You talkin’ to me?

While the March for Women’s lives generated some media coverage this week (though not nearly enough—punks!), what Feministing found interesting were several stories preceding the March that supposedly focused on young women’s participation in the event.
In a 4/24/04 Washington Post article, “For Abortion Rights, a Changing of the Guard,” young women involved with the March are shown to be middle-of-the-road morons who are trying to separate themselves from the “traditional” feminist movement.
The article quotes a Vassar woman who identifies as “very pro-choice,” but believes in restricting in late-term abortion, as well as a 22 year-old woman who thinks parental-notification requirements are a necessity. (Though she admits she would have been pissed to have to tell her parents when she had her abortions.)
FYI, most minors do tell their parents. And I really love how this chick doesn’t even consider incest as maybe throwing a wrench in her logic. Ugh.
Perhaps my favorite mini-profile in the article though, is that of 24 year-old Grayson Crosby, named one of the top 30 abortion rights advocates under 30 by Choice USA:
Throughout her four years at the University of Florida she heard conversations that convinced her of something previous generations didn’t talk about: Human beings are hard-wired to create life and instinctively repulsed by the idea of destroying it, even when that’s the right thing to do.
I’m sorry, but you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. This chick is a top abortion rights advocate? If that’s really the case, we’re in some serious trouble.
While Washington Post writer Laura Sessions Stepp is right on to point out that “while veteran activists like Eleanor Smeal and Gloria Steinem host a $250-per-person cocktail reception…(while) the younger ones will be in conference rooms at the Omni Shoreman,” and that there’s a lack of space for younger voices, her implication that these several women somehow represent young feminism is appalling.
Stepp also writes:
Another characteristic of this generation, which some young feminists believe to be crucial to their long-term success, is the ease with which young women and young men relate to each other. Increasingly, women say men should be notified when their girlfriends or wives get pregnant and consulted about the decision to proceed with the birth or abort—a concept of inclusion anathema to earlier activists.
Oh, I get it; these new feminists like men. Cause everyone knows that old feminists think they have cooties. And excuse me, but where are Stepp’s stats on this “women think men should be notified” crap? So if you’re a minor you have to tell your parents, and if you’re an adult, you’re still not responsible enough to make your own decisions? Again, ugh.
A 4/24/04 piece in The New York Times is a bit better, focusing on the diversity in leadership among young feminists. However, like the Washington Post article, it makes younger women look like political underperformers. Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-choice American, says in the piece that young women “assume rights,” and “don’t feel a sense of urgency.” Well, this may be true for some, but I do believe I saw a shit-load of young faces on Sunday.
The idea that young women are complacent or too moderate on the issues is insulting. The public just doesn’t want to see radical young women. How much coverage have the Riot Grrrls gotten lately? It makes everyone feel a lot safer if the new crop of feminists are media- and men-friendly.
What young feminists are really doing is being as inclusive as possible, broadening the definition of feminism to include people of all backgrounds and varied beliefs. But we are most certainly not copping out on core principles to get there, no matter what the media’s pre-conceived notions of “old” and “new” feminism are.

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  1. Posted April 30, 2004 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    As I pointed out in my blog, the question about men was a hypothetical one: Should men be notified when their wife or girlfriend is pregnant? When a hypothetical question is asked, it tends to get answered in personal terms. The questioner was essentially asking: If you were pregnant, would you tell your boyfriend or husband? If the question has been “Should the law require a woman to tell the man who impregnated her?” or even a still hypothetical “Should you tell a man who got you pregnant in a one night stand?” much different answers would have been the result.

  2. Jessica
    Posted April 30, 2004 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I think that the problem was the way the piece was worded; it wasn’t put forth as a personal belief, but instead a differentiating factor between older and younger feminists.

  3. Grayson
    Posted May 19, 2004 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    As one of the chicks who has been considered a top abortion rights advocate and the subject of your “favorite” profile, I would just like to point out that the quote you singled out from the article was a conclusion written by the journalist and not actually said by me. If you would like to know more about why embracing a holistic and honest view of women’s experiences doesn’t mean that our movement is in “trouble”, I’d be happy to talk to you more about it. But if you want to jump on the bandwagon that says young women don’t “get” this movement and it’s better left to second-wavers who speak in better soundbytes, that’s an option as well.

