The Rise of Generation Action: Michelle Gaspari & Taylor Davis

Michelle Gaspari and Taylor Davis are the two leading women laying the foundation for Generation Action at George Mason University. Generation Action is a branch of Planned Parenthood’s action fund dedicated to political outreach and activism with chapters at campuses across the country. Taylor Davis, a freshman studying film and creative writing, joined when the organization started in the fall of 2016. She said, “They had a small exec board in the beginning and I was excited to get in and help build it from the ground up.” She now serves as the organizations Vice President. She works alongside President Michelle Gaspari, a senior studying sociology with a double minor in women and gender studies and English. The two ladies along with their organizations members are passionate about promoting reproductive justice, sexual health and wellness, and youth leadership at George Mason.

What inspired you to bring Generation Action to GMU?

MG: When I learned about Generation Action’s outreach to universities in Virginia, I was immediately inclined to bring the group to GMU. I have always been a supporter of reproductive justice. GMU is an extremely active and involved campus. Many students attend the school with an interest in social justice & government. Personally, I knew many people in my classes who would be excited about the idea of a student group that specifically advocates for reproductive justice.

TD: I had seen a lot about it [women’s reproductive rights] during the election and I knew when I got to college, Planned Parenthood (PP) was something I was passionate about. I thought it was a cool opportunity to get involved with something like this so early as a freshman. Then I joined the executive board when no one else really stepped up.

What do you plan to accomplish in the campus community?

MG: In the campus community, our main goal is to raise educative efforts surrounding safe and healthy sex practices. I think that this is an important and localized mission. Obviously, we would also love to get people involved politically as much as possible, as well. Anyone who is interested in political action surrounding reproductive justice, at any capacity, is very much encouraged to join us. First and foremost though, is promoting a safe campus environment through providing material and educative resources for safe sexuality. 

TD: This semester we created three committees: sexual health and wellness on campus, political action and social media. During Valentine’s Day we had a kiosk with “Reproductive Justice Jeopardy” It was cool to see people become educated on misconceptions or things they don’t know about Planned Parenthood. We gave away condoms and t-shirts. We also partnered with another student organization called Bedsiders that promotes sexual wellness on campus. We really want to work with them again and the GMU Democrats in the future.

What are some of the misconceptions about Planned Parenthood?

MG: Three percent of Planned Parenthood services are abortion related!! Only three percent! I think we are often construed as only, or mainly, working with abortion services. Actually— look at this graphic from the most recent PP annual report, for 2014-2015, it’s an informative one:

Additionally, no federal funding goes toward abortion services. No taxpayer dollars fund abortions. Planned Parenthood is not just for cis-women. Services are offered for men and trans folk. Planned Parenthood offers hormone therapy for trans folk as of September 2016. This is an incredible step forward for us. 

How do you feel women's health will be impacted by this administration?

MG: We are surrounded by a lot of fearful and panicked discourse. I believe this is what brought us our new administration in the first place. Sometimes it’s better to be careful in how you word your reactions… so I don’t want to say that we should be afraid, and we definitely should not disengage. We should be careful and diligent in advocacy for the things that matter to us. For us at Generation Action, it is reproductive justice.

Women’s health is certainly in a more precarious position since this shift in governance. I do encourage those with the ability and privilege to acquire more permanent contraceptive measures to do so. I’ll say it loud and clear, I got my IUD in December, and it was largely influenced by our new political environment. We just cannot be certain what actions will be taken in regards to women’s health, but a Vice President like Mike Pence, who has some extremely harrowing past actions regarding the right to choose, does not paint a pretty picture for us. 

However, as Cecile Richards, our president, said right after Trump’s win: Planned Parenthood’s doors will stay open. Actually, PP has seen an increase in donations and volunteering since November. There are many, many forms of viable contraception. So, those with accessibility to sex education and clinics nearby, will likely continue to have plenty of options. This is not everyone, unfortunately, and expanding this accessibility is where our work is most important

TD: I think they’ll be impacted incredibly negatively overall. This administration lacks anyone who really cares about women’s healthcare rights. By wanting to wipeout abortion, they are neglecting other aspects of women’s health (especially exams and resources provided by Planned Parenthood) and neglecting those in lower income families and it’s really unfortunate.

What can students do to make a difference?

MG: Students can do a great deal! No, we probably don’t all have the means to donate to Planned Parenthood. However, at Generation Action GMU we’ve got energy and passion for reproductive justice, and this visibility and activism can do a great deal. We are right by DC, which gives GMU students the privilege of tapping into activist events in the capital. On campus, students can join us! We host events on sex education and sex positivity. We also take part in political action and reproductive justice visibility efforts both online and on campus. There really is a job for anyone who cares about reproductive justice advocacy.

TD: Definitely join Generation Action if you’re interested in women’s rights and activism. Just get involved and help educate others. Starting at the grassroots’ level can make a bigger difference in the end. Finding something your passionate and getting involved is the most important thing right now. We want people to know we’re out here. We find people that are really passionate about PP, especially after this election, and have no idea there is a PP chapter on campus. I was honestly scared after this election, but getting involved in Generation Action has really calmed that fear.

Want to get involved? Like Generation Action at GMU on Facebook and @generationactionatgmu on Instagram. If we learned anything from this past election, it’s that organization’s like this have the power to be heard when enough people join together.