Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beating A Dead Horse Can Be Good

You say either and I say eye-ther
You say neither and I say nie-ther
Either, eye-ther, neither, nie-ther
Let's call the whole thing off

You say tomato, I say tomahto
You eat potato and I eat potahto
Tomato, tomahto, potato, potahto
Let's call the whole thing off

But oh, if we call the whole thing off then we must part
And oh, if we ever part then that might break my heart

So, if you wear pajamas and I wear pajahmas
I'll wear pajamas and give up pajahmas
For we know we need eachother so we
Better call the calling off, off
Oh, let's call the whole thing off

You say ahfter and I say after
You say lauhghter and I say laughter
After, ahfter, laughter, lauhghter
Let's call the whole thing off

You say Havana and I say Havahna
You eat banana and I eat banahna
Havana, Havahna, banana, banahna
Let's call the whole thing off

But oh, if we call the whole thing off then we must part
And oh, if we ever part then that might break my heart

So, if you say oysters and I say ersters
I'll eat oysters and give up ersters
For we know we need each other so we
Better call the calling off, off
Oh, let's call the whole thing off

The battle of the "B" word has erupted again, on a Facebook group. It began, as far as I can tell, having entered the fray a bit late, by an adopted adult who was really angry at her mother and carried on by a mother or two who felt themselves to be the righteous voices of reason. It was impelled forward by hostility and a lack of understanding.

Now, if it were just a matter of pronunciation, as in this cute ditty, above, that Fred warbled to Ginger, I think it would be relatively unimportant. But, in this case, it IS important. I can refer many people to the article by Diane Turski, "Why Birthmother Means Breeder," or I could speak about the fight of African Americans to be referred to in a dignified manner, but there are always, it seems, those who want to push us back into our dusty niches.

Yes, to all. LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT. Can you hear me? This is an issue brought about by the civil and human rights of the mothers being decimated, especially during the BSE. We were defined, then, as being deviant, delinquent, careless young sluts. Most of us were just frightened girls who loved, maybe not wisely, but too well. We were judged and found lacking by the evidence of our humanity and passion.

The author and serial adopter, Pearl Buck, first used the term "birth mother" in the 1950's. The early founders of Concerned United Birthparents left out the space in the middle of birth and mother and thought they had settled the issue. What happened, however, is that the industry and society took off with the term and the meaning became one that is anything but dignified and respect-worthy. It is used against us to reduce us as mothers and women. It is used to pre-define a surrendering mother before she even thinks about surrender. It is a tool and a ploy of the industry and social engineers. It is a way for those who adopt to deny our motherhood as many would like to deny our very existence.

It's funny that they also apply the word to unwed fathers. A man can't be a "birth" father because he didn't give birth. Ergo, as one mother pointed out, wouldn't that make the males in the equation "Ejaculationfathers?" It is, and always will be, a term of denigration. There is no way you can take the term, as the adoptees were able to do with "Bastard," and make it one of "in-your-face self-respect." Perhaps, if we were to call ourselves "Sluts," that would have more of a ring? No, not really. A bastard is not responsible for the circumstances of their birth. We were forced and coerced and we need a sobriquet that recognizes that fact and the fact that we require respect. "Slut" just plays into the stereotype.

If Gandhi, Martin Luther King and many others realized the importance of how language is used, why is it such a battle for Natural Mothers to insist on being referred to in a dignified and respectful way? We are only trying to claim that which was ours before we were stripped of all autonomy and thrust into a cycle of grief and shame. Shame is not acceptable any more. Self-respect is essential to anyone making a mark in the battle for inquiry and redress and reform.

So save your, "it doesn't matter" speeches for to-may-to/to-mah-to. I am not a walking uterus, a breeder for the infertile or a non-mother. I am a Mother, or, if you insist on differentiation, a Natural Mother.

You can call me a birthmother all you like. But I will not answer you.


Unknown said...

excellent post Robin. This sums things up nicely.

I have been rolling some ideas around in my own head for blog posts recently and now with school starting I may be able to do them.

Von said...

To an adult adoptee such as myself it matters deeply because it mattered to my mother what she was called.When we were reunited she was proud to claim the name only she had a right to.

Anonymous said...

This is well said. I'm not sure about that "Natural Mother" in initial caps, though. It's a term that says we just dropped 'em out in the field, like, natural critters, and there's an element of racism (remember "natural rhythm"?) in it too. Or maybe that's the term we should take for ourselves, in translation/other language--Gaians! Beautifully designed blog site, by the way.

Theodore said...

Well, as I already pointed out at FMF, one's Natural child used to be one's child born out wedlock. Just a lack of a formality...

Robin said...

Well, Theodore. I don't call my children my "natural" children. All children are natural. They are just, surrendered and raised, my children.

Chris Winter said...

I always have to laugh at the people who say 'language doesn't matter'. Really?! LOL! LOL!! Then why is it so terribly important to have the correct/specific language/words in legal contracts, law, etc.? Why is 'language' any less important in AdoptoLand? O! is! Like in a surrender doc, an adoption decree. Language is everything, to everyone, since language/words were first spoken by human beings. The wrong word, used in the wrong place, spoken to the wrong person/s...can and still does cause a fight...even outside of AdoptoLand.
My mom was a die-hard person when it came to who would call her what. She insisted that anyone who she did not know her personally..always address her as Mrs. ifs, ands, buts about it. And she would correct someone, on the spot, about that. It was her personal right to determine how she would be addressed, what she would be called. If someone still insisted on calling her by her first name...she simply ignored the person, turned her back and walked away...and my mother never apologized for this action...never! My mom was a woman of conviction and she cared not if someone didn't agree with her on this name issue of hers. It was important to her and that's all that mattered. And that's the point..she could care less how other women wanted to be addressed or not...she only knew what she determined for herself and she held fast to that. I feel much like my can call me mother, natural mother...but don't call me burfmother. I wasn't a burfmother in 1964, have never been thru the years and surely not today!! I'm nobody's burf thing! If someone doesn't like what I have determined for myself...too bad for you...your problem, not mine!

Anonymous said...

Recently came across the term "gestational carrier". How low can people sink in terms of needing to minimize the role of the First Mother.