A bitch has been attending NAPW Summit sessions like crazy!
There's a lot to cover and this bitch is taking tons of notes.
Several of the sessions have touched on the issue of reproduction as a privilege attained through class. Some women are seen as "legitimate reproducers" while other women are seen as having no business even considering childbirth much less moving forward with it. Those women who are seen as not being legitimate producers may be poor, women of color, lesbian or immigrants...but they are often not supported in their quest for motherhood or in their role as mothers.
Women who are not valued experience that quest differently...as illustrated through the challenge of involuntary childlessness. They often do not have access to fertility treatments since the growth of the fertility industry has been towards those legitimate producers...and certain medical treatments have been so defined as "fertility only" that women seeking treatment for other reasons are denied coverage.
This bitch experienced a bit of that myself whilst seeking treatment for fibroids. I wasn't trying to get pregnant (gasp). I just wanted to murder my fibroid Enid (that evil heifer) by removing her and hers from my uterus and get back to the bitness of living. However, my treatment was classified as a fertility treatment and my insurance company felt strongly that the only reason a woman wanted to address fibroids was to pursue pregnancy. Clearly the company manual neglected to mention the pain, constant bleeding and general drama associated with fibroids... y'all can trust that bitch brought those assholes up to speed (wink).
Anyhoo, I know that I was blessed to have insurance and I shudder to think of the women who face fibroids without it...who are often given the choice of pain or hysterectomy...and who rarely find funding sources for the kind of medical treatment this society has reserved for those legitimate producers on the cover of glossy magazines who are deemed worthy of pregnancy.
As I pondered the issue of who is and who isn't seen as a legitimate producer a bitch was conflicted. I am a volunteer in St. Louis and I work with young women who are homeless and either pregnant or new mothers. Motherhood is challenging...chil'ren cost money...and some of that legitimate shit is based on that. For example, I teach classes from the perspective that planned parenthood is empowered parenthood. No, unplanned pregnancy isn't the end of the world and unempowering (is that even a word?)....but black women who have chil'ren young and before they graduate high school face challenges because the same society that does not see them as legitimate producers does sees the denial of support as a punishment for having the audacity to argue the point.
The question for me as a volunteer on the ground and in the trenches is how to empower motherhood while encouraging sound planned decisions that benefit both mother and child? I'm talking about the world that is not the world we would like to build...the world that defines struggle as punishment and being poor as the wages of sin.
Yeah, these NAPW sessions sure know how to challenge a bitch to think outside of my box...BIG TIME (wink).
Thank Gawd they aren't leaving this bitch hanging!
One of the same sessions that explored the empowerment question also brought about an experience that demonstrated a possibility for addressing it.
Nicole Banton, a Ph. D. candidate at GSU, sat on the Feminist Sociologists Pulling the Strands of Their Lives and Work Together session I attended. She is a filmmaker and writer who is exploring the social factors that impact African American women's infant feeding choices, as well as how these choices impact their lives.
Nicole showed a film she is working on that documents black mothers and their breastfeeding experiences. Black women are less likely to breastfeed than other women. The film was excellent and I have Ms. Banton's contact information so I can score a copy for my classes once it is done...fantabulous!
Through the session I learned that inadequate health care, cultural insensitivity and family history play a role in why black women are less likely to breastfeed. Women of color shared their stories and the session went on and on as attendees shared strategies and advice.
As I went over my notes late last night I came to the conclusion that motherhood being a right doesn't mean planned parenthood is off the table...and that we can all learn a lot from listening to women rather than talking at them.
More to come...