This past Monday I got on a bus at 6am and traveled three hours to Albany, NY and spoke with state legislators and lobbied for women’s access to quality reproductive healthcare—something we should already have in 2015. In order to go from Ithaca to Albany in a day, I missed all of my classes. So for the past week, I’ve been that person who walks up to the professor and says: “I’m going to be missing class the second week of the semester.” Most people were cool about it. Most of my professors gave me responses like “enjoy your political event” and some people even asked follow up questions about my involvement with Planned Parenthood.
Everything was fine, but a couple days ago I approached another student in my class and asked her for her number so she could text me the notes I missed. We had exchanged names once. She knew nothing about me.
“Why are you missing class?” she asked me.
“I’m going to talk to state legislators about women’s access to healthcare,” I told her. She typed her number in my phone and then said, “Oh, that’s cute.”
I’m sorry, working towards equality and access to quality healthcare is cute? What?
I’m no stranger to people misunderstanding the activist work that I do. It happens all the time. When I tell people that I do work with Planned Parenthood I’m used to people saying things like “Oh, cool” or “That’s interesting” before quickly changing the subject, but to call something cute is just plain degrading. Ensuring that people can afford quality healthcare, or have access to birth control, or have the freedom to control their own bodies is anything but cute, it’s a reality that many people fight for every single day.
When I participated in the Day of Action last year and was speaking with state legislators and learning about the benefits of the Women’s Equality Agenda, my first thought wasn’t this is so adorable that we’re all here. No, I was empowered and motivated to keep talking and giving voice to these issues. Activism takes a lot of personal time, effort and emotion. I love every minute of it, but sometimes it can be hard to drown out all the negative voices that make it seem like this work is pointless, stupid, or simply a ‘cute’ little side hobby.
Fighting for things like gender equity, reproductive rights, or freedom from gender-based violence can feel like an uphill battle sometimes, but my advice for anyone advocating for a cause is to stick with it anyways. When someone downplays or disregards what you believe in, it’s only an attempt to silence you and your cause. I say, keep speaking up. Keep fighting back because you are making a difference in someone’s life.