As a cisgender, heterosexual man with hemophobia, I might be one of the last people you’d expect to attend a reproductive rights panel.
Yet there I was listening to these amazing women speak their truth.
Like most straight guys, I had spent the majority of my life with little thought about sexual or reproductive health issues. I supported the right to choose, and that was it.
It’s not that I didn’t care. I simply didn’t know about all the other facets of the menstrual movement.
In 2018, however, our team at Public Goods started developing a line of menstrual care products. As our Content Marketing Manager, it was my job to research, write, edit and produce blog posts about women’s sexual and reproductive health.
Because I believed women and other menstruating people should be leading the conversation, I hired them to author most of the articles. Nonetheless, I learned a ton and quickly realized that the overall menstrual health discussion includes many topics, not only periods and abortions. For example, I published one post about the horrible deficiencies of menstrual product regulations.
During the ramp up to our menstrual care product launch, I connected with the team at Ovee, a sexual and reproductive health platform for people with vaginas. At risk of coming across like a pervert, I’ll disclose that I overheard them talking about orgasms, and I couldn’t resist asking for details on the business.
Months later, Ovee invited me to “Repro Rights: Every Day Action,” an event they were sponsoring and hosting at The Yard in Williamsburg. Our Repro Rights Community, a New York-based activist feminist community, had organized the event and invited some stellar panelists:
- Katharine Bodde, Senior Policy Counsel at ACLU of New York
- Elder Antionettea Etienne, Minister of Health & Wellness for Love Alive International Sanctuary of Praise Church in Manhattan, Staffer at Iris House
- Elizabeth Estrada, New York Field and Advocacy Manager at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
- Tiffany Hyeon, Writer and Consultant
- Symone New, Doula at Mosaic Doula Services and NYC Doula Project
- Lauren Duca, Journalist (moderator)
The founders of Our Repro Rights Community began the evening by acknowledging that we were standing on Native American land. Then they explained that the Kavanagh hearings had galvanized them to create their organization.
During their introductions, several panelists shared painful and intimate aspects of their background. Hyeon, for instance, revealed that she was a survivor of child sexual abuse perpetrated by her adopted father.
Bodde gave a brief lecture on the history of reproductive justice. One insight that surprised me was how Richard Nixon’s southern strategy pushed conservatives toward being more anti-abortion. I knew about the southern strategy from a racial standpoint, but I hadn’t considered its impact on reproductive rights.
Another aspect I found fascinating was Hyeon’s explanation of how adoption fits into the overall issue of reproductive justice. It seemed so obvious that adoption would be relevant to the conversation, yet the event was the first time I learned about the subject in that context.
Toward the conclusion of the event, Duca asked the panelists to highlight reproductive justice organizations people might otherwise not have known about:
- Brigid Alliance
- CLPP (Civil Liberties and Public Policy)
- National Network of Abortion Funds
- National Organization for Women Foundation
If you want to experience the entire panel, there is a recording you can watch here. After all, you most likely have different interests than I do.
At the end of the evening, the panelists and other hosts gave a special thank you to the men in the audience. I looked around and realized I was one of only two men in attendance, the other being Hyeon’s fiance.
Later I chatted with him, and he articulated the irony of how a feminist panel had concluded by discussing the importance of involving men. His intent was not to criticize, but to illustrate how — as males — our influence and privilege is so pervasive. Because we have such an inordinate amount of power, women often view us as potentially valuable allies.
When we do become advocates, however, we should be careful not to dominate the conversation or make women feel like we’re hijacking their movement. Menstruating people need us to listen, not lead.
To all the men reading this article, take a few minutes to consider how you can support reproductive justice. Women put us first all the time. Now it’s our turn.
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