Why I Am In Solidarity with Mireille Miller-Young – The Feminist Wire

Why I Am In Solidarity with Mireille Miller-Young


According to that radical feminist organization, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, domestic terrorism is intended “to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.” Okay, so I really do not believe that the FBI is a radical feminist organization. But when I consider what happened at University of California-Santa Barbara last week when the antichoice, antiwoman group Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust brought their graphic signage and deliberate misinformation about abortion, equating it to Holocaust, I believe that this group is engaged in the practices of intimidation and coercion. So did Mireille Miller-Young, professor of Feminist Studies at UCSB – and she said as much in response to the presence of this group at her workplace.  Miller-Young disagreed with their message and their presence, and Joan and Thrin Short, people from this organization, followed Miller-Young and two unidentified students (unclear if they are Miller-Young’s students, but they are students at UCSB). According to their own video, which they uploaded, Joan Short videotaped Miller-Young without her consent. She and her sister harassed Miller-Young as she and the two students crossed a plaza and entered a building. The Short sisters followed her all the way into an elevator, where they sought to impede her ability to go to her office. Miller-Young repeatedly told these people to leave her alone and let her get onto the elevator, but they kept harassing her and refusing to let her enter the elevator and get away from them.

A court of law will determine the outcome of any legal actions that result from the situation. Legal agencies will also determine whether or not the actions of groups like LA Survivors are terroristic. But I stand with Mireille Miller-Young because she stands with women – ALL women – in the face of political intimidation and harassment. She is a warrior who deserves our support and praise.

Too many people who will do the work for the right to safe and legal abortion are harassed, threatened, even killed by people who claim to be pro-life. I’ve been one of those people. In the early 1990s, I volunteered as an escort at a women’s clinic that provided, among many other services, legal abortion. Each Wednesday, protesters would gather around the Alabama-based clinic to yell and scream at women who entered the clinic – the yelling and screaming was intentional so as to raise the blood pressure of women to the point that they could not undergo the abortion they were medically and legally entitled to receive. One Wednesday, before the clinic opened, several of us volunteers gathered with the clinic director and one of the doctors for coffee and the chance to catch up with each other when a package came through the mail slot. Within seconds, it exploded. The sound was, quite literally, deafening. The walls shook. One woman was propelled into a door frame, sustaining a back injury. The clinic closed that day. What happened to the “pro-life” people who sought to hurt us? Nothing. (Yes, you read that correctly: nothing happened.)

Those of us who live on the side of women and their human rights – which include the right to have access to safe, legal abortion – are often treated as if we are pariahs. We can be harassed, threatened, intimidated – and we’re told that it is part of their free speech. Indeed, as various places in the anti-woman, antichoice world make clear, Miller-Young, a Black feminist scholar, has been called a “porn professor” and a “thug” (see the comments) and a “tenured criminal” who went “berserk.” She’s been accused in certain segments of the press as leading an “angry mob.” On Fox News, Thrin Short commented, “I’m sorry if these signs offended her in any way but after all, she does show porn to her students so she’s not really the one to talk about offending images,” as if Miller-Young’s professional research on pornography can be equated with the incendiary imagery the Survivors group shows. In just a handful of examples, we see how the coded language of race operates to justify the intimidating actions of two young, white women. This kind of language is also a form of violence, drawing on histories of racism, sexism, and the regulation of Black women’s bodies. Mireille Miller-Young took a stand, rejected what she saw as a type of terrorism, and defended her right to her bodily integrity (after all, she is a human being). In so doing, she defended all of us. I am in solidarity with Mireille Miller-Young.


  1. Heidi Cautrell

    March 20, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Just a suggestion, “stand with” is abelist toward those who are unable to stand. Other alternatives would be: support, solidarity, back, advocate.

    Otherwise, the article is great and I fully support Professor Miller-Young and all she’s gone through.

    • margaret

      March 20, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Oh for heaven’s sake! Everyone knows what it means! Are you insinuating that metaphor is out of the question in this hyper-politically correct world. Nonsense. It’s a great article, and it’s that kind of comment that makes ordinary people feel alienation toward progressives.

      • Heidi Cautrell

        March 20, 2014 at 4:32 pm

        As you can see, she changed the title and thanked me for the comment. Perhaps you should try to understand why it’s important to choose words carefully.

        • Kevin Clinton

          March 20, 2014 at 5:18 pm

          Yeah that was a really good comment done in a thoughtful way. I am always disappointed in my comprehension of disability solidarity. So I really appreciated your comment as well. 🙂

  2. Stephanie Gilmore

    March 20, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Heidi, you are exactly right. I will change the title to reflect my solidarity with Mireille Miller-Young. Thank you for your observation and for your support. Peace!

  3. Jennifer

    March 20, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Theft is theft and free speech is free speech. If these are things you can not handle perhaps you may want to live in another country. Regardless of how you feel about abortion showing a sign of the reality of abortion in a free speech zone is legal and covered by the first amendment. If you have to use code words like “terrorism” or “defended her right to bodily integrity” maybe you have not come to accept what abortion actually does. It is the destruction of a living thing is it not? Call a spade a spade. If you believe it’s a good thing fine..if not, one has the right to say so. Would you also call a war protester holding images of war in a free speech zone a terrorist? War is ugly and so are abortion pictures….but it’s reality.

