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A Sex Strike Won't Reverse The Abortion Bans, But Maybe These Women's Stories Will

Culture

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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Career

Momtors: The New Wave of Mentors Helping New Moms Transition Back Into Careers

New parents re-entering the workforce are often juggling the tangible realities of daycare logistics, sleep deprivation, and a cascade of overwhelming work. No matter how parents build their family, they often struggle with the guilt of being split between home and work and not feeling exceptionally successful in either place.


Women building their families often face a set of challenges different from men. Those who have had children biologically may be navigating the world of pumping at work. Others might feel pulled in multiple directions when bringing a child into their home after adoption. Some women are trying to learn how to care for a newborn for the first time. New parents need all the help they can get with their transition.

Women returning to work after kids sometimes have to address comments such as:

"I didn't think you'd come back."

"You must feel so guilty."

"You missed a lot while you were out."

To counteract this difficult situation, women are finding mentors and making targeting connections. Parent mentors can help new moms address integrating their new life realities with work, finding resources within the organization and local community, and create connections with peers.

There's also an important role for parent mentors to play in discussing career trajectory. Traditionally, men who have families see more promotions compared to women with children. Knowing that having kids may represent a career setback for women, they may work with their mentors to create an action plan to "back on track" or to get recognized for their contributions as quickly as possible after returning to work.

Previously, in a bid to accommodate mothers transitioning back to work, corporate managers would make a show at lessoning the workload for newly returned mothers. This approach actually did more harm than good, as the mother's skills and ambitions were marginalized by these alleged "family friendly" policies, ultimately defining her for the workplace as a mother, rather than a person focused on career.

Today, this is changing. Some larger organizations, such as JP Morgan Chase, have structured mentorship programs that specifically target these issues and provide mentors for new parents. These programs match new parents navigating a transition back to work with volunteer mentors who are interested in helping and sponsoring moms. Mentors in the programs do not need to be moms, or even parents, themselves, but are passionate about making sure the opportunities are available.

It's just one other valuable way corporations are evolving when it comes to building quality relationships with their employees – and successfully retaining them, empowering women who face their own set of special barriers to career growth and leadership success.

Mentoring will always be a two way street. In ideal situations, both parties will benefit from the relationship. It's no different when women mentor working mothers getting back on track on the job. But there a few factors to consider when embracing this new form of mentorship

How to be a good Momtor?

Listen: For those mentoring a new parent, one of the best strategies to take is active listening. Be present and aware while the mentee shares their thoughts, repeat back what you hear in your own words, and acknowledge emotions. The returning mother is facing a range of emotions and potentially complicated situations, and the last thing she wants to hear is advice about how she should be feeling about the transition. Instead, be a sounding board for her feelings and issues with returning to work. Validate her concerns and provide a space where she can express herself without fear of retribution or bull-pen politics. This will allow the mentee a safe space to sort through her feelings and focus on her real challenges as a mother returning to work.

Share: Assure the mentee that they aren't alone, that other parents just like them are navigating the transition back to work. Provide a list of ways you've coped with the transition yourself, as well as your best parenting tips. Don't be afraid to discuss mothering skills as well as career skills. Work on creative solutions to the particular issues your mentee is facing in striking her new work/life balance.

Update Work Goals: A career-minded woman often faces a new reality once a new child enters the picture. Previous career goals may appear out of reach now that she has family responsibilities at home. Each mentee is affected by this differently, but good momtors help parents update her work goals and strategies for realizing them, explaining, where applicable, where the company is in a position to help them with their dreams either through continuing education support or specific training initiatives.

Being a role model for a working mother provides a support system, at work, that they can rely on just like the one they rely on at home with family and friends. Knowing they have someone in the office, who has knowledge about both being a mom and a career woman, will go a long way towards helping them make the transition successfully themselves.