Ethical Storytelling, or, Why I Did It

A couple of weeks ago I participated in a panel to benefit the lovely folks at Exhale, who helped me a very great deal during the production of my documentary.  I was asked to be on the panel because of the documentary (explained here), as, having put it out there and since it’s been doing pretty well, already won a couple of awards (/gloat) I was something of an expert on what it’s like to put an extremely personal story in a public space.  I hadn’t really thought of that, but the truth is, it is enlightening.

A lot of people ask me why I did it, why even bother doing something so personal so soon after it had happened, and especially letting the whole Internet in on your little secret.  Well, I suppose I had a lot of reasons.  I’ve had a few accusations of attention-seeking, a comment which I find awkward considering how mind-bendingly painful the whole process was; my TGWTG co-contributors can attest, I hardly spoke to anyone for the year between Kickassia and Suburban Knights because I was so wrapped up in production, and so overwhelmed and run down when I had down time. Of the new folks this year, the only people I had ever interacted with in the slightest was Lupa, and that only right before the shoot because by that point, the doc was done and I could finally decompress.

But it is painful; awkward, it makes me cringe. I can’t stand to watch it.  There are sound problems with the DVD I need to fix that I haven’t gotten around to because I just can’t stand to look at the thing.  This pressure is NOTHING compared to the pressure of the production; if being so vulnerable and open wasn’t enough, then there was the friction with the producers, the difficulty dealing with some of the subjects, the constant arguments with the babydaddy (we’ll call him Vindaloo, cause I’m racist like that).  It’s not that I’m ashamed of it; far from it, I think we did pretty well for the time and budget we had.  But I can’t stand watching it; there’s just too much me in there.

Pile all this on top of knowing how genuinely unempathetic some folks can be.  In a way, this really reinforced my resolve in terms of “why even do it in the first place?” – some people see vulnerability and attack it just because it’s there; I’ve had people say nasty things about me that clearly don’t give a fuck about the subject of abortion; they just see a vulnerability, and they attack it, because it makes them feel good.  They aren’t sociopaths, I might go out on a limb and say they aren’t really even bad people, but they are just that sad. And they definitely throw this vitriol at ladies who are much less thick-skinned than I.

So, why even do it in the first place?

Well, at first, it was to fill a gap; I saw a bunch of documentaries about abortion, none of them were from the point of view of someone who had one.  They had all been made by men.  And sorry, men, it’s all well and good for you to have an opinion on the matter, but you can’t really understand what it’s like because it’s a situation that will NEVER apply to you.  I did eventually find one called “Speak Out: I Had an abortion”, but it was less a documentary and more a series of testimonies.  I wanted to make a documentary with a beginning, middle and end, so I did.

But bringing it back to that concept of “ethical storytelling” which I learned more about at the panel, I think it was more that.  I wanted to do it to tell a story; I wanted people to see all sides of what it feels like, people who regret it, people who don’t, why they feel how they feel, etc.  This was important to me because it’s so common. I’m not exceptional; most of my closest female friends have had abortions, too (even the lesbian. wtf!).  It’s like when I hear friends saying “Well, I don’t know anyone personally who’s had one” (You do. Several.)  or similarly “I don’t know any rape victims, thankfully” (again, trust me, you do). It’s a common thing that no one feels comfortable talking about. That is why you don’t know.

The lady at the panel described “ethical storytelling” as sharing a story, perhaps a charged personal story, like one of rape, domestic abuse, abortion, in a truthful way, without a slant for an agenda.  Sure, I suppose “understand this thing better” could be considered an agenda, but in the case of abortion, without the intent of being on either a “pro-life” or “pro-choice” side.  Of course I think abortion should be legal, to me that’s not even up for debate. That is the farthest thing from my mind; if there’s any agenda, it would be to demystify these things that people feel so uncomfortable talking about, and that’s why I’ve been so open about it.  Yes, I’m kind of a public figure. Yes, I’ve got an audience and a future to consider, all of which will react differently and not perhaps favorably.  But this is something I don’t really wobble on.  I think knowing you’re in the right, regardless of what society or the weaker of mind might say, gives one some resolve that they might not feel otherwise, especially when speaking of something so sensitive.

The scary thing about it is once your story is out there, people will do with it what they will. Some will be inspired by it, others disgusted, others still will use it as an object of ridicule.  When you put your story out there, you have to be okay with this. No one will see your story in the same way, or even in the same way you do, and if you can’t accept that, then perhaps you’re not yet ready to share it.  I think I shared a part of my story (and only a part) as a method of coming to terms, and to be honest, I think it works. I don’t carry the pain with me that I did a year ago, or the regret.  I’m at peace with pretty much everything, the production, the  outcome, the reception (did I mention there might have been awards? /gloat…) even how my relationship with Vindaloo ended up.

