By Kara Odum '15Economics Columnist
The fight for reproductive justice has been waged for decades, from celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade to more recent happenings such as Wendy Davis’ stand against oppressive anti-choice legislation in Texas. According to Choice, USA, reproductive justice is when “all people have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, sexuality and reproduction for themselves, their families and their communities, in all areas of their lives.” Historically, women have been a major driving force behind the pro-choice movement, which seeks to secure reproductive justice for everyone, but recently men have been getting more involved in this discussion.
The Scripps College chapter of Choice USA is launching the Bro-Choice campaign to offer a framework for including more men in the reproductive justice discussion by engaging, educating, and mobilizing hundreds of young men to be more than passive allies and to be vocal advocates for sexual and reproductive justice. Bro-Choice encourages men to challenge traditional ideas of masculinity, incorporate queerness into the pro-choice movement, and create more vocal advocates for women. So far, the Bro-Choice movement has been successful nationally with varying stages of implementation at colleges across the country. For clarification, the term men includes men, young men, men of color, and male-identified people who are pro-choice. It recognizes that men experience gender privilege and oppression very differently based on their race, class, sexuality, location, etc. and that this is not just a women’s issue. By opening up the conversation, Bro-Choice challenges the notion that being masculine must perpetuate reproductive oppression and gendered violence.
Men have their own varied experiences with oppression and identity, and Bro-Choice is not generalizing men’s experiences. Living Bro-Choice means having the courage to speak out against injustice, being a vocal advocate for reproductive justice, an authentic ally to women, and working on creating broad, equitable and inclusive definitions of masculinity. Living Bro-Choice means being a part of the solution.
What’s in it for the men? Right now, men are negatively impacted by gender roles as shown in several research studies. According to the American Sociological Association, “men who idealize traditional masculinity are 50% less likely to seek out preventive health care services, which put them at risk for more major medical problems later on.” This carries over to sexual health as well: according to the Health and Human Services Department, men with these views are less likely to use condoms, more likely to get someone pregnant, and are more at risk of contracting an STI. Bro-choice encourages men to challenge the notion that women are responsible for safe sex and that sexual assault is a result of “hyper masculine men not being able to control themselves.” According to Pandora’s Project, men are the least likely to report or disclose sexual assault, even though it is estimated that they make up 10 percent of all victims. Bro-Choice is trying to implement this conversation via a pledge drive that asks men to challenge negative stereotypes and representations of men and masculinity in the media, call out sexism when they see it, challenge themselves and interrogate their personal privileges, and to be an outspoken champion for reproductive justice. The Scripps College chapter of Choice USA will launch the Bro-Choice campaign in the Claremont community this month. We will ask male identified people to sign the Bro Choice pledge.
We are partnering with student clubs and organizations across the 5-Cs and asking folks of all genders to engage in an art/ activism project. We will ask folks to write, draw, decorate a response to one of two questions: “Why is reproductive justice more than just a woman’s issue?” and “How can I be a reproductive justice ally?” These statement strips will be used to construct a collage, or some other art piece, that will be displayed at five different sites across the Claremont College communities in December.
This may seem like a lot but the consequences of not challenging the status quo are staggering. Men protesting Texas’ new anti-choice laws this summer clearly laid out what’s at stake. Bill Lambert commented, “I want society to be better than it is today and I wouldn’t have the right to hope for such a thing if women were still not fully emancipated and equal partners in that process.”
To get involved with the Bro-Choice campaign and/or the Scripps College chapter of Choice USA, please contact Elizabeth McElvein at firstname.lastname@example.org. Member meetings are every other Monday in the Browning living room at 8:30, and new faces are always welcome.