- The 16-year-old high school senior now consults with advocacy groups on how they can harness the power of the video-sharing service while managing homework and extracurricular activities.
Like many teenagers, Mehtaab Kaur of California got hooked on TikTok, thanks to the lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. But instead of posting self-made dance and silly videos, she used the app to create a social movement, which is even more relevant today, nearly a year-and-a-half after its creation.
After seeing anti-abortion groups gain traction with TikTok’s young, impressionable audience, Kaur sent an email to hundreds of reproductive rights organizations. According to the Daily Beast, Kaur, in her email, warned the pro-choice groups and activists to “capitalize” on the “serious, untapped potential” of TikTok to counter the pro-lifers, and reach out to the youngsters.
And now, the 16-year-old high school senior “juggles homework, equestrian polo practices, and consultations with advocacy groups on how they can harness the power of the video-sharing service,” the Daily Beast noted.
According to the Daily Beast report, Kaur emailed organizations like “the Guttmacher Institute, multiple abortion funds and every branch of NARAL and Planned Parenthood she could find to create accounts and start posting videos.” Additionally, she gave them instructions on the preferred length of the video, as well as suggesting that they put someone young in charge of that task. “I don’t mean to push a sense of urgency, but I cannot allow pro-life organizations to blatantly spread lies on an app that is comprised of so many younger, and impressionable children/teens,” she wrote, the Daily Beast report said.
Her email caught the attention of those working for abortion rights, and now, according to the Daily Beast report, “the high-school senior who juggles homework, equestrian polo practices, and consultations with advocacy groups on how they can harness the power of the video-sharing service.”
Kaur told the Daily News that when she reached out to the organizations, she was under the impression that they would get TikTok and take care of the outreach. However, she quickly realized that many of the people she had reached out to, had no idea how to use the app. “And that’s where I came in,” she told the Daily Beast.
Kaur’s involvement and the risk of an increase in anti-abortion laws in several states, has given rise to “AbrtionTok,” — “the term pro-choice advocates use to describe their space” on the platform, according to the Daily Beast. “The most popular accounts have more than half a million followers and regularly garner tens of thousands of likes.”
However, the Daily Beast report notes that “before Kaur and other advocates joined the app, anti-abortion organizations like LiveAction had an outsized voice among TikTok’s predominantly young, liberal audience.”
It wasn’t all that easy for Kaur’s campaign to kick off, the Daily Beast notes. “Many organizations said they didn’t have time for another social media app; a few said they wanted to join but didn’t know how.”
Kaur’s single-minded focus on the issue is personal, the Daily Beast said. At age 13, she lost an aunt in India who was impregnated by a man who did not want to marry her. “The incident impressed on her the weight of the stigma around abortion and unwanted pregnancy and reminded her that these issues are closer to home than you might think,” the Daily Beast report noted. “There’s this huge campaign: ‘[Everyone knows] someone who’s had an abortion,’” Kaur told the news website. “It’s the same for me, but I know someone who couldn’t get an abortion and had to deal with the consequences of that.”
She has some advice for her clients. One of them is to drive home the fact that “the point of TikTok isn’t to convince the viewer, but to make them feel something.” She told the Daily Beast: “I tell people, ‘If you want to get people hooked, try making them feel hopeful, try making them feel proud, and try making that emotion come through in the video you’re making,” she said. “If they feel the right way, they’re going to remember it, and they’re going to continue having that conversation with other people they know, and it’s just going to spread like wildfire.”
Kaur, who is currently applying for colleges, wants to major in marketing and apply it to work at nonprofits. And as the Daily Beast notes, when Kaur, described as “catalyst” for AbortionTok, “moves on with her life,: her legacy in the movement “will live on.”