Editor’s Note
September 2019

I’m going to open my column by quoting someone who’s probably best known for suggestively licking a sledgehammer and flying through the air on a wrecking ball wearing nothing but burgundy combat boots.

Miley Cyrus started her career as a young teen on Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana.” She went on to become an award-winning, chart-topping pop star whose sexuality was on full display (see above). She became the founder of an organization (Happy Hippie Foundation) that helps LGBTQ youth and homeless youth in Los Angeles, in 2014. Around the same time, she became a super advocate for vegan food and fashion (she and her husband, Liam Hemsworth, had a vegan wedding in 2018, and they both shun leather and fur in favor of vegan alternatives).

Now, she’s an unlikely (and probably inadvertent) advocate for population stabilization. When interviewed for ELLE in July, and asked about the Woolsey wildfire that claimed her Malibu home last year, Cyrus responded:

With natural disasters, you don’t get a choice. You surrender. … The earth is angry. … We’ve been doing the same thing to the earth that we do to women. We just take and take and expect it to keep producing. And it’s exhausted. It can’t produce.

Then her thoughts turned to her own reproduction:

Until I feel like my kid would live on an earth with fish in the water, I’m not bringing in another person to deal with that. … [Millennials] don’t want to reproduce because we know that the earth can’t handle it. [Women are] expected to keep the planet populated. And when that isn’t a part of our plan or our purpose, there is so much judgment and anger that they try to make and change laws to force it upon you—even if you become pregnant in a violent situation. If you don’t want children, people feel sorry for you, like you’re a cold, heartless bitch who’s not capable of love.

Her take might be harsh, but it’s hard to argue against. I’d bet that all of us without children have had to bear the disdain of people who thought we were demented for not wanting to become parents.

What’s truly demented, though, is forcing people to bear children they don’t want or can’t properly parent. That’s what the current U.S. presidential administration is trying to do with its family planning funding cuts and abortion restrictions. And it’s what this issue’s featured author identifies as a major factor keeping women from achieving their full potential in rural Guatemala.

Lisa Shannon relays stories of indigenous Mayan women who beat the odds, becoming community health workers after surviving abuse at the hands of men and of the state. These Guatemalan women bring credibility and relatability to their outreach, and through their efforts and their examples, they’re changing the lives of their patients and community members, one household at a time.

Marian Starkey

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