Bailey Borchardt, #PeerCnnekt Winner and Organizer at Planned Parenthood
We are so excited to present our second #PeerCnnekt winner, Bailey Borchardt. In the words of her nominator, Bailey spends her time "advocating for women's rights and LGBT rights, speaking up against social injustices, and standing with black women." When researching into this incredible human, we discovered her partnership with Planned Parenthood NYC and couldn't wait to dive in and spread their message because "knowledge is mother fucking power ya'll." Enjoy the major inspo below.
Bailey, you’re a reproductive justice advocate. Why and how did you get started with this?
I think to answer this its first important to clarify the difference between reproductive justice and reproductive rights. The term reproductive justice was coined in 1994 by a collective of black, indigenous and trans women in Georgia called SisterSong. They define reproductive justice as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” The fight for reproductive freedom is so often dictated by cis, white women, and centers itself around the pro-life vs pro-choice dichotomy. When you frame your advocacy through the lens of reproductive justice, it makes space for the intersection of so many identities. Reproductive justice is an issue of environmental justice, economic justice, immigrant justice, racial justice, and criminal justice. It also ensures that trans and non-binary people are not erased in this fight. Being an effective advocate means surrendering your own power to those within marginalized communities.
The first time I understood the gravity of this fight was when I attended an Easter church service in Texas around the time that HB2 was being passed through the Texas legislature. The church began service by celebrating the fact that they had “prayed away” a rural location of Planned Parenthood, and how they intended to continue the work to “pray them all away.” It was infuriating to see that this group was celebrating stripping people in northern, rural Texas of necessary healthcare. This particular clinic served low-income communities who would otherwise be driving 50+ miles to the nearest healthcare facility. The more I learned about this bill, the more I understood that the fight for reproductive freedom and justice is about so much more than a person’s right to choose, it’s about their individual freedoms and liberties, their socio-economic status, and beyond.
We can only guess you are just as enraged with the abortion bans as we are. How are you working with Planned Parenthood to fight against this?
I come from Texas where restrictive laws on reproductive healthcare are nothing new, but it’s infuriating to see nevertheless. Planned Parenthood is a powerful entity that is harnessing its political power to assist those grassroots organizations on the ground who are fighting against these legislative measures. It’s essential to center those who will most severely be impacted by these bans. For instance, Marshae Jones was shot in the stomach in Alabama. She was pregnant and as a result of the gunshot wound, she miscarried. She is now being charged with homicide because of a measure within Alabama’s abortion ban that constitutes miscarriages as murders. My work with Planned Parenthood of New York City has been primarily focused on college campuses within the city. As with any major movement in American history, it is the power of students that is needed to be harnessed to impact these human rights violations. We have the power of hundreds of thousands of students to lend to those fighting within these states. Wherever they lead, we’ll be sure to follow.
Your work for women’s rights is commendable, but you are also known for your strong support of black women, specifically. Can you tell us how you got involved in the #BlackLivesMatter movement and why its so important to you?
If you look back at the origins of every movement, black women are often at the root. Black women do not need our charity, they need our commitment. Black women not only face the systemic oppression of patriarchy, but they also face the systemic oppression of white supremacy--oppression I will never understand first hand because of the privilege afforded to me as a white woman. Though I am not involved directly with #BlackLivesMatter, they certainly shaped my ideology in a big way. The movement itself was formed by queer, black women. Their philosophy is that by rooting our most marginalized communities in any movement, we are ensuring that all systems of oppression are dismantled. For instance, we see the rate at which black trans women are being attacked and killed, so it is them we must center our movements around because they are the ones who are most vulnerable to violence. It’s my responsibility to amplify their stories in any and every way possible, as well as lend my privilege to their fight.
What about those who want to get involved in social justice but don’t know where to start? AND/ OR do not know how to use their privilege for the good of others. Can you offer some advice because as your #PeerCnnekt stated, “knowldege is mother fucking power.”
Often when we think of social justice, we liken it to protesting, boycotts, and rallies. The work that needs to be done exists every day, all around us.
First and foremost, educate yourself. Not by relying on the emotional labor of the people you may know with marginalized identities, but by reading books about topics that you will never know first hand. My recommendation to anyone looking to lend themselves to this fight is to start with “White Fragility” by Robin DeAngelo. She breaks down the many ways in which white people hinder the dismantling of white supremacy, and how often times they are white people who consider themselves to be liberal or progressive. From there, I recommend the works of James Baldwin, Ta-Nahisi Coates, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, and Michelle Alexander.
Secondly, prepare to be uncomfortable. Nothing about dismantling systems of oppression should be comfortable for those who benefit from them.
This comfort we’re accustomed to comes at the price of black and brown lives. Whether you like it or not, if you are white, you benefit from white supremacy, and the only way to counteract that is by acknowledging your roles and withdrawing from them. This means challenging your racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic relatives over Thanksgiving dinner. It means challenging racism in your workplace, even if that puts you at risk of losing your job. This means doing work every day to challenge your internalized biases and unlearning everything you’ve ever absorbed. It means standing up in spaces where there are no black people or people of color present, and sitting down and listening when you're in spaces where they are. Most importantly, it means doing this work without seeking acknowledgment; You don’t get gold stars for doing what is right. Layla Saad has a workbook coming out in 2020 called “Me and My White Supremacy.” This is an excellent tool that will walk you through dismantling your participation in white supremacy. Anne Hathaway is a fan!
Lastly, stay humble and receptive to feedback. It’s easy to be defensive when someone is telling you how you’ve been hurtful or how you’re wrong, but feedback is a tool for growth, and you must be committed to that growth if you wish to dismantle these systems. In this work, impact is more important than intention. You will not always get it right, and you will make mistakes along the way, but rather than apologizing, show that you’re learning by not repeating these mistakes.
Bailey, whats next for you personally and professional. AKA- what will be the next challenge you face head on?
I’m about to make a move to Los Angeles where I will hopefully be getting involved with the criminal justice reform movement as I complete my undergraduate degree. Once I complete my degree, I plan to move on to law school where I can use my law degree to help folks who are wrongfully incarcerated achieve exoneration. Eventually, I plan on taking everything I’ve learned and moving back to Texas to run for office. While the government is not the end all be all of systemic change, it can be an important tool for it--and Texas is in dire need of systemic change. In the meantime, I am always learning and doing what I can to better myself so I can be better for others.
Interviewed by Emily