Asha Dahya 00;00;09;17
Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the rePRO Film podcast. I’m your host, Asha Dahya. And actually, this is a very special episode of the podcast series because I want to introduce you to the Repo Film team. Every month I get to bring you these awesome interviews with amazing filmmakers around a repo topic. But I thought we’d kind of like, pull the curtain back and show you how everything’s put together, because the women that I get to work with are awesome. They’re passionate, and they are dedicated to the cause of talking about reproductive justice, abortion access and everything onto the reproductive justice and rights and health and freedom banner. And there’s never been a more important time to do that. So I’m going to introduce you to the team one by one. But first, I want to introduce you to Lela Meadow-Conner, who is one of the founding members of the rePRO team. Lela welcome to the podcast that is started by a company that you started. Feels weird saying that, but hello!
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;01;19;08
Hi, Asha. Thank you so much. For having having us on here. This is such a treat to be able to talk with you all in this format. I’m just so thrilled that rePRO has become what it’s become since its inception in 2020. It started as a virtual film festival during the pandemic, and we did two rounds to virtual versions of it and quickly realized that watching five days of films about virtual or virtual films about reproductive health care on your couch is not really a popular thing these days. So we quickly pivoted to this idea of the periodical where we present one short film a month and have this amazing podcast with you and present articles and organizations who are really doing the work and looking at it as a public media initiative and as a path of least resistance. Because we are there’s so much content out there, there’s so much happening in the world, there’s so much information around reproductive rights and health care, and a lot of it really just gets swallowed up into the abortion conversation, which is absolutely essential at the moment as we all know what’s going on in the world.
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;02;24;19
But at the same time, I always say like there are so many other things that people with a uterus have to contend with and there are so many amazing short films and stories about those. And I think that film is such a wonderful entry point to the conversation And I’m just so thrilled now that we have like this team that’s growing and everyone is who is part of it. We’re all from all across the country. We’re from all different walks of life and different lived experiences, different ages, you know, different different parts of our life. And I think that that is so important that rePRO never is a singular vision. It is all of us.
Asha Dahya 00;03;00;18
Yeah, I love that. I love the way you described it. It’s it is very inclusive. And I love that, you know, you and your founding members, I’d love for you to talk about them as well and how the point has always been intersectionality and bringing people into the conversation because it is important to be, you know, be aware that there are people with you uteruses out there who have so many different lived experiences. It’s not just singular. Like you said, talk to me about how you and your founders originally came up with the idea and why there aren’t any other film festivals that focus on reproductive rights and health and justice.
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;03;39;01
That’s a great question. And I think that I think there are some festivals, especially women’s festivals, that have categories dedicated to. Sure. But I think that we just sort of hit at the right time to to be able to bring this together. And it was really actually intended to just be a film series. And it was started with a funding from the Dr. George Tiller Foundation. Dr. Tiller was an abortion doctor here in Wichita, Kansas, where I live, who was murdered outside of his church. And his family has a foundation. And they every year they do a grant. And I applied for a grant to show a film series. And this was January of 2020 and we received the grant and we were just going to show some series here in Wichita.
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;04;21;00
There are many, many wonderful feature films at the time that were floating around in the ether that year. And then of course the pandemic happened. And so we quickly decided that we wanted to do this. We had this incredibly important election upon us just months away and how could we still do this? And now with this virtual world that we live in, how could we open up access to so many more people to participate? We were a little bit naive. My co-founders, Mallory Martin and Debbie Samples, who work at the Cleveland International Film Festival, amazing, amazing, passionate women we’re like, We have to do this before the election. There’s no way we can wait. But we were a little bit naive coming from the world of film festivals and programing and not really understanding you know, all of these advocacy organizations were doing their own work leading up to this election, and it was such a crucial time and we were so happy that we were able to pull it off.
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;05;17;02
We got connected to so many wonderful people across the country. We really just sort of tossed it out there to every single person we knew and everyone was so receptive to the idea of this being this virtual film festival dedicated to this topic in that year, in that time and again, now more than ever, so, you know, it really just has been an evolution. And we’ve been so lucky that we’ve been able to have funding partners to allow us to bring on, you know, a team that really specializes in programing and copywriting and, you know, podcast hosting and and the tech side of it. Kylie, who’s not here with us she likes to hide behind the camera. And so, you know, it’s just been such a such a wonderful evolution. And clearly, this is a marathon. We are in it for the long haul. And what’s happening with Roe right now is devastating. It’s going to have effects for many, many, many years. I’m the mother of two daughters and, you know, for me, it’s horrifying. I never could have imagined in my lifetime that this would this would be the case for them growing up.
