This weekend, our social media timelines were full of powerful statements from high-profile women about Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade in America – which will likely see 26 conservative states in introduce new abortion restrictions or bans.
Michelle Obama shared a heartfelt essay on Twitter educating people on how to support women in the face of this cruel law. Taraji P. Henson took to the 2022 BET Awards stage to speak out against the ruling, as did Janelle Monae and Jazmine Sullivan. And 19-year-old Olivia Rodrigo used her time performing at Glastonbury to name the five Supreme Court judges that swung the vote, dedicating her rendition of Lily Allen’s ‘F*ck You’ to them. They were just a handful of countless incredible women who spoke out publicly either on stage or online, not only condemning the ruling but sharing their own stories of abortion or offering ways to help fight.
But there were many silent voices too, notable silences that have since been picked up on by many online: the voices of powerful men.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been a few standout stars. Kendrick Lamar repeatedly rapped ‘They judge me; they judge Christ. Godspeed for women’s rights’ on stage at Glastonbury at the end of his 90-minute set. Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong has announced his intention to renounce his US citizenship due to the ruling. And Harry Styles tweeted his devastation for the people of America, as did actor Chris Evans (Dylan O’Brien opted for a simple sentiment: ‘F*ck your Bible’). But that’s the thing, there shouldn’t be ‘standout’ male celebrities choosing to speak up about women’s rights – this should be the norm, as it is for the majority of female stars sharing their heartbreak online.
The power of celebrity matters. These stars not only have the power to influence millions of people who can either vote or protest or donate to charities that support women’s autonomy, they have the power to influence our economies. With all the comparisons of women’s rights in the USA compared to those in parts of the Middle East, I had one thought: What if powerful musicians chose not to tour in America as many refuse to in Saudi Arabia? What if celebrities started treating the USA in the same way cruelty-free companies do China in the context of animal rights? Governments, businesses and celebrities have long made decisions not to engage with certain countries based on political beliefs, what if they chose to do that with America, the home of Hollywood and mecca for celebrity culture? Yes, America’s economy is not solely reliant on celebrities or music tours, but certain states would absolutely experience economic repercussions without the tourism tours can bring (as well as the venue hire, taxes and jobs created in the process) or a CEO’s decision to ban sales of certain brands in said state.
Celebrities influence minds, money and the duration of which we choose to care about any one societal issue – choosing to speak out in favour of human rights then, is important. So of course it shouldn’t just be left to female celebrities to do this, women who while incredibly privileged are much less likely to have a seat at the most powerful tables, or influence over the most powerful decision-makers. Access to safe abortion is a shared issue for all people – and we must remember that it is not only those who identify as women who will suffer from this ban too – because choosing to bring a child into this world is never a solo decision. Cisgender men may not die at the hands of abortion bans, like many women are likely to, but they will still be forced to become fathers, they will still lose female friends and relatives, they will still suffer the countless consequences of living in a society that sanctions forced birth.
So it’s not just celebrities then, but all men that should too be speaking out about to condemn this attack on human rights. Our collective voices matter, and you’ll soon be suffering alongside us if you choose not to speak up now.