The Pro-life Club of Boston College hosted an event this past Tuesday, featuring anti-abortion activist and president of Students For Life of America, Kristan Hawkins. In her national tour, “Lies Feminist Tell,” Hawkins attempts to destabilize the notions of “mainstream feminism.”
During her presentation, Hawkins claimed that millennials and generation Z are targeted by abortion-performing organizations, such as Planned Parenthood. Because of increased accessibility to reproductive healthcare services, Hawkins claimed, women use abortion as an alternative to birth control. She also declared that women suppress their “superpowers” that make them superior to men, such as the ability to menstruate, lactate, and gestate, through the use of contraceptives.
Hawkins attempted to support her idea that societal norms feed into a woman’s decision for health care with statistics. In her example of “the pill,” Hawkins correlated suicide rates and use of birth control without providing any context for her data. She neglected to acknowledge any confounding variables, such as economic class and cultural upbringing. All of her arguments followed a similar pattern of generalizing the female population in order to push the anti-abortion agenda.
The Students For Life campaign seeks to capitalize on society’s suppression of women’s sexuality, something that the feminist movement has worked to combat. Hawkins seemed to contradict this opposition to feminist ideals when she claimed that because she is anti-abortion and anti-contraception, she is more of a feminist than an individual who identifies as pro-choice. Her point was further muddled when she spoke of her relation to feminism in the context of a wider social movement.
“I don’t think that the feminist movement wants me to have that title of feminist, or to self-identify as a feminist. Even though I believe that my life is a pretty good testament of what first and second wave feminism has done.”
I will happily say that no, Kristan Hawkins, you are not a feminist. A feminist would not deny another woman’s right to control her own fertility. A feminist would not shame another woman for engaging in premarital sex. A feminist would not scoff at another woman’s need for preventative care or treatment for an existing sexually transmitted disease, such as herpes. A feminist would not fight for government interference in a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor.
While her problematic views on feminism and abortion were to be expected, the students in the audience were not equipped to deal with Hawkins’ belligerent tone and style of presenting. Flyers for the event stated that the Q&A section would provide students an opportunity to voice their opinions, but instead of engaging, Hawkins raised her voice and restricted the conversation by turning questions back on the students. Although I appreciated the opportunity to hear the viewpoint of an anti-abortion extremist, the Q&A quickly deteriorated into an unproductive screaming match, as Hawkins repeatedly talked over students.
“I am the boss of the situation. I am the speaker. I am a mom—I am used to this,” Hawkins said.
This event illustrated the disappointing lack of agency that the pro-choice community has at our university. Because of Boston College’s Catholic ideologies, any dialogue that would encourage abortion is prohibited, such that we cannot have an honest and informed conversation about the sexual and reproductive health of women.
“Lies Feminist Tell” has made me realize that as a woman who identifies as pro-choice, I am not doing enough to encourage all the choices a women has when she is faced with the tough decision of becoming a mother. I agree with Hawkins that we should stand with our young mothers; we should push for affordable daycare centers and scholarships so that young mothers can achieve. Motherhood should not be stigmatized, and anyone who calls themselves a feminist should agree. Where Hawkins and I disagree is on her implication that motherhood is the ultimate destiny and joy of anyone with a uterus. Choosing birth control does not mean a woman is choosing to suppress her “superpowers”; she is exercising her right to bodily autonomy.
Hawkins argued that women who claim they are pro-choice are afraid to call themselves what they really are—pro-abortion. But I believe abortion is a valid option. Even so, I know that we should be doing more to show our support for women going through this decision. We should be there for them at Planned Parenthood, letting them know that they don’t have to go through the abortion process alone. We should be there for women when they are harassed by Christians extremists as they try to receive basic health care.
Regardless of my differences with Hawkins, my biggest issue with the Pro-life Club event was the lack of effective and meaningful dialogue. As Americans, we should be proud to engage with a perspective that is different from our own. Such debate is fundamental to our democracy. Instead of engaging with contrasting views, Hawkins only succeeded in alienating the pro-abortion feminists who attended her event by repeatedly firing disingenuous comments at them. Kristan Hawkins is clearly trying to profit off of extremely controversial claims. She is simply selling one perspective of womanhood in order to capitalize on a female population that has already been pushed into defense mode. Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, “Lies Feminist Tell” was not a place to talk about abortion.
“I want to win. I want to bring this home,” Hawkins said. I cannot believe people like Kristan Hawkins are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, talking about abortion as if it were their fight song, and I am scared for the destructive intentions of the pro-life movement. Instead of engaging with crazy semantics of Kristan Hawkins, feminists should focus on preserving and progressing the rights of women in our country. Let’s start by having a real conversation about abortion.