Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lost Daughters Roundtable – International Women's Day

Prompt: March 8 is International Women's Day.

As adoptees and women, how do you view the current social, political, and economic status of women in the world? What are some of the achievements or improvements that you celebrate and what are the areas that you hold as requiring further action? Do you see a connection between adoptee activism and challenging the status quo for woman's equality? What are some of the positive changes that you would like to see in these areas?

Rosita In terms of the US, I see improvements, though slower than I would like, but improvements nonetheless. There are more women in government posts, most recently, Janet Yellen as the head of the Federal Reserve. I also see victories in Tammy Baldwin’s recent win as the first openly gay senator, and Wendy Davis’ work in the Texas legislature. Our voices are getting stronger.

Also, refreshing for me is the digital dialogue about the portrayal of women in the media (TV, movies, advertising). Blogging and change sites are bringing issues to the forefront, take for example the #notbuyingit Twitter campaign to hold companies accountable for sexist advertising.

I also am pleased to see more coverage of our transgender sisters and the injustices they have suffered. Television shows are having more female protagonists like Orange is the New Black and American Horror Story’s Coven. Movies with female protagonists are blowing away the box office … The Hunger Games, The Heat, Frozen, Brave.

The places where I see the struggles remain in not only our country (think recent state legislation that limits a woman’s access to healthcare and birth control) but also in many other countries … rape in India, female circumcision, criminalization of lesbians and gays in Uganda, stigma of single motherhood in Korea.

The latter brings me to the issue of adoption and women. Single mothers have historically been the source of infants and toddlers in the adoption industry. Yes, “industry.” Adoption of infants is an industry.

The stigma placed on single mothers drives women to reluctantly relinquish their children to “better” parents (Read: more wealthy parents).

I have blogged about the Baby Boxes, but that is the perfect example of this injustice. There’s also the story of Philomena and many other mothers (even in the US) who were shamed into relinquishing their children.

Karen Pickell In a perfect world, I think the idea of gender equality would encompass valuing the unique strengths that women and men bring to the world rather than defining women’s roles in terms of those of men or vice-versa. Women’s innate connection to the natural life forces of our planet would be celebrated and cherished. Pregnancy and childcare would be judged every bit as valuable as economic, academic, or industrial achievements.

No woman would be made to feel ashamed of creating another life. No woman would be forced to choose between caring for her own child and living a fulfilling, productive existence. No woman who makes her child her number one priority would be deemed less than.

In the world we live in today, there are still women being shamed into giving up their own children. There are women being labelled sinners for conceiving children without being married. There are women being made to choose between finishing school or earning a living and caring for their children. There are women being forced to deny their maternal instincts in order to not lose jobs or homes or community support.

Until we live in a world in which women are supported in caring for their children, women are not being treated equally, in any sense.

ElleAs a female adult adoptee I've come to realize that women's social status is connected (more or less) to society's culture. Being raised in Scandinavia, I've learned to value equality as well as equity. The feminist movement is very big over here. Women can participate in elections; are no longer confined to the home. We don't need a legal guardian any longer, which is good. We don’t have to marry just for the sake of it. It's perfectly alright to stay single or be in civil union.

The things that I see would need more improvement a global scale is women's right to education. The gendered discrimination, like sexism and objectification of women in general. The woman's right to her own body, speaking of birth control and abortion. Equal pay for both genders for the same amount of work is still very much lacking. And I know some women deliberately chose not to start a family, which society still doesn't fully respect.

Rosita Much of this conversation also brings me to the inequity in feminism. When we talk about the pay disparity, we are talking about white women’s pay versus the man’s. See this article in the wage gap.

All too often, we forget that race plays into many of these issues, and that the wage gap is significantly larger for Black women and Hispanic women.

Elle – Many countries don't acknowledge single mothers. Women who wish to have a professional career might be persuaded or forced to choose between unemployment and kids, or no kids but stable employment. The different cultural values too, female circumcision. Religious beliefs and values.

Women have had the status as man's object. Luckily women's status has changed we have the right to own property and other valuables. Domestic abuse and rape within a marriage by the husband is considered a crime now. I link this development to that of adoptee activism. Right or wrong I can't tell.

What I mean is that feminism or the suffrage movement hasn't always been recognized officially. Women like Emmeline Pankhurst made a huge contribution in the feminist and suffrage movement. It's the 21st century now, and adoption—both domestic and intercountry adoption, is still practiced on a global scale. Society has failed to recognize the right of adoptees and neglected adult adoptees in terms of birth certificates, nationality, health-wise, genetic diseases, birth family searches and post reunion. That's why it is a clear link to me, when I said I couldn't tell if it was right or wrong I meant that it's possible some people won't agree with me.

