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ASAC adds an addenda to the description of the racist misogynistic objectifying anti-abortion maternity camp propaganda video that it screened

By way of a brief follow up on my original post,

Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture (ASAC) conference screens racist misogynistic objectifying anti-abortion maternity camp propaganda video

ASAC has added a brief addenda to their description of the film, A Man Without Culture Is Like a Zebra Without Stripes: the Adoption Triangle in South Africa” screened at the conference:

[This description, provided by the presenter to ASAC, suggests something very different from the treatment of birthmothers shown in this film. Rather than promoting openness, the agency controls birthmothers’  communications with the adoptive family, and cuts them off after two years. In the film, a social worker  claims that two years is enough time for birthmothers to grieve.  Professionals and birthparents know that this is often not true, and some found her comment appalling and  said so in the discussion period. Focusing on South Africa, and showing the transfer of poor black children to prosperous white families, the film painfully (and ironically) recalls the treatment of black mothers under apartheid.  The film’s website claims that it gives an idea of good practice in post-adoption counseling according to the Hague convention, but the accompanying film showing adoptive parents with their children demonstrates that this agency’s post-adoption counseling does not provide the anti-racist perspective that adoptive parents and children in transracial adoption will need, and thus does not follow the Hague Convention’s requirements of respecting the child’s ethnicity and general best interests. These films received much criticism at the conference. We do not endorse their viewpoint or the practices they show. They gave us a painful education about the limitations in how the Hague Convention has often been interpreted, and serious problems in some intercountry adoption practice.]

In essence ASAC appears to be trying to say the film they got did not line up with the way the film was proposed to them prior to the conference. They then go on to bemoan “the limitations in how the Hague Convention has often been interpreted.”

None of which deals with the core issues of what happened here.

There are various different sets of people each with their own motivations who live adoption or work in relation to adoption.

Some of us are Bastards, or adoptees ourselves who once aware of our status have no choice but to live adoption, we are adoption.

Others are Mothers a number of whom have endured the all too often painful realities of adoption, as let’s face it, time and again, coercion, deception, and a variety of forms of outright child stealing have been an ongoing aspects of adoption practices.

There are adopters, who ‘opt in’ to adoption, and yes obviously have their own perspectives on it.

There is the State and its role in the very structure of adoptions. (As well as legislators, judges, etc some of whom have their own direct participations in adoption.)

And then there are the various interests who occupy that fifth spot on the adoption pentagon: adoption agencies, child marketers, child finders and scouts, recruiters, industry lobbies, adoption marketers (i.e. marketing the very concept of adoption itself, often to both lawmakers and prospective adoptive couples,)  Coercive Pregnancy Indoctrination Centers (aka self described “Crisis Pregnancy Centers,”) maternity camps, juvenile delinquent centers for “unwed teens”, etc.

In all of this, there are some various factions, Bastards fighting for our own human/civil/identity rights, agencies fighting to preserve their financial interests and industry’s very viability, etc to name just two.

If ASAC failed to understand what a juicy target for a resume item an academic adoption conference held at M.I.T.  would hold to those attempting to legitimize, for example their adoption marketing film, then ASAC was nothing short of naive.

Apparently, ASAC was used.

They were told the film would be one thing, highlighting “openness”, for example, yet what they got was a marketing film used in marketing adoption and fulfilling would-be-adoptive couple’s Hague convention required “educational” component. Far from any ephemeral notion of “openness” the film showcased how Abba House and Esther House in South Africa actively controlled, manipulated, and literally read any and all correspondence, stripping it of any identifying information before passing it on, between Mothers and Adoptive Couples now continents away.

As this propaganda film was screened, mind you, to an audience with (Original) family members and adoptees in it, ASAC simply let it roll. When it came to its conclusion, the ASAC representative in the room simply went on ahead with the Q & A, never once acknowledging that something extraordinary had just occurred.