I feel worlds away from that place now. New city, new relationship, I feel like a completely different person, with this thing behind me but not in that same place.  I don’t think I could say that had it not been for the story sharing.  The relationship is still quite new,  though he certainly knew about all this madness a long time before I met him because of my blog.  A long time before I even knew who he was, in fact (life is weird like that, at least for me). This was something that made me nervous in bringing up with anyone I might date, it having very much to do with painfully toxic relationship that was not with him.  What a fun thing to get into, huh?  You know about this, I know about this, plus God knows how many strangers! 

And what can I say about him, or anyone else who is a decent person?  For every one venomous insecure little asshat there are dozens of open, caring people out there. That isn’t to say that he thinks this (or any of the other little unsavory life experiences I have behind me) is awesome; just that he’s open to hearing it. He doesn’t shame, he doesn’t judge, and that, I think, is the best you can hope from anyone, and is also the best thing they can give.

(gloat the third; he is awesome. He makes me so goddamn happy. /end gloat)

It took my mom a long time to screw up the courage to watch it, but I was careful not to push. When she did, she was surprisingly calm about it, stating that it wasn’t at all what she expected (and meant that in a good way) and that she was glad that I did it.

In the doc Vindaloo and I don’t really go into specifics- we explain that it happened, when it happened, that it sucked, that we both felt differently about it, but not really what went down.  A part of me considered putting down in words what actually happened, and include that in the public space, but I think I realized that part of the reason I felt alright with the doc, no matter what people do with it, is that I didn’t give any more than I felt I could lose.  And the real details of what happened, our relationship, those are the parts I don’t want to let go.  This, I think, is an important lesson of story sharing; always keep something for yourself. Always.  But do not be ashamed, do not push it on people lest they react in a way that you might not be okay with, and don’t give more than you can afford to lose.

  • Sooo…where can I send you money for a copy?

    • Heather Gois

      She mentions that in this post:

      “For anyone out there willing to donate $15 or more to my paypal link here, I will mail you a screener. In the donation note, include your name and address. It won’t be fancy; just something I burned off my Macbook, but it will be a screener you can show to friends, family and colleagues but NOT put up on the Internet”
      I’m excited to see it, too.

      • Heather Gois

        Sorry, Adam. I didn’t give you the link to the post that has the PayPal link in it. Here it is:
        http://wegotclass.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/and-now-the-real-work-begins/

        • Allan Hunt

          Apparently that page is no longer a ‘thing’, and Google has failed me in finding a way.

          Anyone know how a copy can be gotten ahold of? Ideally while supporting Lindsay directly (apart from general principles of ‘support the artist’, eBay has failed me)?

      • Gee, thanks! Now will you help me move my fingers on the keyboard? I’m getting sleepy…

        Seriously, though, thank you. I am a deplorable, lazy individual. That will now make up for it by ordering this DVD!

  • This is the longest thing I have read in a while that wasn’t in print, and I mean that in a good way, I wanted to see everything you had to say. I admit myself more curious than is polite as to most of what was involved in the making and the reasons behind it, but I can say that what you’ve written here has been insightful. At the very least. In the best possible way.

  • Emma

    I want to thank you for being so open about it. Your story has been inspiring to me. I’m a survivor, and seeing someone be so open about an issue of women’s health–even though it wasn’t related to violence–gave me the courage to be more open about my own experiences, and I felt freer airing my own opinions about issues concerning women–which, as you say, has a lot of input by men but not as much (yet) by women.
    And I’m happy you’re happy in your new relationshio–your semi-exchange on Twitter last night made me giggle 🙂

  • creaturesh

    Wow. Y’know, you might not write poems, but you definitely know how to jot down some sage and meaningful words. As much as I personally deride the philosophical teachings of the ancient mythologies, there must be something to the idea that to give brings more peace than to take. After all, you gave so much when you made that documentary, when you shared your story and worked yourself to the bone to make it reach people… And yet, you seem to have gained more than you have lost in the process. Being no (…okay, not very much of a) fool, I’ll try to learn from your example.

    Enjoy the good things in your life. You truly deserve them.

  • Emmeline

    I’m happy that you’re in a better place now Lindsay, as should everyone who enjoys your work. You’re a lovely, wonderful lady who I’m proud to fangirl loudly and you deserve the very best in life. (And you and Todd are killing me with d’aww, just saying. :p)

  • “This, I think, is an important lesson of story sharing; always keep something for yourself. Always.”

    Good advice, and something I had not considered. I probably should. I’ve been an open book on-line for the past several years, even when I probably shouldn’t have, and have gained something of a reputation in my community (podcasters) as “Mr. TMI” (nobody calls me that BTW, I’m just summarizing). At first I think I was overcompensating for the several years of my life (15-18 y.o.) where I was quite simply a liar of the pathological variety; to the point of lying as a reflex in situations where I WANTED to be honest. Then after awhile it just became habit. It’s gotten me in trouble before but I never really considered doing anything about it until I read the sentence I quoted at the top of this post.

