Featured in this folio:
- Sonia Beauchamp
- Sandra Hunter
- Raye Hendrix
- Maryan Nagy Captan
- M. Carmen Lane
- Jean Prokott
- Fabienne Josaphat
- Elsa Valmidiano
- Caitlin Cowan
- Amy Small-McKinney
As I write this, the United States government is separating children from their families, and placing these children in unfathomable conditions, leaving them to take care of each other. The message is clear: children are not precious unless their bodies serve this administration.
This should come as no surprise. Aristotle once told lawmakers “to encourage people to reproduce more abundantly if a city is too small or to employ birth control measures if a city is too large.”* What Aristotle meant by this is that babies and children are bodies to be used. In Aristotle’s time, more children translated to a larger population which could create more goods, and fight to win wars. This is why the child belonged to the father: according to the law, children were seen as property. Our civilization has a long history of using people as pawns, starting from before a child is even born. People who threaten the government’s control over the population by claiming their bodies as their own and not as property, either of another or the state, have historically been targeted—both by individuals and by policies.
When these views are successfully indoctrinated into the populace, we see that individuals serve to police each other. As Elsa Valmidiano writes about abortion videos she watched in Catholic school, “while the abortion videos focused on the termination of the fetus, which looked more like a froglike humanoid creature, there was never any acknowledgment paid to the faceless woman on the table. I wasn’t watching the murder of babies, but rather the grotesque objectification of a woman’s body.” We know that the way a story is told can erase the very people at its core, and manipulate listeners and create confusion which allows atrocities to occur.
Multiple rhetorical strategies have been employed to keep necessary stories from being heard, to keep people scared and voiceless. We see that this same administration’s argument against the LGBTQ+ community about the destruction of the ‘traditional’ family—an argument which is clearly at odds with the administration’s practices, ignorant of the historic tradition of separating families that the country was founded and built upon. Still, the word ‘traditional’ is tossed around as though we know what that means—as though we there were no other forms of family.
Our bodies are war zones. Even if people do not hold the same views as their representatives, gerrymandering and voter suppression have resulted in multiple states passing heartbeat bills against the majority of residents’ beliefs and values. Both inside and outside of the US, Indigenous communities continue to have women, two-spirit people, and LGBTQ+ people disappear through trafficking and murder, and we have learned that coerced sterilization continues to be an issue for those who remain.
There are countless stories, countless histories, countless intergenerational traumas. And those of us who have experienced trauma are still fighting to be recognized as human, as capable humans able to make decisions about our bodies and our futures, and we are exhausted. As Sonia Beauchamp writes, “I opened my mouth to protest, but my voice was made only of the flies.”
Too often, we don’t have the words to name our experiences. There is no name, no single word that can pinpoint what has happened. Throughout this folio, writers note how difficult, how impossible names and words can be. Amy Small-McKinney writes that “When you were raped, you didn’t call it rape,/ couldn’t listen to the stones inside you cry/ corrosion, you wanted to believe/ it was love’s hum.”
This folio is a protest against silence, against others controlling the narrative. It is about reproductive justice in all forms, for all bodies, across and through all human-made borders. These works include the faces, include the thoughts and daily activities that are so often disregarded. This writing is also the heartbreaking salve we write for ourselves, a proclamation that, in Raye Hendrix’s words, “I knew I wouldn’t/ use my body’s blood to save/ the idea of someone else./ I knew I’d lose it trying/ to save myself.”
*John Riddle, Eve’s Herbs: A history of contraception and abortion in the west. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Genevieve Pfeiffer is curating a folio on reproductive justice and its intersections (they urge you to submit). They are a writer and poet, and facilitate workshops with survivors of sexual assault and harassment. Their work is forthcoming or has been published in Erase the Patriarchy, Juked, So to Speak, Stone Canoe, and more. They oscillate between NYC and the mountains, and you can find them where there are trees. Genevieve blogs about outdoor wanderings and herbal birth control’s intersections with witches, colonization, and personal and bioregional health at: medium.com/@GenevieveJeanne.