— Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, “for badass disability justice, working-class and poor lead models of sustainable hustling for liberation” (via queerandpresentdanger)
For fat women, being stylish isn’t a luxury. It’s often a necessity to get hired, to get access to healthcare, to get treated like a human being.
Fat women have all kinds of narratives about sloppiness, laziness, dirtiness to overcome. Sometimes heels are a crucial part of looking “put together” in a way that sufficiently convinces people that we care about ourselves, that manages to counteract pervasive cultural narratives that fat people don’t care about ourselves. That we have “let ourselves go.”
Being “put together” is part of the way many of us convey to a judgmental world that we are worth caring about.
I get treated completely differently at a $20 hair salon if I’m dressed up or dressed down. Two totally different experiences. I get treated differently at the doctor’s office, and at the emergency room. I can’t go to the ER in sweatpants, because I’ll get shittier treatment. In an emergency, I have to worry if I am dressed up enough to prove that I deserve respect and care."
This is so, so true, but I think it’s important to note that much of it is rooted in classism - the idea that poor people ARE fat, because of their laziness, while fatness happens to rich people but there’s still hope for them.
That’s not to say that fatphobia doesn’t happen to rich people, because it does - but it’s very much signifiers of wealth that make fat people (occasionally) “worthy” of respect. These are signifiers that lots of poor people can’t afford or get shamed for splurging on, and then judged, ignored, and marginalized when they don’t display them.
When you say that one racist, homophobic asshat speaks for all of rural America, you’re insulting rural America. Because he definitely doesn’t speak for us. Sure, he speaks for a specific segment of rural (AND URBAN) America: that of racist, homophobic asshats.
But to suggest that these traits are native (and confined to) rural areas is offensive, as is the suggestion that they’re specifically Southern in nature, because, believe me, Yankees have their share of racist homophobic asshats too. May I introduce you to one Ann Coulter, born in New York City and raised on the East Coast?"
— s.e. smith, ‘Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson Isn’t Racist And Homophobic Because He’s Rural, So Stop Bashing Rural America,’ xoJane (via se-smith)
CAN I GET A HELL YEAH!??
*teacher voice* i dont know, can you?
*sighs* “MAY I get a hell yeah?”
*teacher voice* you should have gotten a hell yeah during the break before class started
*frustrated groan* But I didn’t NEED a hell yeah during the break
When I was in high school, a guy in my “computers” (read: how to format various types of letters) class asked the teacher, “Can I go to the bathroom?”
"MAY I go to bathroom."
(sigh) “May I go to the bathroom?”
"MAY I go to the bathroom PLEASE."
"…how ‘bout I just piss in the trash can then?"
She sent him to the office. Even at 15 with a lot of super classist socialization surrounding language and grammar in particular, I remember thinking what a totally abusive asshole you had to be to get your kicks denying people who were forced to submit to your authority the basic right to have HUMAN BODIES.
I hope someday, someone pooped in her car.
We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.
We ain’t gonna fight no reactionary pigs who run up and down the street being reactionary; we’re gonna organize and dedicate ourselves to revolutionary political power and teach ourselves the specific needs of resisting the power structure, arm ourselves, and we’re gonna fight reactionary pigs with INTERNATIONAL PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION. That’s what it has to be. The people have to have the power: it belongs to the people.
We have to understand very clearly that there’s a man in our community called a capitalist. Sometimes he’s black and sometimes he’s white. But that man has to be driven out of our community, because anybody who comes into the community to make profit off the people by exploiting them can be defined as a capitalist. And we don’t care how many programs they have, how long a dashiki they have. Because political power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gun. It flows from the barrel of a gun!"
this is why i teach Dorothy Roberts’ book (Killing the Black Body) alongside Andrea Smith’s (Conquest)—these sterilizations are part of a much larger story of genocide in both African-American and Native communities. i think it’s notable that one of the physicians responsible for the unapproved sterilizations of woman inmates in California prisons told the press (in response to a question about the $147, 460 he charged for the procedures), “Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money…compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.” The presumption that the predominately brown & black women in California’s prison system (a) don’t want future children and are poor parents (b) are hypersexual animals incapable of utilizing more temporary birth control measures should they elect to do so (c) are going to go on and be welfare queens and ‘leeches on the government’ (rather than human beings who face discrimination in the workplace due to their race, gender, & criminal record, who also deal with inadequate childcare and rehabilitation resources) is totally dehumanizing.
i also push people to think of the term “forced sterilization” beyond the realm of strictly tubal ligation, and put this in context of histories of environmental racism. for example, in the 1970s the US Forest Service sprayed herbicides on some Native communities in Northern California, with the full knowledge that these chemicals are toxic and cause reproductive failure; when spontaneous miscarriages continued for years, Native activists tried to hold the USFS accountable and demand they stop spraying—the USFS responded by saying that the miscarriages *must* be due to widespread drug addiction, not their chemicals. the US government KNEW their actions were causing miscarriages and fertility issues in Native communities, and continued this practice for years—how is that not forced sterilization too?
