Written by Veronica del Rosario & Emma Glassman-Hughes
These are the kinds of things people sometimes say when we as a company talk openly about abortion and the state of reproductive rights in the United States. So, understandably, every time our beloved Emma has something related to abortion on deck for This Week in Feminism (TWIF) or social, I get a little pit in my stomach. But, I know it's important that we do it, even if it makes people uncomfortable or even angry. Why?? WELL, I can't speak eloquently to the politics of it all in the way Emma can (and she will, later), but here's why it matters for me, personally--
The very first time we covered Planned Parenthood in TWIF was also the very first time we received a slew of email replies calling us baby killers and the like. Someone on our team even got one from her cousin, stating her disgust-- it was nuts. I sent the 'best' ones to Emma and tried to laugh off the ignorance throughout the day. This was great, right?! We were sparking conversation-- a serious pillar of our work as a company. But really... I was less than proud. Instead, I sat on a stoop that night and cried, for the first time in a long time, about my own abortion.
I was 15, and I knew I was pregnant because my period was late, my boobs were enormous, I had morning sickness, and craved Mexican and Indian food. It seemed like an obvious choice at the time; my family could not handle this, I'd probably get kicked out of school, etc. etc. So, I took the 6 train to the Planned Parenthood off Bleecker St., signed up for Medicaid, and changed the course of my future what felt like way too easily. It's actually truly haunted me ever since (whoa nelly, über liberal feminist New Yorker trifecta talking). I count (yep, I'm one of those): my baby would be turning eight this year. I feel constant guilt and shame about it. I wonder constantly whether it was really at all my right to take a life (plus, like, is it a life? note: this probs comes from my being raised both Asian and Catholic-- so much guilt and honour, man. Makes for a ton of internal turmoil err day), and in turn, if we should really be preaching that it is.
So, yes. We've made our stance on abortion exceptionally clear. And every time we've done so, be it through a TWIF mention or a Facebook post, we've been met with harsh criticism. But, as our community has grown, something else has started happening, too: we're not left to defend ourselves and our position alone. Dozens of women, time after time, have joined us. And this week, a few even started sharing their own stories. Right there, on our own Facebook thread. We were beyond stunned. The post was, Emma said, "bursting at the seams."
We need this. It often feels like there are plenty of women calling other women baby killers, and simply not enough women telling other women in doubt, like myself, that it's okay, that we did the right thing, and that they'd know, because they've been through it, too. For the women in our community who have done that--who have validated and reassured me and so many others without knowing it--thank you. And thanks, Emma for always being brave enough to write these things (in your name, no less), and Miki for always being brave enough to let us be a brand that doesn't care if people say "I won't shop with you anymore." This is what shifting culture is made of. It changes lives.
As its final days fall off the year like copper leaves from a tree, there is but one certainty: we are in for an avalanche of cheesy reflections about the year’s end. We’ll spare you the whooole reflection and just focus on one of our favorite topics (and we’ll try to keep the cheesiness to a minimum, but no promises).
It’s no secret that Team THINX is not afraid to share our collective political opinions about feminist issues--i.e., racial justice, classism, sexual violence, etc.--but this year, we felt it our duty to lean a little heavy on the reproductive freedom stuff. In case ya didn’t notice, 2015 was not so kind to U.S. uteruses. We backslid hard: not only was there an unprecedented amount of political opposition to the federal funding of Planned Parenthood, but we witnessed Planned Parenthood’s name get dragged for bogus claims about illegality (proven to be false), as well as more and more safe and affordable abortion clinics forced into permanently shutting their doors because of increased and unnecessary political regulation. All this in a country where 1 in 3 women will get an abortion, most of whom are already mothers in their twenties working hard to take care of the kids they already have (because 40 percent of women seeking abortions fall below the poverty line). Yikes.
OK, OK, OK. Y’all have heard us gripe and moan about this many times before, and rightly so; this stuff is important. And most of you reading this (hi, mom) probably agree with our stance on abortion. Still, the connection between a period underwear company and support for reproductive freedoms may be a bit blurry for some. Thus, to round out a year that has seen a dismal decline in quality women’s healthcare, we’d like to highlight why it’s totally reasonable (and responsible) for a period-minded, women’s health and underwear company like THINX to support reproductive freedom openly and honestly.
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to staaart. ***OK, this is def not the beginning, but we felt we needed to break the tension with a reference to a famous nun for some good, old-fashioned irony.***
This week, we posted to our Facebook a BUST piece featuring 10 celebrity women who had chosen to have abortions and didn’t regret their decisions. Our post praised these women (which included the likes of Gloria Steinem, Nicki Minaj, and Cecile Richards) as heroic figures of self-preservation, strength, and feminine resolve. In the comments, there were plenty of women who shared wise words and warmth.
But then, as controversial posts often call for, shit hit the fan. Anti-choice folks began commenting, calling the 10 celebrities “morons” who are “incredibly selfish,” “absolutely disgusting,” “abnormal,” and “sick,” and who are “celebrating murder.” They asked if “this is who are daughters should look up to?” (spelling error left unedited for emphasis). There were a few “don’t have sex if you don’t want to get pregnant”s and “learn self defense to protect yourself from rape”s thrown in, as well. Classic.
Interestingly enough, in the mix of all the shaming and degrading, there was a lot of frustration that an underwear company would decide to talk about an issue as divisive as abortion. We’re often told by other women that we should just “stick to underwear” and not bother with politics. But listen up, friends: we mean it when we say that we are not just an underwear company. We are a women's health company, trying to change the way the world looks at women’s health. Just the same as how many people claim tampons and menstrual supplies are not necessary instruments of healthcare for women, there are many people who claim that abortions and sexual health resources don’t qualify as healthcare for women either. This is exactly the dangerous stigma we’re working to eliminate, for periods and for abortion. Our focus is on women’s healthcare -- a laaaarge part of which encompasses reproductive freedoms and a woman's right to control her own body, and (unfortunately) all of which is political. Our undies symbolize a shift in women's health, and a recognition that all of these issues are extremely important.
So why do we continue to post in favor of reproductive freedom? Posts like these are important because they spread visibility and support for our fellow woman, sure. But they’re important, too, because they expose the hostile landscape that women are forced to traverse upon making an extremely personal decision regarding their own bodies and lives. Posts like these, and the comments that follow, are reminders that, for women, the personal is always political--whether or not we want it to be--and that somehow, decisions we make about our own health are considered fair game for political debate and social scrutiny. And that sucks.
Soooo now it’s time to address all of our pro-choice peeps out there, reading along and nodding heads, sending us all those good vibes and mental high-fives. We want to address the pro-choice peeps who think Roe v. Wade fixed feminism; we want to address the pro-choice peeps who think that the people commenting degrading and religious and anti-choice rhetoric on our Facebook posts are just fringe nuts or extreme conservatives without a real base or political influence; we want to address the pro-choice peeps who are quiet about their support of reproductive freedom:
Even if you are lucky enough to live in a state like New York where clinics are plentiful and safe, not you, nor any woman in this country, is lucky enough to be free from the guilt and shame heaped upon you by a culture and a system that values clusters of dependent cells more than it values you as a human being. And that’s why lists of women who bravely share their abortion stories and lack of regret are sincerely, now and forever, some of our day-one sheroes.
Smear that pap on a bagel and smoke it.
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