In anticipation of the fortieth anniversary of Roe versus Wade, Planned Parenthood Federation of America commenced a campaign titled “Not in Her Shoes.” The tagline means that because we are not “in her shoes,” nobody should make health care decisions about another woman’s body. The organization also released a video on the website: “Moving Beyond Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice Labels: You’re Not ‘In Her Shoes.’” Under two minutes in duration, the video includes eye-catching and vibrant graphics. The woman narrator’s soothing voice asks viewers to stop using “labels” pro-choice and pro-life in favor of conversations “based on mutual respect and empathy.” The crux of the video’s argument is that abortion is too complex for dichotomous categories:
Most things in life aren’t simple. And that includes abortion… The truth is these labels limit the conversation and simply don’t reflect how people actually feel about abortion… Women don’t turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments. And they shouldn’t…When it comes down to it, we don’t know a woman’s specific situation. We’re not in her shoes. Continue reading
The 40th anniversary cover of Ms. Magazine shows Wonder Woman swooping in to help protesters stop the “war on women.” This cover resembles their original cover in ’72 when the Amazon “warrior princess” was rushing to bring peace and justice to the world[i], but this time there are mortals (albeit all women) who are standing up and taking action, too. Then, as now, Diana’s powers as well as her lasso of truth[ii] could come in handy in the movement for equality.
This cover reveals the importance of imagination and the desire for a powerful and (politically) attractive leader in protest movements. Activists have called upon the superhero imagination when dancing in Chile for educational reform or when Occupy Wall Street protestors created “Unemployment Man.” As Peter Drier pointed out in his essay on teaching about social movements, activism requires a bit of dreaming. If activists couldn’t imagine a better future, there would be no goals to strive for except policies and cultural aspects we’ve seen before. If only we had a modern day Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi endowed with magical abilities to help us accomplish those dreams.
I’d love to hear about the role of other superheroes in protest or see fan fiction in which superheroes interact with movements, so join Ms. and share others or your own lofty dreams to magically get success for a movement.
[i] It is notable that the Ms. cover of 2012 focuses narrowly on feminist causes, despite the U.S. entering its eleventh year of war in Afghanistan and continuing economic and racial inequality.
By Denis Bochkarev
Coverage of the Pussy Riot trial has been widespread. For those unfamiliar, the punk band/performance artists lip sank an original “punk prayer” entitled “Mother Mary, chase Putin out” from the alters of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Police arrested three of the five performing members in the days that followed and they have been imprisoned ever since. Their trial was nothing short of a judicial farce leaving many observers to describe the formality (and consequential sentencing) as “medieval.” The three members on trial were found guilty of “hooliganism to incite religious hatred” and will remain in prison for an additional nineteen months. While the sentence surprises no one familiar with the Russian judicial system, what comes next?
For someone who studies the contemporary women’s movement in North America, these are fascinating times of extreme backlash and new mobilizations. Take for instance my home state of Michigan where two female state representatives were censured and forbidden to speak on the house floor for equating anti-abortion legislation to rape (while invoking the word “vagina”) and suggesting that men need to be screened before obtaining vasectomies (see Lisa Leitz’s Daily Disruption post from June 27, 2012 for more on this).
Within days, Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, flew to the state capital and with the assistance of women legislators performed the monologues to a crowd of between 1,000 and 5,000 (depending on who did the estimating.) The crowd was full of vagina positive signs (two favorites were “Vaginas brought you into this world, Vaginas will vote you out” and “We didn’t come from your rib, you came from our vaginas.”) The event got national (liberal news) coverage from John Stewart and Rachel Maddow to the Huffington Post. Continue reading
In the battle over abortion and contraception, activists have a new favorite word: Vagina. When Michigan state Representative Lisa Brown used this anatomical term in the debates over Michigan Republican’s sweepingly pro-life legislative moves, she probably had no idea she was inspiring women to join Even Ensler’s bandwagon and produce their own Vagina Monologues, but inspire she did as you can see here in the coverage of a Lansing, MI protest that included a staging of that play and in this popular image found all over the web:
ACLU Michigan on the Vagina Controversy