An Open Letter to My Liberal Friends

What could be more selfish than the rhetoric of the pro-choice movement?

“And so I spent yesterday scrolling through your photos, coming to the painful realization that nearly every woman I know is not only pro-choice—I’ve known that for years—but proudly pro-choice: so proud that you will happily parade your pro-choiceness all over the world and proclaim it on all of your social media pages, as if it were a positive good.”

 

To my liberal friends, on the day after the Women’s March:

I woke up this morning with the same pit in my stomach as on November 9, 2016. On that day, like so many of you, I awoke disillusioned with our democracy, horrified that an unqualified narcissist lacking in empathy, curiosity, and morality would soon become the leader of the free world. But today, I experience a new sense of horror: a feeling of utter alienation from my generation and my gender. In November, though I was no fan of Hillary Clinton, my opposition to Trump placed me squarely on what some of you have called the “right side of history,” and I felt a sense of solidarity with you in that. Today, however, on the day after the Women’s March on Washington and on the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I feel, to quote Dostoevsky, that “our fateful troika is racing headlong,” while I stand alone in its path, waiting to be hit.

I am a feminist. Indeed, I am, in some people’s eyes, the worst kind of feminist—the kind who believes that women not only are equal to men, but may, in fact, be superior. As I see it, a woman can do anything a man can do, but she can do it better, faster, and in high heels. I’m fairly certain that I’ve held this opinion since the day my parents explained that they were sending me to an all-girls’ school for kindergarten because they wanted me to be challenged, inspired, and empowered in a way that was only possible when unfocused five-year-old boys weren’t sucking all the air out of the room.

During my thirteen years at the Nightingale-Bamford School in Manhattan, women ruled. We ran the clubs, teams, and student government; we led the class discussions. We learned about the famous women, from Cleopatra VII to Murasaki Shikibu to Rosalind Franklin, who had shaped our world, and we were taught to be incensed by the injustices that women had faced and continued to face. At least once a month we were reminded that women make only seventy-nine cents to a man’s dollar, but we were told that we could and would fix this. In our navy-blue tunics and matching lace-up shoes, we were told that we could do anything we set our minds to. We were raised to speak up and sing out.

Yesterday, my former classmates and teachers did just that. Donning “pink pussy hats” and wielding signs of resistance, dozens of you, my friends from Nightingale and, more recently, from Princeton, descended upon Washington and cities around America, voicing your opposition to our new president. I wanted to be supportive. I, too, am disgusted by Donald Trump’s past treatment of women. I, too, want to stand up against the bigotry, misogyny, and racism that the president’s rhetoric has, intentionally or not, perpetuated. I, too, believe in sisterhood and girl power (and the aesthetic of the color pink). And, having devoted much of my time at Princeton to fighting for free speech, I am glad to see you, my friends, exercising your First Amendment rights and voicing your dissent.

I knew, of course, that the organizers of the March had excluded pro-life sponsors and had made it clear that pro-life women were not welcome, but I hoped that the March would nevertheless focus on the message of resistance and unity that the organizers had preached and advertised. However, as I scrolled through the 129 photos of and about the March posted by my friends on Instagram, not to mention the hundreds of photos and videos that flooded my Facebook and Snapchat, any illusions I held quickly faded away. The thousands of signs depicting uteruses and proclaiming “My Body, My Choice,” the calls to “Abort Trump,” and the adoration bestowed on Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards made it clear that this so-called “unity” consisted of one thing, and one thing only: unity of opinion about a woman’s right to choose. To quote my fifth-grade history teacher’s Facebook status, it was “just us and 800,000 like minded people out for a Saturday stroll …”

When I mentioned this to a few of you who attended the March, you were quick to exclaim that the day was about so much more than that … though you couldn’t articulate exactly what. I recognize that, for many, the March was primarily a response to the election of a president who has bragged about and been accused of sexual assault; however, JFK and Clinton have also been accused of sexual assault, and while that does not in any way excuse Trump’s behavior, it does remind us that his behavior is nothing new. The difference, the key difference, I think it’s fair to say, is that women believe Trump is threatening to take away their right to choose. Misogyny and male pigheadedness are not enough to mobilize millions of women worldwide—we deal with misogyny and male pigheadedness every single day. What can mobilize them? The fear that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

And so I spent yesterday scrolling through your photos, coming to the painful realization that nearly every woman I know is not only pro-choice—I’ve known that for years—but proudly pro-choice: so proud that you will happily parade your pro-choiceness all over the world and proclaim it on all of your social media pages, as if it were a positive good. “Happy birthday, Roe v. Wade,” wrote one friend in the caption of her Instagram today. “we won’t go back. #whyimarch”

The unhappy truth is that abortion is murder. You may argue that it is justifiable murder, but it is murder nonetheless. A living organism is killed; a being that would otherwise go on to live a life as human as yours or mine is prevented from living. Have we become so desensitized, so removed from reality, that we can joke about this kind of murder, joke about “aborting Trump” and about “the elephant in the womb”? And, what’s more, joke proudly?

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