How the security culture has burdened women

Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz shows how the post-9/11 US has intensified control of women’s bodies.

A few months ago, my child sang at our town’s commemoration of the events of September 11, 2001. I stood with a large crowd on the lawn of city hall, listened as the children sang “God Bless America,” and tried to quiet my raging inner monologue. All of the invited clergy were older men, and all who prayed aloud did so in the name of Jesus. The rhetoric was as simplistic as it was in those first days and months after 9/11, the lack of critical reflection all the more glaring in light of the many years that have passed and how massive a failing the wars on terror proved to be. It seemed we’ve learned nothing in the intervening years.

In Homeland Maternity, Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz details the particular ways in which the 9/11 attacks have shaped United States culture and intensified already established means of regulating women’s bodies. Her vivid, cogent argument posits that in the decades since 2001 women’s reproductive lives have been increasingly co-opted by “security culture.” In an era labeled as a “time of crisis,” the state’s interest in women’s bodies overrules women’s agency and the demands of justice.

In four related case studies, Fixmer-Oraiz describes how women are variously affected by the new reproductive regime. White professional women are encouraged to freeze their eggs and to secure their fertility as a source of their value over and above their individuality or vocation. Poorer women of color are castigated for bearing children “they can’t afford” and subjected to a host of racist, classist narratives that persist largely uncritiqued.