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. 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. 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.
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? 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.