Monday, April 26, 2010

Young Reproductive Justice Activists Respond to Accusations of Complacency

Newsweek: Remember Roe? Young Activists Say They Never Forgot!, by Kate Dailey:
Sarah Kliff's article describing the graying of the abortion-rights movement has started a really smart, useful online discussion about the status of that movement. The piece, which published exclusive NARAL data about the opinions of young Americans regarding abortion, decried what NARAL leaders saw as both a decline in pro-abortion-rights sentiment and an absence of leadership among younger women. . . .

. . . NOW’s Erin Matson, who started an online petition to demand that NEWSWEEK interview younger pro-choice leaders, wrote that she  "shaking with anger." For while NARAL and other more established pro-choice groups may be headed by the so-called menopausal militia, there are still plenty of younger women involved with the cause. And to them, the oft-repeated meme that the movement lives and dies with boomers has them speaking out, once more, imploring to be heard and demanding to be counted. . . . The Pro-Choice Movement would fail without young women, by Jessica Valenti:

It would be bad enough if this sentiment was only repeated by the media - but it's one we've heard again and again from pro-choice leadership as well. That young women are apathetic, we take our rights "for granted," that we don't know how good we've got it. Well I'm sorry - but who do you think has been making your photocopies and volunteering and organizing for these big organizations all of these years?

The work of the mainstream pro-choice movement is built on younger women's labor - unpaid and underpaid - who do the majority of the grunt work but who are rarely recognized. And I don't know about you - but I'm sick of working so hard on behalf of a movement that continues to insist that we don't exist. . . .

Fair and Feminist: Dear Newsweek: Please interview some YOUNG FEMINISTS for your story about US!:

Newsweek published a story by Sarah Kliff about how young women and young feminists don’t care about reproductive rights. They interviewed  several young feminist activists NARAL president Nancy Keenan and offered a summary judgment that young women and young feminists aren’t interested in protecting reproductive rights.

Some awesome excerpts:

“Keenan considers herself part of the “postmenopausal militia,” a generation of baby-boomer activists now well into their 50s who grew up in an era of backroom abortions and fought passionately for legalization. Today they still run the major abortion-rights groups, including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women.”

First of all, this is a huge problem right there–that young feminists are kept out of leadership in large organizations, and then are criticized for lack of involvement. Hmmm. . . .

Click here for the original Newsweek story.

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If the problem we were dealing with was just that young people were complacent or apathetic about reproductive choice, and not the electorate in general, and in particular (if one wants to draw distinctions) women voters, the problem wouldn't be so bad.

Young adults as a whole tend to follow trends and respond to what is in the headlines more than older adults. That's one reason why they tend to vote disproportionally far more in presidential election years than in other years or for other races. The problem pro-choice advocates face is more that the electorate in general, and the pro-choice electorate in particular, does not put especially high importance on this issue relative to others, like the wars in the Middle East, or the economy.

Disinterest or lack of saliency among the electorate as a whole, and the pro-choice electorate overall in particular is a far greater one problem, but it's easier to write stories like this -- or these, it's getting to be almost a trend especially at Newsweek -- and benefit from the response that inevitably comes from young activists who immediately step up and say that actually young people are very supportive, very engaged, etc. We'd like to see them (Newsweek or those young activists) poll typical students on a major state University campus who have so much better reproductive health services available to them than those who are nonstudents of similar age and in the same or similar students and ask them how much they care about the disparity, and how much more they might be willing to have the government spend on services that would be of benefit to their nonstudent or nonenrolled peers.

While that wouldn't draw the kind of response that Newsweek is likely looking for, it might help identity a problem that we might get some more help in doing something about.

Posted by: southern students for choice-athens | Apr 30, 2010 7:43:22 AM

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