Oppression is always tied to resource extraction

Excerpt from my presentation, Tactics and Talking Points: Re-Radicalizing the Fight for Abortion Access, given today at the Radfem RiseUp conference in Toronto, ON:

Mainstream reproductive rights activists in the United States are currently accepting a fictional story about why abortion restrictions are being enacted. A recent article by Andrea Ayres-Deets on the popular liberal website Policy Mic contained a common assumption:

“To Republicans, abortion is about a deeply held moral belief concerning the sanctity of life which propels them to legislate against half of the U.S. Population.”

I think we’re giving politicians way too much credit when we take their word on this.

So when the men in power say something like “new greenhouse gas regulations will harm the nation’s economy and threaten millions of jobs over the next quarter century,” as it says in the Republican Party’s official platform, thinking people can look at that, recognize the hypocrisy, and see through it to what they’re actually saying: “New greenhouse gas regulations will harm the ruling class’s power to extract resources and threaten our profit and dominance.”

When George Bush says something like “confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror,” again, we can all see through it and call bullshit. He means that “confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to maintaining the ruling class’s power to extract resources and to ensuring our profit and dominance.”

I’m a firm believer that the men in power and institutions they control – the judiciary, legislature, military, industry – they rarely, if ever, take any action that doesn’t directly or indirectly facilitate resource extraction for the purpose of generating profit, and preserving their power.

So, when the men in power say something like…”I am strongly pro-life, and have fought to protect the rights of the unborn my entire career. I will continue to fight for this cause because I value the sanctity of all human life, which was said by Utah congress member Rob Bishop, why do so many advocates for reproductive rights take him at his word?  Why do we accept his supposed altruism as legitimate?  Why can’t we see through his rhetoric to what he’s really saying?

He means, “I am strongly pro-control and have fought to protect the rights of the ruling class to extract resources for my entire career. I will continue to fight for this cause because I value our profit and dominance.”

The pundits point out the hypocrisy all the time – if they’re so pro-life, why do they cut so many aid programs,sentence children and families to hunger and homelessness, bomb so many children, execute so many prisoners, outlaw birth control, if they’re focused on the sanctity of life?

“Still, GOP bigwigs get furious when they are accused of conducting a war on women. But what else is it? It’s clearly not a great moral crusade to save children,” writes Cynthia Tucker, in The GOP’s War on Women Continues.  Pundits and activists ask the question, the question of why, as though it were rhetorical.  Why can’t we follow our logic to it’s conclusion?  The answer is staring us in the face.

Liberal pundits and activists have taken to calling the escalating surge of reproductive restrictions a “war on women,” yet they seem to forget what war is actually for.  War is hateful, but it’s not just about hate.  It’s violent, but it’s not just about violence.  It’s goal is control, but not control for the sake of control.  The hate and violence of war are used to achieve control over resources.  This is as true for the war on women as it is for the war on Iraq, the war on indigenous cultures, the war on the fabric of life that makes up the living planet.  The ideologies of colonial cultures – race, class, gender – all serve the purpose of normalizing and rendering invisible the mechanics of resource extraction.

Oppression is always tied to resource extraction.  Abortion restrictions in the US, from the very beginning, were intended to ensure the dominance of white settlers and the dominance of the medical industry.  Since the very beginning of patriarchy, the reproductive capacity of women has been regarded by the men in power as a resource, and controlling women is not just a hobby, or a religious directive – it’s a way to control and facilitate the extraction of resources from female bodies.

Politicians are restricting abortion access in order to more effectively extract human resources from female bodies, with the added benefit of forced pregnancy further entrenching women’s second class status.  We’re not doing ourselves any favors by taking politicians at their word with regard to their motivations.  In fact, by doing so, we’re throwing the fight, playing by their rules, and dooming ourselves to failure by accepting their terms.


31 thoughts on “Oppression is always tied to resource extraction

    1. seebster

      Exactly along the lines of what I was going to add. The further entrenchment of women’s second class status is not a secondary benefit. It means the extraction of resources in the form of unwaged labor and/or extremely cheap labor.

  1. timothyscriven

    Reblogged this on Blogging the End and commented:
    This post makes a very important point, though I don’t agree with all of it. Those who condemn us for focusing on capitalism often say that we miss forms of oppression other than class. There’s a lot of things you can say in relation to this (I’ve previously blogged on it) but one important point to make is that if we consider capitalism as mechanism for maintaining the relative and absolute privleges of the rich, class is not the only mechanism for extracting wealth that exists under capitalism.

  2. tnt666

    I agree with each sentence and paragraph, save one:
    …”Since the very beginning of patriarchy, the reproductive capacity of women has been regarded by the men in power as a resource, and controlling women is not just a hobby, or a religious directive”…
    Religion/faith/morality is not separate from patriarchy, it is inherent, patriarchy is the position, religion is the hammer, they are inseparable. Patriarchy would never have succeeded without the invention of mass religiosity.

      1. sipiy

        And I would ask for a correction on “men in power”. All men are in power over all women, by virtue of their Sex Class. That means men who are not “in power”. The left or the right, they only pass power back and forth between them, and the women who work for them, do just that…work “for” them. As you must now surely understand if not before.

        Men in power, and the men who want to be in power are not working for women. They use women to achieve their goal.

      2. rachelivey Post author

        Also a good point, that makes sense. I’ll be editing this before I give it again, so thank you.

  3. CFoley

    This is great! It helps me better approach abortion restrictions and the pitfalls of the liberal argument. Thank you for writing this.

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  5. druidwinter

    Reblogged this on winterdominatrix and commented:
    At the Radfem RiseUp conference in Toronto, Abortion rights were discussed along with the sneaky way some states have enacted laws to make it difficult.

    Its a TRAP.

    Targeted Restriction of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws impose medically unnecessary but financially and logistically onerous restrictions on abortion clinics in the hopes of driving them out of business.

  6. FeistyAmazon

    Wow..I LOVE the way you’ve put this, and it is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. I know that the whole anti-abortion movement and especially the M E N behind most of it and male politicians, Priests and Preachers are really interested in one thing: control over all women. If they can control women’s reproductive capabilities and choices, shame those of us who are Lesbians through their religions or laws or try to have sexual access to us, it comes down to the same thing: control over women’s bodies, minds and spirits. And it is also absolutely correct that almost all wars are wars over social and physical control of access to resources.

    I don’t care about their moral beliefs because they don’t care about mine: which is that ALL women have a say so over THEIR OWN bodies and the full and total ability to choose what they want to do with them and with whom.

    The inconsistency with the so called ‘pro-life’ arguement, as you say, is they are so willing to go to war(or send others into war) put the lion’s share of the State’s money into the Defense Department and warmongering and the latest bomber, nuke or war technology, and have no problem with children in other countries much less those who are ‘collateral damage’, innocent women and men, being killed in their wars. and they for the death penalty. There is no consistency in the positions, so as you say, it all comes down to physical and social control.

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  10. Dana Seilhan

    You’re still dancing around it though. What resource is society trying to extract from us by oppressing us?

    Our children, of course.

    Examine the links between the adoption industry, the “pro-life movement,” and crisis pregnancy centers and it will become starkly obvious why they try to ban abortion *and* get rid of social welfare programs.

    The truth is that according to the role of our imposed gender we are expected to bear children either for men or for the state, never for ourselves. But our children are OUR CHILDREN–we give them their first cell, and they arise from our bodies. While the fathers of children are indeed related to them, even from a biological standard they are not as closely tied to children as women are. Yet we are expected to “bear them children,” put their names on our children, count our children in men’s lineage, etc.

    This is just an extension of that whole philosophy. We’re not human, we’re just productive units for what they want to take.

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  12. bodycrimes

    Very interesting point. I agree with the commenter above that it would be interesting to look further at exactly what they’re extracting. I can think of a couple of things – first, how women’s bodies serve the interest of the state. Look at how restrictive the abortion laws have been in the service of fascism or some communist countries, where the state has wanted women to breed more soldiers and workers. Or look at China and its forced abortions, where it is using women’s bodies in the service of economic development. Look at the far right Christians and their Quiverfull movement – they specifically call for more pregnancies to ensure that they outbreed everyone else. Note also that abortions are most restricted in US states that also have the highest poverty rates. If you wanted to create an underclass and a cheap work force, that would be one way to do it.

  13. tnt666

    I say boycott breeding, it’s the strongest tool in our arsenal to stop human civilisation in its tracks, WE females have the ultimate power, not weapons, not words, not politics, but take our wombs out of the equation for a while, and watch civilsation shit itself. WE could accomplish so much with just that one gesture. Boycott breeding.

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  17. Feminist at Sea

    I love this, but it would be difficult for women who already have children. But as for myself, I already knew from the age of ten that I didn’t want children.

  18. vyechera

    Well said, Rachel. I think if radical feminism has one central tenet, it is that men as a class appropriate women as a class in precisely the same way they appropriate other living “resources” like domestic animals. That we have consciousness and the ability to speak is seen as an inconvenience, a mistake of nature, or a “resistance” like the resistance of a young horse that needs to be broken in order to enter into its domestic service. Women as a class have the relationship to men as a class of things (resources). It is valuable to see this put so simply and clearly. It all starts with women as “things” to be appropriated..

  19. visionforbrilliance

    rape is also about resource extraction. like the rape of resources of the land. and so the thinking of the politicians, mostly right wing goes we can do both and no consequences. well babies, there are consequences and women are here to say there are.

  20. Brian L

    I’m really glad someone linked to this post. I’ve always believed in choice, but until I went down the road of my personal antinatalism, never saw this connection. It really is about human resources, and controlling them, isn’t it. I always knew that war was about resource control, but abortion? I’m now 51 years old, and realizing I’ve been sleepwalking through my whole life, knowing things were amiss, but never seeing it… I feel so gullible to the mass messages.

    Anyways, wonderful post. Thank you for making it available.

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  22. sellmaeth

    It is interesting how access to abortions varies … in those places, where it is clear that male children are preferred by mothers, abortion is legal. Is this mere coincidence?
    The resource extraction is, I think, not just about children, but more specifically, male children.

    Banning abortion completely, as done in too many countries, only makes “sense” with regard to male fetuses.
    If there is a mother who would die in childbirth, and her fetus (assuming it would survive) is female, then their lives would be equally important. Patriarchy would not win anything by killing a fertile woman in order to bring a girl baby into the world, who may or may not be willing to serve patriarchy.

    BUT when the fetus is a boy, then it is either save a woman, or save a potential boy child. Or, if the fetus is already dead/sure to be stillborn, a woman is killed with no other female to replace her. Any way, it increases the relative number of males in the country.

    If preserving the capacity of women to produce babies of either sex was the main objective, then killing pregnant girls and women by denying them life-saving abortions, would be irrational. However, if we assume that the main goal of patriarchy is to make it so that there are more men and fewer women (though they of course still need some women), this goal is achieved with a ban on abortion.


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