I would also like to add that some women prioritize a university or college degree before possibly trying to start a family. Women may be asked if they plan to get pregnant or have children by a prospective employer.

Also women in some professions risk getting fired if they get pregnant and their boss finds out. Have heard too many stories about that happening now in the 21st century.

Pam Roberts When I was 30 I would have said women are empowered. The past 17 years have changed my rosy view to a lesser hue. I worry we are stagnant. I love coming to these discussions, even when I don't contribute. They give me hope and a sense of good will that isn't found many places.

Rosita – The stigma still exists here in the US for single mothers. See this about Jared Leto’s Oscar acceptance speech.

Rebecca HawkesRosita, I appreciate this part of the "Jared Leto" article you shared: "We must start looking at single parents differently. We must see them without the stigma. ... Single parents are not the reason our society is failing children. Our society is failing our children because we are failing single parents." More and more I am coming to view a whole range of societal challenges as rooted in a cultural tendency to shame, stigmatize, and punish rather than provide the support that individuals and families need to thrive. The #noteenshame and #feminismisforteenmomstoo campaigns on Twitter are two more examples of people (mostly women) using social media to push back against this tendency. I’ve come to view the right to raise one’s own children (and to be adequately supported in doing so) as a fundamental human right. When we have social structures, practices, and attitudes that are interfering with that right, we are not succeeding as a society. In a humane and just world (one in which women and mothers were truly valued), adoption would be very rare because there would be little need for it.

Rosita – Back to the Oscars, it seemed like an evening celebrating women and mothers, but digging deeper, I was disappointed. While we had monumental gains in diversity (think Steve McQueen, Lupita Nyong’o, Alfonso Cuarón, Robert Lopez) and we heard wonderful speeches by Leto and Kristen Anderson-Lopez that lifted mothers and daughters, women were insulted by Cate Blanchette’s acceptance speech. It was like a punch in the throat. For her to hold up Woody Allen’s movie as a triumph for women was an insult. She may have been the lead, but her character was not my idea of a strong female role. I think Hollywood has a long way to go with portraying women and allowing women more roles and accolades as producers, directors and actors.

Amanda WoolstonWhen people ask me what I think about the current state of women's rights, I try to balance my initial gut reaction of "what rights?" with the fact that women who have gone before me have worked so hard (and still do), and because of political activism risked losing their families, starvation, spousal and familial abuse, societal ridicule and violence, imprisonment, and even death so that I can have a choice, a vote, and an opportunity to experience an increasing ambient belonging in positions of power and decision-making.

That said, and echoing what the other women in this discussion have already offered here, there are far too many issues faced by women globally for me to feel content that the progress made is enough—which is a view I see many hold in society, as Pam referred to it as becoming stagnant or perhaps even apathetic.

So many of my sisters here have already pointed out the evidence that the world at large has yet to recognize that women are fully human or that furthermore that gender is fluid and a self-expression of each individual person. Also as Rosita said, these critiques cannot fall short of reaching the movement of feminists themselves.

I see cisgender and straight feminists rejecting transwomen and lesbian and pan/poly/bi women from feminist spaces. I am baffled by the overwhelming rejection of feminists of color by white feminists in feminists spaces. I have seen white feminists go so far as to dedicate entire media articles to whitesplaining feminism to women of color or telling a woman of color she does not meet the "qualifications" of "feminist" while giving white feminists a free pass on their racism. I see a prevalence of furthermore failing to attend to issues of class and ablism--where women who have not had the same opportunity for education are excluded from discourse or even made fun. And also where the issues facing impoverished women of color, such as the babybox issue, take a backseat to feminist blogs complaining about how the recent cover of vogue affects them because it featured the face of a woman of larger size rather than a whole body shot. My wholehearted agreement that fat-shaming needs to stop, and it needs to stop NOW, aside, the way that such discourse is framed in feminist circles has implied that these conversations are exclusive to women with privilege.

This is a fundamental failure to globalize our identification with women--with any person of any gender identity--across the world and see their needs as our own. A failure to see each other as fully and equally human. As a feminist with privilege, I must make sure that I align my own behavior with my demands and expectations of men and society at large when it comes to the rights of women.

Rosita – Exactly, Amanda! Thank you too for reiterating the destructive nature of white feminism and the disregard of our trans and lesbian sisters. There is so much work left to do, but I am comforted by the support of the Lost Daughters. All the exclusions further dilute and fracture women.

Julie j – I see a disturbing trend to view women of lesser means as valuable in terms of how they can add value to the lives of more affluent, infertile adults, specifically how the women are used to create families for others. This is not empowerment. This is exploitation. Of course I'm referring not only to adoption, but to surrogacy, egg "donation", and the womb-rental business from India and other impoverished areas of the world.