To the Birth Activist Who’s Really a Birth Passivist

25 04 2013

All births are not created equal. I think you probably know that.

Yet, you have the soft spine to falter under societal pressure, to pat every woman on the head, and tell her well enough is well enough. “Hey babe, however you say you feel, is how you feel! And that’s all that matters!

But that’s not all that matters. No, not by a long shot.

Because with women… there are things we don’t say. There are things we tell ourselves which are not true. There are things we don’t know because no one had the balls to tell us. And maybe once, a long ways back, when you were fresh in your pain and knowledge, you told someone the truth. You waved goodbye to that the moment you chose to try to please the majority of women. Trying to be all-inclusive reduces what is potent in your message.

Women… we’re strong, we carry the burdens of the world on our shoulders. We cry in silent pain, we have a tortured collective consciousness. We have a lot of messages we are met with daily that gives us vague encouragements to keep on keepin’ on. Of course those have a place, have some value. We need sisterhood, right? We need support, right?

Right.

What is sisterhood? What is support? What are they, actually?

Is it the moment I tell you that if you want your abusive relationship, that’s all that matters? Is it if I make you comfortable for one fleeting instant, when I help encourage your complacency so you can resist change, or is it when I help you pack your bag to leave?

Is it when I speak as generally as possible, to avoid offending a larger crowd? Or is it when I tell you that when I was in the same position, the only thing that healed was to walk away from the crowd?

So, to the Birth Activist who is really more of a Birth Passivist… women don’t need to hear what you think they want to hear. We are inundated with positive, bland messages… the sort of feelgood shtick that sometimes keeps us trapped indefinitely. Women don’t need limbo.

If you want to make some waves, it’s okay to rock the boat. It isn’t empowering to placate, to condescend. The truth is offensive. If you want to put power back in the hands of your sisters, you can count on offending a hell of a lot of people who aren’t ready for that kind of responsibility for which you advocate.

And if YOU aren’t ready for that kind of responsibility, don’t pretend to be something you are not. Birth Activist!? You’re not a birth activist if you approve of just about anything. You see… not all births are equal. And yes… I am sure you must know that, which is why you bother talking about birth at all. Not every woman needs that head-pat and smile you’ve started dishing out, to be praised up and down just for being special, just for breathing, just for modestly trying. We have enough of the “you’re good enough” in society. We have friends for that. We have posters of cats for that.

What we need you for is to give women that jolt of energy, that kick in the ass, to know they can do better. They aren’t getting that from their neighbor down the street, their sister-in-law, or the dentist. Their bff since high school doesn’t understand about “birth freedom” or why her friend still cries about an induction. If you tell her there’s nothing wrong with these norms, what good are you? Do your fucking job. Birth Activist, you are not everyone’s girlfriend.

And, you do not achieve the kind of change you say you’re about by kindly implying that maybe women ask for some power, ask a few questions of medical staff as they meekly submit a soon-to-be-ignored birth plan, or bargain birth needs with their husbands. You achieve that by telling them exactly what they are capable of and how to avoid the same god damn mistakes that got you where you were, or where I was, when we were in pain. You might be their only lifesaver, so fucking act like it.

As a birth activist, the goal should be to end suffering. Not perpetuate it. Not condone it. Not look at a shiny coat of paint slapped on a tragedy and mirror the smiles.

If you want women to be brave and face their births with courage and strength, and dignity, quit convincing them that anything that happens to them is okay. It’s not. It’s not okay. And just because they feel their junked up birth was necessary today… doesn’t mean they can keep pretending they feel okay about it tomorrow. And, when they awaken from that dream, guess who they’re going to remember telling them how amazing the status quo was? You.

Every baby is wonderful. If we get a good outcome for the child, we all celebrate. This much is true.

No, not every birth is special, magical, good. Not all births are equal. Not at all.


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