February 10, 2009

Blog #1

At a first glance, it may seem harsh for someone to believe in such a thing as eugenics. However, after further investigation, it seems to me as if Margaret Sanger knew something others didn’t. To me, she was smarter than the average bear. She knew how to play the system. She knew that if she sided with a larger group, that there was a greater probability that she could have her ideas passed in laws. In fact, Sanger only sided with eugenics as a means to prevent children from being born into a disadvantages life and completely dismissed positive eugenics for upper class – which to me, signifies that she was not racist and not a full-hearted eugenic supporter. She rejected types of eugenics that took the option of birth out of the hands of women – this is only further evidence that she was in favor of liberating women and completely about options. She disapproved of the eugenics movement in Nazi Germany further exemplifying her non-racist views. After much investigation, I have found that Margaret was, in fact, not racist (in my opinion) because she was glorified by people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and W.E.B DuBois.

Blog #1 - Sanger

In my opinion, Sanger did sell out when she campaigned for effective, safe, free birth control. I know that sometime the saying goes if you can't beat them join them, but by doing so she created all sorts of problems for the future. What bothers me the most is how she came from a poor background and had about ten brothers and sisters, so I would think she would've been more sympathetic to the group of women beng suppressed. Both Davis and Roberts would agree because both quoted the multiple problems that the racist idea of "controlling" inferior races or handicapped people created. The whole point of birth control is choice but by changing the idea of birth control for the advancement of women to the eugenics idea of controlling populations, Sanger helped to exclude poorer women and minorities from the choice anyway. Since they were frequently subjected to involuntary sterlizations, which led this group of women to be skeptical of the abortion movement later on makes me feel like what was the point? Although we now have access to birth control, the lasting effects of eugenics make me think that it was sort of like taking one step forward and two steps backward. Also, I feel like this skepticism and exclusion of minorities caused a split in the feminist movement which bell hooks talked about too.

Blog #1 - Sanger

I don't think that Sanger was a racist. Although her message could be taken either way, in the end she was communicating for one side - birth control for all. She did speak to the more 'white elite' and discuss the different social classes within society, however, she was never quoted to be for the sterilization of Black women. The article discussed that if people were unfit or lived in poverty that they should not be allowed birth control, but also should not bear chidren - how does that make sense? Doesn't that contradict itself?

"It appears that Sanger was motivated by a genuine concern to improve the health of the poor mothers she served rather than a desire to eliminate their stock. Sanger believed that their afflictions arose from their unrestrained fertility, not their genes or racial heritage" (81) is a great quote that sums up what Sanger was getting at. Both Robert and Davis agree that she is not necessarily racist, however, could see that some people would take her messages and views in different directions. I don't believe that this article was an attack necessarily on men in response to others blogs. In the section about birth control as a racial genocide, the quote that Dick Gregory states is a perfect fit for the social times and racial views of the 'white elite.' "For years they told us where to sit, where to eat, and where to live. Now they want to dictate our bedroom habits...Now that we've got a little taste of power, white folks want us to call a moratorium on having children" (98). How fitting is that.

Blog Response #1 2/9

I believe that the ideas supported in Margaret Sanger’s article are sound. All women have the right to control their own bodies, and this is a condition mandatory for women’s liberation from oppression and exploitation (Sanger, 138). It was very enlightening to read a comprehensive history of eugenics in D. Roberts article, and I do in part agree with her assessment; whatever Sanger’s personal views may have been, she promoted the tenets of eugenic thinking that society problems are caused by the reproduction of those deemed “unfit?, and that their reproduction should be halted (Roberts, 81). However, I don’t believe that Sanger’s efforts should be completely renounced because of that fact. There is a fundamental difference between women’s control over their bodies through available legal birth control, and the exploitation of immigrant and African American populations to achieve misguided and repugnant societal goals. I agree wholeheartedly with A. Davis that, hand in hand with access to free and legal birth control, there needs to be an eradication of involuntary sterilization and sterilization abuse (Davis, 204). The moment when the focus shifted from individual choice to population control (Davis, 215) was when the movement became destructive. As Davis points out, one of the main reasons that African American women were so suspicious of the feminist birth control movement was because of the history of the birth control movement itself, entrenched in both racist and eugenic ideology. There needs to be an acknowledgment of that history, as well as the complete eradication of sterilization abuse, an injustice primarily affecting minority populations. But Sanger’s main tenet, that birth control is a fundamental right for women to control their own bodies and sexuality, is still just as prevalent today as when it was written.

