Monthly Archives: June 2011

Pregnant women’s rights are not just for developing countries

I was shocked today to read on Live V 2.0 the story of a woman in USA who almost lost her life because the doctors on duty refused to perform an abortion on her. She arrived in hospital with serious bleeding in her 20th week of pregnancy. She had known that this could happen as it seems that the pregnancy carried certain risks. By the time she arrived at the hospital it was clear that the foetus was not viable. Despite this, two doctors refused to treat her, objecting that they did not perform abortions, so she was left bleeding and in pain for many hours until a nurse decided to call another doctor, who agreed to treat her.

“My two kids at home almost lost their mother because someone decided that my life was worth less than that of a fetus that was going to die anyway. My husband had told them exactly what my regular doctor said, and the ER doctor had already warned us what would have to happen. Yet none of this mattered when confronted by the idea that no one needs an abortion. You shouldn’t need to know the details of why a woman aborts to trust her to make the best decision for herself. I don’t regret my abortion, but I would also never use my situation to suggest that the only time another woman should have the procedure is when her life is at stake. After my family found out I’d had an abortion, I got a phone call from a cousin who felt the need to tell me I was wrong to have interfered with God’s plan. And in that moment I understood exactly what kind of people judge a woman’s reproductive choices.”

There are many elements behind this story that are quite shocking. It’s not just the whole question of conscience clauses in healthcare that T Mae talks about in her post, but also why pregnant women do not have a choice in certain countries when it comes to making decisions about their own life. To me, behind the debate on conscience clauses in healthcare is the idea that the male medic is still in control of pregnant women’s bodies.

 In America there is an association called National Advocates for Pregnant Women that “works to secure the human and civil rights, health and welfare of all women, focusing particularly on pregnant and parenting women, and those who are most vulnerable – low income women, women of color, and drug-using women.

This group tries to inform the public of the consequences of prosecuting women accused of “murdering” their unborn child

 “In the name of fetal rights and under the guise of the war on drugs, hundreds of women have been arrested for being pregnant and continuing to term in spite of a drug or alcohol problem. One state, South Carolina, by judicial fiat has declared that viable fetuses are legal persons and that pregnant women who use illegal drugs or engage in any other behavior that jeopardizes the fetus can be prosecuted as child abusers or murderers. Indeed, the arrest of pregnant women is not limited to those using illegal drugs. In Utah, a woman was charged with murder based on the claim that she caused a stillbirth by refusing to have a c-section earlier in her pregnancy. These arrests are taking place in spite of the lack of authorizing legislation and in spite of overwhelming opposition from medical, public health and child welfare organizations.”

 Worst of all, in some US states a single early drug test has been used to detect pregnant women’s consumption of drugs or alcohol in pregnancy, and if this is positive the newborn is removed from its family of origin (yes, I’m taking about one single test). Of course consuming drugs and alcohol during pregnancy is not good for the mother or the baby, but this sort of intervention does not make things better. What about setting up programmes to help women to deal with their addiction during pregnancy? Well, maybe that’s too expensive, so better let social services fix it.

 If you surf around this webpage you will find amazing and awful stories of women who went to jail for many years because they had a stillbirth when they were drug addicts. These women were stigmatized, segregated and punished, and left without any sort of help.

Would we have the same sort of reaction to a doctor or a pharmaceutical company that by mistake poisoned some medication given to pregnant women?  ( Thanks Sally for the link) Very likely not. So, have a look at what these guys are doing, because I do believe it’s worthwhile.



struggling here…

I have always been one for children’s empowerment…I have made my best attempt at making the house feel as much r’s as it is ours, inspired mostly by Montessori principles, and many many ideas from bloggers out there. R. has all her stuff at her reach in her room, pictures at her level, has a kitchen cupboard so that she can get her stuff, her little spaces in almost every room of the house, and ways of adapting the big rooms and heights for her. I also respect as much as I can her timings, her need to do things alone and her way – mainly because chaos ensues as soon as you unthinkingly try to help her. In any case, you get the picture…

One thing, however, that has always been an issue for me was the bed. I could not bring myself to make r. sleep on a floor bed from the start, mainly for my/our benefit. First she slept with us, although she officially had a moses basket, and then, slowly, she started using her cot, a decision we made for different reasons that I won’t go into now. I know it was for my peace of mind mainly – the thought of her falling off the mattress, of her crawling at night and putting her fingers somewhere dangerous, or something falling on her…that kind of thing would keep me awake, at a point where more sleep is all I could think of.

Now she is two and a half, however, that is no longer a choice, since she started using her ‘big girl’s bed’, as she could get out of her cot. And you know, at the moment, I find it is an utter nightmare. Her bedtime, usually around 8, is now around 10.30, with all her coming and goings, because she clocked very early on how lovely it is to get out. …and its driving me nuts.

