Archive for the 'Globalization' Category

Boom boom boom, let’s go back to your womb.

In a recent interview, Arundhati Roy described how India is colonizing itself:

We have a growing middle class, being reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing western countries which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs.

Of course, she was speaking metaphorically of India’s emergent middle class expanding at the expense of the disenfranchised people whose resources are plundered, whose land is taken for reservoir or mining projects, and whose rights have been trampled on (often violently) in the name of economic growth. I do not know if Ms. Roy is aware of it, but there is in fact some literal truth to her words as well.

According to Asia Times Online, there’s gold in them thar’ nether parts!

“Reproductive tourism” – as this trade is being referred to – is a booming business. Valued at more than $450 million in India, the industry is growing at a rapid pace. While exact figures are hard to come by, it is said that the number of cases of surrogacy has doubled over the past three years.

How can the outsourcing of pregnancy to India and other developing nations be seen as anything other than the colonization of women’s bodies? Considering the health risks of pregnancy as well as its extremely intimate nature, how is “reproductive tourism” any different from “sex tourism” in any way other than the social acceptability of the former? It’s interesting to me that the same sorts of arguments (e.g., here) for the non-exploitative nature of commercial surrogacy are also the same that have been used to argue that sex tourism is also not exploitation. Both fail to distinguish between adults freely choosing a particular arrangement and larger social forces that put people into a position of having to make very undesirable choices that others can take advantage of.

As an adoptee what I really wonder is, what kind of understanding will children whose gestation was outsourced come to have of this? Not what their parents will tell them (though it puts a whole new spin on the “wrong tummy” story), but how they will see their origins. “When a man and woman love each other very much, they take their sperm and eggs to India where they are put inside a woman who needs money and a baby grows there for nine months and the man and the woman take the baby back home.” Change as needed for gay couples or single parents. In any of those cases, pregnancy basically sounds like shitwork for poor foreigners, kinda like roofing.

By reducing the surrogate mother to a disembodied womb or cheap, hired help, it becomes impossible to talk about any kind of relationship between the surrogate mother and the child. How can creating a person, maybe not from your own genetic material, but by growing and nurturing that person within your own body and then actually giving life to that person in hours and hours of pain, not constitute a relationship? How will a child feel about knowing his or her origin was outsourced to a stranger halfway around the world who he or she will probably never meet?

I don’t claim to know the answers to these questions, but what bothers me is that nobody is even asking them. There’s a some discussion of the exploitation of surrogate mothers, but it seems that everyone just assumes the children will be fine with this. Maybe they will. I am more than a little skeptical.


Homofauxbia and the Third World Womb

Or: Hot Girl-on-Girl Colonialism and Exploitation!

This is the continuation of a previous entry in which I started analyzing a post from a blog called Subversive Writer (which is about as subversive as a minivan) that is just so chock full o’ what’s wrong with the current culture of adoption (especially international adoption) that the first two paragraphs were enough to generate a whole post’s worth of criticism. At long last we can move on to paragraph three:

Asia is now officially off the map in terms of singles adopting – China, South Korea and India all demand that couples be married (and of course, heterosexual). As if it wasn’t heterosexual couples who had abandoned those little girls in the first place!

Well, this is telling. There are two different things going on here, in addition to the continuation of the previous theme of adoption as entitlement. First, we have a covert attempt to frame adoption as a gay and lesbian moral imperative: those breeders are abandoning kids left and right–it’s up to upstanding gay and lesbian couples to save the children! Only a completely irrational, homophobic person, then, would dare interfere with this noble attempt by adoptive gays and lesbians to clean up the straights’ messes. This is really just another version of The Wrong Tummy in which heterosexual reproduction is God’s screw-up and the resulting helpless little bastards are saved by gay angels. No wonder Rosie O’Donnell likes that stupid story so much.

