The National Women’s Law Center is trying to engage young women in defending our reproductive rights with their new campaign, This is Personal. How is NWLC planning to engage us, Generation Apathy? Why, by making it personal, of course!
This is Personal is empowering, educating, and activating young women in their teens, twenties, and thirties, by using social media and entertaining internet memes to keep our reproductive rights intact and our reproductive decisions personal. I spoke with Gretchen Borchelt of the NWLC, the spokeswoman for the This is Personal campaign, to learn more about it.
If you're of our generation and you haven’t heard of the National Women’s Law Center, you’re probably not alone. But that’s the point of the This is Personal campaign. We are a demographic, and this is a style of engagement, in which the NWLC has not traditionally worked.
“Because we’re trying to reach younger people, we’re using the latest trends in social media. We’re trying to reach these women where they are rather than expecting them to come to us,” says Ms. Borchelt. The campaign website is designed like one of those infographics we all love so much: it is very visual, easy to use, and pared down to the essentials. In addition to petitions and letter-writing campaigns, This is Personal is creating short satirical videos to highlight particular aspects of the nationwide attacks on women’s health: birth control, regulation of vaginas, and more birth control.
“We’re doing Facebook, we’re doing Twitter, but we’re doing them in a way that is funny and snarky and uses humor to make a very serious point.”
One other thing This is Personal is doing: pushing sharing content.
“We want to see a lot of sharing of this information ... it’s friends talking to friends or friends talking to family members, that’s the way you can really get a message across and make it personal for people ... just to be able to “like” something is a good action, that means that they’re engaging and ... learning and being empowered.
The campaign is hopeful that peer-to-peer sharing as political engagement will motivate young women to see these issues as affecting them personally and, in turn, speak out against the full scale attacks on women’s health. “I think when we see the shares and we see the ‘likes’ and we see people posting on our Facebook page and responding, that’s how we know we’re making a difference and it’s getting to people and it’s causing them to react.”
It’s probably true; as the kids who grew up with YouTube, we are quick to click share when something amuses us — so much the better if we’re engaging politically at the same time. Still, though we might wield the power of huge online social networks, we don’t have huge bank accounts to donate to important causes, and teenagers can’t even vote.
So why us?
“A lot of young people think they have access to abortion because they grew up in a post-Roe era. We’re trying to make it real for them that you might think you have that right, but the reality is that not only is it being attacked and being taken away at the federal and state levels by politicians, the reality for a lot of women is they’ve already lost the ability to access and make their own reproductive health care decisions."
We know these are issues in a political sense, but for young women in many parts of the country it doesn’t necessarily hit close enough to home to begin to activate our sense of outrage. “When they hear about abortion or access to birth control in the abstract, it often isn’t real for them.”
That’s where This is Personal comes in: “When we have someone on social media saying ‘Hey, check out this map, we’re in that state, oh my gosh, our state doesn’t cover [the cost of abortion for] rape or incest, they can’t get abortion coverage, did you know this?’ That makes it real for people.”
Of course, it’s not just attacks on birth control and abortion at stake, though these are the most divisive issues. This is Personal is also trying to engage young women on broader women’s health: pap smears, mammograms, STI testing, maternity care, preventative care. They expect to attract the most initial engagement through the high-profile issues of abortion and birth control, but “we’re hopeful that people we bring in on those things we can then bring in [to] the other reproductive health care services.” After all, preventative and reproductive health care are just as important, and as personal.
And what better way to make something personal than to tell a story, whether through a humorous video or a first-hand anecdote. Ms. Borchelt tells the following story:
“One of the best stories I can use [to get people involved] is a woman I know who is a married mother, had a newborn daughter, and she and her husband had a birth control failure. She got her physician to call in a prescription for emergency contraception to the pharmacy. They went to the pharmacy and the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription and berated her and her husband, telling them that they were irresponsible and that they shouldn’t have put themselves in the situation in the first place and then refused to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy so she couldn’t even get it filled anywhere else.”
Have your own story?
In true internet generation style, the campaign will be strengthened and diversified by collaborative community contributions: This is Personal is collecting stories about how attacks on women’s health care have affected us personally. Think about it—you could be the next memetic internet sensation! Gangnam style birth control, anyone?