Choosing Our Own Lives: Two 40-Something Feminists Reflect on Roe

January 25, 2013

Monica J. Casper and Aishah Shahidah Simmons on Abortion, Feminism, Family, Shame, Love, Friendship, and the Way Forward on the 40th Anniversary
of Roe v. Wade

[Over a two-day period, The Feminist Wire Collective Members Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Monica J. Casper shared an e-dialogue about abortion, feminism, family, shame, love, friendship, and the way forward. Here is the largely unedited transcript of their exchange, shared publicly in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.–TFW Editors]

January 22, 2013 was the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It was also my first day of teaching the graduate/undergraduate seminar entitled, Audre Lorde: The Life and Work of a Silence Breaker. In the tradition of both of the aforementioned, I wasthrilled to honor my commitment to consistently break my silence and release my shame. I am grateful that my Sister-Comrade, Monica Casper invited me to have this e-dialogue with her. Here’s an excerpt of what I shared and Monica’s response during our deeply intimate dialogue, which womanifests the saying “the personal is political”:

Aishah: “…
All of this is happening as I very literally prepare to teach this seminar on Lorde’s life, in the 20th anniversary year of the completion of my first short video Silence…Broken, which was created in a Toni Cade Bambara scriptwriting workshop at Scribe Video Center. And, it is dedicated to the life and work of Audre Lorde… (I firmly believe that) NONE OF THIS would have happened or would be going on had I not been able to have an abortion…I should also share that my rape followed by consensual sex with another man happened while on a study abroad program in my sophomore year in college. I was so distraught about everything, which was rooted in my trauma and underscored by my internalized homophobia…I felt as if I couldn’t breathe…My making the decision to drop out of college shortly after the rape/sex/pregnancy/abortion, which was followed by my coming out as a lesbian one year later, enabled me to forge ahead with my then unknown trajectory…

I’m thinking about so much shame that I’ve carried connected to my rape, consensual sex, pregnancy, abortion, dropping out of college…It’s very intense in the context of developing a syllabus about breaking silences IN SPITE OF the fear….

…I often wonder if I did carry my pregnancy to term, would I have come out as a PROUD Black feminist lesbian or would I’ve been afraid and concerned about what that would mean for the unborn? Would I have made NO! The Rape Documentary? …. Who knows? Even if the answers are yes, what I know is that it wouldn’t be what it is today….

These are the stories and dialogues that we don’t get to have because we’re so busy fighting the surge of the Right Wing to take away all of our reproductive rights. We often don’t get to hear the nuances, the complexities, the back stories…For many on the rabid (my words) Right, it’s as if women are incubators for fetuses and receptacle for (unwanted) penises….”

Monica: One of my very best therapists ever, in San Francisco, was writing her dissertation on shame. She had this gorgeous argument about how shame was such a driving force for so many of us, both in what we do and what we don’t do. Heather [Talley] and I have talked about writing a piece together on the neoliberal university and its strategies of shame, disavowal, and retribution…and those three words resonate so well not just with neoliberalism run amok in higher ed, but also in patriarchy. Women are repeatedly and often quite violently shamed, disavowed, and made to serve retribution…this is written in our bones, our uteruses, our psyches.

Not being ashamed seems like such a gift to self. Living, writing, teaching away the shame…


Read the e-dialogue in its entirety on The Feminist Wire‘s site (

Print This Post Print This Post


Got something to say?