01.18.2019

Lindy West on Why Women’s Issues are Considered Taboo

Alicia Menendez sits down with #ShoutYourAbortion co-founder Lindy West to discuss her blog confronting sexual assault, her memoir and why so many women’s issues are still considered taboo.

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> SO AS MIKKELSEN RECFLECTS O HIS CHARACTER'S LONELINESS, OUR NEXT GUEST TACKLES HEAD ON, THAT CAN LEAVE WOMEN SOCIALLY ISOLATED.

LINDY WEST TACKLES OTHER ISSUES AS WELL INCLUDING A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE.

AS 'NEW YORK TIMES' OP-ED WRITER.

TO ADD ANOTHER NOTCH IN HER BELT, HER MEMOIR TURNED TV SERIES SHRILL IS HITTING SCREENS THIS MARCH ON HULU AND SHE TELLS OUR ALICIA MENENDEZ WHY SO MANY WOMEN'S ISSUES ARE STILL K CONSIDERED TABOO.

LINDY, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

WHAT IS SHOUT YOUR ABORTION.

IT IS A MOVEMENT I COFOUNDED IN 2015 WITH A FRIEND OF MINE NAMED AMELIA BONOW.

WE WERE JUST SITTING AROUND TALKING ABOUT WHAT CAN WE DO TO COUNTER ACT THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD SELLS BABY PARTS CRAZE THAT WAS GOING ON AT THE TIME AND SORT OF CALLED TO DEFUND PLANNED PARENTHOOD AND ALL OF THE PROPAGANDA AND THESE REALLY MALICIOUS BULK NARRATIVES THAT WERE OUT THERE ABOUT WHAT PLANNED PARENTHOOD DOES AND ABOUT WHAT ABORTION IS, AND WHAT PEOPLE WHO HAVE ABORTIONS ARE LIKE.

AND YOU KNOW, WE WERE JUST LIKE, WHAT CAN WE DO, SHOULD WE HAVE A, I DON'T KNOW, A STORY TELLING NIGHT OR SOME, YOU KNOW, EVENT WHERE WE ALL GET TOGETHER AND TALK AT ABORTION.

WHAT WE ENDED UP DOING WAS JUST PUTTING OUR ABORTION STORIES ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND IT ACTUALLY WAS LIKE AN INSTANT REACTION ALL OVER THE WORLD.

LIKE SO, AMELIA STARTED BY WRITING ON FACEBOOK I HAD AN ABORTION AT THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD ON MADISON STREET IN SEATTLE, AND IT'S AN EXPERIENCE THAT I REMEMBER WITH NOTHING BUT GRATITUDE, BASICALLY.

AND SHE SAYS WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE WHO HAVE ABORTIONS ARE TO SOME DEGREE BAD PEOPLE, AND I'M A GOOD PERSON AND MY ABORTION MADE ME HAPPY IN A TOTALLY UNQUALIFIED WAY BECAUSE WHY WOULD I NOT BE HAPPY THAT I WAS NOT FORCED TO BECOME A MOTHER, AND I WAS LIKE, THAT IS AMAZING, AND SO I PUT IT ON TWITTER, I ADDED SHOUT YOUR ABORTION, AND THEN I TWEETED MY OWN STORY.

WAS THAT LIBERATING?

ABSOLUTELY.

YEAH.

I HADN'T TALKED ABOUT IT IN PUBLIC.

IT WAS A SIGNIFICANT MOMENT IN MY LIFE, BUT ALSO NOT.

YOU KNOW, IT WAS LIKE NOT TRAUMATIC.

IT WAS JUST SORT OF I WAS IN A BAD RELATIONSHIP.

I WAS YOUNG, NOT HAVING A CHILD WITH THIS PERSON.

AND I DIDN'T THINK ABOUT IT THAT MUCH, BUT THAT KIND OF MADE IT MORE SIGNIFICANT ALMOST.

YOU KNOW, WHY AM I FEELING LIKE I CAN'T TALK ABOUT THIS THING THAT'S NOT EVEN A BIG DEAL TO ME.

THERE WILL BE MANY PEOPLE WHO WATCH THIS INTERVIEW AND ARE DEEPLY UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE FACT THAT YOU ARE SPEAKING ABOUT ABORTION IN SUCH A CASUAL WAY.

IS THAT PART OF THE POINT?

I MEAN, KIND OF.

IT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FLIPPANT.

YOU KNOW, I JUST SAID IT WASN'T A BIG DEAL.

IT WAS A BIG DEAL IN CERTAIN WAYS AND IN CERTAIN WAYS IT WASN'T.

IT'S JUST A PART OF MY LIFE, AND IT'S A PART OF A LOT OF PEOPLE'S LIVES.

ONE IN FOUR PEOPLE WHO GET PREGNANT WILL HAVE AN ABORTION AT SOME POINT, AND THAT'S A HUGE NUMBER, AND SO PEOPLE, A LOT OF PEOPLE FIND IT JARRING.

PEOPLE ASSUME THAT SHOUT MEANS THAT WE'RE BRAGGING, I HEAR A LOT, THAT PEOPLE ARE BRAGGING ABOUT OUR ABORTIONS OR WE'RE CELEBRATING OUR ABORTIONS, HAVING ABORTION PARTIES, WHATEVER THAT MEANS.

AND SHOUT JUST MEANS THE OPPOSITE OF A WHISPER.

YOU KNOW, WE HAVE BEEN SORT OF CONDITIONED TO BELIEVE IN THIS ANTI-ABORTION STIGMA THAT IS REALLY A CONSTRUCT OF THE EVANGELICAL RIGHT.

AND NOW SHOUT YOUR ABORTION IS A BOOK.

YES.

SO MY DEAR FRIEND AMELIA BONOW WHO COFOUNDED THE MOVEMENT WITH ME, SHE THINKS 2015 HAS REALLY PICKED IT UP AND TURNED IT INTO LIKE A FULL-FLEDGED ORGANIZATION, AND THEIR LATEST PROJECT IS THIS BOOK, 'SHOUT YOUR ABORTION', WHICH IS AN AN TH OF PEOPLE'S ART WORK, AND WE HAVE PRE-ROE ABORTION STORIES, STORIES FROM RELIGIOUS PEOPLE, STORIES FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVE CHILDREN AND CHOSE TO HAVE AN ABORTION, PEOPLE WHO HAD TO TERMINATE WANTED PREGNANCIES.

IT'S A REALLY, LIKE, BEAUTIFUL NUANCED, YOU KNOW, PORTRAIT OF HOW COMPLEX AND HOW IMPORTANT THIS ISSUE IS.

DO YOU THINK ANY PART OF IT COMES FROM THE FACT THAT THE CONSTITUTIONAL LOGIC BEHIND A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE ENDS UP COMING DOWN TO PRIVACY, AND STATEMENT YOU'RE USING THE WORD SHOUT?

THE FACT IS THAT WE DO HAVE THE RIGHT TO MEDICAL PRIVACY AND IT'S NOT BEING RESPECTED AND SO IF BEING QUIET AND NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS THING AND CAVING TO THE STIGMA WHICH SORT OF TACITLY ENDORSES AND VALIDATES THE STIGMA, IF I'M AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT IT, MAYBE THERE MUST BE A GOOD REASON.

YOU KNOW, THAT'S NOT NECESSARILY BEEN POLITICALLY EFFECTIVE.

YOU CAN'T REALLY ADVOCATE FOR SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN'T SAY OUT LOUD AND THAT'S FINE IF IT'S NOT UNDER ATTACK.

IF THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT IS UNDER ATTACK WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO TALK ABOUT THE REALITY OF ABORTION AND THE REALITY OF ABORTION IS THAT PEOPLE ARE HAVING ABORTIONS ALL THE TIME, THEY ALWAYS HAVE AND THEY ALWAYS WILL, AND ALL WE CAN CONTROL IS WHETHER OR NOT PEOPLE HAVE ACCESS TO ABORTION AND HAVE ACCESS TO SAFE ABORTIONS YOU KNOW, I WISH I GOT TO EXERCISE MY RIGHT TO PRIVACY AND I DIDN'T HAVE TO OPEN MY PERSONAL LIFE TO THE WORLD.

I WOULD LOVE THAT.

I WOULD LOVE FOR WHEN WE TALK ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT THAT VICTIMS DIDN'T HAVE TO COME FORWARD AND GIVE THE WORLD EVERY LURID DETAIL OF THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO THEM IN ORDER TO BE BELIEVED WHICH IS WHAT WE DEMAND PEOPLE DO.

IF YOU DON'T GIVE ENOUGH DETAILS, PEOPLE THINK YOU'RE LYING.

ONE OF THE THINGS WE HAVE SEEN IN THE LAST YEAR IS THE TAKE DOWN OF VARIOUS MEN.

I CAN THINK OF ONE WOMAN ALLEGED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, AND THEN A VERY QUICK CONVERSATION ABOUT REHABILITATION THAT FOLLOWS.

IMMEDIATELY.

I DO WONDER, THOUGH AT WHAT POINT THERE'S ROOM FOR A CONVERSATION ABOUT RESTORATIVE JUSTICE AND IF RESTORATIVE JUSTICE APPLIES IN THIS FRAMEWORK?

ABSOLUTELY.

OF COURSE.

I MEAN, I JUST THINK THAT OBVIOUSLY THAT'S A REALLY IMPORTANT CONVERSATION TO HAVE.