— I wrote about the intersection of class and fat fashion. I gave some pointers for those who are not poor and talking to poor folks about fat fashion. And gave a lil update. Go forth. Enjoy. (via nudiemuse)
Generally, overzealous law enforcement delivers its heaviest blows on communities of color and poorer folks. Unfettered and often racist police forces come down hard on specific neighborhoods, and sometimes, in the event of New York City, appear to just stop every Black and Hispanic person they see and pat them down. The imprison-at-all-costs mentality has made Oklahoma in particular famous for having the highest female incarceration rate in the entire world.
This kind of self-destructive zeal usually remains below the surface, something very real in some communities, but not those the popular press particularly cares about. In the past few days, however, an exception has emerged. The high-profile suicide of the computer programmer and internet activist Aaron Swartz — committed it appears in response government prosecutors threatening 50 years of imprisonment for downloading millions of JSTOR articles — has even the Wall Street Journal writing pieces about prosecutorial overreach.
Of course when someone of Swartz’s status faces unconscionable levels of prosecutorial grandstanding, the resulting life-devastating consequences become national news. That’s how things go. It deserves pointing out however that unbelievably harmful police, prison, and justice system mistreatment are everyday realities for certain segments of the US population, generally those less able to capture top stories in the country’s best newspapers. Jamie Lynn Russell was one such person, and unless things dramatically change, we can expect many more victims to come."
— Boyce Watkins, “The World Cries for Newtown’s Children, but Few of Us Think About Dead Brown Babies” (via lavenderlabia)
Content warning: coercive sterilization, institutional violence, medical violence, racism
Mississippi Appendectomy - A phrase made popular by Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer referring to involuntary sterilization procedures. Beginning during the heyday of the American eugenics movement (1920s and 1930s), poor black women were made subject to hysterectomies or tubal ligations against their will and without their knowledge. The practice was considered particularly frequent in the Deep South, although coercive sterilization practices took place in many areas of the country and also affected other women of color, women with physical disabilities whom physicians judged to be “unfit to reproduce,” and poor white women as well.
“She went into the doctor for a cold and came out with a Mississippi appendectomy.”
Number of Victims
The eugenics project in Mississippi resulted in a total of 683 sterilizations. Of these sterilizations, 160 were performed on males, while 523 were performed on females. Through 1944 women made up seventy three percent of the total individuals sterilized in Mississippi (Cahn, p. 160). Individuals considered mentally ill made up approximately nine tenths of the sterilization victims; those deemed “mentally deficient” made up close to one tenth of the sterilized victims. A small percentage did not fall into either category. Mississippi ranks number eighteen, when ranking the states by total number of sterilizations.
Period during which sterilizations occurred
Sterilizations took place in Mississippi between the early 1930s and 1963.
Temporal pattern of sterilizations and rate of sterilization
After the passing of Mississippi’s sterilization law in 1928, the number of sterilizations remained very small until the mid 1930s. In the second half of the 1930s sterilizations were performed at a much higher rate, followed by the war and post-war years’ decline in operations (Paul, p. 399). It seems that the last sterilization in Mississippi was performed in 1963. The rate of sterilization per 100,000 residents was about three per year during the peak years of 1938 to 1941.
Passage of laws
Mississippi passed a sterilization law in 1928 that was very similar to Virginia’s sterilization law. The sterilization statute passed in Mississippi right before the onset of the Great Depression. Consequently “the state did not even have the money to distribute printed copies of the law” (Larson, p. 121). The first sterilizations were performed in the early 1930s. Mississippi was the twenty-sixth state to pass a sterilization law.
Groups identified in the law
In the sterilization law that Mississippi adopted and passed, the following groups are identified: “persons who are afflicted with hereditary forms of insanity that are recurrent, idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness or epilepsy” (Landman, p. 91).
Process of the law
The superintendent of one of Mississippi’s institutions for the mentally ill or disabled could recommend to the board of the institution that an inmate be sterilized. Notice would be given to the inmate and a hearing had to be held within 30 days after notice. The inmate, legal guardian, or counsel could be present at the hearing, seeking to dispute the charges and dissuade the board from a recommendation for sterilization (Landman, p. 91). Appeal of an order for sterilization all the way to the state Supreme Court was allowed (Paul, p. 399). The law was compulsory, although an early report stated that it was carried out only on a “voluntary” basis (Paul, p. 399).
