Baby Dust Diaries

A Life Less Ordinary

Tag: feminism

A Civil Debate About Vaccines

conflict-clipart-CLIPART_OF_ProcessI don’t write about vaccines much anymore. The reason is simply that I had read more than enough (several times over enough) to completely convince me that vaccines were a bad idea for both humanity in general and my children specifically (which, contrary to popular press, are BOTH very important to me). It isn’t my passion anymore. Unless someone is talking about “anti-vaxxers” going to jail or having their kids sent into foster care. It is only when you seek to infringe on my right to body integrity that I engage. I no longer play the show me your research and I’ll show you mine game.

I am disheartened that, from my perspective, so many people believe the vaccine propaganda without digging deeper behind these recommended substances being injected into our most vulnerable population. However, what really pains me is how impossible it apparently is to have a civil discussion about the topic.

Last year I was kicked out of a feminist group for, “promoting child abuse” after having a rather civil discussion on vaccines with other members. The group admins believed so strongly that vaccines are an inarguable benefit to children and humanity that they not only couldn’t have a conversation with me about bodily integrity and the right of the state to force medications on autonomous human beings, but that to even bring it up promoted child abuse.

Damn, that is some seriously strong cultural indoctrination.

I *get* that I’m the minority. I know you think I am straight up wrong. I get that you can’t believe I don’t get it. But what I don’t get is that you are going to shame and demean me in your arguments. Honestly, when you notice yourself so vociferously defending a point of view, which is fine, but feeling hot under the collar about it, then maybe you want to examine where feelings that strong are coming from.

An emotional response that strong comes from one of two places. Either you have a personal experience to draw on (for example, you have a child injured by a disease that has a vaccine and you feel the unvaccinated were responsible) or you’ve been subliminally and overtly indoctrinated to feel something by someone else. Who is that? Why did they do that? I’d want to know. And why do they need to use influence and marketing to “sell” this idea so hard? Why don’t the vaccines speak for themselves?

Maybe you feel you have examined these issues and you still feel vaccines are for you. That is great. I’m happy for you. Perhaps you even think that unvaccinated individuals are a danger to others. I imagine that is a painful feeling to have. I know how I feel when I see transphobia against little kids just trying to be comfortable in their skin. I just know I have to speak out – and do so loudly – to give voice to a group that I know is so often silenced. If you truly feel that my choice not to vaccinate my children puts infants, the elderly, and immunocompromised people at risk then I empathize deeply with the compassion for those people that drives your passion. Namaste. That place in me that feels compassion sees the same place in you and I respect your voice in this argument.

Can you see me for one moment? I do care deeply about people for whom measles or chicken pox are deadly. I would never, never have made this decision without researching that aspect of public health and vaccines. I know you think I haven’t researched enough, or in the wrong places, or that I simply don’t understand enough to make what you consider the right choice. I’m not asking you to understand my choice. I’m asking you to see the place of compassion inside that my choice comes from.

The fact is I am not a shitty person. I’m not uncaring. I’m not uneducated or swayed by celebrity worship or an irrational hippie (I’m a quite rational hippie thankyouverymuch). I am a very kind person. If we met in person I’m sure we’d like each other.

You’d undoubtedly call me weird, or crunchy. You most definitely rolled your eyes when I said “vaccine propoganda” (ha! my side uses subliminal bias too.) My medicine cabinet has more brown, glass jars with droppers than things you’d buy at Walgreens. I’m a peace-freak who doesn’t spank her kids or send them to the local schools. I’m a “femi-nazi” and I’ll tell you, at length, why you should never say that. But I’m friends with many people who don’t believe the same things I do. And I think at least some of them would vouch for me being a decent human being. I’m not asking you to *get* me or agree with me.

I’m just asking that you can stop for a moment and not see me as an “antivaxxer.” I’m not your enemy. I am a friend. My life isn’t like yours. My choices aren’t like yours. But I worry about my kids all the time just like you. I think about their health and do things to make them as healthy as possible. I also care about humanity and I care very much that babies die around the world, just like you do. I think deeply on issues like white, western privilege and how this discussion would be different if I didn’t live in a place with access to healthcare, sanitation, and nutritious food, just like you do.

