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Shanelle Matthews

Reproductive Health
Excerpt from an Interview with Shanelle Matthews

Shanelle Matthews ( does online media communications for Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, advocating for women of color and families on the margins who have strategically been left out of the socio-political debate on reproductive health and rights.

The way women of color activate themselves in their communities is different from the way white women do it. All women of color are struggling in this country for access to resources, public assistance, equality. Black women are harmed by a lack of solidarity because we are often stigmatized as insatiable and hypersexual. The commodification of our bodies is something that is left out of the conversation.

The environmental impacts on black women’s bodies are ever present. From slavery to hurricane Katrina, we are the first to be displaced, denied resources and access to healthcare, denied opportunities to save our families. When you deny a woman an option to take care of herself, her reproductive rights, you are ensuring that she is going to withdraw from the workforce, thus increasing the capital for white men.

"All women of color are struggling in this country for access to resources, public assistance, for equality."  - Shanelle Matthews

The foundational fabric of this country lies in racism and socioeconomic status. It is almost safe to say that most black women are at the bottom of the socio-economic totem pole. To start working towards equality for all women, we must insert a racial and class analysis and build solidarity across color and gender lines. If we don’t acknowledge privilege in this country, we won’t be able to navigate through this conversation.

We have organizations working for the broader benefit of women that are leaving out low-income women and women of color. We must teach others about what we need, letting them know that it is our race that intersects with our class to deprive us of the things that they can easily access. We must educate those who are shifting policy for women that they need to include the intersection of race and class.

At Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice (ACRJ), our primary initiative is the 10-year-old Strong Families for changing the way people think, feel and act in support of families. We recognize that only 25 percent of families in America look like the hetero-normative, married-with-biological-children type that policy would have us believe. Seventy-five percent of us are queer, low-income, immigrant, refugee, families of color, and families with disabilities.

We are engineering a campaign, along with several other organizations, to shift policy so that it reflects the needs of families on the margins. We utilize the reproductive justice framework that says people should be able to empower themselves and their communities to make those socio-political decisions that are best for them and their families.

New Political Spaces | Vol. 19, No. 1 – 2012 | Credits

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