Why I blog anonymously

Women in the public eye are treated harshly. Their actions and motivations are scrutinized, criticized and second-guessed to the nth degree, with critics usually assuming that the woman lacks competence or has a hidden agenda. You can see this happen every day to all kinds of women, from the CEO of General Motors to an anonymous rape victim talking to the media, to the many others who are ignored and silenced before their voices project very far. It’s not surprising and is in keeping with our society’s acceptance of violence against minority groups and women.

I used to think I was relatively unremarkable and not vulnerable to gendered violence and discrimination. Events of the past two years have proved just how vulnerable I was, and how vulnerable I continue to be. I was viciously assaulted by medical personnel during the birth of my child. When I finally recovered from my injuries and returned to work I encountered a boss uncomfortable with women in positions of status. I ended up having to take a lower status job after being threatened with a pay cut and demotion unrelated to job performance.

These are by no means the worst things that could happen to a person, and I consider myself lucky because it all could have been much, much worse. At the same time as my eyes have been opened to the fact that I could be the target of violence at any time for being a woman, I’m also painfully aware of how privileged I am, and I feel compelled to speak.

But it’s hard to speak about these things even with sympathetic people. Speaking to those who are unaware or in denial that these problems are real usually results in an attempt to discredit the speaker herself. It is easier for most listeners to make excuses for the doctors and for the corporation, pegging me as overreacting or being overly sensitive.

Speaking via the internet is even more difficult. The internet is made of mini-panopticons, decentralized and inescapable, making public speech potentially more powerful, but also more dangerous. When one is living in a culture that assigns a lower value to certain bodies – female, trans, black, brown, young or old, etc – having that body is a risk by itself. While we should be proud of our bodies and identities, we should also not put them intentionally in harm’s way. Do I think I’ll lose my job if my employer sees this blog? No – I really don’t. Do I think I’ll be attacked? I don’t think so. But I do believe that to a certain extent we should do what makes us feel safe.

Maybe you think I’m being paranoid. Maybe this won’t protect me. But blogging is what I need to do right now, and keeping it anonymous is what I need to do to feel safe.

Perhaps, you might say, if I’m not ready to stand up to this kind of heat I shouldn’t be blogging about sensitive and personal topics. I would like to one day be able to use my real name, but I also don’t want to wait. I want to add my voice now, however small and unregarded it might be.

I also work as a birth doula. In that work, my own activism, my anger at being mistreated, my analysis of power structures, doesn’t disappear but does take a backseat. As a doula I support the strength of my client and amplify HER voice.

I do want to speak publicly at some point, and do it on my own terms. If I thought a lawyer would take my case I would go up against that hospital. For now, it makes sense to be extra cautious after having been violated, to guard one’s body, spirit, and name, to try to ensure that they are used only by me, in the ways that I choose.

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About investigatingbirth

My investigations of birth began in 2009 when I was trained as a doula. I helped women consider the evidence on common interventions, and helped them prepare for the physical and emotional challenge of giving birth. After some time it became clear to me that there was another type of challenge that I was unable to adequately prepare them for, the challenge of the maternity system. But it was only after my own traumatic birth in 2013 that I realized how little I had understood. I began to ask questions that few around me - doulas, nurses, midwives, doctors - were comfortable hearing. Questions like: Under what circumstances, and for what reasons, do doctors not practice informed consent? How do hospitals deal with other patient populations vulnerable to abuse? How does loss of professional autonomy, for obstetricians, and professional authority, for midwives, impact the quality of care they are capable of providing - regardless of their training? This blog will collect noteworthy information that attempts to answer these and other questions. Most of what you see here will be aggregated from other sources and analyzed. You will also see original interviews, and the occasional opinion piece or personal story, as I try to piece together a clear picture of the system in which American women give birth.
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