Several months ago I wrote a post about feminism and birth. Today I am stepping off from that wobbly soap box to share some new (to me) insights. Actually, if I’m completely honest- I didn’t step off willingly. I pretty much got the shit kicked out of me in several unexpected ways. I still believe women in the United States have choices when it comes to where and with whom they’ll give birth. And I still believe that women in the United States make really rotten choices for really rotten reasons including, but not limited to: insurance, money, convenience, and ignorance. The word “feminism” still makes me cringe as it has related to reproductive rights, birth control and abortion from its’ inception. However, I can no longer deny that birth is a feminist issue anymore than I can deny we live in a patriarchal society where church elders are respected and revered for witty banter on church message boards that include the revolting pet name “penis homes” when describing women.
The first thing to know about your penis is, that despite the way it may seem, it is not your penis. Ultimately, God created you and it is his penis. You are simply borrowing it for a while.
While His penis is on loan you must admit that it is sort of just hanging out there very lonely as if it needed a home, sort of like a man wondering the streets looking for a house to live in. Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.
Pastor Mark Driscoll
I am not a penis home. I was not created from the rib of man. I am not a baby-making machine and my place is not in the home. I am clever and capable and strong and I will not pretend to be anything less. I do not buy into the legalistic shit anymore than I buy into the feminist crap. So where does that leave me? It leaves me free to be directed by the Holy Spirit, by my gut- to do the work I’ve been called to without hesitation and without placing judgement. Free to see other clever, capable, strong women who’ve been told they’re not any of those things- who believe the lie that’s been perpetuated year after year by self-righteous (not righteous, self-righteous), legalistic, porn-addicted/porn-afflicted
men people. Free to see those women realize the truth about themselves. This is what the last 6 months have brought my way. What lie, you may ask? Remember those women from my original feminist rant?
please please don’t get me wrong here. i sit across from women who tell harrowing tales of their births. of being lied to and manipulated and insulted and physically and mentally wounded. they long for healing and for a better birth this time. they are choosing a route that may be illegal and may bring scrutiny from social services if they transport and yet they believe there is a better way to bring your baby into the world and so they choose this way. they choose this and all the ramifications and consequences.
These women have been lied to about their bodies by people they trusted to care for them and for their babies. They have been hurt and mislead and mistreated without apology often times by other women in a position of authority. What is the lie, exactly? The lie is that these women, most women, are second class- lesser than- discriminated against due to weight, social status, financial status, the number of children they have, ethnicity, and subjective (subjective= existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought) guidelines and practice standards that aren’t representative of the individual.
My mistake in the original post on feminism was that I refused to make the connection between feminism/patriarchy/birth-trauma and violence. Instead I believed women could/should easily research options and alternatives in pregnancy and birth rather than complain about the crappy choices they themselves had made. What I didn’t allow for were societal influences on their decision making process and I adamantly refused to lend any credence to the devastating effects of life in a patriarchal society. The very next birth I attended after the original post shattered all my misconceptions. I had doubted and judged and been guilty of discriminating against this mom (in my thoughts) based on her history and my prejudice. And then she astounded me with her determination and strength and her faith in claiming what she knew was hers. This birth was followed by another and another and another- all equally amazing. Not amazing like the youtube home birth videos with the lovely, soft music and candles, no- these labors were amazing because they were raw and because of the blood, sweat and tears and for the surrender that came after hours of self-doubt. This string of births renewed my faith in the process and it shone a bright-ass spotlight on my shortcomings as a midwife who’d been poisoned and tainted by the Mark Driscolls and the Bill Cosbys of the world, by the battle between the yoni and the penis house, feminist vs. legalist, and by some of the birth professionals in my own community who, with their skewed view of birth and women, continue to practice from a place of fear without ever catching more than a glimpse of the beauty and fierceness of these women.
I’m not blaming Mark Driscoll’s obsession with pornography and sodomy in marriage for the high rate of c-sections in our country, nor am I blaming Bill Cosby’s desire to drug and rape women who work for him for the slut shaming or socially accepted date rape that occurs without consequence. Feminism hasn’t protected us from this kind of patriarchy. Isn’t it time we come up with a new definition?