    It’s funny how sometimes it’s the little things, like a single sentence in a blog post can smack you in the face (in a good way) be just as inspirational as the well written novel or the epic speech.

  • allyjs

    I only have some knowledge of your documentary (I follow your twitter because of your NChick videos and have skimmed one or two of the documentary blogposts). But I was really touched by what you shared here about ethical storytelling. About how there’s a reason many women don’t share their stories about rape and abortion. Regardless of how anyone feels about your subject matter, I think you did a powerful thing by sharing your story. We need more women coming forward with their life experiences with abortion, with rape, with their lives in general. So kudos to you because no matter what the “haters” say, you already won by making your story known.

  • Well…I’m at a bit of a disadvantage here, Lindsay…

    I don’t know you personally and I have never seen your documentary. Also…I happen to be pro-life. But I CAN say that I’m sorry that people have been abusing you for something that was obviously so painful and difficult to go through and make a documentary about. I think that it took a lot of courage to make and for that, I applaud you.

    Hopefully one day we can reach a place where people with dissenting opinions can express themselves without relying on personal attacks and other insulting tactics.

    • I am of the controversial opinion that we all desire attention, sympathy, and understanding, so we use terms such as “dissenting opinions” in order to appeal to the reasonable nature of those who would otherwise disagree with and possibly entirely discount our beliefs. As such, though I agree that there are dissenting opinions on the subject of whether Tapioca is a decent alternative to chocolate pudding, 2 x 3 is equal to 6 and dissenting opinions on the matter tend to be, by and large, utterly wrong. I think that the “issue” of abortion has more in common with the latter than the former.

      • Ryan

        Really?
        You honestly think abortion is not a morally complicated issue? Equating dissent here to not believing 2×3=6 is ludicrous.

        What possible effect could your comment have but give a bad impression of pro-choice people? What were you hoping to accomplish?

        He was being completely respectful. Maybe even reachable. In an issue as rightfully contentious as this you need to be thankful for anyone you can have an honest civil dialogue with. Not attack them like a jackass.

      • Since I can’t reply directly, Ryan, I’ll just reply to my own post and hope that you see it, alright?

        You brought up morality, respectability, and manners (I’m filing whether I’ve given a good or bad impression under this, since respectability was already taken).

        Morality is a standard of conduct that is conformable. If something is described as moral, it is usually being described as acceptable pertaining to the moral code to which it applies and those that conform to that code.

        I said, as plainly as I could, that I am of the opinion that there is a right choice and a wrong choice, not a good or bad choice, at least not in these circumstances. Since respectability is determined based on moral codes, that’s a wash.

        On the subject of my manners (and whether I’ve given pro-choice folks a bad impression), I don’t associated with you lot, since I think condoning dialogue with someone that is incorrect is tantamount to asking a child their opinion on the subject of 2×3, and choosing a Pro-Life/Choice side is equivalent to opening that dialogue. Though I’ve thought of a metaphor I like even better now:

        Since I don’t give a shit about good manners when a dog eats its own feces, I don’t care whether you think I’ve insulted Nathanael. I wasn’t trying to “reach” him. I’m not trying to dissuade him. Think of my post as a written, “Bad Dog!”

        By the by, I’m sure he’s a big boy. He can do without a white knight.

        In answer to your other two questions: yes, I think the issue isn’t complicated and I was trying to accomplish one goal – kill some time.

  • I don’t get why you poke at “cause I’m racist like that”. But I admire you as a storyteller. i admire you as an honest professional.

  • I have to say, after reading this and the ‘Bad Habits’ blog, that you are kind of my idol now. I was already a fan of your NChick reviews, but there’s something quite gratifying (in a selfish ‘I’m sorry you do but hey this is good for me so there’ way) to know that even the people I admire go through the same stuff.

    So this is just a little thank you, I guess. Part of my Stuff is based quite deeply in shame about feeling weak, so I’m grateful for you standing out and being brave enough to say it.

  • I’d like to take the opportunity of this entry to tell you how much I loved your movie. And this “ethical storytelling” is exactly what I liked about it : it never chose a side to argue about, it was documented enough to not be a too personal story either, it was a story, your story, and millions of women’s story.
    As a filmmaker (not at all the same movies, though), I know well this feeling of achievement, that your creation must be left behind or else your life will get sucked in. It’s good to put an end to it and accept it for what it is.
    You had an admirable courage to show it, broadcast it, shove it into the world’s face, a courage most of us will never have, and for that, I beg you to stay proud of it, proud of yourself and of your choices, and don’t have any regret.
    It probably won’t be easy, but even if it’s not much : know that all the people you already inspired and will inspire by seeing this – and your future creations – are with you.

    I wish you all the luck, and all the happiness you deserve 🙂

  • Leon

    Kudos to you for putting yourself out there, that took a lot of courage.

