standard in civil cases is a preponderance of the evidence, meaning “more likely than not,” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” And I guess the jury did not think it was “likely enough” that “sexual intercourse by force, including penetration” happened. So, there was no rape?

Photo by Lynn Friedman on Flickr

Meanwhile, I am wondering, how could anyone think that it was not “likely enough” in this case, given all that Carroll documented in her book, “What Do We Need Men For?” written several years earlier, and throughout the trial, and with her two corroborating witnesses. Afterall, just listen to what she was saying and all she went through to have an audience to say it to. And if that is not enough, just think about Trump. Really? Rape is “not likely?”

Let me also say that the news coverage and reporting following the verdict was as problematic to me as the actual court finding, which denies that a rape occurred. The verdict finds Trump guilty of sexual abuse and defamation. The initial descriptions and responses to the verdict celebrate Carroll’s win. Sexual assault was held accountable and there is no mention of rape. Even Carroll says she is “thrilled” with finally being heard and “winning her name back.” She says nothing of the rape charge, at least not yet.

I want to affirm the positivity of the verdict but also its limitations. The verdict is extremely important, and it is not enough. And, we must say both things simultaneously. The verdict denies that a rape occurred and the media responses concur through its silences about rape. The rape charge is eviscerated through silencing and each repetition of the verdict reproduces this.

We must recognize how long women have fought to have their bodies be respected and against sexual violence to them — harassment, assault, abuse, rape. Each form of degradation connects but are not one and the same. Black enslaved women supposedly could not be raped because they did not own and control their bodies. Part of being owned was having no bodily rights and yet raping occurred. The struggle for women’s bodies, including today’s trans struggles, especially for Black trans women, has been long and hard and inconsistent and circuitous.

So much of the struggle and success against sexual violence coalesced in the recent #MeToo movement. It was declarative and explosive. So can we draw on this power and just speak/write the silenced words and thoughts here? Trump is found guilty of sexual abuse and defamation; guilty of abusing and defaming, but not rape/ing? The jury distinguished sexual abuse, in which they found, and rape, which they did not. But when exactly does rape become sexual abuse, when the plaintiff actually says that his penis entered her vagina? What makes abuse possible in their minds and not rape?

And sexual abuse is exactly what? Manhandling a woman’s sexual parts, putting your fingers in her vagina, but it is not rape because the penis is not part of the assault? How often do you think this is a distinction that matters? But more to the point: did it happen here, in this instance with Trump? Why would Carroll have gone through all this and describe it as a rape if it did not happen? What would she have to do to prove it? Isn’t the difficulty of proving rape the age-old practice of not believing women? It is known that Trump is predator and misogynist. Many of the polls document that more than 50% of respondents believe this. Again, I am just wondering what it takes.

Rape is rape. It’s easy to know and too often impossible to prove legally.

The law is never sufficient because it is already biased in favor of misogyny and its whiteness. Misogyny targets women — cis, trans, non-binary, as well as trans men — with millions of guns. Most of the mass shootings have been carried out by men with histories of domestic and sexual violence. The law is no match for this. Liberalism is not enough. It is a beginning strategy but we must embrace a radicalism against the extra-legal targeting of all women.

Photo by Philipp Wuthrich on Unsplash

It is why anti-racist feminists must fight inside and outside the existing structures. It is the only way that Roe, the decision legalizing abortion, came to fruition.

The courts cannot fully embrace women’s truths because they too often rationalize and systematize the bias of misogyny that is built into law. You can read my “The Female Body and the Law,” to see the silencing and invisibility of the female body.

The Carroll trial story is about more than individuals even if the story is structured about them, told by them and for them. But our culture individualizes the political, and focuses on personalities, and silences collective narratives.

It is in part why the courts can never deliver freedom for us. It can move us forward, but this movement must be scrutinized. It is why speaking silences is crucial and necessary. As we speak we will find the new ways to push forward and find our liberation.

Photo by Alec Perkins on Wikimedia Commons

Neither liberalism nor neo-liberalism is a sufficient political strategy against sexual violence. A radical indictment of misogyny and all its structures and practices must be put in the bold to change. What that exactly looks like is a work in progress and the Carroll verdict has made perfectly clear how far we have traveled and how far we have yet to go.

So, this is a win for those of us in this battle. But only if we — freedom loving people — continue to dig deep for what is necessary for our liberation — for our bodies and their control and liberation. The courts cannot free us fully. Neither can the electoral arena. So we must remain inside and push hard, and build and organize outside simultaneously.

Zillah Eisenstein is a noted international feminist writer and activist and Professor Emerita, Political Theory, Ithaca College.  She is the author of many books, including “The Female Body and the Law” (UC Press, 1988), which won the Victoria Schuck Book Prize for the best book on women and politics; “Hatreds” (Routledge., 1996), “Global Obscenities” (NYU Press, 1998),  “Against Empire” (Zed Press, 2004), and most recently, “Abolitionist Socialist Feminism” (Monthly Review Press, 2019).

LSU vs. Iowa: Black Female Bodies on the Basketball Court


I haven’t thought about playing on the Brown High School girls basketball team in decades. But as I was thinking about the controversies surrounding the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Women’s Basketball Championship — racism, hood-talk, great white-hopes — it took me back.

I am the daughter of anti-racist Communists who had just moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1964, at the height of the civil rights movement. My dad was going to teach at Atlanta University and Spelman College, both Black schools. My dad is white. I was mortified to be uprooted for my senior year of high school. I knew no one in Atlanta and I would live in the Black community where faculty housing was located, and my school was white, except for Clemsy Wood. He was the one Black student that had enrolled as soon as the schools were desegregated that year. We became friends, but that is another story. Anyway, I was lonely.

I wasn’t a very good athlete, but I thought it might be fun to be on a school team. So, I tried out and was accepted to play guard on the girls’ basketball team. I probably was your typical white girl when it came to sports, definitely not extraordinary. I played on the team for a few weeks and then my parents came to a game with some of their (Black) friends and colleagues from Atlanta University and Spelman. After that the coach decided I really was not good enough to play, and I probably was not, but that is beside the point. Remember high school? Then add race/ism to the mix.

But to get to what I really want to talk about: As my text feed started filling up with notes from friends about how the coverage of the NCAA matchups was unfair, biased, even racist, I thought, “How could it not be?” This is the U.S. Angel Reese and the Louisiana State University team is almost all Black. Iowa’s team, and Caitlin Clark, are white. So hypocritical, racist news stories ensued when Reese talked trash in the same way Clark and other white athletes had.

Angel Reese

Leading up to the NCAA final championship game, Iowa beat the unbeaten South Carolina team, coached by the amazing Dawn Staley. South Carolina is predominantly Black and Iowa predominantly white. And Caitlin Clark the star phenome is also white. Tons of the coverage was about her and her phenomenal game.

Caitlin is the perfectly imagined great white hope. Our culture usually does not have room for more than one star at a time, but the exclusionary focus on Clark could not be construed as anything other than a form of white privilege. As a white girl/woman she breaks the mold of the black female athlete. And when media spokespeople had started talking trash about her team Coach Staley warned: be careful how you describe my team and their strengths in unfair, racist ways.

Caitlin Clark

White privilege often masquerades as white excellence. Caitlin Clark is not a masquerade, but the elevation of her stardom is as much white privilege as it is white excellence. On the court in the final game between Iowa and Louisiana it looked like Jim Crow-era segregation, Black against white. So, race may appear as the signifier to most of us, but I know that race never signifies without and alongside gender and its heteronormative underpinnings.

