Be a Needle, Not a Haystack

A call for more men to join the fight for reproductive justice

Credit: Phil Hearing on Unsplash

These last couple months have me scared. With the slew of abortion restrictions pushed through in 9 states so far this year and the conservative bent of our current adjudicators, Roe v. Wade looks to be in dire straits. I’ve been getting out to as many town halls and volunteer events as I can. But I’ve noticed a disheartening trend at gatherings for the defense of reproductive rights. There are so few men in attendance.

We need more men to show up in the fight for reproductive rights.

Several months back, some friends of mine accidentally and brilliantly coined a term for lazy or otherwise unimpressive men. Noting that looking for a good dude was like looking for a needle in a haystack, we laughed at the image of a haystack of men — bland, straw-colored bodies laying unremarkably between a barn and a horse corral.

“Haystack” was born as the male equivalent of “basic bitch” — as in, “I was out at the club last night and you won’t believe the line some haystack tried on me.”

At this moment, we do not need haystacks. We need needles — sharp, directed, and actively working to bring shit together.

Abortion is often described as a “woman’s issue” but it effects us all.

Oh, the problems with the term “woman’s issue.”

For starters, chalking anything related to pregnancy or childbirth up to women is frankly archaic and unfashionably un-woke. Women aren’t the only people who can get pregnant, since trans men and non-binary individuals might have babymaking equipment of their own. To label abortion or any element of reproductive justice as something belonging to women is trans exclusionary, and we can do better than that.

People who can actually give birth are also not the only ones affected by an unintended pregnancy. The idea that pregnancy and childbirth is a “woman’s issue” displays not only a disregard for the full spectrum of gender identity and expression, it’s also sexist as hell. Aren’t we past the time when daddies go to work and drink highballs after hours while mommies bake cakes and do the child rearing? If it takes a village to raise a child, it’s certainly going to take some men too.

An Imaginative Exercise

I understand it may be difficult to imagine life in a non-male body, so I’ll help you out by laying out some key hallmarks of a female-bodied experience.

Imagine you’re in a female body. Weird, right?! Your voice is a little higher. You have novel lumps of flesh in places you didn’t before.

Imagine that body moving through adolescence and puberty. In an incredibly awkward and humiliating time of transition — a time when you fear that everyone is looking at your body — everyone is actually looking at you body. In fact, people 40 years older than you sometimes lean into your personal space to comment on your body, whispering suggestions and words that make you at once furious and ashamed.

Imagine growing a little older, entering your 20’s, going out and partying with friends and constantly thinking about holding back. Better not drink too much, you might think, or I could get raped. Better not let loose, or someone might hurt me.

Imagine walking down the street as a grown person and every time you pass a male body, the air around you seems to shrink. You become particularly aware of the space you occupy, and careful not to take up much of it.

Imagine that you could get pregnant. Even if everybody wore all the things you should at all the right times, imagine you find yourself carrying a fertilized embryo. You alone have the responsibility to nourish and sustain that growing fetus, go through labor, and see to that child’s survival and development for the rest of your life. Sure, it takes two to tango, but there’s no guarantee the contributor of sperm is going to be there to pitch in.

Imagine that from the highest levels of government, there is a swift and powerful movement to ensure that if you do become pregnant, you have absolutely no agency to do anything but carry that fetus to term. You will, they have decreed, give birth. You will be a parent. No matter whether you want to have that baby or not. No exceptions permitted.

Imagine people you have never met are fighting tooth and nail to take away your opportunity to choose your own future.

This is what people who can get pregnant are facing. That is our reality. There is a real and very powerful movement working to strip us of our ability to choose when and if we have children.

But this fight isn’t just our fight. We need allies. We need you.

After all, if powerful men are going to listen to anyone else, it’s most likely other men.

It’s okay if you don’t know what to do — as long as you do something anyway.

Here are 5 ideas to get you started.

  1. Educate yourself about reproductive justice. Apportion some of the time you’d otherwise spend on social media, video games or TV to reading information from the front lines. Seek to understand those whose voices so often go unheard.
  2. Put your money towards the cause. Donate to Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights or the Yellowhammer Fund.
  3. Listen to the people in your life whose bodies are under attack. I’m not saying you want to go around polling your co-workers or neighbors about whether or not they’ve had an abortion. But if you’ve got a girlfriend or wife or partner or friend — someone you know and care about — who has expressed any kind of anxiety, incredulity or dismay about this movement to restrict their bodily autonomy, listen as they speak. Hear their pain, worry, or anger without trying to soothe or change it. There is power in being seen.
  4. Find a progressive candidate running for local office who supports reproductive freedom and support them. Talk to them, learn their platform, and if you believe in what they say, volunteer, donate, and retweet their message ad nauseum.
  5. Call your damn Senator. I know — calling people is scary. Calling a very busy person who you may have never met face to face could be downright terrifying. I’m sorry, but you have to get over it. Whether you agree with them or not, politicians are the ones shaping law and policy that shape all of our lives. If you want certain rights or liberties to be defended, you’ve got to have some kind of relationship with your legislators. But you don’t have to figure it out on your own. NARAL Pro-Choice has a whole campaign to include men in this movement (though they have some work to do to make their efforts more trans-inclusive). And if you haven’t yet signed up for action alerts with Planned Parenthood Action Fund, do it. No really — do it. They will send you text messages that literally tell you what to do and say to support reproductive health care.

If we are going to develop and protect a world where every person has a right to make decisions about their own bodies, we are going to need all bodies to step up.

Will you?

Gender — Relationships — Doing your own thing without pissing off everybody else.

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