    Also, internet anonymity = some douchebags. The moment you get to the ability to make (supposedly) consequence free comments, it will bring out a certain population who will hate anything you say. There’s some guilty pleasure in watching the end of “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” where they actually confront their internet critics in… well the usual Kevin Smith way.

  • When you said Speaker for the Dead was your favorite book, you really weren’t kidding.

  • Brett

    This was obviously pretty personal, so hats off for being willing to talk about it.

    Leon has the right of it, in that internet anonymity seems to turn some people (a lot of people) into unsympathetic assholes. It’s strange how there’s such variation on that, with people who are kind, and people who turn into an asshole the moment it becomes impossible or extremely unlikely that someone will meet them face-to-face.

    • Exactly. I know I was like that during the early days of the Intertubes. After awhile (and after getting banned from multiple websites, some that nearly a decade later STILL won’t take me back, I was that bad) I started to adopt the policy of “treat everyone as if you think you might meet them at a Con.” I think more people should try that.

  • Nephilim

    ya know.. Even though I was and still am kinda critical about some technical aspects of your documentary (and I don’t mean this in any personal way. Just a movie snob sorta 😉 )
    I really appreciate and respect your brutal honesty about everything.

    I’ve been a fan (if you will) of yours for a couple years now and you always come across as a person who sticks up for her beliefs even in the face of adversity. I really respect that knowing how unfair life is.

    I wish you almost all the happiness in the world (gotta think about myself a bit also 😉 ).
    Thanks for entertaining us and making us think.

  • shadowdancer21b

    I never would have guessed Lindsay, and I suppose that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? You still have my support.

  • I have not yet seen your documentary either, but nonetheless I applaud your making it. You did something that hadn’t been done before, and I would say it needed to be done. I’m sure I’ve said in previous comments that SOMEONE needed to take this complex, deeply politically charged issue and bring to light the many and varied tales of human suffering that exist beneath it, and you did it in a way that was personal, genuine, and fair. You’ve clearly gone through great personal tribulation to do it, too, but you did not falter. For all of this and more, you have my respect.

    Heh, whoever I am. >_>

    Given your gloat-meriting awards, I’d say you’ve earned plenty of other people’s respect too. 🙂

  • After a few failed attempts of trying to convey what I wanted to post, here goes:

    If everyone knew everything about everybody, the world would be a pretty bland place. And I can’t stand blandness.

    Ms. Ellis, you do what you do best: being yourself – a vibrant, opinionated, passionate, slightly-geeky woman living in an increasingly complex world. Here’s to sanity – may I forever be drunk on it.

  • While your doc was painful to watch, it was something I was happy I DID watch. Thank you for being an artsy risk-taker.

    And congrats on the new beau. 🙂

  • “‘understand this thing better’ could be considered an agenda”

    That’s an agenda that every person should have.

  • Matthew

    Wow that was beautifully written. This is why yours is the only “personal” blog I read. I love how you put ideas into my head and give me things to think about that I and others SHOULD be thinking about and discussing.
    By the way I donated and got a copy of the teaser for your doc and just wanted to say great job. I’ll be getting a copy of the full doc when it’s available.

  • Hey, you know what was great? When Nostalgia Critic used your Abortion for a joke in his parody of “It’s a Wonderful Life” everything really came full circle with that.

    • I know I’m an easy target and that people would stretch it to make that be the case; it didn’t even cross my
      Mind to put two and two together until the drama mongers of the Internet did it for me. That said, Doug didn’t know about the doc or my situation until very recently. Nice try.

      • so then if Doug didn’t know, what was the original joke?

        • Ha well you’ll have to ask him then.

  • Sarah

    I think you are incredibly brave for putting out this documentary.

  • I have been blogging in the last few years about some of my most personal moments. I spoke of being homeless, feeling like a failure who was chasing a dream that people much younger than I have already given up and even wanting to die rather than face the empty future that I sometimes feel will drag on endlessly. It seems that any combative internet douche that gets into an argument with on a message board searches out those posts in order to humiliate me. For every one of those trolls, there have been many others who identified with me. People had illusions that I was so full of strength and conviction that they couldn’t believe that I would feel such things about myself. I am sure that you have had many people who assume things about you based solely on your internet presence. Those who would try to pull you down are only doing it to make you seem smaller so that they may seem less small. I have enjoyed everything you have posted, including the aforementioned documentary so keep up the good work. As far as the technical setbacks, I didn’t notice anything. Good luck and keep it up ya nerd.

  • I was just wondering if you’ve read Susan Wicklund’s book, This Common Secret, about her experiences being an abortion doctor. It’s a fascinating and sobering read. It made me really thankful I live in a country where abortion has been legal for decades and isn’t even up for debate.

  • Lindsay, I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing such a personal part of you with me (and the rest of the world for that matter.) Still accepting donations and stuff? Cuz I wanna see this thing! Either way, Good Luck and Congratulations on the successes.