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;06;21;09
And here in Kansas, where I live and I will let Emily, explain this one a little bit better. She sent me an amazing podcast the other day that we can put in the show notes that really do explain and here in Kansas, we have a whole nother vote in August. But I ran across a quote the other day from Karen Spratt from Planned Parenthood, and I’ve really been using it in like every single grant application, email, every communication that I have, because I think it’s such an incredible perspective. And I think that this really sums up why we’re doing what we’re doing,
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;06;52;23
She said, “We’re never going to change policies unless we change the culture. And the way we change the culture is through art.” And to me, that gives me chills just thinking about it, because that is why we continue to do rePRO and we will continue to evolve it and we will continue to see what happens and how we can maybe help move the needle, build awareness, give people access to to films and movies and content that they wouldn’t otherwise have. That’s really the goal here.
Asha Dahya 00;07;20;02
I love that. I love that quote. I’m going to have to write it down and use it in my own grant applications, and especially because I’m a so we’ve all got different side projects and things I’m working on that I’m going to talk about with the other people on this call as well. But you know, in the world of repro, it’s really important for us as a team that we share these messages through art and uplift filmmakers who are, you know, sharing message. I know for myself, coming from a former conservative evangelical background, which is very, very anti-choice, anti-abortion, my own evolution, you know, reading articles and seeing people’s quotes on social media, it definitely helped. But hearing individual stories, watching documentaries and seeing those stories on screen really had an impact on me. And so I can definitely see the value that art and creativity has in such a divisive landscape that we’re in right now.
Asha Dahya 00;08;15;15
So speaking of the team, let’s introduce you to I’m going to go round the table. No particular order, but since Lela mentioned Emily, who also lives in Kansas, Emily Christensen, welcome. Tell us what you do and how you became part of the team.
Emily Christensen 00;08;32;10
Yeah, thanks, Asha. So, yeah, I work in Wichita, Kansas, as a freelance journalist and copywriter and sometimes podcaster. And I had worked with Lela on a different project last year and really was that was one of the first opportunities I’d had to really collaborate with somebody on a creative project. And it was such a great experience. So I was really thrilled when she asked me to join the research team as the newsletter writer. So every month in collaboration with Lela and you and Neha and everybody else I put together the content for the newsletter and it’s really that the what’s in it.
Emily Christensen 00;09;26;11
And of course the, the film and the podcast and all the links that we share, everyone has a hand in that. And then I pull it all together and have really just tried to make that an accessible document that people can engage with at the level they want to. So there is it’s, it’s a short newsletter, but it’s very dense and you could certainly spend a lot of time with it or you could just spend a little bit of time with it and know. So yeah, that’s that’s what I do. Yeah.
Asha Dahya 00;10;06;29
And it’s so anyone who’s worked in marketing or film or comms or anything having the ability to write something so succinctly and engagingly, for me it is so hard. I have to have endless days or hours of thinking about it. But Emily is worth her weight in gold and it’s just such an important role that we have with this periodical. So thank you, Emily, for the work you’re doing and the talent that you bring to this team. And, you know, Lila mentioned before that you both live in Kansas and she’s going to share a link to this podcast episode that we should all know about. Speaking of, you know, important topics, can you tell us about the vote that’s coming up in Kansas that people can be aware of wherever you are in the country and perhaps how we can stay informed or support somehow that you why that, you know, OK.
Emily Christensen 00;10;56;04
Yeah, I will try to explain as best I can. And this year, like in so many years, Kansas is really on the forefront of the reproductive health struggle. And this year we have we have a ballot initiative on August 2nd, which is the primary, although this and the specific ballot initiative is open to all voters and the purpose of it is to sort of de affirm or overturn a Supreme Court, a Kansas Supreme Court ruling our Kansas Supreme Court has affirmed as recently as I believe 2019 that women in Kansas have the right to an abortion that it’s protected in the Kansas Constitution. So why this is exceptionally important right now is that it does look as though Roe versus Wade will be overturned and by the Supreme Court of the United States this summer. And if and when that happens can’t abortion will still be legal in Kansas as we have a very strong Supreme Court ruling that has affirmed that. However, if this ballot initiative passes that will open the door for the legislature to pass anti-abortion legislation.
Emily Christensen 00;12;21;10
We do have a pro-choice Democratic governor which and Laura Kelly, which may surprise some people who are not familiar with Kansas politics, but we have a very conservative legislature and I expect that there would be votes to override a veto, although I am certainly not an expert on the subject. But, yeah, that’s my best understanding. And my understanding is it’s the first vote, the first statewide vote that will happen after the Supreme Court decision.
Asha Dahya 00;12;51;20
Wow. That’s super important to know. I mean, and also to see states like Kansas who are which is, you know, among a lot of other Southern states and Midwest states that are known to be super conservative. Like I said, it’s got a very conservative state legislature, but with a Democratic governor that can veto any potentially harmful anti-abortion bills and kind of beat us all, what between, you know, someone getting access to abortion or not is really, really important.
