by: Brooke Lee
How do the ways in which prisons are run reflect the gender inequalities in the world we live in right now? Angela Y. Davis goes into extreme depth about the flaws in the United State’s prison system and how feminism has served as a tool to be able to become aware of these weaknesses in her speech from 2016 entitled, “Feminism and Abolition: Theories and Practices for the Twenty-First Century.”
When talking about imprisoned minorities, Davis says, “if we look at imprisoned women, who are a very small percentage throughout the world, we learn not only about women in prison, but we learn much more about the system as a whole than we would learn if we look exclusively at men” (134 in reader). In class, Georgia Pettygrove made an excellent point in our discussion; she said that to understand a system and see its flaws, you need to look at those who don’t succeed within that system. “The small percentage [of imprisoned women]” in the reference Davis makes, serves as a minority that can expose the problematic ways of prisons because of their inferior treatment because of their lack of population. Or in other words, they are neglected because they don’t have many people or much of a community. Although men experience injustice within prison, they serve as the majority and aren’t outliers to show the more severe mistreatment of other people within that same system.
Understanding feminism means understanding the systems within the world. Finding their flaws, seeing where progress is being made, and going from there. Davis uses a feminist and queer lens to observe the inequality within prisons and uses these observations to propose abolishment. She references the old feminist motto “the personal is political” (134) to argue that the way prison runs mimics the crimes and threatening personal experiences individuals face. Davis argues that prison is a place that does more harm than good because of it’s toxic way of treating inmates and the violent nature within the walls of these establishments.
Although what Davis argues is controversial, the key takeaway for me was that recognizing the disparities minorities experience is the crucial step to finding the specific root of broader, systemic issues. By knowing and targeting these particular roots, change can start.