So, race/ism never exists — ever since chattel slavery and the rape of Black women — by itself. Racialized hetero gender underpins it all. These basketball players, so often assumed to be gay, or dykes, are reduced in this instance to their race. Racialized hetero gender and engendered hetero race is what people are seeing and thinking when they speak of race per se. Race itself is intersectional before it combines with our other identities. It should be lost on no one that coach Kim Mulkey, with her predominantly Black players, is also known for policing gender expression on her team. (Brittney Griner has spoken about her time at Baylor, coached by Mulkey, and her homophobic controls.)

Louisiana State University 2022-2023 Women’s Basketball Roster

Both teams are labeled women’s teams — whatever women means currently with queer and trans and gender diverse people. And Black women are constructed differently than white women. They are seen as oversexualized, overly physical, and a possible (sexual) threat. This is written on their bodies with no choice on their part. So when Angel Reese is called a ho or ghetto, she is being defined in and through a hetero misogynist and racist visor. Black women are never just Black, they are a particular construction of both and allRace and gender are inseparable and yet distinct. It is why white women should also be enraged by these depictions of Reese. And it is in part why Black transgender women are killed with such impunity.

Iowa State

Let us think more about what intersectionality looks like on the basketball court. Black women’s bodies are Black and female and often constructed as poor before they are anything else. Class, sex, and race are never separate, even if distinct. Reese claimed a language that made it clear that she is not from the Black respectability crew, and that she’ll design who she is for herself and others, even if it’s ghetto. And it is somewhat interesting to see how race has silenced the homophobic trope that so often is part of women’s sports. Angel’s eyelashes just may anger all those who cannot figure them out.

So, yes, call attention to the racist tropes that are used to depict the women on the LSU team, but let us not forget that racism is always also embodied in sexism, cis culture, and class privilege. Do not get lazy and fail to see the complexity of the changes and the struggles that our world is so deeply embedded in.

I cannot think about all this and not wonder why with transgender fluidity there still are women’s teams per se, or women’s athletes. Of course I know what the expected answer is: there are biological differences that demand the segregation to make competition fair. But is that really enough to explain all this now?

The NCAA women’s title game was amazing. The arena was packed and millions watched from their screens. Is it possible that women’s sport will displace the singularity of male privilege, that male sport is the best? Mainstream media and news carry the men’s competitions at center stage even though all eyes seemed to be on this game. I am totally used to this kind of dismissal and misrepresentation of women in whatever arena, so the coverage, focusing on the catfight, so to speak, between Angel and Caitlin was just in keeping with everything contained in old narratives.

So much is changing. And so much is not changing. Old tropes misrepresent and make it impossible to really see. As I finished writing this piece, First Lady Jill Biden said she would like to celebrate the excellence of the Iowa team too and bring both teams to the White House to celebrate. And I thought, really? Is this whiteness speaking again? Let us heal the wounds of the loser, who does not usually lose? Or, is this the latest version of a “participation trophy,” so that no one feels bad, especially the white team? Or as one of my friends said: yet one more version of “all lives matter,” rather than Black lives matter? Jill, if you want to celebrate Title IX and all it has done, make a different celebration. This night belongs to LSU.

As I was saying, before the tweets about Jill interrupted: Reese needs more room to choose who she wants to be. Clark does too.

“I don’t think Angel should be criticized at all. No Matter which way it goes, she should never be criticized for what she did. I’m just one that competes and she competed. I think everyone knew that there was gonna be a little trash talk in the entire tournament. It’s not just me and Angel.” — Caitlin Clark on Angel Reese

But Clark is positioned differently given the racism of the U.S. She needs to query how she wants to take on the white privilege that limits other players and help them change it. Instead of being a white hope, hope for abolition of unequal racial and gender systems of power and then let us see what full excellence looks like.

And by the way, there is no politically correct language here. My whole point is that the idea that you can contain gender and race meanings is wrong headed. It is impossible because of the fluidity and stubbornness of race, class, sex and gender, right now. And we live in the right now.

Thanks to several friends who know lots more about women’s basketball than I do for talking with me while I wrote this.

Zillah Eisenstein is a noted international feminist writer and activist and Professor Emerita, Political Theory, Ithaca College.  She is the author of many books, including “The Female Body and the Law” (UC Press, 1988), which won the Victoria Schuck Book Prize for the best book on women and politics; “Hatreds” (Routledge., 1996), “Global Obscenities” (NYU Press, 1998),  “Against Empire” (Zed Press, 2004), and most recently, “Abolitionist Socialist Feminism” (Monthly Review Press, 2019).

From Enforced Hijabs to Enforced Pregnancies

by Zillah Eisenstein | Oct 5, 2022 | Commentary

Seeing and Looking and Thinking Anew

We — the inclusive we — need to see this newest devastating crisis of democracy in the U.S. with renewed urgency because it has too long a history. Look at what is happening to Iranian women (and Saudi, and Indian, and Afghan) and see ourselves together, in camaraderie against illiberal theocracies. A lawless misogynist fanaticism is also here, housed in the Supreme Court that bans abortions. There is a deep trail that connects enforced hijabs and enforced pregnancies. Mahsa Amini, the Kurdish-Iranian woman who was murdered by the morality police for wearing her hijab incorrectly, ignited the latent Iranian women’s movement into the streets. It is where U.S. freedom loving people belong as well.

Let me jump to my conclusion and then I will share my argument, of sorts. If we are ruled by a lawless crew of politicians some of whom we do not even get to vote for, and some of whom are charged with sexual assault, and some who lie openly and do not think that is problematic, and who think facts and laws are to be ignored, and organize to make it harder or even impossible to vote (if you have been incarcerated or Black) then it is time to stop pretending that our country is recoupable without a fight. Our side of the fight must be non-violent, but a fight is needed, nonetheless.

This country has never been fully democratic for peoples of color — indigenous, gay, trans and queer, and disabled. U.S. history stands upon the scaffolding of settler colonialism and chattel slavery. Revisions of the law — civil rights, women’s rights, disability rights — are limited by these structural constraints. These artifices continue through voter denial, the electoral college, the law itself, and most egregiously, the Supreme Court.

Today’s crisis: that the definition of (liberal) democracy is exposed as a lie because the very scaffold that has been a protector is now in clear view. The Court in their Dobbs decision has thrown caution to the wind and openly rejected the long-established legal right of women to abortion. This Court now boldly enforces pregnancy and criminalizes all women who seek to access abortion. The law of the land starkly excludes women of all colors — cis, trans, gender fluid — from their full citizen rights.

We in the U.S. need to recognize that the religious Christian zealots on the Court are more similar than different to the Mullahs in Iran demanding the hijab. And it is now crystal clear that the struggle to free women’s bodies from constraint — over enforced pregnancy or bodily clothing — requires more than adjusting, revising, improving the laws that supposedly protect us. The latest moves by the Court and its January 6 coup supporters demand a revolutionary movement of women across the globe. Why? Because no amount of pressure or legal footwork was able to keep Clarence Thomas or Brett Kavanaugh off the bench. And no existing strategy was able to keep Mahsa alive.

So, although I deeply appreciate the writing of Dahlia Lithwick in “Lady Justice,” and the history she affords us of all the resistance done by women lawyers against the Trump regime, this kind of legal/liberal resistance can never be enough. It is past time to recognize this.

Liberal (racist patriarchal) law cannot give us the radical change we need. We need conversations and imaginings between our different activist communities to see what comes next, to ask how to combine with what we have learned and what should follow. The people protesting in Iran are ahead of us. They understand their leaders — that you cannot get freedom from the oppressors themselves.

