I was expecting — and preparing — to get soaked to the bone today, but the Universe had other plans. So thanks for the sunshine, Universe! I brought my noisemaker this time, feeling a surge of primal anger as I approached the intersection. So I pulled it out and started spinning, making noise and displaying my sign for a full block before I finally took my position on the corner. I felt like a fucking fierce and furious warrior.
As I jumped down to my skivvies, handed out squawkers to my fellow pro-choicers, and turned up the Wumpscut playing in my right ear, the Man in the pro-life group slowly approached me. When pro-choicers didn’t make room for him immediately, he got a little more assertive. He asked me if he could speak with me for a few minutes, and I said “No, I think I’d rather not speak to you at all, thanks.” He asked again, and I said “No, I don’t want to talk to you.” So he talked to the back of my head, because apparently that’s exactly what the word no means. He started by apologizing for the fact that someone with him told me I’m disgusting, and then told me I’m a precious human being before all the honking from passing cars drowned him out and he returned to stand adjacent to the woman who had been laughing at me while I was being badgered. The same woman who told one of us a couple weeks ago that you only get raped if you provoke it. He never offered an apology to anyone else who accompanied me, or for anything else that’s been said to me and my friends (so apparently, he thinks I actually should be ashamed of myself and raped). The people who actually said these things to me and my friends never offered an apology, either. And he continued to stand there, wearing a sandwich board to shame women, and defending women who are there to do the same. I take all of these as indicators that he was only apologizing to make himself feel better when he finished reading my sign this week:
More Support Than Ever
We had so much support this week, from passersby, from cars passing by with their horns honking until half way up the next block, and from people giving us high fives, hugs, and thanks. I am actually surprised the media hasn’t caught onto what’s been going on yet, but what surprised me more was when I noticed someone giving us the middle finger from inside their passing car. I offered the same gesture. A few minutes later, the woman who was driving that car actually approached me on the sidewalk and told me that it was her, but she felt so bad that her gesture might have been misinterpreted as being against me and my friends. She said she meant to flip the bird at the pro-life demonstrators, but quickly realized that I probably thought it was for me. I told her I actually thought it was, because last week was so much more aggressive, and she said thank you for being out here. We hugged, and soon, people from across the street started coming all the way over to give us all a bunch of hugs. And it wasn’t long at all before my friend Gwen showed up on her bike to give me another hug this week. Have I mentioned I love hugs?
I was even receiving support from a small flood of encouraging and supportive messages before I even left my flat today. And yesterday. And with the sun out, we had so many people holding signs together on that corner, that we again obscured the pro-life presence entirely. And that wasn’t all. The pro-choice and anti-rape-culture effort was quite literally given super powers by hand crafted buttons (I took one home that says “If abortion is murder, then a blow job is cannibalism”), silk screen patches that say “Keep your politics out of my pussy!”, a locally produced pro-choice zine containing all sorts of content (including some from my blog — squea!), and a streamer that read “pro-choice” that was strung up between a lamp post and a small tree. We were able to pass out buttons, zines, and patches along with our high fives and hugs. To passersby and people in cars waiting at the red light. It’s super awesome and it felt amazing. I’m planning on printing out some quarter-page flyers myself, for next week. I’ve already got my template printed, and I’m heading toward a cheap photocopier either tomorrow or Monday.
What Will It Take?
I ask myself, in light of the fact that it took a full six weeks for anyone from the pro-life group to offer an apology of any sort, what will it take for the rest of them to finally consider offering an apology?
What will it take for any of them to acknowledge — let alone apologize for — wishing rape upon fellow human beings? For shaming women, such as the woman who started this whole weekly demonstration, who has since disappeared back into obscurity? For shaming me?
What will it take for the few of them who are at that intersection every Saturday to finally throw their signs in the garbage and stay home, instead of standing out there being spat on and sworn at by angry passersby (some of whom now join me with signs every Saturday)?
What will it take for our government to step in on the matter and settle the issue in favour of women’s rights to bodily autonomy, once and for all? While personhood is only legally recognized in Canada from the moment of birth, abortion is still not a legal right, so much as a de-criminalized set of procedures.
I guess I just have to keep returning to that intersection every Saturday at noon in the hopes of finding out.
About My Interview With Y57
Yesterday, I met with a representative of Y57, and once I started talking about why we began gathering there and for how long we have already been demonstrating, I couldn’t stop talking for the greater part of two hours. My belief is that youth are the most likely group to take up this cause (and many others), because so many adults in my age group or a few years older have children, jobs, post-secondary, and other reasons and excuses (of variable validity), that completely prevent their participation in peaceful protests (sometimes because the risk of arrest, no matter how unlikely, is not an option). I also shared with her that just as youth are the hope for the future of the abortion rights movement, they can also make some pretty serious errors from misinformation or lack of research (e.g., calling themselves “reproductive justice freedom fighters” without acknowledging where this terminology originates from), resulting in the exclusion of women of colour. And the abortion rights movement isn’t alone in that matter, as I talked about the racialization of the word slut, and the problem of exclusion the organizers of SlutWalk are facing (and ignoring anyway — this year and last year).
We talked about everything from slut-shaming and rape culture to body-policing and writing about feminist politics. I will post more about it under this writing (in the comments section) when I hear back about the finished writing from Y57. Here’s hoping we see some more young adult faces soon.