Dispatches from our foremothers (and fathers and sisters and brothers)


October 2, 2012 by AROMidwifery

What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face? What woman’s terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny?

—Audre Lorde


By Lisa Wiley

The vital and gritty and transformative discussions being had within this community online and at large have been mightily inspiring to be privvy to and to participate in. What is continually striking however, to at least this author, is that as we engage in this dialogue, so many follies exposed and so many pearls of wisdom unearthed are mirrors of those that have been exposed and unearthed by feminist movement. 
From the first whispers of the first wave, to the tenacity of tomorrow’s political outcry, the inertia and intentions of feminism have been challenged for their racist and classist denouement. And here we are, midwives and reproductive rights activists vying behind the radical notion that women and families deserve to be met wherever they are at and in whatever capacity with which would ferry them to their highest state of wellbeing — here we are with these noblest intentions, and yet here we are being accused of perpetuating a bourgeois midwifery. From bourgeois feminism, to a white, privileged, monied, complacent, bourgeois midwifery.
This work that we need to do here is not new work. The mistakes that we have made and are making have been made, and just as poignantly, the lessons that we have got to learn have been or are being learned contemporaneously with the work being done within the midwifery and otherwise birth community in order to move forward with clear eyes and tangible knapsacks filled to their depths with self-analysis and introspection and acknowledgement of the role of privilege within our profession and culture at large — to move forward with the radical conviction that to do so and to perpetuate this dialogue and to move forward in direct action will in fact make for positive change. 
It is my aspiration over these coming weeks to, through my own readings and self-examination, cull experiences and learnings and quotations from feminist herstory that might spark poignant and pertinent dialogue in this space, such that we are not either doomed to repeat the mistakes of our forebears or to expend essential time repeating learned and lived experiences. Ideally such dialogues will help us to further and deepen introspection into our own thought and action, and perhaps lend insight into what our next steps should be and to where they should lead. 

One thought on “Dispatches from our foremothers (and fathers and sisters and brothers)

  1. Thank you Lisa for your post. I thought I would try to think about a bell hooks quote using your thoughts.

    “As all advocates of feminist politics know most people do not understand sexism or if they do they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.”
    ― Bell Hooks

    It seems to me the following is also true of the power dynamics in our culture at work every day:
    As all advocates of anti-racist politics know many people do not understand racism or if they do they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that racism is always and only about people of color seeking to be equal to whites. And a huge majority of these folks think anti-racism is anti-white. Their misunderstanding of anti-racist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about anti-racism from white-privileged mass media [if they learn about it at all].

    -Kristin Effland

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Jeffrey Allen Nall, PhD

Professor, Public Speaker, Social Critic

Radical Doula

Where social justice & birth activism meet

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