Degree Year

2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Politics

Advisor(s)

M. David Forrest

Committee Member(s)

Kristina Mani
Cortney L. Smith

Keywords

Carceral feminism, Feminism, Sexual violence, Sexual assault, Rape, Transformative justice, Second-wave feminism, Anti-rape movement, Campus rape epidemic, Abolition feminism, State violence, Social movements

Abstract

This paper aims to trace the development of carceral feminist politics within United States institutions and feminist movements. I first define and describe Modern Carceral Feminism. I then argue that the development of Modern Carceral Feminism hinged on two different political moments: the development of a homogenous understanding of women’s oppression in the second wave feminist movement, and the rising political salience of racialized crime leading to punitive policies nationwide in the mid-to-late 1970s and 1980s. As a result, carceral feminist logics became pervasive within institutional and feminist activism against sexual violence. By the 1980s, reactionary feminist anti-violence movements, like the anti-rape movement and the battered women’s movement, relied on mostly punitive enforcement and policing. This tradition expanded with federal action against the so-called "campus rape epidemic” solidifying the domination of carceral feminist approaches in the 2010s. I end by highlighting a different kind of feminism, abolition feminism, coined by activist and legal scholar Angela Y. Davis. Learning from Black and POC-led abolition feminist organizations, I find that there are three key elements to activism that works to reduce both interpersonal violence as well as the violence caused by the carceral state.

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