Among the manyreactions to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, which granted women's bosses the power to deny them the access to contraception that the law says they're entitled to as part of their earned benefits, none were as clever or hilarious as that of Jasmine Shea. The 29-year-old aspiring stand-up comic and singer has become the toast of social media by virtue of her novel protest, in which she reorganized some of Hobby Lobby's shelves, and tweeted photos of herself with the results. (Scroll down for more images.)
Over Fourth of July weekend, Jasmine and a friend went to the Hobby Lobby store in Latham, N.Y., and rearranged the letters in various aisles to spell out pro-choice messages, like this:
The photos went viral, thanks in part to Shea's relentless push to tweet her photos at everyone you've ever heard of, and after coverage from websites likeJezebel and Feministing, she even made the evening news.
"I had a lot of fun doing it, and didn't make a mess," Shea told The Daily Banter, noting, "Since I am someone who has worked for retail for many years I made sure I put all the letters not used in order and set next to the display. Nothing was so out of place or a true hassle for a worker to pick up."
That clever act of social media piracy, delivered with a million-dollar smile, has inspired others, as well. "It warms my heart hearing I made people's day or I inspired them to stand up and fight for women's health and their rights," she said. "I am a nobody and becoming a somebody to strangers is pretty cool. Knowing I got people to talk about women's health and rights is awesome."
Shea, a Utica native who has lived in Colonie most of her life, is a self-described karaoke queen who lends her vocal cords to an annual disabilities telethon. She graduated Albany's New School of Radio and Television, and was a DJ for a local rock station for five years, until the station switched formats.
Now, Shea is an office worker by day, and is "very grateful to have health insurance" through her employer, but wants all women to have the same choices. Jasmine says she's been on birth control since she was 17, but has had to go without in the past, due to the cost. "Lucky this job give me choice in the birth control that suits my body well."
Reaction on the job has been positive. "A lot of people in my office section think it's hilarious," Shea says, and "are amazed how much press it's getting. And a few people recognize me from the news or paper and jokingly asked for an autograph, but tell me good for me for taking a stand."
"I am not religious at all, so my thing is I respect your opinion if you respect mine, but don't shove your beliefs on others," she says. "Women deserve to have the choice to do what they want with their bodies. It's not anyone elses business. Women are smart enough to make those decisions."
By night, Shea can be found honing her stand-up skills, a craft she's been practicing for about a year. She said she "fell in love with making people laugh, and been trying to work on it everyday."
While this was her first social media protest, Shea is no stranger to culture war politics. "I believe everyone deserves equal rights," she said. "I'm a huge supporter of marriage equality and equal rights for the LGBT community. Being able to be in my hometowns pride parade for the past 7 years has been such an honor. I was at the Senate when marriage equality passed in New York. Such an incredible feeling being a part of history and giving people the strength to keep fighting."
Her protest hasn't just drawn admirers, though.
"I've been getting a lot of rude comments, from mostly men and older white women, calling me a whore or a slut," she said. "I'm a baby killer, all because I believe women should have a choice. Comments saying I'm lazy, or need to stop being liberal. Been called fat, and my body DOES not apologize. I'm proud to be a normal human size 13. I dont let any negative comment bother me. I laugh and move on."
We can't wait to see what she moves on to.
Here are the rest of Shea's Hobby Lobby photos: