Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sperm, Sugar, and the Baking of A Baby

CB posted an earlier reference to Redneck Mother's post on the perspective of women as "machine like" baby makers. Because there were so many posts, I didn't really catch it until I went back to check it out. Indeed, as promised, it was a great post, for a variety of reasons. It was powerful, emotional- yet candid and direct.

And what I like about Redneck Mother, and what differentiates her style from many bloggers in that it does not have the arrogant preachy tone of many blogs. This entry does not come across as authoritative or absolute. She permitted the emotional aspect, which only added to the power of the piece-not detracted.

As some know, I have a fluid view on some elements of "life as a thoroughly modern Millie". There are complexities and challenges that require more airplay than we permit at times. And yet, in the subtleties are where I find the blogosphere to be the greatest asset. The myriad of voices- to be collectively informative, the writers that speak freely without pandering to an audience-the ones that resonate with me...I think its ok to give myself permission to say I am simply not one of the ALMIGHTY BLOGGERS that have every answer on the ready. I see little value if we cannot express what concerns us. Sometimes I am discouraged by the comments. What is it that we are trying to do? Pop in to give props and nods? Or digest what we read, participate?

I know, I ask annoying questions, I know. I say "tell me how you reconcile A with B" ...often at the risk of not appearing to 'tow the line' with my questions or comments..which couldn't be further from the truth. I do not think that expressing concern about one aspect weakens my posture.

This came up for example when I suggested that we fight more for availability of technology for abortion to be done earlier than the typical 12-16 week window. Put more force behind morning after pills and medications that impede implantation. I also suggested that we be well versed in the actual actions of these medications, on their implications for policy and the law, because such information on women's health is essential. If we cannot distinguish between birth control and a pill that induces abortion, how will we know what medications those that control our health will seize in the face of an overturn of our rights? Some pills in fact perform both mechanisms. But in the face of an overturn, one would be illegal and the other not. Seems prudent to know which.

Simple, right? This was construed as weakening the position on reproductive freedom somehow on a blog where the differences were debated. I look at it as a woman's health advocacy issue. One person emailed me to say that it does not matter what pills do, only that we can have them whenever we want, not to get bogged down by technicalities. Indeed, the technicalities will weigh heavily on our minds if the right have their way with us!

On earlier abortion, this provoked a lot of discussion that strayed from the original point which was the senselessness of prolonging pregnancy in some cases simply for convenience or preference (by providers, not the women) when alternatives are possible.I also pointed out that prolonging pregnancy is a right wing strategy for decreasing abortions. Where's the harm in suggesting that? Because it sprang from a thread on fetal pain? Acknowledging the role of fetal pain makes me less of a feminist? Who sets the agenda for all women? To me a feminist strengthens their view not by crushing dissent but by learning from it. Addressing it head on. There are even some blogs where anything short of agreement gets deleted! What is the role of the commenter? To say "Bravo' as they make their rounds? How does it help anyone's cause to disregard anything that adds an element of fuzzy gray? Who among us are so brilliant that they have nothing to learn?

Personally, what I seek in the blogosphere is not cheerleading and blind sisterhood, but sisterhood based on responsiveness to diversity and the range of views women are capable of. Not the pat lectures, but bloggers that can back up their remarks beyond the typical "my uterus, my way, no discussion" retort. It too closely resembles the neocon model of "no abortion, no exceptions,no discussion". A majority of us lie moving and scrambling in between these extremes, and are categorically discounted. You waver, therefore you are irrelevant. The right wing unite under a banner, and so too should we! At any cost! You are here, or there, and wishy-washers need not apply.

I like to think that we, as intelligent capable women, have evolved past "one tent" for all thinking toward a feminism of pluralities that are not perceived as weakness but something that makes a movement greater than the sum of its champions. I can have a mixed bag of opinions, and still be at home with my labels.

To me, modern feminism is fundamentally about choice- and not necessarily condoning all choices (I would not support the women who beats her child by CHOICE, for example) but the support of choice in the sense of autonomy, information, options, and a world conducive to the ways choices are manifested by individual women. As a feminist, I cannot say I am thrilled when somebody tells my an abortion will damn me to hell, but I can respect that they feel that way from their own perspective. Just leave me out of your perspective as I do not share your view.

As a person with a mixed bag of feminist thoughts, I notice that DIALOGUE often evokes a hostility of absolutes. I do not blog to cheerlead and make static commentary, with little room for learning. I blog because I genuinely want to know how other people support their stance. And in these exchanges, we learn more about one another and ourselves.

I think it is more important to be clear on the issues, and speak to truth, vs. slogan-slinging. I hold my ideals close to my heart too. But it seems to me that when we are unsettled by simple questions, we are seen as doing a disservice to a discussion. Why are some threatened by dissent, questions? Does this not help us tweak our points? Persuasion takes persistence, not force. Not bullying.

Now I posted the following at Redneck Mother- not because I disagree with her post (referenced above) which was every bit as good as the accolades suggest, but because I genuinely want to know how the question is received by the other readers.

Again I express a certain frustration with myself for not having the linguistic precision to rattle off a better-framed comment.

Well done. I can relate to some of what you describe so well, and appreciate your heartfelt (but no nonsense) comments.

So much of the discussion seeks to reduce us to machinery, from the predictability and controllability you describe to the notion of ownership and "say" over another as though that person has no capacity for self determination- all we need are some men with pencils and gauges. My trouble comes with the informed, reasonable woman- LOVING guys out there that quietly say "your view leaves us in the cold". That's when MY arm flailing starts- I'm with you sisters but find myself

So help me out here if you can.
The men who have busied themselves with explaining the dilemma not of spousal consent but their discomfort with having no say over their unborn have claimed (to me, at least) that women are the ones framing themselves as machines by reducing sperm not to half of a genetic makeup but to an incidental "input" easily dismissed and disregarded. Like sugar into a batter. And once procured, is rendered irrelevant for the purposes of discussion. Some tell me that the moment they utter a word about their sense of having a "role" (not to be read as "say") they are slammed as misogynists. It would be helpful to explore the concerns of spouses in ways that do not categorically diminish men as many are prone to diminishing us. Any ideas on how that can be framed? Do men have ANY say/role at all regarding the destiny of their unborn in your view? In saying they do, is it a matter of distinguishing what we legislate versus what is private? I disagree with spousal notification but feel that there is something to the argument that we often reduce men to irrelevant inputs WHILE they regard our uterus as something like a bread machine. But I'm just not clear on this role. The answer I often get is "men have no role, its my body, and nobody can tell me what to do with it.

There's the tough part for me- I agree, but can appreciate the sentiment that they are "reduced to inputs". But what's the answer? I am not willing to legislate your authority. But I do not seek to trivialize your dilemma. I hear that this dilemma is dismissed, but also know that many dismiss my rights as well. It makes me bitter and not want to be sympathetic at times, truth be told.

I see that many women on such blogs have very clear decisive answers and I suppose I am admitting that very often I do not. We want men involved as fathers, legally and socially, but then we say they have no role or say past conception, and no role in determining anything because of the logistics of nature- and to suggest anything else is feminist blasphemy to those that leave little room for exploration and consideration.

One said: "Give them an inch, they take a mile, never budge on your body!" That feels awfully machine-like, and renders all men with the same brush.

Humbly I ask those with thoughts on this to be informative, not patronizing and condescending. Share your wisdom, as women should be doing, and used to do in matriarchal cultures.

And perhaps one or two of you here can weigh in.


Bill Ziemer said...

Now that I have had a couple kids, I find that from conception through the first 6 to 9 months, men are almost irrelevant in the baby process. Our only role is provider and scutmonkey. No, I don't like it, but I might as well complain that rain is wet. That is not to say that babies do not need their dads. My children responded to my touch and voice almost immediately, and having children is a life-changing event. But is absolutely the case that mom is special in a way that dad can never be. In my case, it never even occured to me that I had some say over my wife's pregnancy. She carries all the risks and responsibilities of pregnancy, so she has final say on all decisions related to it. The previous post on control says it all about men wanting a say in this matter.

Lily said...

Yes, I always thought so. I totally hear you.
As I've said, I am more interested in 'exploring' the matter, and don't claim to have an answer. We cannot legislate good relationships, thats for sure. Ditto for spousal notification- I am not a supporter of that by any stretch.
I knew a man who wanted children his whole life. He married a woman who wanted children- he thought- as much as he did. So she said, to all of us, constantly.It was put off for years, waiting for the right moment-financially, etc. As the couple moved into their forties, they expressed a "ticking clock urgency". Finally they tell me they are having a baby. Then she tells everyone she lost it, and asks me never to tell anyone she had an abortion and actually NEVER wanted a baby, and even at times took birth control to prevent it. Geez! I did not tell him, only could advise her that she might try. Of course there is no remedy for this, I'm NOT suggesting there is. But this man was devastated. I realize that this is simply the way it is, and I understand the "sucks for you, you married a lying succubus" tragedy of it. But it just got me thinking about how we think on this. Shit happens, right? We cannot make people be truthful and honest. We would be powerless to stop him from bringing home syphilis too. Life's just like that.