Sanger, a Sell Out?

Although I thought that the excerpt we read was poignant, I didn’t find it very valid at times. I felt as though the article was more of an “attack? on men and our then a promotion of women’s rights. Sanger was loud and clear with her message, “birth control is a woman’s responsibility.? However, her approach was a bit harsh and sometimes, untrue. Despite her radical ideas, she was able to tone down her message in able to achieve her primary goal. I do not think that she “sold out? to Eugenics. Sometimes, people have to make compromises in order to achieve the outcome that they wish for. By making birth control more about population control and family planning, Sanger was able to appeal to a much larger crowd. Instead of pushing her radical feminist ideas on society, she was able to relate to the whole population (rather than just the feminist one),

In their articles, Roberts and Davis feel that it is hard to blame Sanger for her “sell-out.? Their articles pointed out to the readers that Sanger was simply appealing to society and common societal beliefs at that time. Although her feminist message was ultimately suppressed by her overwhelming appeal to Eugenics supporters, she was still able to achieve her ultimate goal. In my mind, this was no sell out.


I completely agree with your argument Alex.

Continue reading "Sanger" »

Sanger's Compromise

As a fighter in the name of birth control, Sanger undoubtedly achieved her goal and looking back we can truly consider her a masterful politician and a persevering crusader. However, in the name of Feminism, Sanger is perhaps as anti-feminist as a person can possible be. Sanger, in her care for women’s rights and as a proponent of birth control, was lead, or perhaps lead herself, to betray her feminist roots in favor of seeing birth control become a right of all women. It was her belief in feminism that lead her into the fight for a woman’s right “to determine for herself whether she will be a mother.? This single-thought mind-set allowed her to tarnish her feminist banner in order to raise the banner of birth control.

It would be reasonable for Davis and Roberts to be bitter about the actions of Sanger, however, their arguments were clear, supported by Sanger’s own words at times. It stands that as a feminist Sanger sold out all that she was as a feminist. But as a white, middle-class women struggling to find her footing in the world through the control of her ability to bear children, she was undoubtedly pure to her cause. However, one must wonder, is it worth it? Without Sanger, Eugenics would have still been a major ideology, but without her influence, would it have lasted as long? Without Sanger, would we now have the right to use birth control? Or would we still be waiting? In the end, it seems that we must consider is recognizing our right worth the suffering of other’s?

Response to Blog Question #1

As they say, "politics makes strange bedfellows." Sanger's collaboration with the Eugenics movements is just another example of feminist movement trying to make traction. For example, who would ever have thought that the feminist movement and the conservative Christian right would agree on anything? Yet, many in both movements campaign against pornography. With that said, the racist eugenics movement of the early 20th century gained a lot of ground in the academic realm as well as the mainstream media, but that doesn't entirely negate Sanger's wiliness to align with the racist ideology. Though I do not condone her racist tendencies, it is important to note that her other ideas of women's liberation from the confines of maternity and maintaining control over one's body are issues that have positively affected women in general. I believe that Dorothy Roberts is correct to point out the ties that the feminist movement has to eugenics, but the fact the movement no longer has ties to or condones eugenics helps to negate the previous connection. Both Roberts and Davis do cite that it was a thought of the times and though it is disgusting to associate aptitude and race/ethnicity, I believe that Sanger was not a true proponent of eugenics, rather a feminist who was trying to make birth control widely available by any means necessary.