What to do? I keep trying to see and think more deeply with words that are not quite up to the task. We need a new dream for these times. Look and try to find your thoughts while they are destabilized and curious. None of us know enough as all the edifices of illiberal democracy and misogynist theocracy are exposed for what they are. It is in the uncertainty of new possibilities that we must locate our strategies. I will “freedom dream,” as Robin Kelly might name it with a guide from Aja Monet, with the old and the new emerging, “we embody what we imagine.”

Why terrorize Iranian women about wearing the hijab when it no longer represents the complexity of their lives? Why terrorize people in the U.S. by criminalizing them if they seek abortion when it has been legal for 50 years? The right-wing attempts to contain the new gender choices that destroy gendered borders with weaponizing hijabs and forced pregnancy. But women — of all colors, trans, cis, gender variant — are not containable.

The Mullahs and the right-wing Court are religious fundamentalists when it comes to protecting patriarchy. Our Court now rejects the separation of church and state — a bedrock of liberal democratic law. This newest Court is completely heedless of any constraints on its patriarchal ideology. Our Court is lawless, and dictates from above, like in Iran. Lawless people cannot be contained by law itself.

Voting is a necessity to try and keep the Right-wing zealots from gaining more power in the Senate and the House. But this is not enough because voting is also part of the scaffolding that holds the repression of women together. So yes vote, and then do more — demand an agenda that is extra-legal, which is where crucial power hopefully resides.

Exposing and Wondering about Open Secrets

Our bodies — female, trans, cis, non-binary, gender curious — are a battleground always. And illiberal/fascist/misogynist states are gaining ground in new fashion throughout the globe — India, Brazil, Poland, Russia. But also take note that democracy — in real, full fashion has yet to exist anywhere, but remains a freedom dream.

Reforms are more destabilizing if you start with ungendered structural power and revolutions come from below. As borders shift and open on themselves what happens to the distinction between reform and revolution? Or revolutionary reforms? This is crucial to think about as we strategize about how to go forward.

As well, what has happened to expose the open secrets? Instead of pathologizing our sadness in this time of the COVID pandemic and climate disaster let us focus on the structural, fundamental, elemental change that is needed. And why does this time feel so fraught? Is it that climate disaster seems ever so present and personal and frightening and limiting? Because Pakistan is under water along with Northern Florida, while California burns? Or is it that COVID is still lurking? Or is it the fact that no one has legal access to an abortion after years of at least having it be a legal right? Is it the 400 million guns that are dispersed through the country? And the mass shootings? And the police violence most especially toward Black people? Is it all of it, or some of it, or is it the way that each exposes more of the other?

Think about this while you wonder if the January 6 coup continues even though the rioters of that day have been dispersed to multiple sites. The coup is still happening with the assist of the Court. It is inside the Senate and House. It is in the gun lobby. It is in the media. Supposedly those who were responsible for the coup will be punished, but that presumes the coup is over. The “Big Lie,” that Trump really won in 2020, is believed by millions who are activated and active and pushing forward their agenda. What exactly is a coup in this unordered political world?

I am still looking for the queries that might help us think, and then act. How do you fight for democracy extra legally? I cannot use discredited means to save a discredited system, but how do you move through and against it at the same time? What does a democratic radical revolutionary justice movement look like? There are new imaginaries for us to find here. The state as we know it and its promise of democracy are in crisis and cannot be rehabilitated, so what is the next imaginary?

It is hard to know anything in this moment, but I do think that a courageous, honest, truthful reckoning would be a start. Let us — and I would be happy if progressive Democrats want to take the lead on this — start with a demand that all guns of January 6 participants be confiscated. Because right-wing Republicans, and the Proud boys, and the Oath Keepers openly challenge the safety of lawmakers and individuals who disagree with them they have violated their right to own their guns. And Trump shreds any notion of honesty. He threatens that if legal action is taken against him for his handling of classified documents after leaving office that the nation would face “problems … the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen.” Who knows how this all will play out?

For those of you who are thinking that the U.S. is not ready for this, think about who the “we” is in your mind. Thinking that a full right-wing assault has not happened yet is like thinking that the climate disasters in Pakistan, or Cuba, or Florida cannot come to where you live. We need a new form of resistance that takes account of a mobilized Right Wing led by Trump and his bullies, and to stop pretending that voting and electoral rational proceedings matter enough to protect election choice.

Elections and nations no longer exist as they once did so there is no blueprint for fighting for democracy while pretending it exists. You cannot follow the rules while others openly defy them. How long do you pretend that your democracy is working when it is in shambles? And that sexual predators and racial bigots have been and still are in charge?

We will invent new laws and new radically progressive anti-racist feminist practices.

Maybe the Jan. 6 coup started when Obama was elected. At that time I wrote that the election was a moment of singularity where nothing would look decipherable after. January 6 was a culmination of all this hate that continues apace.

Beyond Binary Democracy

Thanks to many of the queer and gay and trans theorists and activists writing now like Paisley Currah, Hugh Ryan, Mark Gevisser, Kit Heyam, and Steven Thrasher, I am alerted to how careful borders contain and distort realities of the nations and pandemics, through false binaries of sex, gender, and race. Abolish exclusionary genders and whiteness and we won’t need right-wing zealots as Mullahs or state actors.

Mark Gevisser in “The Pink Line” writes of the newest new of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, queer questioning, gender creative, nonbinary, gender queer, gender variant, pansexual, homoromantic, gender fluid ways of being. He says: “If I had to hazard a guess about where ‘queer’ is going, it would be this: a movement away from ‘identity’ understood as a stable, life-long category.”

I am hopeful about creating a real democracy because the world keeps changing and becoming more expansive and history is made by us. So, I attempt to see more and know more and use this knowledge to resist and recreate and find our freedom, even if it is not fully knowable currently. Gender along with race is malleable to the demands of history and I think maybe we are finally opening new possibilities for a non-gendered/racial equality and freedom. Chaos is a crucial part of this process, and so is hope. We must create hope as our practice to end nationalist wars to save the planet.

Beginnings from Endings

Our carceral — punishing — culture is cracking/cracked wide open. The mullahs and Court judges have no clothes left for masking themselves! People are in the streets in Iran and the people in Kansas registered and voted in mass for abortion rights.

The exposure of known secrets demands courageous confrontation with ourselves and the eviscerated structures of race and sex and gender and class. The public health is in tatters; the global climate keeps exploding; labor both demands more and begins to have new power; laws promise us better, but they are part of the visible crisis.

Viruses are with us now like climate crisis. How shall we live with this? How can we see each other and care about each other instead of hating and fearing and punishing? Systems must change. We must change, or we will suffer and die.

So, what is to be done? Recognize that the possibilities are multiple and unknown and yet to be revealed in the very actions we take. Look outside the U.S. borders to see our sisters and brothers who are similarly different and differently similar. Together we will build the love and camaraderie that we need to go forward towards a newer notion of freedom that trumps our fear.

I know I have shared chaotic thoughts here. And created many unanswered questions. But it is exactly in this unknowing space that we will find the answers we need. We cannot get ahead of where we are without risking everything. If you are waiting to feel ready, or think we are ready, —it will be too late.

Courage is hard to create. But being courageous is our only choice. It will build the camaraderie that is the power that we need to save ourselves and the planet.

Zillah Eisenstein is a noted international feminist writer and activist and Professor Emerita, Political Theory, Ithaca College.  She is the author of many books, including “The Female Body and the Law” (UC Press, 1988), which won the Victoria Schuck Book Prize for the best book on women and politics; “Hatreds” (Routledge., 1996), “Global Obscenities” (NYU Press, 1998),  “Against Empire” (Zed Press, 2004), and most recently, “Abolitionist Socialist Feminism” (Monthly Review Press, 2019).

