When a work assignment came for a trip to Florida, I found a way to leave my mark, speak truth to power and hopefully bolster the spirits of local residents who believe in freedom too.
It has been a heartbreakingly challenging year for anyone who supports the rights of women and people who get pregnant to decide their reproductive destiny.
I’ve felt a vague sense of guilt as I sit safely at my desk for Ms. magazine in California. In this place, our state constitution recently enshrined women’s reproductive rights. We continue to try, albeit imperfectly, to move towards that more perfect union where we can live as equals.
Since the Supreme Court handed down its outrageous decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, an astonishing number of Republican states have enacted outlandish abortion restrictions or outright bans, throwing so many pregnant women’s lives—especially anyone fleeing domestic violence, or low-income or people of color—into chaos, fear and a desperate run against the clock if they choose to end a pregnancy.
And it’s been a strange, creepy feeling to watch a huge chunk of the country continue its journey back to the Dark Ages, with red states chipping away at the rights of LGBTQ folks, drafting legislation to control the bodies of trans kids, and in states like Florida, attempting to control what can be taught in universities and banning books from school libraries. Banning books!? That’s right, welcome to a horrifying brave new America where our constitutional rights are now optional in the eyes of many Republican lawmakers.
My work for Ms. is freelance; I also have a career that requires travel to various states, and it’s been heartening, especially during the Trump administration, to interact with all sorts of people in both red and blue states. What I’ve observed is that most of us have more in common than the shrieking trolls of the Internet or the facts-optional media outlets (I see you, Fox News) would have us believe.
But after Roe was overturned, it felt like a line in the sand—no, concrete—had been drawn. Friends and family in Republican-dominated states started talking about moving. Women across the country started factoring abortion rights into their decisions about whether to say “yes” to a new job or start looking for work elsewhere.
So when my next assignment came for a work trip to Florida, I felt deeply conflicted. Saying no and cutting off half the country seemed like an emotional overreaction. Still, I also felt terrible about contributing to a state economy where my tax dollars could be used to fund hateful legislation, control women’s bodies or ban books. My darling stepkid is exploring gender fluidity; this smart, thoughtful teenager would be having a very different, very dark high school experience if we happened to live in the Sunshine State.
But the reality dictated that I couldn’t afford to turn down my income, so I had to find a more nuanced response.
And then I went on Etsy.
A colleague blocked the cameras while I slapped stickers everywhere: on escalators, in bathroom stalls, on poles, at the curb waiting for cars.
While it’s been a long time since my days of sticker books and trading puffies, shinies and scratch n’ sniffs with my sisters, today there’s a whole world of creative, progressive sticker sellers (some based in red states!). I love spending money at American small businesses, so I went rage-shopping on an (affordable) spending spree: I bought hundreds of stickers that support women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights, affirm trans teens, and encourage voting for equality.
I also found a sweatshirt that said, “Tell me a time in history when it was the good guys banning books” to wear on the plane.
And then I went to work while my heart raced and my forehead glistened. Upon arrival at a major Florida airport, a colleague strategically blocked the cameras while I slapped stickers everywhere: on escalators, in bathroom stalls, on poles, at the curb waiting for cars. With each clandestine smack of a sticker, it was exhilarating to know that in my own small way, I was speaking truth to power and hopefully bolstering the spirits of any local residents who believe in freedom too.
No one sticker is worth an altercation with authorities—but damn, did it feel good to leave my mark!
As I walked through each city on my itinerary, I put cheerful, rainbowed pro-LGBTQ stickers on public park fences, street signs, light poles, public transit, and many other state-funded locations. In each hotel room, I added pro-Roe and LGBTQ stickers to the fronts of the Bibles and Books of Mormon in the dresser drawers because I believe we are all worthy of love and deserve bodily autonomy.
According to my research, it’s rare for someone to be arrested for putting stickers on taxpayer-funded public spaces. I avoided stickers on any private property or businesses since I didn’t know their politics, which would’ve put me at greater legal risk. I used common sense: No one sticker is worth an altercation with authorities—but damn, did it feel good to leave my mark!
Who knew peeling off all those rainbow, unicorn, and scratch n’ sniff stickers back in the fifth grade was actually preparing me to give DeSantis the finger? And perhaps most importantly, with each sticker, I got to say: “I see you! You’re not alone,” to teenagers like my stepkid—and anyone determined to stop politicians from taking away our lives, liberty and pursuit of freedom.
I’m pretty sure my 10-year-old self would high-five me if she could.
U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.