Fair treatment of women and women’s issues are especially dear to my heart as I grew up surrounded by so many women. There were three generations of women living together in my home – my grandma, my mom and my sister. I saw first-hand how gender inequality works in this patriarchal world, and how frequently and subconsciously women are conditioned to sacrifice their goals, ambitions and self-worth for the men in their life. I hated that growing up, and I still do.
Standing up for the equality of women, standing up for choice, is not a matter of fashion, or scoring points, or getting Instagram likes. ~ Miro Uskokovic
When I came to Indiana as a high school exchange student from Serbia, I assumed things would be different in the U.S. and society would be more progressive. I quickly realized this was not the case, and in some situations, it was even worse than what I’d seen in Serbia, believe it or not!
In the U.S. I discovered a country claiming to be free and liberal, but passionately obsessed with regulating female bodies and reproductive rights. That was one thing my mother or grandmother didn’t have to face back home in Serbia, not even during harsh, oppressive Communist rule, where abortion was first legalized in 1952. That was 15 years before the first US state legalized abortion, and 21 years before Roe v. Wade.
Today a woman’s right to an abortion in Serbia is totally normal and socially accepted, with the majority of the country fully supporting it. But in industrialized, economically wealthy America, in 2019(!), a woman’s right over her own body is under attack.
I understand many pro-life individuals have strong beliefs about abortion, mostly due to religious reasons. I respect differing opinions. But, I strongly believe religion and sex should be a private matter, a personal choice. Which version of god an individual chooses to worship (or not), what they do with their body, and who they share it with, is not for you or me to decide, no matter what a few thousand other individuals think. That’s what is intended by the separation of church and State.
If you’re anti-abortion, you have full rights to be, please feel free to express your opinion, but you do not have the right to enforce your opinion on those who disagree. This would be like forcing everyone in America to become vegetarian or forcing all vegetarians to eat meat. You don’t like it when someone tells you how to live, so don’t encroach on others.
It is important to be involved in politics, to have opinions and to act on them. And I mean act on them. Speaking up publicly, protesting, making banners, are of these things are amazing, as it raises awareness of an issue. But acting on those same beliefs is even more important as actions truly prompt change. You can stand up for what’s right and still be polite and empathetic. And, you can start with people who surrounded you—your family, friends, coworkers, and your community.
I started in my community with the Bake Sale for Planned Parenthood in NYC, founded by pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz and chef Ignacio Mattos of Café Altro Paradiso. I’ve been part of this great bake sale since the very first one three years ago and I’m excited to see how much it has grown. I’m even more amazed at how much money we have raised for our community’s branch of a wonderful institution that supports women and families all around the US. Last year we raised $20,000 and this year we hope to raise $40,000.
Standing up for the equality of women, standing up for choice, is not a matter of fashion, or scoring points, or getting Instagram likes. It’s a matter of choosing the kind of world we want to live in, and I want to live in a world where women can make their own decisions.
This article is being republished from its original publication on CulEpi in 2019, in honor of Miro Uskoković‘s James Beard 2020 Award Nomination for Best Pastry Chef! CulEpi is so proud of Miro’s accomplishments as a pastry chef, and we’re honored to share his voice on CulEpi!
Further Reading: Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi Boldly Defend Women’s Reproductive Rights