I’ve been writing this column for years, and I often get a few email or in-person responses, mostly positive, but sometimes opposing views, of course. I love that. It shows me we live together in a community full of diverse thought. But that’s usually.
Last month, my post-Roe column drew several opposing responses in the form of letters to the editor and emails. It is clear that this issue draws passionate beliefs and feelings. But I thought it fascinating that all of those were written by men, supposedly people without the physical capability to have an abortion or become pregnant. Now, why would men be so interested in allowing the government to tell a person with a uterus what they are not allowed to do with their body?
One man accused me of being “hyperbolic” as I admitted I had painfully bawled with my children after the decision. And another told me via email that I was a “CNN fake.” What do you think that’s about? Why would someone assume I’m not telling the truth about my emotions? Is it because they don’t express any themselves, and thus, simply don’t comprehend why someone would cry over the government wanting to control their body? Or, perhaps it’s because they don’t have any empathy for women who don’t want to be pregnant or emotionally can’t be pregnant.
When I went through my chaplaincy training in seminary, I deepened my understanding and use of a trauma-informed approach with others. Acknowledging patients’ stress, anxiety, or any emotion stemming from their lived experiences became especially critical as I served those different from me. It helped me become more empathic with male patients who were vulnerably sitting in a hospital gown attempting to deal with their health predicament. Considering the trauma they were experiencing helped me develop empathy for them even though I was not a male or ill. This, of course, helped me serve them more effectively as they felt more comfortable sharing and expressing their inner feelings.
We were also taught that there’s nothing better in relating to others than similar lived experiences. For instance, I fully knew that it was not my place to give men advice on their emotions about erectile dysfunction. I needed to simply listen, honor the fact that I could not possibly know the emotional pain they were going through, but acknowledge it anyway.
So, going back to the all-male responses on my post-Roe column, perhaps what’s needed for us to work through this together is a bit of empathy and acknowledging the real trauma many women are going through right now.
Former Colorado state Sen. Linda Newell is a writer, instructor, facilitator and conflict and DEI coach. Senlindanewell@gmail.com, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell on Facebook.