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Radical Doula Revisited

I finally did what I’ve been meaning to do for a long time now, I’ve edited the Radical Doula??? page. I’m going to repost it here, so you can all read my new description of what this blog is all about. Things haven’t changed radically, but I’ve tweaked a few things here and there to reflect the way I talk about what it means to be a radical doula (particularly from a personal perspective). The new page is after the jump!

I’ve also updated and expanded my blog roll. I decided I wanted something more comprehensive and that actually reflects what blogs I am reading on a frequent basis. (Thanks Google Reader!) You can see that I now have broken it up into categories (look to your right!). I will try to keep it updated, but bare with me. Also, if you have a blog you think I would want to read, email it to me or link to it in the comments! I promise I will check it out, and maybe you will even make it to my google reader.

It’s been more than a year (16 months almost!) since I started this blog. I decided it was time to revisit this page, and edit it to reflect my changing philosophy. Unsurprisingly, not a lot has changed since I wrote this page originally, but I wanted to make a few tweaks. As much as I cringed when I read this again, it’s a testament to the fact that our politics are frequently changing and developing.

So what the heck is a radical doula anyway? Good question. The answer to which is much of the reason I decided to start this blog. If you want to know more about how I started using the term, read this post.

But on to the more pressing issue at hand: what the hell am I talking about? Here are a few reasons why I identify as radical doula: (btw, I used to have a list of categories I identified with here, but that always made me cringe. Especially when it was read back to me! So here is something a little different)

1) I’m a doula who is pro-choice. Thanks to Lynn Paltrow at NAPW, I realized that not everyone in the birth community agrees with me on this. Read more about the connections here and here.

2) I’m a doula who is queer, and identifies as gender non-conforming or genderqueer. The birth world is dominated by women, many of whom don’t share my beliefs about gender construction and who use essentializing language when talking about birth and gender. I try to push those boundaries, and also think about how queer parents are affected by these issues in different ways.

3) I’m a doula and I’m Latina. My parents are Cuban immigrants, and being part of an immigrant community in the US is important to me. I also try to use my bilingualism and cultural competency to work with Latina women and think about how their needs might be different.

What I have come to realize is that this collection of politics/identities/ideas is kind of a surprising thing for other people who identify with some of these and not others. For example: some queer people and gender non-conformists might think its odd that I choose to work with women in labor (many of whom are straight and very female-identified). Other doulas would take issue with the fact that I am also an abortion rights advocate–quite a number of them are staunchly anti-choice. Same for the abortion advocates, many of them think birth activists are all earth-mama midwives who are super against them if they want an epidural. And the contradictions go on.

So came the impetus to begin this blog, as a space to bring many of these issues together, highlighting the connections and the contradictions.

Being a radical doula is also about wanting to expand doula services to women of many backgrounds. Unfortunately today the majority of women who receive doula care are women with resources, support and education about birth options. I call myself a radical doula because I want to dedicate my time to working with women who might not have access to these services otherwise. How do I think radical doulas can do this? By providing their services at a low cost or free (through volunteer programs) and also reaching out to immigrant communities, young women, women of color and incarcerated women. You can check out my Kick-Ass Radical Doula section to see how some doulas are doing this.

As I said last year, these defintions will continue to evolve, as this blog and my ideas do. Maybe this will be a yearly exercise, to reflect the changing philosophy behind radical doula. Thanks for being part of this ride with me! Special thanks to all you doulas, midwives and birth activists who also identify with radical doula. The best part of having this blog has been connecting with you all, and I hope that more of you will email me (radicaldoula@gmail.com) so I can share your stories as well.

Last updated May 30, 2008

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