Written by TH
In response to the previous blog post:
When I hear that young people aren’t motivated to be active in reproductive justice, it hurts me. Not like a “No, no, no! That’s wrong! It hurts my feelings!” sort of way. In a deep-down, soul bruising sort of way. It hurts just like any other overarching statement about a group of people hurts, especially those that you know not to be true. It hurts the way it hurts to hear, “Feminists are crazy man haters.” And it doesn’t make it hurt less to hear “exceptions” added. That’s just “Feminists are crazy man hater. I mean, not you, you’re cool.” And even if the end point is “how do we change it”, the premise on which the call for change is based is still hurtful and flawed. It’s, “How do we make feminists not hate men?”
It hurts me to even have to write this piece. Because this is a tiresome story. I’m 32, so I fall about right in the middle of the 20-40 age range. I’ve been active in a wide range of reproductive rights/health/justice movements since about age 15. And the whole time I’ve been hearing some version of this story. “Young people aren’t interested/motivated/active. Young people are apathetic/complacent/lazy/unaware. Young people have no idea what we fought for! Young people are throwing it all away!” Older people have been writing this story, and young people have been writing this rebuttal, for years. How much energy has been taken up by this? I feel guilty for even using up my brain space to write this, because right now, I have a stack of (RJ activism) work to do. Just like I do every day. And yet I feel as though I’ve been called to the carpet to, once again, defend us kids. But this isn’t just me – I’m not an exception. I’m part of a pretty huge group.
We’re blogging and reporting and researching and going to medical school and becoming midwives and testifying before legislatures. We’re talking and talking and talking, to anyone who will listen. In schools, in churches, online, in bars, in our hair salons, in our homes. And we’ve been talking. We’ve been talking since the days we were passing around battered copies of Our Bodies, Our Selves in high school. Since we were hand inking zines and being Geurilla Girls and demanding equal rights for LGBTQ folks and condoms in our high schools. We’ve talked about our bodies, our abortions, our births, our queerness, our rapes, our joys, our traumas, our rights, and our struggles. We’ve made music and art, written uncountable words, spoken innumerable truths to power. And yet, still.
Still we are faced with stereotypes, even from our allies. When I read the stereotype that young people are complacent and not interested in defending our rights, because we’re too busy going to yoga and checking our Facebook, all at once I feel devastated, angry, and defeated. When I hear that young people are complacent and not motivated, and have been sleeping as our rights are whittled away because we have been lulled into a sense of peace by having “access” to legal abortion all our lives, I feel like I’m being gaslighted. I mean, I just want to shout, “What the hell? Who do you think is running all of these blogs? Who is organizing protests? Who is donating to Planned Parenthood? Who is telling all their friends (yes, through Facebook) that there is a problem? Who is doing the current research? Who is lobbying? Who has been responsible for the fact that 7 states (and D.C.) now allow gay marriage, and another 10 allow civil unions or domestic partnerships?” People between the ages of 20 and 40! If older people don’t see that, then I implore them to look more closely.
In the last post, Servalbear wrote that almost all of their 20-40 friends are activists, and they tell Servalbear that they are disappointed in the apathy they see in their friends. I don’t know how large the sample size is, but as someone in that age range who considers herself to be Servalbear’s friend, I am decidedly not disappointed in the apathy I see in my friends, or my generation. Yes, I’m disappointed in a lot of things about my fellow citizens as a whole, regardless of age, race, gender, or class. But calling out an age group is just as offensive as calling out a race or gender.
I, too, worry about the future of this country. But not because I don’t think there are enough young people with “fire in their bellies” to continue to do the work. More because I think so many powerful people in the older generations have gone a bit bonkers – and I’m still aware that their numbers are greater than ours (relevant in terms of voting), and that by the sheer fact of age and circumstance and a good economy for much of their lives, have more money to donate to political causes and lobbying efforts. And as much as I love a good peaceful protest march, I am also savvy enough to know that, in politics today, 500 thousand people on the steps of the Capitol screaming for reproductive justice isn’t nearly as motivating to politicians as one ultra-conservative zealot writing a check with a whole lot of zeros. And this doesn’t even take into account the daily struggles of young people’s lives today; terrible economy, crippling student loans, lack of job prospects, layoffs, lack of quality affordable childcare, etc. Just dealing with these things every day is enough to make a person exhausted.
And we are. But we’re still getting up every day and working on these issues. Even when it’s hard. Even when I think I just can’t do it anymore (which happens on a fairly regular basis). Even when I think I can never combat their money and their power and their fervency. Even when we’re shut out and ignored and spoken-over in the spaces created by older activists. Some days are harder than others. Some days we have to hold each other up. But on those days in particular, I notice that when there are this many people holding you up, you just can’t fall.