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We have really enjoyed our time on wordpress and have learned a lot about blogging here.  And, we’re excited to report that we’ve upgraded our website and now house our blog there.  We hope you visit and subscribe!  We have all kinds of new features and ways for you to engage in pro-voice conversation.  Enjoy.

 

Exhale volunteers are people who care deeply about the wellbeing of others and who are motivated by making a meaningful contribution to a more peaceful world. Our volunteers come from all walks of life and range in age from teens to seniors. Ethnically and religiously diverse, volunteers are students, parents, and professionals with full personal lives. At Exhale, they work beside others with shared values and grow as people and changemakers.

Exhale volunteers Jackie and Danielle joined our Director of Programs, Jovida Ross, at the UC Berkeley Service Fair on Wednesday, September 7th to recruit new volunteers for our next training.

Our award-winning volunteer program is currently recruiting new volunteers for our next training, scheduled to begin Sept. 21.  APPLICATIONS ARE DUE SEPTEMBER 10TH.   Check out our listing on VolunteerMatch for more information on how to apply.

Read more about how Volunteers Lead the Way at Exhale on the VolunteerMatch blog.

Neuroscientists at M.I.T have been taking image scans of people’s brains to find out more about the empathy of people who are in conflict with one another.  Given that empathy fails regularly, researchers Emile Bruneau and Rebecca Saxe asked themselves:  “Can neuroscience help people overcome their longstanding hostilities?” 

The answers they’ve found so far are shared in two recent videos,  “World Pieces: The Neuroscience of Conflict” and “Finding Empathy“.

Emile Bruneau reminds us that “people fail to empathize with each other when they are in direct conflict.”  He offers an alternative definition of empathy from your typical “stepping into someone else shoes and thinking from their perspective” to “stepping into their shoes and thinking from your own perspective.”

Rebecca Saxe points out:

“If you want to understand how people change their minds, the answer will be in how they change their brains.”

Key points that help bridge transforming oppression work with conflict transformation processes include:

  • People in conflict are not as sympathetic towards the suffering of their adversaries. ..If we’re going to heal old wounds, the first step is to bring empathy back online.
  • People treat each other differently depending on how much power they have…People with more power tend to have less sympathy to other people’s  suffering.
  • Asking people to leave their histories at the door and come together to work on common goals as individuals tends to work better for the dominant group.
  • In one study, people from a targeted group were more favorable to the dominant group, after given a chance to be heard.  The dominant group showed more empathy towards the targeted group after being compelled to listen.

Emilie poses the most important question to drive future research:

“Can we train ourselves to empathize more with someone from a different group?”

We highly recommend you watch both; and consider the questions:

What are the implications of these findings for the U.S. abortion conflict? And, what kind of research questions should  the Pro-Voice movement ask so that we can learn more about how to transform the abortion conflict?

Exhale is a community of people with personal abortion experiences and when it comes to storysharing, we advocate that:  1) women who have had abortions must have the ability to control their own narratives in our public discourse; and 2) that we must have authority and decision-making over when and how our stories are used by advocates.

Thaler Pekar has been writing about the ethical sharing of stories in a series of blog posts; and her insights offer critical thinking for our community members and the advocates who seek to have access to our stories.

In a two-part series in PhilanTopic, Thaler outlines the concept of Ethical StorySharing, in Part 1:

Because stories are powerful, and because they are wholly owned by the person who shares them, we have an ethical obligation to use story in ways that do no harm. Whether we are asking for stories to better understand an organizational challenge, to use in our organizational communications, or for an advocacy campaign, our goal should be to empower, not exploit…

The need to refrain from treating story as a commodity goes beyond nonprofit and advocacy work; it should inform all your work with narrative. True narrative intelligence respects the sharer of the story and recognizes that his or her story is a unique part of them that cannot, and should not, be taken and shared without permission.

In Ethical StorySharing, Part 2, Thaler gives more advice to advocates who seek to work with stories:

Thinking about the stories you’re not hearing is critical to the ethical use of story. Do you have a responsibility to seek them out? Also, do you plan to label and publicly present the stories you do gather? And if so, how will the context affect the way the audience perceives those stories?…

Or you may be working with a stigmatized population, in which case you have a special responsibility to protect the sharer of the story. For example, you have an ethical obligation to share any knowledge you may have about what could happen to the person, personally or professionally, if they decide to share their story. Might you need to provide for the person’s safety? Does the person sharing his or her story understand how s/he could lose control over the context in which the story is shared, especially in super-public places like YouTube?

In “Working with Stories,” on the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Thaler writes about the concept of empathetic engagement, first described by Sam Gregory of WITNESS:

Develop and engage a keen sense of empathy. Consider what people physically and emotionally need in order to share their stories. Make certain that people are in no way coerced into sharing a story, and explore and protect against any possibilities that the teller may be stigmatized, or even harmed, because he or she has shared a story.

Remember that each individual wholly owns his or her stories. Personal stories are not commodities, to be taken from one person and given to another, in exchange for reimbursement of some sort…Remember, too, that the audience is a partner in the story sharing. Create conditions favorable to the listener fully receiving and making sense of the story.

Understand that story begets story. Story is a contagion: By sharing a story, you will elicit stories in response. Keep this in mind, creating both the time and physical requirements that respect and enable a flow of stories.

