Friday, October 5, 2007
Rules: Post eight random facts about yourself. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag eight people and list their names. Leave the people you tagged a comment on their blog, letting them know that they've been tagged.
1. I want to be a writer, want to write great stories, but have a rather crippling writer's block. It's all about being caught up in my ego, thinking I have to write something fantastic and that it has to be right the first time. I've won NaNoWriMo once and failed it twice. Maybe this year I'll break through.* I've never been able to find a writing voice that sounds like me. I wrote journals a long time ago, but they sounded funny. I hate my story-writing voice. My academic voice is pretty distant and impersonal. I constantly feel extremely self-conscious when I write.
2. I hate my job buckets, though my bosses haven't caught on. I bow and scrape and do all the work cheerfully, then go home and snap at my partner. I want to just break free but I'm the one supporting us, so I have to suck it up. Then I think about all the people who have no hope of breaking free ever, and wish I could re-order all of goddamn society.
3. I feel both invisible, and the desire to be invisible in everyday life. I like being nice to the people I interact with and being a "good" customer, and I am so crippled by the need to not get in anyone's way that my regular body position is crouched, hunched over, trying to get smaller. A lot of times people don't seem to notice me, so it seems to be working.
4. I have issues with food. I've never dieted, but I have severe sensory issues associated with food, so I'm a very picky eater and feel very self-conscious about it. I hate for others to see me eat or know that I eat at all. I feel morally virtuous when I eat a vegetable, and morally wrong when I eat something junky. I hate that mentality, but I also hate that I eat junk food at all. I wish I could go to stores and be invisible as I buy things (see above). I imagine judging eyes on me at all times, even though I know it's probably just me.
5. I get along very well with my mom, and I'm trying to nurse her along to a more radical point of view. I've come pretty far with feminism, but whenever I try to talk to her about race, she changes the subject.
6. When I look in the mirror, I don't see me. The me in the mirror, that others see, is not how I look on the inside. I'm ok with this, and tend to dress and act in ways that suit me internally, not the mirror.
7. I don't have a blogroll. It seems too fraught with cliquishness, even though I know it facilitates communication and makes connections. I'd rather just keep reading the blogs I read and comment on the ones I want to, rather than slapping up a link and feeling secure that I've fulfilled my "quota" of "correct" bloggers that I endorse. I'm such a loner anyway, that I'm not that interested in joining any sort of "community" on the web. I'm happy to mostly read and observe and occasionally engage. I'm also not tagging anyone for this meme. I've not really been that friendly yet.
8. I finally read "Women Who Run With the Wolves" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and it was fabulous. I love the idea of myth and archetype (why I read tarot) even though I'm not at all spiritual. The human brain is capable of amazing things.
*I'm hoping, this year, to write a story that actually deals with oppression and race. I'm not thinking that this will be a legitimate portrayal, but hopefully it will help me examine some of my ideas, preconceptions, and questions, and help me figure out some of the areas I need to learn more about.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
She starts her recent Thursday Thirteen post with a rundown of the politics related to childbirth and race, as it is in the mainstream as well as the fringe homebirthing “community.” I’m loving what she says, and of course agree with her on the thirteen unnecessary interventions that she lists.
I think a lot about the kind of midwife I want to be. Since I’m not currently studying, all I can really do in that department is read and explore my own thoughts. Honestly, though, I don’t think that gaining experience will change my fundamental attitudes, especially the ones that have always been with me. I’m having some trouble lately integrating my radical ideas with my ingrained personality, and I’m working on that a lot too—I think it relates intimately to my eventual goals and how I’ll practice.
DarkDaughta also recently posted about being “nice” and I have to say that “nice” is exactly how I’ve been very effectively socialized to be. There’s a fundamental split in me right now—part of me has always rebelled against patriarchal values, but I’m also deeply committed to making others feel good and never getting in anyone’s way. As an adolescent, I examined the values I was learning about, like those in Christianity, and automatically knew that they weren’t mine. I’m not sure exactly how I, a good little girl who never had tantrums in public, who went to church every once in a while and lived in a totally white-bread environment, realized that I didn’t think being queer was bad, thought women should have equal rights, didn’t think that blacks or Asians or Mexicans were worse than “us.” In fact, at an age where my school was telling us not to have premarital sex, I instantly resolved to, then waited until I was in college and in a committed, patriarchally sanctioned het relationship. I knew I was bisexual, but didn’t act on it, and was then slapped down when I tried to mention it to a parent. I was a rebel in hiding, and still mostly am to this day. I do think that the fact of my hiding my “unacceptable” views (to this day, my family doesn’t know I’m not Christian) showed to me that I wasn’t rebelling for rebellion’s sake, but in fact was acting on deeply held views that held strong through the years.