The procedural safeguards of the Mississippi sterilization law caused H. H. Ramsey, superintendent of the Mississippi School and Colony for the Feebleminded, “to proceed cautiously under [the law’s] provisions and sterilize only such cases as consent from parents or guardians can be secured” (Larson, p. 121). The necessity of family consent to perform sterilizations frustrated those interested in sterilizing as many patients as possible as later superintendents “[stressed] the importance of a simplified Sterilization Law”—wanting the freedom to sterilize whomever they pleased.
In Mississippi commitment procedures began with application to chancery courts. Judges were allowed to give jurisdictions to clerk of court in many cases. The feeble minded person in question or his or her family was allowed to demand a trial by jury if necessary (Noll, Feeble-minded, p. 34).
Unlike most states in the United States “Mississippi[…]showed little faith in medical judgments, instead relying on a jury to determine the necessity of commitment” (Noll, Feeble-minded, p. 33). Mental deficiency verification was not required by any medical doctor in order to commit the feeble-minded to an institution in Mississippi. Patients of these institutions would often never see a physician before being admitted; many would not leave without first being sterilized.
Precipitating factors and processes
Mississippi had in common with other states in the Deep South certain conditions that mitigated against the adoption of eugenic policies: concerns for the integrity of the family, the reliance on the family (instead of state agencies) to provide for the welfare of individuals, little concern for immigration, religion’s universalistic views, and the relatively weak impact of progressivism (see, for example, Alabama on this web site).
Eugenic sterilization in Mississippi came on the heels of progressive reform efforts, specifically, the eugenic surveys of the “feeble-minded” carried out by the National Committee for Mental Hygiene in the 1910s (see Larson, 61-71; Noll, Feebleminded, pp. 16-17). The discovery of a putative social problem consequently led to the establishment of segregated but under-funded facilities for the mentally disabled, who would subsequently not be released back into the community without sterilization.
The Southern Sociological Congress, also known as the SSC, was organized in 1912 and “provided a regional forum for much of [the] urban-based [social] reform movement[s]” (Noll, Feeble-minded, p. 13). The SSC was established with the goal of “tackl[ing] the South’s social problems, ‘admittedly more difficult than those in other sections of the Nation’” (Noll, Feeble-minded, p. 13). The SSC provided a forum via which many eugenic ideas were expostulated. “[The] SSC operated as a clearinghouse for reform thought” during a time in which most reforms involved institutionalizing and sterilizing as many second-rate citizens as possible in order to eradicate social problems like extreme poverty and feeble-mindedness (Noll, Feeble-minded, p. 13).
Many state governments, even those with passed sterilization laws, documented as many sterilizations as they could as therapeutic so to avoid the safe guards of the Mississippi sterilization laws. “State governments […] misrepresented the number of mandated sterilizations they performed by labeling a significant number of them ‘therapeutic’ rather than ‘eugenic’” (Cahn, p. 173.) Many physicians who supported eugenic sterilization would use “the event of childbirth or nongynecological surgeries, like appendectomies, to perform a tubal ligation” and “these operations had become so common in Mississippi that they were nicknamed ‘Mississippi appendectomies’” (Cahn, p. 174).
Groups targeted and victimized
In Mississippi, those targeted for sterilization were the same as elsewhere in the Deep South: those considered unfit to produce, particularly those with mental illnesses and mental disabilities.
Women were particularly targeted in the typical eugenic fashion in Mississippi. Haines described to the Mississippi Mental Hygiene Commission an “imbecile white woman […] who has more children than she can count, both white and black” as a perfect example of why Mississippi needed houses for the mentally retarded so that sterilizations could be performed (Larson, p. 61).
In Mississippi, the higher likelihood of a legal challenge and compliance of family members at institutions for the mentally ill meant that many sterilizations were carried out on such patients, especially in the late 1930s. In the 1940s, most victims of sterilization policies were mentally disabled. The rate and number of eugenic sterilizations dropped at the institutions for the mentally ill because of a shortage of physicians.
Other restrictions placed on those identified in the law or with disabilities in general
Mississippi followed a regional trend, in that with the exception of miscegenation, “southern states traditionally imposed fewer restrictions on marriage than did northern states” (Larson, p. 98). Marriage contracts of “Idiots” or “lunatics” were invalidated on the basis of the argument that a lack of legal capacity prevented them from executing such contracts (Larson, p. 98).