Video: Why I’m Voting Pro-Choice

NARAL has a nifty new video out about why you should vote pro-choice, and I’m proud to be a part of it:

Be awesome or don’t bother, friends.

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Celebrity Feminism Is A Good Thing

Celebrity feminism is a good thing.

Recently, actress Emma Watson gave one hell of a speech at the United Nations urging equality for women and girls:

Beyonce turned her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards into an opportunity to showcase her political beliefs:

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Fixed Show

And Taylor Swift’s latest hit, “Shake It Off,” urges women to ignore the sexist things that are said about them:

Let me be honest, I have gotten misty when that song comes on the radio and I realize my daughter, who is a toddler, is sitting in the backseat.

As a feminist activist, I have watched with some dismay how celebrity feminists are torn down on social media, seemingly as sport, within my community. The resentments seem to fall in these general categories:

  • She’s not doing anything.
  • She’s not saying anything new; she’s just getting credit for it.
  • She’s going to coopt feminism and turn it into some commercial enterprise; that’s not what I’ve been fighting for!

All of these criticisms are a bit out there.

  • If she wasn’t doing anything, you wouldn’t be talking about her.
  • Activism does not exist so you can be a hero or be highly regarded by others. (In particular, if you want to be a feminist activist in hopes of being liked — wow, is an education coming for you!) Activism exists so you can change society. Having powerful people echo feminist thoughts, however old and already accepted by those in the know, strengthens your position.
  • There are many feminisms and not just one; the more you accept this, the less threatening feminisms that don’t look like yours appear.

Another frequent criticism:

  • She’s not doing enough to lift up others who don’t have her privilege. 

This is a fine criticism, but we should note applies to non-celebrity feminists at least as often. In any case, ultimately these gaps present opportunities for growth — as individuals and a movement — especially when folks are willing to work toward change in good faith.

We need as many women and men working for gender equality as possible, so if celebrities want to join the movement — great. We should also celebrate that feminism is making appearances in pop culture. The primary audience for these gestures is not those who care most about feminism but rather mass culture itself. When a popular actress or singer sticks her neck out there, some of the little girls and grown women watching and listening may get the idea to do so themselves.

Video: October 2014 To The Contrary Appearance

I appeared as a panelist on this week’s episode of To The Contrary, and discussed the war on women, consent on campus, and fighting breast cancer. You can watch a video of the show here:

Georgetown Responds To Alumni Letter Regarding H*yas For Choice And Free Speech On Campus

Recently, I organized a letter that 232 Georgetown alums signed after campus police removed a small group of students representing H*yas for Choice from a public sidewalk. You can read a copy of that letter here.

Today the administration sent me the following response:

Dear Erin:

Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the recent incident with H*yas for Choice.  We are responding on behalf of the University to the petition you presented on September 29, 2014.  

As you know, on September 22, 2014, a Georgetown Department of Public Safety (DPS) officer asked a group of students representing H*yas for Choice to relocate from the public sidewalk at 37th and O Streets to a location on campus.  The students relocated to a location on Copley lawn.  The officer should not have asked the students to move, this was a mistake and should not have occurred.  Upon realizing the mistake, the DPS officer informed the students that they were free to move back to the original location at 37th and O Streets if they so chose. 

In response, Georgetown University Police Chief Jay Gruber, reached out to the students to offer an apology for the mistake the next day.  He has also scheduled additional training for all DPS command staff and officers on the Georgetown University Speech and Expression policy in an effort to prevent this from happening again.  In addition, students have raised this incident with our Speech and Expression Committee and the Committee is planning to respond appropriately.

Georgetown University is committed to our Speech and Expression policy, which guarantees the right to all members of our community to express themselves freely and to foster the free exchange of ideas and opinions.   We share Chief Gruber’s regret in how our DPS officer responded in this case and please know that we will work to prevent it from happening in the future.

Sincerely,

Todd Olson
Vice President for Student Affairs
Erik Smulson
Vice President for Public Affairs
If these issues get you fired up, I encourage you to check out an additional piece I wrote for RH Reality Check on abortion, speech, and the Catholic campus. You can read that here.