Cool event in Boulder, CO: Fertile Grounds

Check out this awesome event happening in Boulder on February 1st:

Fertile Grounds
an evening of performance and discussion about reproduction
Friday, February 1st at 7:30 pm
Naropa University’s Performing Arts Center
2130 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, Colorado


Part of this event will include performances of stories about reproduction.  We are looking for performers interested in performing thier own stories and/or the stories of others.  This could be in the form of poetry, spoken word, dance, music, monologue, dialogue, etc. We hope to highlight stories that aren’t often heard, such as the reproductive experiences of:
*Immigrants, Teens, People of color, Single parents, Incarcerated women, Women ending their pregnancies, GLBTQ members, Individuals facing mental health issues or drug addictions, Individuals with disabilities, Individuals facing issues of body image, Victims of domestice abuse and/or sexual violence, People living at or near poverty level, Homeless people, People of the Third World, People affected by prostitutions and the sex industry, Health care providers, Children of all of the above

Please let us know ASAP if you are interested in performing!

Whether your story is performed at the event (either by you or someone else) or not, we want to incorporate your story into a visual arts installation that will be on display at Naropa University prior to and during the event.

Please send us your stories ASAP!

Would you like to be involved in other ways?  Please let us know! 

We need folks to help provide child care during the event, provide refreshments, help with publicity, get the word out, assist in fundraising efforts for organizations in need of resources.  Do you have or know someone who has extra basic medical supplies such as dopplers, blood pressure cuffs, childbirth education charts, etc. to donate to International Midwife Asssitance?

There will be a post-performance discussion in which the audience is invited to participate in dialogue about reproductive justice issues.  Are you interested in helping to facilitate that discussion? 

Fertile Grounds seeks to increase awareness around issues of reproductive justice.  Through performance and discussion, we create person-to-person support networks and connect organizations to those in need of resources.  These networks work to demystify and humanize the reproductive experience, cultivating self-determination, education, social equality, and acceptance. 

Really awesome! I wish I could make it out to the event. Check out their myspace page for more info. We need more events and spaces like this! It’s being co-sponsored by some awesome groups including the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, LUZ Think Tank and International Midwife Assistance among others. If someone has the chance to go, I would love to hear about how it went!

At Your Cervix

A friend sent me an email about this awesome documentary, At Your Cervix. It’s “a film dedicated to making pelvic exams respectful and pain-free.” Pretty awesome stuff.

The documentary At Your Cervix explores the connection between the way medical and nursing students are taught pelvic exams and the reality that most women experience them as painful and disempowering.

At Your Cervix breaks the silence around the unethical methods used by medical and nursing schools to teach students how to perform pelvic exams; the most egregious being on unconsenting, anaesthetized women. At the same time, the film highlights the Gynecological Teaching Associate (GTA) Program in New York City. Fuelled by the spirit of women’s health activism, the GTA program began over 30 years ago and it has been shown to be the most effective way to teach exams and is also the most ethical and empowering to women.

I know someone who is a GTA, and it’s a pretty awesome way to try and make change within women’s health care. You can watch the trailer here, or donate some money so they can finish the project here.

 Thanks to Harris for the tip.

A Call for Radical Doulas

Taking a quick break from live blogging the Breastfeeding and Feminism conference for this important announcement/call for help:

Last week I received an email from a woman living in a small town outside of Minneapolis, MN who has had a terrible time trying to find a doula. She is now 17 weeks pregnant, and she told me how she has been turned down, not once, not twice, but THREE times by three different doulas. Why?

–The first doula turned her down because she is not sure if she wants to give birth without an epidural.

–The second doula turned her down because she was pregnant with twins, and decided to do a selective reduction and terminate one of the pregnancies at 11 weeks.

–The third doula turned her down because she is serving as a surrogate for a gay couple.

This is what is saddest to me–when doulas, who are supposed to support women in all their decisions around childbirth–would turn a woman away. I don’t know about you all, but in my doula training, this is NOT what we were taught. This situation highlights exactly why we need more radical doulas, progressive people willing to support women without judgment, so that no one who seeks out doula care will be denied.

