• Alex Orr

Misogyny and the war on … everyone?

Updated: Jul 30


Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq


This article is part of The Broad's short series in response to the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade. For more articles like this, search the hashtag 'Roe v Wade' on our website.


Abortion access is closely linked to the other ways in which the state enforced control over people’s bodily autonomy. When people compare the current political climate to Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (while they are correct to compare the US to the fictional fascist and totalitarian Republic of Gilead) they swiftly overlook that the reality of the novel has been felt by many communities already. Disabled people, queer people, people of colour, incarcerated people, and immigrants have lived without reproductive rights for centuries. There is a war happening, but not just on white women à la Handmaid’s Tale, and the nuclear bomb is misogyny.


Reproductive rights affect not only women, but many other groups deemed undesirable by the state. Certain people are encouraged (by state, church, or societal pressure) to have children: those in the nuclear family unit, the healthy, and the wealthy. According to the patriarchal nuclear family model, the proletariat are encouraged to have children to supply more workers for labour under capitalism. Those outside of that family unit are discouraged from having children: those with physical or intellectual disabilities, those seen racially inferior, immigrants to a country, the incarcerated, or any others unable to work; all of these undesirables are of no use to patriarchal capitalism, thus encouraged not to procreate, with the echoes of eugenics practices still felt today.


Moreover, the conversation about reproductive justice and bodily autonomy cannot be had without queer and trans people. Quietly alongside this enormous case that has captured global attention, there were 238 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation proposed in the US between January and March of 2022. Driven by conservative politicians to preserve traditional values, these issues go hand in hand. Access to contraception and abortion, and same-sex marriage and trans peoples’ very existence pose a powerful threat to the all-American nuclear family. These attacks, however, are far from new to queer and trans people. After all, it’s been less than ten years since equal marriage was passed, and in more than half of the states, gender identity is not a protected characteristic. There will be many trans people affected by the abortion ban, and their voices are vital at this time, but this should only further prove how misogyny is the driving force of these changes. Pre-overturning, trans men who were pregnant already struggled with abortion access due to transphobic healthcare workers, religiously affiliated clinics who held prejudices, and lack of community support. Now, with some states banning abortion entirely, their trauma will be twofold. It should go without saying, of course, that trans men aren’t women, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are affected by woman-hating. Conservatives see everyone with a female reproductive system as a woman, and thus they seek to control and oppress.


Where some people are and will be forced to carry pregnancies to birth, certain groups are prevented from pregnancy. People with physical and intellectual disabilities in the US have been without reproductive justice in a myriad of ways, but most predominantly due to the high rates of forced sterilisation and forced contraception, beginning after the rise of eugenics in the early 1900s. According to a report on forced sterilisation and disabled people in the US, there are currently three states which have banned forced sterilisations, seventeen in which it is legal, and eleven where it is not commented on. The report also states that women with disabilities are forcibly sterilised at a much higher rate than men with disabilities – out of all the cases they studied, only three were to do with disabled men, and in only one case was the boy sterilised. This shows the gendered facet of the specific abuse. Disabled people are already infantilised by family, carers, the state, and media-driven public opinion, and they are further patronised due to misogynistic prejudices.


The rise of eugenics also had unconscionable consequences for people of colour in the US. Women of colour in particular suffered intimate and visceral reproductive violence. Historically, Black women have been sterilised at more than three times the rate of white women, and, at the heart of any conversation on reproductive rights, there is the dark fact that we have the modern hysterectomy because James Marion Sims, the ‘father of modern gynaecology’, experimented on enslaved women without anaesthesia. In the 1970s, at least 25% of Indigenous women were submitted to forced sterilisations or sterilisations without informed consent. This continues, with more than 100 Indigenous women in 2018 filing a lawsuit for non-consensual tubal litigations they endured. The bodies of women of colour have historically been and still are overpoliced in many, many ways, and the control around reproduction is due to racist ideas that they are sexual delinquents, would raise lawbreakers, and have families that are drains on national resources. The violence they face is gendered, they are punished according to racist ideas using invasive and misogynistic methods.


Other groups accused of being drains on resources and being innately morally corrupt are immigrants and the incarcerated, those who are effectively second-class citizens in the US. An article published in 2020 shows that a government-contracted doctor in a detention centre in Georgia performed many sterilisations on women who were in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Another article shows that between 2006 and 2010, almost 150 women in Californian prisons were sterilised, and perhaps 100 more since the 1990s. These women, without status or selfhood in the eyes of the state, are punished for more than their perceived or committed crime. They pay for the crime of being a woman.


The voices and faces of the mainstream abortion and, wider, the feminist movement are overwhelmingly white. This means that the movement lacks complex and universal meaning; more voices must join the chorus to share how patriarchal oppression intersects with other forces, how queerphobia, ableism, racism, classism, and prejudice use misogyny to enact control.



On Abortion Access in Scotland - Statement by Anna Cowan, campaigner for Back off Scotland


The verdict of Roe v Wade represents a huge step back in the progress we have made for equal reproductive rights. Allowing abortion to be banned does not ban abortions - it bans safe abortions.


Although decisions like this may seem incredibly far away, in Scotland we are facing a fight against abortion access in the form of anti-choice protests outside of clinics which provide abortions. These protestors come from Texas-funded organised 40 Days for Life, who are an insidious and restrictive religious group who's sole purpose is to ban abortion.


In Scotland we must show our solidarity with our American sisters and siblings, while also being vigilant and fighting against anti-choice movements. If you want to be apart of the cause to establish buffer zones around abortion clinics, please fill out the Scottish Government consultation to enact this into law at bufferzones.scot


Please fill in Gillian Mackay’s consultation on buffer zones here, open until 06/08/22.


You can write to your MSP here.


59 views0 comments