February 9, 2009

Sanger & Eugenics

I do understand to some level why Sanger sold out to the eugenics movement. “She saw women’s ability to control their own reproduction as essential to their freedom and equal participation in society? (Roberts pp 57). And, Sanger, felt the only way she could achieve women’s reproductive freedom was though the only avenue available to her at the time (eugenics). However, I do feel that Sanger became too close to the eugenics movement in order to advance her own agenda. Unfortunately, with her eugenics alliance she eliminated a large demographic of women. Many women were no longer in love with the idea of reproductive freedom because they were fearful for their lives and they felt that birth control meant the end of their existence.
Roberts and Davis both felt that the feminist movement in regards to reproductive rights was undermined, by Sanger’s affiliation with the eugenics movement. Roberts said, “The twentieth-century eugenicists were not content to rely on evolutionary forces to eliminate biological inferiors; they proposed instead government programs that would reduce the Black birthrate? (Roberts pp 71). I feel that Roberts and Davis could not possibly agree with Sanger threading birth control with racial betterment because both of these women are black and eugenics sought to eliminate the black race. Davis said, “The fatal influence of the eugenics movement would soon destroy the progressive potential of the birth control campaign? (Davis pp 213).

Blog 1

I think we’re hitting on some fundamental questions about social movement and the leaders who promote it. The question, simply put, is this: to what extent do we hold individuals accountable for the compromises they make in the implementation of their ideas? This is a key inquiry for a number of reasons, but for our purposes (because Sanger’s ideas had negative impacts) it is for apportioning blame.

Someone said earlier it was not Sanger’s intention to marginalize; others pointed to Davis’ and Roberts’ forgiveness. Good arguments were cited: historical context, Groupthink, the necessity of working within the system to achieve progress. So with all of these factors in mind, to what degree is the individual responsible for the compromises they make for their cause? We all read Sanger, her zeal was palpable—she clearly cared about this issue fanatically, almost desperately—to compromise for it, to sacrifice for it, for her, was probably a no brainer. But when we judge a historical figure, is our leniency graduated based on their fervor? Or should we hold them more accountable to their ideology—even if that means less productivity?

I think it’s an important question to consider whenever we judge great historical reformers.

Blog #1

I have never known about this issue. I have never thought of sterilization as an abuse. The first time I heard of the word sterilize is about two years ago, the first time my mother have a carssean because my baby sister head does not turn the right way. I was transalating for my mother. I asked the doctor what "sterilize" mean. Like the reading, I thought sterilize was for temporary. Although I am translating, I only can translate. I do know the meaning and consequence. I am glad my mother chose not to. I only know that sterilize is one of the option to be healthy because I do not want my mother to be pregnant and undergo carsean again. After reading these article, I learned so much about the bad side of sterilization abuse. I could see how ignorant I am, but I am glad this is the modern time, however, I still fear of doctors sometime of performing sterilization abuse even though this is 2009, it is not too far from 1970 and 1980 estimate account on sterilization abuse on people of color last noted.

Now, I can understand why some girls regret saying, "I don't wanted to have babies when I grow up". I was one of them. My mom told me not to say again because this could make one's fertilization eggs feel bad in a spirit sense. Later on when one marry one really wanted to have kids, but they cannot because they have made the eggs spirits feel bad. I can see that this is not as bad as sterilization abuse where one completely cannot have children for the rest of one's life. By saying such words, one can apologize and have children again because one is capable. Sterilization abuse make one's body incapable, which I belived it is genocide.

Blog Feb 9

When I first read Margret Sanger’s article, I shared many of the feelings that have already been posted on the blog. I thought that she promoted birth control and her work for women but compromised her message by siding with the system. While affiliating herself with the eugenics movement, she is forcing her readers to question her loyalty to the genuine work of feminism—ending oppression. I was confused by her attempt to join the two movements, but that confusion was somewhat clarified when I took a step back and placed her article in history. She published this article in Woman and the New Race in 1920, the same year that the right to vote in the United States could no longer be denied on account of sex. At that time, women were finally starting to be heard and able to gain ground on such a hard fought battle. Her approach might not have been ideal in our minds, but times today are incredibly different than they were in 1920. These women were trying to establish a successful process in order to spark the feminist movement. I do not condone her approach, but it possible that using the system was a strategy that needed to be tested?