  4. Jessica
    Posted May 19, 2004 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry that your opinions were taken out of context. I do think that embracing a holistic view of reproductive rights is key, but I don’t believe that giving credence to the idea that abortion is somehow ending a life is either true or strategically sound.
    I wasn’t trying to imply that young women don’t “get” this movement, but in fact argued that they do get it. (check out last paragrpah) It was the article that I had a problem with, and the way it portrayed young feminists as wishy-washy on the issues.
    Did you feel like the article was an accurate representation of younger feminists and women involved in reproductive rights? Was there anything in the piece you had a problem with? Just curious.

  5. Grayson
    Posted May 19, 2004 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your comments. I had a LOT of problems with the article, for many of the same reasons you did. I have been defensive about the particular piece that you singled out, though, because (like I mentioned before) I didn’t say it, and b) I feel like nobody who has critiqued the article has looked at any of the things that I actually DID say and were quoted in the article … but that’s my own defensiveness, and I apologize. After spending the majority of my life in the prochoice movement, it’s really hard for me to hear people question my leadership and commitment to this cause based on something I never said (and actually cried when I read!) …
    So yes, as you pointed out, the article in the Post makes young women not only look wishy-washy on the issues but look just plain naive … It’s really so unfortunate because I don’t believe that the young women interviewed are in favor of restrictions or are not as equally committed to preserving the legal right to abortion as the feminists that came before them. I think what they were trying to say is that the complexity of the “choice” issue has expanded by leaps and bounds since the days of Roe v. Wade, and that what a lot of young women (myself included) believe is that in order to take this issue back from the anti’s we need to acknowledge the hard questions that everyone has regarding not just abortion but all aspects of reproductive rights. Using late term abortion as an example – while we know that the primary reasons women have late term abortions are things like lack of resources, lack of access, discovery of fetal anomalies, and a host of other issues that the Bush administration never talks about when they portray women as casually deciding to terminate due to bikini season or whatever – while WE know this, a LOT of people have emotional reactions to the idea of late-term abortions – a LOT of people (including the women who are having late term abortions) do start to see a fetus as a life or a baby the further a woman is in her pregnancy – in addition to having been plagued by gruesome images and messages from the anti’s. So to respond to these moral dilemmas people have by saying “It’s not a baby it’s a fetus! If I want to have an abortion then I’m gonna!” (obviously a paraphrase but you see what I mean) doesn’t cut it for most people. As a longtime abortion counselor, I know that nobody marches into an abortion clinic demanding their constitutional right to an abortion – they walk in with an entire rainbow of emotions that can range from sadness to anger to shame to relief to empowerment to guilt, and unless we deal with the fact that most people – including women and men who’ve chosen abortion – wouldn’t claim the slogans that we as a movement have developed then WE will continue to look as extreme as the opposition who only sees the world in black and white … It’s why there’s been such a rise in groups like the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, because they play on these complex feelings that people have and then funnel those feelings into anti-choice activism. Obviously people are seeking a space to talk about abortion – about what it means in their lives, about why it made them feel like a bad person even though they identify as prochoice, about how they felt so relieved afterwards and couldn’t tell anybody for fear of appearing selfish and unacring – people want to tell these stories and process their experiences and if we can’t provide a more inclusive space for this conversation then thirty years from now the small handful of us who are still screaming “US out of my uterus” or whatever are going to seem pretty out of step -
    And so it’s disturbing to me that rather than write an article about these views – the views that say that the prochoice movement shouldn’t be afraid to tell our stories for fear of being targeted, the views that say that just because a woman feels sad about her abortion doesn’t mean she thinks it should be outlawed – Laura Stepp chose the easy route and portrayed us all as a bunch of moderate activists with no real sense of the political and social threats that restrictions on abortion pose. Sigh. This conversation is obviously longer than what I can post here, but if people want more info they should check out, an AMAZING resource for this sort of dialogue. Or they can email me directly at
    Thanks for listening.

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