Abortion storytelling as artivism

by Molly Burchins, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at NC State University

This November, as a Campus Leader at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, I received an incredible opportunity to work with Poppy Liu, founder of Collective Sex, and Amelia Bonow, co-founder of #ShoutYourAbortion, on bringing their abortion storytelling program to NC State.  This program was brought to communities and campuses across North Carolina in order to bring abortion out of the political realm by starting a new conversation.  These two organizations have both done incredibly important work around destigmatizing abortion, and empowering people to tell their own stories.

#ShoutYourAbortion was founded in 2015 after the hashtag went viral and enabled thousands of people to share their abortion stories.  SYA empowers people to tell their own stories on their own terms, and aims to humanize and normalize the experience of abortion.  Collective Sex is a storytelling initiative and an all-femme production company that aims to “decolonize storytelling” by destigmatizing stories about sex, body, intimacy and identity.  Their project, the short film Names of Women, depicts a first person account of an abortion experience, produced through the lens of healing and spirituality.

Their idea for this program was to give people a chance to hear and share abortion stories, and to discuss the complexities around abortion access in a way that increases compassion and empathy.  Along with their program, I also had the idea to bring Poppy and Amelia to my campus for an afternoon discussion with a smaller group of students.  Because my awesome professor let me hijack our class for the day, this discussion ended up taking place in my Feminist Theories class, and allowed students who were studying the theory behind this kind of advocacy work to see the theory in action.  This was a really exciting opportunity for my classmates, because they were able to talk to Poppy and Amelia about their work in a more intimate setting.  I couldn’t have asked for a better discussion, and everyone was able to walk away with a new perspective on this work.

 

Molly Nov 2017 blog 1

Later that evening, we hosted their 90-minute program, in which Poppy and Amelia discussed their respective approaches to creative abortion storytelling as a form of activism.  This program included a showing of the short film Names of Women, which was produced by Collective Sex, and a few of SYA’s digital abortion stories, and aimed to enhance creative storytelling as a form of “artivism” (art as activism) that helps to depoliticize and re-humanize discussions around abortion.  Because the program was about abortion, there was a lot of hesitation from university staff members to advertise this program to their students, and this really affected the program’s attendance.  Regardless of the small audience, we were able to modify the program and still create incredibly meaningful conversations around abortion.

Molly Nov 2017 blog 2

This program, along with the two incredible people who created it, will be returning for another Bible Belt tour in the spring.  I’m really looking forward to hosting this program again and making sure that these conversations reach more and more students!

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