After the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, ending federal protections for abortion, American women showed their disapproval in many ways: by publicly protesting, by publishing opinion pieces, and by registering to vote in often unprecedented numbers. The collective impact of these actions may result in what is optimistically being called Roevember: a rejection in the November 8 state and federal election of elected officials who opposed women’s right to privacy and autonomy.
I haven’t been able to pinpoint the precise origin of “Roevember,” a portmanteau of Roe and November. The earliest usages I’ve found are from early August 2022 (let me know if you’ve found earlier examples!).
On August 1, Insider New Jersey reported on sightings of “See You in ROEvember” T-shirts at a Democratic gathering in Morris County.
“See You in Roevember” throw pillow, $29.99 at Fed Up Frannie’s
“Roevember Is Coming” was the headline on a September 7 article by author and filmmaker Michael Moore. The phrase, which evokes “Winter Is Coming,” the title of the first episode of “Game of Thrones,” was recycled in the headline on a September 15 op-ed in The Hill that warned: “The GOP has only itself to blame.”
Meidas Touch used nine exclamation marks (!!!!!!!!!) on a ROEVEMBER IS COMING tweet.
ROEVEMBER IS COMING!!!!!!!!!— MeidasTouch (@MeidasTouch) September 1, 2022
If you prefer your politics in a subdued whisper, you can opt for a hand-embroidered sweater ($380) from Lingua Franca, “a line of sustainably-sourced, fair trade luxury cashmere sweaters, all hand-stitched by women in NYC.”
For that sum, you can buy a lot of stickers from Etsy vendor Foxy Feminist.
Democratic politicians have been invoking Roevember, too. Here’s a tweet from Scott Huffman, a Democratic House candidate in North Carolina.
And Terri Pickens, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Idaho.
We’re not letting anyone take away our freedoms without a fight . Almost 60% of the new voters registered in Idaho since the Supreme Court decision are women. Time to reclaim our rights at the polls. #roevember #idpol pic.twitter.com/2z4ZH38mlW— Terri Pickens Manweiler For Idaho (@TerriForIdaho) September 15, 2022
Linguistically, there are a couple of interesting things about “Roevember.”
The coinage follows the example of “Movember,” which was started in 2003 by two Australian men as a campaign to bring moustaches (their spelling) back into fashion while raising awareness about prostate and testicular cancers. It has since grown into a global organization that has added mental health and suicide prevention to its list of causes.
Then there’s the “Roe” element, shorthand for Roe v. Wade, in which the party of the first part was actually Norma Leah Nelson McCorvey (1947-2017), who never did get the abortion she desperately wanted. She was an anonymous plaintiff in the 1973 Supreme Court case; her surname, like the “Doe” in “John Doe,” has a lot of history behind it, as Matt Soniak explained in a 2012 article for Mental Floss:
Frequently, landlords named the fictitious parties in their actions John Doe (the plaintiff) and Richard Roe (the defendant), though no one has been able to find the case where these names were first used or figure out why they were picked. The names don’t appear to have any particular relevance, and it might be that the first names were chosen because they were among the most common at the time. The surnames, meanwhile, both reference deer—a doe being a female deer and roe a Eurasian deer species (Capreolus capreolus) common in Britain. They might also have been the actual names of real people that a particular landlord knew and decided to use. Unfortunately, we just don’t know.