I watched part of the "Open Hearts Open Minds" conference earlier. "Open Hearts Open Minds" is a conference featuring both pro-choicers and anti-choicers, and its goal is to find "common ground" and to "bridge the abortion divide" between the two movements. It got me thinking about different methods of activism, and whether or not engaging with antis is really even worth it.
They way I channel my passion for equal rights has changed drastically in the past few years. I used to spend my time arguing with people who believed that women shouldn't have the right to vote (yes, those people are still around). I eventually moved more towards fighting against gender roles, and after that I really focused on reproductive rights. Throughout all of these "phases", I'd engage with those on the other side. I used to spend a lot of energy doing that. I used to argue with antis pretty much non-stop. You see, I've found that arguing with antis, particularly anti-choice activists, is a lot like arguing with people who don't believe in a woman's right to vote. Their beliefs tend to be extreme and their minds tend to be absolutely dead set on staying the way they are. Their arguments tend to be very focused on sexist beliefs and insults. Whether I'm debating with the person who believes that women shouldn't have the right to vote or with the person who believes that women shouldn't have bodily autonomy, I've found that these discussions usually go absolutely nowhere.
There are exceptions, of course. There is always the possibility that you'll come across a fence sitter, or even an anti-choice activist who is willing to listen and whose heart may be changed. Now, of the anti-choice activists I've spoken with, I've found maybe two who were actually pleasant to speak to, so if I were ever to go back to the "engage with everyone" type of activism, I wouldn't get my hopes up on finding activist antis to engage with. However, I have the utmost respect for my fellow reproductive justice warriors who do have the time and energy to try to reach out to antis, even those who seem too far away to reach out to.
Attempting discussion with people who obviously do not want to discuss takes time and energy which is, to me, better spent trying to help women in more direct ways. I have found that channeling my energy more towards types of activism that don't involve engaging with antis directly gets more work done. However, this is not true for all pro-choice activists. Some of my activist friends choose to engage with seemingly hopeless antis. I say, all the more power to them. We need all types of activism in the pro-choice movement. Each activist has his or her strengths and weaknesses, and we should utilize these individual strengths to the best of our abilities. There are so many different types of activism, and I don't find it helpful to label some types "better" than other types. It's hard for someone like me to imagine, but hey, maybe engaging with antis really is useful, so why not use that to our advantage?