Undocumented Teens Targeted by Trump’s Abortion Agenda

By Eden Lumerman


In September 2017, an undocumented teen immigrant from Central America who was held in a federally contracted shelter in Texas, discovered she was pregnant. She decided to get an abortion, secured a permission from a Texas judge, and raised the funds for the procedure. However, federal officials intervened and would not allow her to leave the federal “shelter” to the abortion clinic. Instead, she was sent to receive pro-life counseling. Jane Doe (her name in the legal papers) is one of many undocumented minors who have been subjected to the attempts of the Trump administration to make abortion unattainable for undocumented teens. According to VICE News, since October 2017 “four teens have accused the administration of blocking them from getting abortions while they were in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement” (Sherman, 2018). In an unprecedented manner of state intervention in the lives, privacy, and bodily integrity of undocumented immigrants, the ORR has both attempted to prevent the teens from starting an abortion process within a safe time-frame, and attempted to reverse a medication abortion by delaying the pregnant teens from taking their second pill of the procedure. The ORR even suggested a new experimental method of reversing abortion: injecting the pregnant woman with the hormone Progesterone. Scott Lloyd, the director of ORR and a staunch anti-abortion activist, has described abortion as “violence that has the ultimate destruction of another human being as its goal.”

This case raises a few important questions: Since when does the US government care about the unborn children of undocumented immigrants? Why target undocumented minors? Why does the government suggest experimenting dubious medical procedures on the bodies of Brown, poor, underage pregnant women? This new policy issued by the ORR is more than Lloyd’s personal campaign against abortion. It has everything to do with the state’s systematic regard of poor Brown women as not entitled to authority over their bodies and their lives.

In “Punishing Drug Addicts Who Have Babies: Women of Color, Equality, and the Right of Privacy,” Dorothy E. Roberts argues that the “prosecutions of drug-addicted mothers infringe on… the right to individual choice in reproductive decision making… the prosecutions infringe on choice by imposing an invidious government standard for the entitlement to procreate” (172-3). Like the prosecution of drug-addicted mothers, the forceful imposition of undocumented teens to carry their pregnancies to term is a violation of their right to individual choice. Roberts continues, “Such imposition of a government standard for childbearing is one way society denies the humanity of those who are different” (173). Indeed, by preventing Jane Doe from obtaining an abortion, the state denies her humanity and claims authority over her body.

Furthermore, the intersection of race, gender, citizenship, nationality, and socio-economic status is at the core of this event. The undocumented teens were an “easy target” for the state: they are already under constant surveillance in federal custody, they are not citizens, and probably not familiar with their constitutional rights. In “An Open Letter to Pierre Schlag,” Maria Grahn-Farley writes, “Pierre talks about the violence of the law but he does not talk about those whom the violence of the law serves or those whom the violence of the law violates” (141). This case illustrates clearly the way in which (in this case state policy), commits violence that serves those in power, and violates those who are least powerful in society. Thus, the pregnant undocumented teens are the “martyrs” of the law and social order; the sacrifice of their freedom of choice and right to privacy is the price American society pays in the name of social order (Grahn-Farley,143). Since they are not citizens, this sacrifice is coherent with the legal regime that does not perceive non-citizens (especially Brown and poor people) as entitled to the same human rights as those who are citizens.

Moreover, Grahn-Farley’s discussion of the “normative language of rights” is instructive in understanding the state’s disregard of the teens’ individual choice in reproductive decision making. She writes, “To understand a right is already to have understood a lack. To connect the self to a right is also to connect the self to a lack. To understand the self as incomplete, as not yet done, as missing, is to understand one’s rights” (145-6). The right of the teens to have an abortion is thus a lack; a lack of citizenship, a lack of whiteness, a lack of social status, a lack of language, a lack of ability to have authority over their bodies without filing a class action suit with the help of the ACLU.

Jane Doe and the other three teens who accused the Trump administration of blocking them from obtaining an abortion won their case with the help of the ACLU, and eventually were able to have an abortion. However, more questions remain unanswered: how many other pregnant undocumented minors are still subjected and will be subjected to the bullying of the Trump administration? Until when will government officials continue to assert their authority and dominance in the expense of poor women of color? When will society cease to deny the humanity of those who are “different?”