I hate how this little thing conflicts with the way I try to do all other things, but I also have learnt that coherence is not always possible…but I struggle. So I try to be gentle, and manage timings and routines a bit more tightly, to see if I can move this new development to a shape that does not make me want to scream every night. Unfortunately, this is how it seesm to end up every night. Me, álmost asleep while she keeps chatting and poking me to keep me awake, or me explaining that mummy needs to go now, and that she needs to stay in her bed, in her special room…which lasts about three minutes, at most. In the end, I bring her back all huffing and puffing, at the rhythm of ‘how many times have I told you to GO TO SLEEP’….which ends up making her cry, and me feeling shit, and crying, and her going to sleep two minutes later. So, as you can see I am not getting there. 

I am not sure how much this is about feminism and motherhood, but it explains partly why my level of productivity has gone way down – I just can’t face sitting at my desk at 11 at night, and in any case, I need to clean up, organise stuff for the next day, and even talk to my partner. So sorry, and if any of you please can tell me this is a phase, which of course, it has to be, I would be grateful!



Mum, are you sure I’m a girl?

 I remember wondering about this when I was 3 or 4. I had short hair, I had a predilection for boy’s toys and I was unaware of the basic rudiments of gender difference. When I look at photos from that time I can clearly see that I could have been a boy or a girl, especially when I was in shorts and a T-shirt. At the time I use to wonder: “What if I’m a boy and my parents don’t know yet”?

All my hesitations quickly disappeared when I fell in love with my neighbour, who happened to be a boy. Then I wanted to do everything just like him. If he liked chocolate, that was my favourite food; if he was an avid comic reader, so was I. To my mind he would notice my existence if I was the perfect companion for him.

What I’m trying to say is that my gender was constructed in a dialogue between the external and the internal, between the life surrounding me and my own development and needs. It was a complex process that took me a long time.

Nowadays girls don’t have this space. The whole of their experience is merchandised and served up ready to be consumed. Girls wear pink, dress like princesses, use makeup and have a certain way of talking in a high-pitched voice that I find very annoying (it’s a mix between seductive and infantile). As Lucila mentioned a couple of days ago, there has been quite a lot of talk in the UK about the excesses of certain clothing branches , but in fact what the high street is selling is what you can find embedded in our culture.

 Last week I found the courage to devote some time to the feminine task of waxing. Following major negligence on my side (please remember that I’m a feminist and feminists have hairy legs on principle) I decided to go a beauty salon. When I left I picked up a leaflet listing the treatments offered, and what did I find?

 Children’s parties (minimum age 10 years) The party includes everyone getting their nails filed & polished and makeup applied.

 You can call me conservative, old-fashioned or just old, but the whole idea of 10-year-old girls being into polishing their nails and applying makeup give me the creeps.

The way these girls are constructing their idea of woman/girlhood is based exclusively on adornment and accessories. There is no room for them to express ambivalence about their gender because by the time they are 3 years old they are already dressed in pink like princesses.

I think it was healthy at that age to wonder why I was a girl, and more than anything I think it’s important to respect that space instead of immersing girls in the whole pink experience as the only way of constructing their sexual identity. Feeling like a woman or a girl is more than wearing certain garments. By pushing girls into identifying so early with their sex we are not allowing them to explore the boundaries of their sexual identity, preventing them from being the women they want to be in the future.

 This whole pink and girly culture is about making girls and women vulnerable to other peoples’ opinions about their appearance. Why do you need to dress your baby girl in pink from head to toe if it’s clear that she’s a girl? Well, the answer is that it’s not clear that a girl is a girl until she is 4 or 5, in some cases. But we’re so eager to make them look like a girl or a boy that we can’t wait for them to discover it for themselves. I think this culture is really damaging little girls, but I don’t see any sign of change. Am I too pessimistic?


Elegir no vacunar

Recientemente los medios de comunicación han mostrado distintas noticias y reportajes sobre padres y madres que han decidido no vacunar a sus hijos  . La razón de este inusual interés no es otra que el aparente rebrote del sarampión en algunos países europeos, incluyendo España. En la mayoría de estas noticias los culpables de este rebrote son aquellos que han decidido no vacunar a sus hijos.

Lo que me ha molestado de estas noticias es cómo se presentan a los padres que han optado por no vacunar. Estos padres son no sólo unos irresponsables que hacen peligrar la salud de sus hijos y de los que les rodean, sino también unos estúpidos ignorantes que se dejan llevan por una moda. Como en todas las cuestiones de la crianza, cada vez que los padres o las madres contradicen a la clase médica son acusados de los peores crímenes.

En mi caso, opté por vacunar a E. porque vivimos en un entorno internacional en el que la gente viaja frecuentemente a países extranjeros, y además yo trabajo en la Universidad en la que estamos en contacto con estudiantes de todo el mundo. Dado que mi pareja es francés y yo vasca, nuestro hijo ha estado rodando por aeropuertos desde los tres meses, así que para mí la opción de no vacunar no la tomé mucho en serio, pero entiendo perfectamente las razones por las que algunos padres que no quieren vacunar.

