Adoption is a feminist issue. If the word ‘feminist’ is scary to you and gives you visions of suffragettes, bra-burning, hairy legs, big butch dykes with No 2 haircuts, girls with lipstick and false nails, female CEO’s and/or makes you uncomfortable, just substitute the words ‘civil rights’, ‘justice’ or ‘human rights’. Feminism is simply about those things and not to be feared except by those who wish to deny justice, the human rights of women and decent, humane treatment of women and girls. I wrote in my last post of the abuse and denial of the rights of women and girls – about the child brides of Turkey – one in four marriages in that country involves a child bride; the mass ceremonies of genital mutilation of girls in Indonesia. We read or view documentaries on the ‘dying hills’ of the villages in China for the disposal of unwanted and sickly girl babies, now often ‘dying rooms’ in orphanages (http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/core9/phalsall/texts/c-wnhol.html). We read and are sickened by the other abuses of girls and women, too numerous to detail, but no less horrendous in their application and effect on the lives of women and girls in countries around the world.
For every country in which girls and women are not valued, are abused, ill-treated, disempowered, exploited and treated as second-class, there will be a market in women and girls in some shape or form – as sex workers, exported sex slaves, cheap labour or for adoption. For every sending country that exports female babies and children, there will be a receiving country with an industry in adoption which is profitable, has a scale of prices for adoptees and in which many generally well-meaning men and women will not have realised that in adoption, in supporting the adoption industry and on ‘bringing home’ an adoptee, their Gotcha Day celebrates not only a family event but the deep loss of another family, of the adoptee and marks another deeply painful notch in the tally of misogyny, another loss for the freedom of women and the rights of women and girls to be treated as first class, valued but without a price on our heads. The buying and selling of women and girls in whatever way it is done, whatever it is called, however it is disguised in pretty language, legalese, adoptese etc to make people comfortable, continue and at ease with their conscience is not an action which supports the rights of women to decent lives, their rights as human beings, their right to knowledge about themselves and their rights to know who they are and where they came from.
In looking at the rights of adoptees it is not sufficient to tell a child that she was adopted from such-and-such an orphanage and was brought there by so-and-so. We find so often that these ‘facts’ are incorrect, made up to satisfy adopters and bear no relation to the truth. They are supposed to satisfy adoptees and often do for many years, until they realise it is only the truth that satisfies and only the truth adoptees are entitled to, like everyone else. When it is women who make up the stories of our beginnings, when female adopters collude with them to mislead, soothe, satisfy, deceive, shut down or trick adoptees and adoptees are compliant we see the worst of what women will do to other women or potential women, in acts which are shameful, disempowering, deceitful and cruel. You might ask how this is possible. Women have performed these acts along with much more overt acts like female genital mutilation and a long catalogue of similar acts in general to please , protect or placate men – fathers, husbands, owners, employers, pimps and so on. They often do so out of fear, the fear of beatings, reprisals, disapproval, rejection, disinheritance, disinterest, abuse, loss of liberty, identity, children and loss of life.
Undoubtedly there are many good men in this world; men who describe themselves as feminists and men who care about treating women and girls well, who are devoted husbands, friends, partners and fathers, uncles, brothers and sons. Those of us who are lucky enough to have or who have had such men in our lives, consider ourselves fortunate. Those men often tell us how ashamed they are of the behaviour of abusive men; violent, exploitative men and of men who fail to treat women decently, co-operatively and as equal partners. Those men who try hard to do their share of housework, child care and cooking, who engage with women in seeking solutions, who long as we do for a better life, earn everlasting respect for trying, sometimes it seems against the odds.
Those who look wider, with women, in continuing discourse into how adoption commodifies, exploits, enslaves and steals the rights of identity, citizenship, language, culture, country and biological connection, will play their part in dismantling the disabling, adoptist construct which damages and wounds adoptees and by implication, those who parent them, those who are debarred from parenting them and those who permit, encourage and promote adoption and who benefit from it financially and/or believe they benefit spiritually. No spiritual gain could ever be obtained from a system, an industry or a practice, which does to girls and women what adoption does. Those who engage in it time and time again on a large-scale commit over and over again the crime of overindulgence; no parent can possibly raise 19 children, for example, without setting up a mini-institution, with all the oversights, neglects and omissions that entails. I digress.
We need to start taking seriously what adoption means to women, what it does to women and how it affects women and girls in ever aspect of their lives. We need to view that from a feminist perspective, in a way that has not been done before, surprisingly. Some women have begun to dabbled round the edges, to put their toes in the water, to take the first steps and it soon will be time to go further, to find ways to be inclusive of all women and of men whose perspective, views and contributions can be valued and welcomed in the right forums. Of course I will be crucified in some strongholds for my views and for my suggestion that men be included. Men and boys represent roughly 50% of the world’s population, they are responsible for the majority of abuses against women and girls or will be responsible if they are not parented well, mentored and shown strong role models. How will that abuse stop if we don’t find out why and how to make it stop?
Some links in no particular order, all worth reading –
“Adoption is a feminist issue because it is a reproductive rights issue. It is an issue about the value of women as mothers and who has “earned” the right to be one. It’s about how the states supports or does not support women who fall outside of the “good mother” rhetoric. It’s about privilege. It’s about class.”
Karen writing on her blog at http://erintothemax.com/2013/04/24/is-adoption-a-feminist-issue
“It is absolutely shameful that parents who otherwise desire to raise their biological children feel forced to sell them for money, or give them up due to one-child policies, or give them to someone else who has the resources to raise a child. Harkening back to one of those feminist issues that just won’t seem to go away: Empowering care is a human right disgracefully neglected in national and international adoption.”
Amanda sums it all up beautifuly as always at http://www.thelostdaughters.com/2011/08/has-covert-adultism-made-feminists.html
“feminism is about seeing women, all women, as fully human. It is about seeing women as equal. This means considering that adoptees are in fact women and that their rights deserve equal consideration to the rights of others. Lording the “adult” and “parent” position over adoptees past adulthood is not feminism, it is adultism. Treating children as if their culture, language, narrative, original information and original identities do not and are never allowed to matter because the adults may feel differently is adultism”
And from the newly released book “The Child Catchers” a review and some quotes – Evangelical Christianity is clearly not exempt from trends, and neither is adoption itself. In fact, Joyce notes that despite the deeply human elements of international adoption, adoptive parents too often treat their new children like commodities, collecting as many as they can and viewing them as more or less interchangeable.
Joyce is a tenacious reporter and a gifted storyteller, and resists the temptation of neat and simple narratives about good and bad people. She makes it clear that, except in a few cases, the fault lies not with individuals but with systems and cultures: the poverty that makes “orphan finding” an attractive if unethical way of making money and turns babies and children into a booming national export product; the racism that pervades American culture and leads adoptive parents to treat the children they adopt from the global south as inferior to their biological children; the “saviour complex” that pervades evangelical culture and leads families to adopt far more children than they can handle; and the lack of oversight and regulation at all stages of the adoption process
And an interview with Susan Harris O’Connor on her Racial Identity Model – “We don’t have to be boxed.” She resolved. “You can bind yourself up so as to not seem complicated. Or, you can lay it all out to experience the richness of who you are.