Written across the website of reproductive rights campaign This Is Personal are three simple tabs: “About,” “Learn,” and “Act.”
Below these words lives a homepage with a Tumblr-esque layout, filling the screen with a multitude of user-friendly, clickable squares. Some squares feature a mordant, tongue-in-cheek tone (“What the rest of us call women: ‘women.’ What Representative Hansen calls women: 'vaginas.'"), some praise recent successes (“We did it! With your help, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act.”), and others require nothing more than something stark and direct (“Violating a women’s right to abortion? I won’t stand for it.”)
The site’s direct layout is the perfect incarnation of the “form follows function” rule, as the campaign itself aims for directness: to educate young women, ages 18-35, about reproductive health in a straightforward manner, and empower them with a clear action-oriented means for participation in the fight.
I was fortunate enough to interview Thao Nguyen, This Is Personal’s campaign manager, about the future of the campaign, the current climate in the fight for reproductive health, and the challenges we all face, beyond activism and simply as human beings.
What separates This Is Personal from other campaigns is that it lives almost entirely online, and aims to address young women at their level. Content is curated for the digital age of activism and communication, focused on engaging young women through these platforms. Thao explained, “From this campaign, I’ve learned, loud and clear, it’s an information gap, not an intensity gap. Trust me, when we know — we care. A lot.”
It’s no secret that I’m an advocate for women’s rights. Time and again, I come across both men and women who do not feel that these issues are personal, not relevant, and therefore not important to them. As such, I’m always curious how other activists respond to such opposition. Thao emphasized the importance of creating inclusive, shareable content for men, and making it clear that they have a space in the fight. She added, "Sometimes you need to leave your personal feelings aside and just point out the facts so that people can draw their own conclusions. I’ve quickly learned that people deserve to have their own reaction, which may be more nuanced and interesting than your own."
When asked what she would say to those who don’t feel these issues are personal to them, she gave a frank, poignant response. “I would ask them to find out what happens during a transvaginal ultrasound and to talk to me afterward.”
As Thao starkly pointed out, there is a great discrepancy between public opinion and legislative action. She mentioned a recent NBC poll in which 70% of Americans were for keeping abortion legal, yet women have faced unprecedented levels of legislative opposition the past few years. That’s why campaigns like This Is Personal are essential in our current political climate. "There needs to be a bright light shining on these politicians and the issues they’ve decided to prioritize over their constituents’ wishes," Thao stated. (A sentiment echoing much of recent developments in gun restrictive legislation).
This Is Personal focuses on issues surrounding abortion, birth control, and reproductive. In terms of disparities between those involved in the fight and the general public’s knowledge regarding these issues, Thao stated, "We understand women as complex beings in our professional, personal, and family lives. Yet, when it comes to our health — for some reason – every health care service is picked apart and every situation is painted as black and white. I would start with … how women’s health is a holistic, complicated, nuanced issue and should be treated so."
The interview concluded with a message of advocacy, mirroring the oft displayed mantra of urban Metros, “If you see something, say something.”
She iterated the importance of reacting, whether it’s to a lawmaker, friend, or utilizing online communities such as This Is Personal. The tools from their site provide simple and effective ways to show support, such as directly to the women in North Dakota, facing some of the harshest abortion bans in the country.
She concludes, “Most people would never allow someone to be bullied in the grocery store, at the bus stop, in a restaurant. So then why would we let some politicians bully women all over this country?”