Birth wars: the politics of childbirth

Originally published by Glosswitch at the New Statesman

To be of woman born is a universal experience, yet women themselves remain a diffuse, fractured group. “What is a woman, anyway?” is still considered a deep, meaningful question to ask. The polite answer is, of course, “whatever anyone wants it to be”. More than that would close off the vessel, seal the hole, glue back together the broken shell. There’s a sense in which women are simply not meant to be whole. We need to be in pieces so that men can survive intact.

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Women Saying ‘No’

Originally posted at Gender Apostates

Women have always been called names for saying no. Frigid, bitch, prude. These words are meant to shame us into saying yes.

Women are supposed to be available, welcoming, obedient, and it has been the aim of the women’s movement since its inception to challenge these preconceptions, to say no to men’s definition of us.

It is thanks to feminism that since 1991 wives can say no to their husbands and have that ‘no’ backed up by law. It is thanks to feminism that women no longer have to accept dismissal if they marry or become pregnant. It is thanks to feminism that women in the West are beginning to feel confident in saying no to men in myriad different situations.

Prude, bitch, frigid don’t sting like they used to. Misogynists in the west are losing society’s assumption that women should say yes. Increasingly, it is they who are shamed for insisting. As feminists we applaud this.

However, when it comes to transgender males, men who wish to call themselves women – or more to the point want us to call them women – the story is very different. If we say no to the appropriation of our name, our bodies, our struggle, it is we women who are shamed. We’re being re-named: TERF, cis, transphobe. We’re being re-named by men who wish to try on the costume ‘woman’; they think it doesn’t fit us any more, us no-sayers are not the pliable girls of their dreams, and we must share.

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Why disregarding motherhood and women’s bodies won’t help feminism

Originally published at The New Statesman

Bodies matter. Bodies that eat, sleep, care, nurse, love and, yes, gestate. The world, and the sexism that pervades it, doesn’t make sense without them.

The first thing you should know is, I’m not like all the others. I’m not like all those women you see babbling at the playground gates, or in cafés, babes in arms, drifting mindlessly through the day, brains turned to mush due to sleeplessness, hormones and lattes.

I’m not one of the yummy mummies, smugly superior, or one of the earth mothers, slavishly devoted to their own little cult. I’m a person first, a mother second and female third, if at all.

That, at least, is how I used to think, through divisions, carefully analysing which parts of my life would render me most worthy of the status “full human being”.

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Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman

Originally posted at sian and crooked rib

What’s the hardest thing about being a woman? According to Caitlyn Jenner in today’s Buzzfeed, it’s deciding what to wear in the morning.
Maybe it was a joke? Maybe she was joking? Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and say she was joking. But I’m not sure who the joke is on. And right now, it feels like the joke is on all women. Because how trivialising it is, to say that the hardest thing we have to deal with is deciding what to wear. How pointless our battles for self-determination, bodily autonomy and liberation all sound, if our biggest worry is what to wear. It feels like if it is a joke, then I’m the butt of it.
But it got me thinking. What is the hardest thing about being a woman? Where to start! I’ve chosen my ‘Top Ten!’ below. Some of them are true for ALL women ALL of the time. (Edit: by referring to ALL women, I’m including trans women. I want to make it very clear that much of this list is true for all women including trans women.) Some are true for most women, most of the time. And none of them involve me deciding whether the T-shirt I put on this morning was the right length to cover my tummy.
Here goes…

Pregnancy and birth can never be “biologically neutral”

Originally posted at Woman-Centered Midwifery

Michelle: What we’re talking about is the biological reality of human beings, a dimorphic species made of males and females. And all we’re doing is observing: what is presenting on this newborn’s body? And when that mother is ready to receive that information, most of the time, she process that information herself.

MaryLou: I’ve been at so many births where the 45 minutes goes by before the family even thinks to look because they’re just so excited that the person is here, the baby is here. And the sex of the baby doesn’t even matter until they sort of come back out of the, like you said, that spiritual awe of the experience. But to say that we’re assigning sex or gender is no different than saying that we’re assigning human to the baby. Or that we’re assigning the baby’s species. These are biological facts and observations. When we do a newborn exam we always test to see if the baby’s palette is intact. We’re not assigning the baby with an intact palette. We’re observing.

Michelle: Either the baby has one, or the baby doesn’t have one. We’re doing an assessment. We do a new born exam and we’re looking at what is the characteristic of the baby. Have the testicles descended. These are all biological realities.

MaryLou: Are there ten fingers, are there ten toes. We’re not assigning—I’ve assigned you two hands—you know? And even beyond that, midwives have been arguing for a long time against pre-natal sex determination, and that we don’t believe ultra sound should be used gratuitously. We feel like that technology is unnecessary. Midwives have been advocating not finding out the sex particularly because we don’t want families assigning gender.

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The New Backlash: Introduction

Originally posted at The New Backlash

‘[T]ransgender” identity politics are not about the human rights of transsexual people. Transgender identity politics are about men weaponizing the suffering of transsexual people in order to destroy women’s boundaries and undermine basic feminist analysis.”

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