In her own words:

I am at my wits end and cannot believe that I can’t find anyone in a profession designed to help and support women who is willing to help me. I’m just looking for someone compassionate and progressive and willing to help me out. I really hope that you can provide me with some information because at this point I’m really just kind of lost.

So I am turning to you all. Please, if you are or know of a doula in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (she lives about an hour and a half outside the city) who is willing to consider providing doula support for her, please, email me at (Note, she is willing to pay for the services).

Also, if you are a doula or midwife blogger, and would like to cross post this call on your site, please do. My hope is that we can utilize this virtual network of radical doulas and midwives (and allies) to find a great support person for this woman.

Again, email me if you are a doula in the area or have any question ( and I will forward along the information to her.

In solidarity.

Barbara Katz Rothman: New Breast Milk in Old Bottles

Keynote Address, Breastfeeding and Feminism Symposium:

Barbara Katz Rothman, PhD

Different ideologies through which one can look at a mother and baby breastfeeding:

Patriarchy. We are all children of men, the essence of everything is in the seed. It is now acknowledged that women are contributing half the seed. Who carries the child (the gestational carrier) is not important, or has no genetic relationship to the child. She can’t add anything, but she can screw things up.

Technological society. Efficiency is everything. The outcome is what counts, if you can get there more quickly, that’s better. Body as machine. Medicalization, efficient management of medicalized body is the goal.

Capitalism. There is a price tag on all things–everything is for sale, blood, semen, of course milk. We promote breastfeeding through the economic lens–it’s financially smarter. What if it wasn’t? Would we still breastfeed? The capitalist ideology makes us see the world as a global market of equal choices. More choices are always seen as good, there is no higher value than choice.

Race. The racialization of milk, history of wet nurses and slavery, the race politics of America has a huge impact on breastfeeding. Pumping: you pump and someone else will feed the white milk to the baby.

Feminism. Looking critically at the “public health recommendations,” which have a history of being wrong (hormone replacement therapy for example).

What are we really doing? What are we trying to achieve? The logic we use to promote breastfeeding needs to be critically examined. If we argue that breast milk is healthier, what happens when they create a formula that is just as healthy, or healthier? Why does it matter? If it’s about breast cancer prevention, what happens when we eradicate breast cancer?

It’s not gonna be about health, and it’s not going to be about choice, or bonding. Why is it we really value it and what are we doing here?

Blogger note: I think there are a lot of connections between Barbara’s argument about breastfeeding and other social and reproductive justice movements. This examination of our logic is huge, and what we need to make long term gains rather than short term wins based on what works today. (Think about the natural birth movement, the pro-choice movement, etc).

Breastfeeding Symposium: Feminism vs. Public Health

Dr. Suzanne Haynes, US PHS Office of Women’s Health

Feminism vs. Public Health: Feminism in opposition to Lactivism

The word choice has been stolen from feminists by the formula representatives. “It is a woman’s choice to breastfeed, or not.” The formula ads are written to create doubt. The women who are choosing to formula feed are not informed about the risks about breastfeeding. No disclaimers on formula bottles about these risks (like cigarettes). The formula companies are afraid of litigation. National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign is about informing women about the risk of not breastfeeding.

The de-sexualization of breasts will help promote breastfeeding. Comment from audience: I don’t want to desexualize my breasts, I love that they are sexual and I get to share them with who I please.

Going back to work is the major barrier to exclusive breastfeeding. Fear of discrimination, ridicule, lack of promotion and lost wages. New toolkits being created to help make employment environments breastfeeding friendly, like lactation rooms.

Status symbol: Buying formula in the 1950s was seen as a status symbol. Formula ads make it seem like all working women use formula.

Formula usage is much higher among low-income women and women of color.  Asian Pacifica Islander women have the highest rates of breastfeeding, African American women have the lowest rates. 

Potential Risk Reduction for Women:
28% decrease in Breast cancer
21% decrease in cervical cancer
12% decrease in Type II diabetes

Pharmaceutical companies produce most of the baby formula, earning $4 billion dollars a year. Formula industries spent $80 million dollars in advertising over two years, the government only had $1.5 million for their breastfeeding promotion campaign.

