By Kate Wadkins
Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women is a premier effort to increase the visibility of women’s prison resistance in the United States. Victoria Law has dedicated much of her life to prisoners’ resistance, honing in on the lack of discussion about the specific plight that women face in prison, and their efforts to challenge the prison system. Law started off self-publishing prisoners’ stories in zines and circulating them in publications like Clamor Punk Planet, and off our backs. A lot of this work is represented and revisited here, in Law’s first book, Resistance Behind Bars.
The major success of Resistance Behind Bars is that it is written so that every person can understand it— Law uses effective statistics as well as stories and examples of prison life straight from the voices of the women living them. While maintaining this easy-to-understand framework, Law employs a thorough understanding of the gender, race, and class dynamics that contribute to the unique struggle of women prisoners as well as the invisibility of the struggle.
The invisibility of women prisoners’ specific struggle, as well was their acts of resistance, is largely due to the “un-sexy” labor historically allotted to women. While male prisoners may have more time to concern themselves with organizing, women often still have a slew of other concerns from both outside and inside the prison system, such as childcare, adequate healthcare, and visitation rights, among many others. Resistance Behind Bars sheds light on all the different forms of resistance— from creating AIDS awareness groups, to communal teaching, to emotional support, to skill-sharing, to labor and hunger strikes, and so on, that th4ese women take on, in spite of all the stakes against them.
Law redefines and broadens the notions of resistance to include the everyday individual challenges that women prisoners fight both for themselves and for their sisters. Along with Law’s unique and powerful document, she includes a thorough resource list, a recommended reading list on prison issues, and a glossary for further accessibility. Resistance Behind Bars is a must-read for anyone interested in prison resistance as well as gender, race, and class struggles across the board.