In a debate about how the violence of protest needs to be quelled people often cite ANTIFA, the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, and far-left environmental activist when it comes to arguments about who should be silenced. However, what they often fail to bring up are examples of non-violent protest that could be deemed violent attacks on those being protested. The idea of words as violent acts is laughed at by some, specifically right-wingers, but it should not be.
For the readers who doubt that words can ever be violent I will make the same suggestion that I often make to my Introduction to Sociology students. You should read an article by psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett in the New York Times where she lays out the physical damage done by words. She points out that verbal confrontations can be so distressing to individuals that it makes them sick, alters how their brain functions, kills neurons, and even shortens their lives.
Take the time to imagine what a woman must go through as she passes a group of protestors outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic on her way to have an abortion. A woman seeking an abortion, if raped, is having to deal with the fact that someone has shown her that she is nothing but an object to them, she is probably dealing with the fact that members of her social circle and family are judging her without knowing the fullness of her situation, as well as carrying a piece of the animal that brutally attacked her mentally and physically; on top of all of that she has to listen to some asshole telling her she is an hour away from committing murder.
Even if the woman seeking an abortion was not raped, does it matter? It is her body, her choice. No matter her situation, in the process of making the choice that she has she has dealt with enough stress and inner turmoil to have anything else added to that. The protest outside only exacerbates her doubts, depression and insecurities.
Dr. Barrett she points out that “your body’s immune system includes little proteins called proinflammatory cytokines that cause inflammation when you’re physically injured. Under certain conditions, however, these cytokines themselves can cause physical illness. What are those conditions? One of them is chronic stress.”
If this is the case then it is reasonable to assume that the combination of wrestling with one’s inner insecurities, plus the stress of negotiating one’s social circle’s and families’ views on one’s choice to have an abortion, combined with the dehumanization of rape, and THEN having some rabid protester calling you a murderer would cause enough stress to negatively affect anyone’s mental and physical health. If we care about women and their health, we must admit that these protestors, no matter how “non-violent” they act, are actually engaging in violence with their words.
Preventing “pro-life” or as they should be known as, anti-choice, protestors from being within even the range of hearing from a Planned Parenthood clinic isn’t about silencing speech, it is about protecting women. To those that protest outside of abortion clinics, as well as those that support those protestors, who disagree with that last statement can I say from the bottom of my heart…fuck off.
You are not there trying to protect an innocent life. No one is dumb enough to believe that. You probably don’t even believe that. And the very fact that you support Republicans who oppose funding to medical care, housing, birth-control, sex-ed and paid parental leave, all of which would prevent abortions, is proof that you do not care about that life. You care about that life being born. You care about a woman losing autonomy over her body. We know that your opposition to abortion has nothing to do with the sanctity of life, it is about continuing the subjugation of women and protecting your own position of power.
As a man, I do not, and should not, have a say in whether a woman has an abortion or not. However, as a human we should all have the collective responsibility to protect the health of all of humanity. Especially from the behavior of sanctimonious ass-hats whose protest could very well kill them. We have to stop pretending that words are just words.