Are We Too Nice?

21 Jun

One of the biggest contrasts between the pro and anti choice camps is how we behave. Chances are high that any violence or aggression with respect to abortion is coming from the anti camp. They show up at our clinics to yell at our patients and show them gruesome pictures. They are aggressive, loud, and rude. They kill our doctors, they threaten our staff and they send death threats to politicians (there’s and ours). Their violence knows no end.

Then there is the pro-choice camp. We man phone lines, fundraising for abortion or soothing panicked women. We house women who travel for hours so they can comply with mandatory waiting periods. We defend our clinics, and once and awhile, we march. We blog. We write about our experiences and we try and normalize abortion; the word and the procedure. And, at least in the U.S., I think, we are losing. Everyday another state enacts another anti-choice measure. Everyday it gets just a little bit harder to get an abortion. Everyday another woman is forced to carry her pregnancy or seek an unsafe abortion.

So I wonder. I wonder if maybe we are doing it wrong. We are good people. All we want is for all women to have control and choice and respect. We are fighting the good fight; and yet, we are losing. So I have to ask, are we too nice? Would we be more successful if we were aggressive and violent like the anti’s? Would people start paying attention if we stopped being so nice? What if we put up billboards of women who died from botched unsafe abortions? What if we protested outside of anti-choice churches? What if we sent angry letters to priests and pastors and politicians? Would we stop losing? Would we start winning?

I don’t have the answer. I am not a violent person. I don’t condone violence. I abhor violence. But we are losing. Women are losing. Do we need to reconsider our tactics so that women can win? Is violence and aggression necessary to get the attention of the lawmakers? I love the quote about well-behaved women rarely making history. Are we being too well behaved? Are we going to be a mere sentence in a history book? The women who tried and failed because they were too well behaved? I abhor violence. But I would abhor a world where women were forced through their pregnancy even more. So. We have a choice. Between a rock and a hard place.


13 Responses to “Are We Too Nice?”

  1. ProChoiceGal June 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

    Maybe pro-choicers would be better off if we were more assertive, but we should never stoop down to the same level as anti-choicers. It may seem like they’re winning now, but in the long run, they will kill their own movement with their violence and aggression. The way I see it, the side of love and truth always wins in the long run.

  2. NewsCat_in_DC June 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    Some of the items mentioned: protesting churches and putting up billboards, I think would be a waste of time and resources. In specific cases there may be times that counter-protesting is a good move but in general I think to work the way we’d want it to work (to frighten away their protestors) I don’t think we have the stamina for such a scorched earth plan.

    I think it was Amanda Marcotte who might have said that anti-choice activists seem wholly focused on ABORTION IS EVIL to the point of not having much else in there lives. Meanwhile most pro-choice activists care about other issues in addition to access to abortion, and frankly, have lives to lead. It’s why you always see the SAME gang in front of the abortion clinics but the clinic escorts rotate.

    HOWEVER, that said I think pro-choice (pro-abortion rights) activists need to be a HELL of a lot pushier about lobbying. We could learn some lessons from the NRA about bullying members for support. The NRA is not at all above making sure even their legislative friends FEAR them (let alone their enemies). This is true even in states where Dems have a slim majority. The best our “friends” do is block bad legislation. We rarely have anything pro-active that is proposed, sponsored and passed.

  3. JeninCanada June 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    Violence is never the answer, but you’re right; maybe the pro-choicers ARE too ‘nice’. Maybe nice isn’t the right word. Passive? Passive fits. The antis are out there, on the news, in people’s faces, getting their message out. They’re violent and rude and the media loves it (except when someone actually gets hurt or killed.) A fundraiser is boring news though it’s a vitally necessary thing to do (in the States; I’m Canadian). Leters and phone calls don’t get the attention they deserve, email even less so. A sign with “This is what an Unsafe Abortion Looks Like!” and a picture of a bleeding/dying/dead woman on it seems crude, but may be more effective than numbers or statistics.

