Thursday, January 28, 2016

Midwives Alliance of North America Conference
2015, October 15 to 18. Albuquerque, New Mexico  


To promote my Pro Woman Agenda project, I attend midwifery events, such as the MANA conference.  This year, I also participated in a “shadow conference” put together by MANA member and midwife, Mary Lou Singleton and members of WoLF (Women’s Liberation Front), to protest a change in MANA’s “Core Competencies” document language. “Pregnant woman” was changed to “pregnant individual”, “mother” was changed to “birthing parent”.  This was done to be inclusive of trans men who have babies.  WoLF had reserved a table to discuss the issue with attendees. MANA cancelled their reservation and refunded their fee, on the grounds that it would make the conference more “safe”. I exhibited the WoLF literature and the announcements of the workshops on my table.


Mary Lou Singleton and fellow midwife Michelle Smith wrote the Open Letter to MANA a month ahead of the conference, placing it on the website, Women-Centered Midwifery with 190 signatories. Birth for Everybody set up a website, including hyperlinks to other sites to further explain their support for the language change with 625 signatories. Supporters of the language change
A Midwife for Every Body Buttons

The Open Letter sparked other online responses, including a blog on Huffington Post from a trans man, Trevor MacDonald. Mary Lou commented on this first blog, prompting a second blog which contained outright misrepresentations of what Mary Lou had said in her comment that was obvious to anyone who read the photo of her comment that he had placed there.

The Loss of a Good Friend: Pati Garcia, who went to midwifery school in Texas three years ago signed the Birth for Every Body response and placed it on her Facebook Page.  I followed the very long thread of comments she received, all in complete agreement with her.  One commenter said that she was upset to see respected pioneers in birth, such as Ina May Gaskin, on the list of signers to the Women-Centered Midwifery Open Letter.  Pati’s response was to say that I was one of the signers that she knew very well, and that she had stopped associating with me because I am racist. She said that I said that women of color have too many doors being opened for them.  Of course, I have never said this nor do I believe it, so I wrote Pati to admonish her on her ad hominem attack (I never quite understood what that was until it happened to me).  I saw her at the conference many times because she staffed a table with others.  Anyone who knows me and Pati knows that we were closely associated for several years and I was privileged to help her with her founding of Shodhini.  I know that her slur will not damage my reputation with those who know me and work with me, but her personal attack deeply wounded me.

Perhaps this is one reason this report has taken so long to write.   It may show the level of acrimony that exists in the movement over this disputed debate.


WoLF activities: WoLF members (who had traveled to attend the conference and protest) distributed leaflets announcing their workshops.  Six WoLF members and supporters attended a plenary program presented by Sam Killerman (Gender Bread Person) and WoLF hosted an informal discussion about the forced professionalization of midwifery.

One of the officers of MANA came by to visit my table to see that I wasn’t violating the agreement regarding the literature that all exhibitors have to comply with.  We had met at a prior MANA conference.  She was borderline civil; she stopped just short of being nasty and she let me know they were keeping an eye on me and would be back to check to see that, although I’m a member of WoLF, I was not just a front for WoLF.

Our table was poorly located, and I didn’t have too many visitors.  However, the few that came by were quite interested and had interesting things to share.  We talked some about the controversy, but mostly people were interested in the books and leaflets I had on display.  All the brochures for the Trans Health Initiative at the Feminist Health Center in Atlanta were snapped up. I hope the program became known to midwives around the country.  As usual, my copy of Radical Doula attracted a lot of interest, until it, along with all of my WoLF literature, disappeared during the night.

An organization of attorneys, Know Your Vaccines, was located across from my table.  I learned from the woman staffing it that the government recognizes that the vaccines given to babies and young children do cause severe injury to a certain number.  To protect the manufacturer from being hit by big damages from lawsuits from parents, the government has set up a fund to help parents to care for children who require years of institutional care, but attorneys are needed to help parents with the complicated process to qualify for the money.


MANA, like many liberal women’s organizations, quickly accepted the demands of the trans gender community to change its language to be gender-neutral.   They had a speaker, Sam Killerman, and they have accepted his views of gender.

Some of the women who came to the table told me that at the opening Plenary Session, a MANA speaker had said that MANA “is still discussing the issue”, so they had the impression that perhaps there would be a reversal of MANA’s change.  No one has offered to discuss the issue any further with Mary Lou or Michelle, both of whom have been active in the organization for years and held high office.


                Women’s Health in Women’s Hands has just come across an article in an online magazine, Model View Culture, by Kyra, December 10, 2014, “How to Uphold White Supremacy by Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion”.   This article would have changed the dialogue about being “inclusive”.

                Kyra shows how white supremacist liberalism uses the demands for diversity and inclusion by working to ignore and erase difference rather than to undo oppression.  Of course, she is speaking from the viewpoint of oppressed people of color and people with marginalized identities with racial/gender/sexual backgrounds, but her analysis of the change to gender-neutral language in MANA’s guidelines is very applicable.

No comments: