Firstly I’d like to state that I am a loud supporter of a woman’s right to bodily integrity, be that in her desire to become a mother or in remaining childless. Given the overwhelming pressure society places on women to bear children I admire any woman who opts out of motherhood because she has no interest in it. It is better to opt out of motherhood than to bring unwanted children into the world.
I have opted IN for motherhood and am fortunate enough to live in a country where I do have some semblance of choice as far as that goes.
Yesterday I was labelled a “Disposable Foetus Vessel”. Yes that’s right. I was also told that I am not oppressed and that in fact patriarchy LOVES me because of my “disposable foetus vessel” status. Who told me that? Who on EARTH would call a woman that!? Who would try and define the experiences of another human being without ever having walked a day in their shoes?
A feminist. A childless “feminist”.
So after telling her that I had no interest in engaging with her hostility I left the page (a Facebook page for feminists – apparently) and I sat down to think about how privileged I am to be a mother, and all the many ways that patriarchy, quote “has got my back” unquote. I also thought about many many ways in which mothers – the vast majority of women around the world – are oppressed by their motherhood.
Here’s the list of privileges, it won’t take long. I am privileged to be a mother because motherhood has given me immeasurable joy. It has also given me grief, pain, frustration, and so many other emotions and physical alterations that I can’t list them all. However I perceive those to be a part of the privilege of motherhood. Without them I would not know how strong I am, how resilient, how resourceful, and how much I appreciate simply being myself. I told you it was a short list. It’s a pretty profound list though.
Now we come to the ways in which I have been oppressed, and the ways that women around the world are oppressed daily by virtue of our bodies being the “vessels” through which the human race continues.
Around the world women die in childbirth because they are unable to access good nutrition, clean water, other hygienic necessities, and sometimes a lack of medical assistance. Women also die in childbirth because of the overuse of medical technology during pregnancy and birth. If you want to take a guess at where deaths from poor nutrition happen and where the deaths from the over use of surgical birth happen, you only need to think of the countries where the money is, and the countries that are war torn, drought ridden, and impoverished. Obstetricians want to be where the money is, not where the women who need them are. Right now there is a woman in a poor country dying to give life to a child, and there is a woman in a wealthy country dying because someone is giving her the caesarean that the poor woman actually needs. They might both bleed to death.
Another major killer of women during pregnancy is men, more specifically, men that are known to the woman, normally the fathers of the baby the woman is carrying. Yep, that’s right, of all the women around the world who are dying in pregnancy and childbirth one in five of the deaths that occur during pregnancy are homicide. It even has its own name now “pregnancy associated homicide”.
The “feminist” in question informed me that pregnancy and birth are life threatening and that “natural birth advocates” such as Nancy Wainer Cohen, Gloria Lemay, Henci Goer, Michel Odent, Sheila Kitzinger, and Marsden Wagner are actually giant backers of patriarchy who are deliberately lying to women about safety in order to trick us into endangering our lives by giving birth – especially at home and without pain relief. However if we look at the deaths in pregnancy caused by lack of obstetrics, over use of obstetrics, and homicide, it’s safe to say that mothers are endangered more by male dominance, patriarchy, and capitalism, than by the pregnancy and birth itself. That doesn’t strike me as overwhelming evidence of “privilege” for mothers!? Nor does it strike me as patriarchy “backing” us in any way shape or form.
When women enter motherhood they face a multitude of issues. Many women face motherhood with the emotional and physical scars of obstetric birth or the lack thereof. Many women face motherhood that is filled with fear, poverty, violence, and some women even face motherhood that they didn’t want to face but had no way or means to avoid. Once again, where is the backing of patriarchy? Perhaps this is where the “disposable foetus vessel” stuff comes into play … but if that’s the case then why are we expected to raise the children, the ones the patriarchy longs for? Why do so many women have to care for these products of patriarchy in poverty?
Any woman who believes that mothers are privileged by patriarchy has never faced an abuser in family court. She’s never lived on welfare that was less than normal because the father of the child claims to pay child support that he doesn’t pay, or because she is fearful of claiming it because he has made threats against her and the children. Any woman who sees mothers as privileged has never taken the blows of an abuser to protect her child or because she was pregnant with an unplanned child. Any woman who believes that mothers are privileged has never gone hungry so that her children would have enough food. Any woman who believes that mothers are privileged has never had to hide money away from an abuser so she could pay rent, bills, medical expenses, or groceries before he could buy drugs, spend it on porn or gambling. Any woman who believes that mother’s are privileged has never considered the true nature of oppression and patriarchy. She has fooled herself into thinking that she is above that, but really she has just walked a different path.
Where is my privilege if I am merely a “disposable vessel”? I can’t be both privileged and disposable because they are at complete odds with each other, it’s a complete contradiction. A not terribly well thought out insult designed to silence another woman – or actually, the overwhelming majority of women around the world! The privileged items in my house are on the mantle piece, the disposable ones are in the bin. Maybe some “feminists” do it differently!? I’m not privileged by motherhood, nor do I live under the protection of patriarchy, and I’m not disposable either. And one thing is even more certain than anything else, I’m sure as hell not about to be disposed of by a woman who calls herself a feminist but has never experienced the joy, pain, fear, isolation or blatantly obvious oppression of motherhood in a capitalist patriarchy.