A “War” on Just “Women”? : Shifting Political Dialogue Regarding Reproductive Rights

By Linnea Rosenberg

With Nancy Pelosi having recently visited Scripps campus to speak about her experiences as a woman in politics, I cannot help but recall the congresswoman’s remarks regarding abortion. As an adamant supporter of Planned Parenthood and “women’s rights,” Pelosi appears to have my best interests in mind as a cisgendered young woman. However, her advocacy is exclusionary of numerous people affected by abortion legislation and marginalized within this important discussion.

She, along with other outspoken feminist leaders, is guilty of silencing an entire community that does not necessarily conform to the traditional definition of “woman” or a gender binary. The fierce Republican dialogue attempting to restrict reproductive rights has been coined the “War on Women” by many Democratic leaders, mainstream media figureheads, and feminist icons, including Barbara Boxer and Pelosi herself. This expression, indicating a direct attack on fundamental reproductive rights for cis-women, is a problematic one.

Of course, cisgendered women are not the only group affected by the defunding of Planned Parenthood nationwide. The phrase discounts and ignores the medical needs of other gender identities. We know that gender and genitalia are not dependent on one another. There are non-binary people, trans men, intersex, and masculine presenting individuals that also greatly depend on the accessibility of services and education offered by the health organization. Trans people also deserve the ability to access hormone replacement therapy, contraception, and abortions.

While most of us Scripps students outspokenly pride ourselves on being intersectional and inclusive feminists, our language may not reflect this. Now is the time to abandon cissexist expressions and transphobic assumptions that fail to include and acknowledge our peers with other gender identities. Although Scripps is historically a women’s college, not all students identify as cis-women. Shifting our dialogue, with the following simple changes in rhetoric, can help make the 5C’s a more progressive community. Let’s be role models and spread our efforts across the consortium.

A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF DO’S AND DON’TS:

  • DO ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PRESUMPTIONS. This so-called “War on Women” is not a “War on Uteruses.” Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood affect more than cis-women. Be conscious of your diction, and remember, not only women need access to clinical care. Refrain from using phrases like “women’s rights” or “women’s health,” as trans-men’s and non-binary people’s rights are also on the line.
  • DON’T ASSUME PREGNANCY ONLY OCCURS IN CIS-WOMEN. Trans-men and non-binary individuals can and do get pregnant. They need access to prenatal care as much as any other pregnant cis-woman.
  • DON’T ASSUME EVERY WOMAN WANTS TO HAVE A BABY. Having a baby is not essential to a fulfilling life. Not all women want to have children or even have the ability to have children. This is a personal choice that should be acknowledged as well as respected.
  • DO ASK FOR GENDER PRONOUNS. We live in a world and go to school alongside a plethora of gender identities, yet many of us still assume gender. You can’t assume gender or gender pronouns based on presentation. Just ask!
  • DO RECOGNIZE TRANS PEOPLE. As marginalized members in society, trans people often lack visibility and are excluded from important movements such as the fight for reproductive health care. Yet often, they are the movement’s biggest supporters. Make an effort to vocalize the presence of trans-people in our community.

It is our duty as advocates and responsible students of Scripps College to be mindful of our speech and our potential to exclude others. Reproductive health care is a common cause shared not only by cis-women, but also trans- and non-binary identities. Let’s support one another by reshaping our rhetoric on campus.