Asha Dahya 00;13;20;09
So it’s really great to hear that there is you know, there are people raising awareness about this ballot initiative. I know that the ballot initiative in Colorado in 2020, they did so much campaigning and awareness raising about it. So any way that we can support, we will share it through the periodical on our website and social media. We’ll keep informed about that ballot measure on August 2nd. Mallory, I mentioned earlier that you are the other founder of the rePRO Film organization. I’d love to find out how you got involved, how you met Lela and Debbie and how it all came together.
Mallory Martin 00;13;55;25
Sure. Of course. And thank you so much for having us on here. I think as as Lela indicated, I work for the Cleveland International Film Festival and based in Cleveland, Ohio, which is also how I know Debbie. She she works for the same festivals I do. I’ve been working in the film festival industry for almost 15 years in one form or another. And that’s how I met Lela. Lela was working for Film Festival Alliance for a long time, and we connected that way, especially in 2020. Once the pandemic hit and festivals were forced to turn into virtual offerings, we connected more. She also had started mammoth film at that point, which is the organization that I was really interested in being a part of as I was a new mom at that time.
Mallory Martin 00;14;45;05
So that’s how we connected. And the three of us started working together and then it was spring of 2020 when we were all stuck in our homes on Zoom quite a bit. And when we look at the grant from the Tiller Foundation she called Debbie and I to see if we were interested in putting on some kind of a film series related to reproductive justice. And we of course were both in and at that point, you know, that the expertize that we could bring was around film and the film festival industry. We knew film we did not yet know the world of organized reproductive justice. I mean, other than us being each of our own advocates with within that field. But we learned very quickly and we of course had the best intentions to start a film series, which then became a film festival within a matter of two months.
Mallory Martin 00;15;39;20
The Virtual Film Festival, the first ever row film festival was in August of 2020. We started it because we really thought that it was important for us and something that we could do in this space to bring these films, filmmakers and organizations together to draw in an audience, elicit emotional responses from the films that they’re seen. And they’re like you said, there were quite a lot coming out at that time. And since then, because this has been such a pivotal issue, especially recently. So to elicit emotional responses from those films and then in turn have a call to action to do something about these issues through supporting other organization funds or becoming involved and donating to people as well. So for us, you know, we’re all looking for something that we can do to make a change at a time when we can feel very helpless about some of these issues. And the three of us at that time felt like this is something we could do and wanted to encourage other other advocates to be able to do some things as well. And so we really started to learn so much about a lot of these other organizations that were doing the groundwork around this movement. And we wanted to highlight those and help support them in any way that we could.
Mallory Martin 00;17;05;26
So that’s how the rePRO Film Festival started. And for us to know, we realize that film and media can be such a catalyst. That’s part of our mission that I think we rewrote like ten different times in the first year. But it’s also the normalizing of things. And one of the things that came out of a lot of what we learned within the first couple of years is if you look back in history, take LGBT issues and gay marriage especially, a lot of that ended up becoming normalized within our culture through media, and that’s where it’s made a lot of the progress that it has since then. So we started to look at film and media as being a way that we can start to make the change and start to make topics like abortion become normal, right? And become being able to be talked about. So that was really important for us. And I think that one of the best things about the first couple of years of repro was just how quickly we built this huge network of filmmakers, organizations, resources.
Mallory Martin 00;18;16;06
It was really overwhelming at first, but we were still trying to figure out how to get an audience for that. Right. I mean, what we did end up learning after the first two years was how many people are able to even sit through a week or two weeks long of films about reproductive justice. Right. Because even though it can ignite feelings and people to to take action and to do something about it, it can also be incredibly depressing and riot and terrifying in a lot of ways, too. So so we started to talk about like how else can we how else can we gain audience? Because that’s our our mission at this point is to gain a following and then in turn to start educating our audience about the different resources and things that they can do out there. And of course, this was never about us trying to make any cash because that wasn’t going to be happening.
Mallory Martin 00;19;12;21
And everything in the first two years that we did make from the film festival was donated to other reproductive justice organizations. So at the time we felt like that was our way of helping to support these organizations as well. When you then realized, like these organizations are grassroots, right? And some of them are operating with like volunteers only or like a very small staff who themselves are that the minimal donation that we are able to make, you know, is appreciated but might not make that big of a difference. Like, what’s another way that we can support these organizations? And is it really through donations or is it really through getting an audience through film and then educating them about these other organizations that people can support? So that’s where we’re at, and that’s when, you know, we’ve at this point, as we’ve explained a little bit pivoted sorry to use that word, but pivoted to the periodical, because this way we are able to stay relevant all year round because this is obviously a year round issue, especially now offering free films, free information, conversations, and a safe space to have these conversations and to sort of act as a touchpoint during these really terrifying times in America. And that’s where we’re at now.
Asha Dahya 00;20;33;29
All right. So going going around the table, Neha Aziz, tell us how you tell us what you do and how you became part of the rePRO team.
