Bearing the Burden of Choice: A Young Feminist’s Perspective
By Meagan Fuller, guest blogger
I came to NYC to participate in the ultimate feminist vacation, conference, and networking event, Soapbox, Inc.’s Feminist Camp. A week packed with visits to social justice organizations from foundations to grassroots activist groups, Feminist Boot Camp was an opportunity for aspiring social justice advocates to discover modern activism and what feminism can look like in professional practice. One of our stops was at Choices in Childbirth.
Here are some notions with which I walked into Choices in Childbirth’s office:
Based on personal observation, choices concerning women’s reproductive health are heavily concentrated in preventative action – what are the best practices to avoid pregnancy? Consequently, prevention inspired language lends to a negative association with child bearing. It is something to prevent rather than embrace.
Language surrounding abortion lends to the same effect. Public health initiatives emphasize preventing pregnancy through the use of contraception, but when spontaneity clouds the campaigns and the unplanned happens, how does one tackle the heaviest choice of all?
Throughout the week long journey, the controversial plight of feminism, the legal right to have an abortion, was a reoccurring topic. Abortion is one of those issues that seems to leak into every “women’s issue” whether initially intended or not. Needless to say, we talked about abortion to the point of exhaustion. Not to take away from the weight of abortion to the feminist cause, I began to recognize a gap in our reproductive justice discussions. I found myself asking the question:
What about the women who choose the path of childbearing?
Following an intense viewing of the documentary entitled, The Business of Being Born: Classroom Edition, filled with intervals of happiness, anger, laughter, and even tears, I, along with my fellow feminists, learned how choices in the realm of prenatal, postpartum, and maternity care have been institutionalized. Who would have thought the phrase “turnover rate” would be used in the context of maternity care? The interviews from the film resonated throughout subsequent meetings, bringing to light to what extent choice is a heavy word, heavy in the sense that it comes with great responsibility and repercussion, but also, limitation. Choices are saved for the privileged, ostracizing populations of women who do not have access to the resources which would allow them to make individual decisions about their pregnancy. As social justice advocates, feminists like me seek to challenge the essence of privilege that dictates the amount of choices one has. Feminists are the defenders of choices in reproductive health, extending this privilege to every person, regardless of their demographics. Perusing pamphlets listing countless resources and venues through which women can access their preferred maternity care, I found my prior questions answered in the humble work of Choices in Childbirth.
I analyze the limitations of choice from a feminist perspective, but also from that of an aspiring public health professional. A recent graduate of the University of Alabama with a B.A. in Cultural Communication Studies and a minor in Women’s Studies, I strategically used my undergraduate education as an opportunity to branch out from my Massachusetts roots and embrace a culture completely foreign to my own. I now proudly identify as a New England woman with a Southern flair (I even say “ya’ll” from time to time). While living in the South, I delved into family communication research topics including trends in parenting practices and styles, the changing tides of the motherhood identity, resource accessibility, social support, and how all the latter theories translate into overall family health and nutrition. I intend on continuing my education with the same spontaneity and honesty as I did in my journey to Alabama, keeping in mind my lifelong mission to learn and embrace new cultural perspectives. I find that the more willing we are as people to see life through an alternative lens, the more challenge, peace, or even, reassurance we discover in our own values and choices.
The opportunity to meet with the staff of Choices in Childbirth reinforced my passion for the cultural dynamics of maternal and child health as I could see my enthusiasm reflected in their work. In the coming year, I will continue to advance my research in health communication and maternal and child health with sights on attaining a graduate degree in sociomedical science and public health.
Photo Credit: Carly Romeo of Two Spoons Photography