With Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, How Far Will the State's Attacks on Women Go?
By Liza Featherstone
October 25th, 2018
Another reader asks about weathering a public #MeToo event with PTSD
Illustrated by Joanna Neborsky.
Women are staring down the barrel of a conservative Supreme Court that will likely dismantle Roe v. Wade. Abortion, as a right, is already hobbled, with many states essentially regulating it into oblivion.
Faced with increased career opportunities but a lack of support systems, women are postponing or refusing motherhood. I think that an awareness of the falling birthrate will soon reach the people in power. To me, this all seems like a perfect storm. Should we expect an even more brutal backlash against reproductive rights?
As a career-focused 30-year-old woman with no plans for a baby, I feel as though I should be making arrangements. What if my current methods of birth control fail? I’ve already started mapping states that will outlaw abortion—and mine, Texas, tops the list. Should I save money for emergency travel?
I have no sense of how far this backlash will go. What do you think the state, and our society, are actually capable of?
Actually, says feminist activist Jenny Brown, the author of Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight Over Women’s Work, which will be published next year by PM Press, “we’re already experiencing this.”
In Birth Strike, Brown argues that the crackdown on women’s reproductive rights is a response, on the part of US policy-makers, to our declining birth rate. The ruling class worries that when women stop having babies, the smaller workforce will mean rising labor costs. Instead of improving the conditions for parenthood through universal child care and health care, free college tuition, more generous family leave, and higher wages, our elites have seized on what is, for them, a far less expensive solution: forced procreation.
With women holding significant social power, we’re unlikely to wind up living in The Handmaid’s Tale, or even in the pre-1970s United States, an era when my mother needed her husband’s permission to get her own library card. However, with right-wingers controlling Congress, the White House, and many state governments, our reproductive rights are under attack. The good news, according to Brown, is that “women are already taking this into their own hands. There’s never been a better time to have a DIY abortion.” Given where you live, preparing to exercise this option would be smart.
In South Texas, as the restrictions tighten, there is an extensive black market in abortion pills from Latin America (check out the flea markets). But for more reliable drugs and support, look into an organization called Aid Access, run by doctors and abortion-rights activists, which has been shipping abortion pills to women in the United States for the last six months. The group’s website includes information on how to take the abortion pills safely, and Aid Access even offers Skype consultations.
Such DIY measures not only help you, Gileadean; they can also, Brown emphasizes, become a force for change. In Ireland, when abortion was illegal, the prevalence of women performing it themselves “freaked out the authorities and also made a mockery of the law.” This greatly boosted the momentum for legalization, which succeeded—by a landslide—in a referendum this past May.
Watching the Kavanaugh hearings sucked. In the past, I was assaulted, although not sexually, and very few people believed me. Yet many of the people who didn’t, including feminist women, were tweeting and posting all over the place against Kavanaugh. I “liked” and boosted important content without regard for this past history, but it’s sticking in my throat. I can’t do anything about either the assault or the abuse without risking my position and my livelihood. I am going to therapy for PTSD, but is that even going to work when I’m stuck collaborating with these people? Even my goal in therapy is just to be able to better cope with a world where I will inevitably be called upon to give more compassion and solidarity than I receive.
During the week of the Kavanaugh hearings, says Dr. Christie Jackson, a psychologist specializing in trauma, all of her patients spoke about them. And since the hearings, she reports, many more victims of violence are seeking therapy.
Not being believed “makes it incredibly hard to heal,” says Dr. Jackson, who has a clinical practice in New York City. But you can exercise more control over both your digital and professional environments.
You certainly don’t have to “like” or repost content from people who didn’t believe you, Unheard. In fact, you should take steps not to see their posts, especially during a high-profile event of this kind. Facebook’s “unfollow” feature is your secret weapon: It renders the offending person’s posts invisible to you without them knowing.
While you may—like most people—have less control over your work environment than your electronic one, you can and must set some boundaries there as well. If people in your workplace have tormented you, Dr. Jackson says, your therapist can help you work on how to “be polite, but keep your distance,” as well as to set limits on their behavior. You have a right, online and off, to live free of abuse.
Most urgently, you deserve solidarity and deserve to be believed. Research shows that social support is what we need most when recovering from assault. It’s crucial that you find a few people—whether a partner, co-workers, friends, or a PTSD support group—who believe you.
To that end, remember that even as social media present painful dilemmas, they’re also a source of collective love. What if you were to post on Facebook—in vague terms, of course—about seeing people who didn’t believe you virtue-signaling their support for other assault victims? You could set the post so that only a select few would see it. If this seems too risky, what about posting on how tough it is to weather a public #MeToo event as a person suffering from PTSD? Either way, you will likely be flooded with supportive messages from people who do believe you.
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