There is the overt racism inherent to the film itself, as well as the racism an adoptee in the film spoke of experiencing which I wrote about eariler:

The film also interviewed several of the adopted kids themselves including a boy brought to a European country, imported from Haiti. He described other kids, particularly from other schools or less familiar with him in day to day life flinging invectives at him, calling his so called colour  “chocolate” and “shit.”

Yet in an attempt at negating such, Ann Somers stood in front of the ASAC audience and flatly denied that racism had been an issue in these adoptions of Black kids taken from South Africa and Haiti and adopted into European Countries with predominantly white populations.

In essence, she stood there and overrode the direct firsthand experiences of racism that the adopted boy in her film spoke of.

Apparently to Somers, the voices of even the adoptees in the film matter not one bit.

The ASAC response at the time was non-existent.

It came down to people in the audience to even begin to question aspects of this film.

And in the end, yes, it came down to me personally, to decry the film as “propaganda” and “vile” in the Q & A session.

As I wrote for the about page on my personal Stormcoming blog, speaking of a completely different, non-adoption related context at the time:

…I’ve never been good at not saying what desperately needs saying when no one else will.

Maybe I’ll write about the aftermath of my comments at ASAC eventually, maybe I won’t. For now I’ll simply say the response to my comments was both surprising and perfectly predictable.

Surprising, in that to my utter shock,  a few people in the audience applauded.

Perfectly predictable, in that after I spoke my POLITICAL analysis of what had just happened, I was accused of being “wounded” and “hurt.” The same old tactics always used to shut down and derail  Bastard political criticism.

Once you’re to that point, there’s no point in hanging around. Attempts at rationally discussing the content of the propaganda film had devolved down to personal attack decrying how “wounded” I personally was.

It’s impossible to discuss the actual content of the film in such a context.

When those who dare reject have their political criticism ignored as nothing more than some aspect of being personally broken, said conversation has ended.

I’ve spent my life working for women’s reproductive autonomy.

I did not expect to be subjected to an anti-abortion/pro-adoption ministry spotlight my first day at the conference.

But when the conference itself lacks an understanding of the landscape their conference and adoption itself  occupies, and of the various interests who would themselves utilize the conference to their own ends, and clearly have no bullshit detectors to even understand what just happened, why should I be surprised?

An addenda after the fact about how ‘gee, some people’s interpretation of the Hague Treaty really wasn’t what we thought it would be’ doesn’t even begin touch on the depths of what occurred in Boston.

No matter how good or strong the rest of the conference, the contaminating presence of such adoptee negating, autonomy denying, industry propaganda, AND the ASAC lack of response in real time is both a corruption of the very space and a violation inflicted upon some of the very people sitting in that audience.

No Mother should be expected to sit silently by while being told after 2 years they move on. No Bastard should be expected to sit silently by while being told racism isn’t a factor in these adoptions and that the adoptee’s own voice, both used and then shoved aside doesn’t matter.

Yet giving the conference more respect than was its due, that was precisely what some of us in that audience did, waited silently until it was over, until the Q &A.

When the ASAC representative in the room was clearly blithely unaware of what had just gone by, I looked around the room and waited for someone else to state what was more than obvious to some of us.

When no one did, I waited my turn at the microphone and stated as plainly as possible what little I could without first sitting down to do the websearches to dig out the full details of what this was (covered in my initial ASAC post.)

I don’t know how to put it more plainly than this,

You cannot ask Bastards be supportive of a space when an adopted child’s own first hand experiences of racism, of bullying and cruelty he was subjected to as a direct result of his adoption experience are invalidated and shoved aside so carelessly by those the conference chose to showcase.

Our voices matter, be they the voices of the Mothers in the film who one after another reported their reasons for adoption were economic, and that in at least one case, she actively wanted to keep her child, but economically was unable, or the voices of an adopted child saying ‘I DO experience racist treatment as a result of this process.’

Sadly, ASAC valued the output of industry over the voices of Mothers and Adoptees.