    • I hope so, cuz I sent in a donation for the selfish purpose of viewing aforementioned documentary. I’m looking forward to it, though it sounds a bit cringy in a totally good yet awful kind of way.

  • I think it was Chelsea Handler who semi-recently revealed in an interview she had an abortion at age 16. I agree with putting faces to the abortion issue, otherwise, it’s some abstract concept that happens to *other* people. It’s an interesting debate though- you can’t force people to reveal their medical histories, just like you shouldn’t force someone to come out of the closet if they aren’t ready just to make a political stand.

    Abortion makes me a little crazy because it divides women for the wrong reasons. I think all sane people would agree that abortion should be safe, available, and unnecessary. We get caught up in religious stuff when we could be focusing in on women’s health…

    It would be great if we could talk openly about ourselves and our experiences without worry that someone is going to step in and shame us somehow (or harm or kill us, in extreme cases). I did love living vicariously through you and your friends in your NYC pride video- that was pretty cool, although I should have learned by now, never read the comments. Sorry, off topic.

    Anyway, I’d love to see your documentary too- are you still taking donations?

  • Hey, I’ve only recently got into your videos and hence why I stumbled my way to this blog tonight.

    I only seen the initial pitch tape so I’m looking forward to seeing the full doc, though from watching just that I must admit it was tugging on some heart strings, sure I’m a guy and I’m from the UK where abortions are legal.
    But it was a big slap in the face wake up call that despite my love of the US some things are just plane diffident (somewhat backward…) over there.
    Another big slap in the face is that women have the biggest choice in all of humans little existence – life.

    Don’t be scared to finish up that DVD your doing a very good thing, one your peers and people around you are proud of I’m sure so think to the future.

    What your saying sound like you’ve made a new start, found yourself and moved on with a new relationship (lucky guy :)) but anyway ill leave it at that before you overdose on /gloat

    Good luck and congrats.

  • TKB

    This gives me hope. That’s the first thought which stands out clear and clean in my mind. This gives me hope.

    “So, why even do it in the first place?”

    This captures so much of what I feel in terms of writing prose and stories; it’s the frustration of spinning your wheels out in the mud, in spite of all the hard work and passion powering it. It makes me want to shut up shop and hang a sign on the door saying, ‘Off to Norway!’

    “The scary thing about it is once your story is out there, people will do with it what they will.”

    This terrifies me. In the context of personal stories, it terrifies me even more. I don’t want others to re-label my experience as ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’. I loathe the connotations which arrive with those words, because they feel inaccurate and the implications frighten me just as much; the words appear or seem so much more clear-cut than what I have ever felt, and still feel, in terms of particular experiences. I just want to plastic-wrap that shit and put it on the highest shelf in the dustiest corner of the darkest room.

    However, I’m leaning more into thinking that’s part of the nature of trying to relate/connect with other people at all — they, taking in and relating or graphing the experience into their own individual architecture, make it something other than mine, less than mine. (Which is definitely why I can see “keep something for yourself” and “don’t give more than you can afford to lose” as key.) On the other side of the coin, that’s what any story, any personal experience, can potentially do. It gives and it is giving. It allows appropriation and re-appropriation. It provides options and nuance and, most of all, connection and a sometimes positive, cathartic, response. Thank you for reminding me of this. You’ve very much naught but my admiration at this point.

    All the best, Ms. Ellis.

  • Serena

    I don’t really have anything to say here, but I wanted you to know that you are totally amazing and that if I was an adult with an actual bank account and an income and everything I WOULD own your film on DVD right now. Please continue being amazing.

  • When I discovered the site and went through your videos (you were the second person whose catalog I went through,) I noticed how shortly after the Last Unicorn vid, you just stopped being yourself. The joy was just gone. When you got to the Beauty and the Beast Christmas film, you were too out of it to even give much comment, just falling back onto “I’ve got nothing.” Plus there was the whole dark joke about the uncle at the end. It was sad seeing you like that. And then all the way up to the Playing God video, it felt like your heart wasn’t in it. So I was delighted when you came back after a hiatus with the Man in the Iron Mask video reinvigorated and with your sense of humor back.

    Glad things are going well now, because you deserve it. Oh, and it’s Todd, isn’t it? It totally is, right? Todd and Lindsay sittin’ in a tree…

  • Not As Brave

    I’m a recent convert to TGWTG.com and have watched all of your videos. I really enjoy listening to your feminist critique of stuff most of us view through pure nostalgia-glasses. I think you find a nice balance of honest criticism while still appreciating the nostalgic appeal.

    So I found this blog today, which I didn’t know about until about an hour and a half ago. In reading this post and the explanation post about what your thesis documentary is about, I can’t even explain the emotional rollercoaster I’ve gone through.

