Prof. Ruth Wilson Gilmore's talk 'Gender Responsive' Prison Expansion: The Case of California" brought up very interesting and intense questions for me surrounding the direction of our feminist interventions as well as the way we position ourselves to research. I very much appreciate Brittany and Ani's questions, but I would like to focus my response on Prof. Gilmore's engagement with her research. The first thing I noted was the confidence and ease from which Prof. Gilmore spoke about prisons, prisoners, and the realities of the prison industrial complex. As someone who has entered various CA prisons to visit family members, I was drawn to her genuine commitment and investment to anti-prison activism. I don't think it is an easy task to speak about prisoners in general, let alone how a "gender responsive" commission became the platform for prison expansion. When Prof. Gilmore bravely stated that "one person in a cage" is "overcrowding," I wondered how many people in the audience agreed with her? I also wondered how many people in the audience would welcome a "freed" prisoner to live in their neighborhood?
I was happy to hear Prof. Gilmore share with the audience that she speaks from various subjectivties, both as someone who "does research" but also as someone who has done the work. Prof. Gilmore's talk made me think of the power of language and why and how we name something "feminist work." It made me think about Cherrie Moraga's theory of the flesh and how at the root of the talk, were mostly Black and Brown bodies in a system that is not interested in the livelihood or rehabilitation of those bodies. How does all this affect them? How are we as feminist studies scholars positioned to those bodies? Prof. Gilmore mentioned several times that it was easier to rally people together to fight for the endangered kangaroo rat, than for anti-prison activism. She also noted that present day, 1 out of 100 people in the U.S. are in a cage. Should we strategize a potential "hijack" of the language of environmental and animal protection groups? Where does this leave feminist scholars?
(Photos courtesy of Idalia Robles De León)