It’s all about timing, isn’t it?
We accept that celebrities have a platform, and that they’re asked to use it at every opportunity. You’ve heard the expression "they can’t say yes to everything" but I actually think it’s worth mentioning how often celebs are approached by their state senates, their high schools, their local rotary clubs – anyone who can claim the tiniest piece of you will ask for some. You have to choose where you’re going to spend it – the rarer it is that you speak out on something, the more people listen.
So Mark Ruffalo chose to do this.
He sent a statement to an abortion-rights rally in Jackson, Mississippi. He was not there, it didn’t turn into a photo opportunity or an autograph session. His letter clearly and cleanly points out why he has a personal stake in the matter and why he hopes the restrictions on women’s health and women’s choices are left to each individual woman to decide upon – without shame or smarminess or accusations.
It’s rare because it’s without his face attached (and, let’s be honest, he’s not that famous. Lots of people wouldn’t know who he was anyway). It’s rare because it’s a man speaking out about issues that men usually stay far away from – unless, you know, they want to shame the woman in question. It’s rare because there is no personal benefit to Mark Ruffalo. It’s not like he’s coming out about having liberal politics or anything. He’s just continuing to be who he is. He is the kind of celebrity who would roll his eyes at this phrasing, but he is using his power for good – and there’s no benefit to him. Which suits me.
There is some significant risk, of course, that some of his fan base might turn against him or be disillusioned or furious that he took this stand. It’s unlikely, given his fan base, but it could happen. Somehow I don’t think this concerned him.
But this will cease to be a story by 3 PM today. As opposed to that speech of Ashton Kutcher’s -- click here for a refresher -- which was basically a story told in celebration of Ashton Kutcher by Ashton Kutcher, on such polarizing topics as hard work and being smart (which is sexy!). I’m not saying anything’s wrong with Kutcher’s message, but it’s inoffensive and kind of bland and serves to point out what an awesome guy he is…and it will be Upworthy-ed and linked and reblogged for weeks. Context: sure it was the Teen Choice Awards but I guarantee most of those teens will never hear this message from Ruffalo – and they know who The Hulk is!
Why does it have to be one of the other? Why can’t we celebrate everyone’s having Something To Say in equal measure?
Below: Ruffalo's letter in full
I am a man. I could say this has nothing to do with me. Except I have two daughters and I have a mother who was forced to illegally have an abortion in her state where abortion was illegal when she was a very young woman. It cost $600 cash. It was a traumatizing thing for her. It was shameful and sleazy and demeaning. When I heard the story I was aghast by the lowliness of a society that would make a woman do that. I could not understand its lack of humanity; today is no different.
What happened to my mother was a relic of an America that was not free nor equal nor very kind. My mother’s illegal abortion marked a time in America that we have worked long and hard to leave behind. It was a time when women were seen as second rate citizens who were not smart enough, nor responsible enough, nor capable enough to make decisions about their lives. It was a time that deserved to be left behind, and leave it behind we did, or so it seemed. We made abortion and a woman’s ability to be her own master a Right. That Right was codified into law. That law was the law of the land for decades. My own mother fought to make herself more than a possession; she lived her life as a mother who chose when she would have children, and a wife who could earn a living if she so chose. I want my daughters to enjoy that same choice. I don’t want to turn back the hands of time to when women shuttled across state lines in the thick of night to resolve an unwanted pregnancy, in a cheap hotel room just south of the state line. Where a transaction of $600 cash becomes the worth of a young woman’s life. So that is why I am lending my voice to you and your movement today. Because I actually trust the women I know. I trust them with their choices, I trust them with their bodies and I trust them with their children. I trust that they are decent enough and wise enough and worthy enough to carry the right of Abortion and not be forced to criminally exercise that Right at the risk of death or jail time.
There was no mistake us making Abortion legal and available on demand. That was what we call progress. Just like it was no mistake that we abolished institutional racism in this country around the same time. The easy thing to do is lay low, but then are we who we say we are? Do we actually stand for anything, if what we do stand for is under attack and we say nothing? There is nothing to be ashamed of here except to allow a radical and recessive group of people to bully and intimidate our mothers and sisters and daughters for exercising their right of choice. Or use terrorism and fanaticism to block their legal rights or take the lives of their caregivers. Or design legislation that would chip away at those rights disguised as reinforcing a woman’s health.
I invite you to find your voice and let it be known that you stand for abortion rights and the dignity of a woman to be the master of her own life and body. I invite you to search your soul and ask yourself if you actually stand for what you say you stand for. Thank you for being here today and thank you for standing up for the women in my life.
Sincerely and humbly,