In order to hear the real range of people’s complex experiences and emotions, you must avoid communicating that only certain stories are acceptable, welcome, and valued.  If you are too descriptive about the types of stories you want to hear, you may not hear anything at all.

Sagely, Thaler writes:

Refrain from starting a narrative project with a predetermined sense of the stories you will hear. When stories are elicited with honesty and benevolence (and they must be!), you will most likely be surprised, delighted, and frightened by what you hear. Commit yourself to the journey, not to the product.

Finally, in “Pro-Voice and Pro-Chaos” in PhilanTopic, Thaler describes how Pro-Voice is inherently a practice of Ethical StorySharing:

Being “pro-voice” means being anti-predetermined story. The people who work with and support Exhale understand that embracing reality is the only authentic choice for those advocating for sustainable conflict resolution and a more peaceful social climate. Imagine if more advocates let go of their fear of being surprised, contradicted, or losing control and looked to solicit and share stories that didn’t necessarily fit predetermined agendas. In their representation of the complexity of reality, the resulting stories might appear to be chaotic. But the odds are excellent that out of that chaos, profound insight would follow.

To learn more about Thaler and her thinking on Ethical StorySharing, follow her on Twitter: @thaler.

Kassi Underwood, a Pro-Voice Ambassador, has written about her personal experience with abortion in two major newspapers this year.   As a community of people with personal abortion experiences, we stand beside Kassi and provide her with our unconditional love and support.   We look forward to reading her memoir about her search for post-abortion therapies.

On Monday, May 2, 2011 in the New York Daily News, Kassi wrote in “Get Your Politics Off My Grief”:

Contorting rich experiences and complex emotions into partisan slogans shames women who do not “feel” within their political lines, separating us into distinct, sometimes-opposing groups that struggle to relate to one another. Pro-voice is an antidote to the alienating ills of America’s abortion culture.

Here’s a right I’d march for: the right to wail myself to sleep, to yearn for my long gone baby, yet to know that I needed to delay parenthood. Transcending heartache is possible as long as I keep my story unabridged – and out of the political sphere.

On July 28, 2011, Kassi went further, sharing more details about her experience with abortion in the Modern Love column of the New York TimesKassi shared in “A Lost Child, But Not Mine”:

With sobriety and a salary, I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby that wasn’t, a loss somehow made more painful by his baby that was. I spent my workdays browsing photos of his little girl, believing in some twisted respect that I was glimpsing the face of the child I could have had. On lunch breaks, I went home to cry in bed, longing for a paranormal miracle.

By the time I called him, his daughter was about to celebrate her first birthday. He was living at a halfway house in Boston, where my company was flying me for a conference. I harbored a secret motive to find out if he dwelled on the loss as much as I did, so I asked him if he would meet me….

THE heat of summer hung down on our shoulders when we hugged on the bustling street corner. As we parted, I walked up Gloucester Street toward the conference center; he headed toward the pickup truck he’d borrowed from a friend at the halfway house.

In the three years since, he has spent much of his time incarcerated for drug-related offenses. I wish I could share my sobriety, my degree and my career to rent that apartment for his little girl, but reality has finally sunk in: the abortion is mine alone, just like Jade is his.

These two articles demonstrate how each person’s story with abortion has multiple layers, with diverse ways to share about such an intimate experience.   Show your support to Kassi and follow her on twitter: @KassiUnderwood.

Laura Flanders, host of GRITtv, took a public stand as Pro-Voice yesterday.  In her latest feature she encourages her audience to “Spark a Movement that’s Pro-Voice!Laura continues, “Talk may not heal all that ails us – and our politics – but it’s certainly true that where abortion’s concerned, we could do with less grandstanding about “gag rules” and more honest listening – and talk.”

Check out Laura’s interview above with Exhale’s Executive Director, Aspen Baker, and Natalia Koss-Vallejo of MTV’s “No Easy Decision“; and give thanks to Laura in the comments for her public stand alongside all women who have had abortions.

Keep the Momentum Growing: Your investment in Exhale means more influencers like Laura taking a public stand for a Pro-Voice future; and more opportunities for leaders like Natalia to share their stories. We need your partnership today to raise $15,000 by August 19th. If you’ve never given to Exhale before, your gift will be matched for a limited time, up to $2,500, by a long-time donor.

There is no better time to support the Pro-Voice Momentum!

As this exciting movement expands, we each have our own opportunity to grow the Pro-Voice message and keep women and men with personal abortion experiences at the center of their own stories. How will you use your influence to grow the Pro-Voice Momentum? What story would you want to tell?

By Aspen Baker

Julie Davidson-Gómez

Susan Osborne

Jennifer Rudy

“Are all your board members this involved?” Deb, a donor in Seattle, asked me as we both waved goodbye to Julie, a board member who had just co-hosted a fundraising party at Deb’s home in November 2009.

“Yep!” I said.  “It’s very impressive,” she replied.

Impressive is a great word to describe the board service of Jennifer Rudy, Julie Davidson-Gómez and Susan Osborne.  Brought onto the board of directors as a cohort in 2005, Jen, Julie and Susan have recently left the board after successful completion of our maximum board term: two, three-year stints of service.  From their board member orientation to their transition celebration, their leadership has shaped what Exhale is today; and what we will become in the future. Continue Reading »

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