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Adoption as a modern Feminist institutional blindspot

Well here’s something you don’t see everyday.

Bitch Magazine* saw fit to include a commentary criticizing the industry from a Feminist perspective, written by adoptive mother Dawn Friedman. See “Adopt-ation: A feminist take on the state of the adoption industry.”

Marley/Bastardette has written her own blog post, ADOPTION IS A FEMINIST ISSUE: DAWN FRIEDMAN TAKES ON THE NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ADOPTION, about the commentary, pointing out one of the core weaknesses of the Friedman piece, that of attempting to place adoption into a “reproductive rights” context/i.e. attempting to frame adoption as a reproductive issue. (A false meme I have addressed here on my blog repeatedly.)

Dawn replied in the Bastardette blog entry comments:

You’re right about adoption not really being a reproductive rights issue and I winced when I typed that but I want women to realize that if they care about abortion, they need to care about adoption because too many feminists aren’t thinking about adoption.

Unfortunately, here the ends simply cannot justify the means. Attempts to cloak adoption in the language of womyn’s “reproductive rights” or “reproductive choices” only serves to further muddy the waters. It continues to render Bastards, our human, identity, and civil rights as invisible to the equation. We as separate people (post birth, birth is the line of demarcation) have our own rights and interests and are not part of any mythical spectrum of “reproductive alternatives.”

Decisions about who will raise the expected child may be made during pregnancy, but none of those decisions mean a damn thing until after there is an actual born child to determine placement of.

Compulsory Pregnancy Advocates (i.e. those opposing womyn’s access to abortion) routinely conflate the issue by falsely inserting “adoption” into notions of womyn’s “reproductive options.” Sadly over the past 36 years since Roe and Doe, many Feminists themselves have been snookered into embracing this false meme.

Rather than repeating it in some sad attempt to gain sympathy for the cause of ‘openness’ (however nebulous that appears at times) in one of the rare mentions of adoption, the industry, and Feminism internal to Feminist media, the more Radical (”to the root”) approach would have been to take that rare opportunity to tell the truth, that adoption is never a reproductive rights “issue”, it is instead a chronologically secondary point in the process that takes place AFTER the reproductive phase is over and done with.

One the one hand, many Feminist Bastards are happy to see any scant critique of the industry from a Feminist perspective appear in print.

But on the other, it is precisely because these critiques are so rare that it becomes all the more important to get the analysis correct; avoiding false memes (that originate within the very industry and broader movement one is attempting to critique) and unflinchingly speaking to womyn’s authentic roles in adoption.

For Feminism to genuinely begin to grapple with its legacy of and current entwinement with adoption as an institution and the corrupt industry itself, Feminists would need to move beyond listening to adoptive mothers and begin to genuinely listen to Mothers and Bastards ourselves, all while coming to terms with the many ways by which Feminist individuals and institutions, as well as institutions supported by Feminists (NARAL, as but one of many such examples) have enabled the industry and participated personally, a tall order indeed when for decades now adoption has been sold to womyn as another “reproductive choice.”

The fact that those critical of adoption tactics and the industry remain ghettoized, never added to the pantheon of “Feminist Issues” says a very great deal about the internal blind spot modern many Feminists have perpetuated. Turning a blind eye to the conditions under which children are procured undermines the authenticity of other aspects of the modern Feminist critique.

How can one speak to the conditions of working womyn in India, for example, without ALSO acknowledging that one aspect of the work some number of Indian womyn are forced into is that of bearing children for American would-be adopters?

Adoption politics speak directly to the broader experiences of womyn as a class. That some womyn, self professed feminists no less, willingly (hell, at times gleefully) provide the capital and raison d’être for an industry that clearly benefits from the deprivation of another set of womyn fundamentally calls into question not merely their “feminism” but their very humanity and ability to empathize with other families. Families, at times across the globe, that oftentimes do not speak the same language, nor have the resources available to them regain what are clearly at times children stolen, sold, or explained away as “having died.”

The sad fact remains, this is one of the great human rights “issues” of our times, for many feminists to not merely be missing in action, but personal participants in this human trade undermines credibility on any number of fronts wherein those approaching the hard issues do so from a Feminist perspective.

Do those of us who consider ourselves Feminists (or in my case a Radical- or “to the root”- Feminist) ensnared by aspects of adoption as currently practiced find our “sisters’” participation in and advocacy on behalf of the industry somewhere on a spectrum between “disheartening” and “outright betrayal”? Well. ultimately, yes.

