and then the lunching ladies wrote a letter (together with a bunch of other ladies)

We met in 2008, all of us new faculty members. And we decided, right then and there, that we’d meet for lunch. Once per term, we’d get together to chat, laugh, dish, complain, and worry. And we’d support each other. It was a loose plan, but it was a good one. Over the past six years, we’ve managed (sometimes just barely) to meet every few months just to be social together. We are the lunching ladies, the ladies who lunch, and our time together has been vital to our continued well being at the university.

We’ve supported each others’ writing. We’ve talked through challenges. We’ve laughed at things. In six years, three of us have had five kids (and I already had two). One of us (me), now has a teenager. One of us has a newborn. We’ve published books. We’ve been awarded grants. We’ve achieved tenure. We haven’t slept (or we haven’t slept enough). We’ve graded more assignments than we can count and laughed our way through particularly entertaining essays (“expanding gender rolls” remains one of my favourite typos). We’ve shared many stories together, and worked through the frustrations and the joys of parenting and of our careers.

And last week, together with several other fabulous colleagues, we wrote a letter.

I’ve made no secret about my commitment to reproductive justice on this blog. You can read about it here and here and here and here. Reproductive justice is a key concept in my teaching and I always introduce students to the fabulous work of SisterSong. They define it like this:

The reproductive justice framework – the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments — is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions is important for women of color.

It represents a shift for women advocating for control of their bodies, from a narrower focus on legal access and individual choice (the focus of mainstream organizations) to a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on our power.

Reproductive Justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that we have to control our reproductive destiny. Our options for making choices have to be safe, affordable and accessible, three minimal cornerstones of government support for all individual life decisions.

More simply put: reproductive rights + social justice = reproductive justice.

Reproductive justice allows us not only to think through things like abortion and contraception (the most visible facets of the reproductive rights movement) but it also asks us to consider such issues as involuntary sterilization (in Alberta from 1928-1972 and BC from1933-1973. See the case of Leilani Muir), the residential school system and the 60s scoop, among other things.

Last week, we learned that the university chaplains, the Christian Medical and Dental Society and the Counselling Centre were sponsoring a visit by Dr. Martha Shuping, a faith-based anti-choice psychiatrist. All well and well and good for campus faith-based organizations to support her visit; however, we were very troubled by the Counselling Centre’s support.

A few emails and Facebook messages ensued. Well, make that 60 emails and 10 Facebook messages. A number of people were able to attend the talks. And in 24 hours we collectively wrote, revised and edited our letter, which we sent to the Counselling Centre, the Associate Vice-President (Academic) for Undergraduate Studies and The Muse, the university student newspaper.

One of us later met with the Head of the Counselling Centre, who was just as disturbed as we were (see his response here). And another wrote a column for a local paper:

In short, while she presents herself as an advocate for women, Shuping’s work and affiliations add up to a program whose default approach is not just paternalistic—women can’t be trusted to make their own choices; they need “experts” to protect them against decisions they might later regret—but would outright restrict the availability of abortion.

We haven’t met for lunch in the last several months. One of us is on parental leave, one has a busy life with a baby and a young toddler and two of us are on sabbatical leave. But together with a group of like-minded women, we were able marshal our collective energy towards something more important this fall.

Here’s to you, lunching ladies, and to our next meal whenever that will be.

 

 

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