Category Archives: Motherhood/Parenting/Birth

7 billion

This post over at Feminist Philosophers is succinct but brilliant. It captures the feeling of hope which I think has been completely lost in all the doomsday articles on over-population and armageddon type scenarios about the end of the world as we know it now that we are 7 billion, and not 6-billion-and-something.

Yes, if all 7 billion consumed the resources that I do right now, it really would be the end of the world, and quick. But they don’t, and hopefully we will all find ways to meet the challenges that this population will bring with it.

Interestingly, addressing climate change is inherently linked with empowering women and girls. As this blog explains, a recent paper has found the most cost effective ways of spending climate change intervention dollars is via educating girls and increasing access to family planning. Through these outcomes I would also hope that maternal mortality and morbidity would decrease.

I too hope that this generation of girls has a brighter future than what we are currently able to see, particularly those who are born into the developing world.


The Other Side of Abortion

Pro-choice activists have long argued that abortion should be available on demand, and without apology. I am one of them, and I agree with that. But sometimes, things happen to those close to you that make you realise how complex and at times, awful, this can be when it’s translated into a specific set of circumstances in reality.

Someone close to me is currently pregnant and has found that there is likely (to be confirmed soon) complications with the brain development which mean that the baby would have very very serious disability* when born. Depending on the degree of this damage, the doctors are likely going to recommend termination. She is more than 30 weeks pregnant, and her and her partner want this baby very very much.

Of course, abortion isn’t the problem here – it didn’t create the developmental issues that are the cause of her anguish. But the fact that her and her partner have a choice to make is absolutely heartbreaking. What a choice to try to make.

Disability rights activists have long argued that all the screening and tests conducted in pregnancy are reinforcing the idea of a ‘perfect’ and ‘normal’ human and I completely agree. However, the kind of disability that they are talking about would bring quality of life into question, and neither of them are financially set up to be able to adequately care for a child who requires constant attention and care. But they desperately want a child, and she is over 40 years old. She had been thinking for the whole pregnancy that she was lucky to be pregnant and that she probably wouldn’t be able to have another child.

Sitting and talking with two pro-choice women this afternoon, the sentiment was that, while we completely support everyone’s right to choose, sometimes you just don’t want to have to choose. This kind of abortion story, heartbreaking and messy, has been almost completely left out of the pro-choice movement, because it’s difficult. Because it’s borderline for many people and because at 9 weeks we can call something a collection of cells but after 26 weeks, those cells can, if things work out that way, be sustained by medial support and intervention. But a machine cannot bring up a child. I don’t want to have a debate about when life begins, because as far as I’m concerned, a baby needs more than itself to survive and women have to be able to have these choices. We have to trust women. But in marginalising women who make choices in these grey areas which are so open to attack by anti-choicers, we really are silencing women who desperately need support and to be included in the pro-choice movement. Pro-choice activists need to accept that these women and their stories are just as valid as an unplanned pregnancy terminated at 7 weeks.

Of course, I don’t know that this is the way my friend’s story will end, and I hope that something wonderful happens and the next test tells a different story. But the way she is feeling now, she could use the support and the stories from other women to feel that she is not alone.

*for the record, I absolutely hate this term/word but am yet to find one which adequately replaces it without being equally able-ist or inadequate. Suggestions welcome!

Attraction and Subjectivity

Motherhood makes women more attractive? According to this psychologist, though I’m not sure if she’s just articulating her personal opinion or if this is based on some study she’s not talking about.

This isn’t the first article to assert features/characteristics which make people more attractive without contextualising these things within their cultural context. (See this mess earlier in the year about how black women are “not as attractive” as other women.)

I am so tired of social science, psychology, biological science and journalism (by not critically interrogating claims made by the afore-mentioned ‘experts’) maintaining and reinforcing a singular definition of what everyone finds attractive. Each time people panic about children’s self-esteem and body image, we should remember articles like this, which reproduce one version of attractiveness.

Then, of course, there is the way the article argues that women are always more attractive after childbirth. Please. Shall I mention white privilege as well?

Couldn’t we just have a definition of beauty that included individual differences and subjectivity? Wouldn’t that be nice!

Motherhood, femininsm and dichotomy

Last week, I attended an exhibition of art inspired by birth and the discourse which surrounds it. The art is brilliant, I was so moved by so many of the installations. I particularly enjoyed the “Hey Hetero” collection, highlighting the heterosexist assumptions which underlie much birth discourse and indeed the health system which is supposed to support women through pregnancy and birth. I won’t detail everything I liked, as it was all fantastic, and I encourage Melbournians to get on down and check it out! There is a good discussion of the exhibition and related culture/concepts at The Age.

What struck me though, and was a little disappointing, was the speech, welcoming and introducing the exhibition. And it wasn’t even all of the speech, just two tiny turns of phrase. I arrived late and heard only the last half (or so) of the speech. I am fairly sure the woman who was speaking was Rachel Power, a writer and editor, with interests in feminism, art and motherhood – clearly a perfect choice for such a launch. And I loved almost all of what she said and how she said it.

But! Twice that I heard, the idea that women have been reduced to only porn-subjects was raised. I can see that pornography (most especially bad porn that reduces women to passive objects) can contribute to the way women currently are disconnected from the reproductive functions and processes that their body is capable of. I do not reject this idea – but when we talk about this, lets not reduce the whole argument to black and white assertions of porn = objectifying women and therefore women aren’t connected to their bodies, and it’s all the fault of porn. Lets talk about this issue in the context of women as being a multiplicity of things – mothers, sexual beings, colleagues, friends, aunties, grandmothers etc etc etc etc etc, and from this, lets talk about the complexity. There are many things which contribute to the situation we currently have, where women often experience pregnancy and birth as something that happens “to them” rather than a positive, connected, embodied experience.

It is time that feminists, including the fabulous feminist mid-wives I have the pleasure of knowing, acknowledged that that pornography is not a black and white world of good and evil, and that contributing the whole of a problem to porn is not a helpful strategy. Lets talk about reembodiment of women, what that means across a spectrum of issues, and how that might look.

**Disclaimer: I’m sure not all midwives are anti-porn, or that all midwives don’t know there are many things that lead to women being disembodied. I’ve had many discussions with midwives about how there are many other factors, like the body-mind dichotomy which contribute to this. What I’m talking about here is lumping all pornography together and blaming all of a problem on that.