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Recent Opinion Pieces

Why Is Birth Control Still So Controversial

41 years ago, when all methods of controlling reproduction finally became legal throughout the US, most observers believed that the issue was finally settled. For most people, the ability to plan and choose family size was a necessity of modern life. Why then are Americans still fighting about this? So many other progressive sex-and-gender reforms, such as gay rights and women’s freedom of dress, have support even among conservatives, but not this one—even though birth control is used by 98 percent of the US population. A bit of history can throw some light on this conundrum, and in the process explain where the Tea Party and the ultra-Right wing Supreme Court are coming from. Twice, once in the 1800s and once in the 1970s, a combination of opposition to women’s rights and economic motives fueled an anti-birth-control movement.

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Sexism + Racism = Tea-Party Power

Many scholars and journalists agree that the largest single impediment to democracy in the USA has been racism. Black slavery, one of the foundations of the country’s wealth, was gradually confined to the southern states. After the alleged emancipation of the slaves, however, the southern white elites managed both to re-subordinate African Americans (as sharecroppers and low-wage laborers) and to limit the expansion of democracy in the U.S. Keeping black people politically and economically powerless allowed white southern rulers to limit what could be accomplished by progressives, not only in the southern states but nationally. The southern bloc in Congress prevented people of color from access to the welfare state created in the 1930s, helped capitalists confine and then shrink labor unions, and supported American military build-up.

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Citizenship and the Right to Birth Control

Calling this year’s political fight about funding for contraception a “war on women” may be a catchy slogan and a strong mobilizing call. But as an analysis, it is misleading. True, birth control does affect women disproportionately, because women still …

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Students for a Democratic Society & the American Left

The 50th anniversary of the 1962 Port Huron statement, founding document of Students for a Democratic Society, arrives at a time when renewed progressive activism in the US has rekindled. From Wisconsin’s continuing struggle against a tea-party governor out to destroy labor unions, to the nation-wide Occupy movement, to the explosion of fury over the killing of Trayvon Martin, the number of Americans engaged in political thinking has increased geometrically.

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Feminism Unfinished

Published as "What 'Lean In' Leaves Out"
By Dorothy Sue Cobble, Linda Gordon, and Astrid Henry
The Chronicle of Higher Education

Feminism may be the social cause least understood by scholars. Many writers both scholarly and popular repeat a whole series of false claims about it: that feminism has been a middle-class white movement; that it concerned itself exclusively with sex, violence, and reproduction; that it considered men the enemy; that it has become an abstruse postmodern scholarly discourse; and that it is obsessed with marginal insider controversies such as that provoked by Michele Goldberg’s recent New Yorker piece on transgender people. Other misconceptions have coalesced around books by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO, and Debora Spar, President of Barnard College. Although their arguments might at first look appear to contrast--Sandberg urges women to “lean in,” Spar advises them not to try to do everything—they ultimately rest on the same assumptions: that feminist triumph comes with the achievements of individual women, mainly the privileged few.
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Roe v. Wade and Beyond: Linda Gordon Responds

As Carole Joffe writes in “Roe v. Wade and Beyond,” legal abortion was a great victory for health, for women’s citizenship, for families and children. But the continued attacks on abortion have been destructive on many grounds. One is universal: the anti-abortion movement feeds the far Right as a whole and has played a large role in holding back all progressive causes, ranging from support for education to environmental sustainability to stopping military interventions. And the centrality of anti-abortion agitation is no accident.

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