Neha Aziz 00;20;45;04
I am Neha. I live in Austin, Texas. I am a writer, soon to be podcaster and film programmer living in Austin, Texas, like I said. And I got started with rePRO. I work with one of the founders, Mallory, at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and I work there as a programmer. And she had emailed me. She was like, hey, like we’re looking for someone to join the team to kind of assist with media and programing, like, would you be interested?
Neha Aziz 00;21;14;26
And I was like, Yeah, sure. And so I met with the team, which at the time consisted of Asha and Lela and I was like, This sounds great. I want to do it. And, you know, again, like, I live in Texas, so a very conservative state, a state that is always trying to take away our body autonomy and just has such a reckless disregard for the people who live here. You know, like, I don’t know if y’all know, but last year we had such a horrible, like, winter storm. And I don’t think anyone really realized how our electricity was was coming in. And we have our own private power grid to avoid attacks. And like, it is always hot in Texas, it is like unbearably hot in May right now.
Neha Aziz 00;22;02;07
And then we get notices from the government saying, oh, can you put your A.C. to 78 degrees when it’s like 96 degrees outside at the hottest part of the day? And so it’s just like just like to have these things on. Like, they’re just it’s just like I it’s like I feel like it’s so hard for people to care about women and it just so hard for people in Texas to care about anyone. And I just, I don’t.
Asha Dahya 00;22;26;11
So much going on.
Neha Aziz 00;22;27;23
Yeah. And it’s just like yeah. So it’s like a lot to take in every day. And it’s like I’m trying not to become the person that gets numb with every like breaking news alert from the New York Times. I get on my Apple Watch but it’s just it’s a lot. And so it can definitely be a lot to every day. There’s like a new law being passed and as just in the issue of abortion alone. So I can imagine living in Texas, you know, this so-called pro-life state, according to the governor and the legislature, and then you see things like how are they taking care of people who are without electricity or.
Asha Dahya 00;23;04;14
Access to food. It’s like there’s so much missing in the conversation, right?
Neha Aziz 00;23;08;25
Yeah. So many people die. But then you’re going to tell me about like your appreciation for life. And I’m like, no, actually. And, you know, not to give and just also just in the South, but like not to give Marjorie Taylor Greene any attention. But she did say something the other day about how the like the greatest choice a woman can make is being a mother. And I’m like, I don’t think she said that to promote like pro-life, but it’s just like but it’s like, yes, that is such an important choice. It should be a choice.
Asha Dahya 00;23;45;23
A choice. Exactly.
Neha Aziz 00;23;47;13
What we do. Yeah. So why would you want someone who maybe does not want to be a mother or who may not be ready to be a mother or support all that requires to be a mom? Like, why would you force that upon them? It should exactly be that a choice. And it’s also just at the end of the day, none of anyone else’s business. What we choose to do with our bodies. And so it’s just it’s just so interesting to me that she comes out and says something like that, thinking that it is a positive note for the pro-life movement when in reality it’s like, well, this is just literally all we’re asking. Yeah.
Asha Dahya 00;24;25;23
I remember seeing that someone shared a tweet about it. I read it today and it’s like, great. So does that mean you’re pro-choice?
Neha Aziz 00;24;31;26
Right? Yeah. And then I just like kind of on that choice or kind of on that topic, like like Ted Cruz was like, you should be responsible for your own choices. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but this was in reference to like like a vaccine passport. And I’m just like, oh, it’s like Ted Cruz’s new spokesperson for Planned Parenthood. And then just like, yeah, it’s like and I just I just really hate this notion that people just don’t care about things unless it personally affects them. But I’m just like and I think so much of the blame is put on a woman, but I’m like, definitely takes another person to get pregnant in case anyone did it. No. So it’s just like it’s just so crazy to me. Just like the uneven level of responsibility that is given to us. Yeah.
Asha Dahya 00;25;21;14
Yeah. It’s it’s really interesting the way that the word choice is kind of bandied around by people who are anti-abortion. But and this was something that Maya Cueva, a filmmaker from On the Divide, said in a recent interview. I did that through the characters in the film. They really could see that choice is a matter of survival. And that quote just sticks with me. And it really makes me think that the films that we’re sharing and promoting and conversations that we have, it really is it’s it’s not just about having a choice. It’s about access. It’s about survival, it’s about justice. And that’s what a lot of the films that we share are all about. So I love that. And now you mentioned that you are a podcaster is also let’s talk about the podcast that you’ve been doing.
Neha Aziz 00;26;02;26
And yeah, so last year I got accepted into a podcast fellowship with iHeartRadio, and it was the first time that they were doing a fellowship like this and they wanted to take a couple of underserved creators and kind of introduce them to the world of podcasting, which I love talking and getting to know people, but I’m just not an eloquent speaker, as I’m sure you can.
Asha Dahya 00;26;26;28
Yes you are.
