Christopher tm Herdt (cherdt) wrote,
Christopher tm Herdt

Against Gross Things

The anti-abortion protesters like to hang around on Huron River Drive outside of Planned Parenthood with a big poster of fetus gore and try to scare women away.

arctan had a clever idea to counter their protest. She made signs with visceral photographic images of heart surgery, colonoscopy, a colon, and Condoleeze Rice, labelled all those signs, and then made two additional signs that read, "Sometimes things look GROSS."

On Saturday a bunch of us went and stood with her for several hours, holding up the signs. The anti-abortion protesters were out as well; in addition to fetus gore, they had a three-part poster that compared Planned Parenthood to the S.S. and the KKK. It was almost as if they were parodying themselves.

Although arctan's experience may have been different, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who weren't clever enough to get the joke. True, they were probably driving by at 45 m.p.h., so they didn't have a lot of time to read. But every young woman in a Honda Civic sporting a John Kerry bumper sticker flipped us off or yelled "asshole!" out her window. Old men flipped us off and young men showered us in creative curses, but the only people who seemed to get the joke were the ones who weren't happy about it.

After a short while, I was able to deal with the animosity misdirected towards us by telling myself that they were all illiterate ignoramuses, knee-jerk reactionaries who were prepared to get pissed off at anyone holding a sign. This is probably akin to what the actual anti-abortion protesters feel. They probably get additional solace thinking about how men don't care, but God does, or some malarkey. What good is flipping one of these guys—and they were all men—the bird or calling them assholes, really? Shouting insults out of car windows is pointless and stupid. It probably strengthens the convictions of the protesters. If your enemies are juvenile ill-mannered goons, then you must be on the side of right.

kevil recommended that, if anyone try to talk to us, we state flatly that we are protesting gross things, such as heart surgeries and colonoscopies. There was ultra-xian man, who talked to a couple of the anti-gross protesters at great length. I was particularly pleased that he did not talk to me, as I don't think I could have tolerated him for long. As well_lahdidah said, "I do not suffer fools gladly." I heard him talk about the Bible a lot. I wanted to ask him where in the Bible it recommended trying to scare women with oversized visceral images, but I thought better of it.

A few of the anti-gross protesters later discussed what could be done to make sure the message got through. Additional signs that way things like, "If you think we're with them, you don't get it" and other Us/Them indicators. But really, Condoleeza Rice? If you go much farther than that, you lose the sharp clever edge. How about a sign that says, "Opinions are bad"?

A few people definitely got it, and I saw a lot of double-takes, but for the most part I was disappointed. It's not so much that people don't read, though, but that they read too well. A person standing with a sign outside Planned Parenthood is its own language. The images and words on the sign are unnecessary to decipher the greater sign. It's hard to tell what it would actually take to break that code. Clown suits, maybe?

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