Last August, the Army private now known as Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison. A day after the trial, Manning announced plans to undergo hormone therapy and begin public life as a woman. Her coming-out shone a light on a population that media rarely discusses: transgender women in prison.
I have a fat, accordion-style file folder—each section stuffed with mangled envelopes from across the country—full of heavy-hearted, handwritten letters from women I’ve never met. Shaylanna, Venus, Prada, and Eva: every letter flaunts the industrial, pre-stamped return address of a state prison, and every signature is a transgender woman living in a male facility.
In the second season of Orange is the New Black, Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren (Uzo Aduba) gains surprising depth.
Recently on Tumblr, I came across pictures of pregnant women who were in prison. In these photos, women nursed babies, gave birth, and cared for their children, despite their prison sentence. One woman was handcuffed to a bed while giving birth. When I showed the pictures to a friend, he commented: “I wonder what they did to get in there.” Then he walked away. His response really struck me.
When it burst onto the small screen last summer, Orange is the New Black quickly catapulted women's incarceration into pop culture consciousness, becoming most-watched of Netflix's series of 2013. As media has been buzzing about the all-at-once release of season two this Friday—speculating on plot development and characters—the real-life Piper Kerman has also been busy.
A Texas protester rallies against the state's recent abortion rights restrictions. Photo by Mirsasha.
Is it possible to advocate for fetuses and babies without advocating for pregnant women?
Such a question might not even have been possible a generation ago. But over the past few decades a trend to treat fetuses as if they exist separately from pregnant women has reverberated throughout our culture and legal system, resulting in all sorts of illogical, surprising, and decidedly unfeminist positions.
A Texan succinctly protests the state's restrictive anti-abortion access laws last year. Photo by Mirsasha (Creative Commons).
Texas has been in the national spotlight for its restrictive new laws that have closed two-thirds of the state’s abortion clinics. But another insidious way the state is trying to control women’s reproductive rights has gotten less attention: local prosecutors locking up pregnant women who test positive for drugs.