CULTURE

Elizabeth Banks and Busy Philipps Join Rally in DC to Defend Abortion Rights

The My Right My Decision rally in DC on Wednesday focused on the positives and success stories of abortion

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The world is full of different kinds of suffering.

There are base physical pains—abdominal cramps, aching joints, tearing flesh. And then there are deeper, more crushing forms of spiritual and psychological anguish—the feeling of being inadequate to provide for a loved one, or that your mere existence has ruined another person's life. No one should have to live with that kind of pain. That's the idea behind a rally on Wednesday in Washington DC and an accompanying hashtag on Twitter, which both seek to celebrate and defend a powerful tool for the prevention of suffering: abortion.

Of course, some suffering is unavoidable. For those cases we have spiritual and philosophical guidance that can help us come to terms with daily struggles. The rest of the time, we turn to science to create solutions that can save us from pain. Science can give us new limbs, restore our vision, replace our organs. Any and all of these methods for reducing suffering deserve to be celebrated, and they often are. But abortions—one of the oldest medical miracles—have recently become so taboo that our culture would sooner demonize them than say anything positive about them. This is despite the fact that a safe, minimally invasive procedure—or even just a swallowed pill—can often save two lives from tremendous suffering and despite the fact that nearly a quarter of American women will have had an abortion by the age of 45.

The groups responsible for maintaining that taboo—groups that promote shame around abortion—are vocal enough that most of us are familiar with their arguments. They have decided without evidence that a human embryo or fetus—at any stage of development—is a child with a soul and rights and feelings. They believe that the mere existence of a fertilized egg inside a uterus necessarily obliges the human attached to that uterus to be a nurturing host to the life inside them. They equate abortion with murder, and they want to force the rest of us to conform to that standard of morality. They bolster their claims with graphic images and false claims that people who receive abortions usually regret the choice. Then they push for irrelevant laws that hide the motive of restricting abortion access.

The My Right My Decision rally in DC formed in response to the Supreme Court case of June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, which revolves around a Louisiana law requiring clinics that provide abortion services to staff a doctor with admitting privileges at a local hospital. While the purported motive is to improve safety measures, critics point to a similar law in Texas that was struck down in 2016 after the court found no compelling safety benefits. Instead, it seems to be part of a surge in legislation designed to restrict abortion access and take advantage of the shift in the balance that took place when conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy on the bench.

With celebrities like Busy Philipps and Elizabeth Banks in attendance, along with politicians including Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, the rally that took place Wednesday morning was attempting to counter stigma with success stories and a defense of freedom. As Banks put it in her address to the crowd, "Today we are taking the opportunity to present reproductive freedom, including abortion, for exactly what it is: no less than liberty itself." As for Busy Philipps, she had an abortion at the age of 15, and has been open about how important that was for her life: "I'm genuinely really scared for women and girls all over this country."

While opponents will point to instances of regret, the reality is that 99% of abortions are not a source of regret but of relief, even five years after the fact. By and large, people are not making the decision lightly, and they really do know whether or not they're ready for the trauma of pregnancy and labor and the responsibility of parenthood.

In an imaginary world where population was dwindling, where the medical costs associated with pregnancy and delivery were covered by the state, where there were no negative social or professional repercussions for anyone who might become pregnant, and where an infant given up for adoption could be guaranteed a humane childhood, it might be understandable to see pushback against abortion rights. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. In our world, the planet is being ravaged by overpopulation and overconsumption, medical debts are a driving force behind American bankruptcies, and hundreds of thousands of children without parents are subjected to cruelty and neglect within our foster care system or at the hands of ill-equipped parents.

Easy access to a procedure that can prevent those horrors—and the horrors of inevitable "back-alley" abortions—is something worth celebrating, not stigmatizing. Which is why the hashtag #MyRightMyDecision was trending on Twitter Wednesday morning, with images from the rally that featured women holding signs that proclaim "I Had An Abortion," "Abortion is Healthcare," and "Thank God For Abortion."

The idea that creating more and more people is fundamentally a good thing—regardless of their quality of life—is a deeply flawed assumption, and it's foundational to the so-called "pro-life" movement. While a baby, in the right circumstances, is undoubtedly a miracle—they can bring so much joy and meaning to life—an abortion is just as miraculous when circumstances are simply wrong. When the process of having or raising a child is made untenable by health concerns, economic realities, youth, trauma, or a basic lack of desire to be a parent, it is not only cruel to the parent to restrict abortion access, it's cruel to the child who—through no fault of their own—will already be a source of problems and a focus of resentment before it's born

A child born in that situation has little chance to thrive. While other forms of birth control are preferable, abortion is a hugely important last resort, and it's refreshing to see culture beginning to embrace the positive side of abortion, and defending it against shame and stigma.

