Culture 10 June 2019
As abortion bans and restrictions sweep across the nation, the word abortion has taken on a life of its own, inspiring vitriol wherever it is mentioned, but that isn't stopping women from taking a stand and reminding everyone who these bans will be affecting down on the ground.
Even these celebrities are stepping up and taking on this political movement. Though you may not always associate celebrity with political activism, these women are using their public platforms to make a difference.
Alyssa Milano, a staunch feminist and prominent activist, was one of the first to speak out. However, she wasn't necessarily the most successful. Earlier this month, in response to Georgia's anti-abortion legislation passing, Alyssa Milano called upon the women of Twitter to unite under a shared banner: a sex strike, stating "if our choices are denied, so are yours." It did not take long for the Twitter community to completely shut this idea down; it is heteronormative, trans-exclusionary and more than anything else it completely commodifies women's sex in exchange for something that should be an absolute right (bodily autonomy). Denying men sex is not going to get them to listen, and it certainly won't get them to support abortion.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other women who are also championing the pro-choice cause but with a bit more tact than Milano. Many of them are doing so simply by sharing their own experiences and saying "Hey, abortion is here to stay, because we are going to fight for it." A sex strike may not solve the abortion problem, but maybe these women's stories will.
Busy Philipps, of "Dawson's Creek" and "Cougar Town," opened her late-night show, "Busy Tonight" with an emotional discussion of abortion, but she could not have known the fledgling movement that it would ignite. She begins by bringing up the risks that these abortion bans pose for women in general, but things quickly turn personal. "Maybe you're sitting there thinking, ' I don't know a woman who would have an abortion.' Well, you know me." And that simple three-word-phrase lit up: #YouKnowMe.
Since then, women have come forward in droves to share their stories and show the world just how common abortion is. Philips did not disclose many details of her own procedure, other than it occurring at the age of 15, but the simple fact that she, in a very visible setting, is sharing that she has had an abortion makes a huge difference. And as more women continue share their stories the conversation surrounding abortion is becoming suffused with new life. A necessary step on the way towards assuring the right of bodily autonomy for all people. As with any debate as deeply divided as this, certain terms, phrases or ideas can become more than themselves. As though the word itself represents all that is evil in this world to some people. But the women who actually need access to it get forgotten, turned into statistics or sob stories. The people giving voice to these issues are working to reverse this process and remind the world that abortion is more than what anti-choice advocates make it out to be. Abortion could be a woman who is able to attend college because she didn't have to pay for a child. It could be your second cousin who terminated a pregnancy due to fetal non-viability. It could be you.
Jameela Jamil, actress and body-positive advocate, came forward with her own abortion experience and chose to focus on her lack of regret and the reasoning behind her choice. Some people still see abortion as a monster that will leave a woman full of remorse, but each and every woman has a unique response to the experience. She tweeted that her choice to have the procedure was "the best decision I have ever made. Both for me, and for the baby I don't want, and wasn't ready for, emotionally, psychologically and financially." Jamil's unabashed acknowledgment of her freedom to have an abortion is a refreshing positive affirmation in an often bitter discussion.
Ashley Judd also shared her story on Instagram and Twitter succinctly stating "Raped at 30, I terminated the pregnancy. #youknowme." These posts came almost immediately after the Alabama ban was passed, and she specifically mentioned that "the rapist would have had paternity rights," as would be the case under the regulations of the Alabama ban. Though no other official reference is mentioned, at any rate, the message is clear: Judd is not ashamed of her procedure and she wants the world to know about it.
One of the most poignant stories shared was from earlier this month by actress and model, Milla Jovovich. She took to Instagram to post the story of her emergency abortion and protest these new incredibly restrictive bans. She described the event as "horrific," after going into preterm labor she was informed she would have to remain awake for the entire procedure. This experience was horrific enough for Jovovich, but she also pointed out that under the new bans "women might have to face abortions in even worse conditions." The piercing truth of this statement paints a haunting image of the future, but the women who are standing out may be changing that future.
Though these women have different perspectives on their abortions, they are united by the belief that our society needs to be talking about these stories. People need to know that there are living, breathing people that will, or would have been, affected by such strict abortion bans. This movement is about community, shared trauma and giving women an opportunity to make themselves known and bring attention to the pervasiveness of their struggle. #YouKnowMe is giving space for women to show the world just how common this simple medical procedure truly is. Celebrities, neighbors, friends and every woman in between are using this hashtag to empower themselves and shut down the abortion stigma.