Do you want to send the police to my house to put my kids in foster care? Do you want them to be held down and injected against their will? I am such a pariah to you that you want me HURT and ROBBED of dignity and my own children? If you had to be the one to hold them down after ripping them from my arms would it change your answer?

I hope you answered no. If we can’t look past our own thoughts and, even briefly, see the humanity in each other then what is all this even for?

That Time Good Morning America Talked About My Daughter’s Hair
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Vaccines and Feminism

I think the vaccine debate is often a hidden misogyny. Saying things like “2 seconds on Google” or calling those who don't vax “anti-vax truthers” implies that non-vaxers are stupid, alarmist, and selfish.

I love and respect science which I worked in for a decade. But, believing in science doesn't mean I have to ignore non-science. Science can't explain why acupuncture works but it does. Science says vitamin E doesn't reduce pre-menstural breast tenderness but I have 20 years of experience that says otherwise. That's fine. If the science isn't there then the medical profession should steer clear but we – individual people – don't have to steer clear. It is the same with vaccines.

Like the story of a mother whose daughter got a vaccine on Friday and by monday morning had pulled all of her hair out. She is a statistical anomaly and therefore her mother is just being hysterical. That's misogyny. We have no respect for motherhood, mothers, or the choices women make for their families.

While worrying about measles I think we should also worry about how we treat women and women's choices in the process.

I don't consider myself anit-vax. To be anti-vax would mean I want to end the practice of vaccination. I don't. The science is clear that vaccines produce the intended effect (reduction of childhood illness and loss of work productivity of parents due to illness) at an acceptable societal risk. If I were a government policy maker I would look at the science and recommend vaccination.

However, I would also respect a person's right to choose. I would never want to live in a country that mandated medication. Would you?

The fact is that Dr. Offit (an infamous pro-vaccine expert) and I agree on many things:

* vaccines produce antibodies

* vaccines reduce the occurrence of clinical illness

* vaccines reduce work absences

* vaccines are effective in the majority of those who take them

* vaccines don't work in 5-35% of people who take them – even after boosters.

* a small percentage of people will have a vaccine reaction that is moderate to severe.

A minute on the last one: Yes, vaccine proponents know and admit that sometimes vaccines harm – even kill. An infant that dies after the HepB vaccine because of a yeast allergy is an example of a person for whom a vaccine was NOT the best choice for health. No one disputes this.

And yet Mr. Offit and I disagree on a few points.

* the risk is negligible.

* the risk/benefit is not needed on a per-patient basis – a one-size-fits-all plan is sufficient

* the small number of adverse reactions is an acceptable risk for the wealth of good vaccines do.

I'm a conscientious parent. I don't do anything on a one-size-fits all plan for my three kids. I weigh the specific information about my child with the risk/benefit of a treatment. As with childbirth, education, nutrition, etc. I've done extensive research from good old medical journals and the CDC's own website. I never once consulted Jenny McCarthy (/eyeroll). My choice is that the benefits of vaccination did not outweigh the risk which was elevated in my case due to a family history of adverse vaccine reactions.

This is a right that should be respected. Respected because this is a free country where we can make our own decisions about our bodies. Respected because I should be respected as a woman and a mother as capable of making decisions for myself and my kids

Of course, some then say that I'm being “selfish” and putting others in harm's way. This is a difficult one because my obligation to society is very important to me. I would never take lightly the idea that my actions effect others. I don't “hide in the herd” and hope other people keep vaccinating.

The fact is I don't believe that non-vaccinated kids are anymore dangerous to can't-be-vaxed people than vaccinated children. There is plenty of science that agrees with me.

“Herd immunity” – a term stolen from natural disease vectors and used in vaccination despite no experimental verification of it working the same in induced immunity – is very debatable. But, let's say we believe whole-heartedly in herd immunity. There are still other ways in which vaccinated children also pose a threat to the non-vaccinated. For example, serotype replacement with HiB, carrier status with whooping cough, and vaccine shedding with live viruses like flumist and chicken pox.

These are agreed upon cases where a vaccine actually harms the herd. The decision that Dr. Offit makes is that this is an acceptable harm. That's fine. I don't make the same decision.

My children are a harm to an immunocompromised person when they are sick or carrying illness. I meet my obligation to the community by keeping my kids healthy and then keeping them home when they are ill. Vaccinated children are a harm to an immunocompromised person when they are sick or carrying illness. They are less likely to be sick (with vaccine available diseases) but just as likely to be carrying illness.

