Locally, we have our own political problems right now. So I won’t be surprised if Georgia’s Fetal Heartbeat Law, which, according to Paper, “basically makes it virtually impossible for women to get safe abortions,” escaped you. Under the controversial law, abortion becomes illegal as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected—which can happen as soon as six weeks. It’s been heavily criticized, with protesters arguing most women don’t even know about their pregnancy that early on.
The debate on the particular law is of course a different matter altogether and warrants its own discussion. But for this, I want to focus on Alyssa Milano’s proposed movement to counter the law. From the onset, Alyssa has been on the forefront of those opposing the bill. In fact, she felt so strongly about it, she penned an open letter to Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Gov. Brian Kemp. “This dangerous and deeply-flawed bill mimics many others which have already been deemed unconstitutional. As men who identify as small-government conservatives, we remind you that government is never bigger than when it is inside a woman’s body or in her doctor’s office,” she wrote. Her statement, “We want to continue to support the wonderful people, businesses, and communities we have come to love in the Peach State. But we will not do so silently, and we will do everything in our power to move our industry to a safer state for women if H.B. 481 becomes law” even earned the support of Hollywood bigwigs.
To @BrianKempGA & Speaker Ralston:
Attached, is an open letter signed by 50 actors against #HB481. On behalf of the undersigned–as people often called to work in GA or those of us contractually bound to work in GA–we hope you'll reconsider signing this bill. #HBIsBadForBusiness pic.twitter.com/DsOmAWYU2x
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) March 28, 2019
It turned out, not the letter nor the public outcry were enough to stop the bill from passing. But Alyssa is obviously far from giving up. Last week, she took it upon herself to campaign for a drastic protest: a sex strike. What’s that, you ask? Well, it means precisely how it sounds. Alyssa put it this way: “Our reproductive rights are being erased. Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy. JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back. I’m calling for a #SexStrike.”
Our reproductive rights are being erased.
Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy.
JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) May 11, 2019
While I think Alyssa’s intentions are noble, her movement seems… anything but progressive. It’s not just me. Alyssa’s message has since gone viral, and Twitter has no problem pointing out what exactly is problematic about her #SexStrike. One pointed out that the movement perpetrates the harmful narrative that “women are providers and men are consumers of sex.” Another stressed that the belief “is the same regressive model of sexuality that Republican men use to legislate.”
The idea of a #SexStrike – where sex is something men seek and women withhold – is the same regressive model of sexuality that Republican men use to legislate! No thanks.
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) May 11, 2019
Please stop feeding the narrative that women are providers and men are consumers of sex. Bribing men for equal rights with access to our bodies is not how feminism works.
— feminist next door (@emrazz) May 11, 2019
Calling for a #SexStrike to protest for reproductive rights is ludicrous when the reason we’re facing a draconian attack on abortion is because of conservatives trying to control female bodies & sexuality. This reinforces women as gatekeepers to sex! It’s the opposite of helpful! pic.twitter.com/9S3FSDe9LN
— Ella Dawson (@brosandprose) May 11, 2019
Some also raised the concern that it somehow promotes rape culture since it suggests that women are “gatekeepers of sex.” Additionally, it disregards the fact that not all unwanted pregnancies are from consensual sex.
Also, as CNN pointed out, it seems to suggest that “women’s bodies are commodities that can be denied to men as punishment,” and furthermore, “that sex is enjoyed only by men.” As one netizen put it simply: “I hate the idea that not having sex is a punishment for men but not for women—I like sex! Why should I deprive myself of it?”
Alyssa Milano is back being ridiculous again I see.
What is a sex strike going to do besides reinforce patriarchal notions that women have sex only to please men?
Lysistrata is not an effective organizing tool. Instead, fuck whomever and support abortion funds. #SexStrike
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) May 11, 2019
Rape has nothing to do with sex – it’s about hatred and power, the same causes of women being stripped of their rights. A #SexStrike won’t bring back our rights – voting, supporting women candidates, running for office, and fighting like hell will.
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) May 11, 2019
Despite these hostile responses, Alyssa doesn’t see her act as a failure. In fact, she told CNN, “My purpose for sending out that tweet was simply, I felt like these bills were being ignored and sending out that tweet, look at me now, I’m on your show and we’re talking about women’s rights and how they’re being rolled back.” She further tweeted: “The #SexStrike tweet has reminded people of the Republican war against women… These oppressive, regressive, forced-pregnancy bills are now being discussed in a serious manner on our national news cycle.”
Okay, I’m honestly confused. While I agree it’s a win in the sense that we are talking about it now, it’s not as simple as that. Her win comes with a cost that’s hard to ignore. She’s playing a very dangerous game here. You never really know how people will respond. In this case, while many rejected the idea, many also completely agreed with her so-called #SexStrike, meaning they don’t see how wrong and problematic it was. So while we acknowledge Alyssa’s good intent, we also must stress how irresponsible she was.
I hope the #womenofGeorgia stop having sex with men until these indignities are overturned.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) May 11, 2019
It’s important to note that this is not the first time she has been called out for a rash statement. Just two months ago, she was in hot water for tweeting, “I’m trans. I’m a person of color. I’m an immigrant. I’m a lesbian. I’m a gay man. I’m the disabled”—even though she’s none of those things.
I guess what it comes down to is still accountability. Yes, it’s okay to advocate for something that you believe in—but it’s your responsibility to educate yourself about relevant issues.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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