They had an opportunity, in real time, once it was clear this film was not what had been pitched to them in the submitted proposal to do something about it as it was screened.  Yet Joyce Maguire Pavao, of the Center for Family Connections who chaired the screening for ASAC, apparently saw nothing wrong with what was happening in that room. (Not surprising considering the CfFC is itself steeped in both triad thinking and “attachment issues” (see my earlier ASAC post for my critique of both “the triad” and “attachment issues.”)

The bottom line remains, Bastards and Mothers were objectified by the film, which was nothing more than an anti-abortion adoption ministry related propaganda piece.

Those responsible for the film get to go home to Belgium and tout how their film ran at the ASAC conference at M.I.T. and ASAC’s pathetic addenda tacked on after the fact to the films page, not even the front conference page, (nor have I seen any evidence of anything being broadly mailed out about the addenda beyond to some of us who questioned what took place,)  nor Facebooked, nor utilized in other forms of social media, doesn’t begin to address the concerns some of us have had with what occurred in Boston.

ASAC to the best of my knowledge only mailed their response to those of us who raised our concerns, not to the broader body of conference attendees.

ASAC holds the ultimate responsibility for the fact that this happened.

Whether the film was run sight unseen or not, ASAC still had a responsibility to what was being run as part of their own conference and how this disaster was not handled at the time.

It saddens me deeply, as yes, there were reasons I attended the conference in the first place (though there were also apparently other aspects of the conference that I suppose I’m glad I missed at this point.) There are some people who presented there who are without a doubt, doing the real and important work.

Yet to be told in no uncertain terms on he very first day of the conference that Bastards and Mothers voices were in certain times and spaces, simply not relevant and that this was a conference that welcomed industry propaganda over our voices,  left me with no recourse. My conscience dictated it was past time to go.

Now, here we are after the fact, and Marianne Novy has both contacted me in personal email with the addenda and this morning left it as a comment to my original ASAC piece. While I appreciate her letting me know what ASAC has done, there have been extenuating circumstances on my end.

It’s been one of the strangest weeks of my life this past week, and no I haven’t gotten to writing this post until now. Whether that’s been convenient for ASAC or not I’m afraid has simply not been foremost on my mind.

I find their response misses the point entirely, and is far too little too late, but that’s just my take on it.

8 Responses to “ASAC adds an addenda to the description of the racist misogynistic objectifying anti-abortion maternity camp propaganda video that it screened”

  1. unsigned masterpiece Says:

    I don’t know if you’ve read my reports of the conference on my blog but I had a similar reaction to a couple of sessions at the conference, specifically Anita Allen and Dr. Frances Latchford.

    I didn’t go to the movie. I’m glad I didn’t.

    It took me about a week to recover from the conference too. There were of course good people there with open minds but the naivete or willful blindness of some amazed me. I put it down to the extremely happy insular bubbles some academics choose to live in.

  2. maryanne Says:

    I am a mother who surrendered a child who was in the audience, and did speak up, right before you, about the two years to get over surrender presented in the film. I was also one of the ones who applauded you.

    I did stay for the rest of the conference, even though I hated that film, and I am glad I did. I know you did what you had to do, not saying you should have done differently. I found most of the rest of the conference interesting and affirming, but then I am not really a political person, more interested in the literature and art aspects.

    I think most of us in the audience, including perhaps the conference organizers, were just stunned and did not know what to say. I know what I said was pretty mild but I felt I had to say something. I had not yet really formulated a coherent response to the whole thing.

    I am glad the organizers issued a retraction and would also like to see it go to all on their list.

  3. Baby Love Child Says:

    Unsigned Masterpiece-

    I have read your posts about the conference, and was glad to see such, as you attended some of the sessions I was particularly interested in, “Babylift” first and foremost among them.

    I believe, had I attended some of the sessions you had, I too would have had a great deal to say about some of the “biological determinism” and “essentialist notions of womanhood’ being tossed about, particularly in light of how such have historically been the tools utilized all too often to pry kids from Mothers.

