Monday, May 22, 2006

Speaking of "The Big Stuff"

One of my first thoughts in response to this was that the article just postively reeked of the assumptions that come with privilege - not just in terms of gender, but race and class as well.

The article starts to give lip service to recent news about our always abysmal infant mortality rate, but other than acknowledge the race gap, it doesn't really address the reasons why we fail so utterly at keeping our babies safe and healthy. The obvious and well known fact that a disturbingly large percentage of our citizens do not have access to any kind of medical care other than emergency services gets a mention, but racial discrimination does not - even though it affects not only the quality of care patients recieve, but even the research and knowledge that doctors have access to. Most of the article is about what women and doctors should do to address the problem, but there is very little recognition of the fact that their efforts are hampered by the realities of race and class - and the article includes absolutely no discussion of what we all can do to change this.

Several bloggers have already pointed out the Gilead aspects of the WaPo article. I think monkeycrackmary said it best:

This new 'women should consider themselves pre-pregnant' decree fails to speak to those of us who consider ourselves 'pre-eccentric-lady-with-all-the-cats'.
Over at Women of Color Blog, turtlebella points out that such guidelines also fail to speak to the many women (often women of color) who do not have access to basic medical care and information. The very same women who are at greatest risk of losing their infants. She left this comment on an extremely moving post about racism and motherhood by brownfemipower:
I've been reading...about...the new CDC recommendations for potentially pregnant women and I kept coming back to this post of yours, bfp....[Its] really only a "controversy" among the privileged (read, white?) who have access to information, health care, etc. to begin with. And women of color are punished for NOT having these things...
The WaPo article is really only relevant for upper and middle class women who plan to have children some day. The problem with the article is not that it is only relevant for this small group, but that it conflates this particular group of women with all women. By arguing that all women (of childbearing age) should take care of themselves simply for their unconceived children's sake (and not arguing the same for men) it reduces women to nothing more than baby-makers. By discussing preconception care as if it will somehow make a significant dent in our infant mortality stats, the article is acting as though working-class and non-white mothers do not exist - or are not important. By mentioning the race gap and widespread lack of health care, but not the underlying reasons for it, the article makes it easy for readers to shift the blame onto "those mothers" - so easy, in fact, that one has to wonder if that wasn't the author's intent.

The CDC's guidelines are very reasonable and good, but WaPo has presented them to us through a filter of privilege - distorting the original message and undermining their purpose.

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