Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Periods for Pence

I was originally going to write this post about the truly terrifying new abortion law enacted in Indiana which is now being challenged by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. However, while looking into this topic I came across a truly unique reaction Indiana women are having to this law and to Indiana's Governor Mike Pence.

After Pence signed this anti-abortion legislation (which bans abortions sought on the basis of race, sex, or potential disability of the fetus and requires the cremation or burial of fetal remains whether they are from a miscarriage or an abortion) many of Indiana's women took this to mean that Pence cared deeply about what was happening with their vaginas and uteruses. Therefore, they decided to "keep him in the loop" by routinely tell him about their periods.

Indiana's women have been calling and emailing the governor's office to keep him up to date on their menstrual cycles. Many have been so kind and thoughtful to include what day of their period they are on, their level of flow and the cramps they are experiencing, thus providing Pence with a full and accurate picture of their reproductive organs. This campaign has been titled "Periods for Pence," which even has its very own Facebook page and Twitter.

Most of the time when you hear about protests surrounding the very contentious issue of abortion you picture two groups of people standing outside of government buildings or abortion clinics and yelling at each other. Indeed, such traditional protests have been happening in response to the passage of this law. I always wonder if these types of protests have any affect given that those who are involved are often on the extreme opposite sides of the topic and therefore are very unlikely to budge on their views. It also seems unlikely to me that legislators minds will be changed by such protests as I have found that very rarely are people receptive to what you are saying when you are yelling at them and telling them they are going to Hell.

However, "Periods for Pence" brings a small amount of levity to a terrible situation for many women while simultaneously drawing attention to the shear absurdity of how invested in women's uteruses and reproductive capabilities male legislators tend to be (and yet I am also guessing that these same men are "grossed out" by a woman's period). By framing the issue of reproductive rights in such a concrete, yet entertaining way, I think that "Periods for Pence" may be able to get across the craziness that is reproductive rights restrictions to a group that is normally deaf to such arguments.

I also think that this protest allows women who are upset at the new law, but who are either unable or unwilling to traditionally protest, to show their displeasure with the law and with the politicians who passed it. Indeed, while I respect the individuals who are so invested in their beliefs that they will go out and yell and hold signs for hours in an attempt to do what they believe is right, that is not the type of protest I would want to be involved in. Not because I do not support them (well at least the pro-choice side) but because I have never been an outgoing individual, so the "Periods for Pence" movement is much more my speed.

A woman's manner of protest though should be just as individual as her health and reproductive care, so I wish the women of Indiana the best of luck however they choose to protest!


Amanda said...

This is great! I think part of the difficulty in discussing abortion and reproductive rights is that some people feel it doesn't impact their own choices—for example, if a person has never faced an unplanned or complicated pregnancy and believes she or he never will. I understand that it's hard to get worked up about an issue if you don't feel personally connected to that issue. That's why the "Periods for Pence" movement is so great! The movement recognizes that reproductive issues are, at least, a monthly issue for many women. It also recognizes the hypocrisy of controlling women's reproductive decisions while at the same time being so uncomfortable with discussions of the most basic reproduction-related activities—like a period. "Periods for Pence" is a light-hearted expression of some very serious grievances. I'm on board.

Courtney Hatchett said...

I also love this social media campaign. I think it's hilarious and speaks to much deeper issues. Like Amanda said, people can feel like reproductive rights aren't a part of their life. While the abortion conversations can be quite polarizing, women's health should not be.

This reminds me of a wonderful protester outside an Oregon Planned Parenthood last year. She had a sign that said: "Dear PP, Thanks for helping me with my yeast infections!" And then she led chants of "yeast infection, yeast infection" amid the anti-choice groups surrounding the clinic. She brought to light the fact that most women aren't using PP or other clinics for aboriton services, they are looking for basic health care. Yeast infections are not a politically debated topic, but apparently they make people (especially men) really uncomfortable--which is why her chanting was so effective. People who oppose PP generally do so because they oppose abortion services, and maybe even contraception, but no one has come out saying they oppose treating yeast infections--yet. Good luck to the group that decides that that will be their rallying platform.


Kate said...

This is such a great campaign. This reminds me of an experience I had this weekend; I did a trail run in the woods, and unfortunately I was also on my period. There were a number of aid stations along the route, and I assumed they might have port-a-potties or something, somewhere. When I asked about bathrooms at one of the stations, the man looked confused and radioed out to the race organizer who said "Tell her to find a tree." I guess it's reasonable to expect that women are able to use "natures bathroom" but even if someone is a champ at it, it's not as easy as it is for men (who I guarantee planned this race). And that's only if we aren't also dealing with a period, so I was frustrated with what I felt was an oversight on the part of the race organizers. The experience reminded me how absent from men's minds periods actually are, and campaigns like Periods for Pence are valuable because they raise that awareness.

India Powell said...

This is the greatest campaign I've ever heard of. It blows my mind that so many conservative men care SO DEEPLY about reproductive issues, yet know little to nothing about womens health. If you have the chance, watch this clip (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/male-politicians-perform-amy-schumers-pap-smear-in-spot-on-sketch_us_571a21e6e4b0d0042da8da87) from a recent episode of Inside Amy Schumer, in which a group of male politicians perform her pap smear. Like "Periods for Pence," it illustrates the sheer absurdity of reproductive legislation.

Meredith Hankins said...

I love this story so much. I also love the growing comfort that women have shown lately in embracing their period, whether or not (or perhaps because) it makes men so uncomfortable. I linked to a few great recent pop culture period-centric incidents in my blog post on feminine products a few weeks ago, including the fantastic Amy Schumer clip from India and a few Broad City episodes. It seems like the tide is slowly starting to turn towards accepting periods as just another normal thing that happens. See, i.e. the deluge of articles recently on how female astronauts deal with periods in space: http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/11/health/space-gynecology-periods-in-microgravity/