At a rally Saturday against House Republican attacks on funding for women's health services, co-emcee Mary Alice Carr asked anyone in the crowd under 30 to cheer. "It went on for at least a minute," Shelby Knox, who had been about to go onstage, told me today. "It shook the stage."
I saw for myself at Saturday's event, which drew an estimated 6,000 people to protest the elimination of Title X, which provides funding for contraception, sex education, and cancer screenings, and the specific defunding of Planned Parenthood, from the House's proposed budget. Young women, and plenty of men, dominated the audience — and the stage. There were also "walks for choice" all over the country, which began online.
As recently as a year ago, pro-choice leaders were lamenting in Newsweek and elsewhere, yet again, that young women take their reproductive choices for granted, that they lack the energy of anti-abortion activists. (Younger women pushed back, online and elsewhere.) Saturday's rally wasn't just letting young women into the tent — it was spearheaded by them. Knox told me every single person she had contact with along the way was a younger woman.
Amanda Marcotte, who also spoke, told me she thought it helped energize younger people that it was Planned Parenthood, with 97 percent of its services having nothing to do with abortions and even preventing them, that was under attack. "People are genuinely shocked at how radical the anti-choice agenda is," she said. She's been skeptical of the idea of younger women's apathy and older women's disdain in general, but she said, "I think a sustained attack on Planned Parenthood wiped out any generational tension." Her speech was centered around a Twitter hashtag she started — #thanksPPFA — another recognition of the online organizing some older activists have been skeptical of. And the signs themselves not only referred to Internet memes, but seemed primed to be posted on the Internet later in a continuation of the rally.
Word about the rally spread on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, among other places, though a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of New York City, Erica Sackin, was reluctant to point to any particular platform as a turnout generator. She did say, "We hear this thing all the time about how there are no young women activists. It's funny to us because we work with young women activists all the time." The group's activist council, which is visibly though not exclusively younger, has a waiting list.
One member of that council, Adjoa Sankofia Tetteh, spoke Saturday too. She said she had been heartened to see a range of ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds (lots of Spanish was spoken), and professional backgrounds.
Knox's big applause line was, "We are not the future; we are now. We are not apathetic; we are angry. We are the new revolution and we will not go back." When she got off the stage, she said, an older woman said to her, "You just threw it down."