Serena Williams’ Evolution: Our Bodies, Our Choices

by Zillah Eisenstein | Aug 15, 2022 | Commentary

There has been much chatter about Serena Williams’ decision to exit tennis. I want to think about the contextual and impactful surround of her decision — to enlarge her family and choose pregnancy and how it elicits deeper conversations about our lives. Choice is crucial here when enslaved Black women had none concerning their bodily integrity.

Serena’s Black body is defined by a racist misogyny that too often sees her as angry, as a threat, but also erases her and makes her invisible. Black women are four times as likely as white women to die in childbirth and suffer health conditions due to a racist medical system — that cannot be reduced to class privilege. Her own complications in childbirth have been connected to this vulnerability. And yet, despite all this, she chooses to birth a child again.

As well, Serena chooses birthing a second child in a society where women — every one of us — have lost the right to abortion, where our choices have been stripped down so that we are not full citizens with legal rights to our bodies. Serena’s decision puts the issue of “choice” in bold, whatever the consequences might be. Choice about pregnancy and access to the health care that makes it possible, and access to abortion as well, is crucial to a meaningful self-determined lifeAnd so is an end to the extreme violence and hatred towards Black trans women. Let us keep this surround in mind.

Post-Partum Serena

I have been a huge Serena fan for decades. I have always celebrated the way she stands her ground, fought for her individual space as a Black woman, most especially on the tennis court, and then shared her pregnancy and her post-partum body struggle for all the world to witness. I was rooting for her during her 2018 comeback when she played Naomi Osaka.

I wondered if Serena would be able to push her body far enough to win against Naomi, a terrific 20-year-old player. Would Serena’s skill and strength be able to reclaim her fabulous steely body back from pregnancy and emergency surgeries because of embolisms, for elite tennis? She had only had about a year to regain/reclaim her former body — and at this time she was 36, and aging in the world of professional sports.

After Serena had given birth — and after her delivery and recovery from a high-risk caesarean, she worked to return her body to its superhuman status. I read carefully about her health and listened to all her podcasts of this process. I really wanted Serena to overcome the huge assault her body took in pregnancy.

In the HBO documentary about this post-partum training Serena says she never knew how hard it would be to come back. As someone who also has been pregnant with complications, I knew what she meant. I knew how foreign her own body must feel even though I do not play elite sports.

Serena could not reclaim her former body sufficiently, because as she says, she does not simply play tennis, she wins.

Fast forward to today. Serena announces she will be leaving the sport. She said she is not retiring, but rather evolving and yet the headline reads: “Serena Williams Announces Her Retirement from Tennis.” Another headline claims Serena made her choice: family over tennis. Yet another headline says Serena, “bigger than any label, is now something new: Relatable.” Why say this? And relatable? She is a billionaire and gets to mother with whatever support she might need.

This is an important time to point out the elitism and yet the connectivity of Serena. Economic inequality is at the heart of much of the patriarchal lives that most people still live, re Serena herself. Pregnancy ties people to their bodies — that does not determine, but clearly defines, choices and demands.

What is there to take from this moment? Yes, we all should be allowed to evolve. We should recognize that pregnancy can be dangerous and hard to recoup from, but this is true in a different way if you are a waitress, or administrative assistant, or farm worker, or day care worker, or professor, than if you are an elite sportswoman. You can work when you are exhausted, or nauseous, or overweight in most of these jobs. You cannot if you are Serena Williams, tennis superstar. The perfection of your body is at the heart of the game.

Pregnancy and Most of Us

For most women, pregnancy is absorbed into our lives, even when it has been difficult. There is little choice if one wants children and needs or wants to earn wages. But there are times it cannot be absorbed and ignored, and that is when your body is your full ticket to stardom as it is in elite sports. One’s body is everything. It is important to not confuse these issues. Most women work despite pregnancy and their responsibility for early childhood care. And the right to abortion is central to choice making, whatever the decision.

A post-pregnant body, for most people, is a changed body, maybe for years. Maybe for forever. I watched and rooted for Serena as she trained and lost weight and practiced post-partum. But all her fierce energy and commitment to training was not enough. However, the problem is not pregnancy, it is elite sports and its exclusionary demands. Why do we support sports that defy a healthy body? A peaceful mind? Why demand such super-human excellence. Let us ask Simone Biles or Naomi Osaka, both of whom have spoken out about the devastating toll it all takes.

I support Serena in her choices because they are hers to make. I only wish Serena had said more than she was leaving competitive tennis and evolving toward her next self — another child, attention to her investments, and what will come next. I wish she also might have said, because she can: that the sport I have devoted my life to is not available to a body that is aging, a body that will be challenged again by pregnancy and its unknowns. So, as I leave, I wonder if we could rethink how tennis could evolve itself —into a sport more inclusive of a variety of talent and capacity that allows our bodies to evolve with it.

And who knows, maybe tennis with more differing body abilities and capacities would become more relatable and more exciting. After all, you develop such daunting skills while pregnant and while birthing. If given the chance to fully choose, new possibilities might emerge.

Zillah Eisenstein is a noted international feminist writer and activist and Professor Emerita, Political Theory, Ithaca College.  She is the author of many books, including “The Female Body and the Law” (UC Press, 1988), which won the Victoria Schuck Book Prize for the best book on women and politics; “Hatreds” (Routledge., 1996), “Global Obscenities” (NYU Press, 1998),  “Against Empire” (Zed Press, 2004), and most recently, “Abolitionist Socialist Feminism” (Monthly Review Press, 2019).

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The Post-Roe Police State: Reproductive Justice Demands Freedom

The attack on Roe and reproductive rights is an attack on democracy — connected and not dissimilar to the January 6 riot at the capitol. As all eyes are on the January 6 hearings, I want to connect the assault on women’s bodies, in all their variety, especially Black bodies, as central to the assault on the promise of democracy.

If the January 6 attack on the capitol should have all people who love freedom and equality on high alert, so should the Court’s attack on bodily integrity and the right to determine choices about abortion.

Racism and misogyny are at the helm of this right-wing dismantling of choice and access for people determining their lives. The murder of abortion doctors and clinic health care workers and the bombing of abortion clinics is carried out by the people and forces who wish to destroy any promise of sexual, gender or racial equality.

The right-wing assault on democracy is located both inside and outside the U.S. state — it structures the dysfunction of our government with Republicans obstructing and denying any moves towards democracy and Democrats lacking the courage or commitment to alleviate the suffering of so many of us: houseless people, the uninsured, COVID sufferers, gun violence and climate crisis victims.

Therefore, in the long-term, abolition is the answer.


The retraction of Roe is embedded and a spur to our present abortion chaos with its suffering. It is especially a catastrophe for Black women who die at four times the rateof white women while pregnant, which makes it a crisis for democracy. It is a tsunami for women’s — trans, cis, non-binary, disabled, and undocumented — equality and liberation.

Before Roe was gutted, Mississippi was already a wasteland for abortion access. According to writer Michele Goodwin, a Black woman was 118 times more likely to dieby carrying a pregnancy to term than by having an abortion. AND Black women are 2-to-3 times more likely to die than white women during pregnancy. AND about 40% of the women who get abortions are Black. These egregious statistics will now worsen. Black women will be at greater risk of death and increased poverty. It is long known that abortion allows women to maintain jobs and better determine their lives.

In “The Color of Gender” in 1994, I wrote, “starting with pregnant women of color an antiracist diversity must be at the core of equality and democracy. And a revisioning of democracy must start with reproductive rights.” Black women are the canary in the mine, suffering disproportionately and yet at the ready to mobilize against injustice.