    I suppose I should clarify, it didn’t take me a week to recover from the single day of the conference I attended, I was merely stating that this past week had been both profound and a bit of a roller coaster for me personally, yes separate from the conference, yet still in its own way, “adoption related” shall we say.

    While I have no doubt there were many interesting people at the conference, particularly some of the other Adoptees and Mothers that I no doubt would have had much to discuss with, unfortunately, that was simply not something that was going to happen.

    That said, some of the presenters in particular (some of whom I have seen before) raise very real questions for me in terms of how much they truly understand the political context adoption resides within.

    Those insular bubbles, naivete, and at times assumptions can have very real consequences in the real world, particularly politically.

    In any case, thank you for both your blogging of your experiences there and your comment here. Both are appreciated.

  4. Baby Love Child Says:


    I was sorry I barely got the chance to say ‘hello’ this time around. It was disappointing not to get to spend more time together.

    I was actually VERY grateful for your comment after the film as it was in some sense the first probing or questioning of the film from a critical standpoint at all. You posed the question as to whether or not in the intervening period women would be allowed to come to reclaim their child should they desire to? A critically important question.

    Thank you for the applauding support, again I cannot tell you how stunned I was that anyone ‘had my back’ on any of what I was saying at the time. It is one thing to feel it yet stay silent, quite another to act on one’s dissent, particularly given the context of the conference.

    I should probably also clarify that my partner, Mike, and my leaving the conference was purely a personal decision. I hold no grudge, nor even disagreement with anyone who remained for the rest of the event. As I’ve said repeatedly, other portions of the conference were ‘those doing the real and important work’ and leaving, for us, was by no means an easy decision.

    I can understand a stunned reaction. Marley/Bastardette had attended in years past and spoken highly of the conference to me.

    For some, this film then, in light of the fact that for many this conference had been a place of thought and respect, must have seemed both out of place and perhaps rather shocking.

    It did take time to formulate a coherent response, certainly for me. I said what I could at the time without having done the research as to exactly where this film came from and what interests were inherent to it.

    That said though, I have been doing abortion and reproductive autonomy related work for decades, some of which has included what I consider (a definition of, not necessarily the lay definition of) oppositional research which has included spending time both inside adoption industry events and attending conferences and events relating to the evangelical “crisis pregnancy’ industry.

    As the film ran, I instantly understood on multiple levels what it was I was looking at, even if I couldn’t pin down the specifics until I spent some time online.

    My one concern relating to your comment though, is your use of the term “retraction.”

    While that may be how you interpret the paragraph ASAC added to the films page, I had difficulty characterizing it as such, particularly as ASAC itself hasn’t called it such. Thus my use of the term “addenda.”

    While the paragraph is certainly an addition to the description, and a statement that ASAC ultimately does

    “not endorse their viewpoint or the practices they show.”

    that’s not exactly a “retraction.”

    Many conferences very purposefully bring in speakers or media that they do not necessarily agree with, oftentimes to engage said people in some form of hopefully constructive dialog, that was clearly not what happened here.

    ASAC expected one thing and got something altogether different. Whether or not they were intentionally deceived is an open ended question at this point.

    But once it was clear that this was not what ASAC thought it had accepted via the proposal, the ball was squarely in ASACs court.

    Saying this was not what they thought they were going to get and that they do not “endorse” does not exactly equate to a “retraction” from my perspective.

    Further, even if some feel it was a “retraction” why only send the additional statement to those who expressed their concerns?

    A full retraction would be something sent to all registered for the conference, and certainly all in that room who saw the screening, otherwise they leave both conference goers who were in the room yet didn’t dissent, and the rest of the body of the conference goers with the impression that everything was fine- unless of course the attendee made a point of returning to the conference webpage after the fact and noted the paragraph added to the films page.

    So a “retraction?”