White Roses, White Women: Kesha, #timesup, and Critical Race Feminism

By Nan Elpers


At the 2018 Grammy Awards ceremony last week, American singer-songwriter Kesha honored the #timesup Twitter campaign against sexual assault in the popular music and TV industries, performing her standard “Praying.” The song debuted in July of 2017, commemorating Kesha’s years-long legal battle against Sony producer Dr. Luke who allegedly sexually abused her during the years of their contract.  I will analyze Kesha’s performance, which was accompanied by artists Cyndi Lauper, Andra Day, Camila Cabello, Bebe Rexha, and Julia Michaels. To do so I will borrow from Critical Race Feminist (CRF) analyses of essentialism and popular attitudes towards sexual abuse to suggest that the choice to have Kesha represent #timesup at the Grammys was an obvious but disappointing one given her status, race, and personal narrative about her assault and survival.

Kesha fits the mold for the type of assault victim dominant U.S. culture willingly sympathizes with. CRF notes that due to stereotypes of black women such as the Jezebel and Sapphire archetypes, women of color who have been victims of sexual abuse and suffered the psychological tolls are less believable than their white counterparts (Ammons, 261). CRF Linda Ammons describes this lack of credibility awarded to women of color by considering the use of the battered woman syndrome as a defense for victims of domestic abuse who have attacked their batterers: “[t]he ‘essentialist’ battered woman profile is a white, middle-class, passive, weak woman” (262). While Kesha’s was not a domestic abuse case and she did not attack Dr. Luke, Ammons’ assertion nonetheless informs us of the kinds of women dominant culture considers capable of being victims. Kesha’s race and class alone were safe bets that audiences would recognize her story of victimhood and healing.

In addition to her wealth and whiteness, Kesha’s display of emotion further solidified her legibility as a survivor. At the end of the performance, Kesha began to cry, and the accompanying artists rushed to embrace her as the crowd delivered a standing ovation (McCluskey). Kesha’s tears visibly represented her pain in a way the audience could comprehend and identify with. Black feminist theory purports that dominant culture responds favorably to certain expressions of pain, crying being one of the most salient (Lewis). According to CRF, the requirement of recognizable pain disadvantages Black women victims of sexual violence seeking recourse because “certain characterizations and/or cultural behavior [may] be inconsistent with the notion of dependency” (Ammons, 262) and psychological trauma associated with victimhood. Kesha’s display of emotion aligns with the weakness descriptive of Ammon’s essentialist victim.

Selecting an artist who fits the bill for the essentialist victim of sexual assault to honor #timesup is troubling because it situates her to represent all survivors inside and outside of the Music and TV industries, including women of color and poor women. CRF Adrien Wing characterizes the social implications of essentialism as this false and wide sweeping categorization as “the essential voice that actually describes the reality of many white middle- or upper-class women, while masquerading as representing all women” (7). This assumed representation was visually demonstrated on the stage, as well. Barring Cyndi Lauper, the five women cited in news coverage who sang alongside Kesha are all women of color. By foregrounding a white woman, the women of color who performed alongside here where physically and symbolically relegated to the sidelines, their voices only heard through the filter of Kesha’s words.

Because women of color are both subject to higher rates of sexual violence and able to represent a wider pool of women (“Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics”), the Grammy Awards would have done more justice to #timesup by highlighting a woman of color artist instead of Kesha. In her seminal essay on intersectionality, CRF Kimberlé Crenshaw argues that: “the refusal to allow a multiply disadvantaged class to represent others who may be singularly disadvantaged…limits remedial relief to minor adjustments within an established hierarchy” (26). In other words, allowing women of color, who are subject to the combined and multiple forces of sexism and racism, to also represent white women, oppressed only due to their gender, is a stronger attack on both gendered and racial systemic oppression. The choice to showcase Kesha explicitly challenges only the gendered hierarchy that contributes to a culture of hushed sexual assault claims, whereas foregrounding a woman of color would attack the racial as well as the gendered inequalities that perpetuate violence against women.

