“Are You Kidding Me?” By Margaret Sanger
I’m so angry I literally rose from the dead to write this article.
Hello there. It is me, Margaret Sanger. In case you are not aware of who I am- first of all, you’re welcome- and second of all, I’m the woman who gave you birth control. Seriously, you’re welcome. I hope you’ve been taking it. And I hope you’re enjoying your reproductive freedom which, mind you, was super inconvenient to secure for you, by the way, but I did. No hesitation. I went to jail. I had to flee the country at one point. I was arrested for distributing information about contraception after the dude I gave a pamphlet to just happened to be an undercover policeman. No regrets. Because we were dying from back-alley abortions, and we were stuck in domestic servitude with zero choice for basically ever because we had no control over our reproductive choices. Do you want to live in that world? Do you?
Women literally died. They died rather than tell their parents or risk being doomed a pariah (almost literally). They visited sketchy, scary doctors when they had reproductive problems, and often gave fake names. Most of the time they would be too scared to even go to doctors at all, and so many working class women I met died from medically dangerous childbirths, miscarriages, and self-induced abortions. They were shamed for literally everything having to do with their women’s health, just like you are today. The distribution of even information about reproductive rights was completely illegal. I’m not kidding.
Do you realize what I’ve done for you? Do you know how lucky you are to have what you have, and how easy it is to lose it? You know how hard I had to fight? People HATED me. I had so many haters. You feel uncomfortable speaking up for Planned Parenthood? You know how hard I fought to get you Planned Parenthood? You’re welcome.
I opened the first birth control clinic, staffed by all-female doctors, as well as a clinic in Harlem with an African-American advisory council. I saw a woman die from a self-induced abortion and I straight-up quit my job as a nurse. You guys don’t understand.
I went on a hunger strike. I was sentenced to a workhouse. I was getting sent to court, like, all the time, for, you know, attempting to address the needs of women’s reproductive health which society had deemed so conveniently to ignore.
They tend to do that- ignore women’s health, because most of the world is not run by women. They don’t understand. They literally don’t care. And you can’t ask then to give you access to your own rights as a human being- you have to demand them. You have to demand that those are your rights, and that no man in a suit can take them away or sign a piece of paper that revokes your right to be free as a woman and an autonomous human being. F*ck the GOP. F*ck the GOP. I am Margaret Sanger, and I had been rolling over in my grave during the Bush administration, but THIS clownery? I straight up crawled out. I literally climbed out of my grave, and came back to haunt you. I am Margaret Sanger. Nothing stops me.
Men like Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, and that orange thing have long existed before. They will always exist. They will propose 73 bills in one state’s Congress over the past three years alone to restrict your healthcare and freedom, and it won’t be a coincidence. In my day, we had Anthony Comstock, who was so afraid of birth control pamphlets that he made a law regulating what information you could and couldn’t mail. They’re obsessed. They’re ridiculous. They won’t stop. So you can’t stop either.
I am Margaret Sanger, and I have literally crawled out of my grave to tell you you need to stop this sh*t. To tell you you’re gonna have to fight. To tell you you’re gonna have to fight kicking and screaming, and you’re gonna have to be as crazy obsessed about justice as these men are about destroying it. I remember, because I had to, too. Holding signs wasn’t enough. Displaying empathy but then proceeding with the indifference of our everyday privileged lives was not enough. My allies and I did not get us here by being lukewarm and sort-of committed. I had to be fierce- I told you, hunger strike- and you will too.
Seriously. Everything you have today is because somebody, in your past- probably a woman- was fierce and unapologetic enough to stand for that, when a space to stand before had no even existed, and refuse, to absolutely refuse to move until others could occupy the space where she stood. I stood and I held that ground for you, that you now occupy. Thousands have. Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr., Ethel Byrne, Dr. Edgar Bass Keemer Jr., and many, many more than I can even say.
Look at the power of those names compared to Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan isn’t sh*t. Mike Pence is not sh*t. John Kasich ain’t sh*t. These men don’t matter- it’s not even their conversation. You know who does matter? You. And you know whose conversation it is? Yours. Because I lived like almost eighty years ago- and you all still the same d*mn conversation. So eighty years down the line, you could be someone’s Margaret Sanger or Coretta Scott King. You could be the someone who holds that place for the women of the future, who stands there, and will not move until all women can occupy that space. Because economic justice, racial justice, and reproductive justice are all tied up in the same oppressive power structures which tighten the noose around your neck, campaign by campaign and bill by bill, until they’ve got you somehow convinced you belong there.
You deserve better. Demand better. Go to Planned Parenthood. Go look your Congressman dead in the eyes and remind him, again and again, exactly who he’s working for. Hit the streets when there’s a protest. Speak out. Let them know. Be bold. Kick and scream. Do not be shy. Do not be sorry.
We have everything to lose, so we have everything to fight for.
I am Margaret Sanger, and I have come to deliver you this message from the grave, because I am Margaret Sanger and nothing will stop me. Stand up for your rights. Stand up for the rights you take for granted, because before my era, you didn’t have them. After your era, you make sure- you bet your life- that the women of the future still do.
Do not ask Republican men for their permission in this battle- it is not their battle, it is yours. Therefore you must demand it. “Regardless of what man’s attitude may be, that problem is [woman’s]; and before it can be his, it is hers alone. She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it,” I once said. The battle is yours alone. The right is yours alone.
Do not ask for any man’s approval.
“Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression.”
I am Margaret f***ing Sanger, and now is time to fight.
In 1916, I said, “Against the State, against the Church, against the silence of the medical profession, against the whole machinery of dead institutions of the past, the woman of today arises.”
In 2017, I know that again will be true.