Why I Stay In The Movement

6 Jul

Herding activists closely resembles herding cats, or Members of Congress, except that activists are generally hungrier, more distracted, and less likely to be on drugs that help them maintain focus. As a result, our fearless leader and editor will frequently send us prompts for posts, with enthusiastic exclamation points and a spritely tone. We don’t always use them, but one has come up a few times and been gnawing at my edges lately: why do we stay in the movement?

The sidelines, where most Americans and many readers of this blog reside on the abortion issue, is both a perfectly fine and completely understandable place to be. Activists need and are grateful for your research, your thoughtfulness, your support and your engagement. For those of you who don’t know what it’s like to work actively in the prochoice and reproductive justice movements, let me tell you. It’s fucking exhausting.

On a personal level, we are frequently berated and disagreed with, politely and less politely. We receive hate mail. We get called terrible things and enthusiastically consigned to the depths of the belly of hell by sweet looking grandmothers. Even when people are polite, they frequently treat us as though we are simply misguided, and just looking to be saved. Many people stand in a middle-of-the-road place on the abortion issue – call it the safe-legal-rare place – and like to engage in what they think of as “interesting debate” and I have come to think of as “totally unnecessary haranguing by people with bare minimum information who think it is my damn job to educate them because they are too lazy to educate themselves and anyway they almost always want to bring God into it when the discussion doesn’t go their way.” The people who argue with us rarely feel the investment in their own cause that we feel in ours, and so are not worn out from endlessly repeating the same fucking arguments over. and over. again. The arguments are all new and fun to them; they think this is an interesting political game.

We don’t think this is a fucking game.

We are in this movement because we know – not believe, know, and have experienced firsthand – that people’s lives depend on it. Really, I can’t be any clearer: without access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive care, people die. People die from this lack every day, and we watch, and we can’t save them, and we hate ourselves, and then we turn back around and keep trying to save the ones we can. Lately, it’s been a losing battle. It sucks.

We are in this movement because we don’t need a weatherman to tell us which way the wind is blowing. Because many of our mainstream feminist forebearers thought that a little ground given was a compromise, a way to hang on to our basic rights, and we have seen that this is not the case. Every time we compromise we just draw a new line in the sand for governments and churches and antichoice crazy people to dance across, erase daintily behind them, and proceed on their merry way towards taking every single thing we have fought for. Five years ago it was absolutely inconceivable that abortion could be completely inaccessible in this great nation. Today that possibility is very real. And after abortion, they will come for birth control. And after birth control, well… “first, they came for abortion, and I said nothing, because I did not want an abortion…”

I stay in the movement because I believe the work I do every day makes it possible to get up in the morning. Because if I don’t, I failed.

I stay in the movement because if I don’t, one day I will wake up and I will need something – a pill, an abortion, a doctor who is adequately trained to provide comprehensive health care for women – and I will simply not be able to get it. I’m not rich and the work I do is never going to make me rich, and it is completely conceivable that if we fail, within the next decade, these things we think of as so basic will be available only to the very wealthy, the people the rules and regulations don’t apply to.

I stay in the movement because I believe, really believe, in freedom and independence and small government. These are things antichoicers think they have the market cornered on, but that’s just not true. They have the messaging down to a science, but much like squirrels are just rats with better PR, antichoice crap is just big government sitting in your damn medicine cabinet, walking you to your doctor’s office and telling you what you can and cannot do. And that is bullshit. My country, my body, my womb, bitch, and I will make what I believe are the best decisions for all three without your invasive surveillance, THANKS.

And then, probably most importantly, I stay in the movement for personal reasons. I stay in the movement because even when I don’t like the people I am working with, I respect them, and they almost always respect me. I stay in the movement because I am queer and loud and independent and frankly the religious right won’t have me. I stay in the movement because we drink and we laugh a lot and we create safe spaces that are also really a lot of fun, and they make me think that maybe people hate us because they’re just jealous that we’re so awesome.


6 Responses to “Why I Stay In The Movement”

  1. Arual July 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    This was an enlightening post, and I appreciate being able to see things from your point of view. I’ve never been pro-abortion, so I try to understand your standpoint as best I can from personal stories.

    I have a thought though: Without Roe v. Wade and the widespread availability of abortion and birth control, what, in your opinion, would be the consequences? In what way are/would women be effected if they no longer had access to birth control and abortion.

    You claim in your post that you “have experienced firsthand – that people’s lives depend on it” and that “without access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive care, people die.” I have never once heard a story of a woman dying from lack of an abortion or birth control. Would you mind expanding on your experience with this, and perhaps providing examples so I can be more informed? Thank you!

  2. Xeginy July 11, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    I think what the author meant by “without access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive care, people die” is that in the years before Roe v Wade, women were relying on underground abortion doctors, and it was not uncommon for a woman to get scammed and seriously injured or die from someone just looking to make a quick buck.

    When a woman does not have access to birth control or abortion, and is sexually active (married, for example) her only option at that point is just to keep having babies, which is physically very difficult on anybody’s body. Without access to reproductive care, women become (in the eyes of the medical community, the law, and society as a whole) just baby-making vessels who are expected to birth children until they physically cannot.

  3. RHP July 19, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    The Bridge Poem
    by Donna Kate Rushin

    I’ve had enough
    I’m sick of seeing and touching
    Both sides of things
    Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody
    Can talk to anybody
    Without me

    I explain my mother to my father
    my father to my little sister
    My little sister to my brother
    my brother to the white feminists
    The white feminists to the Black church folks
    the Black church folks to the ex-hippies
    the ex-hippies to the Black separatists
    the Black separatists to the artists
    the artists to my friends’ parents…

    I’ve got to explain myself
    To everybody

    I do more translating
    Than the Gawdamn U.N.

    Forget it
    I’m sick of it.

    I’m sick of filling in your gaps

    Sick of being your insurance against
    the isolation of your self-imposed limitations

    Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners

    Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches

    Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people

    Find another connection to the rest of the world
    Find something else to make you legitimate
    Find some other way to be political and hip

    I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
    Your manhood
    Your humanness

    I’m sick of reminding you not to
    Close off too tight for too long

    I’m sick of mediating with your worst self
    On behalf of your better selves

    I am sick
    Of having to remind you
    To breathe
    Before you suffocate
    Your own fool self

    Forget it
    Stretch or drown
    Evolve or die

    The bridge I must be
    Is the bridge to my own power
    I must translate
    My own fears
    My own weaknesses

    I must be the bridge to nowhere
    But my true self
    And then
    I will be useful

  4. shailey July 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    thank you for writing this. it is why I stay in the movement too


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