Tag Archives: movement politics

How to find a job in reproductive health

19 Aug

I have been lucky enough to have never had a real job. Yes I spent many a summer among six year olds, but I have never worked for a for-profit company, never stood behind a counter, never taken someone’s order.   Over the past five years I have been even luckier to almost exclusively work for organizations dedicated to reproductive health and rights.  Now after landing my first job out of grad school, the first gig I plan to stay in for more than two years, it seemed about time to put all the knowledge I have garnered to work for someone else.

1. Don’t be afraid of networking.  Just because you’re a self-righteous crusader doesn’t mean a job will magically fall into your lap.  Lots of people do lots of incredible things.  It’s who you know AND what you know.  Possibly in that order, but you need both.

2. Know what you’re talking about.  And I don’t mean be able to recite Gonorrhea symptoms or what TRAP stands for.  I mean stay on top of the organizations and issues you love EVERY DAY.  Get on Twitter and Facebook and RHReality Check and set-up a Google Reader to guide you through the rest of that internet thing.  Perhaps most importantly read feminist theory, old and new.  It’ll inspire you.  Don’t forget books.

3. Find a mentor, or two.  Sometimes it takes someone else believing you for you to believe in yourself.  Sometimes you just need to talk to someone older and wiser who understands how badly you want to change the world.  And when you find a mentor, don’t let them go.

4. Keep your activist friends and make new ones.  Not everyone you love is going to care about vaginas the way you do, but there will be days when you’ll want to pick-up the phone and cry over a Governor’s veto override or celebrate the IOM. It’s essential to have people on speed dial for these pivotal moments.

5. Grapple with and respect the complexities of reproductive health, justice, and rights.  Analyze yourself and where you fit into these intersections.  Where you are an ally, an activist, and perhaps most importantly inapplicable?

6. Obtain marketable skills.  Bleeding heart activist does not go on a resume but is still a requirement for the job.  Find hard skills like communications, development, clinical, legal, and research that excite you and pursue them.  Volunteering is a great way to do this, and can often lead to a job.  Remember, there needs to be a reason to hire you.

7. Judge what you’re up against.  Sex is, well, sexy.  Lots of people leave undergrad thinking they are the first to bring condoms or Take Back the Night to their campus.  You’re not.

8. Be nice.  If I could give anyone one piece of advice it would be this.  This planet is small, your city/town is smaller, our universe, minuscule.  People will remember you and they will show-up when you least expect them, so be nice.

9. Fear not grunt work.   If you do a good job with copying they will give you fun stuff to do, I promise.  It just might take a year or three… but we all must suffer through maintaining calendars and wrangling space phones, no matter how smart or passionate or deserving you are.  At least one day you might take pity on an intern and order a shredding truck instead of making her/him do it by hand.

10. Remember the economy sucks and do not give-up!  I too worked outside of reproductive health but I came back to it within two years and you can too!  Do not forget that there are relevant skills that you can gather outside the field to help you land that perfect position.


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.

How to Better Fund A Pro-Choice Movement

3 May

A guest post by Sarah Erdreich and Rachel Joy Larris.

Several weeks ago, two of the major organizations devoted to protecting women’s reproductive rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood, along with a host of other civil rights organizations, brought thousands of people to Capitol Hill to lobby Senators and Congressmen on reproductive rights. (There was also a rally, featuring speeches from senators Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer, and celebrities like Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.)

NARAL’s supporters were given a packet of information on HR. 3 and the bill to defund Planned Parenthood. However, they were not directed to lobby Republicans, or given information about where to find Republican lawmakers; instead, supporters—many of whom came from across the country—were told if they wanted to talk to Republican lawmakers that was up to them, but NARAL wasn’t going to send them into the “lion’s den.”

As for the Democratic representatives, even the offices of ardent pro-choice supporters like Ohio’s Betty Sutton and Virginia’s Jim Moran had no idea it was a pro-choice lobby day. Other offices were aware of this, and had appointments with constituents who traveled from far away. But supporters were not directed to Harry Reid’s office, and were not told to specifically mention the issue of Medicaid coverage of abortions in the District of Columbia. This was an issue that DC’s Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton knew might become a bargaining chip in the federal budget standoff, even if Harry Reid said he was standing firm for Planned Parenthood’s funding.

How much the actual lobby day and rally influenced the eventual outcome is unclear, though it was obvious that the supporters brought a great deal of energy and passion to the day. But as we reflect on our own experiences of the lobbying and the rally, it’s hard not to feel a bit disillusioned, both with the Democratic Party and the current strategies used by the major national pro-choice organizations. Too often, Democratic politicians sacrifice their pro-choice constituents’ interests—but this outcome is made possible because the current strategy of growing pro-choice political power isn’t working. While the majority of the country does not want abortion to become illegal, anti-choice politicians feel more allegiance to their constituency than pro-choice politicians. This is not simply a fault of individual politicians. It is an artifact of how the pro-choice political community does its organizing work: from the top down.

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