Activism as a growth experience; my encounter with the head of a anti-choice extremist group, Activism Journal 3
Oh boy, what a night, what a night, what a night.
As I have journaled about recently, I have been involved in co-founding a group to expose the anti-choice front groups who have purchased the Susan B Anthony birth place museum. Feminists for Life, Feminists Choosing Life of New York & Susan B Anthony’s List (if you click on my user name and scroll down, you can read my two posts that give the whole history) have purchased Susan’s birth place to rewrite the history of the suffragist, coopt her legacy for the anti-choice agenda, and make political inroads into MA for their anti-woman crusade. Part of the work in which I have committed involves journaling the process of activism, the practical, the organization, and the emotional.
Tonight’s journal centers around the emotional.
The first meeting last week was positive overall, a good start to build a foundation for the much needed work of countering the anti-choice agenda and discussing ways foreward.
Our second meeting was similiarly positive, however, there was an encounter I did not expect & I feel I did not handle at my best level.
As the meeting began this evening, the director of the Susan B Anthony museum and the former vice president of Feminist for Life, i.e. their new anti-choice crusade leader came to the meeting uninvited and unannounced. She came in and tried to offer herself as a nice, reasonable person who just wanted to be there to give information. I immediately told the group that she needed to leave, I just knew that I was not in a strong emotional place to handle this lying, manipulative, traitor to woman kind with the type of cool I needed. The group members had other ideas and they wanted to question her, a couple of them didn’t know who she was and wanted to hear her out, the others thought it would be a great chance to feel out the enemy on our territory (which is a valid tactic but not good when you have two group members stating that they needed to leave immediately)
I told her immediately that she was not welcome and that we were not interested in hearing her lies. I told her we knew who she was and we knew whom she represented. She then tried to lie and tell the group that it was under the name of one owner (the owner that gave the property to Feminists Choosing Life in NY and set up a subsidary to the Feminists Choosing Life of New York who has given leadership of the group over to Feminists for Life). About half the group wanted to speak with her and half didn’t at this point. She kept trying to reiterate that she just wanted to answer questions.
I just didn’t have the patience. For the past two weeks, I have spent hours studying the history of this woman & the history of the groups that she represents. These are the worst of the worst of the anti-choice groups, intent on making abortion illegal and demonizing the pro-woman/choice side as murdering women hating monsters. Terrorizing the women who are confronted with making the best reproductive choices for their futures by restricting their access to safe, accessible, and supportive abortion servies and bullying the women who can find a provider, at the clinic doors. All in their underground guise of phony smiles and ‘who me’, I am just a innocent protector of helpless babies.
After two weeks of writing and calling historians and pro-choice advocates and discussing the damage that this anti-choice movement has caused, the lives it has cost, the emotional despair it has helped foster in women with no control over their own family choices…after stead fastly researching the entire history of the deveopment of this museum and who owns it and the manipulative way they have stayed underground….
I did not have it in me to hear her lies. This former VP of the Feminists for Life who has made it her life to impose her so-called values on my fellow women, I was in no mood to hear her try and lie about what her group was about. She was there to disinform and spy.
And, I would not abide by it.
She kept insisting that she had other information then what we had researched, other information of what they wrote in their own words, in their own newsletter…so I said, okay, lie…lie to the group. She feigned offense and tried her manipulative tact once again.
At this point, no one else was speaking and I said this:
We know why your here and we know what you represent. It is your life work to prevent women from having free choice of their reproductive rights. We know of your history of work against women. I have spent two weeks reading every available source about you and about your groups history. Your museum is a front and a sham. You are a liar, I have three expert historians who will refute every false claim that you make about Susan B’s anti-choice stance on abortion. She stammered and at one point looked as if she was going to cry. I told her to get out. She persisted.
I continued. I told her that I would like to congratulate her because she had moved me to make it my life cause to reinvigorate the womens pro-choice movement in MA, hell the whole nation. Congratulations, because she just set fire to a movement. She should be very proud. I told her that she wasn’t in Montana anymore and that she was about to learn what it means to live in liberal Western MA. Northhampton & Smith and with one of the most proactive feminists movements in the nation righs over the mountain.
My voice held the anger for every woman who suffered the tyranny of the anti-choice movement. She kept trying to offer her phony offering of more information, so at this point I told her to get the fuck out & she finally left. But, not before saying, let it be known that one side comes in peace and kindness and the other comes in violence – to which I shouted…yeah, just like your group treated Dr. Tiller.
I blew my cool. I know I did. And, I have no regret for telling this deceitful, manipulative anti-chicer off, but I do regret my handling the situation in the context of the group. Fortunately, it is a strong group. They were able to voice their discomfort and anger at my outburst, and I was able to explain of how this was a culmination of many things and that I usually don’t handle situations in that manner. I have been the one responsible thus far for 95% of the research, writing, and investigation into this whole sorrid affair (which is completely fine, I am one of the founders). My anger is really at a pinnacle. Most agreed with everything I said, more concerned about the way I said it. I realized that I am not in an emotional space to be a frontman for this group, as I am a bit of a overstuffed powder keg at the moment, but I did see my role in the group crystal clear as a driving force through writing, networking, and internet outreach. This is key for me and I wanted to share this as a part of my diary. Part of the reason people avoid activism is due to not wanting to deal with conflict and unpleasant emotions. But, if we want to move forward, we need to confront our own fears and weaknesses and utilize each other to move forward. And, it is always amazing when you confront your own demons and move past your own fears.
The group was truly amazing after this point. People came up with fantastic & creative ideas to spread awareness about the museum with humor. The commitment to move forward was reinforced. A new group member from a local college attended and offered up resources and potential members that will really help us move forward. Positive developments from the group and their weeks activities came forward.
My husband commented after the group how amazing it was to watch a group of women work together like that. How we give each other shit, hear each other, support each other, and move forward….He was really impressed.
….my chest is still pounding…..