Entre estas razones se encuentran los componentes nocivos de las vacunas y la falta de información sobre los efectos secundarios que estas producen. Cualquier padre que haya vacunado a su hijo de la triple vírica (MMR en el Reino Unido) sabe de qué hablo. Nadie dice nada, nadie te explica nada pero nuestro hijo estuvo enfermo por casi un mes, con diarreas, fiebre y malestar. Nuestro pediatra en Bilbao en el que confío con los ojos cerrados me dijo que esa vacuna es un virus vivo por lo que los niños enferman de verdad para poder inmunizarse. Yo estaba avisada, pero aun así me asustó.

Creo que no estaría de más que los medios de comunicación intentaran ser mas objetivos y no presentaran a los padres que intentan comprender las cosas mas allá de lo que los médicos les dicen como estúpidos o irresponsables. Todavía está muy cerca la campaña de vacunación contra la gripe A que resultó ser no tan necesaria como se pensaba, y en la que muchos padres comunicaron reacciones adversas y no conocidas de la vacuna.

Personalmente no pienso que los padres que no vacunen sean un peligro para la sociedad, y creo que su derecho a preguntar y plantear dudas sobre cuestiones que no están totalmente claras es lícito e importante. La cuestión no es tanto si vacunar o no sino las consecuencias de las vacunación en las condiciones en las que se aplican en estos momentos. Así que mas allá de la polémica, creo que el debate es saludable y la opción de no vacunar respetable.


old news but good…

I don’t know about you, but I only get to read the papers I buy on Saturday slowly during the week, so here it goes, a bit late…

Guess what everyone is talking about these days, and was the headline of the Guardian this Saturday? New regulations on the sexual commercialisation of children. David Cameron (the UK Prime Minister that is) commisioned research on this, called the Bailey Review, and the report is out this week. Some of the recommendations include:

‘to back a plan to stop retailers selling inappropriate clothes for pre-teens and shield childrenfrom sexualised imagery across all media, including selling “lads magazines” in brown covers and making the watchdog Ofcom more answerable to the views of parents.

Retailers would be required to sign up to a new code preventing the sale of items for pre-teens with suggestive slogans, which the prime minister has repeatedly criticised.’

What it seems like is that more than regulation and legislation the recommendations are  going to be for signing up to voluntary codes of conduct for instance.

What Tanith Carey argues in the the family section is that regulation is a good way of sending a signal, but it is only a starting point, and urges parents to be more vocal and to exert their power as parents too.

I think it is a step forward that this is a matter of debate, of regulation and that it migth open up spaces for parents to feel that they are not isolated in thinking that padded bras and thongs with suggestive slogans are a bit mad for 6 six year olds.

In this debate, there were many opinion pieces which can be found online here and here and here for instance, and luckily the F word made an appearance because I was already starting to worry about siding with the conservatives!


Guest post at The Variegated Life

Today I’m writing a guest post on working from home at The Variegated Life .  We love her blog and we’re happy to contribute, so have a look at it


The narrative of the lonely hero

This has been an intensive weekend, with an unusual exposure to TV. The result of this intoxication is this post. Let me explain that on Saturday night I watched Lord of the Rings, and a couple of days earlier I watched a BBC documentary on Moreno Ocampo (Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague)

You might think that they’re not that related, but in fact they are.  The BBC documentary was very good, but the whole narrative was about Moreno Ocampo’s loneliness in facing his titanic task: bringing global justice to this world. He was screened walking along at night making his way home after an exhausting day, alone in his flat, eating a frugal breakfast without a trace of another human being (not to mention children). He was shown as a man devoted to a sole cause, and this cause deserved all his effort; that’s why despite the opposition from the United States and other major international powers, he’s still a hero.

Of course the BBC documentary showed women working alongside Ocampo, but they were his faithful companions, his devoted allies.

I personally admire this man, but I don’t like it when documentaries take this line of the lonely hero to show the personality and strength of the main character. What about other ways of committing to global justice that belong to other sort of narratives? For example, Scilla Elworthy set up the Oxford Research Group in her kitchen and has developed influential work in the field of peace studies; and there is Elsa Gindler and her amazing and pioneer body work.

These women work from a different perspective that we can called holistic, in which they try to engage all aspects of themselves in what they do. It’s possible to fight against war and have a family and a life, but for some reason I don’t understand all these documentaries and films keep on insisting that in order to do your task you need to have no family, no love and no ties. These heroes duties are full of sacrifices and burdens, whereas the women above are more about embracing what comes along on the way.

When Miranda Otto’s character is about to kill one the bad guys in Lord of the Rings the bad guy says something like: “There is no man that can kill me” and she answers: “I’m no man”; and kills him.

Well, this is about the same. I don’t want to do things differently from men (I don’t want to be defined as merely opposite to men): I just want to do it as a woman, but for God sake! A little bit of inspiration and imagination on feminine narratives would really pave our way.