    I just want to start out by saying I admire you so, so much for being willing and able to put something so personal out there, especially given your more visible profile being an interwebs celeb and all. Thank you for being brave, for making this documentary, for representing those of us who are too embarrassed or ashamed or scared to tell people that we’ve had an abortion.

    I was 18 when I had mine, almost 9 years ago now. I’m not brave enough to sign this comment with my real name or my FB account or my wordpress account. Not even my regular email either, as it has a gravatar associated with it that the system pulls automatically, so I’d be easily identified with my online alias if I used that too. I wish I could be as brave as you are. As a Korean adoptee who identifies as a pansexual polyamorous gamer geek, I’m used to (as much as anyone can ever be “used to”) being marginalized and despite the marginalization, being proud of who I am. This is an aspect of my life I have difficulty being out or proud about though, and only my closest friends about this.

    Thank you for standing up and sharing this. I really would love to hear a confirmation from you on whether or not a screening is still available via donation. As hard is it potentially may be for me to watch, I know it can’t compare with how difficult it was to make.

    On a random note, I only just discovered Todd in the Shadows yesterday and spent yesterday and today going through his complete archive. I had declared to my friends that my TGWTG potential-crush-if-it-could-ever-be-a-reality list had now expanded to include Todd in addition to you, and I found out today you are both dating, which made me squee a little in happiness for both of you.

    So thank you, Lindsay. Thank you for being brave enough to make this documentary, to expose this part of you, to be a voice for those of us who have gone through this. I cried a lot after reading this blog entry and in the process of making this comment. I wish I was as brave as you are.

  • Machelle

    Your poor, innocent baby. I wonder how he or she feels about you exploiting their slaughter.

    • Speaking for myself, go and fuck yourself, Machelle.

    • Congrats! You just totally missed the point of why Lindsay made the doc in the first place.

      • I regret commenting as I did. Not because I spoke out of turn, but because I know better than to feed the trolls.

    • Sarah

      Nice to know how understanding you are Machelle, did you find your way here just to comment that?

  • @Adam I was talking to Machelle. The point of the doc was to be something from the mother-to-be’s POV for once, being a pro-life twit is ridiculous.

  • Billie R.

    I appreciate that you’ve approached the subject of abortion from an honest and brave place. It’s a scary place to be, but it’s nice to not be alone.

    Women, at least in American culture, tend to be targets for shame more than men. ‘Putting a face to the issue’, as an above commenter wrote, may help banish some of the stigma associated with deeply personal experiences like these, and forge unity that can lead to greater sympathy and understanding.

  • Machelle

    Oh I’m not trolling. I truly and honestly stand by my new opinions of Lindsay, in that she is a self-absorbed baby killer. And since we’re playing the “speak for yourself” game, the poster several spaces above can speak for their damn selves when they claimed we here can agree that abortions should be available. No, they shouldn’t. Ever. Under any circumstances. Rape, disease, incest, I don’t care. Your life isn’t one bit more worthy than that of your baby’s. There’s this thing called ADOPTION that selfish women who can’t keep their legs closed should use rather than wholesale slaughter.

    • Creature SH

      This kind of reasoning might work in a black&white world ruled by plotlines, Machelle. But this world isn’t that. You are an extremist on par with embarrassingly transparent strawmen in fiction and it would do you well to reconsider your views.

    • Just to reflect, “Rape, disease, incest, I don’t care. […] There’s this thing called ADOPTION that selfish women who can’t keep their legs closed should use rather than wholesale slaughter.”

      So, women that have been raped, carry a genetic anomaly they wouldn’t like to pass on to a child, have been involved in intercourse with a person in their direct bloodline, and any other circumstance whatsoever, all fall into the category of “women who can’t keep their legs closed”?

      Opinions such as yours are exactly why I generally believe that people that disagree with me on topics such as, oh, abortion for example, have some kind of mental retardation that doesn’t allow them to bring a thought completely to fruition without crapping their pants and writing on the walls.

    • Goob

      It’s not a baby it’s a cluster of cells that is a part of the woman’s body.

      And you have no idea how broken our foster care system is in this country. I believe you should read horror stories of countless foster children and then try to still tell me nobody should get an abortion even if they wanted one. It’s their body it’s their decision. They feel that is their one and only option left. And they have every right to do it with a doctor present. This is America. We would go backwards with women’s rights and human rights in general if this country went back to coat hanger abortions. And a higher risk of bleeding to death.

  • A commentator

    First of all, let me say that I truly admire you for being able to face your own inner demons and coming out of it a stronger person, Lindsay. If the only self-righteous…person…you’ve ever faced on this blog is Machelle, then I think you’re doing pretty well. In the end, this just shows you’re the bigger person. Besides, you’re the one with the awards, right?

