Suggesting a new narrative beyond, “do millennials care about abortion?”

7 Jan

Structurally, almost every movement, organization, company, and individual is facing precisely the set of challenges the media continues to insist are “tearing apart” “the movement.” Just this morning the Morning Joe round-table, featuring the editor of Forbes Magazine discussing the front-page feature on “30 Under 30,” confronted this very issue, discussing the advantages those under 30 have in their familiarity with new technology. New technology and the internet, which even those of us under 30 but over 20 have a different relationship with than forthcoming generations, has changed the game in every way, on every level. Companies and organizations willing to evolve and take these new mediums seriously will succeed; the ones that aren’t will fail, or fall seriously behind. Across the board, people who spent decades working their way up the ladder resent “millenials” for swooping in and changing the game, their only “experience” that they were raised with and have an innate understanding of new communications mediums with which people a decade or two older struggle. This resentment is fair, understandable, and completely useless.

Because the white, straight, cis, economically advantaged women who head the pro-choice and feminist movement mainstream mainstays are the media’s go-tos, they have been allowed to frame the narrative of this “struggle.” That framework – the story that “millenials” are difficult, spoiled, absentee – has done greater damage than the reality of it could ever have done. In the unsettled years between 1990-2005, the mainstream pro-choice movement had the opportunity to get excited about emergent forms of communication, to embrace young people’s enthusiasm and integrate them, their work ethic, and most vitally, their very different attitudes about race, sexuality, sexual orientation, gender, and class structures into “the movement,” potentially creating, in its place, an actual, inclusive, very real movement which at present most of us would be on the inside of, rather than the outside. Instead, second-wave feminists bunkered down with their beliefs and ideas about what structures were best and necessary for the survival of their limited pro-choice goals. Some mostly white, mostly straight, mostly economically advantaged third-wavers joined them and were recognized and promoted above their peers. And forth-wavers – activists working within the reproductive justice framework and including people of many generations who were left out of “the movement” for decades – have joined forces to work outside of the system, where, frankly, shit is getting done.

“The movement” is a mess because its leaders were short-sighted. This is a shame. The fundraising structures they have in place, their decades of experience, their collective power would all be great assets to those of us coming up. But they aren’t comfortable sharing those things with a new movement they don’t recognize because they obstinately refused to look it in the eye for the almost four decades since the Hyde Amendment it spent gaining speed. You can’t turn your back on the ocean and be pissed off when a wave pulls you under, come up sputtering and tell a reporter that nature just won’t cooperate with you.

Instead of perpetuating the myth the young people are fracturing pro-choice movement, we’d like to see less lazy journalism and more investigation into stories that really matter. To make this easier for reporters, we’ve compiled some ideas:

  • What are the differences between the pro-choice framework and the reproductive justice framework and how do they impact every day activism?
  • Why are there so few people of color in visible leadership positions in the pro-choice movement?
  • Why are the leaders of NARAL, NOW, etc the “go-to” media spokespeople for our movement, and how can we change that?
  • Is there intergenerational tension in other social justice movements? What does this look like? How is it experienced by everyone, including people in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond?
  • How are people working outside established feminist and pro-choice legacy organizations to create change? How do people who work outside organizations make ends meet? What is their vision for social change?
  • How are the pro-choice and anti-abortion movements funded? How do they differ in how they spend  money? Are they invested in sustainability in ways that are different or similar to the pro-choice movement?

Enough with journalists pitting us against each other. Let’s start asking the questions that matter.

2 Responses to “Suggesting a new narrative beyond, “do millennials care about abortion?””

  1. LaurenMPH January 9, 2013 at 12:39 am #

    I love the questions you pose at the end of this great piece. Thank you!
    I’m 28, working full time in family planning research, and I agree with some of your points (there is more of a focus on social justice, for example, in our generation than say, in the 90’s.) However, overall I do think our fight is the same one: we all (old and young feminists) want access to safe, legal, affordable abortion.

    I want to point out Cecile Richards as someone who I think is a counter example to the leadership stereotype you describe. Yes she’s white and extremely powerful but I feel she makes effort to harness social media and use our generation’s humor (her joke about mad men during her 2012 DNC speech). You are right to ask where are the women of color leading the movement however. And I don’t know the answer to that.


  1. Daily Press Clips – January 7 | Trust Women - January 7, 2013

    […] piece by the Abortion Gang: “A new narrative beyond, do millennials care about […]

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