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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Feminist author Roxane Gay joins Emma Goldman fundraising event

The “Bad Feminist” author spoke about reproductive access and growing up in the Midwest.
Madison Frette
Roxane Gay speaks as a keynote speaker during at the 2024 Emma Goldman Choice Event at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. Gay is a feminist writer, professor, and editor.

Prolific feminist author and professor Roxane Gay, best known for “Bad Feminist,” a New York Times best-selling collection of essays, discussed how feminism and reproductive justice intersect with race, class, and size during her appearance at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City on Saturday night. 

Gay was this year’s keynote speaker for the 2024 Emma Goldman Choice Event, which raises funds for the Emma Goldman Clinic. The Iowa City clinic is an independent organization that provides reproductive health care, including abortions.  

Emma Goldman Clinic Director Francine Thompson emphasized the importance of reproductive freedom and health care access following the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson decision that overturned Roe v. Wade

“We are seeing what inequality of access really looks like,” Thompson said. “We know that from the people that call us, they are having to travel further. And here in Iowa, we continue to exist and operate under the shadow of pending legislation.”

In Iowa, abortion is legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, but there have been several attempts by Republican lawmakers to restrict access. 

This summer, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed the fetal heartbeat bill, which would have restricted abortion access at six weeks gestation, but the ban was blocked by a Polk County District Court shortly after it was enacted. Reynolds is challenging the block and the case is going to the Iowa Supreme Court. 

RELATED: Iowa enters argument in six-week abortion ban state Supreme Court case

 “Your governor is a piece of work,” Gay told the Iowa City crowd, prompting a laugh from the audience. 

Gay shared how she is often disappointed by Democrats not taking enough action to protect reproductive access and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, but stressed the importance of being engaged in the political process despite frustrations. 

“They’re not heroes, they’re not,” she said. “Let’s stop ‘stanning’ them, just vote for them and grit your teeth.” 

Gay said despite the partisan attacks on abortion, people across the political spectrum rely on abortion access. 

“The reality is that women and people with uteruses of all political persuasions avail themselves of abortion in equal numbers,” she said. “It is not like a bunch of Democrats sitting at the clinic like, ‘I’m here for my weekly abortion.’”

Gay also reflected on her experience growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, and her relationship to the Midwest. She said it can be challenging being queer, a person of color, the child of immigrants, and a person with a uterus in this region, but she also feels a responsibility to claim the Midwest. 

“A lot of times people are like, ‘just leave’ and you’re telling 70 percent of the country to just leave the only home they’ve ever known or the homes that they have chosen for themselves,” Gay said. “We cannot do that. And so I also think it’s important to recognize that we can’t just dismiss an entire swath of the country simply because they have politics that we find abhorrent.”

Gay said she hopes her writing and activism will inspire people to take some small action for a more just world. 

“I do hope that my words allow people to recognize that everyone’s voice does actually matter,” Gay said “And that sometimes even just saying something about putting it into the world [and] acknowledging it is a step in the right direction.” 

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About the Contributors
Natalie Dunlap
Natalie Dunlap, Assistant Digital Editor
Natalie Dunlap is the Assistant Digital Editor at The Daily Iowan. She is the host and producer of the Above the Fold news podcast. She has previously worked as a news reporter, news editor, politics reporter, politics editor, and digital producer for the DI. She is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in English and gender, women's, and sexuality studies. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting while listening to pop culture podcasts.
Madison Frette
Madison Frette, Photojournalist
Madison Frette is a second-year student at The University of Iowa double majoring in Business Analytics and Information Systems and Cinematic Arts. This is her first year working as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan.