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How not to talk about equality

If you were anywhere near social media last week, you probably saw lots of people change their profile picture to this:

Red square with light red/pink "equals" sign logo

to show support for allowing same-sex couples to legally marry.

In response, the Manhattan Declaration’s Facebook page posted this graphic with the note, “So, you want to talk about equality…”

Graphic featuring an "equals" sign superimposed over a human fetus in utero.

Now, some people shared the fetus graphic to express their support for both marriage equality and fetal humanity. That’s great! But anyone using it or thinking of using it should be aware of who the Manhattan Declaration is, and why they were circulating this graphic.

The Manhattan Declaration opposes civil marriage for same-sex couples. When they wrote, “So, you want to talk about equality…” they weren’t saying “let’s be even more inclusive!” They were saying “stop being for that form of equality and be for this form of equality instead.”

Unfortunately, that’s how a lot of people used it. I heard from people who are themselves in same-sex relationships, or changed their profile pictures to support friends and family who are. These are people who have been harmed or seen loved ones harmed by the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage. And for their expression of that pain and support, for their celebration of love, they got a fetus graphic flung at them by their opponents. One guess as to whether it made them more or less inclined to feel a sense of kinship with the child in the graphic.

As a practical matter, tying abortion opposition to same-sex marriage opposition alienates an increasingly large segment of the population, especially younger people. It’s a loser. And as an ethical matter, responding to heartfelt stories of loving relationships and discriminatory policies with “Never mind you, what about my cause?” That’s just mean.

5 thoughts on “How not to talk about equality”

  1. To be fair, it’s usually the pro-abortion crowd that tries to link their own cause to being pro-civil rights. Still, it’s true that those who go along with them aren’t helping.

    And as an ethical matter, responding to heartfelt stories of loving relationships and discriminatory policies with “Never mind you, what about my cause?” That’s just mean.

    I completely agree, but this kind of Oppression Olympics is sadly everywhere.

  2. Social conservatives everywhere, also in my country, use the issue of abortion for legitimizing the rest of their agenda: no contraception, no same sex marriage, no comprehensive sex ed, etc. But i think a lot of people is both pro-life and pro-lgtb rights. In most of Europe and the US, abortion was made legal decades before the struggle for same sex marriage started, because second wave feminism predates lgtb rights movement, but it’s not like this in all countries. For example, in my country, Argentina, we have same sex marriage with full rights since 2010, (being one of the few countries where same sex couples have the same rights as opposite sex ones, including adoption), while abortion remains illegal. Ireland introduced a limited form of recognition for same sex couples in 2011,and abortion law there (as seen in the sad case of Savita Halappavanar) is very restrictive. Both socially conservative ‘prolife’ groups and prochoice ones want to make us believe that is ‘all or nothing’. But it’s clear that standing for human life is not about telling people what to do with their sexuality or preventing them from avoiding STDs. Pro-life doesn’t mean anti-sex, ant-lgtb people, anti-women.

  3. Hi Jen, I’d like to ask for your help again. Do you know of any sites (blogs, forums, mailing lists, whatever) that are safe spaces on this issue? I admire the work that you and others do to engage, but personally, I often don’t have the spoons to deal with all the triggering violent rhetoric directed at the unborn, and it’s especially upsetting when it appears in purportedly feminist or pro-social justice discourse. I’d prefer a safe space that polices all the *isms, but at this point, I’d settle for a place where basic human rights aren’t up for debate.

  4. Caitlin, I wish I knew of places that were safe for talking about social justice, reproductive issues, etc. without also advocating for abortion (and sometimes containing violent or dehumanizing rhetoric toward unborn humans). That’s one of my goals for All Our Lives.

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