  • When one learns that womyn’s health clinics, so entangled in their opponents rhetoric and false memes that they turn to forms of “adoption counseling” making referrals and become an intake path into the Gladney Center for Adoption (Gladney has long been opposed to Bastard rights. It was one of the founding agencies that created the National Council for Adoption as an industry lobby against open records. Every child they place adds money to their coffers. In a day and age when finding womyn willing to relinquish is a daily struggle for industry, the idea of womyn’s clinics providing them raw fodder is nothing short of doing their dirty work for them.)
  • When we watch as year in and year out, feminist organizations willing to take on Coercive Pregnancy Indoctrination Centers (CPICs, “crisis pregnancy centers” or fake clinics) yet are unwilling to address the one of the two ultimate goals of such centers, (one being religious conversion, the other being) procurement of eventual children for faith based adoptions through the use of fear tactics, outright lies, and propaganda.
  • When evidence of coercion, intimidation, kidnapping, smuggling, bribes, etc etc etc are brought forward as case studies of the tactics utilized particularly in the international adoption trade to mainstream feminist organizations and publications, yet the concerns of Mothers and Bastards are brushed aside again and again.
  • Or worse than mere neglect, when organizations do come out to lobby on for example, legalized baby dumping/”safe haven” bills, only to support them! Thereby making it appear legalized baby dumping is something “both sides” (”feminists” and those vehemently opposed to abortion) can “agree” upon. (Meanwhile others of us Feminists actively fight against such measures, understanding how they genuinely subvert womyn’s rights and forever destroy the child’s human, civil, and identity rights.)

It’s a long sad litany of failure. Failure to understand that the gain of one womyn CAN come at the direct and permanent cost to another. That calling oneself a feminist while fucking over another womyn rings hollow.

Sadly the above are only but a few of many such examples. Yet by and large those of us with direct personal experience have been shut out.

So should we be surprised when the only voices that make their way up through the cracks into certain forms of feminist media are those of adoptive mothers, unintentionally(?) couching their critique in the false memes of their opponents so as to ‘gain a hearing’?

Not in the least.

My Radical Feminist Bastard perspective was forged in the realm of street activism. Of taking direct personal experiences and listening to the directly affected, then acting upon such, demanding authentic change.

So long as today’s feminist institutions are unwilling to take a long hard look at their own participation in causing the suffering and political disenfranchisement of other womyn, I find it damn difficult at times to call them allies. When they abandon the genuine needs of classes of womyn, I personally have difficulty conveying the mantle of ‘a voice for womyn’ or notions of ‘leadership’ upon them.

Are there Feminists on the ‘right side’ of the adoption mess? Yes, there are a few, but as Marley pointed out:

There is little feminist critique of adoption outside of academia, and even there it is top-heavy with adopter discourse–some of it spot-on., and I don’t want to dimiss it. But, Feminist Bastard and Feminist First Mother voices are generally limited to blogs, forums, and obscure conference workshops.

One of the many things I aim to accomplish with my own blogging is to point out, those claiming the title “feminist” and attempting to “speak on behalf of womyn” in adoption anyway, oftentimes cannot speak for me, nor for many other Feminist womyn. At this point, there is no singular “feminist stance” in relation to adoption.

The pop perception is that the “feminist position on adoption” is to have a power career long enough to have put off childbearing long enough so as to adopt an “orphan,” preferably from some “third world” country in an “act of altruism” now dubbed “feminist.”

Said charactature, ignores Feminist Mothers who have lost children to adoption. It ignores Feminist Bastards fighting against the corrupt sealed records system used to hide industry wrongdoings. And it ignores what is often the reality of womyn who adopt as well, some of whom self identify as Feminist.

Modern feminist institutions have a lot of listening to do. Not surprisingly, some of the first voices they may be willing to hear will likely come from womyn who have adopted. Such are voices easier to make room for and to hear, often viewed as a version of peers.

We’ll know we’re finally beginning to make progress, however, when Mothers speaking from their own experiences and Bastards speaking from their legalized second class citizenship begin to populate the discourse and are granted more than mere voice, genuine representation and structural power.

***

* note, I have been a financial supporter of Bitch magazine. While I have both good and bad things to say about the magazine, my beef in this piece is less about one of the few remaining pieces of Feminist media and more about where Feminism as a whole stands in relation to adoption. If anything, yes, however flawed, I am glad to see Bitch tackle the issue and crack the door just a bit wider, for that alone, they deserve support.

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