Today, being the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I wanted to pay special homage to feminism and the reproductive freedom movement.
I asked the Michigan Pre-Natal Coordinator, Carmen Gutierrez, what Roe means for women today. Ms. Gutierrez said, “It goes beyond Roe…it’s not only the right to choose abortion or to have children, but to be able to parent the children. We work with a lot of people who don’t have sufficient resources to parent the children they do have.” For Ms. Gutierrez and Planned Parenthood, Roe means broad policy strides, attaining funding, and providing adequate health care for women.
This conversation with Ms. Gutierrez (yes, she’s related to me — my little sister, in fact!) got me thinking about feminism beyond Roe. Just last week, while interviewing for a summer internship, I was asked, “What does it mean to be a feminist today?” Essentially, the interviewer wanted me to explain what I did in my capacity as President of College Feminists, and explicate the modern issues women face. But, it was not the first time I have been asked some variation of “what is a feminist?”
I explained the group’s opposition to sexual harassment and domestic violence, its support for reproductive freedom, workplace rights, and its overall vision to achieve equality for women. He responded by saying, “I guess that makes me a feminist!” I assured him that he must be.
Thinking back on the question — I didn’t do feminism justice. Feminism to me is more than the political, social, and economic equality for women. It is more to me than a safe college campus and equal workplace pay. Feminism is the reason I came to law school, and what motivates me to succeed in the legal profession.
Being raised by a single mother, ideas about female empowerment came to me very organically. My first traceable feminist act came about in 3rd grade when we learned about the presidents of the United States. Noticing no women on the classroom poster, I wrote my teacher in perfect cursive saying that I would like to be the first female president of the United States. At the time, I viewed the idea as novel and attainable.
My feeling about women’s empowerment matured into academic expertise. I authored papers on how to re-argue Roe v. Wade using the 13th Amendment and published my thesis on the reproductive rights of incarcerated women. I advanced my feminist perspective, applying it in areas of sociology, political science, and legal studies.
I came to law school believing that women’s issues are important to my education and the legal profession at large. After all, feminism embedded in me notions of equality, self-expression, and independence. It opened my mind and blurred social constructs, strengthened my voice and broadened my perspective. In the classroom, feminism shapes my notions of justice. As I move forward in my career, having a feminist foundation will surely enrich my esquire life.