Second, we have the overt construction of child abandonment as something done by heterosexual couples. Wow, can you really be a lesbian without being a feminist these days? How much ignorance does it take about the realities of heterosexual relationships in highly patriarchal societies, gender roles in traditional Chinese culture, and the population policies of modern China, to actually try to claim that heterosexual Chinese couples are coming to mutual decisions to abandon their daughters, and that those decisions are made without any external pressures? Now, I am not defending child abandonment here (being an adoptee, that’s pretty low on the list of things I would try to defend). I’m saying that no honest, thoughtful person would dare try to imply that it was a casual choice that two people arrived at mutually without any social context.

“Honey, what do you say we go dump that baby girl in an alley and then return quickly so we may resume having vaginal intercourse without birth control?”

“Sounds good to me, snookums. Can we stop for a bite while we’re out? All this irresponsible sexual reproduction is making me hungry.”

Um, yeah. That’s totally how it goes down, every time. Not only does this allegedly subversive writer ignore the systematic oppression of women in patriarchal societies and the social institutions that perpetuate that oppression, she wants to reap the fruits of it. Yes, I guess you can be a lesbian and an overt misogynist at the same time! I blame The L Word. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

HOWEVER, a new wave is on the horizon. Surrogate mothers, both in Asia and India, are now presenting a new way for gay couples (and heterosexual singles) to have a family – at a much lesser price than even the cost of going through conventional adoption agencies.

Reproductive tourism” is a booming business.

The irony here is that reproductive tourism is exactly the phrase I would have used to disparage this practice, as I have called some particularly shallow international adoptive parents “adoption tourists” in the past. I guess there’s something to be said for just being overt about it.

I’m just going to leave you with that. I was quite disappointed (but not really surprised) to discover that our “subversive writer” is just a little too hungry for attention and is now going out of her way to provoke adoptees. Clearly the two or three dozen additional blog reads that came from her blog’s mention on an adoptee forum have gone to her head and I’m not going to encourage her anymore. Instead, I will let this serve as a segue to the much more interesting and important topic of international surrogacy and the globalization of human reproduction.

Farewell, Elisa. Keep on raging for the machine!

I don’t care if fat old gay people can’t have kids.

And it really pains me to say it, too. I’m not exactly in great shape myself, and I’m hardly a spring chicken. I have always believed in respecting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, and in cherishing the diversity of living and loving that is possible among human beings.

I do care if fat old gay people are discriminated against in the workplace. I care if they are denied the same access to housing and health care that everyone else has. I care if they are humiliated, intimidated, insulted, or in any way not treated with the dignity and respect that I believe all human beings deserve. I support the right of fat old gay people to marry other fat old gay people, or whoever else is willing, I mean, hey, whatever man. And I will never just sit idly while the rights of fat old gay people are infringed.

But I will never, ever support the idea that fat old gay people–or, for that matter, skinny young straight people, or any people–are entitled to have children. In fact, it’s really quite shocking to me that anyone would claim otherwise. However, many adoptive parents and other adoption industry cheerleaders (whether gay or straight or anything in between) do this quite frequently by implication. While this is often a source of annoyance or amusement for me, depending on my mood, it was not until I ran across an astonishingly arrogant blog post on the topic of adoption and surrogacy that I began to grasp the scope of this vast sense of entitlement.

So let’s take a little walk through this bit of sophomoric spew and see what it can tell us about the ideology of adoption as entitlement. It’s not that the post in question is worthwhile in and of itself, or that the author is anyone of consequence, but rather that it is an exemplary coalescence of the disparate components found throughout modern adoption ideology: narcissism, avarice, privilege, dehumanization, self-righteousness, deliberate obfuscation of the issues, and more internalized misogyny than you can shake a stick at. It is, in fact, a discourse analytic gold mine, with ore so rich (and revealing) that I will not be getting past the first two paragraphs in this post:

As of June 1st of this year, China has barred singles from adopting their abandoned children – along with couples over 50, overweight persons or those with more than 2 divorces and less than $80,000 income.

Under the pretext of “we have less babies available”, Chinese officials have found a way to exclude gays and lesbians from having families. Along with everyone else they deem as “undesirable”.

