Gabrielle Blair is not a legal scholar or an ethicist or pundit. She is a 47-year-old self-described Mormon mother of six with a flair for design, who lives in France.
And yet, what she had to say on Twitter about abortion – cut to the chase: Men need to be far more responsible with their sperm so that women aren't confronted with abortion as a way to deal with unwanted pregnancies – continues to light up the internet … incredibly, some four years after she hit “Send."
Blair's 63-post thread is newly relevant after a recently leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion suggesting the high court could upend Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision enshrining the right to abortion.
To date, the 2018 thread has garnered 37 million impressions on Twitter, and that’s not counting those who find the treatise on Facebook, Instagram, Medium or her blog, Design Mom. (In 2015, Blair penned a bestselling book, "Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide.")
“There hasn’t been a day since it was published that it hasn’t been retweeted or commented on," she tells USA TODAY in a call from her home in Argentan in Normandy.
She still sounds incredulous. Less surprising: A book off that resonant thread could be in the works.
Blair's original motivation for commenting? Sheer frustration.
“I was thinking, wait a moment, we’re putting all the work on women and blaming them for all the unwanted pregnancies as if men were not part of this equation,” she says. “So, I wrote it down.”
Blair was convinced no one would want to hear her lengthy take on how unfair it is that women have to endure the hassle and physical discomfort of birth control when the male equivalent, condoms, are readily available, disposable and harmless.
Who was she? Who would listen?
Probably no one. So Blair let fly. Typical of her blunt talk: “A woman can be the sluttiest slut in the entire world who loves having orgasms all day long and all night long and she will never find herself with an unwanted pregnancy unless a man shows up and ejaculates irresponsibly,” she wrote.
“Women enjoying sex does not equal unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Men enjoying sex and having irresponsible ejaculations is what causes unwanted pregnancies and abortion.”
63-post thread referenced everywhere from TikTok to college classrooms
The thread spilled out of her in the summer of 2018. But she sat on it. Then in September of that year, during the hearings held to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, she grew tired of hearing men talk about women’s bodies. So she published her take.
Blair thought maybe a few of her Twitter followers might see the posts. Or maybe not even that, and she would just take them down.
I’m a mother of six, and a Mormon. I have a good understanding of arguments surrounding abortion, religious and otherwise. I've been listening to men grandstand about women's reproductive rights, and I'm convinced men actually have zero interest in stopping abortion. Here's why…
— Gabrielle Blair (@designmom) September 13, 2018
The content and its no-nonsense delivery instantly rang bells that still echo.
The thread has been translated into many languages, mostly recently Japanese. It’s been featured in TikTok posts, including one 12-part video that simply features a man reading the entire thread.
“That was impressive,” she says with a laugh. “It’s not short.” Alyssa Milano, Glennon Doyle and Rex Chapman, among others, have shared the thread.
Blair also says she’s been alerted to references made to her post in college textbooks. And two of her children (they range in age from 12 to 24) heard their mother's posts mentioned while in class at the University of California at Berkeley.
Reactions run the gamut. Most of the comments are supportive, she says: "There are men who say, 'I wasn’t trying to be a jerk,' which makes me hope they’ll go into future sexual experiences being more responsible.”
And there are the women.
“One was married,” Blair recalls. “They’d had their kids, she was on an IUD and she suddenly felt like, ‘Holy cow, why hasn’t my husband had a vasectomy? That’s a no-brainer. If he really thinks he’ll need his sperm later, he can bank it.'"
Typical of the passionate back-and-forth her thread generates on social media is this Twitter reply to Blair:
"You are talking about irresponsible men & have disregard for the other part of the bargain," writes @TJNugent520. "Like you said, it takes two, a responsible man would wear a condom if BOTH do not want a pregnancy, simple but effective & I put the majority of that decision on the women, it's her choice."
His comment is immediately countered by @annavrmac: "Why is it the woman’s choice? I think men should get written consent from women that they are willing to procreate and understand the risks of sex before having sex. Women have taken all the risk and burden for long enough. Time for men to take responsibility."
Of course, Blair adds, there are always folks who are far less polite.
"They seem to not get past the part where I say that men cause 100% of unwanted pregnancies and light up," she says. "But that was there to irritate people and get them reading.”
Vasectomies for boys? Blair takes a Swiftian approach to a solution
There may soon be more to read from Blair on the topic. She says she’s been approached by a publisher to talk about turning the Twitter thread into a book, diving deeper into some of the topics and themes and expanding on the debate over male responsibility.
One subject likely to get more of an airing from Blair is male vasectomies.
In her thread, she presents an outrageous idea in the tradition of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” In 1729, the “Gulliver’s Travels” author put forth a satirical solution to Ireland’s economic problem: selling children for food.
Blair’s twist: Let’s give all young boys a vasectomy at puberty, which they can reverse when they decide they’d like to have children with their loved one. Unwanted pregnancies, cured.
“That’s obviously not a real thing, but it’s more my way of pointing out how unwilling we all are to ask sacrifices of men when we’ll do so readily of women,” she says. That said, she adds that with advancements in vasectomy techniques, “it one day might be possible for a man to have one that is easily and effectively reversed.”
Blair doesn’t see herself as a culture warrior, but more a soldier in the fight for common sense: “I just want to try and change the conversation about things like condoms, which are such a great answer that prevent unwanted pregnancies and keep women healthy.”
Her stance isn’t motivated by religion, she says: “Officially, the Mormon church certainly discourages abortion, except in cases where the health of the mother is in question, or if it’s due to rape or incest.” (In 2018, church leadership asked that the term Mormon no longer be used; it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)
She decided to make mention of her faith at the very beginning of the thread to disabuse people of the notion that everyone in the religion is conservative by nature.
“There are many of us who are more liberal in our views,” she says. “My saying, ‘Hey men, why don’t you be more responsible,’ that’s actually a very Mormon thing to say.”
Blair: Concerned but hopeful for her beloved native country
Strange, perhaps, that someone increasingly in the American cultural conversation is doing it from overseas. But that’s largely because she and her husband, Ben, 49, decided to use their remote worker status – her in design, he in the education research field – to find a less expensive place to raise their brood while also giving them exposure to another language and culture.
“We’ve lived all over,” says Blair, who grew up in St. George, Utah, and earned a degree in graphic design at Brigham Young University. “New York, Colorado, Oakland. But we wanted someplace more affordable and a new adventure.”
She hopes to come back to the U.S. one day. For now, she looks back at her home country with both fondness and concern, especially given the recent Roe v. Wade news.
“America feels very unstable right now,” she says, her voice softening. “I don’t want America, the country that I love, to be unstable.”
“I’m feeling angry about the news these days,” she continues. “By the time you get to the point where your approach is to yell at women going into abortion clinics, you’re not going to convince anyone.
“If your goal is to reduce abortions, then you have to start with unwanted pregnancies. And if you’re talking about that, you have to focus on men and what they can do to help. That’s all I’m saying.”
And people are listening.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mormon mom Gabrielle Blair focuses abortion debate on men