    • Joseph

      March 21, 2014 at 2:13 am

      Oh, Jennifer.

      1) The images used by “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” were grossly out of context and not, as you say, “the reality of abortion.” They used stock images of still-birth fetuses- from the early third trimester (i.e., much later than standing abortion restrictions in this state) that were blown-up, edited, and displayed to terrorize and erroneously shock students.

      2) If you can read, please pick up a copy of the United States constitution- that, or just do some simple web search. The first amendment guarantees U.S. citizens the right to free speech without direct government intervention. Citizens are guaranteed the opportunity to voice their opinions on public property- like the free speech area at UCSB. But private citizens also have the right to evaluate “free speech,” and if needed, remove its platform and speaker under the first amendment. In other words, “freedom of speech” ONLY pertains to direct government intervention. Mireille acted as a private citizen, in the defense of other private citizens. There isn’t a case here.

      3) Yes, theft is theft. But now that you stand corrected on your boisterous claim to “freedom of speech,” you can see that removing the sign was akin to a private citizen removing the platform and- by extension- the speech that was deemed offensive by over 2,000 students (at the present moment, at least. Please see petition for UCSB chancellor to issue a statement in support of Mireille).

      3) Several students witnessed these girls scratch themselves prior to calling campus police and filing their complaint. This certainly will be held against them in subsequent proceedings.

      Long story short, Jennifer, there isn’t a case. I only hope that you have enough sense to read and inform yourself before typing a rambling post with little punctuation, poor grammar, and irrelevant content. Please consider your “free speech” judged and its platform removed. Thanks.

      • spqr2008

        March 21, 2014 at 9:54 am

        The University of California college system is her employer. Therefore, when she censors students’ free speech by taking their sign, she is acting in her capacity as an instructor at UCSB. The solution to speech you disagree with is more speech, also known as talking or debate, not stealing someone’s sign and cutting it to pieces because you don’t like it. Imagine if there was an anti-war protest and ROTC students (future officers) took away signs depicting the results of war and destroyed them. Would you say that those ROTC students had acted to protect their bodily integrity? Or would you rightly say that they had censored the anti-war students’ right to free speech?

        • Stephanie Gilmore

          March 21, 2014 at 9:59 am

          Let’s be clear: the protesters were not UCSB students. Every news story makes that clear.

        • SpiderStone

          March 21, 2014 at 3:07 pm

          “The University of California college system is her employer”

          Actually, you bring up an excellent point. Everybody has the right to do their job in a safe, non-hostile environment. What the anti-choicers were doing created a hostile workplace for her. How in the hell are you supposed to get your work done if you can’t even move freely around the buildings you work in without somebody blocking your access to elevators, stairs, etc? Their freedom ends where my nose begins, regardless of what color my nose happens to be.

  4. Stephanie Gilmore

    March 21, 2014 at 6:15 am

    “Terrorism” is a real thing and is defined (and linked to in my piece) by the FBI. And “her right to bodily integrity” is, in fact, a human right, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and according to common sense. The suggestion that I would want to go live in another country is absurd — this is my country too. I participate in every aspect of citizenship, to the extent that I am able to do so, and I have rights therein. I have not only a right but also a responsibility to speak up and change it. That’s how free speech actually works.

  5. Stephanie Gilmore

    March 21, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Let me direct anyone who would like to comment on this or any TFW article/story/poem/reflection to the Comment Policy, located at the top of every page at TFW. I will also highlight this particular point: The Feminist Wire reserves the right to not publish or to delete comments that we deem to be violent or that violate our intention to create an anti-oppressive feminist space. Homophobic, racist, ableist, sexist attacks and hate speech are not conducive TO the dialogue that we intend to create here. Be mindful as you seek to engage.

  6. Sophie K

    March 21, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Looking this story up on the Internet after reading it first here gave me a really unpleasant surprise. I know from the experiences of a close friend with a semi-public name that undeserved reactionary hate speech on the Internet can really hurt, which I guess it’s designed to do. Thank you for your piece, Stephanie Gilmore. And I want Mireille Miller-Young to know if she is reading these comments that my family is sending her love from Queens. -Sophie

  7. Stephanie Gilmore

    March 21, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Last note on the subject: Anyone who seeks to comment needs to do so without attacking the individuals who comment, the author, and/or the subject. This comments section is moderated for a reason — you need not agree with me, or with anyone. But you need to refrain from engaging in attacks. Comments that engage with the ideas will be posted and engaged. Comments that cannot advance a point are not going to be posted.

  8. Kathy Owen

    March 21, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    If you are referring to the 1998 bombing of the Women’s clinic in downtown Birmingham then I will remind you that the gentleman, Eric Robert Rudolph is currently in prison for multiple life sentences for that bombing, along with 3 other bombings. The pro-life group that was protesting outside had nothing to do with the bombing. Mr. Rudolph confessed to the bombing as an individual. You article makes it sound like no one was caught or punished for that horrible event and that is simply not true.

  9. Stephanie Gilmore

    March 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Kathy, thank you for your comment. I am not referring to the 1998 bombing in Birmingham. As I stated, the attack in which I was involved was in the early 1990s (1991, to be precise). It was in northern Alabama. And no one was punished. Which remains true.

  10. Pingback: Strange Fruit | Former Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent on Coming Out; Violence in Downtown Louisville