Neha Aziz 00;26;27;25
Later in the podcast and I tend to babble a lot and I had an idea I was working in Pakistan and you know, Pakistan was formed during the partition of India when the British couldn’t afford to rule India anymore. And they were like, Well, we’ll give them independence. And the way it was done was such and again, just kind of like really no care for life where 14 million people were displaced and one to 2 million people died. And it is it really something that is taught in schools. It’s not something that I feel a lot of people my age who are also South Asian are glad. It’s like their parents don’t talk about it. There’s still a lot of trauma associated with the events. Like my grandparents are survivors. And this year marks the seventh anniversary and I felt like it just yeah, it’s a story that people don’t know.
Neha Aziz 00;27;24;27
And then I felt like I want people to know this story because it’s it’s a big deal, like the making of a new country is a big deal. And, and the fact that, you know, like, I’ll ask around and I even have like a Twitter poll where, like, I think I had over 300 people vote on it because I had some people have like way bigger Twitter followings than I do retweet it. And it’s like if I ask you what the partition of 1947 is, would you know what I’m talking about. And I think it was about 70% of the people said. They didn’t know. Which is a lot of like almost 400. And it’s like, you know, we know about all these other horrible events like the Holocaust, the Trail of Tears and you know, partition happened around the same time as the Holocaust. But like we just all talk about it and like the only thing that’s really that I remember learning in school was just like how Gandhi was a pacifist and stood up to the British.
Neha Aziz 00;28;23;09
And that’s kind of where that story ended. And everything that is available widely to the masses is, is told from the perspective of the British, which I personally do not care for, or, or just kind of like the great men in history narrative. It’s not really about the people that actually affected. And, you know, there’s always like there’s books, obviously, that people wrote who are South-Asian, but, you know, I am someone who’s like, Yeah, I’m going to go read a book and like learn about this. That is not the case for every single person. So I felt like there wasn’t something widely available to people. And I think or I hope that this podcast can fill that void. Yeah. So it’s something that I’m working on which will hopefully come out in August.
Asha Dahya 00;29;08;07
Well, I know I’m definitely going to listen because as someone who is Indian and South Asian as well, I knew that India celebrated its independence in 1947. I knew of the partition, but I didn’t know what it was about. So I’ve been telling my parents like, “Hey, my friend Neha is making this podcast, I’m going to share it with you.” My mom is like, “Great, this is awesome.”
Asha Dahya 00;29;27;11
She listens to every episode, so. Hi Mom. Hello!
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;29;31;16
Hi Asha’s mom!
Neha Aziz 00;29;32;21
Yeah, that’s so cute. I love it.
Asha Dahya 00;29;35;17
But just like you said, speaking of that colonial voice that seems to kind of dominate the narrative, I feel like there’s so many parallels with the repo conversation. A lot of the laws that are being passed are very, you know, centered on the male perspective. Which should not be centered at all. It’s very white. And, you know, in a country like America, which is so diverse, there should be more voices of people of color as the leaders, as the spokespeople, as the experts leading this conversation. So I think that’s a little bit of what we’re trying to do by elevating diverse filmmakers and diverse stories through the films that we’ve been sharing. I will mention that Kylie Brown, who does all the editing, she’s listening to this right now and editing it, and she designs a website. She is just a phenomenal person to have on the team. I was so thankful for her. She also does not like to speak on camera, so she’s probably glad that she doesn’t have to say anything. But we will say that she is a very integral part of the team and we’re so thankful to have her rounding out this this group of amazing people. So now I do want to open up and just kind of ask everyone, how are you feeling about what’s happening with the Supreme Court and the Dobbs case and also what you think our role is in this moment in this culture, as the rePRO team?
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;30;58;12
Before we get there, I just want to go back to you, Asha, because we haven’t talked about you as being part of an integral part of this team. And we just are so lucky to have you as, you know, your voice as part of the conversation, as a filmmaker, as a as a host. You’re you are so well spoken and knowledgeable about these issues. And I have to say, like, I think we met on Instagram, right?
Asha Dahya 00;31;22;05
I think so, yeah. I’ve been following the film festival.
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;31;25;05
Yeah, yeah. And Asha, can you talk a little bit about your your other work, too?
Asha Dahya 00;31;30;09
Oh, my gosh, not me. I’m supposed to have questions. Well, I found originally found on social media, but also I have a blog called GirlTalkHQ.com. And I believe I interviewed you, Mal and Debbie. I think it would have been either 2020 or 2021 and I was like, This is so cool. More people need to know about the rePRO Film Fest.
Asha Dahya 00;31;50;23
I’m also a filmmaker. I’m currently in post-production on my first solo short film it’s called Someone You Know. It’s about three women who are sharing their later abortion stories. I shot it in 20, 20 and it feels more relevant than ever. I’m just in the animation process, so that’s hopefully going to come out later this year. And I’m also a freelance producer and writer, so I do other production jobs here and there. As well as hosting the podcast for a film. And it’s something that I love doing because as a filmmaker and as a producer and writer, getting to interview the people who are making these films about topics that I’m passionate about just feels like, This is awesome. I love it. This is everything that I’ve always wanted to do for a long time.