In writing this essay I do not mean to ignore that the attention paid to sexual violence against women at this year’s Grammy Awards is a victory in and of itself. It should also be noted that Janelle Monáe, a black female artist outspoken in the areas of women’s civil rights, introduced Kesha’s performance with a #timesup speech. Monáe’s presence and words did bring a woman of color’s voice to the table. Similarly, the inclusion of the four highlighted women of color artists who accompanied Kesha worked to the same end. Overall, though, Kesha’s musical performance at a musical awards ceremony made her the focus of the night’s attention to #timesup, perpetuating once again the image of the white female victim of sexual abuse.

The Dragon Lady Has Landed: Tired Tropes of Asian American Women in Fresh off the Boat

Fresh off the Boat

By Jazlyn Andrews (FGS ’16)

NOTE: This article is an extended version of the article published in the Block 3 2015 issue of The Monthly Rag.

Fresh Off the Boat, an ABC sitcom based on the story of chef and author Eddie Huang, has been heralded as bringing visibility to Asian American families for the first time since Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl was canceled 20 years ago. While the show is making waves with its predominantly Asian cast and discussions about everyday issues Asian-Immigrant families face, the legacies of colonial construction of the Other live on, especially through the women characters. Specifically, the construction of Eddie’s mom, Jessica, as demeaning, emasculating, and scheming reinforces the Dragon Lady image of Asian American women that is used to control all women’s behavior.

The Dragon Lady construction functions to maintain beliefs that constrict Asian women to a submissive identity performance out of fear of being labeled undeserving. As Lisa C. Ikemoto points out in “Male Fraud,” when women choose not to perform a submissive, sexually available, yet modest portrayal of Asian women, they are characterized as “scheming, duplicitous, and tyrannical” predators who take advantage of American men and values to get to the top (253).  When the Huang family is forced to move to Florida to follow their journey to the American Dream, Jessica is vehemently opposed. In the trailer, she can be seen mocking her husband’s idea through a sarcastic grin and “broken” English, claiming, “This is why we left our family and friends. This is why we left everything we know to come to a place where we know nothing and the humidity isn’t good for my hair.” Throughout the move, it becomes clear that Jessica is constructed in opposition to her husband’s assimilationist values. However, the audience is meant to relate to Randall’s individualistic American values, priming us to see Jessica as a shrill, uptight, and detrimentally traditional woman. While her character raises serious concerns about being an Other in a predominantly White neighborhood, the audience is trained to laugh, minimizing Jessica’s anxieties and perpetuating the notion that Asian women who step out of line to assert themselves shouldn’t be taken seriously.

In this image released by ABC, Constance Wu, from left, Forrest Wheeler, Hudson Yang and Ian Chen appear in a scene from the new comedy series "Fresh Off the Boat," previewing Wednesday with episodes at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. EST. (AP Photo/ABC, Jordin Althaus)

The lack of respect the audience is supposed to have for Jessica’s concerns reinforces the idea that Asian American women only have value when submitting to White heteropatriarchal supremacy. As Sumi K. Cho points out in “Converging Stereotypes in Racialized Sexual Harassment: Where the Model Minority Meets Suzie Wong,” through performances of the Lotus Flower, “Asian American women are particularly valued in a sexist society because they provide the antidote to visions of liberated career women who challenge the objectification of women” (351). The construction of the Dragon Lady also functions to punish Asian women who fall outside the trope, all while blaming their denigration on their decision to deviate from submission. While Huang provides an alternative representation to the Lotus Flower trope, her aggressive characteristics only hinder the family in their restaurant business, since her commanding presence is not received well by customers.

The depiction of Jessica as an overbearing Dragon Lady also functions to discipline the audience, as we are programmed to laugh at her Otherness while relating to her husband and sons’ assimilations into American culture. As Cho notes, the “ objectified gender stereotype also assumes a model minority function as Asian Pacific women are deployed to ‘discipline’ white women, just as Asian Pacific Americans in general are used against ‘non-model’ counterparts, African-Americans” (351).  Whatever the identity performance of audience members, Jessica’s deviation from gendered and racialized norms and the subsequent punishment she receives for them send a message to women that we are not meant to question or challenge the values we are asked to assimilate.


