Caption: An anti-abortion protester stands in Shoemaker Square a few weeks ago when students and women’s rights advocates spoke out against the demonstrators. – Kate Dearman
Women should fight for rights
A little while ago, I was walking by the anti-abortion protesters minding my own business, going to report on some event or another. I walk past the dead fetus photos, I walk past their table and I walk past the men when suddenly I hear, “Dyke.”
I looked around and a man was looking at me, his mouth curled in a sneer that showed all manner of contempt for me, my paint-coated work boots and my short pixie hairstyle. “You’re going to hell, you know, for how you look.”
I was shocked. I hadn’t spoken to these men, he didn’t know who I was (a former Baptist missionary, for their information) and he didn’t care. He saw a gender stereotype, rubbed it in my face with a hurtful homosexual slur and condemned me to burn for eternity. But what did I do?
I kept walking. I kept silent. I kept passive.
When I heard about the rally protesting against the anti-abortion protesters, my heart leaped with joy. Here were women from our campus standing up and proclaiming to these men that they had no say over our choices, that their condemnation was unwelcome and unwanted. They said all those things that I had always hoped to say but always been too afraid.
Tensions are high and the volume is loud, yes, but who says that is bad? Behind their gates, they have shown themselves to be the cowards that they are: afraid of the women that they judge and condemn on a daily basis.
Because of the pro-choice protesters, women and students on this campus have found their voices and their opinions and are bringing them to the table for the first time, tired of the same hatred and the status quo. Students are starting to speak out and make a difference, which is part of what university life is all about.
In the ‘60s, college students were one of the strongest bodies of protesters for civil rights, for feminism and for bringing peace to a country torn by war. Now, we look down at our phones when we disagree with the world around us. We shut out the noise and the hatred with loud music, pretending that it doesn’t exist, but the fact remains that it isn’t going away.
Sometimes fighting back is inconvenient and loud. Sometimes it brings tension, shouting, but it definitely brings change.
No matter what a person is, pro-life or pro-choice, all of us have expressed our discomfort with the anti-abortion protesters, but we refused to do things about it.
The USM Creed declares, “I commit to exhibiting civil behavior, demonstrating responsible citizenry and doing my part to achieve a positive and secure living and learning environment for all.”
These women brought forth the idea that we as students, faculty and staff can change our campus for what we consider the better. Therefore, I am proud of the protesters from our community for fighting back for what they believe to be right and for trying to create a more positive environment for all students.
Counter-protests exacerbate issue
A caveat before I begin: everyone who is expressing his or her views is constitutionally protected. In fact, our campus is an exceptional place for this type of protest to occur—here, protests and demonstrations can be done safely and prepare people for bigger, more substantial protests should they wish to go to areas where it is a bigger deal.
With that being said, the pro-choice protesters are not helping advance the dialogue of the abortion debate, nor are they moving the bearded pro-life protesters off campus as many people want. If anything, the new group of people that gathers when these Duck Dynasty wanna-bes bring their grotesque and misleading signs and banners
further fan the flames.
They give the pro-life guys a reason to keep coming back because they feel as though there is an audience witnessing their supposedly godly and righteous purpose.
Before the organized protesting began, the men stood there mumbling out some out-of-context Scripture passage every now and then. It was very easy for me to put in my headphones, give them a dirty look and just walk to the Fine Arts Building.
Things only simmered when someone gave them the time of day and asked the guys a question. The thing is that person knew how they would respond. It is like asking Dan Cathy or Phil Robertson his view on homosexuality. It’s a “gotcha!” question that provides a false sense of I-am-making-a-difference-by-making-this-guy-fess-up-to-something-he-believes-and-will-never-change-his-ideas.
Now, with the organized protesters holding their signs with nifty phrases like “no uterus, no opinion,” or “I’m a Grad Student! I don’t have time to study and fight for my reproductive rights,” the situation has gotten even worse. Now, I have to maneuver through a sea of people saying someone is going to hell and another person rebutting with someone’s beard being as ancient as his ideas.
My headphones are only the $5 ones from CVS, and they cannot block out this kind of commotion. I cannot peacefully get to the Fine Arts Building to play bassoon.
The worst part is now the pro-life people have a barricaded area, and they are speaking without someone instigating them first. They have this because this is a college campus, and they feel threatened. Just as the pro-choice protesters have a right to speak, so do the pro-life people.
The next time the old men are on campus, let the old men be. Be wrong, be in the Stone Age and be there. Instead of confronting them, give them a “Frozen”-style cold shoulder because the counter-protesting is not doing anything except giving them the positive reinforcement of attention.