The Femisphere: Reproductive Rights Bloggers


Sites such as RH Reality Check and Abortion Gang have long comprised a thriving reproductive-rights blogosphere. In the past year, their numbers have swelled, as legions of pissed-off feminists take to the Internet to oppose the growing war on women’s reproductive rights.

One of the new kids on the repro-rights block is Keep your Boehner out of my Uterus, which started in early 2011 as an anonymous Tumblr in response to increasing anti-choice legislation and quickly amassed a following of thousands. After being interviewed for an article for Salon.com, Jessica Luther, the woman behind this fierce and furious Tumblr, has made her identity known and is ready to talk openly about her salvo against the War on Women and what she has learned along the way.

Ms. Blog: Why did you start Keep your Boehner out of my Uterus?

Jessica Luther: I started KYBOOMU back in February 2011 a couple of days after attending my first reproductive rights rally, The Walk for Choice. While there, my friend snapped a pic of someone holding a sign with those words. We laughed about how clever it was. And then over the next couple of days, both with friends here in Austin and in the community on [feminist blog] Shakesville, I joked about making a meme with Boehner and him saying all the things that anti-choicers actually believe.

I got incredibly encouragement from Shakesville commenters and so, having heard a bit about Tumblr, began my Boehner memes.

I thought it would simply stay memes and would fizzle out. But then the Pence Amendment came quickly to the fore, and here in Texas they were passing the forced ultrasound law, and I found myself starting to blog more generally about reproductive rights. And I haven’t gone back.

What has been the reception of the Tumblr so far?

Good, overall. The memes were really popular. The picture of Boehner inside the uterus (which two of my good friends made for me) has been reblogged thousands of times. My follower count continues to increase.

While I have received my fair share anti-choice hate mail (I allow people to send me anonymous messages), the largest area of contention on my blog has been the language I use to talk about the people involved in the reproductive rights movement. Tumblr is an interesting space in which to blog and I wasn’t quite prepared for it. When you blog something, it is very easy for someone else to reblog it. Things can move very quickly. I learned fast that the language I was using to discuss the battle over reproductive rights was not inclusive for people other than cis women. People would reblog things I wrote with commentary saying I was transphobic, that I was erasing trans* people from the reality of the reproductive rights struggle, that I just didn’t care. And I will admit–have admitted multiple times on KYBOOMU–that until I got onto Tumblr, I had never even considered how the language of the movement works to create insider/outsider groups, even if the laws and culture we are fighting have an impact on more than just cis women.

Over time, my language has evolved. Most of the time it is just me writing a note at the end of a blog post (either reblogging someone else’s commentary or linking to a post on another website) that reads “NB: More people than just cis women are affected by these laws.” Something simple.

I have had MAJOR arguments with other pro-choice advocates over my desire to be inclusive. I used to lose 20 followers whenever I would fight for inclusivity. That doesn’t really happen anymore. I have had many trans* people thank me for the inclusivity, though I don’t feel that I should be thanked. It should just be how we talk about reproductive rights. I have had other people tell me that they themselves try to be more inclusive now (including John Darnielle, lead singer of The Mountain Goats, who follows KYBOOMU on Twitter and actually reads the things I write).

What’s your take on how both mainstream media and feminist media tackle issues such as reproductive rights?

I think one of the things we can do and are doing and need to keep doing is simply inform people of the many different anti-choice laws that are getting proposed (some passed, some not) in the different states. One of the hardest things about reproductive rights is that it is often, especially now, fought at the state level. And even in your own state, it can be hard to keep track.

The media can serve to remind people–over and over again if necessary–of how many laws there are, the many different shapes they take, the beliefs of their sponsors, etc. It can help people to engage them on the local level, which is SORELY needed right now. Yes, national politics matter, but when it comes to reproductive rights the true battles are playing out in our backyards, and most people don’t know about their local battles until it is too late.

Further Reading:

  • Team Uterati, founded in 2012 by Imani Gandy (Angry Black Lady), aims to provide comprehensive up-to-date information about anti-choice, anti-women’s health and anti-reproductive rights legislative measures in various states. Gandy started Team Uterati as a “community-based organizing tool for feminists fighting for equal rights and reproductive justice.” The project, which is the first of its kind on the Internet, also contains a continually growing Wiki with resources, articles, databases and a forum.
  • Abortion Gang: Abortion Gang’s website says it best: “We are unapologetic activists for reproductive justice.” The site discusses reproductive health and justice, and reminds us again and again that the personal truly is political.
  • Bebinn: A collection of pro-choice information, rants and unrelated gifs, “for all your pro-choice needs!”
  • Care2: An array of comprehensive coverage under the heading “Dispatches from the War on Women.”
  • Huffington Post – Laura Bassett: HuffPo’s politics writer tackles both state and national reproductive rights news in a concise, easy-to-understand fashion.
  • Prolonged Eye Contact: With articles and commentary on abortion and reproductive rights, this site, according to Jessica Luther, “is REALLY phenomenal at being inclusive in how they talk about repro rights.”
  • Rabble: “Radically pro-choice” site that offers the tagline, “It’s pro-choice or NO choice.”
  • Radical Doula: Almost defying categorization, Radical Doula is site run by activist Miriam Zoila Pérez, and connects the dots between reproductive rights, birth activism, doula work, LGBT issues, immigrant rights and racial justice.
  • Reproductive Rights Prof Blog: This website keeps tabs on reproductive rights issues from legal and academic perspectives.
  • RH Reality Check: The one-stop shop for breaking news and opinion on sexual and reproductive health and rights, with updates throughout the day.
  • Shakesville: At Melissa McEwan’s one-stop shop for progressive and feminist news, bloggers Misty Clifton and Shark Fu have done a great job of keeping the Shakesville community informed and aware of various reproductive rights news.

This list is only a sampling of the many fabulous folks who write about reproductive rights online. Please feel free to add your own in the comments!

Photo illustration by Cory Tobin, courtesy of the Keep your Boehner out of my Uterus Tumblr.

Comments

  1. fahdutnik says:

    What a great picture!

  2. Linda Cooper says:

    I think the pic is great

  3. What are CIS women?

    • Cis refers to individuals where the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identities all align. (i.e. A person born biologically female, labeled female at birth, and who identifies as female would be considered a ciswoman)

  4. I’m sorry if this sounds ignorant but I don’t get transgender. Does transgender always mean that the person will become a transexual? I understand that some may feel more male if they’re female or more female if they’re male and that’s fine-thats the beauty of being human and it gives gender some more flexibility. But actually going through surgery to change how you were born is perplexing to me. Just like I am perplexed by people willing to undergo cosmetic surgery. I think it’s unneccessary, dangerous (cuz u could die), and wrong. Just because we have the technology and medical know-how to do something, doesn’t mean we should do it. Hundreds of years ago I’m sure we had trans ppl walking around but they just sorta dealt with it. They had to live in the bodies they were born in and i’m sure they were okay with it because what choice do you have? you’re not gonna kill yourself because you hate that you’re male/female, right? Anyway, if someone could explain it to me, that would be great cuz I know I may sound pretty ignorant right now but maybe I just haven’t learned enough about it.

    • While my knowledge in the field of transgender studies is limited, I do know quite a lot about depression in the LGBT community. You wrote “I’m sure we had trans ppl walking around but they just sorta dealt with it. They had to live in the bodies they were born in and i’m sure they were okay with it because what choice do you have? you’re not gonna kill yourself because you hate that you’re male/female, right?” Depression and suicide rates are extremely high among transgendered people. Studies show that nearly half of all transgendered people have attempted suicide at some point in their life. Among the general population, the rate is around 1.5%. Can you imagine being biologically female but psychologically a male and having to live with that day in and day out? You and I were fortunate enough to have been born the gender we identify with. However, many are not, and it is only natural that they would want to physically be the gender they identify with. And once they undergo tranformation, they still have to deal with difficulties such as harassment and discrimination. While I cannot answer your question in its entirety, I hope that I have enlightened you of the struggles that transgendered people must endure every day. If having a surgery to physically change gender will finally give someone the internal peace they need, then it is not wrong. On the contrary, it is very right. Please be aware that everyone is dealing with their own problems and that everyone has their own struggles. Suicide is an incredibly serious problem, especially in the LGBT community. Never make light of it, especially when asking about a group of people deeply affected by it.

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