“The minute my child was born, I was reborn as a feminist. It’s so incredible what women can do…Birthing naturally, as most women do around the globe, is a superhuman act. You leave behind the comforts of being human and plunge back into being an animal. My friend’s partner said, ‘Birth is like going for a swim in the ocean. Will there be a riptide? A big storm? Or will it just be a beautiful, sunny little dip?’ Its indeterminate length, the mystery of its process, is so much a part of the nature of birth. The regimentation of a hospital birth that wants to make it happen and use their gizmos to maximum effect is counter to birth in general.” –Ani DiFranco interviewed in Mothering magazine, May/June 2008
“We were all held, touched, interrelated, in an invisible net of incarnation. I would scarcely think of it ordinarily; yet for each creature I saw, someone, a mother, had given birth….Motherhood was the gate. It was something that had always been invisible to me before, or so unvalued as to be beneath noticing: the motheredness of the world.” –Naomi Wolf, Misconceptions
Since tomorrow is International Women’s Day, I felt moved to share the above quotes. I also wanted to touch briefly on birth as a feminist issue, spurred by this thought-provoking post by my friend Summer (I have TONS more ideas about this topic, but limited time in which to share them!). Personally, I’ve identified as a feminist since I was a child—long before I became a birth activist. Identifying in this way was my first taste of the activist spirit that has fueled me for the rest of my life. For me, my birth activism is intimately and inextricably entwined with my larger interest in women’s rights. I have always been somewhat confused to hear any woman say she is not a feminist, it grieves me because when you dig a little deeper, it is usually because they are defining feminism according to a very skewed, simplified, inaccurate, media misportrayal of feminism (i.e. a man-hating caricature). I also like the term “womanist.” To me, being a feminist most simply means believing and acting as if women have value. All too often, those who mischaracterize feminism in the above ways believe EXACTLY the opposite.
In one of my many books about women’s issues, I found these awesome explanations of what feminism is—the source being of some surprise to me, the Roman Catholic Order of Sisters of Loretto:
Feminism: a world-wide social change movement which critically but lovingly rejects relationships and structures based on stereotyped roles of dominance (male) and submission (female).
Feminism: a life-affirming movement reorganizing institutions and relationships, so that women will have equal access to society’s goods, services, status, and power.
Feminism: the bonding of women discovering the joy of woman-identity.
Feminism: a process freeing women to work toward liberation for themselves and other oppressed persons.
And here is another definition: “Feminism is a conscious and continuous effort to improve the lives of all women, an effort which requires changing the system that defines success as making a lot of money.” –Jane O’Reilly
To me it also means defining all women’s work, paid or unpaid, as having real value (this includes the “invisible” work of mothering reflected in the second quote I chose to open this post).
I think all of these definitions can be well applied to our work with birth!
I also think some women who do not self-identify as feminist do not because they feel like, “feminists want women to be like men.” So, here is a feminist quote about that too “A woman should not be a mirror image of man’s universe. A woman should not try to emulate men, thus taking on masculine traits, she should develop herself, realize herself, gain direct vision into her own being.” —Anais Nin
I love the final point especially—gain direct vision into her own being. I think empowered birth often triggers this for women.
And, then finally, bringing us back to International Women’s Day I have a final quote:
“I believe that these circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we’re strong.” –SARK, Succulent Wild Woman
As I noted in my post for CfM this week, in honor of International Women’s Day—and every day—let us celebrate our bodies, honor our mothers, and trust in the nets of love woven around us by a multitude of remarkable, powerful, everyday women.