I realized this past month (once I left my like-minded, sex positive, wonderful feminist group of friends) that it is really hard for me to be around people who do not have the same values and ideas about abortion, gender, and sexuality as I do. As I left the group of women I surround myself with at school (and outside of school for that matter) I did not anticipate how different and uncomfortable I would feel in situations that challenged my core values and forced me to "defend" my position.
I traveled abroad for a week for holiday and my travel companions were two boys. Little did I know what the next 10 days would entail. I felt completely alone without my "backup," and unable to articulate to them what was wrong with statements like "that's so gay" or "when you say partner, you sound like a lesbian."
I am so used to talking about abortion, sex, masturbation, etc. with people who feel the same way, that I realized I was totally unprepared to have discussions with people who don't feel the same way, or simply DON'T KNOW.
It is this realization that reminded me, this is part of my "job or mission" as well. To be able to talk to people outside of my pro-choice, feminist group and hear what they have to say. To try and remain calm when I feel infuriated, and instead impart my knowledge in hopes that some of it sinks in and stays with them. It is enough... when you hear the words "I never thought about that" or "That's a good point. Now I'm not sure how I feel."
I realized I will not always be immersed in my safety net of women, because there is a world that exists outside of us. Which brings me to this past Thursday, when I attended a screening of abortion documentaries, in light of the upcoming anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The films were wonderful, and I felt at home with the other ladies in my program by my side, surrounded by people I didn't know, with their friends and partners, who had all gathered for the same cause: to continue the fight for abortion rights, to keep it safe, legal and accessible for every woman.
Obvious Child from Gillian Robespierre on Vimeo.
At the end of the films, one of the filmmakers talked about how important it is to continuously tell people how abortion happens to 1 in 3 women (which I already do) and how our fight is not over in face of bills like the Stupak Amendment, restrictions like waiting periods and parental notification laws and clinic violence (which I also do).
Then she said, "I know we don't always surround ourselves with people who have the same views on abortion..." and my friends and I looked at each other, eyes wide and mouths open, and said "Yes we do."
So, here is my long-winded message... are we just "preaching to to the choir?"
Is it necessary to step out of our comfort zones and mingle with people who are anti-choice? Who think abortion is a sin? Who think feminism has "destroyed" women? Who think "ego" is the reason trans people alter their bodies? Who think you choose to be gay?
All of these opinions I heard over my break from school, my separation from my friends and family who hold the same core values and who are my constant support group. I was alone and had to defend my and "our" position, and although I felt angry and like I couldn't get my words straight sometimes, for me, it was good practice to be faced with those opinions in stark contrast to my own and force the other person to question their values while forcing me to define mine.
In the end, I will most likely surround myself with other pro-choice, liberal people, mostly because I like talking to them and not always having to argue or defend my position :) But when possible, I think it is important to be able to articulate why we fight for abortion and sometimes, not always but sometimes, you will hear "I had never put myself in those shoes, or looked at it from the woman's perspective."
And once again, it is all worth it.
I am a woman, and I used to be one of those people. Due to a mixture of being molested by a family member as a child and having a Roman Catholic upbringing, I got a very warped view of sexuality, and women's sexuality in general. I was one of those "pro-life" people who thought girls who had pre-marital sex were "sluts", who thought girls who had abortions were "sluts" etc. I was so judgmental and never put myself in anyone else's shoes. I was, in many ways, a misogynist. Looking back, I realize a lot of it probably came from my loathing and fear of my own sexuality because of what had happened to me.ReplyDelete
What finally started to make me think more compassionately about the issue was finding out that people I knew, and whom I respected, had had abortions. I will never forget seeing a friend cry after I made a callous, nasty, and judgmental anti-abortion comment, and then having her tell me about her abortion experience. This was several years ago and I still ashamed about it.
Anyway, today I am pro-choice and respect and support a woman's right to choose the best choice for herself and her family. Abortion is such a multi-faceted issue, and I think that if people were not so black and white about "right" and "wrong" then there would be much more compassion regarding the whole experience.
Anyway, just wanted to let you know that some people will listen and open their minds to what you have to say, so what you say is important and worth saying.
Kristen, thanks so much for your comment. You're right that it's not always a lost cause! I think we just get tired and guarded because so many strangers take it upon themselves to "debate" with us the validity of our occupation whether we like it or not. I know what you mean, though, because I was raised in a very Catholic and very slut-shaming environment too, and am very thankful for the occasions and encounters that changed my mind over time.ReplyDelete
(Silky Laminaria, I know you were basically pro-choice from birth and so that part doesn't really sound familiar to you!)
I can totally understand getting guarded. I worked for years at an animal shelter that was open admission, i.e. a "kill" shelter, and when people would find out where I worked all they focused on was the euthanasias. They said all we did was "kill" animals and we were evil (never mind that for many of the animals, a humane euthanasia was a gift). I got so tired of people never realizing that we _loved_ animals, and that we were so much more than what they thought we were, and that we did so much to help animals! So sometimes there was an unconscious "us" against "them" mindset. You do get guarded and I think that's normal because otherwise I don't think you would be able to survive. I was proud to work at a shelter, and proud of what we did for the animals, but I was so tired of defending it!ReplyDelete
I still do private animal rescue (mostly rabbits), and every so often I change someone's mind about bringing their bunny in the house from outside in a hutch when they never considered a rabbit a house pet before, etc., and it really really helps to keep me going.
I am very grateful for the work you do.
Anyway, sorry this is so long! I really enjoy your blog, and hope someday to be a clinic escort.
Keep up the good work!
Kristen, wow, sounds like a lot of our experiences overlap. I'm doing some reading in my spare time about management and occupational issues in the abortion care field, and came across this article that, from reading just the intro, looks like it's really hitting it on the nose (for better or worse): http://www.jstor.org/pss/259134ReplyDelete
It's not about just abortion; sounds like it might be describing certain aspects of your shelter work, too.
I think I might post about it later, if I get around to finishing it.
Thank you! This past holiday I also kept to myself for lack of articulation when faced with prejudice statements. While I avoided heated confrontation and/or resistance - unlike most holidays when I do speak up - I still felt sad and lonely :(ReplyDelete
I am about as liberal as one can be, when it comes to abortion rights and gay rights....and I am an active member of a Catholic church, where my opinions are often in the minority, to put it lightly.ReplyDelete
I was once, like Kristen above, a pro-life teenager, but many of my opinions made a 180-degree turn as I matured. I am grateful to those who ventured outside their "comfort zone" to speak their mind, and I am living proof that sometimes hearts and minds CAN be won over.