Asha Dahya 00;32;34;05
So I feel like I’ve manifested the career pathway that I’ve wanted for a long time. And as the mother of two young toddlers, it’s very hard to find time and space and mental bandwidth, as you know, Leila, to do all these passion projects. So I’m really thankful for, you know, a team that can be flexible and accommodating, very collaborative.
Asha Dahya 00;32;57;16
So that’s me in a nutshell. And I, like Neha mentioned, I too love talking as long as I can babble, so that’s enough for me let’s talk about, you know, where we think our film fits into the landscape going forward if and when it gets overturned. I will say upfront that I feel like film is going to be more important than ever to share resources, to really share individual stories and change hearts and minds. I think that’s going to be much more powerful than political debates and CNN panels that are just so awful to watch and to just clickbait. So now that’s my perspective on what our role is. I’d love to hear from all of you wonderful people what you think our role is.
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;33;41;13
Yeah, I mean, as of this recording, we’re seeing the news that Oklahoma just passed this total abortion ban. Yeah. And, you know, like I said before, this is just the beginning of this fight. And being a parent, knowing people who you know, people who aren’t parents are affected by this as well. It’s not just singular to us. But, you know, I always think about my daughters, you know, in this conversation I think Emily put it so well the other day, and I’ve quoted her a few times on this. But I think in our country, we see advocacy as having to be all or nothing and there are a lot of ways in which you can take small bites and, you know, and inform yourself and learn about what’s happening. And I think what the periodical does in particular is allow people to take those small bites with the short film.
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;34;30;08
You know, you’re not tied to your computer. You can watch it for half an hour. You can put your podcast, your AirPods in and whatever. Go for a walk, do your dishes, whatever you need to do and listen to Asha, you know, talk to these filmmakers and these advocates. And I think that some of these sometimes these small bites, especially right now, like you said, like the pundits and, you know, all of that noise is just so distracting and so harmful. And I think if we can figure out a formula where we’re giving people this just little doses of things that will hopefully, you know, help them process what’s going on in the world around them, I think that’s really important.
Asha Dahya 00;35;11;10
Yeah, I love that. Emily, what are you what are your thoughts?
Emily Christensen 00;35;15;04
Yeah, I agree with Lela. And I also think, you know, art is resistance and it’s it’s something that’s so needed and it’s an access point that that’s so much more pleasant than turning on CNN or reading a you know, an email from a political PAC or something like that. And I and I don’t mean to obviously there’s a role for politics and it’s important. But I also think that there is always distortion in that arena. And our cuts through that. And I also think we need to remain hopeful. That’s really important right now. And and that’s where I’m drawing a lot of my hope from is from people that are telling their own stories and telling the stories of others. In ways that are really, absolutely real and unfiltered. And yeah. So I’m going to keep that going hot as resistance.
Asha Dahya 00;36;27;16
I love that you have all the quotes. Emily. Beautiful. Mallory, can you tell us your thoughts on everything that’s going on right now with the Supreme Court and the Dobbs case? How are you feeling? How are you processing it all?
Mallory Martin 00;36;40;01
I was having a conversation about this the other day, and a word that came to mind at that time was sobering because to be honest, I can when I am in these what I call safe spaces with mostly other women at this time, who are advocating for abortion and who feel the same way about women’s issues and reproductive justice issues as I do it can start to feel a little I can feel a little drugged sometimes. I can feel a little a little hopeful, a little happy that we have what is seemingly a large group of the country that do feel the same as I do. And however, I guess at this point it’s very clear that the actions we’ve taken in the past, whether it’s organizing or protesting or even through film so far have not been enough.
Mallory Martin 00;37;38;07
Roe v Wade will be overturned. 26 states will outlaw abortion and counting. That is going to start happening, I believe, very strongly. I think it’s very telling to the Supreme Court leak and how that’s an unprecedented, unprecedented thing. I think that it shows how important this issue is to so many people in our country. But so far, I think what we have in doing is not enough, and it certainly won’t be enough. And we need to figure out how we can effectively start combating these deliberate attacks on women and people with uteruses I think that even through you can sort of tell this through some of the conversations that we’ve had and the film selections that we’ve made through rePRO over the years is that this really is not about preserving life in any way.
Mallory Martin 00;38;47;11
It’s about controlling it particularly the lives of women and their places in American society. I think that is very clear and something that we need to keep at the forefront of our minds, especially with and through the next year as as we battle as it’s going to be an uphill battle, especially through the next elections. I’m feeling really vulnerable these days. And I think because I’ve I’ve I’ve I’ve personally avoided conversations with anyone you know, within the anti abortion sphere. But for those who are having those conversations and definitely for all of us moving forward, I think we really need to start pushing the questions around contraception, birth control, sexual education, child care, et cetera, when we’re when we’re facing questions about preserving life, for example.
