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Malika Saada Saar

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Sandra Fluke and the Deborah Generation

Posted: 03/15/2012 1:02 pm

This Women's History Month marks the long-awaited emergence of a new post-Roe generation of women who are reframing the women's rights movement and discourse. March is, quite possibly, revealing the first stirrings of our own Women's Spring.

Sandra Fluke's insistent dignity, and those who supported it, challenged what is so often the normalized, accepted language of denigration towards women's sexuality. And, it is not at all coincidence that Ms. Fluke was president of Georgetown Law's Students for Reproductive Justice Chapter -- instead of the more established reproductive rights or women's organizations.

Why is that so important? Because what is known as the Reproductive Justice movement is the post-Roe generation's endeavor to make the language of choice more relevant to our lives. Many of us felt excluded, left out, or invisibilized by the parameters of the mainstream pro-choice movement. Where were women of color, millennials, or working-class mothers in the mainstream pro-choice movement? If you were not white, at least 50 years old, and strictly pro-abortion, did you belong in the movement? Many of us pioneered, joined, and supported Reproductive Justice as a new and powerfully resonant discourse and movement.

For us, Reproductive Justice offered a narrative that honored the complexity of our lives and framed choice within a broader narrative of how, if, and when we wanted to mother. Reproductive Justice has also been the site and discourse through which the post-Roe generation and young women have connected the reproductive health movement to other human rights struggles for women and girls. For example, ending the brutal practice of shackling imprisoned mothers has been an ongoing commitment of Reproductive Justice activists and lawyers. So has the fight for immigration reform, comprehensive family leave policies, affordable daycare, and fair labor practices.

But, the post-Roe generation's activism goes beyond reproductive rights, which too often is the only realm in which conversations of women's dignity and personhood are discussed. Next to Sandra Fluke, stand other new generation women leaders, like Zainab Salbi, Layli Miller-Muro, Withelma "T" Ortiz, and Jennifer Buffet, who are reframing and expanding the women's movement to include an end to gender-based violence. We are making the end of violence against women and girls, in the U.S. and abroad, our generation's defining work. We have recognized that legal freedoms and protections given to us as a result of our mothers' sacrifices mean nothing if we are still beaten, raped, trafficked, abused, and stalked. In the South Bronx and South Africa.

It is not only that our narrative is different from our mothers' women's movement -- it is how we are telling our narrative. We are the digital daughters -- the generation that understands how to use social media to be our own storytellers. And, how to use our social networks to move thousands, and sometimes, even millions.

When presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke at Howard University in 2008, he spoke about the "Joshua generation," those of us who stand on the shoulders of the civil rights pioneers who brought us out of the Egypt of our enslavement and discrimination. Now we who are the Joshua generation, he told us, were responsible for crossing over the Jordan River in order to reach a promised land of equality.

But this is also the moment of the Deborah generation. It is we who stand, with humility and pride, on the shoulders of the women who fought and won Roe, Title IX and our other rights, and it is upon us now to cross the river to the other side, to reach for a promised land of equality and full personhood for every woman and girl. And in the tradition of those who have gone before us, it is now the Deborah generation's time to fearlessly and defiantly -- against the wolves of violence and denigration -- believe in the possibility of our Spring.

 

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