Say Bye To Slacktivism & Advocate Effectively For Reproductive Rights

July 14, 2022

Have you ever heard the term slacktivism? The term was coined by communication scholars in the mid to late 2000s. They sought to make a distinction between activism that promotes or creates tangible material change, and activism that is more self-soothing and performative, such as “liking” posts on social media or wearing Feminist t-shirts, etc. To be sure, there is certainly nothing wrong with the latter. But to ensure we are truly promoting reproductive justice in post-Roe America, I encourage you to consider engaging in a form of activism that manifests material change.

This request may seem daunting, or like the goalposts are being moved. Many of us are exhausted right now. I get it. Because I feel it too.

But we should not resign ourselves to scrolling Insta and TikTok to watch as women and gender expansive folks are criminalized for menstruating. A woman in El Salvador was just sentenced to 5o years in prison for an obstetric emergency that resulted in death of the fetus. We would be wise to look at what is happening globally right now, while also never forgetting that all politics is local.

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom, or to criticize well-meaning engagement from behind screens. There is a lot of hope, and part of it has come from having our voices be heard! For example, Biden just signed an executive order on Friday which strives to enshrine access to abortion pills and Plan B, protects private health information, and bolsters educational efforts as well as striving to provide additional legal options to those seeking and providing abortion access in U.S. states where the procedure is now illegal and/or criminalized. This change was partially the result of outrage; folks demanding, in online and physical spaces, that political leaders take seriously the threat to reproductive autonomy. Biden’s actions should be viewed, however, as a starting point rather than an end.

I understand that there are many who do not have the mental energy or literal spare time to engage in advocacy efforts right now. But for those that do, I implore you all to quit doom-scrolling for an hour and get to work. 😉 The suggestions that follow are ways that we, as individuals, can begin networking with link-minded individuals and advocate for reproductive freedom beyond engagement on social media.

  • Form a group

This doesn’t have to be a formal group of professionals with advanced degrees. This can be anyone who wants to advocate for and support reproductive justice for everyone. Make it an inclusive and safe space for everyone. Meetings can be virtual (Zoom comes to mind) or in-person, or a combination of both. Whatever works for your cohort.

  • Name your group

This is a fun aspect of group advocacy. As your group becomes acquainted with each others goals and feelings, you may want to give yourselves a name. If you use social media, that is a great way to raise awareness of your efforts and garner support. At the end of the meeting, the notes should be sent out to everyone who attended via email. Tasks should be delegated and the next meeting should be scheduled, at least tentatively.

  • Validate emotions within your spheres, and encourage folks to channel their feelings into action.

Make the space for a conversation. Allow folks within the group to articulate their own emotions, because that is important right now. We all need to be heard and everything that we are feeling is valid.

  • Get to work.

Have a discussion about what your group would like to accomplish, i.e. helping protect abortion access in your city/state. Use open-ended questions, such as “What do we currently know? What questions do we need answered? Who are potential allies we can enlist? Who may challenge us?”

  • Keep it organized.

Ensure someone in the group is taking notes. Also ensure that everyone involved shares their email address for future contact/updates.

One of my best friends is a Conservative white man who once played a supporting role in aborting his unborn child. He has not yet grasped that the Republican party has nothing to offer him. He recently told me to be ready for the “red wave,” and I responded, “Oh, you mean red wave as in people are going to die? Because they are.” The stakes of who holds power in the United States have rarely been higher; for every moment where we understandably feel overwhelmed by the mobilization of reactionary fascists, there must be a corresponding moment of clarity and commitment to the liberation of all.

I have several friends that have never voted because they “don’t feel like their vote counts.” I empathize, truly, because it is disheartening to see folks like Pelosi fundraising on the downfall of Roe. But at the end of the day, I still vote and want to make a meaningful difference for my community. It is frustrating, then, that there are younger folks that haven’t ever truly engaged their communities, and their political peers.  The more we vote, the more our votes count. So please, show up. Vote by mail if that works better for you. Just get it done, please. To protect your fellow earthlings. VOTE!

  • Take care of yourselves.

Drink plenty of water, breathe deeply and try to get quality sleep. While social media engagement may feel like doing something, it isn’t a substitute for genuine self care and thoughtful political advocacy.

This is scary stuff, folks. I am not trying to be insensitive or obnoxious by encouraging action. Rather, I am trying to empower folks to articulate themselves and fight for each other in a way that will truly improve lives. Many of the people I have spoken to lately have acknowledged that when stressed out, they turn inwards. They preoccupy themselves with lattes and with what type of artisanal nuts to put on their salads, and the extent of their political engagement stops after they like and share social media posts. And I get it. But we must be strong and show up for the fight.

This list is not at all exhaustive. There are many ways to become involved and promote tangible social justice.

Happy advocating, dumplings!

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Photo: Gavatri Malhotra via Unsplash

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