Sometimes you do not choose the fight; the fight chooses you. This fight is about censorship and abortion. Recently, I was asked to write to script for a production, which promised to be “a celebration, education, and exploration of the female voice in Kentucky.” Upon submitting the piece, a musical parody highlighting the issues and inequalities that women have been facing from 1988 to present, I was told “the powers that be” would not allow the use of the word “abortion.” I was asked to remove it. I refused and retracted the script.
I was also slated to be the headliner at the Friday evening slam poetry event, but again was told my piece, “Three Minutes,” was too divisive. The poem focuses on the myriad of thoughts going through a woman’s mind between taking a pregnancy test and finding out the results. I was given the option to perform a less controversial piece. I refused and bowed out.
But, I could not ignore the irony of an event that promised to promote the voices of Kentucky women while silencing them from behind the scenes. I could not sit by while audiences assumed that since the topic of abortion was not broached, during the production, it was simply of no concern for women in our state. So, I decided speak out.
With recent legislation and the looming threat that ours may be the first state in the country without access to safe and legal terminations, the topic of abortion in Kentucky is being discussed nationwide. News organizations, including CNN, USA Today, the LA Times, Newsweek, and even Britain’s The Daily Telegraph, have all recently published or broadcast stories speculating the consequences. If this can be a topic of national conversation, surely it is irresponsible to not include it in a dialogue focused on women, here at home.
I am also greatly concerned about the message that is being conveyed. In deeming the word so ugly and shameful that it cannot even be spoken on stage, this organization is placing judgement on every woman who has ever made the difficult decision to have an abortion. I am one of those women. If the word is so taboo that it must be relegated to a shadowy and silent corner, then in what sort of dark and dangerous alleys will the actual procedure be forced to take place?
And, regardless of which word you are asking me to omit, censorship imposed on anyone is alarming. For an artist, it is cause for revolt. This week, we’ll be asked not to use the word abortion. Next week, we’ll be told we can’t include transgender.
Then, they take away libertarian. Next, feminist may be banned, or revolution, or Buddha…or Muhammad…or God. Before we know it, our vocabularies have been reduced to a few innocuous words with no impact, and our ability to fully express our beliefs is gone. This is the beginning of the end of freedom.
Still, writing this was one of the more difficult things I’ve done. I greatly respect many of the women involved in this project and the past work they’ve produced. I know they are under a great deal of pressure from the “powers that be” to not offend or ostracize certain members of the community. However, as an activist artist, it is not my job to change for the “powers that be”—it is my job to change the “powers that be.”
And, as a feminist, I believe that women—all women—have the right to choose. If you opt to give your child up for adoption, I respect that decision. If you know that an abortion is right for you, I respect that decision. And, if you decide to have a family of ten, I respect that decision. All these choices are worthy of discussion, which cannot happen without using certain words.
When talking about why women—strong, capable, smart women—tolerate less than acceptable behavior and do not demand basic rights, it often comes back to the deeply ingrained teaching that girls must “play nice.” We, women, often choose being attractive and accepted over being represented and respected. I, too, have been guilty, but no longer. Now, I know lasting change and true equality will only come when every one of us stands up and speaks out for what is right in every instance, every time. Every woman, every instance, every time.
Sharing All I KNOW about the fine art of voluptuating. here's to living the lush life.