As a group, we are constantly reading together to broaden our analysis of social reproduction. We are always interested in socializing the readings we do so we are happy to introduce a new page on our site where we’ll begin listing some syllabi that are important to our analysis and growth. As of late, we have been reading about transgender health care and transliberation. Check out our four week syllabus, posted on the new page, and let us know what you think!
Recently, Flo Jo has been paying attention to Tennessee, where the State now has the authority to criminalize women for potentially harming their newborn children with drugs. Last week, the first woman was arrested under this new law. We have been working on a two-part series on the law, an analysis of what it means, and what we think care workers should do in response. Below is the first article in this series.
Tennessee recently passed a law, S.B. 1391, making it the first state to prosecute women for criminal assault if their fetus or newborn is considered harmed due to illegal drug use during pregnancy. Criminalization of pregnant women and mothers is one side of the various ways the State attempts to control reproduction and discipline womens’ bodies. This is an attack against working class women of color not unlike those we have seen in Texas, California, nationally and globally. All of these measures will impede women’s access to health care and efface women’s reproductive skills and knowledge. But unlike abortion restrictions and forced sterilization, the Tennessee law is an attempt to divide feminized workers under the guise of “protection” of women and children, a strategy we are likely to see more frequently as the economic crisis deepens.
S.B. 1391 and the Crisis.
Today’s crisis is manifested in the inability of the class to take care of itself, or reproduce itself; it is a crisis of reproduction. Wages are so low that the class cannot afford to get everything it needs to go to work every day. Of course, “everything” we need is a relative term based on time and place; workers in America need a smartphone and cable TV after years of changes in living standards. The class has supplemented this crisis of reproduction with personal debt. We get credit cards to buy clothes and pay our cell phone bills and we take out student loans we will never pay back to make an extra $3/hr. This is what life looks like for the working class today.
For the ruling class, there is another type of hustle. It is a general law of capitalism that profits must always increase. So capitalists make changes to the workplace, by introducing more and more machines and pushing workers out of the production process, to ensure an increased profit. However, this catches up to them. Since workers are the only ones capable of creating value (there is always a worker somewhere in the production process!), the more capitalists push workers out of the production process, the more the profit margin weakens. Couple this phenomenon with the working class’s increased dependence on debt and loans and we find ourselves in today’s economic crisis.
On top of this, because so many workers are pushed out of the production process (consider Detroit’s 23% unemployment rate for example), a surplus population of workers makes it possible for capitalism to pit people against each other in competition for jobs. In this sense, the ruling class has an interest in controlling the actual number of workers there are in the world at a given moment, based on the needs of capital.
We in Florence Johnston Collective love the 1983 film Born in Flames because of its complex treatment of politics in society! A “science fiction” film based ten years after a “social democratic revolution”, the film portrays two organizations of women struggling in a world that despite a “revolutionary” government, still faces exploitation, wage labor, sexism, rape, racism, homophobia, and state repression. The film raises a lot of great questions about state led vs. grassroots led political movements, and about the possibilities for liberation in a world that is still dominated by class divisions along race and gender lines.
We hope to see you there!