The Shocking Reason Women’s Rights Continue to Disappear, By Cindy Azucena Gomez-Schempp
No movement where people demanded their rights has ever been successful without the oppressed rising up. Usually, a critical mass of the target group must rise up before a shift in ideas or behaviors begins to take place. It was how the civil rights movement was won. Today, however, we hear there is a war on women’s rights and women are losing the battle. States are rolling back abortion rights, guaranteed decades ago in Roe. vs. Wade. 1 out of 4 are sexually assaulted before age 18, the statistics are higher for brown and black women. 1 out of 5 college women are raped on campus and yet congress narrowly reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. Women still can’t earn equal pay with men or gain access to the same quality education or jobs. Women in America are furious at politicians and lawmakers, most of whom are white males, for their adversarial policies. They vow to rise up together and unleash the voting power of women to fight back! Yet personally, I’m not that optimistic for the women’s movement.
Unfortunately for women in America, racial divisions deeply rooted in institutions, history, and daily life keep women divided, unable to organize and unite for the benefit of us all. This may seem like a shocking statement, but it’s true. It stems from a misogynist system that sustains patriarchy and white supremacy for white males. White women act against their own interests as females when they support conservative policies which restrict women’s rights to exercise free will over their sexual and reproductive organs and progeny. Whatever their stated ulterior motives may be, be it religious or moral values for example, the outcome is the same: women’s access as a whole to medical reproductive care will be limited or lost. Conservative women understand this. But, who are the women affected most? Women of Color.
Black and Latina women’s sexuality and reproductive care has never been respected in the same way as white women. Black, Latina, and Native women were all historically subjected to rape and forced sterilization in a way white women have never been. This is because of the Eugenics movement in America which reinforced Jim Crow ideology and policy. It was considered a scientific necessity to reduce the fertility of women of less desirable races, like Latinos, Native Americans, and African Americans. Forced sterilization of women of color continues today but is rarely discussed in media. America’s history has been sterilized by conveniently omitting the teaching or discussion of these easily verifiable facts.
White women organized together for women’s suffrage when there was not yet equality between people of color and whites. White women knew that, so they also knew the voting rights they were really securing were those of white women, not all women.