Loving your c-section, embracing the bottle, and resenting your baby

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Loving your c-section, embracing the bottle, and resenting your baby (courtesy of Jezebel, The Washington Post, and Salon, respectively)

Let me get this out of the way first: I am not a mother. Also, I love the idea of natural childbirth, breastfeeding, wearing your baby, and making your own baby food from your vegetable garden. These are all valid goals and life choices. But they are also a symbol of privilege. They indicate you probably have good health, enough money to decide if or when to go back to work, not to mention help at home, giving you time to devote to additional tasks. So let’s acknowledge that.

Laura Jane of Jezebel had this to say of her cesarean section:

“The point is, very few people choose to have a C-section (I suspect partly because they’re incredibly expensive if not medically necessary) but many do. And despite the huge amount of babies born this way, and with the best intentions possible, this ‘birthing experience’ is seen as somehow unfortunate, a last resort, which you’ll have feel regret for in the months to come.

But it’s not. It is scary and weird to experience no pain in childbirth, but the fact that there is no pain doesn’t make it a lesser experience. It’s just a different one.

It’s taken these months to figure out how I feel about people unintentionally making me feel like I’ve missed out on something with my lame, over-medicalized birthing scene. But I’ve never had any confusion about the experience itself: it was great. It was an awesome day all around and I wouldn’t change a thing. The baby (who was both upside down and backwards in there) was calling the shots, so why wring my hands and wish it could have been another way?”

Am I all for minimizing unnecessary c-sections? Absolutely. Do I think giving birth has become overly medicalized, sterilized, and industrialized? You bet. Should we be shaming women who for one reason or another end up having a c-section? No. Guess what? They got a healthy baby. When that happens, all the rest falls by the wayside.

When strangers, nurses, acquaintances, and friends judged Emily Wax-Thibodeaux for formula feeding her baby, she couldn’t decide if it was worth it to go into her entire medical history to explain why she wasn’t. Since, you know, she’d had a double mastectomy and was in remission for breast cancer.

“So holding my day-old newborn on what was one of the most blissful days of my life, I had to tell the aggressive band of well-intentioned strangers my whole cancer saga.

It felt particularly exhausting because this was the first time in nearly a decade that I could forget about cancer and enjoy having had a fairly easy pregnancy and giving birth to a healthy child.”

Dr. Shawna C. Willey, Emily’s breast surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said it best:

“I think that women who have made the difficult decision to have bilateral mastectomies have already grieved the loss of not being able to breastfeed. No group should make a woman feel guilty about the decisions she made . . . or make her feel inadequate about not being able to lactate.”

Women, why are we shaming each other? Parenting is hard enough. New motherhood was especially hard on Charlotte Hsu. She wrote, “I cried all the time. I missed the life that my husband and I once had. My friends tried to console me: It will get better, they said. But for me, in the months ahead, it only got worse.” And eventually, her quality of life did improve. But she didn’t experience that perfect bliss of new motherhood we’ve been told we must be feeling. Jessica Valenti addressed this as well in her fantastic book, Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness. She didn’t feel that immediate bond, either, because her child had so many medical issues that attachment didn’t come as easily as expected.

Fads come and go. Today it’s all natural attachment parenting, but inevitably the pendulum will begin to swing the other way. Babies are supposed to sleep on their backs now; they used to sleep on their stomachs. The absolute right thing to do becomes the absolute wrong thing to do. Maybe we (and I’m including myself here) should stop worrying about what everyone else is doing wrong, and instead be a support system to one another. Let’s be sounding boards, shoulders to cry on, and most importantly, open to the possibility that there is more than one right way to properly procreate.

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#TacoOrBeerChallenge Is Your Pro-Choice Alternative to the Ice Bucket

photo 

photo courtesy of yours truly

#TacoOrBeerChallenge Is Your Pro-Choice Alternative to the Ice Bucket

“What do ice buckets have to do with ALS? I don’t know. What do tacos and beer have to do with abortion? I don’t know that either.

What I do know is that eating tacos and drinking beer is more pleasurable than getting doused with ice water, and that lawmakers around the country are passing increasingly restrictive anti-abortion access laws. Which means abortion funds are now more necessary than ever as legal abortion becomes harder than ever to access—especially for those of us who don’t live in major urban centers.

So that’s all you have to do. Eat a taco and/or drink a beer—or a margarita, or a glass of Franzia, or a ginger ale, or a refreshing mineral water, hell, I don’t care what you drink, that’s how easy the Taco or Beer Challenge is. The Taco or Beer Challenge is about doing what’s right for your own taco and beverage needs, just like having an abortion—or not—is about doing what’s right for yourself and your family.”

