Showing Up For Reproductive Rights: Halo Of Praise

Good God, these are important times to show up looking sharp, polished and ready to speak truth to power. Here is the Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh speaking at a #StopTheBans rally in San Diego last Saturday, sponsored by people connected to the Women’s March. Rev. Sarah was one of about twelve speakers and she was one of two faith leaders.

Please click to enlarge the photos and we’ll see what works here.

My first impression is one of strength. Sarah’s architectural glasses make a strong statement: they are mature and stylish. Every one of us who wears specs should have a no-nonsense pair that we can bring out for occasions like this when our fun-wacky-I’m-a-colorful-personality cat eyes and sparkly purple don’t lend enough gravitas. With specs available now for less than $100 I am going to stick to my gubs* on this. It is too easy to be dismissed as a Crazy Cat Lady by our ideological enemies (and even plenty of friends who have immediate associations of cat eye glasses with archetypes of eccentric ladies). Don’t give anyone easy ways to discount your presence and message.

Sarah has smoothed her very curly hair back from her face (THANK YOU) and her passionate facial expressions, strong stance and emphatic gesticulation all undergird her spoken word.
USE YOUR WHOLE SELF in delivering your message!!! From your podium, from your wheelchair, from your seat behind a table or standing at a pulpit, never ever ever think that your work of preparation is complete when you print out the paper or upload your doc to your iPad. Imagine yourself delivering your statement. REHEARSE it. Bring your body into it. You are not just a talking head!

Sarah has naturally bold brows but many of us don’t, and I want you to notice how much they do to frame her face and convey her expressions. Fill in your brows! They’re so helpful in communicating your emotions to the back of the house.

Hands: Sarah is using hers, and she has a clean manicure. It matters. Make sure you get rid of the chipped polish or the Hello Kitty or Wonder Woman Band-Aid.

Now: attire. This is the simple, tailored, really great black suit I have urged all of you to make sure you have in . your closet ready to go for occasions like this. This is why: when legislators succeed in stripping women of their reproductive rights and we know exactly what kind of horrible consequences that will have, and we know that some of those consequences involve death, WE ARE AT A FUNERAL. We must communicate with our attire that we understand where these right wing machinations are leading (and have already led). This is not an occasion for floral skirts or cute dresses or (shudder) slogan Tshirts. This is a time of utmost formality and severity. Sarah has dark hair and so I love her choice of the royal blue clericals. Black would have gotten lost, and the rich blue looks beautiful andworks with her coloring. I often see clergy wearing colorful clerics that seem to be chosen strictly because that person likes that shade of Crayola, and their face is entirely washed out or upstaged by the hue. The color of your clericals should be strategic and work for the occasion, for your clerical status (don’t wear purple clericals in an ecumenical setting if you’re not a bishop), and with your hair and complexion.

Although I go back and forth about her wearing all of those buttons and badges, one thing I did like a lot was the way Sarah has arranged them in a manner that echoes military decorations, which I am sure wasn’t intentional but was immediately effective. I thought, “Oooh, she’s addressing the troops for battle!” I was ready to fight.

Now: image management. If someone takes a bunch of photos of you at a rally and you have the opportunity to choose one or two to share publicly or use on the website or whatnot, choose the strong images. This is the only one of the terrific batch Sarah’s husband took where she looks pulled back and tentative:

You manage your own public image. Scrutinize what goes out whenever possible and only approve the best!

I do not comment on content but I thought some of you might wonder what Sarah said. Here is the full text. We may all be called upon to craft statements like this in coming days. Be prepared.

*I knew if I said “stick to my guns,” some tiresome scold would tell me they were offended that I used militaristic imagery so I did an end run around you, Tiresome Scold! Are football references okay or would you like to further strip language of interesting metaphors?”

Good morning. I’m Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh and I’m here as a minister, a woman, a mother, a feminist, and an advocate for justice.

Why am I up here? Because I represent a religious denomination that is unequivocally pro-woman, pro-transgender people, pro-sexuality education, pro-contraception and pro-choice. I am a Unitarian Universalist minister, and we have been advocating for safe, legal abortion since long before Roe vs. Wade.

