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How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump

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Today all politics are reproductive politics, argues esteemed feminist critic Laura Briggs. From longer work hours to the election of Donald Trump, our current political crisis is above all about reproduction. Households are where we face our economic realities as social safety nets get cut and wages decline. Briggs brilliantly outlines how politicians’ racist accounts of Today all politics are reproductive politics, argues esteemed feminist critic Laura Briggs. From longer work hours to the election of Donald Trump, our current political crisis is above all about reproduction. Households are where we face our economic realities as social safety nets get cut and wages decline. Briggs brilliantly outlines how politicians’ racist accounts of reproduction—stories of Black “welfare queens” and Latina “breeding machines"—were the leading wedge in the government and business disinvestment in families. With decreasing wages, rising McJobs, and no resources for family care, our households have grown ever more precarious over the past forty years in sharply race-and class-stratified ways. This crisis, argues Briggs, fuels all others—from immigration to gay marriage, anti-feminism to the rise of the Tea Party.


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Today all politics are reproductive politics, argues esteemed feminist critic Laura Briggs. From longer work hours to the election of Donald Trump, our current political crisis is above all about reproduction. Households are where we face our economic realities as social safety nets get cut and wages decline. Briggs brilliantly outlines how politicians’ racist accounts of Today all politics are reproductive politics, argues esteemed feminist critic Laura Briggs. From longer work hours to the election of Donald Trump, our current political crisis is above all about reproduction. Households are where we face our economic realities as social safety nets get cut and wages decline. Briggs brilliantly outlines how politicians’ racist accounts of reproduction—stories of Black “welfare queens” and Latina “breeding machines"—were the leading wedge in the government and business disinvestment in families. With decreasing wages, rising McJobs, and no resources for family care, our households have grown ever more precarious over the past forty years in sharply race-and class-stratified ways. This crisis, argues Briggs, fuels all others—from immigration to gay marriage, anti-feminism to the rise of the Tea Party.

30 review for How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump

  1. 5 out of 5

    bianca guerrero

    Wow, so so so glad I borrowed this book from the library. I heard Laura J. Briggs on “Who Makes Sense,” a really great lefty podcast a few months ago. I usually half listen to the episodes but super intrigued by hers because of her argument that reproductive politics encompassing more than just abortion and access to contraception. I get and appreciate the valuable work that the reproductive rights movement does but the work never seems to encompass enough for me while Briggs work has shown me w Wow, so so so glad I borrowed this book from the library. I heard Laura J. Briggs on “Who Makes Sense,” a really great lefty podcast a few months ago. I usually half listen to the episodes but super intrigued by hers because of her argument that reproductive politics encompassing more than just abortion and access to contraception. I get and appreciate the valuable work that the reproductive rights movement does but the work never seems to encompass enough for me while Briggs work has shown me why. This book makes the argument that since the 1970s, the United States has systematically divested from reproductive politics, meaning everything it takes to reproduce another generation. That means health care and reproductive health, yes, but also stare support for care givers of children, the elderly, and people with disabilities; a strong, well-funded social safety network that eliminates food and housing insecurity; great schools. It includes robust labor protections based on the idea that work does not trump all and employers must support caregiving responsibilities of workers. Briggs talks about everything from the housing crisis and how subprime mortgages hurt black and Latinx mothers the hardest, about how immigration has globalized the crisis started by American reproductive politics, and how assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and in vitro fertilization are all structural symptoms of a society that forces middle- and high-income women to put off childbearing because businesses and governments do not invest in caregiving and another aspects of reproductive politics. The argument Briggs makes about the disparity in rates of infant mortality between Black and white women is fascinating and really striking: contrary to popular belief, black women are actually better off having kids in their late teens because stress (due to racism, described as “weathering” in Black women) hurts their health (and infant’s health) over time. Briggs also makes a really interesting argument about gay marriage, but I don’t want to give everything away. This is one book I want to buy, read again, and highlight/underline/takes notes on. I learned so much from just 200-something pages. I would recommend to anyone who has felt a little detached from the reproductive rights movement and to folks who are interested in incisive and insightful structural analyses of our times. The book delves with a lot of topics so you’re bound to find something you’re interested in, and to learn about things from a perspective you haven’t yet considered. 10/10

  2. 5 out of 5

    Laura De Palma

    Essential reading - particularly for anyone organizing around family care / safety net.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ai Miller