  4. Not Guilty June 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    Thanks for the feedback guys. I am trying to present an opposing viewpoint because I do feel like something has to change. While it is great that on an individual level, we are helping women, I think that helping all women better is important. I just wanted to throw some ideas out.

    I think that an important part of advancing the pro-choice movement is getting individuals to see how abortion affects them. This is always my philosophy when trying to get somebody to see my point of view. We know the (U.S.) stats: 1 in 3 women have an abortion. That means that chances are high that ever anti knows at least one woman. If they are willing/able to concede that it was okay for that woman, then the slippery slope works in our favour.

    I personally think pictures of women who have died from botched abortions does a lot to humanize the women who seek abortions. Along with the “abortion is evil” rhetoric, anti’s fail to see the woman who has an abortion. We have to make her human. We have to make them think of the women they love when they see her. Maybe then, they would understand how awful their tactics are.

    I definitely agree, a pro-choice lobby could do wonders for the movement. I suppose funding is the big issue. Lobbyists cost money, and it seems almost wasteful to pay lobbyists rather than spending money to help women access abortions. In theory, the pro-choice movement would need a wealthy benefactor. In the big picture, money spent on lobbyists might generate funds for the movement, or, even better, change so that it is cheaper to get an abortion. But in the meantime, do we “sacrifice” women along the way to pay for it? Thus is our dilemma. But I am glad that I’m able to get people to confront this problem and think about it. The anti’s will never go away, we just need to make it so they aren’t so loud.

  5. Dee June 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    Yes, we are too nice! I’ve been complaining about this for ages. People are taken back by how opinionated I am, and by my inability to shut up when this issue comes up in “polite coversation.” Most pro-choicers (and liberals in general, I find, but that’s a separate discussion) are really, really afraid of offending anyone by bringing up their beliefs in their social groups.

    First of all, let us learn from activists of yesteryear: they showed graphic photos of botched abortions. This is what is at stake.

    Also, not speaking up in any social arena for fear of offending amounts to passive consent to anti-choice drivel being spoken, adding to the perception that America is predominantly anti-choice.

    Finally, let’s call it like it is. I’ve encountered the following problem….amongst feminist pro-choice activists, of all people. There are religious people out there who support choice, let us be clear on that. But the fact of the matter remains that most religious texts in the major religions are highly vocal about the “proper” role of women. When we see BS in a religion, we should call it what it is. Instead, we never attack this dogma for fear of alienating our religious allies. Guess what? Religion is the primary (though not the only) source of the arguments against choice. We should question it as we would question any other argument, but we don’t.

    Yes, we are too nice, and it can and does lead to the further limitations of our reproductive rights.

  6. Danielle June 21, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    Definitely no billboards of maimed women who had illegal abortions-the antichoicers already exploit women

    but no more of this “agree to disagree.” No. I will not agree to let you continue pushing your misogynist view points that lead to the deaths of my fellow women.

  7. Shayna June 22, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    It’s a tough call – I hate the idea of my behavior being dictated by what I see as the tasteless and cruel tactics employed by the anti-choicers. Generally speaking I advocate taking the high road – however I do think that a weakness (and I’ve written about my own struggles in this area) is a tendency to be polite, and whisper the word abortion – to not firmly say that we are pro-choice out of respect for other — and yet, I don’t want to lower myself to their polarizing insanity. Pro Choice means exactly that – that we are for choice. That in itself is a wide spectrum, meaning that we do not push one specific answer on women – but the anti-choicers have one specific agenda to push. That makes it easier for them to target. I don’t think we can become more assertive without either losing respect for ourselves as humans, or pushing an agenda – which is the antithesis of pro-choice.

  8. Not Guilty June 22, 2010 at 9:33 am #

    It’s funny. As a Canadian, I consider myself to be very polite. Heck, every other country thinks we are polite. And we are. But when it comes to being pro-choice, I am unapologetic. Luckily, I rarely run into anti’s up here. I don’t go around announcing that I am pro-choice, but if the topic comes up, I am proud of it.

