This week is my last at RH Reality Check, as I move onto a new full-time position with a major foundation.
It’s hard for me to put into words how much RH Reality Check has meant to me – professionally and personally – over the last four and a half years. A lot. When I started writing for the site, towards the end of 2006, I was working at a feminist health center and blogging on the side. I had too much to say and not enough outlets in which to say it all (my poor husband was getting a little bruised from being used as a sounding board over the years). I was responsible for leading the communication and outreach activities for the health center, and was inspired daily by my fellow staff-women, our clients, and the broader reproductive justice community. While I was busy raising my voice for reproductive rights in Seattle and Washington State, I started blogging to let off steam.
Soon, I discovered a world of feminist-minded, strong-voiced, spirited women blogging about the same issues – Feministing, Amanda Marcotte, Angry Black Bitch, Echidne, and others. I knew we were all part of the same community even without knowing each other; I felt connected in a way I never knew was possible, via the internet. It was soon after that, as I was putting together a screening for Penny Lane’s amazing film, The Abortion Diaries, and an accompanying speak-out for a group of women who had contributed to a booklet my communication team put together called “I Had An Abortion” that I discovered a blog called RH Reality Check. I remember landing on RH Reality Check’s homepage and wondering who was behind this dynamic site which deemed reproductive rights and health critical enough to devote an entire web publication to?
I discovered that the founders were, in fact, David Harwood and Ellen Marshall – both unmatched health advocates, and possibly the most amazing force-of-nature couple I’ve ever met. I am in debt to them for their willingness to open the door to a born-and-bred New Yorker transplanted to the outer edges of this vast country, Seattle, working from home with two young children at my side. It was Scott Swenson, Editor-in-Chief and Founding Editor, and Tyler LePard, Associate Editor, however, who brought me on first as a Staff Writer, then as an Associate Editor full-time.
Scott Swenson’s authentic nature, his passion for life, communication knowlege and his leadership were the bright lights I needed to grow and I am forever grateful to him for that. Scott became a mentor to me over the years, allowing me to thrive through trial and error. His patience (and sometimes impatience) and confidence in me fueled my desire to keep doing and going. Tyler LePard’s support, brilliance and amazing guidance as I was brought up to speed were (and are) treasured.
Almost immediately after that, Brady Swenson was hired and we were off and running. I am so blessed to have been given the chance to work with Brady through the years. Brady runs this site, mostly behind-the-scenes, but without him – literally – the site would not function. That, though, is just a fraction of what Brady brings to this community. His compassion and hilarity help fuel our team, even when situations are difficult and trying. I don’t know what my time at RH Reality Check would have looked like without Brady but I do know that I am unerringly grateful for his laid-back humor, his devotion to building and keeping functional the soapbox we all use to speak out, and his clarity of mind when it’s most needed. If I could give him a standing ovation, I would :).
Although Emily Douglas has moved on to The Nation, where she rocks as web editor, I have been forever changed – in a wonderful way – by her insight, intelligence and genuine openness to soaking in as much knowledge as she possibly can. It was a true honor to work with Emily over the years and it’s an ongoing treat to have been able to continue the relationship as she brings an even broader sexual and reproductive health and rights analyses to the pages of The Nation.
Jodi Jacobson, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the last couple of years, is (I feel certain) entirely unmatched when it comes to knowledge of this movement, as a whole. Her mind is an utter treasure trove of global reproductive health and rights policy and analyses and I am in awe of her ability to see and explain the big picture, with equal parts passion and compassion, whenever its needed of her. I am so grateful to Jodi for her amazing support and help over the years and for what she’s given to RH Reality Check to make it an even more expansive, dynamic source of knowledge and community for reproductive health and rights advocates.
I wish I could list, by name, all of the incredible people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and working with – either in person or virtually – over the years. My respect for our thousands of writers and our co-bloggers is immense: from Robin Marty’s no nonsense wit and spot-on analysis of abortion and pregnancy issues to our staff writers: the quick-witted and funniest reproductive health rights writer I know – Amanda Marcotte; the profoundly insightful Pamela Merrit; the sharpest and most entertaining feminist media maven Sarah Seltzer; and a serious sex-ed shero if there ever was one, Heather Corinna, to the birth activist community I worked so hard to connect with in an effort to broaden reproductive justice to include “choice in childbirth” issues. Thank you!
I am also thankful to the United Nations Foundation for their incredible support of the project over the years, allowing us to remain autonomous and strong-voiced through it all!
I do believe that the reproductive justice movement and all women, men and young people the world over who read our site are benefited by the incredible voices of experts, providers, thinkers, advocates, activists, writers, and every day caring individuals who show up daily at RH Reality Check. We are working, daily, to help create a better world for all by exposing the truth about women’s health and lives, providing a voice for those who feel voiceless in the broader traditional media, and by bringing people together to discuss their reproductive and sexual health and lives, and the politics of these issues in our country and our world.
I know RH Reality Check will continue to grow and thrive and change and I hope we all have a role in helping to nurture that growth.
It’s been a wild ride over the years and it’s exactly impossible to quantify how much I’ve learned – not only from my closest colleagues – but from the broader reproductive justice community. It’s not an exaggeration to say that every day I learn something new from you all about women’s health and rights.
Thanks so much to the entire community – the writers, the readers, the commenters all! I’ll be moving on to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as a Communication Officer on their New Media team. I’ll be writing blog posts, creating community online around the health, development and education issues the foundation supports, and continuing to work with bloggers and writers to share ideas, thoughts and information on how to make the world a better place. I’m sure I’ll show up here, as a commenter, to make my thoughts known when I need a place to vent :). Onward!