April 12, 2011

What I Learned from PETA & Why This Mattered

What a week folks, what a week.

It's official: all references to NIAW have been removed from the PETA website, including on that directing Features page that would take you to the contest page itself. Again: thanks, PETA - much appreciated.

I've had some time now to finally get some sleep, step back from Twitter for more than 20 minutes at a time, and really reflect on everything that's happened. Some people supported our efforts wholeheartedly (63 of you joined me in openly condemning PETA through blog posts). Some people didn't think that, of all the battles we face as a community, this was the battle to pick. Some folks remained silent by choice- for a variety of reasons, and many reasons I can respect and support. And some probably still don't even know anything happened at all last week. In the grand scheme of the looming government shutdown, discord in Libya, and mounting concerns at the Fukushima reactor in Sendai, Japan - I can see how some riled-up infertile folks yelling at PETA might seem like small potatoes in comparison.

As an infertile woman, especially the days where I've got baby on the brain pretty bad, I have to remind myself to keep my infertility in check, or rather, to keep my perspective in check. There are bigger things in the world than whether or not I want or am able to have children. I get that, but sometimes I don't always remember this when I all can think of is "When's it going to be our turn already?" So I challenge myself to keep it all in context.

So, after all of this, allow me to share What I've Learned and Why This Mattered.

What I Learned from Standing Up to PETA:

Take the high road when you're trying to argue a point.
It is so tempting and quite easy to resort to name-calling. Like I said, PETA is an Internet Troll with whom to be reckoned. It's so easy to fall into the trap of hurling insults and low-blow moves; after all, was not their campaign an insult and low-blow to us in the first place? To quote the ever famous Calvin, of Calvin & Hobbes: "Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around." It feels good to engage in some verbal mud-slinging.

I could have easily written a letter that said, "Fuck you, PETA!" That's certainly how I felt. Instead, I took the time to process through my gut emotional response to deliver a clear and (relatively) concise argument: "Dear PETA: here's why your campaign is not cool and here's what we'd like you to do about it." When all you're doing is throwing mud around, you still just end up covered in shit. And I don't know about you, but I hate doing laundry. I also want to add: be gracious. PETA didn't have to do anything at all, but they did, so it's only right (and polite) to say thank you.

Don't give up.
I'm a figher by nature. I fight for and within this community because others can't or won't for whatever reasons. I'm able to do so because I am infinitely lucky to have the support that I do; I know many others in my shoes who don't have the kind of support systems Larry and I have. I also know some people are just tired of fighting, and I don't blame them. I suppose it's just a personality trait for for me: I'm a passionate person. I give myself fully to the things and people about which I am passionate. Some people (my husband, my parents) might say I'm a woman who simply doesn't take "No" for an answer.

When emails didn't seem to be making an impact, I turned to the blogging community. When additional emails and posts from folks in the community didn't work, I took to Twitter. When Twitter didn't work, I started a petition. When the petition gained momentum, I approached the media. I turned to my colleagues in this field for help in not only lending their support, but spreading the word. One drop in the lake became a ripple effect in the community... and it worked.

Why It Mattered:

Every battle in this community is important, whether it's telling off the media, telling off PETA, or telling off our legislators. But it's not just about raising our voices in anger - it's about raising our voices in informed civil discourse. We don't have to shout to get our point across; we can speak clearly, intelligibly, and respectfully. When we organize ourselves and our voices into a coherent, passionate message, the effect is profound.

As a community, we were heard.
We were heard when so often we are not: when we disclose to others we're seeking IVF and we get the instant response comparing us to Octomom; when infertility is still up in the air as an essential benefit; when the media asks Giuliana Rancic if she's considered adoption immediately after her miscarriage; when people ask prospective adoptive parents if they're worried about whether or not they'll feel like their "real" chidlren; when the voice of the childfree, the of color, and the LGBT are lost in the greater conversation about infertility but whose experiences are just as valid and relative to ours. It was pretty hard to ignore us because we came out in such force.

As a community, we needed this.
In a patient community where we're already beaten down from tests, insenstive comments, BFN's, fall-throughs: this was a huge confidence booster. So often we don't feel like we have any control of our lives or our bodies, and yet here is an example of making a concious decision to stand up and fight back, to take control over how an organization chooses to exploit our community: and we did it. We regained a little bit of that sense of control that we lost. We gained back some of the confidence that may have been taken away from us. It felt good. And feeling good is something we always need as a community.

As a community, this inspired us to act.
I am still amazed at how many people chose to participate in some way, from as simple as sharing links on Facebook to writing letters of their own. To every person who signed the petition, I hope you'll write your legislators. For every person who posted a blog, I hope you'll participate in the Bust a Myth Bloggers Unite Project for National Infertility Awareness Week.

I hope this experience gave everyone who participated the confidence to turn your passion into action. I hope this inspired EVERYONE to really, really consider participating in RESOLVE's Advocacy Day either in DC or in your local districts on May 5th.

All of this mattered because it has paved the way for us to do even greater things as and for this community. I'm of the opinion we owe it to each other, because at the end of the day, we're all fighing for the same thing, right?

It matters because if we put good out there, hopefully we'll get a little bit of that good back. And folks: it is good work that we're all doing. Let's keep it up.

Don't forget: I'm appearing on The Surrogacy Lawyer Radio Show this Thursday, April 14th, with Evelina Sterling from Rachel's Well. Tune in here online at 2PM EST (11AM PST) to hear us talk about premature ovarian failure, menstrual health, and more updates about PETA.


Kristin said...

I love the idea of Bust a Myth Bloggers Unite Project for National Infertility Awareness Week. I definitely want to participate.

Also, thanks for starting the petition. I did sign it.

Bubba said...

I totally agree that it brought us together as a community. It united us! I met so many new people through the outreach efforts.

Enjoyed it. Thanks for spearheading the movement on this. :)

Ashlee G. said...

you've been awarded on my blog!

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right. We do need to work as a whole community to get any sort of work done for the whole. Thank you for taking the lead and showing us that we can be David to Goliath. We CAN, if we raise our voice in unison, make some lasting changes for the better regarding the infertility community's treatment. You stand as an inspiration and a fine example of what can be accomplished with effort, tenacity and grace.

Carli said...

Keiko, thank you so much for all that you did to make PETA change their campaign. I am very thankful that our community has people like you who refused to give up the fight.

You inspire me (and so many others in this community) and we are so fortunate to have you as a brave voice for us.

Anonymous said...

Visiting you via ICLW. And I completely agree that this brought us together. Even my "fertile" FB friends were outraged! :)

Thanks for the inspiration.