A Quiet Stand
"How much longer will we let ourselves be shamed? What does it take until we snap? Our bodies and our decisions are less and less our own. I'd rather not have reproductive organs if this is the way I'm going to be treated."
These words from disheartened Austin activist Kaci Beeler mirror a lot of the Facebook sentiments and Twitter chatter that have accompanied the windfall of news stories following Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments he unloaded on the world this past Sunday.
But Tuesday's decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to once more ban Planned Parenthood's participation in the Texas Women's Health Program — denying preventive and reproductive health care to thousands of low-income, uninsured women in Texas — was the last straw for Beeler.
"The GOP hailstorm was certainly upsetting. It was hard to deal with rationally and emotionally because it seemed like satire. I would read and hear what politicians were saying, but I couldn't believe these were educated and caring people," she says. "[By Tuesday], I felt helpless. I felt immense sadness, shame, confusion. I felt like something needed to happen."
Instead of wallowing in frustration and tears, Beeler began formulating an action plan that would allow her and her fellow Texan women to make a powerful visible statement about the present landscape that exists for Texans with vaginas.
As Beeler explains, "These decisions that are being made have real world consequences. It's more than just something that we all groan over on Facebook, and I'm tired of it being just an internal thing. I want to stand in solidarity with people in the real world. I want to put a visual out there that says what so many of us are feeling inside."
What started with a series of messages on Facebook quickly escalated into Saturday's upcoming Silent War on Women Rally, an impromptu effort involving women of all ages who are concerned with the future of women's rights joining together on the steps of the Texas State Capitol. "No signs. No slogans. No shouting. This is a silent protest," says the event invite.
Explaining the wordless approach to protesting, Beeler says simply: "I don't know if we could ever succinctly say everything we want to or need to, and I think words could cloud things up. Words aren't always easily understood, and many of us don't even know how to verbalize what we are feeling."
It stands to note that Beeler is an artist and a performer as well as an activist, so there is an additional creative element to the rhetoric. Beeler invites all of Saturday's participants to wear handmade targets on their bodies — pinned on, painted on, however you choose — to symbolize the implied targets placed on every American woman in the ongoing "War on Women" being waged by a majority of clearly uninformed politicians.
"These decisions target our bodies and what we're capable of as women. When you take our health and our choices out of our hands, you make us feel like an unknown enemy," she says.
In case you're wondering, the rally is open to anyone who shares Beeler's (and Planned Parenthood's and TWH's) ideals, "anyone who feels affected, unheard, unsatisfied, worried or unhappy about how women's reproductive health is being treated right now in Texas."
Men are welcome to attend the event to stand in support of the women who are present, but it is important to Beeler's vision of the event that the assembled collective represent the bodies that are all too often in question.
"I would like policy to change," Beeler says when asked about her goals for the rally. "I would like to see a lot of people becoming aware that these policies are going to hurt others in the long run. Not just women, not just women with low incomes, not just young women, not just promiscuous women, but everyone."
She continues, "But also I would like people who attend to leave feeling like they're a part of something bigger: a community who loves them, cares for them and understands them. It's just so easy to feel alone in all of this, to feel lost in it. I don't have a bigger end goal than that right now. It is more the need to do something."
The Silent War on Women Rally will be held Saturday, August 25 from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. on the steps of the Texas State Capitol. Everyone is welcome to attend.