Thursday, September 8, 2011

Judging a book by its cover calling the kettle black

Several years ago, in my pre-Abortioneer life, I was working at a PR firm, rocking blazers and long, sleek, painstakingly straightened hair. And fancy-me mentioned to my cubicle-mate in passing, that I was a fiercly pro-choice feminist. "You are?!" she replied incredulously. "You...don't really look like one. I'm really happy that you are, but I just didn't expect it," as though that were a compliment. I bought a "This is what a feminist looks like" shirt shortly after. In the years since my career change, I've taken to looking a little more crunchy, but I'm still aware of how I'm treated a little bit differently (in the abortion community and out) when my hair is flat ironed or when I have mascara on.

I was at a fundraiser a few months ago, hair done and heels on, and I started chatting up a woman who I knew was pro-choice because, well, she wouldn't have been at the event if she weren't. Although she wasn't dressed much differently than I was, I immediately read her as someone who was the pretty face of choice--someone who was non-threatening to the antis and who was charming to the moneyed pro-choicers. However, once we got past pleasantries, the first words out of her mouth were, "I love events like this, but I wish everyone would stop goddamn dancing around the word 'abortion.' I've f*****g had it with people who pretend there's something wrong with it, and I'm not afraid to say it." So, yes, I was wrong.

I also recently met a woman who wanted to volunteer at my clinic, and she was polished, put-together, and poised. She projected an aura that said, "I know what's up, and also, I WILL help you out." My brain, however, translated it as, "We could never be friends." It wasn't just me, either--an established volunteer walked by, caught a glimpse of the new woman, and rolled her eyes. But I kept talking with the prospective volunteer, and whether or not we would be BFF was irrelevant--she was one of the most articulate, observant, passionate Abortioneers I've ever met. She acknowledged her privilege and recounted her experiences, and openly discussed where she fell short as well as where her passion lay.

Despite the fact that I've been on both sides of the feminist discrimination fence, I'm still surprised at how tricky it is for all of us to navigate. I'm certainly not proud of it, either, but I'd rather call it as I see it, even if I'm not excepted. And I won't even get into how mind blowing it is to some people when they meet a pro-choice male feminist.

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