For more about the Health and Human Services Breastfeeding Campaign, see this Washington Post article.

Opening Panel

Dr. Bernadette Gray-Little, Provost UNC-CH

Similar to childbirth, breastfeeding is not a shared experience. Many people never see women breastfeeding, it is done as something hidden, in the safety of home or underneath clothing.

Ms. Alice Lenahan, Director, Nutrition Services Branch, NC Division of Public Health

Breastfeeding promotion and protection in North Carolina: Blueprint for action to improve breastfeeding rates in NC

Ms. Barbara Cameron, La Leche League

“Breastfeeding was absent from my personal experiences and any professional or academic discourse.”

College student: passion for reproductive rights, no thoughts about breastfeeding

“Breastfeeding was a way of mothering my children. Unique physical connection with my children and a powerful and healing connection to my own body and femininity.”

“Thinking that baby formula is superior to breast milk is thinking that 30 years of technology is superior to 3000 years of human evolution.” -Christine Northrup, OB-GYN

Liveblogging: Breastfeeding and Feminism Symposium

Good Morning Everyone.  I’m here are the 3rd annual Breastfeeding and Feminism Symposium in Raleigh, NC. This is my first try at live blogging, so bear with me! It looks  like it’s going to be a great conference, lots of big name activists and academics (Barbara Katz Rothman for example) and some interesting topics on the agenda.

As I mentioned before, I’m most excited about the reproductive justice connection–and am interested to see how the framework is woven in.  Stay tuned for more!

Breastfeeding and Feminism Symposium

Next week I am attending the Breastfeeding and Feminism Symposium in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is the third year this event is happening, and to my delight this year’s topic is Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice. The Symposium is being sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro, specifically the Infant and Young Child Feeding and Care and the Center for Women’s Health and Wellness.

I’m looking forward to seeing how these advocates, educators and breastfeeding specialists bring in other reproductive justice issues into their work on breastfeeding. I will be live blogging from the Symposium, so stay tuned for more from the presentations next week.

Go here for more information about the Symposium. If you happen to be in the North Carolina area next week, think about attending!

Take a day off to procreate

This one is almost too much to take seriously. Apparently, September 12 was Conception Day in one region of Russia–the fifth year that Governor Sergei Morozov has used a half day off from work and a series of cash and gift prizes to encourage procreation for his dwindling region of Russia.

During what some experts are deeming a population crisis caused by too much population growth in already overpopulated parts of the world, other countries, predominantly white countries like Italy, France and Russia are having trouble reproducing at a replacement rate.

But anyways, back to the ridiculous Conception Day in Russia. According to an article at MSNBC, in addition to getting time off from work (presumably to have sex), if a woman does give birth 9 months after Conception Day, she and her husband can win a multitude of prizes, including a car.

This isn’t the first time a Western European country has tried to use incentives to encourage procreation. In Romania they used to give women special titles for having multiple children (we’re talking upwards of 5). In response to a recent trend in European countries having negative population growth, I expect that these tactics will continue to evolve and develop.

What does it mean for a government to manipulate women’s bodies for political reasons? The fertility of marginalized populations (women of color, incarcerated women, disabled women) has been controlled in the past (and continues to be controlled). Sterilization practices, welfare family caps, two child policies all are ways the government uses to discourage certain populations from reproducing. Similarly, initiatives like this procreation day are one way the government has of encouraging other groups to reproduce. Both tactics smack of eugenics and racism, as well as nationalistic sentiment and the geopolitics of population.

These concerns around population growth and the environment are a great example of what is meant by the term reproductive justice–where reproductive rights intersect with another social justice issue–environmental activism.

Parting words for Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez

To mark the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez on Monday, Page Rockwell has a great piece up at Salon about what kind of legacy he is leaving behind.

Let’s recap:

  • Torture
  • Suspicous and unexplainable firing of US Attorney’s
  • The first Supreme Court cases banning an abortion procedure
  • Overall shadyness and misconduct

Thanks a lot Alberto. We won’t miss you.