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..

Another excerpt: “These leaders will retire in a decade or so. And what worries Keenan is that she just doesn’t see a passion among the post-Roe generation—at least, not among those on her side. This past January, when Keenan’s train pulled into Washington’s Union Station, a few blocks from the Capitol, she was greeted by a swarm of anti-abortion-rights activists.”

Second, the article reveals a distinct bias toward national-level organizing. Young women (and men, by the way) all over the country are involved in LOCAL efforts to protect choice. We escort on the weekends, talk to our friends about choice, give presentations in hostile classrooms, and use the internet to raise awareness and money for abortion funds.

One of my favorite moments being a prochoice activist this past year was my effort to change the story about Abby Johnson, the PP director in my town who quit and joined the Coalition for Life. That effort resulted in Texas Monthly and the Texas Observer interviewing me and writing stories that question Johnson’s story.

Then there was the great moment when we organized a prochoice rally on Texas A+M campus with a bunch of Aggies (shoutout to NOW aggies!) and community members. We were harrassed, but we loved every moment of standing up with our provocative signs (e.g. Aggies for choice, support planned parenthood).

Another great moment in reproductive activism was a couple months ago when a high school student in town contacted me about escorting at our local Planned Parenthood clinic. She was assigned a “service project” for her political science class and despite the extremely anti-choice nature of this town, she decided to volunteer at PP. While we were escorting together, she told me that she had to lie to her mom about where she was going, because her parents wouldn’t approve. She knew that she would have to present her project to her anti-choice class, but she didn’t care. She was willing to stand up for choice and for women.

Young women are doing amazing work for reproductive justice in this country. Which Newsweek and NARAL would know if they talked to us more.

Third, the article also brings up the question for me about what is counted as activism and which of our contributions are valued. If the only activism that counts is how many people donated to NARAL, well then young feminists without a lot of money are going to be absent from that conversation. And if the only thing that counts is showing up to a rally in D.C. which also takes money, young feminists may be absent there too. But what about those who made it to the rally against Stupak in December, the Bowl-a-thons for choice taking place across the country this week, or the online blogging, tweeting, and facebooking for reproductive rights?

It sucks to get criticism from people who are supposed to be on your side. It sucks even more to think that the hard work we do everyday doesn’t matter enough for us to be interviewed by Newsweek. Sign a petition here to get Newsweek to write a story including young women’s voices.

Posted on: April 19th, 2010 by Fair and Feminist 8 Comments

8 Responses

  1. NYCprochoiceMD says:

    Thank you, this is a great young feminist’s take on the Newsweek article. You’re right, it’s amusing that they didn’t to bother any young feminists, of whom there are plenty (and easy to find online!) And Nancy Keenan (& Sarah Kliff) failed to point out that while the anti-abortion movement is bankrolled by people with deep pockets, allowing hundreds of thousands to attend a rally in DC, all we have is our energy and time. You’re right, most young feminists can’t take a day off mid-week to go to DC for a rally. Young feminists don’t get paid $4000/month plus room & board in order to hassle people the way the anti-choicers do. Young feminists DID turn out around the country for NNAF’s bowl-athons, and although that effort was fabulous the amount of money raised pales in comparison to what the antis spend just on ads in the New York subways.

    And your observation that young feminists don’t have any jobs in the feminist establishment is quite astute. They need to train young women to take their place, rather than wring their hands about how there is nobody to replace them.

    We are passionate, but we are frankly outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outspent from every angle.

  2. Shelly says:

    Thank you for the comment, NYC! And yeah I agree–we are passionate but feminism does not have the deep pockets that the right does. We also end up in unpaid labor positions (e.g. interns, volunteers, bloggers) for the larger action groups, which shouldn’t be ignored.

  3. [...] in the reproductive rights movement. And you’ve also noticed the anger coming from a lot of awesome young women who are actually quite active on the issue. (Check out Shelby Knox’s twitter list [...]

  4. NARAL says:

    I’m Molly and I manage Blog for Choice for NARAL Pro-Choice America. Since our president, Nancy Keenan, is quoted in this story, and NARAL Pro-Choice America’s research on younger voters is referenced, Nancy posted a response to explain a bit more of the rationale behind this initiative. I hope you’ll take a moment to read what she has to say.

  5. [...] Myriad blog posts have drawn significant attention to the issue of younger people’s involvement in the pro-choice movement. For instance, this section of the article: [...]

  6. [...] Shelly, who blogs at Fair and Feminist, notes, If the only activism that counts is how many people donated to NARAL, well then young [...]

  7. Susan B. says:

    Can anyone tell me how to sign the petition WITHOUT tweeting? I’m not on Twitter and don’t want to be.

  8. Miles says:

    The views expressed by Nancy Keenan bring to mind this recent article: http://www.ssireview.org/opinion/entry/the_normative_problem_with_the_term_next_generation_leaders/

    …wonder how much of Keenan’s dim view of the next generation is informed by this kind of unconscious bias. Good work refuting her assertions – maybe someday the boomers will stop thinking of all the younger generations as a bunch of do-nothings. Or they’ll just get too old to care.

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