Gen Z-ers have found themselves in the crosshairs of many a historic moment. From losing high school proms and graduations because of a global pandemic to witnessing major shifts in climate change urgency, Gen Z — anyone born between 1997 and 2012 — exists at the forefront of socio-political upheaval and its convergence with social media. And they refuse to sit idly by in the face of such major changes.
According to a joint survey conducted by Cosmopolitan and YouGov 2 out of 3 Gen Z-ers identify as pro-choice, which is 20% higher than the national average and 25% say they plan to get involved with a political campaign in support of candidates who share their views on abortion.
So it comes as no surprise that the cohort is using social media, TikTok in particular, to cope, inform and react to the Supreme Court's recent reversal of Roe v. Wade.
The 1973 landmark ruling, which decided that the U.S. Constitution protected the right to an abortion, was overturned on Friday.
"I was laying in bed and in between crying sessions I was like, 'Well, this is what I have to say," 23-year-old Kaite Hubler tells Yahoo Life of her decision to make a post-ruling TikTok, in which she jokingly juxtaposes the ban on abortions and the recent FDA ban on the electronic cigarette products by Juul (currently blocked by a judge for a legal challenge).
"If I'm going to have to carry a child against my will, then I should at least be able to hit my JUUL while I raise the thing," she said, captioning the video "just something for me to giggle at while I watch the world burn."
Such irreverent humor is a popular way of coping for teens who feel disillusioned by the world around them, says Hubler, adding that she by no means thinks it's perfect.
"I cope with humor," she says, "and I know that it's not the best to process information like this, in front of a screen."
While her TikTok honed in on two very real legislative matters, Hubler maintained by commenting on her post, which racked up nearly 900,000 views and almost 100,000 likes, to defend her jokes: "This is satire! It's called 'comedy' it's what they do on SNL! It's when u say something that isn't serious to make people laugh!!!" (Plenty of negative and "slut-shamey" commenters still found their way there, of course, she says.)
Other Gen Z-ers simply couldn't hold back the tears in their Roe v. Wade TikToks.
"I definitely think of TikTok as not only a creative outlet, but an outlet to express my feelings and my emotions," says Katie Karmeir, who shared a video of herself crying and using a popular TikTok sound on Friday.
"The video that I initially posted about it, where you can see me crying in the video, was very raw, right when I found out," she tells Yahoo Life.
"Being a woman in America is terrifying now more than ever…we just essentially lost our reproductive rights if we live in a country run by conservative men," she wrote on the post, captioning it, "I'm speechless."
Sharing her feelings on TikTok has been a frequent source of reprieve for Karmeir.
"I'm not going to, you know, put on any sort of front and act like I'm not feeling the way that I am," she says. Being vulnerable online, in general, has many drawbacks, but when it comes to divisive issues such as abortion and reproductive rights, it can open users up to a whole new level of targeted scrutiny.
"The amount of people calling me a baby murderer, people saying that I was fear-mongering … It was really, really disappointing and hurtful. And I'm a little sad that it made it to that side of TikTok, where so many people disagreed with what I was saying," she says. But her desire to make sure others like herself know they were not alone during such a scary time outweighed the risk of dealing with nasty comments.
"I did opt to delete any negative comments that came up. I wanted anybody that was feeling equally as hurt to be able to go to my comment section, and feel surrounded by those that are going to support them and a lot of people did share their stories, their backgrounds, the reasons that they've had to have an abortion and I would say about 60% of the feedback that I got on my videos was super positive," she says.
While venting can provide cathartic release, others have instead chosen to use their platforms to inform and educate following the groundbreaking decision.
"For the people who aren't in repro [reproductive organization], who are really scared and concerned about this decision, you have a right to be and you should be, but I also want to just honor that people in the repro space have been organizing around this issue and have been preparing for this for so long," Lakia Williams, a 23-year-old reproductive justice organizer said in a TikTok on Friday following the decision.
Her video offered promising, realistic avenues for abortion help that have been set in place by reproductive rights activists in anticipation of the Roe v. Wade decision.
"There have been years of preparation for this, we knew this day was going to come and we have systems and networks in place to support people… I'm talking about abortion funds, I'm talking about aid access who will ship you abortion pills," she goes on to say.
While Williams figured the overturn was coming due to similar legislation being passed in the South, the official decision was still harrowing.
"I was sad, but I wasn't shocked or devastated like I would have thought I would have been," she says.
Williams started a reproductive justice podcast, Black Feminist Rants, in 2020, and knows that fear is a natural reaction to such shocking news. But she still wants those worried to know that there are systems and networks in place dedicated to helping those in need.
"When people become pregnant and need abortions," she says, there are going to be "people out there and organizations out there to support you, period."
If you or someone you know needs help obtaining an abortion or additional information and resources, visit abortionfunds.org or abortionfinder.org. You can also call or text the All Options hotline at 1-888-493-0092, which offers “unconditional, judgment-free support for people in all of their decisions, feelings and experiences with pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption.”
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