The feminist approach

A Reading Note

In a discussion about feminism and abolition, Davis explains why it’s critical to foreground transgender and gender-nonconforming peoples in any attempt to understand how prisons work and how we might dismantle them:

Now, the assumption has been that because transgender and gender-nonconforming populations are relatively small (for example, within a prison system that in the US constitutes almost 2.5 million people and more than 8 million people in jails and prisons worldwide), therefore, why should they deserve very much attention? But feminist approaches to the understanding of prisons, and indeed the prison-industrial complex, have always insisted that, for example, if we look at imprisoned women, who are also a very small percentage throughout the world, we learn not only about women in prison, but we learn more about the system as a whole than if we look exclusively at men. Thus, also, a feminist approach would insist on what we can learn from, and what we can transform, with respect to trans and gender-nonconforming prisoners, but also it insists on what this knowledge and activism tells us about the nature of punishment writ large—about the very apparatus of prison.

Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, page 104

And, to continue from there, it’s important to understand the experiences of transgender people of color in the prison-industrial complex, as doing so will bring to the fore issues and concerns which may not be legible if the primary focus was on the experiences of white people. This same approach has many applicable uses outside of abolition.

Related books

Davis has spent more than five decades fighting for Black liberation, women’s liberation, and prison abolition, and in this brief book she renews those calls in lucid and moral terms.