I read this article several days ago, but I have been waiting to share it until I could say that I successfully completed the challenge! I went for both tacos AND beer, and I chose to donate to the Feminist Women’s Health Center, specifically to the Women in Crisis: Alison Fund:

“Named after an FWHC staff person who initially gave $250 of her own money to help a client in crisis, the Alison Fund allows us to provide health care services to women who are in desperate need of financial support. Such services include: annual exams, sonograms, abortion care, and birth control/IUD insertion.”

I hope you will consider taking the challenge and donating to an abortion provider in your community or to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which “fights against unfair laws while helping women who need abortions today.”

Kanye West Knows You Think He Sounded Nuts on Kimmel [Oct 2013]

Kanye West Knows You Think He Sounded Nuts on Kimmel [Oct 2013]

“I’m 9 or 10 and my mother and I are on a cross-country road trip when we decide to stop for breakfast at a small diner in Mississippi. I’m too young to be aware of the charged atmosphere of racial tension, but something feels odd. It feels odd when the people in the diner—most of whom are white—turn to look at my white mother and me, her brown son, as we enter and make our way to a table. It feels odd when my mom asks if there are raisins to put in her oatmeal and the waitress irritatedly spits, “No!” It feels so odd, in fact, that my mother asks our server if something is wrong: “No!” she barks again. It feels odd when the woman throws down the bill when we’re done eating. No one calls us names. No one threatens us. The surly waitress has even specifically told us nothing is wrong. But when we return to the car my visibly shaken mom pulls a canister of pepper spray out of the glove compartment and tests it on the ground to make certain it’s functioning properly.

I think one of the most damaging effects America’s omnipresent racism has on a person’s psyche isn’t the brief pang of hurt that comes from being called a slur, or seeing a picture of Barack Obama portrayed by a chimpanzee. Those things are common and old-fashioned, and when they happen I tend to feel sadder than angry, because I’m seeing someone who engages with the world like a wall instead of a human being. Rather, I think what’s far more corrosive and insidious, the thing that lingers in the back of my mind the most, is the framework of plausible deniability built up around racism, and how insane that plausible deniability can make a person feel when wielded. How unsure of oneself. How worried that you might be overreacting, oversensitive, irrational.

There’s a form of mental torture called “gaslighting,” its name taken from a play in which a man convinces his wife that the gas lights in their home she sees brightening and dimming are, in fact, maintaining a steady glow. His ultimate goal is to drive her into a mental institution and take all her money, and soon the woman ends up in an argument with herself about whether she’s losing her mind. American race relations have a similar narrative: An entire set of minorities confident that the everyday slights they’re seeing are real and hurtful, and an entire set of other people assuring them that they’re wrong.

In response to the shooting of Michael Brown, and the rioting that has followed in Ferguson, Missouri, I wanted to share one of the best essays about racism in America I’ve ever read. I read a wonderful article in the New York Times today about how white people are uncomfortable and confused; they don’t see that the world they live in is different than other people’s, even when they’re living in the same county. They don’t see their privilege. And I think this essay really speaks to that so well; it really breaks down the wall between perception and reality.

Let’s keep having this conversation, even after the headlines change.

Possibly the most widely held sentiment among whites is the hope that it all simply goes away. “I feel for everyone involved,” said Shannon Shaw, a jeweler in Mehlville. But, she added, “I think the protesters just need to go home.”

Even when they do finally go home, this all isn’t just going to go away for the protesters. They don’t have the privilege of going home to safe neighborhoods, where this is all only happening on the screens of their smart phones.

World Cup Soccer Stats Erase The Sport’s Most Dominant Players: Women

World Cup Soccer Stats Erase The Sport’s Most Dominant Players: Women

Only one thing mars my enjoyment of watching the World Cup, and it’s the absence of one small word. Just a tiny qualifier in a statistic that really should be corrected as our men’s team continues to gain respect internationally. So I ask the American commentators, please stop announcing that Landon Donovan is the “all-time U.S. leading goal scorer.” He is not. With 57 international goals, he’s not even in the Top Five.

The all-time U.S. leading goal scorer is Abby Wambach, with 167 goals, followed by Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). In fact, Abby Wambach is the all-time leading goal scorer in the world, among all soccer players, male or female.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Landon Donovan has achieved. It is commendable. But every time he sits there, silently allowing that phrase to be rattled off — “all-time leading U.S. goal scorer” — without pointing out that he is the all-time leading men’s goal scorer, it does take away from what Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm have achieved — total world domination.

