Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Book Review, The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration

Aziza Ahmed, Recovering Feminist Lessons from the Past for a Less Carceral Future, JOTWELL, reviewing, Aya Gruber, The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration (2021).

In a moment when mass incarceration, police reform, and abolition are dominating national headlines, Aya Gruber’s book, The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration, takes on one of the most complicated questions of the politics of policing and incarceration: gender violence.  Her book provides a history of the uncomfortable relationship between the carceral state and feminist organizing to end violence against women. And, it offers a path forward that begins to address mistakes of the past by reigniting those modes of feminism focused on poverty, welfare, and race that were sidelined with the rise of what is now called “carceral feminism.”

 

Gruber begins her book by connecting the dots between the anti-sexual violence activism of the 19th century and today.  In doing so, Gruber centers the role of race in structuring how imaginaries of sexual exploitation and violence occur.  The voices of dominant groups (including white feminists) constructed the larger social narrative of sexual violence. Their ideas of sexual exploitation were shaped by the racialized ideas undergirding the political economy of the time, including the anti-immigrant sentiments of Chinese exclusion and the racist ideologies wrapped into slavery.***

 

Understanding our contemporary moment, and the choices activists are making in calling for criminal justice reforms, requires a sense of the past: the decisions that have come to shape contemporary anti-sexual violence organizing and what feminists could have done better.  As Gruber powerfully shows, to find a path forward we cannot simply rely on the dominant feminist visions of prior moments, which often were mired in a racial and carceral feminist politics.   Instead, advocates should unearth the dissenting feminist voices that long argued that it was possible to have a world free of sexual violence and without the cruelty of the carceral state

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2022/04/book-review-the-feminist-war-on-crime-the-unexpected-role-of-womens-liberation-in-mass-incarceration.html

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