IT JUST DOESN'T FEEL LIKE WE EVER REALLY FINISHED THE FIRST CONVERSATION ABOUT PEOPLE WHO ARE ACTIVELY BEING HARMED, WHO ARE NOT BEING BELIEVED.

WHOSE LIVES ARE BEING RUINED AND LIVES ARE BEING RUINED IN SUBTLE WAYS, WORKPLACE HARASSMENT CASES, IT'S NOT NECESSARILY THAT, LIKE, OH, MY BOSS SEXUAL ASSAULTED ME AND THEN I WAS FIRED.

IT'S OFTEN LIKE A LOT SUBTLER TAN THAT, IT'S LIKE I WAS UNCOMFORTABLE IN A SITUATION, I WAS MADE UNCOMFORTABLE FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME AND EVENTUALLY I LEFT THE INDUSTRY AND NEVER GREW TO MY IT FULL POTENTIAL, AND WE WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO, I MEAN, WE WILL NEVER KNOW HOW MANY OF THOSE PEOPLE THERE ARE, AND THERE'S THIS MASSIVE WEALTH OF TALENT AND POWER THAT'S BEING LOST AND WHAT THAT DOES IS CONSOLIDATE POWER AMONG MEN.

YOU KNOW, DISPROPORTIONATELY.

DO YOU THINK AMERICAN SOCIETY HAS THE LANGUAGE TO UNPACK THAT DISTINCTION?

AMERICAN SOCIETY IS VERY BIG AND COMPLICATED.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE THE LANGUAGE TO UNPACK THAT DISTINCTION AND A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T AND IT'S HARD.

LIKE, IT'S PAINFUL.

IT'S A PAINFUL THING TO DELVE INTO.

BECAUSE, I MEAN, WHEN ME TOO WAS LIKE REALLY GOING, YOU START TO DISCOVER THAT PEOPLE YOU REALLY LOVE HAVE DONE REALLY HORRIBLE THINGS, AND I UNDERSTAND THE SORT OF INSTINCT TO BURY IT AND MAKE IT OKAY.

HONESTLY, I UNDERSTAND.

I MEAN, AND YOU HAVE TO PUSH THROUGH THAT, AND YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT'S RIGHT, AND YOU HAVE TO LET GO OF PEOPLE THAT YOU LOVE OR AT LEAST, YOU KNOW, ENFORCE CONSEQUENCES AGAINST THOSE PEOPLE.

IF YOU WANT TO REALLY LIVE YOUR VALUES AND YOU WANT TO BUILD A SAFER WORLD FOR YOUR KIDS.

THAT HAS BEEN ANOTHER POINT OF CONTENTION WHICH IS WHEN ACCUSATIONS ARE MADE AGAINST A MAN VERY OFTEN, ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS WE SEE IS A LETTER OR PUBLIC STATEMENT OF SUPPORT FROM ALL OF THE WOMEN IN HIS LIFE, PROFESSIONAL, PERSONAL, AND IT HAS PUT WOMEN IN THIS PRECARIOUS SITUATION OF SAYING THIS IS NOT THE PERSON AS I UNDERSTAND THEM TO BE.

YEAH, JUST LIKE DON'T FIND ONE OF THOSE LETTERS.

EVEN IF, I DON'T KNOW, IT SEEMS LIKE A BAD IDEA TO SIGN ONE OF THOSE LETTERS.

IF YOU REALLY, I DON'T MEAN THIS AS AN EXCUSE OR AS AN APOLOGY, BUT THESE KIND OF GENDER DI DYNAMICS ARE REALLY DEEPLY BUILT INTO OUR CULTURE, AND IT REALLY, YOU KNOW, HAS BEEN NORMAL FOR MEN TO CHASE AND BOTHER WOMEN UNTIL THEY FINALLY RELENT, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, AND CONSENT TO SEX OR WHATEVER.

THAT WAS THE MODEL FOR A LONG TIME.

AND SO THERE ARE A LOT OF MEN WHO I THINK, I MEAN, TO BE REALLY CHARITABLE, DIDN'T KNOW THAT THEY WERE VIOLATING SOMEONE'S BOUNDARIES NECESSARILY.

I DON'T KNOW IF I REALLY WANT TO SAY THAT OR IF I REALLY BELIEVE THAT, BUT TO BE CHARITABLE, MAYBE THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T REALIZE BUT THAT'S STILL A PROBLEM THAT WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH, AND I THINK TRYING TO EXCUSE THOSE BEHAVIORS THAT MIGHT BE JUST KIND OF BEING CREEPY, OR BEING TOO FORWARD OR BEING TOO PERSISTENT, THINGS THAT AREN'T MAYBE OUTRIGHT ASSAULT BUT ARE STILL A BOUNDARY VIOLATION, WE STILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH THOSE, AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, WANTING TO JUMP OUT AND SAY THIS IS A GOOD MAN, THIS MAN WOULD NEVER DO THIS, IS HINDERING THAT PROGRESS.