In sports like tennis and gymnastics, where the U.S. women clearly outstrip their male counterparts, no one talks about the men’s statistics without that clarifier. Why is soccer different? Why are almost all other sports different? Why do people consistently claim that Mike Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in college basketball when he is still 115 wins behind Pat Summit, with a significantly lower win percentage (his .763 to her .841)? How hard would it be to simply slip the word “men’s” into the conversation, if nothing else, in the interest of accuracy?

Really great feminist analysis. What I love most about this article is how she ties the coverage of the World Cup to the corporate world, to politics, and to other sporting events. Her writing is very straightforward and easy to understand; the parallels she’s drawing are clear.

Tearing Down the Whorearchy From the Inside

Tearing Down the Whorearchy From the Inside

“I am often asked if there is solidarity among sex workers. The answer, as I’ve come to slowly and painfully discover, is no. We’re all essentially doing the same job — selling tickets to a fantasy — so you might imagine that, like retail, food service, or any other profession, we might have some form of solidarity. But what I’ve learned about the sex work hierarchy — or the whorarchy, if you will — has helped shed some light on some of the lies I believe all women are buying to one degree or another.

Since filming my first porn scene, I’ve discovered that sex work segregates itself along perceived social and legal lines ranging from phone-sex operation to stripping and porn to prostitution.”

This excellent piece was written by Belle Knox, the fascinating Duke student profiled in Portrait of a Porn Star.

[See also: There’s No Such Thing as a Slut]

Think You Know What ‘Queer’ Looks Like? Think Again.

Think You Know What ‘Queer’ Looks Like? Think Again.

In January 2014, Sarah Deragon posted a photo her wife had taken of her on Facebook with the words, “Queer Femme,” and The Identity Project was born. This photography project was launched because as a photographer, Sarah wanted to explore the labels that we use when we define our sexuality and gender. 

Sarah believes that The Identity Project resonates with people because the photo project pushes up against the preconceived notions of what it is to be LGBTQ in today’s society. Not only are the portraits striking, the participants in the project are playing with language, making up entirely new terms (transgenderqueer or inbetweener) and showing pride in their complex and ever changing identities.

Just fantastic. I love the idea of creating your own label, of really owning your identity. As the author of the Jezebel article stated,

I am firmly in the “labels are important and serve to bring people with similar marginalized experiences together” camp, although I know plenty of people within the queer community both in the West and in Japan who balk at labels. “Why do we even need labels,” they ask, “can’t we just get rid of all of the labels? We’ll be ever so much better off!” Well, I think that would be true if all identities and the expression of those identities were treated as equal. Then the unifying aspect of labels for marginalized identities wouldn’t be necessary. 

Check out Sarah’s website for more photos & information about her work. You can even donate money to expand her project to other cities across the country.

Sidenote: This reminds me so much of Project 562: Changing the Way We Native America. Another wonderful example of a photographer using her lens to help people see beyond labels and stereotypes.

Not Your “Fashion Dots”: The Continuous Appropriation of Bindis [July 2013]

Not Your “Fashion Dots”: The Continuous Appropriation of Bindis [July 2013]

When a non-South Asian person wears the bindi, it is generally seen as edgy and cute. Fans and music media alike praise these celebrities for their bold “fashion” choices. But when someone like me or my mom wears the bindi out in public, we are either stared down with dirty looks, told to go back to where we came from, or exotified as having magical qualities.

For my mom and me, it’s a mark of our otherness, a reminder that we don’t belong in this country and never will — unless, of course, we assimilate and leave our cultural symbols behind. Now that is what the dream of becoming a Canadian citizen is supposed to mean: having your culture sold as fashion statements and themes for dinner parties.

Cultural appropriation is a difficult subject to discuss. I already know some people will read this and their response will be, “they should get over it.” If that is your response, fine. I’m just here to remind you that getting over it is easier said than done, and whatever feelings you might have about this issue don’t invalidate someone else’s.

And in case you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up now (which is a valid question – the article is almost a year old), the answer is Coachella. Luckily, it seems that the Hipster Headdress is out of style, but that just means more bindis.

For more reading, check out Beyond Bindis: Why Cultural Appropriation Matters. (Her response to your get over it attitude is perfect, because she acknowledges that there are many bigger problems, but that doesn’t negate the fact that

a pop star like Selena Gomez wearing one is guaranteed to be better received than I would if I were  to step out of the house rocking a dot on my forehead. On her, it’s a bold new look; on me, it’s a symbol of my failure to assimilate. On her, it’s unquestionably cool; on me, it’s yet another marker of my Otherness, another thing that makes me different from other American girls. If the use of the bindi by mainstream pop stars made it easier for South Asian women to wear it, I’d be all for its proliferation — but it doesn’t.

Think about it.