The high risk that Black women already face in their pregnancies due to the racist health system puts them in peril; even Serena Williams suffered greatly during her delivery when no one listened to her about her threat of embolisms. Given this, the dismantling of Roe can be said to be a potential death sentence especially for Black women. And the racist misogyny of the Supreme Court could not be clearer.

Racism is unhealthy for Black women; and race and class are not conflatable here. Scholars and activists like Dorothy Roberts (“Killing the Black Body”), Michele Goodwin (“Pregnancy and the New Jane Crow”), and Linda Villarosa (“Under The Skin”), document and indict the racism that structures Black women’s bodies. Meanwhile, the U.S. ranks highest among wealthy nations for pregnancy and childbirth deaths even before you control for race.

Tonya Lewis Lee chronicles America’s Black maternal mortality crisis in her new documentary, “Aftershock.” The film tells the stories of Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose’s deaths, showing “that a Black woman giving birth can be as dangerous as a Black man at a traffic stop with the police.”

Neither Roe Nor the State Can Free Us

The criminalizing of women’s choices has always been disproportionately the most punishing for women of color, especially poor women, but now add to the mix middle class white women. We are all potentially criminals now, enemies of the state with fewer citizen rights. There is a new possibility for cross-race sharedness that I want to nurture.

Instead of being ready for the right-wing takeover of the Court and the dismissal of Roe, the Democratic party, and especially President Biden, has been flat-footed and lacking.

It is not un-important that Biden said on record in response to Roe in 1974, “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” And in 2006: “I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I think it’s always a tragedy, and I think that it should be rare and safe.”

Barack Obama when speaking of the Affordable Care Act said “it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with … the Hyde Amendment.” And Nancy Pelosi in 2017: “… let’s not spend too much time [on abortion]. It’s kind of fading as an issue.”

So, when we are told to make sure and vote in 2022 and 2024 and remove the Republicans, I agree. But just make sure you know that this is a necessary, but insufficient (reform) act to move towards democracy, and Democrats are not the answer. Abolition of the racist misogynist state is.

What to do? Do anything to enhance your vote, but what is that “anything” when you are encased in a culture that tells you nothing really matters. Thinking about making something matter even if you know it is too small, too little, not enough, is important. This means support codifying Roe even though it is strategically insufficient to begin with, because it is at present necessary. But then we also need to make something more happen.

So, yes, vote the criminal Republicans out of office and do whatever we can to reinstate Roe, insufficient as it has always been, but also keep imagining abolishing our police state and know that the carceral state can never allow the liberation of any of us. And never get confused to think that the Democrats can ever be enough. We must move forward to the abolition of an unjust state and criminal prison system.

One’s belief in “mass uselessness” is a dangerous political identity, so progressive anti-racist feminists need to create consciousness, imagination, camaraderie every chance we get. Do not let people make you feel that if you are doing something outside the established political arena, you are doing nothing. We need activism everywhere.

When you vote, use your vote to remind yourself that you must also help make a revolution. So, we need abortion and reproductive rights re-instated while we abolish the police/ing state that has criminalized us all.

Policing by the Predator State

The recent Dobbs ruling overturning Roe is a culmination of the police/ing that surrounds and defines too much of everyday life. And, as the welfare state was defunded and destroyed by neoliberal capitalists and misogynist racist capitalists, we are left with a state that primarily polices and incarcerates, rather than enables or enhances.

Borders and labor flows across the globe become a main site of state surveillance of migrants and refugees. As much as 70% of refugees today are women and children escaping wars and climate disaster. Instead of assisting people, this newest state apparatus incarcerates and surveils and defines who is a part of the society, and who is not.

The levels of sexual violence and rape are at increased occurrence especially in these sectors — just as abortion law becomes the newest regulator of who has citizen rights and its protections.

The decision to gut Roe that potentially criminalizes all women was orchestrated by six right-wing zealots who were not even elected in the first place. Instead, three of them were appointed by a sexual predator, former President Trump. And three of these members of the Court have been charged with sexual harassment.

In the U.S., polls show 70% to 80% of people support abortion choice for people seeking one. Denying this reality is not what democracy is supposed to look like. If it has not been clear enough to (white) women when Roe was the law of the land that too many women were criminalized and policed in our carceral culture, it should be clear by now what this means.

As we focus on this dire and threatening situation for all people facing unchosen pregnancy of every kind, and most especially Black and Brown people, we have a new opportunity to organize for women’s — trans, cis, non-binary, disabled, undocumented — liberation in a new cross-racial/class way. We cannot get ahead of history, but we can fall behind if we do not grab the incredible progressive possibilities that now exist. Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, Trans. We need to be careful to think about all of us in this newly criminalizing police state and abolish the structures of power suffocating us, and repair and create anew.

Meanwhile, take a small step and vote against the Republicans while dreaming of freedom. And begin to imagine what you and the rest of us will do with that freedom.

Zillah Eisenstein is a noted international feminist writer and activist and Professor Emerita, Political Theory, Ithaca College.  She is the author of many books, including “The Female Body and the Law” (UC Press, 1988), which won the Victoria Schuck Book Prize for the best book on women and politics; “Hatreds” (Routledge., 1996), “Global Obscenities” (NYU Press, 1998),  “Against Empire” (Zed Press, 2004), and most recently, “Abolitionist Socialist Feminism” (Monthly Review Press, 2019).

What to Do? Post-Roe Abortion Syllabus 2.0

What to Do? Post-Roe Abortion Syllabus 2.0

by Zillah Eisenstein and Sarah E. Stumbar | Jul 5, 2022 | Commentary

Many friends and comrades have been asking for info on how to be present, and involved, and to donate money and skills. So it is important for us to find and respect the already established abortion and reproductive justice organizations and communities, and support them with funds and whatever skills you have to offer. I think all this will evolve more clearly in the next few months. But for now….

And because the way we think and what we see and who we see is at the heart of our politics and resistance, I have offered several important pieces for you to read if you want to mobilize your heart and mind once again. The best part of solidarity is that our community grows and deepens and the love we find in that process is what gives us the energy we need to never give up. So read and think and demonstrate and donate and we will win.

Some Things to Think About 
See sites for donation and information below

Abortion activism is already in practice because Roe was never enough and the restrictions put on Roe over the past 50 years have been enormous. There have been fewer clinics, more regulation, and more expense, even before Roe was overruled. Given this limited access to abortion, especially for poor women of all colors, there is already a support network to assist women who need abortions.

But more of everything is needed now so funding and contributions are crucial. Most reproductive justice activists emphasize that solidarity is needed, not charity. Let those already building build further. Assist them with funds so they can do so.

I have been in incredible meetings about abortion/reproductive justice that make it clear how much fight back and organizing already exists given the hard life of Roe for the last decades. I am focusing on the strength of our fightback rather than feeling doomed, even though in my heart it feels so very hard. My daughter Sarah, a social medicine doctor and abortion provider, keeps me close to the everyday part of the struggle. The people closest to the crisis are just in it and working hard — so, so should we.

There is a unique mobilizing moment right now given the extremism of the Court. White middle-class women, many who have been able to enjoy the privileges of legalized abortion given Roe, are now rightly livid that this peaceful life with their citizen rights has just been stolen from them. Black and Brown women and all poor women — trans, cis, non-binary — are enraged, but their rage is not new as they have struggled to get access to abortion even when Roe stood. So this new and old rage and the skills and strategies for dealing with the limits of abortion access, legal or not, are an incredible source of powerful resistance. They should bind us together.

