Thursday, 31 July 2008

Building bridges?

Luna recently wrote a thoughtful post in which she asked why she found herself unwilling or unable or unprepared to approach certain topics on her blog. "Is it simply a matter of time? too soon or too late? too personal? too overwhelming, complex or confusing? Am I too lazy? too defensive or protective? too afraid (and if so, of what)? Am I not in touch with how I feel enough to articulate it? Am I trying to retain some sense of privacy that is forever lost when sharing an intimate thought or fear? Am I simply trying to exercise some discretion? Or are there just certain words that must remain unspoken, at least for now." She came to the conclusion that it was perhaps "a bit of everything".

I too am struggling with similar questions. I started blogging in a bid to try to make sense of what I was going through, and also as a means of connecting with others who were in a similar situation. And in the process I have found myself part of a much larger, grass-roots movement. It strikes me that part of what is happening here in the blogosphere is what second-wave feminists might have termed 'consciousness raising': in sharing and analysing our own personal experiences, we are in the process of creating a discourse on infertility and pregnancy loss, and that awareness of these issues is - however slowly - beginning to filter out into wider society.

On another level altogether, I often experience a sudden flash of recognition when reading other people's blogs. Sometimes it seems that others are able to articulate what I cannot: it is only through reading other women's stories that I am able to gain access to parts of my own life narrative.

What we cannot or will not say can be as revealing as what we do say. I often have ideas for posts that I don't write - this may be because I simply never get round to it, or because after a few days whatever it was I wanted to say no longer seems that important. But there are other things which I consciously avoid writing about, most notably my work. I am anxious lest anyone should search for either my real name or my research topic and be led here to my blog.

And yet it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to maintain such a clear cut separation between my interests as a feminist academic, and my lived experiences as an infertile woman. In the spirit of Mel's latest initiative, I want to try and build bridges between these two areas of my life. And so I am beginning to gather material for a book that examines the feminist discourse on infertility (or, perhaps more accurately, the lack thereof). I'm interested in the fact that, while feminism has been quick to embrace the possibilities represented by ART (ART has been seen by many feminist theorists as a positive thing, in that it loosens the ties that bind motherhood to biology), it is noticeably silent on the impact that infertility can have on our identity as women.

10 comments:

luna said...

oh ms. heathen, there is so much here. first, what a wonderful idea about the book. I would love to read such a book. I love the idea that in telling our stories we are creating a discourse that does in effect raise consciousness.

I also love what you write about accessing your own life narrative through reading other women's stories. great post!

loribeth said...

I would also love to read such a book! Proud feminist that I am ; ) I think infertility & pregnancy loss have received short shrift from feminists (perhaps because they also touch on the reproductive rights debate). You may already be aware of these two volumes that touch on these ideas or similar ideas (although not specifically): "Reconceiving Women" by Mardy Ireland, and "Motherhood Lost" by Linda L. Layne.

Ms Heathen said...

Thank you both for your enthusiasm about my proposed book - now all I need to do is finish this damned thesis so I can start work on it!

I think you've hit on something really important, Loribeth, when you raise the issue of reproductive rights. What concerns me is the way in which the issue of infertility doesn't seem really to register in feminist campaigns around the right to choose - one of the things I want to do is to try and work out why that is. And thank you for your reading recommendations - I'm aware of the Linda Layne book, but not the one by Mardy Ireland, so will definitely add it to my list of things I need to get round to reading!

Pamela Jeanne said...

Brilliant! I echo the enthusiasm for what your new project. I eagerly await your updates...

My identity became a casualty when infertility reared its ugly head. I've been trying to sort it out ever since...

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Go for the book. I think you are a very good position to write this, not least for being able to draw on and develop ideas within the blogging community you have developed.

Deborah said...

I too struggled with how much to reveal, how much self-disclosure was necessary in order to reach others, tell my story. I too was inspired by Mel's Building Bridges and revealed something about myself that I was reluctant to do, but I do feel that it is extremely important. If I inspire, help or just provide solice to one person, it is worth it.

Malloryn said...

This is a fantastic idea for a book, and I hope you have a chance to pursue it soon. We're certainly seeing more about ART in the media these days, though for the most part information about it simply serves to reinforce wrong ideas (my current favourite being the 100% guaranteed IVF process). I too would be interested to know why many feminists don't embrace infertility as a key issue.

Lisa said...

I've yet to find a satisfying read that speaks to my infertile, career-driven, feminist self. The books/articles just don't exist, and those that crop up seem to conclude that IF is a blessing in disguise or they promote the idea that "breeders" or women who want to be "mommies" are bad, or stupid. There's such divisiveness, and I don't understand it.

The feminist philosophy I identify with (and that I *think* has a healthy following -- at least I've never had trouble finding like-minded female friends) is supportive of all women being true to themselves, making individual choices & having the opportunity to do whatever they want in this life.

Finish your dissertation and get on it! :)

Shinejil said...

AWESOME book idea! I have to say, IF has made me understand very deeply how my fate has been impacted by my gender, and the quiet, latent pressures I've felt. I never before felt particularly limited or bound by my gender, until this time.

Whip that thesis out, and get to work! :) If there's any way a wacky historian can help, let me know...

annacyclopedia said...

I've been saving this post unread in my reader (a 21st century phrase, indeed!) because I knew it was important and I wanted to make sure I had time to comment. This is a brilliant idea and there is a rich source of stories and experiences here, I think. One of the biggest things for me has been a different understanding of what constitutes a life. I've always been pro-choice, and that hasn't changed, but when I've found myself posting encouraging, loving comments to pre-transfer embryos, I've had to re-think where I am with the whole issue.

Can't wait for you to get to work on it!