    I couldn’t bring myself to use the term in relation to this, which is why I wrote this piece the way I did.

    Sadly, this addenda addition, rather than in any way shape or form ‘cleaning things up’ has only left me that much more, shall we say, unimpressed.

    There was the initial problem of the film itself at the conference and ASAC not handling it in real time.

    Now there is this somewhat muddled attempt to deal with it on the back end, initially through personal email to those who took issue with it.

    When that didn’t get through to my page immediately (because as I said, this week has been complicated) the comment was added directly to my post.

    None of which exactly inspires confidence, again, at least, not for me.

  5. Baby Love Child Says:

    With Roelie Post’s permission, I am moving a copy of her comment on my reposted version of this post over on Pound Pup Legacy back here to my blog as she has brought forward important additional information pertaining to this post.

    ABBA and fathers’ rights
    (by Roelie Post)

    Thank you so much for bringing this news to this side of the Ocean. ACT Against Child Trafficking is in Brussels, Belgium. This treatment of women in South Africa reminds me of Bethany’s maternity homes in the US. Read an article about that recently.

    ACT linked up two years ago with this South African father who’se child was placed for adoption by ABBA against his will. He won the case!


    Date: 2008-12-11 Williams case has twist

    At last, dad is allowed to take Baby T home Falsely accused of being an abusive and mentally unstable drug addict, Jose Williams nearly lost his baby daughter to an adoption to which he was fiercely opposed. But the 26-year-old refused to give up on his first-born child and, after the claims made against him by his baby’s mother and the Abba Adoption agency were shown to be baseless, he won his nearly nine-month-long battle to obtain custody of the little girl on Wednesday. On Wednesday, he and his daughter played “aeroplanes” together in the garden of the family home. He grinned with delight, and she chuckled as he swung her around. Earlier in the day, in an apparent about-turn, Abba – which had earlier wrongly branded Williams as an aggressive man who abused his baby’s mother and had argued that his daughter should be put up for adoption – recommended to the Pretoria Children’s Court that he be given custody. The Children’s Court agreed and awarded Williams custody for a two-year period, during which he will apply for permanent custody of his daughter in the Pretoria High Court. Williams, who is preparing to lodge a complaint of unethical and unprofessional conduct against Abba with the SA Council for Social Service Professions, now wants to ensure that no parent ever has to “go through what I did”. Speaking to The Star at the Kensington, Joburg, home that he shares with his mother and sisters, Williams sat with his eight-and-a-half-month-old daughter nestled in his lap. The little girl regularly fixed her gaze on her father – who shares her birthday with her – and beamed. In the month since her father was allowed to remove her from the state baby home where she spent the first seven months of her life, the little girl has gained 2kg. “It scares me so much that I could have lost her,” Williams said. “If I hadn’t been able to raise money for a lawyer and had the loving and supportive family that I do, I don’t know what would have happened. My daughter could be living with a family on the other side of the world. I thank God that she is here with me.” Williams’ ordeal began two months before his daughter was born, when the child’s mother approached Abba and asked them to arrange for the adoption. According to the baby’s mother, this was because the agency had helped her when she fell pregnant at 17, and she wanted them to arrange that the same couple who adopted her previous baby be given Williams’ child. But Williams was adamant that he would never give up his daughter – and it was then that his troubles began. Williams is now hoping that his planned complaint to the council will shed light on his daughter’s foiled adoption and expose the allegedly unlawful conduct that nearly saw it succeed. His complaints against Abba include the following: · Under the new Children’s Act, an unmarried father can acquire full parental responsibilities and rights if he consents to be identified as the child’s father or has contributed to the child’s upbringing or maintenance. All of these conditions apply to Williams. · While Abba manager Katinka Pieterse earlier insisted to The Star that the adoption of Williams’ daughter was immediately halted when he indicated that he opposed it, Williams insists that Abba social worker Leoni Greyling informed him there was “nothing I could do” to stop the process. · Records from Steve Biko (formerly Pretoria) Academic Hospital reveal that Greyling used a “Form 4” document to take Williams’ daughter and place her in a place of safety affiliated with Abba after her birth. In the document, Greyling claimed she would obtain Williams’ consent for the removal. She never did. · Williams and his mother, Heloise Sequeira, learnt of his daughter’s birth a week after it happened, when Greyling sent them an SMS. They later drove to the Pretoria Children’s Court, where Sequeira said she discovered the April 16 court roll and found a reference to her granddaughter’s hearing as an inter-country adoption. Pieterse insists that the hearing was a “child in need of care” case. · On the day of a crucial June 17 hearing into his daughter’s future, Williams claims he received a phone call from Greyling in which she told him that he was not required to attend because it was “final” that the child would be adopted. She later wrote in a report that Williams had failed to show up at the meeting. · In another report, Greyling stated without any proof that it was “clear that the biological father did abuse the biological mother before and during her pregnancy”. · Williams’ lawyer has obtained proof that Pieterse responded to international queries about The Star’s article on Williams’ plight by claiming that Williams was a drug addict. Drug test results obtained by Williams – and seen by The Star – show that he does not use drugs. Pieterse said she does not recall sending the e-mail. · Backed by SMS evidence, Williams also claims he was denied the right to visit his daughter over a two-month period. In response to e-mail queries from The Star, Pieterse denied any wrongdoing on Abba’s part, insisting that all issues related to Williams’ daughter had been dealt with in a legally correct way. This article was originally published on page 1 of The Star on December 11, 2008