I don't hate Margaret Sanger

It is easy to look back and criticize the shortsightedness and bigotry of those who went before us. We look at the eugenics and sterilization projects of birth control proponents and respond with horror and contempt. But we cannot expect all well-intentioned pro-female advocates to be able to see outside their own political context. M. Sanger was unable to present a successful case for birth control access in the United States without falling back on a theory of eugenics and racism. That does not mean that her ideas for women’s freedom were faulty. Davis writes that the “progressive potential? of the early birth control movement fell prey to the racist ideology of the time period. It is not Margaret Sanger’s fault that she lived and worked in a political field that was horribly racist and imperialistic. The history of the United States includes more bigotry and death than we normally acknowledge. The fact that the movement to enable women to chose when and how many children they had also participates in the crimes of America’s racist and sexist past does not mean that it was not progress. If Margaret Sanger had not couched her rhetoric in the language of eugenics would we have gotten to where we are today? Or would selling birth control still be a crime? Although I think Roberts and Davis both prove the valid point that the birth control movement has a dark, sordid, and regrettable past, we cannot expect our current morality to exist retroactively within the close-minded past. In the “ideal world? Sanger refers to in her writings, I am sure she allowed for all mothers black or white, to make a choice about when to bear children. In the political era she lived in, however, there was not even a conception of a racially ideal world for her to imagine.

Blog #1

It is important to women’s rights that birth control be available, so it is understandable why Margret Sanger went the route she did. One might ask if the feminist message was somewhat lost through the way she campaigned for the topic, but in the end I believe she was still working for women’s rights. Feminism is associated with many stereotypes, which makes it important to have a feminist message reach and be heard by everyone. That’s why that Sanger fought for birth control the way that she did, she made this issue palatable at a time when eugenics was a goal of those in power. Many people argue that putting birth control under the guise of eugenics was wrong because her goal was reached through racism, but I don’t believe that she had any desire to oppress anyone. There is evidence that Sanger did not believe birth control was important for the same reasons that the eugenicists did. Sanger sought to set the lower class woman free from the burden of unwanted pregnancy through birth control, and even if she had to appeal to those who wanted to oppress those same women, she ended up helping and liberating many women of the time.

February 8, 2009

Blog Response #1

Sanger over-compromised her ideas in order to promote more control for women. Though the message that she meant to portray (that women should be able to choose whether or not they want to be mothers) was a good one, the message that she ended up portraying was not. Since she joined with the eugenicists, the message that went out was that of racism and classism; she did not use the system, it used her. I think that what the eugenicists were doing and teaching was incredibly backwards, wrong, and very similar to what the Nazi's did in Germany. They were such obvious racists that I am left confused as to why Sanger would work with them. Feminism is meant to unify between class and race, but eugenicism is the complete opposite of that. Roberts seems to think that while Sanger did not agree with the eugenicists, she did make a mistake of working with them. Davis seems to think that it was okay for Sanger to side with the eugenicists as long as it helped women to gain more control over themselves. I think that Robert's approach to Sanger's compromise was better than Davis's approach. It is not okay for someone to side with overt racists who are out to eliminate certain groups in order to reach a goal. Though I am grateful that Sanger was able to help women procure more rights over their own bodies, I am disappointed in the way she went about it.

Blog Response #1

Although Sanger felt strongly about birth control and would use any approach to promote it, I feel that promoting it though eugenics was detrimental. For one, claiming a superior and an inferior set of people based on their race and intelligence only suggested a hierarchy and the presence of class and inequality in society that the feminist movement disagreed with so strongly and was working so hard on to abolish.

I feel Sanger sacrificed some of the success of her ideas and the success of a woman’s reproductive and sexual freedom by making birth control seem more about controlling the population and fueling the “white elite.? I understand that sometimes compromises have to be made, especially with a controversial issue, to further the project, but compromising Sanger’s morals, her radicalism, and the pillar or feminism she is basing her work on was selling out to an extent.

