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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Stop Patriarchy protester: Don’t give up the fight for abortion rights

[Originally published in The Daily Texan]
By Adrienne Luendo

My name is Adrienne Luendo — I am a 23-year-old recent college graduate. More than that, I am an Abortion Rights Freedom Rider and was one of the five people arrested outside of the UT Austin campus on Aug. 27.

I protested because I feel responsible to act on what I know to be true. The closure of abortion clinics nationwide must be stopped because without the right to decide for themselves when and whether to have a child, women cannot be free. This responsibility is heavy, but it is not without great joy and honor to be part of something worth living and fighting for. I protested because I’m angry that college students are being silenced when campuses should be teeming with debate and dissent. This is our future, and we can do better than standing on the sidelines. I wanted to challenge students, to show that young people have the ability and responsibility to change the trajectory of history, and that means putting our bodies on the line.

On Friday, Aug. 29, just two days after our protest and arrest, Judge Lee Yeakel blocked — for now — the round of clinic closures that had been scheduled to take place across Texas on Sept. 1. This is great! However, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has already appealed this ruling and a hearing is set for Sept. 12 in New Orleans. In addition, over half of Texas’ abortion clinics already have been closed for the past two years, part of a dangerous pattern nationwide.

Everyone needs to know about this and needs to be part of the fight to change the way people think, talk, and act about abortion. “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology” is what Stop Patriarchy says. Abortion is the first word in the slogan. It’s not an afterthought, not a statement that abortion should be “rare.”  It creates the possibility of conversations about why abortion should be unrestricted and spoken about without taboo, shame or stigma.  Students are leaders, the future of this world and need to be speaking about abortion on those terms!

Some students were deeply inspired by our action on Guadalupe Street because they had never seen or been part of a protest.  We sounded the alarm about the abortion rights emergency here in the U.S. and abroad — chanting facts, stories and questions.  We wore all white and had blood stains on our pants to bring to life the reality that when abortion was illegal, 5,000 women per year died from botched abortions, and currently 47,000 women die each year globally from botched abortions. 

“When was the last time someone told you to yell about women’s rights? It feels good to stand up for the lives of women,” Sunsara Taylor, initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women, yelled out to students. This is so true! Students and young people have grown up in a culture where talk about abortion is silenced because it’s controversial.  But there should be nothing controversial about a woman making the decision of when and whether she will become a mother.  It is immoral to force her into motherhood against her will.

Going to jail was an awful experience.  We were treated as less than human, our prints taken, and were constantly searched and groped.  I thought of the women who have to drive hours to the nearest clinic, scrape up money and often childcare, of women who inject themselves with birth control before crossing the border because they know there is a likelihood of rape while traveling, of the lives stolen by illegal and botched abortions, the countless stories of foreclosed lives. I stood for them and it was worth it!

Some students and drivers were angry because of the disruption to their lives. But that’s just a small dose of what it’d be like to be a woman without access to reproductive care. I call on students to stand up for women’s lives. If you don’t want to see the women of the world enslaved to their reproductive system, if you’re angry that some politicians will not stop until abortion is abolished, if you are tired of being silenced, if someone you love had an abortion, join up with Listen to women’s stories. Tell your own. Start a chapter where you live. Because if you understand that forcing women into motherhood against their will is immoral and wrong, it’s up to you to do something about it.

Why Janay Rice (formerly Palmer) didn’t leave is a no-brainer to feminists

By Carol Downer

American society seems surprised and shocked that Janay Rice decided to not leave her boyfriend, Ray Rice.  Anti-rape feminists in the 70’s knew why a woman stays with an abusive boyfriend or husband.  It is the male-dominated system that forces women into positions to “choose” to stay in abusive relationships.

Then, in the mid-70’s, grass-roots feminist anti-rape groups found themselves re-formed when they received funding from law enforcement agencies.  The Law Enforcement Assistance Agency (LEAA) funneled vast funds into replacing lay staff with Ph.D.’s who softened the militancy of the women’s liberation movement.  Instead of confronting rapists or forming self-help defense groups, the group’s objective became collecting physical evidence needed to catch and prosecute rapists.  Later, efforts to fight violence against women similarly were funded and became social service agencies.

The feminist energy to fight male violence tolerated by the male-dominated system (patriarchal system) was diverted into providing social services to abused women and punishing abusive men who were disproportionately of lower class and of color.  In other words, the system used its money as a counter-revolutionary tool.  Today, the debate is couched not in sexual equality terms, but rather in statistics.  Experts talk in gender-neutral language about “intimate partner violence” and “abusers” and “abused”, ignoring that the problem in rooted in male supremacy, even if some minority of female partners are sometimes abusive.

I must admit, when I heard about the video of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancĂ©e out of the elevator after he punched her, I thought, “Why doesn’t she just kick him in the shins and leave.”  With a moment’s reflection, a flood of reasons, all related to the economics of the situation, came to me.  Ray Rice is a successful, high-earning man, so the economic aspect is more clear than the usual case, where a ordinary pay check is all that might be put in jeopardy with law enforcement intervention, however a woman and her family may depend on that paycheck.

Beyond economics, there are a myriad of reasons to stay in an abusive relationship in a patriarchal society.  The woman is blamed; the church disapproves of or forbids divorce; one’s social life often depends on being in couple.

Lastly, and not inconsistent with being self-respecting, a woman may stay with a man who has qualities that she values, or they may have a history that is irreplaceable.  If women had more power in our society, the woman would be able to insist on better treatment.