Some white women need to be careful to recognize that they are coming late to this struggle but also utilize their privileged rage to create even more hell. So, there is the possibility of deep and thick camaraderie across class and racial lines in this newest struggle for reproductive justice. The most racially and economically precarious women have always known abortion and reproductive justice is intersectional and endangered, and white women must follow their lead. Many of the sites to follow originate with the work of Black women and other women of color activists.

To Donate

The Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline is staffed by volunteer medical providers who answer questions for people undergoing self-managed abortion at home or experiencing miscarriages. Donations support the hotline’s technological and administrative costs. (Sarah volunteers here!)

The Abortion Freedom Fund funds telehealth abortions, which have traditionally not been covered by more established abortion funds.

The National Network of Abortion Funds focuses on reproductive liberation and reproductive oppression rather than simply abortion. It is very focused on the intersectionality of abortion — poverty, race and gender oppression. They emphasize: LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE IS A PART OF ACTIVISM. Check out their website and join.

The Brigid Alliance is the NYC-based abortion travel service.

Keep our Clinics provides support to independent abortion clinics and providers, who are facing increased security threats and operating costs.

Sister Song is the largest national multi-ethnic reproductive justice collective.

Indigenous Women Rising supports indigenous women around the world.

The National Birth Equity Collaborative supports reproductive justice as an issue for black women and families.

The Whole Women’s Health Alliance works against abortion stigma in our society.

These articles talk about various abortion funds and organizations supporting urgent and needed care across the U.S.:

Reproductive Justice | Giving Compass

14 Abortion Funds To Support Now That Roe v. Wade Is Overturned—Where To Donate For Abortion Rights” by Sabrina Talbert | Women’s Health

Donate to an Abortion Fund Right Now” by Bridget Read and Claire Lampen | The Cut

To Find Abortion Pills

Plan C lets you put in your state and lists all possible vetted options for buying pills online, including online pharmacies and telehealth options.

Aid Access provides online physician-support medication abortion on a sliding fee scale based on need.

Women on Web provides pills to people outside of the U.S.

M+A Hotline answers medical questions for people undergoing self-managed abortion or experiencing miscarriages at home.

INeedAnA.com helps people across the U.S. locate abortion clinics close to them.

Legal Questions

If/When/How: Reproductive Legal Helpline answers legal questions related to abortion.

The Center for Reproductive Rights supports reproductive rights and freedom as key human rights in the U.S. and around the world.

Reading to Further Clarify What’s at Stake and What to Do

Watch: “This Is What a Post-Roe Abortion Looks Like” by Ora DeKornfeld, Emily Holzknecht, and Jonah M. Kessel | The New York Times

I reject the US abortion ruling. I vow to defend the sovereignty of women’s bodies” by V (formerly Eve Ensler) | The Guardian

A big concern now is that state laws like Texas’s are going to force Abortion funds themselves to stop their work. Let’s hope this can be averted:


Until Black Bodies are Free, None of Us Are Free” by Zillah Eisenstein | The Edge

Tracking the States Where Abortion Is Now Banned” | The New York Times

Meet the Dutch Doctor Helping Expand Abortion Access by Mailing Safe & Legal Pills Worldwide” | Democracy Now!

No, Justice Alito, Reproductive Justice Is in the Constitution” by Michele Goodwin | The New York Times

How to Discipline a Rogue Supreme Court” by Jamelle Bouie | The New York Times

The New Abortion Strategies” | Lux Magazine, Haymarket Books

The African American Policy Forum Statement on Bodily Autonomy

Voting Harder Won’t Bring Back Roe” with Lillian Cicerchia | Jacobin

Mad About Roe? Here’s What to Do Now.” by Robin Marty | The New York Times

Watch: “Resist” by Janis Ian

Watch: “F*** You” by Olivia Rodrigo

Further Reading Prepared by Showing Up For Racial Justice NYC (SURJ )

Abortion’s Racial Gap” by Zoe Dutton | The Atlantic

On Juneteenth weekend, Black activists march for abortion rights” by Sarah McCammon | NPR

Watch: “Mobilizing for Reproductive Justice in the Battle for Bodily Autonomy” | Political Research Associates

Watch: “Feminist Future Series – Feminism Beyond White Supremacy: Where We Have Been and Where We Need to Go” | Women’s March

The Racist History of Abortion and Midwifery Bans” by Michele Goodwin | ACLU

How Texas abortion law is undermining Native American women’s reproductive justice” by Erik Ortiz | ABC News

Watch: “The lesser-known racist history of the so-called pro-life movement” | Showing Up for Racial Justice

Zillah Eisenstein is a noted international feminist writer and activist and professor emerita, political theory, Ithaca College. She is the author of many books, including “The Female Body and the Law” (UC Press, 1988), which won the Victoria Schuck Book Prize for the best book on women and politics; “Hatreds” (Routledge., 1996), “Global Obscenities” (NYU Press, 1998),  “Against Empire” (Zed Press, 2004), and most recently, “Abolitionist Socialist Feminism” (Monthly Review Press, 2019).

Sarah E. Stumbar, M.D., Master of Public Health, oversees a mobile health clinic for undocumented and uninsured people in Miami; is associate professor of medicine at Florida International University Medical School, where she designs anti-racist sex and gender curriculum; and provides abortion access at Miami Planned Parenthood. 

Damn the Court; This is not what Democracy Looks Like


I could wait to fully try to clear my head and calm my heart but that might not happen soon enough, and this moment “we” are in is urgent. For friends who say they have lost hope I am reminded of what I have said too often in these last few years. Hope is not an abstract idea; it is a practice.  By doing with others, we create the hope we need. 

Neither the January 6th riot/coup—call it what you will– nor overturning Roe can dismantle the amazing progressive forces developed in our anti-racist feminist struggles of the past 50 years. Let us mobilize to end the fallacies of racist misogynist democracy and take our country elsewhere. Misogynist fascism has fully arrived so there is no choice or time left.

I started writing this after the second day of the Congressional hearings investigating January 6th. I was appalled at what the hearings were documenting—the complete lying and deceit and terror inflicted on innocent people by Trump and his entourage. Listening to the stories of Shaye Moss, a Georgia election worker, and her mother Ruby Freeman —black women being threatened with death and lynching, and a full onslaught of terror. Their lives were taken from them. 

Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump are gangsters. What happens when a liar and bully like Trump gets to be heard repeatedly as though it makes the process of evaluating him/them rational? What does it mean to hold hearings about the abuse of power when much of the power and its players are still in place?

And yet, it was not at all clear what was going to be done with this information. Would there be criminal charges? And I wondered, how could there not be? And, to even ask this question is to limit and contain what really had happened.

So, hypocrisy is normalized to the point that we do not even see it. Is this all just a democratic façade? Can these present hearings indict a failed democracy? Can you use the very system to indict itself? I would love a convo with Audre Lorde just about now. Is this too dangerous to both Democrats and Republicans? I fear it is.

Is this why democracy as we know it just does not work so much of the time? Look at the last ½ century of civil rights and women’s rights movement demands—equality and freedom remain elusive. So, we need new strategies for our demands. And, a real democracy that cannot be attained in existing class, race, gender structures. When we are told to vote ourselves out of this dilemma it is both true and false. It might be necessary but not enough. (Let’s not even think about the newest redistricting and gerrymandering.)

AND then, here comes the Court and its heinous decisions. First it undermines the separation of church and state in Maine, and then it invalidates a New York State gun safety law that limits the public carry of firearms. Really? In this country drowning in its own blood? And then it overrules Roe v. Wade as unconstitutional. And why? Because abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution. Are they kidding? This is an old thought that existed beforeRoe was established as the law of the land. And really? The constitution recognizes no bodies, and not women, white or Black or Brown or Yellow. Then why would it mention abortion?

