Australian anti-lockdown protesters appropriate 'my body, my choice'
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Anti-lockdown protesters in Australia appropriate ‘my body, my choice’ slogan

Anti-lockdown protesters march in Brisbane, Australia, on Saturday. (AAP Image via Reuters)

The slogan “my body, my choice,” used to discuss bodily autonomy and the right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy, was co-opted by vaccine skeptics and promoted at anti-lockdown protests across Australia over the weekend.

The slogan was used during the rally in Melbourne on Saturday, where thousands of people defied Covid-19 restrictions to protest lockdown measures. Posters bearing the slogan were seen at rallies across the country, including “freedom” marches in Brisbane and demonstrations in Mackay.

Meanwhile, the right-wing Australian Tea Party, whose Facebook Page is followed by more than 120,000 users, put forward a false dichotomy in an inflammatory post that asked, “[d]oes ‘my body my choice’ apply to masks and vaccines? Or just killing babies?” While Facebook Page Seeds of Awareness posted a meme that compared reactions to a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy with that of a man unwilling to receive a Covid-19 vaccine or wear a mask.

First Draft has previously identified how Covid-19 vaccine-skeptic communities have co-opted the term “my body, my choice” and often share it alongside misinformation about the coronavirus, vaccines and lockdown restrictions. The appropriation of “my body, my choice” by Covid-19 vaccine-hesitant communities highlights how well-known, relatable phrases are given new meaning and used to sow distrust about Covid-19 vaccines and rollouts. The appropriation of the term is not unlike the tactic of keyword squatting — creating online content around a specific search-engine-optimized term to affect search results for that term — and can potentially confuse public health messaging around vaccination campaigns as well as women’s health. — Esther ChanLucinda Beaman

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