As a person who tends to engage with social issues most often on the internet, I have been privileged enough to avoid many opinions that make my blood boil unless I choose to confront them. But lounging and discussing feminist topics in Groupthink, Twitter, and other sites has been like taking a warm bubble-bath while my house burns down. In other words, I have felt both comfortable and cowardly, and engaging in justice-oriented "actions" that are no better than the slacktivism of a FB post asking for "likes" in order to promote a cause.
I justified my silence by telling myself that my line of work requires a lack of political affiliation, that I shouldn't engage with people who clearly won't listen to my opinion, and most importantly, that whatever I have to say won't make a difference - justifications that, even if there is a note to truth in them, are essentially bullshit. I live in Texas now, and over the past year have seen the effects of silence and not taking a stand before the shit hits the fan. My personal abilities to manage cognitive dissonance are currently tapped; there are anti-choice advocates everywhere. Brimming with self-righteous anger and a complete lack of uteri, there they stood and there I walked by them, constantly.
"Ignore them, don't make a scene" I whisper to myself as I walk by them. "You're going to make everyone uncomfortable."
But today, people were honking, they were HONKING THEIR APPROVAL! And for some reason, that honking snapped my remaining tether on wanting to be agreeable and comfortable and safe. Because at that moment, I realized I was uncomfortable, I was damned uncomfortable, there were ants under my skin and my heart was beating a samba, and it wasn't fair that theirs was not. And then a whey-faced, banner-wearing, concern-trolling puke made a mistake.
"M'am, would you like a pamphlet?"
I wish I'd been intelligently eloquent, that I made him rethink his beliefs, that he took off his banner and we skipped together into the sunset discussing plans for women's equality and a greater focus on women's health.
I wish I'd been snarky, asking: Will you be inserting it straight into my hoo-ha, as that seems to be your primary area of interest?
I wish I'd been a rhetorical tornado, twisting his words back in upon themselves until the entire argument went supernova and exploded into a billion rainbows.
What actually happened is that I sputtered "Fuck no, I don't want that. I don't want any more huge groups of men trying to force me to carry a clump of cells to term. Fuck off." And then, when he asked "You murder babies...a clump of cells!? - then, what am I?" At which point, I crackily yelled "You're a disgrace - TAKE A BIOLOGY CLASS!" andddddd started to cry. In the middle of the street, on my way to work. Years of WGS classes, feminist meet-ups, and consciousness-raising groups, turned outward into a weeping, blathering mess.
There are many things I'm not proud of today; that I didn't finish my conference proposals, that I pretended an iced latte was a meal, that I reused a cup from yesterday without washing it - but crying in the street in front of an incredibly uncomfortable anti-choice advocate? That ain't one of them*.
*I want to reiterate that my bit of proudness today does not erase my years of cowardly silence (in fact, in many ways it highlights them). I'm not looking for praise and I recognize that I have not been a great advocate for a pro-choice woman. I'm just trying to confront my mistakes, and reassess how I can engage with the pro-choice movement in a way that makes me proud and practically contributes to it.