Pre-history

I initiated my first conscious political activity in 6th grade when I became a vegetarian, joined PETA and the Anti-Vivisection Society and attended, with three classmates and a generous parent chaperon, the June 10, 1990 March for the Animals in Washington, DC. I had never been so moved by a political issue as I was by factory farming and animal testing. The inequality of the situation — powerful humans versus helpless (and often cute) animals — was overwhelmingly compelling.

Questioning the status quo was not a stretch. I attended a progressive private school in which students called teachers by their first names and tuition was charged according to a sliding scale. Our school curricula highlighted African and Native American history and the US Civil Rights Movement over traditional euro-centric western studies. My father had been active in SDS; both my parents read lots of books and hated Reagan.

More importantly, various conditions of my life had made me sympathetic to the underdog: my mother had died of brain cancer when I was six.  My younger sister was born brain damaged, though not due to genetic or chromosomal causes. Early on in grade school, I started to experience the consequences of a hereditary hearing loss from my father’s side of the family. These experiences gave me a gut-level anger at unfairness.

My animal rights activism lasted about two years. By high school my vegetarianism was withering: I reincorporated fish into my diet, and then chicken. In college, I began eating red meat, but I reassured myself I only consumed it in small quantities and when etiquette demanded. At the same time,  I began to involve myself in anti-sweatshop and anti-Iraq sanctions organizing (the major campus movements of the late 1990s). My politics became deeper and more radical.  Post-college I took a job as a community organizer in the Bronx.

By my mid-twenties I identified as a socialist. I continue to believe that the world’s sources of productivity and wealth — natural resources, machinery, and so on — should be publicly owned and democratically controlled and that achieving this requires self-organization of working and oppressed people. In these times, though, it feels like the day-to-day work of a socialist is not that different from a progressive democrat. Maybe the analysis is different, but we all go to the same damn rallies against budget cuts.

In February of 2009, when I was 30, my partner and I decided to try to have a kid in the conventional heterosexual way. Despite having grown up in a family plagued by uncommon medical problems, I assumed it would be easy.

It wasn’t. I went off the pill. But for months, I didn’t get my period (I had had regular cycles till I started taking the pill when I was about 25).  Finally, in November 2009, I went to a reproductive endocrinologist and was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Thus began my foray into the world of infertility (IF) treatment.

As long as I was conscious of them, I’d supported struggles for abortion rights and reproductive justice more broadly (i.e. state subsidized childcare, humane treatment of women prisoners giving birth), but I’d never thought about how to situate advanced reproductive technologies in this analysis. These techologies seemed, at worst, a manifestation of privileged excess, one that highlighted the abyss between the lives of fertile (poor, young, of color) women and infertile (rich, older, white) women.

I’m not satisfied with the analysis above, though. So I am trying to think more deeply and politically about my current struggle with infertility (IF).

Sometimes I just feel like shit about the whole thing and that makes it hard to be analytical at all. That’s where the blog comes in. It is an effort to be, in the best tradition of feminist thought, personal and political.

One Response to “Pre-history”

  1. I got to you while researching for an article I am trying to write on assisted reproduction, gender, and popular culture (the rash of rom-coms of the past few years–Switched, Baby Mamma, etc.) and I just want to tell you how much I love this blog. I have written for Bitch (unfortunately not a “regular” anymore though it says so on my departmental web link) and I find it so refreshing to read about someone who has been in my shoes and is ALSO progressive and kick-ass. With my first miscarriage, I didn’t know where to go with my pain as so much out there is all of the Christian “baby angel” variety. I would love to hear your thoughts on being an adamantly pro-choice miscarriage sufferer as I’d like to write about this too. But this is not a plea for an article idea–this is a compliment on you as a writer and a generally awesome person.

    Also, I hated every pregnant person I saw for four years and hoped that bad things would happen to them.

    And hang in there sister, I know your child will come.

    in admiration,

    Jen Maher

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