Mallory Martin 00;39;46;12
So I think that, you know, I’m really just trying to figure out different ways to approach this and ways that could possibly more be more effective. And I’m really I’m hopeful that as an organization ourselves, that we can really start to kind of think outside of the box, too, when it comes to film. And conversations that we’re going to have and also organizations that I think can really make a big difference because it’s going to change pretty rapidly, too. You know, once once abortion is criminalized, wherever that is happening. And I think that what we’re going to have to start doing as an organization is support the other organizations and networks that are really trying to save women’s lives. Right. And so that’s going to look like a lot of information and education very quickly coming out to as many people as possible about medical abortions, wherever those are so accessible, and also about abortion funds even more so than before and getting women and people with uteruses across state lines to have hopefully safe and legal abortions so those are all things that I’m thinking about at this point.
Mallory Martin 00;41;00;23
I’m trying to remain hopeful, but also realistic at this point. And I mean, it’s I imagine anybody listening to this podcast, too, is aware of this. Abortions will not stop, period. If we’ve learned anything from history the only thing that criminalizing abortion will do is to start or start killing women like it did in the sixties and before and we’re going to fight like hell for that that to happen again. What is something I’m holding on to is that the majority of this country is pro-choice, and especially from even recent polling that is still the case. And our powers in our vote, I mean, believe it or not, we still do have it in a democratic country. Hopefully it stays that way. And while it stays that way, we need to do our part in electing officials that are in line with our values and who are going to stand up for women.
Mallory Martin 00;42;06;27
Honestly, because not many are this great. So yeah, so that’s that’s where I’m at. I think everyone is feeling very confused and scared. But I am very grateful to be a part of organizations like this and to be connected to as many of the resources and really incredible people who are doing the work behind this movement. So stay tuned.
Asha Dahya 00;42;34;09
Neha, what are your thoughts?
Neha Aziz 00;42;36;18
Yeah, so something I didn’t really mention when I was introducing myself, because I babble is that I do help pick some of the films that our show in our newsletter and we pick a theme. Yeah, I know. It’s ridiculous. I just yeah, this is sort of my wheelhouse.
Asha Dahya 00;42;52;29
This is what she does.
Neha Aziz 00;42;54;12
And like every month, like we have like a theme that’s aligned with the periodicals. So like this month, you know, it’s Asian American Pacific Island month, and a lot of us are part of that community and you know, the film that we showed was a film called Cold Wall. The director’s name is Lilly. And, you know, it is about an exchange student who ends up finding herself pregnant. And she’s in high school and she’s just trying to figure out, like, what her options are. And like, you see such a vulnerable side to this character. And, you know, like next year or next year, next month we’re going to have a film that centers around like Roe v Wade. And a lot of the women who helped people get abortions in the Midwest.
Neha Aziz 00;43;40;19
And, you know, like February was like Black History Month. And we had a film about a midwife and which kind of freaks me out because I’m like, oh, my God, oh, my God. Like, I was like, wow. Like, I don’t understand. Don’t want to be so calm in a situation like that. And like, yeah, we just show all these different stories and like, we had a film about endometriosis, and I have a friend who suffers from that, and it is just so ridiculous that a lot of women who would tell doctors about what they were suffering through really weren’t taken seriously and they were like pushed into like another oh, it’s just this. And actually, it’s not like, you know, my friend had to get surgery. It is like a serious issue. And, and I feel like so again, like, I think our job is to really educate people who just may not know about these things. And if they if they do know, maybe they don’t know everything that they need to and like we want to provide resources that are reliable, that share different sides to the story and that are like vetted articles.
Neha Aziz 00;44;45;03
Like, I don’t think we want to share anything from like, you know, Reddit, like a subreddit word to anyone, you know? So I think that’s really important. And I like I think the biggest thing, like I said, is education because, you know, I don’t know everything there is to know about the world. Like, don’t ask me anything about sports. I will not be able to answer any question, but I know that and I’ll admit that. But some people will just kind of have like an ignorance is bliss attitude towards it. And it’s just like you can’t, you know, or some people are apathetic and I’m like, sometimes that’s work or so I’m like, how can you not have an opinion on something that’s so important and so I think that’s something that’s really important.
Neha Aziz 00;45;25;29
I think we provide especially because like it’s at no cost. We provide so many resources where people can get other information that they can learn more about people. And I think, again, that’s what’s really important. And I think I think when people think about like like anti-choice stuff, they just have like one specific scenario in mind that it’s like, these are not my words, but like, you know, a reckless teenager having sex and they just don’t know anything. And I’m like, there’s so many other issues. Like also a lot of women have to get abortions because of medical reasons. And that shouldn’t be given. And that still has a lot of scrutiny to it. And I don’t understand why and none of it should. And I think the more times that we can share stories like that, the better.
