My husband recently went to an Anti-Flag show and came back home with free reading materials given to him by a band called Sharptooth that were about being supportive of women. One card was about how to stop harassment with “Badass Bystander Moves”. In the earlier days of my activism, I would converse with the local protesters, mainly Faust. After a while, the political, religious, and abortion-related debates got draining because of the way pro-lifers go around in circles to get people to back off. Being the anxiety ridden person I am, it just got to exhausting for me.
I realized much later that those conversations were probably helping as it distracted the protesters from engaging with patients because they were focused on me instead, but I never had any motivation to get back into it. Seeing this card my husband brought home, listing “Distract” as one of its bad ass bystander moves, re-inspired me. “YOU HAVE THE POWER TO END HARASSMENT” it said.
I had to go to the clinic anyways to get more birth control pills and to schedule an appointment for a minor problem I’ve been having, intending to sit on the sidewalk the protesters were making their rounds on afterwards instead of across the street within the comforts of the library. I was a determined badass ready to tackle whatever was
…until I saw the three protesters across the street. In that moment, my anxiety issues kicked in. I’m surprised with my anxiety issues that I even made it this far these past almost-two years. It wasn’t the kind of anxiety that I could easily calm down by listening to political rap metal on my headphones, though I thought that would do the trick. My cowering heart felt like it was trying to heavily pound its way out of my chest and I wouldn’t have been surprised to find it pathetically plop onto the floor at any moment. Whatever sort of bravery I felt had dissipated upon the sight of three old people holding signs like “Abortion Hurts Women”…the very same signs they held at the Life Chain I counter protested.
I didn’t want to admit it, but the pro-life opinion piece condemning our counter protest had shaken me to my core. Actually, it wasn’t the written piece itself, but the accompanying picture next to it of us holding the sign that was described as vulgar and inappropriate. It felt like they were putting up a Wanted poster. It was just one “pro-death” label and death threats shy from being like the times I heard of extreme activists plastering the picture of a pro-choice activist or abortion clinic worker somewhere. Is taking an unflattering photo and publishing it the worst they could do or would they go to further extremes? It had scared and embarrassed and my resurfaced depression probably added to these negative emotions I felt. I stopped going to the library for a while and only went to the clinic when I had to pick up more pills, trying not to make eye contact as I rushed inside while blasting my music so I couldn’t hear Faust attempts to greet me in that genuine politeness of his. Fearing that it might turn off people to the possibility of ever taking on women’s rights activism, I never told anyone that the aftermath of the Life Chain counter-protest wasn’t something that I easily brushed off.
It was embarrassing and humiliating and still is. But you know what? Its okay to be scared. Its okay to feel uncertain. Its okay to have an activist plan only to chicken out because my anxiety sucks and the plans were too much to handle right now. Its okay if I’m not exactly a badass motherfucker like the political rap metal artist that inspires me to defy those pro-life tyrants in front of my healthcare provider. And its probably okay for me to take tiny baby steps away from the comfort of the library window and onto the same sidewalk I watch those tyrants parade on with their signs every other week.
In the meantime, I have a crisis pregnancy center online chat to log onto and pretend I’m several scared women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. (More on that later).