Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nadya Suleman, Octomom!

Nadya Suleman - Photo Hosted at Buzznet

I must say, I am fascinated by our media and personal responses to the recent news that a single mother gave birth to eight premature babies. The Suleman Octuplets are a medical miracle and are already the longest lived octuplets living today.

Now, I have to admit right up front that I am often fascinated by stories that catch on like this one. We receive snippets of information, but not the whole story. We hear a variety of self-righteous and outraged opinions even when the facts are not there. We have a zillion assumptions about the mother, her lifestyle, the sperm donor, the doctors, the future of the children. The conclusions are often dire and melodramatic.

A few feminist bloggers I'm aware of have highlighted Suleman's right to choose to have children. Here are some that impressed me:

Rene from Womanist Musings writes an article entitled Nadya Suleman and the Choice We Never Respect

She was not forced to carry these babies to term; it was an active decision on her part. If, as feminists, we can argue that women have the right to choose to have an abortion, then the right to choose motherhood should be equally validated; furthermore the right to privacy extends to Ms. Suleman’s decision as well.

MZBitka at What a Crazy Random Happenstance writes Have babies, but only the right way

This is just another example that no matter what women chose to do with their bodies, if it’s viewed as the correct way, people will be there to criticize and shame them for it.

Ouyang Dan at Random Babble writes Ms. Suleman's Uterus and Our Perceived Right to Decide for Her.

A woman’s right to choose is exactly that, and it doesn’t matter how squicky you feel about it. The only fucking thing that matters is that woman and what she wants w/ her body. This woman has a plan, based on her own interview, and we may not like it, we may not all agree w/ the way she is doing it, but tough. It’s Not. Our. Call. Her right to become a mother is just as sacred as any woman’s right not to. That is worth defending.

I want to add my voice to these three women and say that, regardless of our personal feelings on the matter, we defend Suleman's right to make her own reproductive choices. She wants to have a lot of children, she believes she can be a good mother, I'm not going to make the assumption that she cannot do so.

So how did things turn so nasty toward Nadya and her decisions? Here's a good take from Brendon O'Neill at Spiked Online called And Act of Extreme Fecundity

When Nadya Suleman gave birth to six boys and two girls in five minutes on 26 January, it was greeted as a ‘midwinter miracle’, a story that ‘cheered recession-hit America’, a ‘welcome relief from bailouts and bankruptcies’. Now, with the eight babes barely one week old, it has become a shrill parable about overpopulation, resource depletion, the dangers of fertility treatment and the problem of ‘poor mothers’. The story has shapeshifted from a ‘ray of sunshine for a nation in the grip of economic meltdown’ to a ‘tale of seedy self-indulgence’

Yeah, this is what really hits me. Why is it that everything turned around so fast? Is it because Suleman is single? Is it because we are suspicious of the fertility industry? Are we really going to forget the horrors of population control and pretend we are concerned with her family's carbon footprint?

Nope. Not really buying that shit. Leave the woman and her family alone. Go pick on somebody your own size or bigger. Take one tax loophole away from an oil company and you'd have funds to feed all the children of the world, including the Suleman's.

The way these stories distract us from doing good activist work and making a difference in the world today is truly sad.


Anonymous said...

I think the deal isn't the right to choose (To have children or not have children) in the situation regarding Suleman...I think its the fact that she volunteered (Through IVF) to have more children when our tax dollars were already helping her out with the first 6. I don't believe that she ever though that those six embryos would turn into anything more then twins either. And she decided to carry what God had given her to carry...HOWEVER for her to have gone through the expensive IVF procedure all the while taking money from the taxpayers in the form of food stamps and yes, student loans, then there is some room for concern (and comments).

How would you feel if a friend came to you and said I am desperate! I can't afford to feed my children this month. Can you loan me $100.00 for groceries? And you say sure...here you go....and you don't have to pay me back! You feel good about helping your friend! But the very next day you see her getting a manicure and a pedicure at a cash only place. Makes you wonder. And it can make you mad. And it makes you feel like a sucker!

This really has nothing to do with how many children she has...its how she got them. And who is paying for them and if you know anything about preemies, who is going to pay for her babies treatments....so may need for their entire lives....

Thanks for reading!

Ravenmn said...

Hi Sharon,

Welcome and thanks for commenting. A brief glance at your blog tells me you know more about the politics of pregnancy than I do, so I welcome your perspective.

I understand that some people are upset with Suleman's decision based on the tax-payer money she is receiving.

I believe it is totally misguided to concentrate on the very few poor people who appear to be abusing the system. My position on giving money to friends and strangers is similar: I refuse to believe I will be repaid and I refuse to care about how the money is spent. If I give, I give, and that's where my concern ends.

Why would I be so foolish, you wonder?

Because pissing and moaning about a few thousand dollars spent on one overly fecund woman is a distraction from the people who manage the millions and billions of dollars that truly affect our day to day lives.

My local paper has a huge headline today: "2 Trillion". Let's direct some of that money and leave Suleman be.

Anonymous said...

Hey! Thanks for the link!

I firmly believe that if we choose to be pro-choice it has to spread to the choices that we don't like.

One other thing that bothers me is this "Octomom" nonsense, which I think dehumanizes her. I think there is enough shaming and blaming at her to strip her of this piece of humanity, too.

Thanks again for the link!