Men, Reproductive Choice Is Not Just a ‘Women’s Issue’—This Is Your Issue Too

Men need to be a part of the larger conversation, and work to dismantle the idea that reproductive choice is simply “a women’s problem.”

Men participate in the Slut Walk in New York City in 2011. For years, advocates and activists in the movements against domestic violence have drawn attention to the many links between misogyny and mass shootings. (Peter / Flickr)

The leaked potential Supreme Court decision, drafted by Justice Alito, drew a clear line in the sand between America’s support for Roe v. Wade, and the Supreme Court’s current determination to end reproductive choice in America. Pro-abortion activists have been predicting this since the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and, before that, the swearing in of former President Trump.

The leaked decision shows what activists have known, and prepared for, for years: Pregnant people are under constant attack. And, without more allies, the sirens of injustice are going to continue to wail.

We need to socialize men differently and create a united force of activists. Men need to be a part of the larger conversation, and work to dismantle the idea that reproductive choice is simply “a women’s problem.”

Women’s labor has already opened the doors for most of the male politicians who are on the crusade to impede access to choice. Men have been stepping on women’s backs and using their labor for centuries. And yet, the thanks for using women as stepping stones is a complete blow to their reproductive autonomy.

Reproductive choice is not just a women’s issue. We all are well aware that it does not take just a single person to get pregnant. If Roe falls, it will affect everyone.

Boys and men need to be in the fight for reproductive healthcare, tapping into their responsibilities as allies and impregnators. It is not solely a women’s issue, not when men are already so intimately involved in the act of pregnancy. Men have been involved in the reproductive justice movement and conversations since the 1960s, when the first fight for Roe v. Wade began. However, there are still not enough. Men need to increase their involvement, their labor, their carework, tenfold.

“We know it is coming: Women’s leadership is the future,” said Rob Okun, anti-sexist activist and editor of Voice Male magazine. “But the right is still fighting as hard as it can, a desperate attempt to rollback the work of the anti-sexist men’s movement.”

So, where have all the men gone?

Men have become socialized by toxic masculinity into machismo aggressors. Outing men as abortion activists paints a scarlet letter on their chests—as if, by fighting for reproductive rights, their “man card” is suddenly revoked.

Reproductive choice is not just a women’s issue. We all are well aware that it does not take just a single person to get pregnant. If Roe falls, it will affect everyone.

Toxic masculinity is the core belief that men should behave in ways that are unemotional, aggressive, unaccepting of help and disconnected from their very humanity. It has poisoned our men and boys and it is actively harming our society. It is easy to see this through the lens of the fight for choice.

It is toxic masculinity that socializes boys, from their earliest memories, into playing with blue monster trucks and G.I Joe action figures. It teaches them “to be a man,” is synonymous with, “never take no for an answer,” and, “men don’t cry.”

This is the same toxic masculinity that exists in almost every mass shooting, in almost every case of sexual assault, street harassment, domestic abuse and trafficking.

Toxic masculinity exists in all of our current political movements. The push for stricter gun laws, backlash against sexual predators who do not serve jail time, the politics of the pandemic, the fight against white supremacy. Like many other movements, for abortion access, toxic masculinity works against men.

Toxic masculinity keeps men out of the movement.

If we know this, why aren’t we educating boys and men on reproductive health and justice? Why are we continuing to stifle men’s basic human emotions to cry? Why do we continue to perpetuate the same mistakes that generations before us, our ancestors, started?

It is an epidemic that seems too big to be fixable. It has become so entrenched in our culture it seems to be part of our way of life.

But there are still organizations out there doing the work, taking on the giant task of dismantling toxic masculinity in all forms. The anti-sexist men’s movement, with organizations like North American Men Engage Network (NAMEN) and National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS), have been buried in this work for years.

“The pro-feminist, anti-sexist men’s movement, which has been steadily growing since a small number of men began following women’s leadership nearly half a century ago, offers all men a way out of the man box,” said Okun. “It’s a box many of us have been wanting to escape our whole lives.”

So why aren’t things changing?

Society has a warped idea of manhood, which is dangerous to progressive political movements. The work of political and grassroots activism for reproductive choice has been pushed aside as women’s work—a modern version of keeping women in their place.

“There are two truths in order to continue incorporating men into the larger movement,” said Okun.

  1. “It’s important for men to do the work of organizing among ourselves to figure out our role,” he said.
  2. “If they see we’re sincere, women are encouraged to look for and seek out male allies,” Okun continued. “Men need to step forward and say ‘I want to be an ally,’ and women can then say, ‘I need an ally.’”

The sirens for democracy have been crying since early 2018, with the seemingly unending number of rollbacks, of mass trauma that we have survived. We have watched our children, our sisters, our brothers, pushed aside by the government, disrespected and left in shambles. We watched, as a nation, thousands of deaths each day as the mass trauma of a global pandemic swept the nation. We have seen the cuts to healthcare, the increasingly high barriers states have built to push anti-choice agendas.

The sirens are still wailing, for all of us, and now more than ever we need men to listen.

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

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Anna Dragunas is a senior at Smith College majoring in the study of women and gender with a certificate in reproductive health, rights and justice.