Thinking about something and acting on it are of course drastically different. Until I actively enact and support my own views, I feel like a hypocrite, and I don’t even make myself useful by writing and convincing others to act. I know that I have a lot of potential and amazing skills that could really make a difference, once I figure out how to allow myself to do it.
Finding a balance between rebelling and following the rules, being passive and being active, is a major personal goal of mine as well as something I consider crucial to being a midwife. My vision of being a midwife is distinctly not that of having power over someone. Only the birthing woman should have power over herself, only she should be making the decisions, calling the shots on what happens to her body, her baby. A midwife should be someone of equal stature, who is simply a trained professional offering her perspective and the knowledge of experience to give advice when a birthing woman has questions. Perhaps she is somewhat like a nature guide—pointing out signposts and interesting species that you might miss if you’re not familiar with the trail, but not actually doing the walking for you. Ideally, this is the level of status that all medical professionals should be at, not the current status of “saving” women from their own incompetent bodies, by mutilating them further.
I don’t know, but I hope, that I will be able to manage to keep to this level of power while working with women who have less privilege than I do. I don’t know if the dynamic is too unbalanced to be fixed, but it has to start somewhere. Thinking about the decolonizing aspect of black women taking back their births is inspiring. The idea of meddling, of assaulting, of physically violating black women’s bodies during such a sacred, intimate time as birth is horrifying to me, and echoes the violent oppression of the past that is continuing to haunt us in its remembered form today as well as the too-frequent actual repetitions that take place. The right to bodily integrity and to decisions over one’s own body is a fundamental one that is directly opposed to slavery. The idea of the medical establishment, or even one insensitive midwife taking over that power, even briefly, even “for her own good” smacks of white patriarchal oppression. All women, but especially black women, need options so they are not trapped into this system, and the options need to be available to everybody.
A fabulous organization that is working on this is the International Center for Traditional Childbirth at www.blackmidwives.org, which I was happy to see featured in this month’s Mothering magazine. They have a doula program, they travel to Africa to train midwives there, and they have a mentorship program for black women who want to become midwives. I intend to donate to them when I can and perhaps get involved in some way, once I have more to offer.
Hmm, I just deleted a rant about a post on another midwife’s blog because I thought it might be crossing the line into way too mean. Is it ok for me as a white, privileged person, to call out others for their privilege? Still working on that I think… if you’re interested write me.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
I’m on a path to becoming a midwife, and I have encountered setbacks. The school I was going to attend was closed, so now I’m searching for another way. I’m still determined to do it, but I think I need to reexamine what I want to accomplish in this career. The basic premise, I guess, is that I want to help women. This is twofold: I believe homebirth with a midwife is better for women’s health, and I believe that the rite of passage birth offers is easier to accomplish at home. I believe in the power of women to birth unaided.
I see the role of a midwife in two ways as well; one is to be there in case anything goes wrong medically, and the other is to guard the space of the birthing woman and help guide her to the discovery of her inner power, if she needs it. The typical relationship of a care provider to patient is hierarchical, with power flowing one way. I see a midwife and her client as having a mutually beneficial relationship. The client is hiring the midwife only to do what she herself might be unable to do, like most other professional relationships. A plumber doesn’t have power over you, just because she knows how to fix your pipes and you don’t. And, if you cared to, you could learn to fix pipes and do it yourself.
As your typical white woman feminist, I got pretty excited by the prospect of helping women take back the power from the hospitals and the men in white coats and claim it for their own. I still see midwifery as a feminist pursuit, though all midwives do not act in feminist ways. Therefore I was kind of surprised when I read about how the homebirthing and attachment parenting movements are almost exclusively middle-class and white.
I don’t know why I was so surprised, I mean, DUH. Hadn’t I seen many, many conversations about racism on Motheringdotcommune and seen them disintegrate as hordes of white people completely deny not only their privilege but the existence of racism? Hadn’t I seen how people of color were completely marginalized on that site, and, really, ANY parenting site?
The last straw for me came when I started trying to advocate for natural birth on a general women’s message board. I got frustrated by all the people who denied that homebirth could be safe, or that interventions could be harmful. Then I took a step back and thought: these women are white, middle-class, educated and privileged. If they really want, they can do some fucking reading, do some thinking, and hire a midwife and have a swell birth. They have all the resources at their fingertips. And while I’m worried about white women becoming enlightened and having a fabulous birth experience, black women are dying because insurance coverage and prenatal care are shit in this country. Who should I be worried about? Who should I try to take an interest in, and whose situation deserves more improving?
If I truly believe midwifery care is best for every woman, then it should be available for every woman. Here’s another big “but” though—if I want to make this care more available for disadvantaged women, poor women, women of color, I need to listen and see if this is something they want. At this point, I feel like just another white woman coming in and telling them what to do, what they ought to want. That’s no better than the hospitals doing that. After reading Dark Daughta’s blog, I see that there are black women who want the freedom to birth as they want, and that they do want midwifery assistance. However, figuring out how I can respect that and offer my services is going to be difficult. I am still the oppressor no matter how much work I do. I wouldn’t blame a woman for not wanting a white attendant, if she wants an attendant at all.