And it is crucial that we also recognize that the initial legal standing of Roe has been whittled away for these last 50 years.  Although abortion was established as a legal right for all women, a series of Court cases have narrowed and limited the scope and access to abortion.  Many counties do not have more than one abortion facility. Although all women have had the legal right to abortion; many, and in most states most women do not have access to them. This whittling away at Roe is endemic and central to the whittling away at democracy in the US—from voting rights to a fuller notion of reproductive justice. Attacks on Roe should have been our canary in the coal mine.

It is the trick of legal rights—there are a series of needs that must be met before a legal right becomes actionable, accessible. This reality of need has already necessitated an incredible network, often underground and unacknowledged, that assists women now. These routes are in place for the resistance that is already building.

#TheMorningAfterRoe. Abortion clinics have closed in states with trigger laws while abortion providers already are working on alternatives and workarounds. While writing this I got a call from my daughter Dr. Sarah that she is on her way to Planned Parenthood in Miami where abortion remains legal for a bit longer. Doctors and providers across the country are both mourning and raging along with the rest of us. The court has made a huge mistake and thinks It can erase 50 years of unbelievable antiracist feminist struggle with one-stroke. They cannot. The issues and their movements that underly Roe are bigger than Roe. The Court says the Constitution cannot grow and adapt beyond its origin BUT WE HAVE.

2/3 of people in the US support the Roe ruling legalizing abortion. 57% support abortion for any reason. Yet 6 elite people, 5 male, 1 female, 2 of whom are known sexual predators, overturned Roe v. Wade.

Anita Hill warned us—Clarence Thomas did not belong on the Court. No one listened. And now this hateful angry man is destroying the self-determination of millions of people.

I have never been a fan of the term democracy. For me, it always needs an adjective—what kind of democracy?  liberal, bourgeois, misogynist, racist? The more I taught and wrote over the past 40 years the more problematic the term became, but maybe never as much as right now, (except for chattel slavery) where I think it may be time to drop the term all together and have a new imagination.

This Court, with its newest readings of the Constitution has fully established a misogynist fascism. Democracy in any of its limited legal forms is done, at least until we recognize that it is fully captured and claim it back. Decades ago, Bertram Gross coined the phrase friendly fascism, the form he said fooled people in the US—it didn’t look like Nazism nor was it violent enough, but this is what white misogynist fascism looks like.

Political language and practice matter because it is through language that we see and think and dream.  It constrains us and it can free us too. It is time to realize that we must take back white misogynist fascism parading as democracy and make it friendly to all bodies of every color. 

Jamelle Bouie suggests that The Constitution provides several paths by which Congress can restrain and discipline a rogue court. It can impeach and remove justices.  It can set up new restrictions that limit their purview.

So let us put pressure on the Democrats to stand up for democracy for women of every sort—color, class, sex, gender, ability. Meanwhile as I learned long ago from Rosa Luxemburg: extra-legal power struggles must also define the day.  Progressive anti-racist feminists of every sort must mobilize our power wherever it already exists. As we strategize our next steps to fight again for our right to abortion and reproductive justice let us use our 50 years of anti-racist feminist struggle and growth to see all the intersections of our lives so we can lift each other up together.  That means seeing abortion and reproductive justice as a fundamental demand for full democracy. There is nothing new here. After the revolutions of 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union East and West Germany had one last issue they could not agree upon: abortion rights.  Women’s bodies—with or without a uterus—are always up for power grabs. In these 50 years of living with Roe women’s struggles and feminist solidarities have morphed, and changed, and been made more inclusive and radical. Black women have led the fight to broaden and encompass the complexity of these needs and demands. The right to abortion is about the right to control our bodies and what they will and won’t do and it is about everything that defines and structures women’s—trans, non-binary, cis, in all colors and abilities– lives.  As Kimberle Crenshaw co-founder of the African American Policy forum reminds us: The consequence of our society’s failure to see coerced pregnancy as a legacy of enslavement has descended once again upon Black women and pregnant people. If the project of liberation from enslavement had been rooted in this recognition, then coerced childbirth would have been prohibited as a foundational principle of freedom. Our bodies are multiple and complex and borderless with the world they inhabit. So, abortion is a specific, but not a single issue. It is central and intimate with its surround. It is why support for it is so deep and wide.

Gun violence, and the war in Ukraine, and Covid and sexual assault and #MeToo, and Afghan women, and the detainees still in Guantanamo is about all our bodies. 

In sum: Roe has been overturned.  Abortion and our reproductive rights have been taken from all of us against our will. But we are stronger than the law that narrows us. And, wehave learned so much. We know how to fight, and together. We have the power of community and camaraderie. And it must be used to deny illegitimate power. It is time to disobey. For a start we must organize to impeach the 3 judges that lied about Roe. And impeach Clarence Thomas for sexual harassment. 

This Court has forced our hand. We are at the point where we have nothing to lose but our chains, and we have the strength to make claim to a revolutionary democracy once and for all. 

We will create sanctuary communities and cities, we will continue the underground networks to transport women to the care they need, we will impeach the judges, we will indict the violators of democracy with refusal to support the regime/s in power through strikes, through continual disruptions of everyday life. We will create democratic chaos. This is already in process, and it will become more visible and more organized and more impactful in the coming weeks and months. And with this process we will make our revolution even if we do not know what it looks like in advance. 

Ending Roe does not end the 50 years of organizing in multiple ways for anti-racist feminist abolition that went along with it. Just because these judges cannot see us does not mean we are not here. So let us all take this knowledge and energy to finally demand the world we must have. This is where our hope lies. 






His name is George Perry Floyd.

His friends call/ed him Perry.

The world calls him George Floyd.

When he was young, he was kind, present, caring, thoughtfully intelligent, and told his friends he wanted to be somebody, to make a difference. “’Sis, “I don’t want to rule the world; I don’t want to run the world. I just want to touch the world.” (p. 10) He thought maybe he could be a Supreme Court Justice

He grew up in the Cuney Homes housing project in the third ward, in Houston, Texas. The third ward was poor working class. His early life was defined by Reaganomics. George lived most of his life in Texas. Texas has the most mean-spirited laws of any state. No Medicaid assistance.

And Texas laws forbid “former felons” from holding many jobs,

or receiving food assistance like food stamps. (p. 159) Texas insured recidivism. Maybe if he lived in a different state his life would have been different. Maybe.

His arrest record shows over twenty incidents. His first conviction was 1997; he did not get his diploma in 1993 — and maybe that was the beginning of his downturn. As he cycled through the prison system about 1/3 of Black men were part of jail, parole or probation in Texas. (p.105) The penal system is burgeoning alongside his personal life.

People’s stories matter. They tell the particulars of a human being. Structures define us but we are always more than that part of the story.

Which comes first? The person or the structure of racism and/or misogyny and/or class privilege that they are born into? There is no first because the embeddedness of who we are is inseparable from what we might become and that does not negate the fact that there can be huge variety. There are usually constraints, and a little bit of choice, but not always, and often not.

Each of us is a person, and each of us is in a structural system of power beyond our own individual story. The authors of Geroge Floyd, Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, show us that he was “suffocated” by a system in which he could not breathe.

Floyd’s great-great-grandfather was enslaved — Hillery Thomas Stewart — yet amassed wealth and land only to have it stolen through fraud and deception like so many other Black farmers during the early 19th century. Perry died for allegedly using a counterfeit 20-dollar bill.

