The outpouring of remembrances of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reveals the depth of her impact; her legacy brings our country and all women living here closer to the aspiration for equality under the law. Ginsburg was a critical member of the collective of women fighting for equal rights, and the fight enters a new phase of urgency and intensity.
In the days before Notorious RBG’s death, reporters investigated allegations that ICE detainees were subjected to unwanted hysterectomies. Even as the story unfolded, I was outraged by my lack of surprise at the claims. As history repeatedly demonstrates, women with uteruses are one of mankind’s greatest threats.
I don’t find my uterus threatening at all; just the opposite. I like getting my period. Sure it’s messy, a bit painful, sometimes inconvenient, but my period reminds me that beneath my layers of chosen duty—as a mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, and community builder—I’m connected to what Audre Lorde calls The Erotic in her 1984 Sister Outsider. In literature there is light, and Lorde shines so much of it:
There are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.
For me, the end state of my body shedding my uterine lining is my connection to a life force so joyous and rapturous that it overrides and threatens everything about our social order. It is our connection to this power that drives violence and fear. The brutal oppression inflicted upon women of color is one of the consistent throughlines in America’s story.
Women with uteruses can decide for ourselves to have children or not. I can decide whether to populate the country with just one more brown American citizen. Or not. At least for now.
And no matter how hard many try, scores of white men and complicit white women are unable to stop us from being born and deciding what to do with our uteruses. No matter how much entitlement and evil manifests in the effort to control our bodies, people cannot sever our access to feminine power. They may be able to make me forget I have power, but they cannot eliminate its source.
Wherever we find it—in literature, news, poetry, coalition building, running organizations, or strengthening and supporting those who do—The Erotic is there and it’s ours. Isn’t that glorious? It’s the ultimate charge.
—Venu Gupta is Mother Jones’ Midwest regional development director. Share your stories with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.