I DON'T KNOW.

FOUNDER OF THE ME TOO MOVEMENT RECENTLY SAID THAT THE MOVEMENT HAS BECOME UNRECOGNIZABLE TO HER.

SHE SAID SUDDENLY A MOVEMENT TO CENTER SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE IS BEING TALKED ABOUT AS A VINDICTIVE PLOT AGAINST MEN.

SURE.

YEAH.

I MEAN, PEOPLE ARE DESPERATE TO SQUIRM OUT OF ACCOUNTABILITY.

IT'S NOT EVEN A NEW PART OF THE SEXUAL ASSAULT DISCOURSE MODEL, YOU KNOW, I MEAN, EVEN JUST FOREVER.

WHEN JUST ANYONE ACCUSES SOMEONE OF RAPE, DISCREDITING THE ACCUSER IS LIKE PART OF THE TRIAL.

IT'S LIKE THE LAWYER'S JOB.

SO OF COURSE THAT HAPPENS ON A LARGE SCALE AND WHEN WE HAVE THIS MASSIVE RECKONING, WE HAVE THIS SORT OF INSTITUTIONAL VOICE FRAMING IT THAT WAY AND SAYING, NO, NO, NO, THIS IS JUST WOMEN BEING VINDICTIVE AND TRYING TO RUIN MEN, AND OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, THE SITUATION WANT TO PERPETUATE ITSELF AND MEN HOLD A DISPROPORTIONATE AMOUNT OF POWER, AND WE HAVE SEEN, YOU KNOW, FROM POWERFUL MEN FALL TO THE SORT OF GROUND SWELL OF ENERGY THAT ME TOO HAS BROUGHT INTO THE DISCOURSE AND THAT'S SCARY FOR POWERFUL MEN.

BECAUSE, LIKE I SAID, A LOT OF STUFF WAS NORMAL FOR A LONG TIME AND IT WAS THE WAY THAT PEOPLE OPERATED.

YOU JUST WRAPPED YOUR NEW SHOW, FILMED A MOVIE.

YES.

AND SOMEHOW YOU HAVE A NEW BOOK THAT YOU ARE ALSO WORKING ON.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

IT'S A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS ABOUT OUR CURRENT CULTURAL AND POLITICAL MOMENTS.

SORT OF LOOKING AT HOW WE GOT HERE.

SPECIFICALLY I'M TRYING TO DELVE INTO THE WAY THAT AMERICANS ESPECIALLY LOVE TO BELIEVE LIES ABOUT OURSELVES.

AND WE LIVE IN THIS SORT OF COCOON OF FANTASY.

THE REAL FUNDAMENTALS OF THIS COUNTRY, THE FACT THAT WE LIVE ON STOLEN LAND, THE FACT THAT WE LIVE IN A NATION BUILT BY SLAVES, THAT WHITE GENERATIONAL WEALTH COMES FROM SLAVERY, THERE ARE THESE LIKE REALLY DARK REALITIES.

JUST IN THE DNA OF THIS COUNTRY THAT WE DON'T LOOK AT BECAUSE IT'S MORE COMFORTABLE TO BELIEVE THAT WE DID IT, YOU KNOW, LIKE THAT WE'RE THE LAND OF THE FREE AND WE'RE LIKE PLUCKY, ADVENTURERS, AND YOU KNOW, REALITY IS MUCH MORE COMPLICATED AND MUCH SCARIER TO RECKON WITH, AND SO IT'S CALLED THE WITCHES ARE COMING, WHICH IS SORT OF A ME TOO REFERENCE BECAUSE I THINK THINGS LIKE ME TOO, THINGS LIKE SHOUT YOUR ABORTIONS, THESE ARE OUTBURSTS OF TRUTH.

THESE ARE PEOPLE TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENED TO THEM THAT THEY HAVE BEEN TOLD TO KEEP QUIET AND THEY HAVE BEEN TOLD TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS SORT OF FICTIONAL COUNTER NARRATIVE WHERE WE'RE ALL HAPPY, WE'RE ALL WORKING TOGETHER, WE'RE ALL EQUAL, WE'RE ALL BEING TAKEN CARE OF, WHICH IS JUST NOT TRUE SO IT'S SORT OF ABOUT DELVING INTO THOSE FANTASIES AND ALSO TAKING A LOOK AT THESE MOVEMENTS THAT ARE TRYING TO COUNTER THEM, AND HOW AND WHAT HAPPENS IN THAT FRICTION.

LINDY, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with Anand Giridharadas about why society’s global elites are to blame for world issues; and actor Mads Mikkelsen about his new movie “Arctic.” Alicia Menendez speaks with Lindy West about why women’s issues are still considered taboo.

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