The Feministing Five: Emily Letts

Emily LettsAs we covered earlier last week, Emily Letts and her three minutes and 18 second video are empowering women by providing truthful and direct information about her abortion. Her video shares her story about how she implemented her reproductive freedom to make the choice that was best for her. Similar to other projects like Advocates for Youth 1 in 3 Campaign, Emily’s video helps to fill in the silence and the stigma about abortion with its upbeat honesty.

After watching the video, it came as no surprise to me that Emily works as a patient advocate at an abortion clinic in New Jersey: I was struck by how calmly she explained why and how she sought an abortion. Her tone is free of judgment (both in her video and in our interview) and you immediately understand that if Emily were to consult with you, she would want you to make the decision that is best for your circumstances. In all honesty, your interviewer paused before pressing “Play” (thinking about medical visits of any sort make me very nervous), but after watching, I felt grateful towards Emily for sharing her story with all of us.

Emily’s video shows us the vital importance of protecting reproductive justice for all who need it as well as the necessity to be able to discuss our sexuality, our agency over our bodies, and our choices without stigma, shame, fear, or guilt. Thank you Emily for your story, your video, and your advocacy.

Now without further ado, the Feministing Five with Emily Letts!

Suzanna Bobadilla: Thank you so much for speaking with us today. After what was sure a busy week, let’s check in–how are things going since your video has picked up?

Emily Letts: I’m doing really great. Thank you for asking. How am I doing since the video was picked up — I’m inspired, joyous, honored, full of respect for women in general. It’s been amazing and I had no idea that I was going to embark on this journey — that the Cosmo article was going to get picked up this intensely. But I am here as proof to tell you that it was worth it. All of it is worth it because of the intense conversations that I’m having with women about their experiences. No matter how they are feeling about them they are sharing them, which is all that I wanted for the video. And it’s happening which is just amazing!

SB: Speaking about those conversations, how can we talk about abortion in our communities, whether that’s on the macro level on the national stage or micro between close friends 

EL: I think the thing that I have learned most in this experience is that we need to stop talking — whatever it is that you are saying — and we need to start listening. It doesn’t matter if you are pro-choice, pro-life, pro-woman, pro-whatever, we all need to stop and let women come forward with their stories and we need to accept them and know that their stories are their own. How they are dealing with those stories is so wonderful and so unique for that individual woman. We cannot ask them to apologize for their life. Let’s meet them in the middle with arms wide open and thank them for sharing their stories before you say anything. It’s just listening. That is how we do that. I shared my three minute video — three minutes! It’s so small! — saying, “Hey, I’m okay with sharing stories, and I have a specific perspective about this that is not being heard.” And then the whole world is like, “I really want to share my story too.” It’s like the floodgates are open. It’s amazing, it’s so wonderful! It’s what we need to be doing — listening without judgement.

SB: Has there been a story that has really impacted you? 

EL: What I am most inspired by are the stories that are from women no matter how traumatic it is has been. For example, there was a woman who found herself unintendedly pregnant. The male involved and his entire family were telling her to abort the entire time. They were like, “You are ruining his life.” Yet when she went to bed at night, she realized that she wanted to carry to term. Even though that was very scary for her, she realized that was what she wanted to do. But what was so beautiful about her story in particular is that she reached out to me to thank me and to say that she understands what it is like going through an unintended pregnancy and be so terrified every step of the way. Though she chose parenting, she totally understands a woman who chose a different route because we are all different. That to me was just — oh, it made me want to cry.

SB: I’m curious to learn how you think your recent experience will help to inform your work as a patient advocate at a women’s health clinic. 

EL: I hear many stories everyday. I’m always inspired by the strength that women have going through the decision process, which is where I meet up with them. What has really taken me by surprise and moved me is hearing from women years after they have made up their mind, years after that unintended pregnancy. I have the stories of the women around me and my own personal life, but I’m not with all of these women for the rest of their lives learning how it went. And so women stepping forward and telling me about the result of their pregnancy situation is so remarkable. The hardships that women go through and the determination and strength — it has made me so proud to be a female to be honest.

SB: Is there anything that you would want to tell our readers that you might not have gotten a chance to say in other interviews? 

EL: Anyone woman who finds herself in a place of confusion, of doubt, or fear in terms of her reproductive system, I want her to know that you are not alone. You are absolutely not alone and there are so many wonderful organizations such as Backline that are for parenting, adoption, all sorts of reproductive health issues. They are a bunch of beautiful people who are there to listen to you, who are there to help guide you with whatever sexual information you need, and they are there to help you move forward whether that’s after the birth, years afterward, or whatever. It’s so important for women to know that there is help, that not everyone is there to shame you, and that this is only one step in your reproductive story.

SB: You are stranded on a desert island and you get to take with you one drink, one food, and one feminist. What do you pick? 

EL: My feminist be would Jenifer Groves, the executive director of the Cherry Hill Women’s Center. She has been the guiding light for so much of this. For my drink — this is boring but I’m going to say Gatorade and one food, I’m going to say hummus.

 

Suzanna Bobadilla is the interviews contributor for Feministing. She would like to tell Barbara Walters, “Happy Retirement! Does this mean you are now free for a margarita?”Suzy 1

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