    I am glad I’ve sparked some debate. I agree, I was always taught to take the high ground, but I don’t think that by becoming more forceful we are necessarily stooping to their level. There is a fine line between being aggressive and not being a push-over. Currently, we are push-overs. Let’s stop that, but fall short of aggression.

    Danielle is right, the pictures would exploit women more. We need to get stats out then. X number of women died before abortion was legal, etc. I do think something has to change; losing this war is not acceptable. I guess the start is stopping with the politeness. It’s easy for me to say because a) I’m fairly vocal to begin with, and b) I live in Canada. But we need to stop worrying about the toes we step on. I am cautious, but only because I am just starting my career and I want to get into politics. So I try and be PC (as much as I hate it). Let’s start demanding respect.

  9. Dee June 22, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    One of the most powerful moments in the movement was when the pictures of botched abortions were shown. Is it exploitation? Yes, since those women are no longer around to give their consent. To make them a statistic, however, is more of an insult. I would vote to make their deaths matter by putting a face to the number(s) of women who die from botched abortions. By keeping them merely as a number, we are divorcing our cause from the victims we are trying to advocate for.

    Shayna above said: “I don’t think we can become more assertive without either losing respect for ourselves as humans, or pushing an agenda – which is the antithesis of pro-choice.”

    I don’t lose any respect for myself when I am vocal and assertive about being pro-choice. It’s not wrong to push an agenda when said agenda involves human rights. It’s not wrong to say that blacks deserve equal rights as whites, for example, and that’s an agenda. Pushing for reproductive choice as vocally and strongly as you can is not the antithesis of our pro-choice movement.

  10. Jameson June 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    Here’s the thing. The vast majority of anti-choicers will NEVER change their minds or stop opposing a woman’s right to abortion. Either they don’t want to bother wasting time to think about their beliefs and are too comfortable in vomiting up whatever garbage they were taught in an anti-choice environment (religious or not), or they don’t care and are too misogynistic to give a damn. So, the hell with them, as far as I’m concerned.

    We should focus more on people whose minds are ‘undecided’ or who admit to lack of knowledge about abortion in general. It would be far easier to persuade those people to support the right to abortion than it is to waste time and energy trying (in vain) to change an anti-choicer’s mind. (Just as it is futile for the antis to try and change our minds about being pro-choice. The assassination of Dr. Tiller, for instance, made me so hopping mad I almost wanted to have an abortion just to spite those ignorant hateful terrorists.)

    Absolutely, pro-choice people need to be more vocal about being pro-choice. Not everybody has to stand in a pro-choice rally or volunteer at clinics, but it can be a morale-booster just for someone to simply say “I support the right to choose/abortion/etc.” in the presence of others.

  11. Dee June 22, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    “Absolutely, pro-choice people need to be more vocal about being pro-choice. Not everybody has to stand in a pro-choice rally or volunteer at clinics, but it can be a morale-booster just for someone to simply say “I support the right to choose/abortion/etc.” in the presence of others.”

    That’s what I mean about being vocal. I know we won’t change an anti’s mind. What I’m complaining about is the silence of pro-choicers when the topic enters a public arena, whether this is Aunt Sue’s dinner table or a discussion anywhere in public. By being silent in the face of anti-choice rhetoric, we are giving our tacit approval to it, and those who might be inclined to support our movement will feel alone and silenced, as well. A lot of pro-choicers I’ve met are afraid of offending or raising a ruckus by expressing their views in such situations.

    As for changing the minds of anti-choicers, I know it won’t happen, but I won’t shut up till they do.

  12. Shayna June 23, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    Dee – When I say we should not push an agenda, I mean that being Pro-choice means not pushing the agenda of telling a woman that she should or should not have an abortion, and instead giving her the information to make up her own mind about it – Not that we should not continue to try to change the minds of the undecided to let women make that decision for themselves.

  13. Tinka the Anonymous Model July 24, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    To be quite honest, I have never thought of the pro-choice movement as passive, or “nice.” That just has never been my experience. I see what you’re saying though. I also think that using pictures of women would be demeaning and DEhumanizing on many different levels. What Shayna said seems to make the most sense.

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