“We’ve got to take it back. We sleep to sew the seams that we oppose. We shrink to fit in our pre-assigned roles. Resist with each stitch. Split the seams and start all over again. Cut the pattern that fits. Ready-made rarely means ready to fit. A bleached white tightness to bind and gag and scold … The lines we fought to fit have now become our own. … We cannot be tied down by roughly cut threads from the patterns of the CEOS. … They need no spokesman if you have no voice.”
-Milemarker, Shrink to Fit
In 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsberg was appointed to the United States Supreme Court. It was also the year that newly elected President Bill Clinton signed into law the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The year ended with the Barbie Liberation (BLO) effectively jamming our over-saturated binary gender culture by switching the voice boxes on over 300 talking G.I. Joe and Barbie dolls. Instead of Barbie saying, “Math is hard,” we heard “Vengeance is mine.”
Over 20 years have passed since the murder of Doctor David Gunn, the first documented murder of an abortion doctor. The World Trade Center had its first bombing so we bombed Iraq and have not left since. We have lived with the greedy consequences of NAFTA, bore witness to the repeal of DADT, and now understand the strategic appropriation of the religious right to use RFFA as a master’s tool to keep the master’s house intact.
RFRA is the federal law that the Supreme Court used to rule in favor of Hobby Lobby and now sets the precedent to allow private for-profit corporations to “exercise religious freedom” equating corporate entities ever closer to breathing conscious “persons.”
According to Hobby Lobby’s attorney Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, ”Today’s victory against this unjust mandate is important for… all Americans who seek to live according to their consciousness.” She then declared that women’s voices have been heard.
Much has already been written about the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision – its potential impact on people who receive contraception benefits from their employer’s insurance plans and the relentless chipping away of reproductive health and justice access for low-income communities of color (See RH Reality Check for the most comprehensive analysis on this unprecedented ruling).
But beyond the immediate, we face a terrifyingly near future where Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale is no longer a science fiction fantasy. The dystopic reality we face today is a false sense of private choice. Sadly, for those of us who personally experience the daily struggle of living in poverty, this ruling isn’t likely going to change the way we go about our business. We have history on our side and have embodied our oppressions.
When we push aside the illogical and scientifically wrong argument that the four contraceptives in dispute, which were incorrectly institutionalized as abortifacients (IUDs, two forms of emergency contraception, and contraceptive implants), the underlying issue reveals itself as the control of sexuality, which has always been a matter of public discourse and policy. And that discourse is abilist, racialized, classist, cisgendered, and heteronormative.
In an ironic statement after the ruling, Randall Wenger who is part of the Conestoga Wood legal team (the other now infamous private for-profit corporation) noted, “The announcement provides what we had hoped. There are limits on government power.”
It is true that Hobby Lobby does not object to their employees receiving vasectomies, condoms, or Viagra. The pivotal point where they felt a “sincere” threat to their religious liberties rested on the concept of who controls the implantation of a fertilized egg, the subsequent hospitality of the host’s uterus, and the hopeful birth of a human (not to be confused with a corporation) that should only result from legally sanctioned heterosexual coupling.
It is equally true that our legal system, founded and maintained to uphold the ruling class, would publicly reinforce who really controls the miracle of life.
It’s too soon to know if this stain will wash out or give birth to new categories of corporate life. So instead of shrinking to fit, we will reimagine a culture where power empowers instead of dominates. We will continue to violate norms and resist the lines that divide and conquer us. We will embrace our contradictions and support the collective public struggle of the matters of our private lives.