Last night, thanks to the fact that I have friends who work at Planned Parenthood and also that I volunteered to help, I got to attend the otherwise-pricey centennial celebration that Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio hosted in downtown Columbus. During this ridiculously cool event we got to hear from Planned Parenthood volunteers, patients, donors, and its CEO and President, as well as literally Gloria Steinem and also Yvette McGee Brown, the first African American woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Ohio.
On our way into the convention center, we naturally passed a few protesters with dismembered-fetus signs; these are a common sight in Ohio and I’m actually surprised we didn’t see more of them. I was in a festive mood walking up to the event and had to restrain myself from answering their plaintive cries of “How could you murder babies?” with “Cuz I think murdering babies is awesome!” For all you know, they have hidden cameras and I’d be the next viral Planned Parenthood controversy. Noooo thanks.
Aside from celebrating 100 years of overcoming anti-choice bullshit and providing life-saving medical care to people of all ages and genders, we were also served dinner on a level that my own cooking cannot aspire to:
There was also an open bar, which I kind of needed after dealing with those protesters, to be honest.
Before Gloria herself came onstage to speak, we heard from a bunch of volunteers, patients, and other folks who know Planned Parenthood’s work intimately. Hearing from the patients was probably my favorite part, and I was glad that the annual report we all received copies of had even more of their stories. It’s a common talking point now that Planned Parenthood does so much more than just abortions–in fact, that abortions are a small minority of its services–but patient stories really show how the care that Planned Parenthood provides impacts our entire bodies and lives. Some of these patients talked about community outreach programs that help teenage parents, train sexual health peer educators, do free HIV screenings out in the community, and a lot of other cool shit. Even if neither you nor a partner of yours has ever been a patient at Planned Parenthood, people who have could very well be out there making your life, and others lives, better and healthier.
At some point we were also informed that a donor had offered to match every single donation given that evening, so we all enthusiastically filled out the donation cards on our tables because that’s so much free money for Planned Parenthood.
Then Yvette McGee Brown interviewed Gloria Steinem (my favorite part was the very beginning when they were arguing over whose honor it is to be on stage with the other!), focusing a lot on how her unusual upbringing shaped her views and work and what she thinks about the current state of activism and so on.
Oddly, the thing that probably resonated the most with me out of all of Steinem’s remarks had little to do with activism. Brown asked her how she felt about choosing a (relatively) stable life compared to the nomadic existence her family led when she was a child. Steinem responded, “Even birds need nests.” I love that sentiment. After all the moving I’ve done (Israel to Germany to Israel to Illinois to Ohio to Chicago to Manhattan to Brooklyn to Columbus), I desperately want a nest. But I wouldn’t call what I’m doing “settling down.”
She was also asked about her thoughts on young women and their activism or lack thereof. This is something Steinem has come under fire for in the past (and I’ve definitely felt a little salty about), but now she clarified that journalists tend to go for soundbites (that can certainly be true) and was careful not to generalize when she said that she does notice that many young women are more conservative than their mothers. Steinem believes that this is probably because until you have certain experiences, such as building a career or raising children, you may not realize how sexist our society, and the people around you, still are.
I get why Steinem’s views seem ageist to a lot of young activists, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if you’re young, you may not have experienced enough to know how bad things still are. And those of us who do know–well, we’re the ones volunteering and donating to Planned Parenthood, so here I am.
Steinem encapsulated this in a beautiful statement: “Life radicalizes you.”
That makes me happy because I’ve always been told that I’ll “grow out of” my progressive views once I experience “real life.” Well, years have passed since I first heard that. I now work full-time and pay my own bills. (No spouse or kids, but I’m not particularly interested in that anyway.) I’m only more progressive than I was before, and if Steinem’s right, I’m only gonna get radicalized from here.
Also, my friends and I looked stylish af and I’m glad I got to sashay past those protesters looking like this: