I don’t cry very often. When the news you follow and the work you do is centered on injustice, there’s not much room for breakdowns; there’s always a new and more distressing story on the horizon. And besides, there’s work to be done.
So it took me by surprise that when a close relative approvingly shared this video on Facebook, I started to sob. It wasn’t about the video’s content—a “gotcha” compilation about contraception taken at an Obama rally where Sandra Fluke spoke. It was the heartbreaking realization that washes over you when you remember that the opposition to your deeply held values is not just a faceless, evil enemy—it’s family.
People like the ones who created this smirking video believe that women who want birth control covered by insurance are stupid. Maybe even whores. Conservatives have framed basic preventive healthcare as something seedy and contemptuous. (Perhaps because at the heart of it they find female sexuality seedy and contemptuous, but that’s a post for another day.) We should “keep our legs closed,” put “an aspirin between our knees” or if we want to “be paid to have sex” we should “post the videos online so [people can] watch.” This video isn’t just a “joke,” it’s a clear-as-day statement about how ludicrous the right finds women.
It’s easy to deal with this kind of hateful sentiment when it comes from a world away—people you wouldn’t want to know anyway, assholes in your inbox and talking heads on Fox News. But when the people you love the most have politics that believe you are at best naïve and at worst maybe even evil… well, there’s no ignoring that.
The truth is, I have it fairly easy on the family and politics front. My parents are old hippies who are beyond thrilled that I’m a feminist. Most of my extended relatives are supportive.
I look at letter like this one—from a father disowning his gay son—and I cannot imagine the soul-crushing agony that occurs when your dad tells you he will never speak to you again and, “if you choose not to attend my funeral, my friends and family will understand.” It’s unfathomable.
In part, I think this simple shared Facebook item was a jolt back to reality. There’s something about the Internet that makes it easier to take hate in stride—or at least, convince ourselves that we’re doing so. The fast pace helps; if you’re not stopping too long on any one thing, it’s easier to forget what people are actually saying. So much of current political discourse has become about sarcasm and quick hits—a pithy swipe that’s easily tweet-able, a one-sentence link to a cruel meme—that brushing off our shoulders is now standard.