Neha Aziz 00;46;15;02
And it’s just it’s just really sad when people try to inflict their opinions onto other people. Like, you know, like like I don’t eat pork. It’s a part it’s a part of my religion not to eat it. I know plenty of people who do who are Muslim. I don’t care I don’t. And so it’s like I would never be like, oh, look, I don’t eat pork and because of this. And so you shouldn’t either. Like, you’re I think people forget like, yes, you’re entitled your opinion but why should you force your opinion on someone, especially when it’s something you will never have to go through, mostly male politicians and to somebody else and you know, if that’s the right choice for you and your partner, great. But it is it right for everybody. Like I you know, like I have a roof over my head. I support myself. But if I were to become pregnant, I would not be able to give that child a life that I would want. Like, it would be very you know, I want to be the best because, you know, my apartment is 60 square feet. Like I’m still you know, we’re all artists.
Neha Aziz 00;47;18;05
Like, I’m for sure living paycheck to paycheck. So and it’s just like, why would I want that you know? I don’t want I don’t want that. And I’m not a mother, but I have two young nieces. I love being an aunt. And like, one of them is one, one is three. And it’s just kind of like it’s really scary. Yeah. To have these like to have all this stuff happening also with the pandemic, like, you know, and for them to be like, what kind of future are they going to have? You know, like what? Like what other rights and what other things are going to be taken away from them when they’re old enough to make these decisions. And it’s just like it’s like really kind of sad to think about because they’re they’re cute and they’re fun and can be a little diminish at times. But it’s like but it’s also just like, you know, we have to think about that. I’m like, what? Like, what’s going to be your future? Like, are you going to have one? It’s really sad and I think that’s also like, I think one of the reasons why I’m so in, like, where I like to be involved is because, like, again, like, I don’t have kids, but like, they like, you know, but, you know, my friends, my nieces, future like, all of that stuff is so important to me, my future. And, you know, any way that we can get the word out and educate people is what is important yeah.
Asha Dahya 00;48;31;22
I couldn’t agree more. And I think you touched on something really important there about the apathy that we see sometimes in a situation like we’re in right now with the potential of Roe v Wade being overturned, it’s easy to lose hope and feel like why bother fighting? But, you know, like Emily and Lela were mentioning, there is a ballot initiative in Kansas in August, and there are things going to be happening on a state level that it’s going to require all hands on deck. And there are, you know, small ways that each of us can make big differences. And so I hope that this conversation and this podcast series and the periodical newsletter that we send out every month will give people hope and give people actionable steps that you can take, you know, in ways that are manageable to you and that fit into your schedule and and your life lifestyle. It won’t feel overwhelming at all. So with that being said, I do want to remind everyone that it’s it’s not the end. You know, bodily autonomy belongs to us and each of us. And, you know, we don’t rely on nine judges out in Washington, DC to decide what we can and can’t do with our lives. And so because of that, we people like us exist. Activists out there exists, and people are raising their voices and sharing their stories. And we want to amplify that as much as possible.
Asha Dahya 00;49;50;26
Don’t forget to subscribe to the rePRO Periodical if you haven’t yet and this is your first time listening to the podcast. Welcome. We would love to have you be part of our community, so go to reprofilm.org, subscribe to the newsletter, see all the work of our amazing team who puts it together every month you get to see a short film, you get to hear a conversation, you get to support an activist organization, you get to read articles that we recommended and just be part of a conversation where every month we try to center it around a particular theme. Like I mentioned, we’ve done black maternal health, we’ve done endometriosis we’ve done AAPI Heritage Month, centered around that and abortion. And in June coming up, we also going to be doing abortion again because of the Supreme Court decision that is likely to come down.
Asha Dahya 00;50;39;25
So join our community. Everyone is welcome. We need all hands on deck and we value everyone’s voice as part of this conversation to stand up for reproductive freedom, freedom and reproductive justice. So thank you to Neha, Mallory, Emily and Lela for joining me in this conversation. And thank you, Kylie, who couldn’t be here today. You’re also a valuable part of this team. Is there any last words anyone would like to say to wrap up this conversation?
Lela Meadow-Conner 00;51;08;21
I would also just like to add to what I just said about subscribing, but please also share it with friends. You know, you can sign up for email. You can follow us on our Instagram. We try to use Twitter and try to use Facebook, but you can but mostly find us on Instagram @reprofilmofficial and at reprofilm.org, and like I said, you can sign up for the email, but also just please, like if you know anybody that you think would be interested, share it with them because it is underwritten, meaning all of our filmmakers are paid for the work that they’re doing and that’s really important to us as well. So we’re really happy and proud to bring this content to you each month. Thank you so much Asha for having us too.
Asha Dahya 00;51;53;06
Of course. Of course. This has been awesome. Well, thank you everyone for listening. And I will be back next month with another episode of the rePRO Film Podcast. Bye for now!