In the Blog
The Women’s Rights Crisis that Feminists Aren’t Talking About
This post is best introduced by this video testimony by a woman worker who was detained as part of the New Bedford sweatshop raid in Massachusetts:
In this particular raid, 361 people were detained and the majority were women. Many of these women are mothers and pregnant women; at least two pregnant women were deported without delay.
The mainstream and also the feminist media isn’t really talking about these raids and other important human rights stories about immigration in the U.S.
Why? Why are these stories ignored when these raids are happening all over the US? When this continent is a dangerous place for immigrant women? When immigrant women are being “disappeared”, detained indefinitely, denied access to health care, torn from their families, deported without seeing a lawyer or a judge? Why?
In the most recent issue of Shameless, I reviewed brownfemipower’s blog where I mention that one of her posts elicited more than 50 comments in only 2 days. In that review I didn’t have space to say what was the content of that particular post - but I can say here that it was this very question.
At the WAM! conference session, Irina Contreras told of how certain feminist radio stations said these stories weren’t relevant because a concentration on immigration would “spread feminist resources too thin.” Others argued that immigration is not a gender issue, but a race one, as if women of colour didn’t exist at all. (This reminds me of most U.S. election coverage, which is all about a woman candidate vs. a black candidate.) Calling immigration a race issue and not a feminist issue denies the way that women detainees and undocumented workers are specifically targeted for their gender, through the threat of forcibly separating them from their children, the use of rape in detention centres (aka jails), and the existence of family prisons.
brownfemipower was a panelist at the WAM! session, and she pointed out that historically the push for women’s rights in the USA has been based on the notion of citizenship. Pushing for the right to vote and other rights has been an important gain for feminism, however organizing on this basis alone automatically excludes people without formal immigration status, since by law, undocumented people don’t have any rights.
This model of attaining rights has “created an invisible border around the feminist movement in the US,” says brownfemipower. This wall prevents many feminist from seeing the connection between violence against women and increased militarization at the US borders (and Canadian borders too, I might add).
Immigration is ALREADY a feminist issue: why can’t many (ahem, white) feminists see that?