To my surprise, articulating my own dream for the reproductive movement has wracked my brain and heart way more than I expected. Why I work on these issues, as opposed to many others, has always seemed to be right there, on the tip of my tongue, gut-felt and completely obvious. And yet, I couldn’t put it into words. This incoherence is a problem. Especially when trying to create an inspiring initiative and change a movement.
In Start with Why, Simon Sinek writes, “It doesn’t matter what you do; it matters Why you do it.” He makes the case that people are inspired to action by why we do what we do, not how (values and principles) or what (programs) we do. Case in point: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, not a plan. I know many leaders and organizations that are great at developing plans, but not so effective at motivating others to action.
People like hearing other people’s driving purpose in the world. They are more likely to be inspired, more likely to develop a communal sense of purpose, and more likely to create a shared sense of belonging. As Sinek also notes, “King gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech.” A friend went even further, “people who believed that dream and shared that belief made, and make, their own plans.” From a movement-building perspective, that is exactly what we should aspire to, and yet we don’t. We should share a vision for a better future and then let a 1,000 plans bloom, and (hopefully) many of those plans will be way more creative, effective, or inspiring than anything you or I could imagine.
During a recent debate about the continued utility of using “reproductive” to define our movement, I finally got it, the reason why I am a warrior in this movement. This is the one place where I can fight publicly for love, sex, family and community. Despite the current professionalization, sanitization and medicalization of sex and reproduction, this is the place we can all fight for the right to be who we are and in relationship with other human beings. A big light bulb went off, that was my Why.
In the words of Michael Franti’s All the Freaky People, I believe that “all the freaky people make the beauty of the world.” That all of us are on our own journey to “stay human” in a world that often tells us that who we are, how we behave, what we desire, and who we love is wrong, and bad, and shameful.
As a brown-skinned, Indian, immigrant, American, and now middle-aged woman in a committed relationship with somebody who doesn’t have a right to stay in this country, that was never a message I got, that “every flower has a right to be blooming.” The right to be flowering is what I fight for in this movement, for all of us to love, desire, create and grow as fully human, in relationship with other humans.
As human beings we are built to love, have sex, build families and create community. This is what motivates me.
What is your Why?