At this point in my path, these are the things I see to do. I will become a midwife because I think we need more midwives in the world. I will continue to listen to women of color and see what care they want. For those who want it, I will offer my care. I will try to reach out to and serve as many families of color as I can. When I take apprentices, I will try to choose women of color who want to work in their community. I will share any knowledge I gain freely, and I will attempt to make my services as cheap as possible. I will try to find other midwives of color and work with them. I will challenge the stereotype either that only rich white people homebirth, or that only poor people homebirth.
Should I add another white midwife to the world? I don’t know if I ‘should’, but since I’m going to, I’m going to try to make her the most humble, least oppressive midwife she can be. I’m going to try to do as much good as I can without stepping on people’s toes. And I hope when I do step on their toes, they will call me on it. I’m a work in progress, and I’m listening.
So, I’ve been told by my partner that if I have a blog, I really should start posting in it. I started out all fired up, but recently I’ve been doing a lot more reading others’ words and thinking than wanting to write. I’m sort of doing my own women’s studies course on my own. I’ve finally started dealing with my privileges (I know, about time!) and that means a lot of shutting up and listening. I’m hoping I’ll be able to make enough progress to be an actual ally and fighter in the battle against oppression. As I am right now, I’m fairly useless.
I’ve had an interesting journey so far in that I’ve naturally become a radical feminist, while still fairly brainwashed into being docile and conforming. Most of my progress, however, has been fairly centered on me—freeing my body and my mind from the patriarchy. I’ve worked through different religions and rejected them. I’ve struggled with (and still do) acceptance of my body and my sexuality. As a woman, I’ve examined the ways women are oppressed, but I’ve done it from the standpoint of a white, middle-class woman. Up until pretty recently, I’ve been dimly aware of my various privileges, but not really done anything about them, just accepted them. A few things have happened in the last year to make me start to open my eyes, and I’m grateful for it. I don’t want to go through life with blinders on. I want to help make the revolution happen, and there is no way white, mainstream feminism is going to accomplish that.
I can credit a lot of things to helping with this eye-opening, but the thing that really pulled it together for me was first, reading Dark Daughta’s blog (www.darkdaughta.blogspot.com), and then reading bell hooks’ “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center.” This book really pulled it together for me and laid it out: if women of color are the class that experiences the most oppression, it is them we must listen to to formulate and direct the movement. While I can relate best to mainstream feminism because it caters to people exactly like me, the movement itself perpetuates the kind of hierarchical, patriarchal thinking that we are trying to eliminate. While claiming to want to free all women, it has not focused on the poor or women of color who are suffering the most under patriarchy. The answer is not inclusion, where the white feminists who hold the power invite women of color to come in and participate in “our” movement. The answer is to move the margin to the center and listen to their theories, not insist that ours are right. It’s the same thing we’ve been asking men to do, to recognize that their privilege blinds them to the problems of the oppressed. True solidarity means acknowledging the right of the oppressed to dictate the movement, not the oppressor.
This means I’m starting to make the shift in how I read, who I listen to, how I react to what I read. I’m trying to change my reading habits, in books and blogs, away from white- and upper-class-centered feminism. I’m reading the words of the angry and asking myself why they hurt me. In order to progress on my journey, I’m going to get mighty uncomfortable, and that’s good. I also think I need to do a lot more processing before I start interacting seriously, because I have a lot to learn. I do hope to grow enough to be useful, and that it will be sooner or later. I’m determined to do it though. I will also give full credit to those whose words have touched me, because I’m thankful for them. For now, let this blog be a partial map of my journey.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Because of my philosophies about blogging, I am disabling comments for the time being. I feel it is important for commenters to have read more than one or a few posts in order to grasp the context of my words and the person who is saying them. Once I have posted enough to feel that there is a clear theme and context to my body of posts, I will allow thoughtful, insightful comments from those who wish to discuss the nuances of my radical ideas. I would like to start talking to others in this fight whom I respect, and I feel I need to establish myself and my opinions first. I am not interested in debate for debate’s sake. I am not interested in arguing with people who are diametrically opposed to me. I will also of course delete any unhinged posts, spam, or threats and insults to myself or other commenters.
However, most of all, this blog is about me and for me. It’s not to educate or entertain. I’m starting it because I’ve been inspired by some forthright women to be just that—to put my thoughts out there and speak with clarity and passion. I know I need this for my own personal growth, so I’m doing it.
Thank you for reading. Please read on if you’re interested in hearing about me, my experiences and my views.