Share Your Truth Without Shame

I became a feminist activist because I developed anorexia and nearly died. When I got better, I swore to do whatever I could to make it less likely others would have to go through the hell I did. I believe that eating disorders are just one awful and predictable outcome of a gender-mean society that tells women they must take up less space — and not just in physical shape and size.

I don’t think about this stuff every day, but it grounds the work I do. This is the moral center I bring to my work. When I get frustrated, or demotivated, or sick of being trolled, I remember why I’m doing what I’m doing, and my love pours back in. Oppression hurts.

Today I work primarily on increasing access to abortion and advancing reproductive justice — the right to not be pregnant, the right to be pregnant with dignity and access to quality health care, and the right to raise families in safe and healthy communities.

To me this work is a continuation of what propelled me into feminist activism in the first place: reproductive oppression, like shitty beauty standards, is predicated on the same core issues that stem from treating women like objects instead of human beings who deserve dignity, equality and respect. It’s about impossible demands on the body (food and sex are primal, yo), using internalized shame as a mechanism of control and subjugation, and a sense that women’s bodies are open for public comment and need to be controlled and tamed. And yes, men are both directly and indirectly oppressed on these lines, too, so fixing these problems benefits everyone.

So I’ve shared some version of that in more conversations and speeches I can count. It is, after all, my story and why I’m here. Today I shared this at William and Mary Law School in a talk on attacks on Planned Parenthood and how we can protect reproductive freedom.

After it was over, multiple students came up and thanked me for sharing my story. One, in particular, told me it was the first time she’d heard anyone — student or professor — share in a classroom that they’d experienced an eating disorder. Mind you this was only like a hot second of my presentation in the context of an hour, but it made a difference to her. How sad that so much of life is people pretending they’ve got it all figured out and always have. That is like the literal antithesis of power. It is overcoming that makes us strong.

We all have a reason why we work toward the causes we do, and it’s effective organizing to share it. But more important, when we share our authentic stories and make ourselves vulnerable, we are shouting the shame that’s supposed to hold us back and flipping it the bird. I believe it is radical act each time a woman tells the truth about her life. To other people. To herself.

Change really does start with you.

 

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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.