A lion’s share of outrage

Photo by Arno Meintjes
Photo by Arno Meintjes

Poor Cecil. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about how Cecil the lion met his sad and painful end. I don’t know what kind of person thinks this kind of violence is fun. I wonder how that dentist from Minnesota treats the humans in his life, but this post is not about him.

It’s about us. I am struck by how many people—on social media, mainstream media, the water cooler—are so vocal about their disgust, shock, and condemnation of the murder of Cecil the lion. Not because their outrage isn’t justified. This was a terrible act. But there is a lot of terrible violence happening right here in our communities every day that I think deserves at least an equal amount of outrage. Some are angry that people are quick to condemn Cecil’s death but not so willing to do the same for other atrocities happening around them. I can respect that anger. And it isn’t an either/or situation. We should be both outraged by what happened to Cecil and about black lives cut short, women and girls being raped…I could go on.

So if you’re feeling that anger, that outrage about Cecil—good! I’ve got five more things that we should muster up that same outrage for:

1) Women of color dying in jail cells—Sandra Bland, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, and many others.

2) The 35 women on the cover of NY Magazine coming forward about being sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the empty chair that represents so many other women and girls who are sexually assaulted every day.

3) The dreadful conditions that exist in Family Detention Centers and the continuing struggles of immigrant women and children who flee violence in their families and countries.

4) Transgender women are being killed at alarming rates.

5) Thousands of women across the country and here in Washington State are being abused by partners who promised to love them.

Last week my fearless coworker Tyra Lindquist had some excellent thoughts about how to fight injustice. Today we are talking about Step 1: Pay attention and get fired up. If we can do it for a lion, we can do it for each other.

Una Moraleja acerca del Privilegio y la Coerción Reproductiva (A Cautionary Tale of Privilege and Reproductive Coercion)

En Junio los noticieros irrumpieron con la noticia de que 150 prisioneras fueron coaccionadas a firmar papeles de consentimiento para ser esterilizadas en unas cárceles en California desde el año 2006. A algunas mujeres se les pidió consentir a la esterilización durante el parto. Otras mujeres fueron intimidadas a dar consentimiento por doctores que repetidamente las humillaron por ser pobres o tener más de un hijo.


Hasta el momento todas las que han denunciado el hecho son mujeres de color. Las prácticas de esterilización forzada como este han impactado desproporcionadamente a las mujeres de color y a la mujer pobre a lo largo de la historia de los Estados Unidos. Esta forma de coerción reproductiva es solo un ejemplo de la violencia cometida por las instituciones e individuos en contra de las mujeres de color.

Las personas que perpetran esta violencia institucional en contra de las mujeres y adolecentes de color frecuentemente la disfrazan de cruzadas con intenciones de salvarlas de los errores inminentes que están condenadas a cometer. Como si ellas no pudiesen responsablemente decidir cuándo ser madres pero solamente decidir a “no serlo.” De ésta manera usamos los embarazos de las adolescentes latinas y negras como cuentos de moralejas, como fue el caso en la ciudad de Nueva York donde los mensajes claramente intentaron de humillar a las madres y padres adolescentes. Las mujeres de color encarceladas son coaccionadas a consentir a la esterilización por la creencia de que ellas no tienen la habilidad de tomar ‘buenas’ decisiones sobre sus cuerpos y sus familias.
El mensaje de que las mujeres pobres y los adolescentes de color no debieran de ser padres o madres facilita le existencia de la coerción reproductiva. Mientras que la creación de un ambiente de apoyo por los derechos de cada persona a ser padre/madre hace que la coerción institucional e individual tenga menos chances de prosperar.La prevención de la coerción reproductiva requiere que apoyemos el derecho a la reproducción de todas las personas. En el momento que nos planteamos el problema como si algunas personas se merecen ser padres más que otras quedamos atrapados en un debate de valores y asumimos el rol de Policías del Derecho a Reproducir. Muchos de nosotros podemos nombrar fácilmente las dificultades de convertirnos en padres y madres muy jóvenes o sin tener suficiente dinero para hacerlo (y muchos de nosotros pensamos que el ser madres/padres es solamente una bendición lo que es frecuentemente un valor en las culturas colectivistas). El desafío para muchos de nosotros es el de también reconocer que no debemos marginalizar a las personas que han decidido reproducirse comunicándoles que cometieron un error que no resultará en nada bueno.


Back in June the news broke that 150 inmates were coerced to sign consent forms to be sterilized in California jails between 2006-2010. Some women were asked to consent to sterilization while in labor. Some women were bullied into signing consent forms by doctors who repeatedly shamed them for being poor or having multiple children.

So far, all the women who have come forward are women of color. Forced sterilization practices like this have disproportionally impacted women of color and low income women throughout the history of the United States. This form of reproductive coercion is just one of the many types of violence perpetrated by institutions and individuals against women of color.

The people who perpetrate this institutional violence frequently disguise it as a campaign to save women and teens of color from the impending bad choices they are doomed to make. As if they could not responsibly decide when to become parents but only not to become one. We use Latino and Black teen pregnancy as a cautionary tale like in the New York City campaign that clearly intended to shame teen parents. Women in prison are coerced into sterilization because of the belief that they do not have the ability to make “good” decisions about their bodies and their families.

Preventing reproductive coercion requires that we support everyone’s right to reproduce. The moment we approach the issue as if some deserve to be parents more than others, we are trapped in a debate about values and we assume the role of Reproductive Police. Many of us can readily name the challenges of becoming parent’s too young and/or lacking the financial resources to do it (and many of us can think of parenthood only as blessing, a prevalent view in collectivist cultures). The challenge for many of us is understanding that we shouldn’t marginalize those who choose to become parents by telling them that they made a bad choice and no good will come of it.

The narrative that poor women and teens of color should never become parents makes reproductive coercion more likely to happen. Creating an environment of support for the rights of anyone to become a parent makes institutional and individual coercion less likely to thrive.

%d bloggers like this: