Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reloaded V...I'm really enjoying dialoguing about difficult things...

Okay, today flew by like I don't know WHAT! We woke up, sorted laundry, bathed everybody, got dressed, came downstairs and my father was ringing the doorbell. Yesterday, sort of in a haze I agreed to let him come hang out with the Shmolian while Papi and I took Stinkapee belated back to school shopping...I know, I know, two months late. :)

We were out the door before I could even blog. The day went really well. The most fun exchange for me was when I was thinking of buying these red shoes...I'm having a problem with shoes...actually with the whole fashion thing right now. See, all I think about when I see the shoes that are in and the clothes that are considered cool is junior high, using a clothes hanger to help me bolt myself into my jeans, the flat pointy shoes made of black patent leather I wore to my grade eight graduation formal and the fifties vintage cockroach killers I bought when I was in highschool...while living in a roach motel. :)

Nothing seems new or interesting. So, I don't buy shoes much and only buy when heels start falling off and shit like that. Today I decided to bite the bullet and try on a pair of fairly, no really conservative looking red flat pumps. I'm hemmin and hawing trying to figure out whether I'm gonna get them. Papi points out that they really don't go with anything I wear. The shoe salesperson who is a woman, asks if I need them for work? I say to her: "Well, I'm sort of a stay at home shit disturber." She laughed. I put the shoes back.

This week has been a really good blogging week. I've had so many useful, rather than surface congratulatory comments about what I blogged. I mean, it's nice to be told that I wrote something interesting. But differently? I live for being surrounded by other people with giant brains who are also writing interesting things and asking difficult questions.

Bellytales' Student Midwife, who it seems is no longer a student midwife, but actually a midwife fer real (congratulations) offered me a bunch of posts for today's Reloaded. I read two of them and my mind went all a good way.

There are topics I avoid. Places I just sort of think, that will have to be someone else's kettle of stinky fish to unpack. It hurts my head...and really? No one will want to sift through the excavated layers of submerged stuff to get to the heart of what I'm trying to say, anyways. And if they do go there, they're gonna freak and shut down when confronted with some broken societal taboo that they uphold. I'm not gonna get engagement. I'll get the sound of silence.

Student Midwife sent me links about her encounter with a woman who has been genitally circumcised.

I was like WOW! She was so honest in her post. I could feel the discomfort, the confusing, the lack of clarity about where to head rolling off her post in increasingly honest and open waves.

I got so wrapped up in thinking and blogging my thoughts about what she wrote that I didn't stop to mention how over the top cool it was for her to not hide. She was/is courageous as a blogger/midwife, willing to share, not just the bits that make sense, but also the stuff she's not quite sure about .

As a blog reader as well as a blogger, I think that just makes for better makes the blogger seem more real when they come with their faults not just with perfectly put together points that are so conservatively written, they're able to stand behind them no problem.

Just tipping your toe into the water of controversy is easy. Thinking about jumping in after everyone else has already felt the heat is also fairly unremarkable. But blogging about not being sure whether you were a jackass or whether you were not hardline feminist enough is brave, fascinating and messy.

I like courageous, complicated mess.

Dear (former Student) Midwife,
Thank you for giving your post to this Tenacious Baby Mama who has a habit of writing about things in the strongest language possible. Your post was a wonderful, gut wrenching reminder of something I was pretending not to remember about.

Oh! And I do have comments, Student Midwife. But you have to be a member of blogger to post.

Reloaded VI - October 14, 2007

Circumcision or Mutilation? by Bellytales' Student Midwife

This is what Student Midwife emailed me in regards to the post I wrote earlier this week about Female Genital Circumcision...

Hi, Dark Daughta:

I had a chance to read through your FGC response post once yesterday,
although I'm certainly going to have to read it a few more times before
I'm in any position to say anything about it (I just started my new
midwifery job, and my days have been very overhwelming/exhausting, and
unfortunatley, blogging has not been a huge priority for the past few
days). However, you don't allow comments on your blog! So I guess I'll
have to post my own response to it on my own website, and the
conversation can continue that way.

I'm glad my two posts inspired such a long, complicated, layered
response from you, and I appreciate how well you've managed to turn all
of my thinking on the subject matter upside down. Yikes! Yes, it
hurts! But I see your point: there is inherent racism ( that the
right word? oppression?) in a viewpoint which has decided to call one
form of ritual cutting "mutilation" while at the same time leting so
many other types of cutting fall under the category of "circumcision" or
some other word, and therefore under the umbrella of cultural
acceptability (male circumcision, labioplasty, clitoral hood piercing,
episiotomy etc.). I can see how that is indeed our culture (and by that
I mean western culture...white culture, perhaps?) taking its own
viewpoint on what constitutes a healthy vulva and setting it forth as
"right" and "correct" and that anyone else who does anything different
to their vulva (especially something brutal or harmful and something we
as a culture don't fully understand) is therefore wrong and backwards
and oppressed and brutalized by their own culture, those patriarchal,
violent heathens...and that this "mutilation" is a therefore a form of
violence against women. As a white woman from a privileged background,
I've been trying for awhile to own my privilege, and see the way that
this affects my point of view on everything. This is a difficult,
never-ending task, and while I feel that I've managed to own this on
several more obvious issues, this is something I hadn't even picked up
on. So for that, I say thank you for writing such a though-provoking,
challenging post.

I will say this: I don't view my work as some sort of mission, and I
don't feel that I am out to save anyone. I certainly didn't think that
postpartum woman in the clinic needed saving, and I do think that I did
the right thing by not pursuing the subject; I made a comment on it,
which gave her the opportunity to say something, if she wanted to. She
didn't want to, and I followed her lead and didn't pursue it. But I do
see how my idea that the circumcision needed to be commented on implies
a certain level of judgement. And calling something "mutilation"
implies, by its very nature, that those who are "mutilated" need to be
saved. That makes sense, and I see that now having read your post, but
I had never before thought of it in those terms. So further thinking on
this is prompting me to start to refer to this ritual as "circumcision"
again rather than "mutilation". I do appreciate that my view of what
constitutes a healthy vulva is certainly not everyone's view, and who am
I (or who are we?) to decide what is or is not the right kind of vulva?
You raise lots of good points. Why is labioplasty or clitoral hood
piercing okay, while female circumcision is not? And what would happen
if circumcision was done well, by medically-trained people using sterile
instruments, sharp instruments, making clean, hygienic cuts? I never,
ever would have thought that an underground feminist movement to provide
clean, hygienic, medically-trained female circumcisions is not that far
off from what we were doing in the 70s with our underground abortion
clinics, but yeah, I do see your point.

And just a final note on episiotomies: they horrify me as much as they
horrify you, and I have always thought that they are a form of genital
mutilation. I know some authors have called them clitorodectomies
before, because yes, you're right: the clitoris is a lot more than just
that one tiny, sensitive nub of tissue. It encompasses your entire
vulva, including your perineum. I've never cut one, I can't see the
point in routinely cutting them, and research has finally backed this up
by demonstrating that there is absolutely *no* medical benefit in
cutting them, even in drastic situations like shoulder dystocia
(although, it's funny to note that if you're getting sued for a bad
outcome due to a shoulder dystocia, you'll actually be punished for
*not* cutting an episiotomy, because it looks like you didn't do
everythign in your power to get that baby out quickly....even though
shoulder dystocia is caused by the baby getting stuck on the bones of
the pelvis, and that cutting the soft tissue with an episiotomy does
absolutely *nothing* to get that baby out any faster...)

Anyway, these are all early thoughts on all of this. I'll continue to
think. Thanks for challenging me.

Today, I'm happy and tired. My questions have been well received and that's a lot. My quick reloading offers some vulvalove... and for any black woman looking for a dark/er homebirth story, here's my story of how the the pooni worked just fine.

if what you're reading here grips you, holds you, fascinates you, provokes you, emboldens you, pushes you, galvanizes you, discomfits you, tickles you, enrages you so much that you find yourself returning again and again...then link me.

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