By Carole Joffe and David S. Cohen: Abortion is many things in America. Divisive. Politicized. A fact of life. It is also, in the world of health care, unique. Part of what makes abortion provision unique is that it happens amid relentless efforts to create as many obstacles to it as possible. The preternatural determination of abortion providers overcomes most of these obstacles, but for too many women, there’s something else that makes their abortion possible: volunteers.
By Michelle Oberman: Americans have spent the past forty-five years fighting over whether abortion should be legal. I spent the past ten years trying to figure out how it matters. I traveled to Chile and El Salvador to see what happens when abortion is banned. I learned that, even when abortion is illegal, it remains commonplace and the law against it is rarely enforced. My journey also helped me understand how misguided our battle over abortion has become.
A Q&A with Mary Frances Berry: Black women going public about rape is not new. Harriet Jacobs, in her 1861 autobiography, denounced her rape by her master. Ida B. Wells, in 1892, denounced the rape of Black women and girls by white men in her newspaper along with the lynching of Black men for false accusations of raping white females. Other Black women, including Anna Julia Cooper and Fannie Barrier Williams, also sounded the alarm. The files of the Justice Department and the NAACP contain complaints of the rape of Black women throughout the Jim Crow Era. Recy Taylor, like Harriet Jacobs, went public and spoke out about her own rape by six white men.
A Q&A with Michelle Oberman: Americans have spent the past forty-five years fighting over whether abortion should be legal. I spent the past ten years trying to figure out how it matters. I had a couple of reasons for wanting to know why. First, because I’m a law professor and I study women’s health issues, the abortion war has been raging throughout my career. We fight over abortion’s legality like it matters, with both sides investing millions of dollars in lawyers and lawsuits every year. Many Americans now cast votes to elect our public officials based on their abortion stance. But what difference would it make if abortion was illegal? I wanted to know what was really at stake.
By Kay Whitlock: I called my father and asked him to meet in me in a hometown park in southern Colorado. He still lived in the small stucco house I’d grown up in, a space that I felt still defined me as a child. My mother was deceased. My only purpose in meeting with my father that day was to hear myself breaking the silence in which our own family fiction evolved. The fiction that we were in all respects, apart from a minor blip or two, a happy family. In reality, we were a complicated and unpredictable mix of good intentions and terrible hurts, at once inflicted, received, and kept hidden from the outside world, sometimes even from ourselves.
By Kay Whitlock: Throughout my life, my most painful and wrenching experiences have become unexpected portals into new ways of seeing more deeply into the nature of old dilemmas—or at least, my old dilemmas. My initial feeling is almost always, “Oh, shit, no.” Followed by: “I won’t! I can’t! Fuck this! You can’t ask this of me! No!” And yet. And yet. One such portal appeared when, as a result of breaking my personal silence on child sexual abuse and trying to imagine what justice could possibly mean for me (and also, yes, for “the perpetrator”), I ran smack into the punishing prison archetype constellated in my own psyche. Unsettled, I began to question, then openly reject, public rituals of shaming, revenge, and retribution.
2017 has been ragged and turbulent, charged with a fraught political climate spawned by a divisive presidential election. 2017 witnessed assaults on progress in racial justice, backlashes against environmental protections, and more. When we needed perspective and lucid social critique on the latest attacks on our civil liberties, our authors were there. We couldn’t be more thankful for them. They make the Broadside, which reached its tenth anniversary this year, the treasure trove of thought-provoking commentary we can turn to in our troubling and uncertain times. As our director Helene Atwan wrote in our first ever blog post, “It’s our hope that Beacon Broadside will be entertaining, challenging, provocative, unexpected, and—maybe above all—a good appetizer.” We certainly hope that’s the case for the year to come. Before 2017 comes to a close, we would like to share a collection of some of the highlights of the Broadside. Happy New Year!
By Michelle Oberman: We visited Christina at her grandmother’s home in El Transito, a village two hours outside San Salvador. She began her story at the point when she was seventeen and expecting her second child. Several months into her pregnancy, she and her three-year-old son left El Transito and moved to San Salvador, living in the second bedroom of her mother and stepfather’s apartment so that Christina would be close to the public hospital when her baby came.
By Lynn Hall: Last month, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released the results of their annual member survey, and the statistics regarding military sexual assault were, as always, alarming. Of the women who responded, thirty-five percent said they had been the victim of sexual assault while serving. Of those survivors, sixty percent did not report the crime. It’s easy to understand their reluctance when, of those who did report, seventy-one percent of the survivors said they experienced retaliation because of their accusations. I’m going to repeat that last figure: more than two thirds of the survivors who reported to their chain of command that they had been raped by a fellow soldier experienced retaliation.
In light of the latest issues concerning gun control, sexual assault, and healthcare in America, we’re offering a list of resources for you to look through. The Las Vegas shooting that killed fifty-nine people and injured more than five hundred has us talking about gun control again. Even though, just a couple of weeks later, the media seem to have moved on to other topics, we need to keep the conversation going.
