Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hey Mom ... why does society shame rather than support you?

What if instead of deciding to shame teenagers out of 'choosing' to become parents with a questionable 'public health' campaign (see here and here and here), New York City instead focused their efforts on ending the 'epidemic' of advanced age motherhood?

A baby - this time white - spewing out the stats on the many known risks of having a child at an advanced maternal age:

"Hey Mom, Did you know that if you wait until you are 40 to have me you increase the risk that I will be born with XYZ genetic condition by XYZ percent?"

"Hey Mom, If you wait until you're 42 to have a baby my friends are going to wonder if you're my mom or my grandma."

Or even

"Hey Dad, That biological clock applies to you too. If you delay fatherhood you put me at higher risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia or autism."

Imagine the outrage.

That outrage would be entirely justified.

Of course, a shame campaign would never be directed at potential older parents even though in public health terms it would be every bit as legitimate as the campaign directed at teens, if not more so.

After all, the disadvantages that face teen parents and their offspring are very much culturally determined and government policies aimed at supporting (financially and socially) teen parents rather than shaming could actually go some way towards ameliorating the disadvantages; on the other hand, the risks faced by older parents are grounded in biology rather than culture, and solutions (outside of encouraging parents to embark on parenthood at an earlier age) primarily involve pushing at the frontiers of medical science.

When it comes to older parents, we readily accept that 'choice' is a pretty dodgy concept when it comes to timing and pregnancy. There are so many variables that are not within our control, and even the ones that are do not lend themselves to easy answers. So those who have 'delayed' parenthood rightly expect to be treated with respect and sensitivity by society, including the media and the medical profession. And when they aren't their voices are likely to be heard clearly articulating the many reasons why society should not belittle or question their 'choices'.

Yet when it comes to teen parents - and young single mothers on any number of measures are one of the most marginalized groups in society - we are anything but gentle, let alone respectful. And a public health campaign that relies on dissuading teens from 'choosing' parenthood by relying on shame and sexism is not only a disgrace, it is also unlikely to do anything more productive than further stigmatize a group of parents who need and deserve societies support every bit as much as any other segment of the parent population.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Australia: stop being ugly

Dear Australia,

Please stop breaking my heart. Well, actually, scrap that because this is not about my heart ... this is about violating all that is best about Australia and being all that is ugly... and it is not about me because I went and fucked off to another country, an economic migrant if there ever was one.

I'll tell you who aren't economic immigrants: refugees. And I'll tell you who are: immigrants who arrive in Australia on airplanes with visas sponsored by their employers or enough cash to qualify for a rich person's visa. People like me but in reverse.

So obviously I am disgusted by Scott Morrison's vile utterances in regard to refugees and anybody with a pulse and a conscience that operates above the level of a cockroach is too. But we can hardly claim to be surprised.

(Just in case you missed it, or are a reader from outside Australia wondering what the heck I am ranting on about: essentially Scott Morrison, Australia's Federal Opposition Minister for Immigration recommended that  when refugees move out of detention and into the community - yes, we imprison those legally seeking asylum in Australia violating god knows how many human rights conventions, including children - they be treated in terms that are most often proposed for pedophiles, a sort of Megan's Law but for people who are not criminals but refugees.)

What sickens me more is what @crazyjane13  points out in her excellent post here: the deathly silence from the leaders (and wannabe leaders) of both major parties, including those we hoped were better than that. PM Gillard: nothing; her real or media-imagined rival for the leadership, Rudd: nothing; and the thinking LNP voter's fantasy leader Malcolm Turnbull: nothing.

How about Anthony Albanese, the member for the seat I will be voting in at the upcoming Federal election? As far as I know (and I hope I am wrong): nothing (and whispered asides to appeal to your base don't count). And the nail in the coffin as far as any lingering loyalty I feel towards the ALP: both major parties colluded to shut down Green's Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in her attempt to bring a motion in the house against the vilification of refugees.

I am disgusted. I am heartbroken. I am completely convinced that the ALP has no interest in my vote, or more likely take it completely for granted. Well fuck that. I will be voting Green at this election and my vote does count because this is a marginal seat that might very well tip Green.

Australia, you can do better than this. Clearly our leaders have no interest in taking the high road, or even a middling one. Our policies on refugees are an absolute disgrace, making us every bit the international pariah. We like to think of ourselves as a friendly egalitarian nation, but as things now stand this version of who we are is so far from being the truth it doesn't even qualify as spin.



Aside from @crazyJane13's post (link above) I recommend you take a look at @nancycato1 in fine form here and Yvette Vignando's post on the impact that the way the media and politicians talk about refugees has on children's understanding.