So here are some things that are terribly misogynystic to say to a mother (sarcasm in parenthesis):

* you just don't remember the death and destruction before vaccines (because, yes, I'm incapable of using history to make decisions and if I can't see it it doesn't exist)

* you don't understand the science (let's talk about the immune system and see who knows more)

* you just follow Jenny McCarthy (yes, I'm a vapid celebrity devotee because I'm a girl and girls are like, totally superficial)

* you are harming your children (OMG, this parenting thing is sooo hard! When will they feed themselves?)

* you are harming your community (whatever that's their problem I don't want a stinky chemical in my precious and pure children)

* you are just a conspiracy theorist or “truther” and thus anti-science (I'm a girl, math is so hard!)

I know an awful lot of non-vaxing moms and none of them are alarmist or uneducated on vaccines. None of them are shitty moms that don't care about their kids. They are smart, compassionate, wonderful mothers who have made a decision for their families that should be respected even if you disagree with it.

I'm all about common ground. I know that vaccines are a heated issue. I don't expect pro-vax people to completely understand my viewpoint. I do expect that we can both respect the humanity in each of us.


Maria Kang, Here Is My Excuse.


Ok, this has been floating around and causing a bunch of nasty comments from all sides. Here’s my take.

First, her asking “what’s your excuse?” is just more mom-judging-mom-wars propaganda. You are not competing with other moms. It isn’t a race and there is no set definition of success (and if there were it would be at least 20-30 years in the future for Ms. Kang, since her kids are too young to say “I win!”). Stop being part of what drives women apart.

Second, her comment implies anyone would need an “excuse” not to have achieved the goal SHE set for HERSELF. Good for her for achieving her goal. But, why does she assumes her goal is the goal of all moms. I’m a goal setter by nature and I wonder what her excuse is for not meeting my goals? How far is she in finishing two manuscripts in 2013? Has she meditated at least 3 times a week? Has she read 50 non-fiction books this year? Are her kids able to explain why the government is shut down (her 3 year old could)? What’s her excuse for not reducing the amount of stuff she owns by 80% in 2013?

Do these sound absurd? They should. These are *my* goals and I don’t expect anyone else to be meeting them except me. So, for me to say, “hey what’s your excuse for not meeting this goal?” is so presumptuous that my goals are the most worth-while goals. Which is absurd.

But, of course, Ms. Kang doesn’t stand alone when it comes to finding her goal to be more important than anyone else’s. Thinness is the ultimate goal of human females and everything else you do pales in comparison to how taut your abs are. The supposition is that my goals are pointless if I’m doing it in a fat body. Which is also absurd.

Lastly, her image and message trot out the same old fat shaming (notice I didn’t put quotes around fat shaming like it is some quasi-thing) fallacies. People keep mentioning “good for her for being healthy and fit!” Um, no. This image tells us nothing about her health or her fitness. This image tells us she is skinny and has abs. She could pound cookie dough all night and never touch a salad. Her blood pressure could be through the roof. Her arteries could be lining with plaque. She could do sit ups and lift weights to get her tone but be incapable of running a mile. We know *nothing* about her fitness from this image. What we know is that she’s skinny.

We also know that our society INCORRECTLY conflates skinny with healthy and fat with unhealthy. We know that a mom who was overweight and said “what’s your excuse?” couldn’t possible be talking about her fitness even if the picture was of her crossing the finish line of a marathon. She must be talking about something else because there is NO WAY she’s PROUD of her disgusting, fat body. I mean, really? Ewww.

And if she wasn’t crossing the finish line of a marathon she’d be even more reviled. People would say she doesn’t deserve her kids because she’s going to raise them “fat.” Nevermind that a picture can’t tell you that she is an ER doc that saves lives or a volunteer at the local women’s shelter that many women owe their lives to. None of those things matter. She should quit those things and get her ass to the gym because Ewwww!

Because a woman’s most important goal in life is to make sure the space she occupies is a pretty as possible – oh, and as small as possible too, of course. I mean, it’s kinda nice if you also learn to read and write and save people, but for goodness sake: be pretty.