    To Machelle, I get the feeling that you’re very young, at least in your teens, and that you haven’t had a lot of life experience (if you’re older, then I apologize for the mistake, but your attitude makes you seem younger than you may actually be). What you must understand is that most women THINK they know EXACTLY what they would do in the event of an unplanned pregnancy no matter how it happened, then when it actually DOES happen, they find themselves thinking different. Some may make the decision they thought they’d make, but still find the decision itself more difficult than they thought it would be, no matter what that decision is. It’s one of those situations where the only way you’ll know how you would act is when you’re actually there. Acting judgmental and self-righteous does not make you look mature; it just makes you look the exact opposite.

  • I’m really glad you opened up about this. There are a lot of women who’ve experienced what you did and kept silent. I’m glad that you’re looking at both sides of the debate (which can get really heated up). I’m personally pro-life and I’ll pray for you, but please don’t see that as condescension. If anyone tells you that they’ll pray for you, it’s always done with good intentions.

    I hope that more people will look at this and open up about their own experiences. You never really know about the issues unless you or someone you know has been affected. (I saw the clips on vimeo.) I’m glad that you acknowledged this as a possible loss.

    I’m also glad you’ve moved on from the abortion and I personally hope you give a name to the child you’ve lost. And I’m glad you’re in a new relationship with a wonderful guy. (I also follow you on TGWTG and Twitter, so you know who I’m talking about.) God bless.

  • Elena

    it is nice to hear that you are no happy and found some closure with this documentary.
    Oddly enough the only people in my 24-year-life who i know for a fact had had an abortion were both my grandmothers. One talked to me quite openly about it before her death and it was strange to hear her speak of it because it all happened in a different country and a different society and a different era that doesn’t even exist anymore. It was rather surreal to hear your babushka talk about the subject so openly, you know when you see someone in a particular light all your life, literally from when you took your first steps, and then bam!
    It wasn’t awkward but it was strange. It did help me form my own opinions about the subject and it made me see my grandmothers as people instead of idealized, doting, faultless, viceless figures always knitting and handing out cookies and ice cream.

    • Elena

      *so happy, not “no happy”, “so happy”
      fucking English, all letters look the same :S

  • I just found your blog earlier today (I was Googling “Nostalgia Chick” and the second suggestion was “nostalgia chick abortion” and I was like “Whaa?”) and I really am fascinated by this whole topic, as well as others you’ve explored in your blog. When my student aid money comes in I hope to check out your documentary.
    (Another part of me is frightened to explore this topic–I became unexpectedly pregnant in the fall of 2009, but even though I took abortion off the table immediately, that fall was one of the most difficult times in my life. I’m not sure what this might stir up for me, but I feel like it’ll be a good kind of stirring up either way.)

  • being from Europe, I don’t really get the debate and the hate behind abortions in the US. but even without understanding that, i understand your honest words. it was very moving and inspiring to read, for any artist who wants to express something personally. You’re an interesting person I’d like to share a conversation with. You got many things to say, and you’re not afraid to say them.
    You’re strong!

  • MMM

    First off, let me make a couple things clear. I am not against abortion. I am against abortion after five months, but I still understand it’s a personal choice. I am a female myself. I’ve never had an abortion. If anyone I know has, they haven’t shared with me though they’ve shared other dark secrets.

    I only know of you because I started watching the Nostalgia Critic and then I noticed the “Nostalgia Chick”. I liked some of your videos, but then I read about your abortion story.

    Suddenly, I found myself feeling a very strange emotion towards you. I guess we build up certain things in our mind. To me, and I didn’t realize it until I heard your story, I have always felt that a woman should at least feel remorse for the abortion. When I’ve read other women’s stories about their abortions and what they went through, they always talk about how sad they are about it. There is real pain in their stories. They would do it again, but they still regret it.

    But in your tale, I was struck by the lack of regret in it. Maybe you didn’t intend it that way. You seem more desperate for being understood for what you did and praise for your “courage”. You want to be told you did the right thing. I think you probably did, but I still can’t respect you for it and say, “oh what a great person you are for it”. There were plenty of ways to avoid this situation (and I’m not talking about abstinence).

    I like your early videos and I wanted to think of you as a nice person. Yet, I just can’t. Not because you had an abortion, but because you seem to have no remorse for the child that you aborted. That’s just cold.

    All your pain seems reserved for you.

    I shouldn’t say these hurtful things, yet I wanted to like you. I wanted to watch your Nostalgia Chick videos. But when I look at them now, all I feel is sick. All I think is, “Does this women not feel an ounce of sorrow for what might have been?”

  • Edo

    I was going to just nod quietly to myself and move on, as per my usual internet lurker routine, but then I read MMM’s comment, and, well, the beast inside me awoke, as it were.

    I apologize for getting a bit defensive when I don’t even know you, Lindsay (though I am a big fan), but at a certain point my traitorous fingers won’t let me remain silent.

