The women and men in the pro-choice movement can be some of the most uplifting, wonderful, caring people that I have ever met. And most of the time, we are tirelessly patient with antis, political leaders and fence-sitters. The patience that we project can be inspiring and impressive, because, as a movement, somehow, WE have been tasked with always being the “reasonable ones.” We are the ones who double- and triple-edit our comments on blogs and in papers for tone, accuracy, and -isms (sexism, sizeism, racism, etc.). We are the ones who have to calmly and patiently walk through gauntlets of antis screaming and harassing women outside of clinics. We have to police ourselves constantly for any whiffs of “crazy.” Because we’ve been branded, we are always needing to prove ourselves.
But I’ve noticed that our patience is being worn thin. The constant pressure to be something other than human; to be the ones who are always logical, calm, cool and collected, is getting to us. We are starting to get tired. And in our tiredness, we are starting to go after the ones who are the closest to us: each other. On the blog, we consistently receive hate mail from antis (I simply do not understand how Steph handles it on a regular basis. I would go insane.) This is, at the very least, expected. But on some of our more recent posts, the hate mail was coming from other pro-choicers. Simply because we disagreed with something that was said by another pro-choicer. We did not intend to attack that person. In fact, we went to lengths to avoid that very thing. It backfired, and we are still feeling the sting.
Somehow, amongst ourselves, we have unintentionally created an environment where there we can’t disagree with each other or ask for help from each other. We will gladly band together against a common enemy, but we have ostracized our friends. Just a few days ago, two important women in our movement disagreed with each other publicly, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. I’m not going to link to articles, because that would be fanning the flames, but I have to admit that I am frustrated by this.
We are often forced to use up our compassion on those who would work against us. This is exhausting. I would suggest that when we find ourselves trying to be compassionate with each other, it’s the opposite. It’s fulfilling and rejuvenating. We should be critiquing each other and the movement on a regular basis. How else can we improve? How else can we become more effective? But we need to try to do it with respect and care. Sometimes we’ll be really good at this, and sometimes we’ll be really bad at it. There will be a learning curve, to be sure, but it would be great if we could get a place where we are more good than bad at it, so that we can redirect our energy elsewhere.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, but I feel like it’s becoming more common as more and more women’s rights are coming under fire. I’m begging that we stop and consider the fact that we are all tired. We are all tired of fighting for things that should be or already are legally our rights, we are tired of having to be patient with the other side, we are tired of reading hate mail, we are tired from the million other things that are happening in our daily lives. We are tired. But we have to remember that we are a family, and we will always be there for each other, even when we disagree or don’t particularly like some other person for the moment. And that is something special, that we need to cherish, especially when we are at our wits end and our most exhausted.