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"We are not gestators, birthers,breeders or feeders. We are mothers"

(24 Posts)
334bu Fri 30-Oct-20 08:14:03

Comment from Victoria Smith

OP’s posts: |
BernardBlackMissesLangCleg Fri 30-Oct-20 08:31:24

If you insist on a world in which biologically male people can be men or women, while those who gestate, give birth, lactate etc. are identified by their biological function, you haven’t smashed the patriarchy at all. You’ve maintained the same two tiers, only now, rather than existing as a distinct class, female people have the status of Ishiguro’s clones, or the invisible mother in the scan of the womb. It’s okay to use us because that’s what we’re there for. The clue’s in the name: gestator, birther, breeder, feeder. We’re simulacra of men and women, with fully exploitable parts. Take whatever you need

people who don't understand why describing women by the biological functions that only female bodies can perform should read this

and then they should come here and fucking well engage and justify their behaviour

or else they should fuck off and change their behaviour

I seem to have woken up angry this morning.

334bu Fri 30-Oct-20 08:42:56


OP’s posts: |
Breastfeedingworries Fri 30-Oct-20 08:45:40


CuriousaboutSamphire Fri 30-Oct-20 08:48:30

Did you mean to post the scathing 'no comment' biscuit, @Breastfeedingworries?

334bu Fri 30-Oct-20 09:01:25

Reducing people to their functions and denying them their own names has always been the first actions of the oppressor from slave owners to Edwardian employers of servants. Even at its most anodyne ; the doctors referring to the broken leg in bed whatever , its purpose is to diminish and dehumanise the other.

OP’s posts: |
RuffleCrow Fri 30-Oct-20 09:03:05

Great article. I think the double standards at play are what first woke me up to the fact that this is just old fashioned misogyny with added glitter.

MissMarplesGlove Fri 30-Oct-20 09:08:54

@BernardBlackMissesLangCleg your anger is fabulous. Thank you

I have never gestated or birthed, and I now no longer menstruate.

I am a woman.

ChateauMargaux Fri 30-Oct-20 09:11:01

I am so grateful that women are speaking about this. It makes me feel more and more angry but it makes me feel less alone.

I cannot understand how using language that by including a very small number of people, excludes the majority of people to whom it refers, makes any logical sense. I understand using different words to describe people when they find the ones in common usage, offensive, but those norms do not require the vast majority of one entire sex class to be redefined against their wishes.

I also cannot understand when marketing organisations choose to tell the cast majority of their customers that their identity is wrong unless it conforms to that of a small number of people who will never buy their products.

That those who have problems reconciling their inner feelings with their physical bodies and who find language triggering, disregard the triggering effect of compelled language on others and accuse those who are offended, upset, angered by this of lack of compassion is totally beyond my comprehension.

334bu Fri 30-Oct-20 09:16:53

For MissMarplesGlove " I am Woman"

OP’s posts: |
ErrolTheDragon Fri 30-Oct-20 09:23:24

* I cannot understand how using language that by including a very small number of people, excludes the majority of people to whom it refers, makes any logical sense.*

It's particularly bizarre when the language used is inclusively unkind and inappropriate and serves none of the females to whom it's being applied. For instance, the recent series of FemCare tweets about PCOS, in which it appeared some halfwit had globally replaced the word 'woman' by 'menstruator' . This is a condition characterised by menstrual problems, often a distressing factor in infertility and subfertility . And I should think 'menstruator' is about the last thing most transmen would want to be characterised as. The nadir was referring to 'menstruators' miscarrying.

There is no possible excuse for this. It doesn't signal any sort of virtue, it just signals contempt for the female sex.

Babdoc Fri 30-Oct-20 09:29:36

334bu, I’m absolutely with you on most of your examples - such as employers referring to manual workers as hands - but as a retired doctor, I take exception to you casting me and my colleagues as oppressors!
We only refer to patients by their pathology as shorthand, as we are always overworked and short of time. It’s not done to dehumanise or oppress!
For example, discussing a change to the operating list:
“Let’s do the gall bladder first, instead of the hernia”
is much quicker than:
“Let’s do Mrs Jane Bloggs, the nice old lady with the gall bladder, before Mr John Smith, the young chap with the hernia”
Your plumber probably also refers to you as the blocked sink at number 12. He isn’t oppressing you either!

TreestumpsAndTrampolines Fri 30-Oct-20 09:32:01

It’s okay to use us because that’s what we’re there for.

I've always found this to be the underlying reason men don't get why rape without other violence is still terrible. They have an underlying feeling of "that's what vaginas are for".

334bu Fri 30-Oct-20 09:42:39

Babdoc. My apologies I did not intend to include all doctors into the oppressor class.

OP’s posts: |
HecatesCats Fri 30-Oct-20 10:02:52

I love Victoria Smith. She writes so well ❤️

BlackeyedSusan Fri 30-Oct-20 10:08:07

Lots of doctors can be arrogant misogynists though. Unfortunately I have had the experience of being treated by one.

ErrolTheDragon Fri 30-Oct-20 10:14:27

I'm not entirely convinced by that argument tbh, BabDoc. Saying someone's name as well as their condition takes seconds, not 'much' longer. Presumably in many cases there may be issues specific to an individual which need to be taken into account, and saying the name may quickly cue everyone into which person with a hernia they're dealing with. I'm sure there are cases where a doctor can function better by depersonalising their task - a surgeon performing a difficult and risky operation for instance, but that's a somewhat different argument.