I hope Ms. Kang is a wonderful mother and also very healthy! AND I hope she also helps people meet their fitness goals in a positive, body affirming way because, of course, she wants them to be physically and mentally healthy. I hope people owe their lives to her and her positive influence. I hope she makes the world a better place.

But she didn’t do that with this image. This image makes the world a worse place. A place where more mother-shaming, mom wars, judgement, shaming, and lack of humility and acceptance are reinforced.

What’s my excuse? I’m busy making the world a better place.

Feminism and the Burqa

This past summer France’s Prime Minister moved to outlaw the burqa – a head to toe covering worn by some Muslim women. The reason being that the garment is a “symbol of subservience, a sign of debasement” and that the women are “prisoners behind a screen.” In June of 2009 President Barack Obama visited France and voiced his opinion that to each country their own but “I will tell you that in the United States our basic attitude is, is that we’re not going to tell people what to wear.” Amen.
Proponents of banning the burqa state that many women are forced to wear it by their husbands. I agree that this is horrible but proposing choice-limiting laws on women will not only not help those women (whose husbands may refuse to then let them leave the house) but it erodes the base of feminism which is access to freedom of choice.  When a husband beats his wife for burning the meatloaf we don’t outlaw meatloaf (don’t I wish, lol)!  We outlaw beating and we educate women that they have a choice.
Adornment is an important part of human identity. Amish people wear wooden buttons, not because they believe plastic will send them to hell, but because it is a symbol of their intention to abstain from modern culture and advancement. Hasidic Jews have payos (sidecurls). Mormon women wear long dresses. Christians wear crosses. Himba cover themselves in otjize. It isn’t just limited to religion of course. Ask any goth teenager how important their self-expression is! We simply can not take this away from any human being and claim freedom.

As a woman, I dislike the burqa. I don’t like the idea that a woman should be responsible for inciting lust in a man. I heard a preacher when I was growing up (in a Christian church) claim that women wore necklaces to make men look at their breasts! AGGGHHH. I think it is insulting to men to say that they are so weak that an ankle or collar bone will send them over the edge. I also think the burqa is particularly over the top even for modesty sake – much more than a hijab or chaddor (want to learn the difference?  See this great slideshow from BBC.)  It limits interaction, in my opinion.

The thing is, it isn’t about my opinion.  It is about my right to have an opinion.  And the right for a Muslim woman to have her own opinion.  And if that includes the burqa then I would fight to help her keep that right.

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Of Course I’m a Feminist! Aren’t You?

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute…”
–Rebecca West, The Clarion, 11/14/13
I’m always surprised when I hear a woman say “I’m not a feminist, but…”  I’m not sure what monster some people think feminism is that they would annotate that they are not one.  Somehow people confuse feminism with a political agenda or as an anti-femininity movement.  
Feminism is not anti-feminine.  I’ve heard women say they aren’t feminists because they like to cook and clean and/or they want their husbands to do the yard work.  Or they like it when men open doors.  Feminism is the choice to cook and clean because you want to and not because you are owned and can be beaten if you don’t do as your husband says.
Feminism is not pro -abortion/gay marriage/universal heathcare.  Women say they aren’t feminists because they are pro-life, or Christian, or of a certain political party.  Feminism is the right to vote for politicians that espouse your individual views on issues.
Feminism isn’t about being masculine or ugly.  Feminists can shave, wear makeup, and shop at the Gap.  Feminism is the belief that our inherent value is deeper than our outward beauty.
Feminism doesn’t mean you have to hyphenate your name.  Feminism means your name can have power (like a salary, education, and land ownership) even if it has a Ms. or Mrs. in front of it.
Feminism isn’t about hating men.  Feminism is about valuing yourself enough to choose relationships with someone who values you.
So here is how you know if you are a feminist:
  1. Are you a human being?
  2. Do you believe that women are human beings with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
If you answered yes then congratulations, You. Are. A. Feminist.

If you answered no and are a woman then,
  • Stop voting
  • Give up your land and any property
  • Ask your husband to beat you
  • Give you employer back $.40 for every dollar you make – better yet, fire yourself and get your ass back in the kitchen
  • Forget how to read and write since you should have been home sewing instead of going to school anyways
  • Stop taking birth control

If you answered no and are a man,
  • You are an asshole

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