Here at SWAAY we are all about women owning the conversation and that is exactly what #YouKnowMe means. If you have a personal story about abortion, we want to encourage you to use this safe space to share it. This is a community of empowerment, and you will always be supported.
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Starting with a little background, I am an anti-bullying advocate and have recently graduated from The Parent Leadership Training Institute, where as part of our studies we were asked to come up with a community project close to our hearts and put it into action. My cause was bullying, and I began a blog and Facebook page to address issues pertaining to all forms of bullying. Implementing this project was followed by a thre- minute speech to my peers, and, after all this, here is what I have learned about bullying.
Bullying makes people feel bad about themselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and even physical symptoms. The repercussions of bullying can cause people to miss school or work as well as countless other negative side effects.
I have been bullied both at school and at work, and I know of others who have suffered the same plight. It is not fun!
My first bullying experience was in seventh grade as a young teen. There was a group of three "mean girls" who harassed me and, I later found out, several of my friends; they thought it was funny to pick on others about their clothes, their looks or whatever else they could come up with (who knows). It felt awful at the time. Supposedly, I was chosen to get picked on because they claimed I bought my clothes at the Goodwill. That wasn't true, but really who cares? Why they were picking on me was never really the point. Luckily, after a while, the meanies went on to the next victim(s) like a never-ending cycle. I tend to think once a bully, always a bully, which goes to show how good a lifestyle that is, because those "mean girls" never amounted to much. In hindsight, I feel sorry for them. Watch the movie The Gift if you're really curious about what happens to bullies when they grow up.
And bullying was not just an issue when I was a teen, since then nothing much has changed. My own nephew was bullied in eighth grade, and he recently talked to me in depth about of how the bullying took a toll on him. Especially because I had the same experience, I could relate to him in ways that some others couldn't. Like reliving my own memories, I was incredibly broken up to hear how it made him feel.
Even worse than that, bullying does not end in the school yard. Employees are being bullied on the job at an alarming rate. When you are bullied on the job as an adult, it taken an even bigger toll. Further it doesn't just go away like those middle school "mean girls." Unless you can quit your job, you might just be stuck. There are all kinds of physical symptoms, stomach pains, migraines and even panic attacks. Beyond the physical, people's mental and emotional state is extremely sensitive to bullying, and as a result work performance might suffer. Furthermore, it might feel like there is no recourse, no one to believe you. You can hope that the HR Department is willing to listen and do something about it, but the whole process can be so disheartening. And in the hierarchical corporate environment, sometimes the bully seems to get ahead and you are left lagging behind in a subservient position. This is what happened to me as a victim of workplace bullying. It started with me being told by a co-worker that my boss was following me to the bathroom, staring down the hall whenever I left my desk to make sure I came right back to my seat. Then it was standing over me as I typed, ordering me to get in a car with them, not allowing me to sit somewhere if it wasn't within their sight. The list of offenses could go on endlessly. There were times I felt like I couldn't breathe. And then, the bully torturing me got a promotion. Like the character of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, the classic bully is revered by her peers, despite the fact that all of her employees are terrified of her. Yet, she is in a role of high stature and praised as a bully. We live in a culture that is not only complacent in the existence of bullies, but one that actively allows them to thrive.
It makes you realize how unfair life can be. Of course, no one said that life would be fair; maybe you just assumed that bad people would not get ahead. But, they do. Even now, I cannot help but to shake my head in disbelief. I often wonder what makes a person feel the need to laud their power over another. Are they insecure? Were they bullied themselves? They must feel bad about themselves in some way? Do they feel the need to do this to make themselves look good? Whatever the reason, it certainly isn't nice at all. I have found myself at different times in my life standing up for people who have been bullied around me. And I certainly do not allow anyone to treat me in any way that I find disrespectful. I truly believe in karma, and I tell myself that at some point in time, the bullies will get it back in some way. I have seen it happen, and in the meantime, I just say to myself "What goes around, comes around."
Bullying shows no sign of slowing down, and in this day and age, it's even worse than I have experienced in the past. Cyber bulling, rumors, fist fights, knifes, guns and other forms of both mental and physical cruelty, it truly sickens me. I know that I cannot save everyone, but I try to be an advocate as much as possible and encourage others to do so as well. NO ONE SHOULD BULLIED! It is disgraceful to say the least. You should always practice grace as much as you can. With every person who chooses to do so, the world gets a little bit better. I will be writing more on this topic on a regular basis; I feel it helps to talk about this subject aloud and spread the word. and, if nothing else, be kind.