As to the fact that Janay Palmer is Black, White prejudice may negatively affect public perceptions of her decision to stay, but whether an abused female can leave an abusive relationship is grounded in difference in power between males and females.  Any implication that abused White women somehow have it easier than abused Black women ignores the reality that White men have a lot more power than Black men in our society, thus they tend to have more economic power, and they are able to conceal their violence or they are dealt with more leniently.

When feminists take our movement back from those who cloud the issue, the issue will be simplified; male supremacy, or patriarchy, will be directly attacked.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"No One Has To Ask Permission To Fight For Women’s Liberation - A Response To Katie Klabusich’s Attack On Stop Patriarchy In Bitch Magazine"

[Originally published in,,, and]
By Carol Downer

The headline, “In Texas, Activist Group ‘Stop Patriarchy” Draws Criticism’ and the first two paragraphs might first appear like an objective report; however, your blog, reprinted in Bitch is not a report, but a trash job. Come clean, Katie Klabusich, Texans for Reproductive Justice is you and your buddies in an ad hoc group formed for the sole purpose of opposing Stop Patriarchy and their mission to come to Texas, protest the TRAP laws that are closing down Texas clinics and their goal of linking this to the nationwide emergency facing abortion rights.

I’m on the advisory board of Stop Patriarchy and I went on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride for one week.

So, you have not given me or anyone else one good reason not to support Stop Patriarchy. Your criticisms are baseless; if anything, they are reasons to support Stop Patriarchy.

It is great that we attract media attention because we go to where the Patriarchy is crushing women down; our demonstrations are photogenic; we have good slogans, “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology”; we have attention-arresting enlargements of photos of women who have died from illegal abortion and great props dramatizing that enforced pregnancy is unconstitutional “involuntary servitude.” We have great fliers and dramatize women’s abortion stories. We get national and local media response, in addition to getting out broadly into the communities across Texas and talking to real people – not just people in the existing “movement” – the majority of whom know nothing about the clinic closures and have never heard anyone speak positively about abortion. I saw this have a real positive impact on people’s thinking. What is not to like about that?

You ask where the money we raised went? $30,000.00 is not much these days, especially when dozens of you fly or drive to the destination and you have to use cars and stay in motels, but if you sleep on the floor and cook your own food, you can make it stretch. What money do you think is not accounted for?

You all call Stop Patriarchy racist because we say that forced motherhood is female enslavement? A woman accepts the pains and dangers of wanted pregnancy and labor, but when we are forced to endure them, what would you call it? A walk in the park? You call us Islamaphobic because we condemn the patriarchy that forces women to wear the burka? We condemn Western patriarchy that pressures women to be sex objects and wear body-restricting clothing like thongs. Is that Islamaphobic? And, who says Stop Patriarchy is against sex workers because we are against pornography? Is being against sweatshops also being against underpaid laborers who work in unhealthy conditions?

None of these are good reasons for opposing and seeking to sabotage Stop Patriarchy.

Let’s get to the meat of what is burning your buns. We did not get permission from you all to come protest at the Federal Courthouse in Austin at the hearings to decide whether to let the restrictions on clinics go into effect this September 1st, did we? Katie, did you notice that we demonstrated at the FEDERAL courthouse? That’s because the question before the court was whether the law violated the U.S. constitution, and that affects all of us, doesn’t it? Just because it happens on Texas soil is irrelevant. We don’t have to ask permission. Get over it.

Also, you are upset we did not use our money to pay for women’s abortions now that Texas women are being forced to travel and incur extra costs. Well, that is a political decision. Most people who call themselves reproductive rights groups consider themselves “political.” Political means engaging in the political process. Protesting is a time-honored way of being political, and while we are all consternated at the injustice against Texas women that is being perpetrated, social change will only come about through political organizing, which costs money.

What really makes me question your ad hoc group’s opposition to Stop Patriarchy, Katie, is that you want to keep SP from protesting in Texas, because they are “disreputable” and many of them support the Revolutionary Communist Party. Why do you think this disqualifies us from being part of the reproductive rights movement?

I have been a reproductive rights activist and an abortion provider for over 40 years, and I am on the advisory board of Stop Patriarchy. I am aware that Stop Patriarchy is an effort that Sunsara Taylor and other supporters of the RCP initiated which also includes others who believe in the goals of Stop Patriarchy, such as I. I believe that we need a revolution in this country, but think it has to be a feminist-led revolution that transforms our society, therefore I am not a communist, but I have known these folks since before 1979. I esteem them as fellow progressives that share my opposition to U.S. imperialist wars, and mass incarceration of poor, black and brown people, and I condemn your red-baiting.

The red-baiting brings up an interesting question, Katie, are you guys against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the blatant use of our law enforcement machinery to imprison so many young men of color and the murder of Trayvon Martin and now Michael Brown? Or, are you all the kind of reproductive rights activists that believes that the women’s movement is just about raising women’s status in our society, and not about broader social justice. That might explain your group’s slurs.

I have to wonder if you folks have lined up with the Democratic Party who continues to support Hyde Amendment restrictions and the mealy-mouthed “choice” people whose only goal is to reduce female fertility, and you do not want us “disreputable” protestors to raise hell about these TRAP laws.

I would like to say why I came to Texas at this time to protest these laws. First, I have watched our defeat in Texas with dismay, and I wanted to come join in with the protests of Texans and to voice my own outrage. Second, I see more and more attacks coming around the country, and I see very little visible protest occurring. Mostly everything is left up to Planned Parenthood and the Democrats, and I am sick of it. I think it’s time for outspoken protests saying “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.” I respect that Texans have been working hard on this issue, but it has not been enough. We need to do more. In L.A., in NYC, everywhere. I invite Texans who are working for Reproductive Freedom and Justice to come to California. We need some help too.