Plumbers aren't analagous to doctors - they are operating on the blocked sink, not a person.

Alexandernevermind Fri 30-Oct-20 10:47:08

Doctors cannot compare their work with plumber @Babdoc. “Let’s do the gall bladder first, instead of the hernia” is fine when you are in the office with a fellow professional, but I would be livid if a doctor doing the rounds with his colleagues referred to me in such a way at the bottom of the bed.

AnyOldPrion Fri 30-Oct-20 11:44:14

I had a similarly awful experience, BlackeyedSusan. She was awful.

MissMarplesGlove Fri 30-Oct-20 13:53:28

I cannot understand how using language that by including a very small number of people, excludes the majority of people to whom it refers, makes any logical sense.

@ChateauMargaux that is brilliantly put - a cut out and keep ...

And thank you @334bu for the Helen Reddy clip - that song was the soundtrack to my early teens!

I never thought that after 40 years of pretty good progress from the 1970s to the start of the 21st century, we'd be seeing so many attempts on women's rights - and the attempt to erase women as a political force.

OldQueen1969 Fri 30-Oct-20 15:19:45

Excellent article.

I've had lots of thoughts around the concept of motherhood - I am a mother, and I have often been conflicted about the whole thing in relation to the progressive world we live in.

I went to an all girls grammar school - the worst sin any of us could have committed was to say we wanted to have children. It was seen as a betrayal of the superior education we were privileged to have if we didn't want to go out into the world and forge a path on a par with men, scaling the dizzying heights of career success and becoming independent before even thinking of having a child and being able to afford childcare because heaven forfend if you wanted to raise a child yourself.

For this reason I had a termination at 19 while at college because it was unthinkable to have a child in that situation. I then had a miscarriage at 21. At 25, freelancing, I fell pregnant again and my kneejerk response was to go for termination. And I realised that was not what I wanted AT ALL. I was framing my decisions on the way the world would negatively judge me, not on whether I felt ready, willing and able to raise a child. Which I realised I did.

I found it irksome when every HCP referred to me as "Mum" rather than my name before and after birth - but that was the arrogance of youth - I have since realised that they can't remember and retain every name, and "Mum", in retrospect was not diminishing, more a recognition of the new role I was in.

Recognition of motherhood is important. While one deeply feels for those women denied that experience if they want it, and we should show respect and sensitivity to their situation, we can't just deny that mothers also exist to protect feelings.

The whole biological terminology thing to avoid apparent distress to a relatively small number of people with ever deepening and increasing needs and thought processes and identities really does say that half the population should diminish themselves yet further to be "inclusive".

The most galling thing is that for the most part, all along, we've been saying "identify as anything you like and live your best lives - crack on" but the reply is always "that's not good enough - you must accept our terminology for you, while we object to you making any comment or judgement on anything we say or do, and our terminology for ourselves is only ours to decide".

My son is 26 now, and I lost my Mum this year. Knowing that I am essentially filling her role of family "matriarch" both humbles me and scares me. Losing her has made me re-appraise the importance of the social role of motherhood, and the way that quite often it is that which is the glue of our families and wider society.

That is not to say that differently presenting people cannot fill those roles and do a good job of it, but at a fundamental level the language we use to describe the roles and functions of a mother has been adequate for a very long time. Dehumanising biological labels have a profound effect on the psyche, and if one has a complicated relationship with the concept as a woman already, it further removes the joy and pleasure associated with motherhood - at least, it does to me.

Becoming a mother is not a mechanical process.

Women still struggle with achieving independence, and still do not have full bodily autonomy without judgement.

In my more mature years my consideration of feminism is that it is about women having the same freedom to make life choices that men do. And society is becoming regressive - we're being told we can't even choose how we are referred to during the most personal and intimate periods of our lives. It is, quite frankly, ridiculous and infantilising and dehumanising.

Where the hell ARE we going with all this?

Babdoc Fri 30-Oct-20 15:33:34

I’ve never gone up to a patient in a hospital bed and said “Hello, gall bladder”! And I doubt my colleagues have either. We greet patients by name or just discuss their procedure with them. It’s only when talking to our colleagues, ie not to patients, we use technical shorthand or refer to the pathology they presented.
Mind you, I remember one poor colleague, later a consultant anaesthetist, who, when he was a junior doctor, had to clerk in a patient for an op to insert a Celestin tube (a kind of stent used in oesophageal cancer.) He’d never heard of it, picked up the op list, had a quick glance, misread it, and went to the patient.
“Hello Mrs Tube, I’m Dr X. What a lovely name, Celestin - are you French?! “

334bu Fri 30-Oct-20 15:45:51

A teacher friend of mine who worked in a "wayward" girls school overheard a student discussing possible names for her baby. " Placenta" was mooted as girl had heard a doctor at the clinic refer to another patient with this name. Needless to say after a quick word from my friend there is now no wee Placenta running around.

OP’s posts: |
GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Fri 30-Oct-20 16:21:48

Matthew Duncan, anyone?
When a placenta comes out inside out, it's called a Matthew Duncan after the doc who first described it. There's a story that a midwife exclaimed, 'Ooh, a lovely Matthew Duncan' and the mother responded, 'I love those names!'

As you were...

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