    To MMM:
    How dare you? How dare you imply that you have any right to judge another human being, about a situation in which you took no part and based on your personal morality to boot? How dare you suggest that a woman MUST feel remorse for an abortion, when a number of us think of the unwanted pregnancy itself as nothing more than a violation and invasion of our bodies? There is absolutely no requirement to feel remorse after an abortion. That women feel remorse, possibly a great deal of the time, goes without saying. That there should always be remorse? That’s where you cross the line into denying the right of a woman to completely control her body.

    Why should I feel remorse over a “loss,” when the true problem is an unplanned and unwanted intrusion into my reproductive system? Women should not be in a constant state of fear while sexually active, constantly worried about “what might be” if, one day, things don’t go exactly as planned, and whether or not they will be appropriately “remorseful.”

    A woman’s pain from an abortion is exactly that: her pain. It is no one else’s. She owes nothing to the clump of cells that temporarily inhabited her body, without her consent. Nothing. She owes nothing to you, and nothing to any outside moral system that tries to dictate how she must behave and feel.

    How dare you.

    I also suppose that you have never had a scare yourself, or any form of personal birth control fail, based on your “plenty of ways to avoid this situation” comment, but I don’t have the energy to go down that particular avenue right now.

    To troll against any and all abortions is one thing, but to imply that a woman is somehow less than you, or indeed less than human, because she does not appear to fit within your prescribed morality? Your arrogance is truly astounding.

    And one more thing, though I suppose I will not be alone in saying this. She did not “abort a child.” She terminated a pregnancy. It was not a child. It was a clump of cells, inhabiting her body without her consent. Perhaps you should work on that distinction before casting aspersions on moral character.

    I will now get down off of my high horse and take the song off of repeat-one, because honestly my hands are shaking and I’m having a difficult time being coherent anymore.

    Please, think before you attack people for their decisions.

    • Edo

      I did mention that I was losing coherence.

      “To troll against any and all abortions is one thing….” and then I forgot to finish the argument before moving on.

      To troll against any and all abortions is one thing, as this kind of extremism can be, in general, dismissed on this sort of forum (though sadly not in real life) as uninformed and frankly a little bit frightening, as even most social conservatives allow for cases of incest or rape….

      And continue. My apologies. I should probably be abed by now.

  • Diamonds

    As long as human beings disagree on when life begins and ends, there will be people on both sides of this issue. I’ve had two children and I can honestly say that those first few months feel mostly like just having a perpetual stomach flu and really the first signs that even felt like there might be a human in there wasn’t until I started feeling kicks and such (5, 6 months maybe?). I’ve seen estimates that the body itself spontaneously aborts about 40% of pregnancies — most women miscarry before they even know they are pregnant. We haven’t gotten to the point as a society where we have funerals for miscarriages so people need to calm down about most abortions. What I like about Lindsay’s documentary is that she isn’t trying to be “pro” or “con”…what she’s doing is trying to personalize the experience. Anyone who has gone through this would know that what goes on in the heart and mind when making this decision is complex and NO ONE can know all the factors that go into it. Sure, as with any practice we have, you can find and point to examples of what appears to be abuse, but the vast majority of times these women are just like everyone else. They are good people who find themselves in a position where they know they cannot see a pregnancy through and make the choice to terminate it before it goes to far. Anyone who judges these people I think has not had much experience with making difficult choices in life. Otherwise if they did they’d know that the world is not so black and white. I’ve made a few hard choices in my life some of which I KNOW others would criticize. I’ve kept those mostly to myself because I know any explanation would never do justice to the inner conflict that I experienced making them. Lindsay I thank you for TRYING to put your message out there. I know you could never fully express everything you felt and went through. I’m so glad that you are in a happier place now and have people who love and support you.

  • Fan

    I want a copy of this documentary! I have read nothing but good things about it, and I’m a huge fan of your Nostalgia Chick videos. They’re hilarious. How do I order a DVD of the documentary?? (Canadian by the way, dont know if that makes a difference)

  • Elena

    I’m actually pretty sure that MMM did NOT see “the A word” or read this blog carefully just from the way they are talking about Lindsey Ellis.
    now to be fair, i have not seen “The A word” either but i have i was curious so i read a good deal of summaries an reviews in the matter and from what i understand the movie tackles the idea of regret pretty extensively. Not only were numerous other people interviewed but Lindsay’s personal experience and feelings on the matter are explored. from what i understand this movie is largely about coping with the feelings of uncertainty and regret following abortion.
    I’m going to go ahead and assume that MMM is either a troll or was just huffing glue when they thought they were “learning [Lindsey’s] story”

    Some links:
    http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/blogs/entry/watchermark-reviews-the-a-word-a-film-by-lindsay-ellis-1
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1833212/reviews

    And now i’m off to midterm study land,
    till another night void of internets

  • Camille Chaustre McNally

    I’ve been in a toxic relationship in my life. No pregnancy, thank goodness, but it’s one of those “but for the grace of God” kinds of things. Glad you’re in a better place.

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