Feminist movement to end sexist oppression actively engages participants in revolutionary struggle. Struggle is rarely safe or pleasurable.
--bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
I've written in various places--in Catching a Wave, in an unpublished essay called "The Feminist Free for All"--about the fact that feminism demands a commitment, a willingness to work and struggle. One of my major political beliefs is that it's not enough to call myself a feminist or claim that label when it's easy. If it's going to mean something, I have to back it up with what I do. As a poster in my office says, "It's not enough to be compassionate. You must act."
It was in that spirit that I decided to speak about my abortion to the ABC reporter last week. Biffle has written so sweetly here about the weight of that decision. He knows that it was scary because I left two voice messages on his phone while I was trying to decide, and I'm sure my anxiety was audible--"Biffle, I think I'm going to do this!" He's right that I've gotten hate mail for far less than that, so I did the interview knowing that, as I told colleagues only half-jokingly, someone might firebomb the office.
So it's been an absolutely wonderful surprise that in the past week, there has been no backlash whatsoever. Instead, here's what I've gotten: a dozen emails from people I know and people I don't, saying they saw me on TV and thanking me. An anonymous phone call from a woman in Alabama who said, "I just wanted to tell you that you were so brave." Applause from a room full of students.
As I've been reflecting this week on what I wanted to say about the interview, I realized that what I'm experiencing is the other side of the commitment to feminist struggle. Although bell hooks says that struggle is rarely safe or pleasurable, I'm recognizing that sometimes it is. Maybe not safe, but certainly pleasurable. Satisfying. Sometimes you stick your neck out, and what you get is not hate mail but a standing ovation.