This week, UC Dems hosted Men for Choice (M4C) at our Monday meeting. Their name speaks to what the organization is: a group of men that supports and advocates for a woman’s right to choose. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking that their motivation sounds like something you can get behind, but something about their branding just doesn’t sit right with you. I was concerned when I first heard about the group and my assumptions were largely validated during the meeting.
Yes, I am vehemently pro-choice. However, I am also opposed to the existence of the M4C organization. I would not go so far as to say that the men who founded and work for the organization have bad intentions; in fact, I think that they are genuinely good people fighting for a worthy, necessary cause. My problem is that when they post on their website that they “stand with women across the country in the shared fight for reproductive freedom” they are forgetting a fundamental point about a woman’s right to choose. That is, that women deserve and have a right to be autonomous beings. By taking the megaphone from the hands of the multitude of women’s organizations that fight for the same issue, M4C is no longer taking a “backseat” like they claim to be doing. Instead, M4C is becoming an active voice in the women’s reproductive rights agenda.
I wanted to hear from someone who had not been present at this week’s meeting, so I reached out to Kayla LaRosa, a second year student at Emerson University, and she stated the following:
“So I think while their message is okay enough to be putting out, I believe that in situations like this we have to consider whose voices we should be uplifting in the conversation. There are women activists who have spoken out about this for years, who constantly get shut down. There have been women chased out of abortion clinics. There are women with medical conditions who could be at serious risk without access to birth control and proper care. Let them speak. Those are the people we need to be hearing from.”
If M4C organizers were as passionate about women’s equality in general as they were about reproductive rights in particular, their organization would not exist. They would recognize that while they are doing progressive work on the reproductive rights front, they are simultaneously reasserting the notion– perhaps inadvertently, but nonetheless problematically– that men are the voices that should be listened to and that men need to save us, the damsels in distress.
When the M4C organizer was asked on why they do not simply join and support women run pro-choice groups, I agreed with the point they made: that our society fails to listen to women, and that therefore a man yelling at men to do the right thing is more immediately effective than overcoming the patriarchal structuring of our world. However, just because women have to speak a bit louder, and be more persistent than men, does not mean that the right or even the efficient thing to do is to have men take over our voices!
Again, I really do think that the men who work for M4C have good intentions, but they cannot simply bring in a woman from an outside organization to speak on behalf of M4C and assume that their tokenization tactics are acceptable. If you are a man and you support a woman’s right to choose, thank you. Now take the next step, and put your efforts towards supporting female- led activism on this issue.