A Q&A with Jennifer Browdy: Writing is one of the most powerful forms of activism, because it can live on into the future, rippling out in unpredictable ways and inspiring so many others. The writers included in Women Writing Resistance are actively reaching out to communicate their perspectives on a whole host of human rights and social justice issues. For them, writing is an act of resistance to all the mainstream forces that too often have silenced and ignored women’s voices. It’s a way of taking back their agency and insisting on being heard.
By Andrea Ritchie: According to a 2015 investigation by the Buffalo News, based on over 700 cases documented over a ten year period, on average a police officer is caught in an act of sexual misconduct every five days. And those are just the ones who are caught, representing, by all accounts, just the tip of the iceberg of this pervasive yet invisible form of police violence.
By Carole Joffe: In addition to all the other devastating blows Houston-area residents weathered from Hurricane Harvey, those women who had previously scheduled an abortion or who suddenly realized they had an unwanted pregnancy were in particularly difficult straits. Area clinics were closed immediately after the storm, and in any cases, many potential patients had no way of reaching a facility even if one was open. Fortunately, due to a quite extraordinary mobilization effort on the part of abortion providers in Houston and elsewhere, the situation for those needing abortions improved considerably and far quicker than one would have had reason to believe.
By Laura A. Jacobs: MYTH: Incorporating transgender people into the armed forces will cause upheaval, inhibit camaraderie, and be a financial burden. REALITY: This would be interesting to study if it did not rely on outdated, narrow-minded rhetoric. Identical arguments were made against inclusion of gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers, but the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has not decayed our troops. Nor did the integration of people of color generations before.
By Lynn Hall: Publishing Caged Eyes has changed the surface of my life as dramatically as the events of the actual memoir. When you stand in your authentic truth, powerful things happen—hard things, sad things—but ultimately all positive.
By Michele Lent Hirsch. “What are these scars?” the female lead, Emily, asks the guy she’s just slept with, Kumail, in an early scene in The Big Sick. I perk up in my seat when I hear the line. When the film first came out, I avoided it for weeks, afraid to see yet another slick Hollywood version of what illness supposedly looks like. But one of the most indelible memories I have—one that features prominently in my forthcoming book, Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine—is a similar question posed to me on a first date. In my case, the scar was a bright slash across my throat: the kind of mark that makes people nervous.
By Andrea RitchieAs Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color wends its way into the world after living in my computer, countless boxes in my apartment, and in my heart and mind in various forms for the past decade, I find myself in Detroit for the annual Soros Justice Fellows conference. It feels like I am in the best possible place for this moment. We are here, in part, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion of 1967, which has me reflecting on the role police violence against Black women—often invisible in the retelling—played in sparking the uprising, and ongoing resistance to police violence in the Motor City.
By Lynn K. HallWhen you Google the name of the man who raped me when I was eighteen, the top hit says, “There are bad men. And then there are bad man. *** is one of the very worst men.” When I publicly accused this man of rape, I stood in a sizeable line of survivors. That there were five of us and the details of one of the cases—the girl was young, and disabled, and badly injured by the assault—left no doubt about the credibility of our stories. Our rapist was convicted, incarcerated, and served fourteen months. That may seem like a paltry sentence, and it is, but the point is that he saw the inside of a prison. He is now a registered sex offender with a past which follows him forevermore. The bigger point: I am believed.
By Angela Saini: As a lifetime geek (you’re welcome to inspect my membership card — it comes in the shape of an engineering degree), I’ve long been a devoted worshipper at the altar of science. I’ve attended nerd nights on two continents. I’ve spoken at Google. I even wrote a book about geek culture in India. For me, as for millions of others, there’s no better way of understanding the world than the scientific method. So imagine my horror when I finally learned that science wasn’t the perfect world of lab-coated, bespectacled good folk that I had always imagined it to be. Underneath the whiz-bang discoveries that populate the science pages, there are deep, dark problems that threaten to undermine public confidence in research—and that show it’s possible for bad, biased research to survive and thrive.
By Christian Coleman: There was one story Octavia E. Butler wouldn’t write. Reveling in science fiction/fantasy for an openness she saw lacking in other genres, Butler gave us gene-trading extraterrestrials, psionically powered mutants, a genetically engineered vampire, a reluctant time traveler forced to visit the brutal past of American slavery. But during her three-decades-long career as a novelist and short story writer, she never gave us a ghost story. She didn’t believe in ghosts. Raised as a born-again Baptist, Butler stopped believing in the afterlife and a celestial caretaker by age twelve. “Somehow you’re supposed to believe and have faith but not worry about having any evidence to support that belief and faith,” she said in a 1988 interview. “That just doesn’t work for me, and I never went back.” Coincidentally, at age twelve she began trying her hand at science fiction.