I feel that there are always alternatives and other ways Sanger could have gained support for birth control but aligning herself with eugenicists was not wise. I do applaud her for utilizing our pre-existing political system to substantiate her ideas and to argue the importance of birth control by using a system most people think is fair and lawful.

Blog Response One

In her support of eugenics, Margaret Sanger went too far. It’s true that she accomplished her goal of bringing birth control methods to the general population, but these methods varied widely for women of different class and race. Educated white women were able to secure oral contraceptives and were dissuaded from sterilization, while women of lower classes and different ethnicities were often only given the option of sterilization, if it was their choice at all. Many black women were either pressured into this procedure by doctors threatening to cut off their welfare support or sterilized without their consent. Certainly Margaret Sanger, with her strong working class background, never intended these conditions to befall the lower classes under the guise of “liberating? women. Still, her sentiments toward eugenics and population control undoubtedly helped to bring about this racist agenda.

However, I find it difficult to put all the blame on Sanger, and Roberts and Davis seem to feel the same way. Their essays strongly emphasized the social climate at the time. It was not a small group of birth control advocates that believed in eugenics, it was most of the educated upper class. People maneuvering around the upper echelons of society, Sanger included, most likely became swayed by a kind of groupthink. Still, the racist agenda her movement acquired, as well as the consequences it had on thousands of impoverished women, is far from admirable.

Blog Response

There are many cases in feminism’s history where working for change within the system has proved more expedient than overthrowing the system itself. One example of this can be seen in efforts (both past and present) to prove that women are equal to men, without questioning whether or not gender is a valid category in the first place. Another example is encouraging women to take self-defense classes rather than asking how we can stop rape and sexual assault from happening. In each of these cases, working within the system enables women to make some advances but fails to completely eradicate the actual problem. Similarly, Margaret Sanger’s efforts to increase access to birth control by working within the system failed to answer the larger problem of women not having the right to control their bodies. But unlike in other cases of working for change within the system, Sanger’s alliance with the eugenics movement only improved the lives of some women and did so at the expense of others. Because Sanger compromised to the point where her goals were achieved by causing harm to other women, I don’t believe she can be called a feminist. Feminism is about ending oppression, and Sanger’s alliance with eugenicists was unfair and oppressive.

February 7, 2009

Response to blog question #1

Sanger’s work for women is completely undermined by her work in the name of eugenics. The problem is not just that Sanger’s rhetoric re-entrenched racial hierarchies. It’s that it re-entrenched the existence of hierarchy in general. As long as the idea that some people are superior to others because of some set of essential characteristics still exists, gender hierarchies will exist. Legitimizing one hierarchy legitimizes all of them. When Sanger writes that “Only thus can [women] restore to [men] that of which he robbed himself in restricting her,? she acknowledges that injustice towards women is an injustice to men. The same is true for women of color and working class women. It is impossible to limit the notion of hierarchy to just that between races. Justifying the idea hierarchy anywhere justifies it everywhere. Equality cannot be discrete. Also, any participation in eugenics undercuts the message of her movement: that the true emancipation of women requires control over the number and timing of their pregnancies. Loss of the capacity to have a child is just as much an assault on women’s autonomy as loss of the capacity to not have a child. I’m glad Roberts makes a qualitative distinction between acknowledging the social causes of racial degeneration as the root problem, as opposed to blaming some inherent set of inferior traits of people of color or of lower socioeconomic class, but I agree with both Roberts and Davis that ultimately the product of such a line of thought (deeming some people fit and some unfit for reproduction) is just as damaging. In this case, even relatively enlightened ends do not mitigate the injustice of the means.

February 4, 2009

Blog Question #1 for 2/9

Write a (roughly) 200 word response to the following questions:

M. Sanger promoted the cause of birth control, but, in order to get support for it, she linked her cause with eugenicists. Her goal was to work within the system, to challenge and to change the laws in order to provide more control for women. But, in order to change the system, she had to compromise her ideas, downplaying her radically feminist message (as stated in the excerpt that we read for this week) and making birth control more about population control and family planning. Did she sell out too much? Or, was she able to use the system to get what she wanted? What do you think? What does Roberts think? What does Davis think?