As a black boy he was always big — ending up at 6’6” — and 225 pounds. His body was a problem especially because he was Black. And his Black body defined his choices. The only work he could get was: manual labor, bodyguard, security. (p. 210) He tried to get jobs and hold onto them but then came Covid and he could find nothing.

He always knew, even as a boy, that people saw him as big and Black so he always tried to soften himself, to let people know he was not his body. He tried to soften himself for others by telling just about everyone that “he loved them”. It was his greeting. He closed phone calls with friends: “I love you”.

He was surrounded in his childhood and beyond by his mother, grandmother, 9 aunts, and two sisters. His last words, the day he was brutally killed was — “Moma I love you”.

George Floyd was committed to being a person that mattered. But he was also Black, so he could never catch a break. As he got older the police were always at the ready. The day Chauvin murdered him was not the first time he had met Chauvin. Rumors said that Chauvin had a beef with Floyd; Floyd’s drug counselor said he had complained about Chauvin for years. (p.298) From 2014–2020 Chauvin had complaints for using neck restraints repeatedly but was never punished. Eight of the people he assaulted survived, the ninth was George Floyd. He did not. (p. 153)

His back pain from football injuries led to opiods and getting hooked on Percocet. His addiction was always in play — he fought it and won and succumbed over and over, like so many.

Drug record. Arrest record. Addiction. In one of his recovery groups the facilitator would have all the men say: “I am loveable! I am important! I am valuable! I am empowered! If only. He said often: “I know these cops just waiting to kill a big Black nigga like me”.

He was claustrophobic so he always had problems in small spaces — police cars, jail cells.

Perry was always at risk. For being Black. For being an addict. For having a police record. He knew he was always at risk and had to manage himself as best he could. Sometimes he ignored the risk just to be able to do the day.

So many Black people on his death day said: he could have been my brother, my father, my son. To know that is to be really close to the pain. And then there were already Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice.

George Floyd’s murder took eight minutes and 46 seconds; then that was reconstructed as nine minutes and 29 seconds. I would say it has been centuries. The whole world has watched his death. It is so important to know a bit of his life so we know more what was lost and what must be found in order to finally abolish racist misogyny. This book brings us all closer to the pain and closer to a damning condemnation of the murderousness of structural racoism.

And, I now want a book that tells the intimate and political story of Sandra Bland and another for Bryonna Taylor. Each were determined and directed in their interesting lives. They died and were killed because of egregious racist misogynistic policing. Tell these stories so that we, especially white people, will no longer need them told. Read, and listen and hear what is being told and begin the abolitionist work needed to free us all.

Thank you for this book.





Until Black Bodies are Free, None of Us Are Free

This speech was given at an abortion rally in Seneca Falls, New York, on May 21, 2022, sponsored by the Geneva Women’s Assembly, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Poor People’s Campaign. It is part of the national “Summer of Rage” protests. Read a previous abortion rally speech given by Zilllah Eisenstein here.

Before I start: This is an incredible moment — both dire and promissory. The right-wing zealots have taken power in the Republican party and the Court and have exposed themselves by doing so. Instead of mystifying their power, they have unveiled it for all to see. This is not smart: the powerful are not supposed to reveal themselves to the rest of us. So we must use their arrogance against them. This should allow us to solidify our coalitions among ourselves.

A few words. My parents were anti-racist communists and my three sisters and myself grew up on civil rights picket lines. We were taught to not open the door when the FBI was knocking. I was in college from 1964–68, so abortion was illegal. I helped find abortions for several of my roommates and friends. For myself, I decided to put off fucking, so to speak, if this is what it could mean.

I wrote “The Female Body and the Law” in 1988. In this book I showed how female bodies were not imagined or conceived in law, so of course there is no mention of abortion in the constitution. I wrote “The Color of Gender” in 1994. Here I end the book: imagine a Black female body that is pregnant and meet all her needs and that would be a good start towards democracy.

Here we are in Seneca Falls — connecting with demonstrations throughout the country, so I want to send a message to the rest of us to and from Seneca Falls — with its history of abolitionism and the underground railroad and Harriet Tubman.

Until Black bodies are free, none of us are free, and we need to remember this when we recognize the most recent carnage in Buffalo, New York.

Black bodies are linked with all women’s bodies — and all women’s bodies are linked with Black bodies of all kinds.

The struggle for freedom is deeply intertwined and connected, and yet distinct. The murderous actions by the white-supremacist right-wing zealots who kill people at abortion clinics and random Black neighborhoods derive from shared racist and misogynist commitments.

The interlocking systems of misogynist Black and Asian racism are rooted in ableism, nationalism, patriarchy, homophobia, antisemitism, and heterosexism. These are distinct but not separate systems of power. Therefore, we must fight them specifically and collectively.

White rage infiltrates and destroys Black people’s everyday life. People are not even safe food shopping; any semblance of control over one’s life is destroyed. Humanity is thrown to the wind. This erasure of selves is at the heart of white supremacy and its intimate connection to misogyny.

By the way, do you know that the electoral college is a leftover of chattel slavery? Southern states wanted to hold onto their power. The filibuster is a racist leftover too.

Why do people own guns? U.S. gun production has tripled since 2000. There are now 400 million guns in this country. Owning a gun should not be a 2nd amendment right. How do you get to own a gun but not have the right to decide what your own body will do, or not do? When your government does not protect you or allow you to thrive, it is your duty to be ungovernable.

When a Court disallows you a right to control your body, you have a duty to disobey. When violence is used to destroy you like in Buffalo or Tulsa you fight back. Meanwhile, remember the murder of the abortion doctor Barnett Slepian and his assistants was also in Buffalo. It is not good enough that President Biden says that white supremacy is a poison — poison kills, so get rid of it.

It is time for abolition — to abolish white supremacy and to end murderous plunder and killing. And it means an end to the control of all women’s bodies — whatever form or identity it may have. And it is time for reparations. Repair the wounds of our Black sisters, and we will become free with them.

Women of all colors have no standing with the radical anti-abortionists. Anti abortionists are keenly pre-occupied with white babies; they must not be aborted if the nation is to remain predominantly white. Anything that decreases the white birth rate is forbidden. It is why white supremacists hate feminism and abortion and people of color. White feminists are their enemy; Black women are simply invisible. If you are made invisible you have no standing.

The radical white supremacist zealots yell “You will not replace us!” So they will kill those they fear with the police, with guns, and with control of white women’s bodies. White women must band with women of all other colors to say that no one controls our bodies but us — by either forcing laws on our bodies or sterilizing them.

The struggles for racial and sexual equality are under attack in new virulent forms given the radicalization and mainstreaming of much of the white-supremacist right-wing zealots. And they are embedded in each other — I must fight to find my freedom as I come to fight for people of every color and gender, trans and non-binary and disabled and undocumented alike. This is a borderless struggle in a bordered world.

We need to honor grief and rage and therefore the need for rebellion and revolution. As we go forward do not assume the answers will come easily, or that you will know what a revolution looks like. We must make that happen.

We need power, and power is never given. If you are ever given anything know it is not power. Power is taken.

THESE ARE OUR BODIES. They are Black and Brown and Asian. NO ONE ELSE CAN CONTROL THEM. No one is allowed to injure or kill them.

If you cannot hear us, if you cannot see us, WE WILL TAKE THE POWER YOU HAVE FROM YOU.

WE WILL NOT GO BACK. We will not stand still. We will only go forward even if we are not sure exactly what comes next.


When you leave here today you have work to do — learn more, think more, know more and ACT on it — individually and collectively. We are a movement that is evolving and growing. We will not stop.