Thursday, April 28, 2016

What I've Never Regretted, and What I Always Will

I thought I was ready for a baby three years ago. I had a great job, a great spouse, and had spent years consuming every developmental psychology text I could get my hands on. There's a certain smugness that comes with being a non-parent. Everything looks easier when you're disconnected from it.

Now that I'm pregnant, I cannot believe it is legal for me to raise a child. I find myself constantly ruminating on what I can possibly offer another human. I keep drafting letters of advice to my child, only to realize all the things I've fucked up in the past, and all the things I'll fuck up in the future.

This isn't about doubting myself or about self-esteem. I know (hope? pray?) that I'll be a good mom, and my mistakes are what have brought me to the incredible life I have now. Knowing how naive I've been in the past, though, makes me realize how naive I am now. Ten years from now I'll laugh at myself for being so stupid, knowing so little, and screwing up so much.

That's called life.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Greenwashing Zika: If You Tell Women Zika Isn't Caused by Mosquitoes, You're Putting Babies in Danger

Earlier this month, the CDC announced that it is now certain of the link between Zika and the birth defect microcephaly. But that did nothing to stem the tide of conspiracy theories. Every time I post about Zika or mosquitoes on Facebook, the greenwashers come out to explain to me what the "real science" says. Of course, they can never point to any actual real science. No peer-reviewed studies, no cellular evidence that Zika is harmless, no reason at all to believe that women and their babies will be safe if the epidemic comes to the U.S. 

I've been patient. You'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger defender of natural living and critical thinking than me. Just a few months ago, I got into a vitriolic debate with someone who insisted that we should drive mosquitoes to extinction. I understand that authorities lie, that Big Pharma really is evil, and that the advice our doctors give us is not always right. 

I also believe in science. Science tells us that "natural" approaches like breastfeeding are often better. But it also tells us that infectious diseases are real, and that nature is not an all-loving, all-forgiving mother who has our best interests at heart. Evolution is directionless and purposeless. It has no interest in protecting us, or anyone else. But greenwashers believe that natural is always better and that infectious diseases must always be due to modern medicine or technology. This approach usually ranges from harmless to annoying, but in the case of Zika, it endangers the lives of women and babies. 

Greenwashers: Stop telling women Zika is not real, does not cause microcephaly, or can be treated with natural remedies. Every time you spread this misinformation, you endanger babies. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Feminist Parenting, and Why Men Who Do Their Fair Share Aren't Doing Us a Favor

My husband does all the cooking, food preparation, and food shopping in our house. We split the cleaning. I manage the finances. We're equally involved in planing for the arrival of our child. From reading studies about birth to picking clothing and helping my family plan my baby shower, my husband has been right there alongside me every step of the way.

People constantly tell me how lucky I am, how grateful I should be, how good I have it.

I love my husband. But I'm not grateful.

Friday, April 22, 2016

What Does a Feminist Birth Look Like?

Feminism has a motherhood problem. Something about birthing a member of the next generation seems to exclude women from feminist discourse. Don't believe me? Consider the fact that women with young children are routinely asked to leave feminist events, that the child-free movement freely uses grossly sexist language without feminist corrections, and that many feminists continue to believe that staying home with children is not work.

Nowhere is this issue more prevalent than in the debate over birth. Home births have steadily increased over the past decade, yet this sudden surge in reproductive activism is hardly a blip on the feminist radar. When feminists do wade into the childbirth debate, it's usually to assert--with absolutely certainty--that there is only one correct way to birth a child. This dichotomous approach to parenting completely neglects the very real issues feminist mothers face, not to mention the stunning coercion and abuse women face when they give birth.

There is no single feminist way to give birth, but there is a feminist way to approach birth.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why Are People So Mean to Pregnant Women?

People often ask me why people are so mean to pregnant women. After all, it's not exactly normal to tell a stranger she's fat, grab her body, or inquire about her sex life. These questions often contain hints of disbelief or blame. Maybe I'm exaggerating to get attention. You know, because it's proven fact that frustrating stories are the best way to garner attention. Perhaps I'm doing something to provoke people. In this justification, otherwise normal people can be induced to grab strangers or insult their bodies. People who have never been pregnant simply don't want to accept that sporting a baby bump subjects many women to abuse.

This doubt of women's stories is nothing unusual. Although 1 in 3 women faces workplace sexual harassment, these incidents almost never lead to winning lawsuits. Even police officers don't believe rape victims. Women domestic violence survivors often face queries about what they did to provoke their attackers, even when blood drips down their battered, bruised faces.

A world where women lie about abuse or provoke people to abuse them is a much safer world than one where innocent women face a climate of assault and abuse. Victim-blaming, I think, derives from the desire to feel safe, to find some reason it couldn't happen to you. And for people who have never been pregnant, the abuse women face at a highly vulnerable time may be too shocking to accept. When I share my stories with pregnant women, though, I hear only sympathy, echoes of agreement, and usually an assortment of shocking stories.

Statistics points to the very real nature of pregnancy-related abuse: Murder is the number one cause of death in pregnant women. Pregnant women are 60% more likely than non-pregnant women to face violence. 

So I'm a little hesitant to address why exactly it is that pregnant women get so much abuse. Nevertheless, it's a fair question. Understanding this phenomenon does not require victim-blaming, and greater insight is a necessary prerequisite to ending abuse of pregnant women. I don't think there's a single explanation, and I don't think all pregnant women experience equal levels of abuse. Because feminists have largely ignored pregnancy and motherhood, there's not much empirical research addressing this phenomenon. There's not a right answer--except, of course, that it's not women's fault. Some ideas:

Friday, April 15, 2016

How to Respond When People Touch Your Pregnant Stomach

One of the most frustrating things I've discovered about pregnancy is that random strangers think it's okay to touch me solely because I'm carrying a little person inside of me. It's as if I've ceased to be a person myself. Not only is it a huge violation. It can also be downright jarring when a random stranger sneaks up behind me and grabs me.

There's no perfect response, because people who do this seem to believe it is their fundamental right to touch pregnant women against their will. Even some pregnant women defend this practice as something we all just have to grin and bear--as if we should be grateful when a creepy stranger touches a sensitive part of our bodies.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Sexism of the 'Mommy Wars': Why It's Anti-Feminist to Belittle Parenting Disputes

Breastfeeding or formula? Crib or co-sleeping? Hospital birth or birth at home? Cry it out or attachment parenting? If you have an opinion on any of these issues and you're a woman, then you're part of what has been dismissively labeled the "Mommy Wars."

You know, because parenting is trivial, women are crazy, and whenever a woman has a strong opinion on anything it must be dismissed. So pervasive is the Mommy War narrative that, in many spaces, women cannot even discuss parenting philosophies without being criticized for participating in this "stupid" and "pointless" debate.

People fight about lots of things, and lots of things that matter significantly less than how we rear the next generation. Yet only disputes between women about something still viewed as women's work gets dismissed as a pointless debate unworthy of consideration. Want to endlessly compare Star Wars to Star Trek or devote your afternoon to analyzing whether unbaptized heathens get into Heaven? Completely valid. Dare to question whether the dominant parenting paradigm is healthy for children, though, and you've just crossed the line into trivial, empty blather.