Here’s something that may surprise you: most people of faith in this country are pro-choice. I’ll say that again. Most people of faith in this country are pro-choice. And you know something? We are pro-choice because our morality compels us so.

Mine starts here: Life is sacred. Your life is sacred. Adrian’s life is sacred. The lives of the children and families waiting to cross that border [point south] are sacred. The lives of the people in Iran and Venezuela, Israel/Palestine, and Yemen are sacred.

The lives of the person, or the couple, facing a difficult reproductive decision: their lives are sacred. And because their lives are sacred, we are called to do all we can to protect their life and their well-being. The lives of the born. The lives of the living. They matter profoundly! The lives of people who have a conscience, who are struggling with their conscience to figure out what to do with a pregnancy. They are sacred! We owe it to them to offer honest, scientifically-accurate information about the choices they can make. We owe it to them to offer excellent pre-natal care, paid family leave, and affordable child care should they choose to carry a pregnancy, and we owe it to them to offer safe, legal abortion services should they choose not to carry a pregnancy. We owe it to them to uphold their rights, their dignity, and their own responsibility to guide their lives.

Abortion is a moral choice because, as clergy of many faiths said together in a 2005 open letter, we best uphold the sanctity of human life by assuring that life is not created carelessly. “It is precisely because life and parenthood are so precious that no woman [person with a uterus] should be coerced to carry a pregnancy….”

And it’s about so much more than abortion. It’s ultimately about justice.

The reproductive justice I support “envisions the liberation of people of all genders, sexual orientations, abilities, gender identities, ages, classes, and cultural and racial identities.” Reproductive justice is rooted in the experience of women of color, who recognize that “liberation requires not only accurate information about sexuality and reproduction and control of personal reproductive decisions, but also living wages, safe and supported housing, high quality and comprehensive medical and reproductive health care, access to voting and the political process, affordable legal representation, fair immigration policies, paid parental leave, affordable childcare, and the absence of individual and institutional violence.” (Unitarian Universalist Association Statement of Conscience, 2015) That’s morality!

I want to lead you in a chant. I say, “What’s Really Moral?” You say, “Reproductive JUSTICE!”

What’s really moral?
Reproductive JUSTICE!
What’s really moral?
Reproductive JUSTICE!
What’s really moral?
Reproductive JUSTICE!

Rooted in my religious commitment to love my neighbor, work for justice, and care for those in need, I, and the many, many faith leaders who are with us, commit to fighting these harmful bans. May love and justice win!

A Halo of Praise and a deep thanks to my dear colleague, the Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspraugh for her work, her witness and her fabulosity.

One Reply to “Showing Up For Reproductive Rights: Halo Of Praise”

  1. Oh my goodness I am SO FLATTERED! I want to say more about my look. The theme, one might say, is “Professionalism on a Budget.” Like many ministers, money is tight and I don’t have a lot to spend. The suit is from ThredUp.com, my favorite go-to place for high quality used clothes. The glasses are, well, my only pair of glasses… so I chose them with serious professionalism in mind as well as everyday wearing. The manicure? Cutting and filing my own nails. The ponytail? Growing my hair longer saves money, too, because I don’t need it cut so often. And the clerical collar shirt, that’s from WomenSpirit, and I got it a couple years ago because I knew it would get frequent use in the Trump era. (And I saved some money by counting it as a professional expense for tax purposes.) Link: https://womenspirit.com/clerical-shirts-dresses/tab-collar/sleeveless-knit-tab-collar.html.

    The lapel pins: I agree that aesthetically it’s a little crowded. I started the day with a UU chalice pin, an OWL pin for our Our Whole Lives sexuality education program, and a yellow heart pin for our Side With Love campaign. While at the rally I was gifted with a Progress Pride Flag pin, and I put it right on as a way to show my support for LGBQ and especially T folks who are being targeted by this administration (and are often made invisible by speakers at such rallies… but not this one.)

    I truly had my whole faith community with me up there at the rally–in the words I spoke from our UUA statement of conscience, in the symbols on the pins, in the frameworks and concepts I learned from colleagues, and in my self-presentation. Peacebang launched Beauty Tips when I was a new minister, and I have so benefitted from her teachings about “looking the part.” Thank you for teaching me, and for your incredibly flattering shout out today.

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