While rally-goers and Twitter users are making their voices heard, a decision on the law will likely not be passed down until June.

Music Features

Classic Mixtapes To Get Us Through Summer In Quarantine

Let's revisit some of the great summer mixtapes to help ease the pangs of summertime nostalgia

Bonfires with our friends, balmy summer days spent by the lake passing a spliff and sipping on a Corona, summertime love affairs—it all may feel like a past life now.

The rollout for summer 2020 is unlike anything before it. While Americans everywhere try to retain a sense of normalcy, it will be impossible to enjoy summer the way we want to. Bitter nostalgia for the summers of yore is rampant. Luckily, music has remained the one constant. To help unwind in these times of heightened anxiety, it helps to revisit some of the mixtapes that brought us childhood bliss, that pumped us up when school dismissed for summer, that blasted through our car speakers as we cruised with the windows down with our friends in tow. Here are a few of the greatest mixtapes of summers past, in the hopes it will bring back the fond memories that, right now, may feel distant.

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FILM

Kristen Stewart's "Charlie's Angels" Character Is "Definitely Gay"—But Is That Enough?

In "Charlie's Angels," our Bella has finally become a swan. That doesn't mean the film can escape some traps.

Kristen Stewart has the Internet in a tizzy thanks to her role in Charlie's Angels, and her performance as Sabrina has a lot of people questioning their sexuality (or celebrating what they already knew).

Thanks to the omnipotence of the Internet, Sabrina's queerness isn't in question. According to Out Magazine, in an interview with PrideSource, the director Elizabeth Banks confirmed that the character is "definitely gay in the movie."

That doesn't mean that Sabrina is exactly overt about her sexuality in the film, though—there are no lines in the script about her sexual orientation. According to Banks, this was purposeful. "When I cast [Kristen Stewart], I just wanted her to be… I just felt like she's almost the way Kristen is. I don't feel there is a label that fits her," she told Digital Spy. "The only thing that was important to me was to not label it as anything. It's fine if the media wants to label it, I think that's OK, but I didn't do that. I just let her be herself in the film."

Apparently, Stewart "wanted to be gay" in the movie, though she's also not hung up on labels. "I just think we're all kind of getting to a place where—I don't know, evolution's a weird thing—we're all becoming incredibly ambiguous," she said in an interview in which she also clarified that she doesn't exactly identify as bisexual anymore. "And it's this really gorgeous thing."

This philosophy feels aligned with our current moment, where the boundaries of sexuality, gender, and other paradigms are constantly blurring and shifting. On the other hand, there's a fine line between refusing labels as an act of protest and refusing labels as a way of ultimately obscuring identities, thus winding up back where we began.

Is Charlie's Angels queer-baiting? It's definitely going too far to say that a film is queer-baiting simply for coding a character as gay without explicitly addressing their orientation, but Banks's and the film's treatment of Sabrina's queerness still raises questions. How important are labels, and is our end goal to normalize them or disintegrate them completely?

In liberal Hollywood circles, perhaps it's enough to express queerness as an implicit character trait, but in a world that still threatens LGBTQ+ people's rights, there's a dearth of characters that are out and proud. On the other hand, queerness and relationships aren't anyone's entire identity, and they shouldn't have to be, onscreen or off.

Despite Banks' insistence that her film is newly "woke," Charlie's Angels has always toed the line between regressive and revolutionary. According to Vulture, "You could chart a mini arc of corporate feminism onto the Charlie's Angels franchise." The film is about three attractive women who are empowered because they do the bidding of an invisible commander, after all, and what could be more reminiscent of the corporate world's rapid consumption of the girl-boss illusion? A capitalist enterprise hasn't improved simply because it's being run by a woman, after all, and a film isn't feminist just because it features female characters in positions of power. "What's so depressing about the new film is that the most radical thing it can think to do to update this concept is to hint that Charlie has actually, this whole time, been a lady," the article continues.

Similarly, a film isn't pro-LGBTQ just because it tacitly implies a character's queerness. It's true that queerness is becoming more widely accepted and less stigmatized overall, though. (Stewart herself just gushed about wanting to propose to her girlfriend, Dylan Meyer). That means that we should be working towards representing more radical politics and more underrepresented identities onscreen, not just erasing all identity politics now that bisexuality has been subsumed into the realm of acceptable traits, and not just calling a film feminist because it stars a couple of women.

Feminist or not, Stewart's performance (and costume choice) are so strong that her character's existence is ultimately a victory even if the rest of the film falters. She's even been branded a Hollywood Chris, after all; maybe that even means that someday, our Hollywood Chrises won't be all white.