    This book does a really solid job of narrating how the issues surrounding reproductive politics (from child care cost problems to gay marriage to welfare) are not the fault of feminists, but racist neoliberal policies aimed at destroying the social safety net. It's very methodical in breaking that down, and drawing it all together under the umbrella of reproduction. I wouldn't say it was the most groundbreaking work I've read? I guess I found the title a little misleading; for me, everything she This book does a really solid job of narrating how the issues surrounding reproductive politics (from child care cost problems to gay marriage to welfare) are not the fault of feminists, but racist neoliberal policies aimed at destroying the social safety net. It's very methodical in breaking that down, and drawing it all together under the umbrella of reproduction. I wouldn't say it was the most groundbreaking work I've read? I guess I found the title a little misleading; for me, everything she touched was fairly obviously in the realm of the reproductive and I was interested in stretching that and seeing how it works. That being said, this is very accessible and could definitely be useful for undergrads; it's mostly well-thought out (there's a bit at the beginning about trans studies that seems slippery at best, but it's easy to ignore for the most part) and she takes care to address racial disparities particularly among Black women and Latina women. (She also includes Native women but it feels kind of more as an add-on in many cases.)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Wow, I learned so much from this little book. "Welfare, a New Deal program enacted by feminists and expanded in the 1960s through the efforts of the Black freedom and anti-poverty movements, was by many measures an extraordinarily successful program. Women on welfare received benefits, including health insurance, sometimes while going to school (including getting an BA), receiving job training, raising their small children to be old enough to go to school, or getting back on their feet...The ove Wow, I learned so much from this little book. "Welfare, a New Deal program enacted by feminists and expanded in the 1960s through the efforts of the Black freedom and anti-poverty movements, was by many measures an extraordinarily successful program. Women on welfare received benefits, including health insurance, sometimes while going to school (including getting an BA), receiving job training, raising their small children to be old enough to go to school, or getting back on their feet...The overwhelming majority of mothers who received payments through AFDC (90 percent) received benefits for a short, transitional period of less than five years. The average length of time that recipients got welfare payments was two years." The black welfare queen stereotype was a lie. Most welfare recipients were white. “It is important to say that the explosion of immigrant nanny and household work was not an inevitable or even direct consequence of feminism in the United States. On the contrary, it was the endpoint of a long series of refusals on the part of government and business to meet the demands of the women's movement.” "When gay and lesbian people began fighting for the right to raise their children in the 1970s--usually but not always in the context of custody battles--and to inherit, to care for disabled or ill lovers in the context of HIV/AIDS and the Kowalski case, to stay in their housing, as in Braschi, they were certainly fighting for family rights." “The primary reason that U.S. infant mortality is so high compared to other countries is that African Americans suffer a staggering rate. If Black America were its own country, it would be ranked between China and Turkey.” “Although white women as a group lost the most in welfare reform, they got the one bone that's always been thrown to white working- and middle-class people in the United States: the opportunity to feel they were morally superior to people of color.” “The irony is that only by a particularly narrow definition does a Walmart job get you off welfare - as a matter of policy, Walmart encourages its employees to apply for government benefits. Indeed, Walmart and other minimum wage workers at McDonald's and similar McJobs are the largest group of Medicaid and food stamps recipients in the United States. That is to say, US taxpayers subsidize Walmart paychecks (and corporate profits) by paying welfare benefits to its workers and their children. Welfare reform eliminated virtually all education and job-training benefits beyond "work readiness" classes that taught women to dress nicely and get their kids up early. The result: women couldn't get the education to get a good job and they were still receiving welfare benefits, but they could be counted on to clock regular hours and make profits for their low-paying employers. From welfare reform to Walmart, it was all reproductive politics.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hedder

    Rounding up from 4.5. Read this book! So much important work here. Makes the case for understanding 40+ years on neoliberal policy and sentiment as the reason that so few of us can manage care work in the contemporary moment. I love this expansive and meaningful application of reproductive justice ideas. This would make a wonderful reading group selection, and it is short enough and accessibly written so as to encourage such broad uptake. Much more focused on labor and economics than I expected, Rounding up from 4.5. Read this book! So much important work here. Makes the case for understanding 40+ years on neoliberal policy and sentiment as the reason that so few of us can manage care work in the contemporary moment. I love this expansive and meaningful application of reproductive justice ideas. This would make a wonderful reading group selection, and it is short enough and accessibly written so as to encourage such broad uptake. Much more focused on labor and economics than I expected, which is a terrific surprise. Feels at times like it was written quickly and some additional editorial support could have tightened up a few aspects (substantive and stylistic), but I’m more pleased to imagine Briggs off to the next project.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Excellent coverage of the full impact of reproductive politics. Briggs description of reproductive labor - including care for the elderly and community, which disproportionately falls to women even if they are not mothers - provides a framework for understanding the ways that legislation is made on the backs of women and minority communities. Required reading for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of women's issues in our current time. Excellent coverage of the full impact of reproductive politics. Briggs description of reproductive labor - including care for the elderly and community, which disproportionately falls to women even if they are not mothers - provides a framework for understanding the ways that legislation is made on the backs of women and minority communities. Required reading for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of women's issues in our current time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Thinking of reproductive politics as those that involve any aspect of care-giving. This includes birth, child care, care for disabled family members, care for elderly, and more. It's a great lens through which to examine politics. Thinking of reproductive politics as those that involve any aspect of care-giving. This includes birth, child care, care for disabled family members, care for elderly, and more. It's a great lens through which to examine politics.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patti Miller

  9. 5 out of 5

    S.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Abbey Nawrocki

  11. 5 out of 5

    Irisbelle

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Billings

  13. 4 out of 5

    Danny

  14. 5 out of 5

    Abby Schubert

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Hesler

  16. 5 out of 5

    Savana

  17. 4 out of 5

    Casey Murray

  18. 4 out of 5

    Noël Ingram

  19. 4 out of 5

    Abi

  20. 4 out of 5

    Liz Latty

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marley

  23. 5 out of 5

    Olga Doletskaya

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cassie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kayla

  26. 5 out of 5

    Wendi

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Passmore

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Thorley

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