  6. Baby Love Child Says:

    This is important new information as at the time, as I said above, Maryanne had specifically asked if during the period after birth yet prior to adoption Mothers (well ok, obviously now in light of this article we are now talking parents) could reclaim their child if they wanted to?

    Ann Somers replied that they could.

    Yet clearly here we have quite the counter example, one that required the father go to court to assert his parental rights and put a halt to the adoption that Abba was pushing through a mile a minute.

    Whether Somers was aware of this problem that most certainly made news in South Africa at the time or not, the answer she gave the conference attendees was clearly not reflective of the reality of the situation on the ground for parents.

    Mr. Williams was both denied visitation during that post birth period and was being put off by Abba staff who were insisting there was nothing he could to stop the adoption.

    Again, all of this is precisely the sort of story I suspected would come to light if you could actually connect the pieces across the continents.

    Sitting in the conference auditorium at the time, I had no evidence in hand.

    Yet sure enough, given a little bit of time a blog post or two, and enough of a broader community out there also working on these issues internationally, sure enough, the evidence pops right out.

    I am grateful to Roelie Post and ACT for happening to see my post on Pound Pup and volunteering this evidence, (and so quickly too!)

    All of which only underscores much of what I’ve been saying all along, Abba adoptions clearly do not respect the self-detmination and parental rights of families.

  7. Baby Love Child Says:

    Also, correcting myself-

    I revisited the personal email sent out on 5/12 to those of us who raised concerns about the film and noted that Marianne Novy *Did* in fact label the added paragraph a “disclaimer.”

    That said, when I wrote this post, I was going by the online and publicly accessible version of the added paragraph on the films page that does *not* label the added material as a “disclaimer”.

    (So unless one happened to receive the email, ASAC had not publicly labeled it such.)

    I also went by her description of it in her comment left on my original blog post that morning 5-17, in which she described it as a “comment”-

    “This comment on the film has been posted after its description on the film page of the conference website…”

  8. maryanne Says:

    Thanks for Roelli Post’s enlightening article. Reading it I remembered another of the many things that struck me wrong in that film. It was said that many of the pregnant women had families who wanted to keep the baby, but Abba House “helped” them get away from their families, and convinced them the only way to have a better life themselves, and their children was to surrender.

    Hmmmmmm….that sounds real familiar. Not surprised about cutting fathers out of the picture either. Truly the whole thing stunk.

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