Why NOT be a community resource?

Love me some Kelly Diels. Her writing about FLEB (Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand) tactics and nastiness were instrumental in identifying and then breaking free of some negative things in my own life. Today’s piece for Medium definitely pinged me on both sides of the radar a little bit. Not because I disagree with it – I actually agree with some of what she is saying so strongly – but I also feel like that is such a deeply personal choice.

I”m struggling with this in particular.

If we are required to make ourselves into community resources accessible to anyone who wants or needs us, any time, then we are undermining the surge towards collective justice and personal autonomy and reinforcing the very logic of oppression.

Undermining collective justice and personal autonomy? I’m… not sure I agree.

I’m not required to make myself into a community resource. I choose to offer myself as a resource in a well-boundaried, carefully thought out fashion.

Really my response to this was, “Don’t fucking tell me I’m undermining someone’s personal autonomy by offering them pro-bono or reduced cost services via my partnership with whatever community agency is helping them. Why don’t you go have a conversation about autonomy and agency with the person who is dealing with the trauma of birthing within a system that rejects the autonomy and choices of the birthing person. Then we’ll talk.”

Birth work is a part of my activism. Β I am a feminist and an activist. Women’s reproductive choice, rights and access to care matter to me. It takes a lot of forms, it takes a lot of shapes.

I’m not an activist in the birth room, no, I’d never bring an agenda – political or personal – into someone’s birth. That’s unethical. But how I choose to go about my birth work is absolutely a form of activism and it is very personal. Β Educating my clients about their bodies, the birth process, their choices, and empowering them to advocate for themselves during their births is a form of activism. Helping new parents transition into parenthood in a confident, healthy, emotionally connected way is a form of activism. Making sure my business is always becoming more inclusive and culturally competent, accessible to all women who want a doula and not just those who can choose a “luxury” service, you bet that’s my activism.

Don’t want to be a community resource? Don’t be a community resource. Don’t want to give your personal time to something? Don’t give your personal time to something. But don’t tell folks who DO want to do that, that they are undermining and contributing to the problem. How about you keep solving the problem in your way, I’ll keep solving the problem in my way? Because the people who ultimately lose, when there is this kind of struggle, are the people who desperately need the support in the first place.

I don’t have time to talk about theory and systems of oppression with you today because today I am talking with a mother (who would otherwise be giving birth alone), about the gritty reality of how to navigate the local healthcare system, find a provider who takes Medi-Cal, and make empowered choices for her birth.

Priorities.

Obviously this piece pushed some big buttons for me and those buttons are rooted in having a bunch of rhetoric about the evils of free birth shoved down my throat for almost two years and the disempowerment inherent for me in just… swallowing that party line.

Bottom line is this: I’m 47 years old, my kids are grown, I have some spare time, I have some resources, and if I choose to spend some of that time and some of those resources on being a community resource then please, stop judging how I do my thing. I spent years focused on my family and myself. This is the stage in my life where I can actually focus up and outwards and on the world a little bit. I don’t feel like my labor or body are being leveraged by the patriarchy and oppressive systems. What does feel oppressive is the judgment of my fellow feminists.

Here’s a radical thought, what if we taught our children that they get a choice? If we taught people from day 1 how to boundary and balance the service they choose to provide to others? Β What if we taught people that it’s okay to choose, and that they are ultimately the arbiters of their own choices, as activists, citizens, and parents.

Obviously I’m still unpacking this.

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About Maia Rainwood

Owner and Maker at Maia Rainwood Design. Wearable art for wise women, birth keepers, witches, and world-builders.
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6 Responses to Why NOT be a community resource?

  1. Lynda the Guppy says:

    In this political climate, I’ve discovered we need all kinds of activism. We need those who will go out in the streets wearing pink hats…and we need the people who can’t march to knit those hats. And we need people who can do neither who are willing to pay for the yarn. And we need people to just say a kind word. It takes all kinds, and these days I think there are times where just saying to someone “I hear you. I see you.” is a form of activism.

    And on any given day, how I chose to be an “activist” is MY choice. If I want to hold an auction for all my belongings and give all the money to the ACLU, that’s my choice. Or if I want to send them just $5 because that’s all I can afford? That’s ALSO my choice. And neither choice needs to be, nor should it be, judged by others.

    No matter how well-intentioned they think they’re being.

    Ugh. Apparently it hit my buttons, too.

  2. Natalie says:

    It’s all about being able to make that decision. I don’t see Diels saying that no one should be a community resource, just that no one should be a de facto community resource because of their race or gender.

    • Maia Rainwood says:

      I did, actually, get that part, but it still pushed my buttons. Perhaps it’s because of all the shaming I experienced in my previous doula org around wanting to provide low cost or community based doula services. This pushed those buttons hard and at times I felt like Diels sounded just like the owner of that organization. She made some good points around the need to start addressing the deeper issues though.

      • Natalie says:

        Ouch, yeah. That would push some buttons. The FLEB concept, to me, is anti low cost services. Entrepreneurial frameworks are, too–I saw someone say that she charges for meetings with clients who are already paying for her services (I don’t think she’s in an hourly billing industry). Capitalism. Ugh.

        • Maia Rainwood says:

          I’ve seen people charge a fee for an interview then apply it to the contract if they are hired. I don’t choose to do that. The organization I mentioned previously advocates that doulas charge additional (after the flat rate birth fee) for attendance at births past a certain point, say, 12 hours. I thought it was a great idea at first and had it written into my contract, but after doing a bunch of births, I’ve rethought it. There’s no way I’d put a birthing person on the clock like that. I couldn’t do it. They paid for a service, period. So it’s out of my contract and now I just have a provision for when I might call in a backup doula if their birth goes super long.

          Time and money and entrepreneurship are weirdly hard.

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