The Block 3 2015 Monthly Rag

Block 3 2015

Where You Reside?: Postcolonial Performance in Berlin

By Lyric Jackson

SalmaAnother sun rises and another cup of “bounce off the wall” is poured as we congregate to RAA this morning. As with every new face we meet, each of us states the name given to us, the residential area where we feel most comfortable, the subject that interests us the most and the scholarly level we hope to achieve next school year. After ten minutes of heartfelt ice breaking, we were introduced to our speaker Salma, who partners with Celine Barry for an NGO they’re building together, and also works with and NGO called GLADT. Salma revved right into her presentation by protesting the incapability of Berlin to accept intersectionality. She shared an experience with us that involved a man curiously asking where she was from. At this moment, I could relate, because I have frequently been asked this question on this trip. This being my first time out of the United States, it seemed unusual to me, but Salma reaffirmed that this happens often. Her story continued with the man asking if her parents owned a Kebab shop and concluded with the statement, “I was curious, because there’s a difference between them owning a Kebab shop and being doctors.” With that shared story, it was obvious that Germany’s determining factors of worth were race and class. Just as the assuming supremacist categorized Salma, so often does Germany as a whole.

Salma expressed her experiences in education and her longing desire to have a familiar space in that realm. Constantly, she would be the “go-to” person for POC issues and events at her university, fitting the example that Philipp Khabo Koepsell explains in “A Fanfare for The Colonized.” He writes, “It’s a story of explorers of the glory of those soldiers who drove thousands into deserts making space for golden acres for the white men’s dream of glory,” expressing the laziness of white supremacy (212). In most PWIs, the students and faculty of color are expected to deal with all things involving with race and class. With students of color being the foot soldiers of the institution, they lower their chances of actually pulling away from their work and finding a mentor. Salma argues that mentorship is especially effective when the pupil and the mentor share similar intersections to relate.

Salma IILet’s be real, what type of mentoring is occurring when a queer Black woman is being taught by a white heterosexist man? Absolutely none. Salma’s definition of mentoring occurs through self-care and awareness. Salma and Celine paired with one another and decided to create a project called Granatapfel (pomegranate in German). They chose the title Granatapfel because of the numerous amounts of seeds in different spaces that are all connected and united under the skin of the fruit. There is a need for mentorship that support intersections. Along these lines, I was honored to take my last class of the year with Dr. Heidi R. Lewis named Critical Race Feminism. Our class textbook, Critical Race Feminism, included “Failing to Mentor Sapphire: The Accountability of Blocking Black Women from Initiating Mentoring Relationships” by Pamela Smith that brought light to the issues of ineffective mentorships between Black women and white men studying law. Smith explains the Black women need to have the same opportunity as other white students by writing, “These career functions allow Black women or other tradition outsiders to obtain additional credentials and marketable skills that they can use to demand promotion, change jobs, or prove illegal discrimination in violation of Title VII” (385). When POC finally receive power, it is imperative that they understand the system and transform it to help the “others.”

Along these lines, Sandrine Micossé-Aikins and Sharon Dodua Otoo quote Misa Dayson in “Imagine Us There: Visons of Radical.Art.People.Spaces” when she argues that “the difficult task of minority literacy critics and artists is to acknowledge and embrace this position without accepting and reproducing it.” She continues by writing, “It has to aim for producing new objects of knowledge that are not based on a conception of rational man” (11). From today’s class, I understood that mentorship can create a pivotal point in an individual’s fulfillment of life. While this might sound slightly dramatic to some, Heidi’s informative mentoring has recreated my identity simply by challenging my thoughts. Similarly, Salma and Celine are creating avenues to provide that much needed experience to people that are best served through intersectional analyses.

Lyric Jackson

Reigning from the central quarters of Arkansas, Lyric is a Psychology major with a minor in Feminist & Gender Studies. Known for her risk-taking character, she decided to attend Colorado College without visiting the campus once. When she’s not hypnotized by the tunes in her headphones, she spends time writing rhymes and short stories. Her number one priority is to make her family proud and comfortable. On a broader scale, she would like to intertwine her Psychology degree with media in order to start change in the Black community’s mindset. She would start with writing for TV shows to alter the images of Black characters and begin to create highly-ranked, all-Black casted shows that represent various images of Black women. Lyric is extremely grateful for the opportunity to travel abroad, and looks forward to more experiences.