Three little words tell you everything you need to know about where this post is going, and it ain’t pretty. PretextWe know you can give us more babies, China. We see through your flimsy excuses. Stop being the OPEC of adoption and hand over those goddamn babies. They deemThese people are considered undesirable only because China says so, and China is being a dick. The exclusion of people who might die soon because they’re old, fat, or both, or who might split up soon because they have a pattern of doing so, or who might not have the greatest financial stability, or who might keep the kid in childcare all the time because they’re single and working, is completely arbitrary. How are any of these people less deserving of having a child? They’re entitled, too!

The exclusion of old, fat, poor people in unstable relationships can be understood as unfair only if the adoptive parents’ “needs” are given priority over the needs of the child, which is exactly what is being expressed here. Maybe, just maybe, China does not want to put children through the difficult transition of an international adoption only to have them wind up in orphanages or other unpleasant circumstances again. Perhaps, instead of using some trumped up excuse to exclude people they don’t like, the Chinese government is simply no longer as desperate as it once was to find homes for these children. If you think that’s bad news, then you need to stop gazing at yourself in the mirror and see the world around you.

Now, I am not trying to make excuses for China. The communist subsidiary of Wal-Mart is not known for being terribly concerned about human rights. And I am not going to even try to defend China’s exclusion of gay couples who are otherwise qualified to adopt. What I am saying, though, is that it doesn’t matter one bit how much this decision “hurts” gay prospective adoptive parents, because–and this is the part that prospective adoptive parents, both gay and straight, really seem to be unable to grasp–it’s not about them.

If the restriction against adoption by gay and lesbian couples results in a deterioration of circumstances for children in Chinese orphanages or a reduction in either the quantity or quality of adoption placements (assuming such placements are an improvement over existing conditions, which is questionable but I’ll go along with it for the sake of argument), then it matters (and by “quality” I mean the quality of home for the adoptee). Because that’s the whole point of adoption, or at least it’s supposed to be: the well being of children born into difficult circumstances. But that’s clearly not what it’s about, here:

Chinese officials have found a way to exclude gays and lesbians from having families.

I’m sure this sounded like some kind of justified outrage at the time it was written but really it’s quite hilarious. Gays and lesbians did not materialize out of thin air; they already have families. What have Chinese officials actually excluded gays and lesbians from having? Kids? No, I know lots of gays and lesbians with kids and none of them had to be ordered from China. Gays and lesbians have been excluded from adopting orphans and abandoned children from China.

Well, thanks, I already knew that. And I agree that it is homophobic and that there is no reason to believe it is anything but against the best interests of the children. But suppose, for whatever crazy reason, that this really meant that gay and lesbian couples could no longer have children. Would that make it any worse? No, not one bit. Adoption is not based on serving the needs of adoptive parents, it is about finding ways to make the needs of adoptive parents serve the needs of children. That’s the difference between adoption and trafficking in human lives.

Tune in next time for part two: The Third World Womb – or – Lesbians Who Think Patriarchy Is Just Fine As Long As It Is Far Away And Works In Their Favor.

I’d Get Me Some Kids

Some get every beanie baby,
Some get little yippy dogs.
Some get stone geese they dress in clothes
Or statuettes of frogs.
But me, I’d get me some kids
From east and west and south,
With Chinese eyes, a Bantu nose,
A Guatemalan mouth.
I’d take them from their families,
I’d take them from their lands,
I’d wipe away their homesick tears
With privileged First World hands.
And when those bitches at the club
Call me a dried up cow,
I’ll just point to my collection
‘Cause I’m a Mommy now!

Okay, that was mean and I know it. It’s in reaction to a truly awful adoption poem by an author who has wisely chosen to remain anonymous. This poem (in several variations) can be found on a number of adoptive parent blogs and forums and I am rather alarmed by the fact that so many people don’t realize how creepy it sounds.

Now, let me say that I am not anti-adoption, at least not in the most logical sense of the word, that is, opposition to any form of adoption. I am sure there are plenty of people who would characterize me as “anti-adoption” because I talk openly about my own feelings and experiences in ways that suggest that adoption isn’t always completely wonderful even in the best cases. I have a stack of discourse analysis texts on my desk and years of postgraduate work in linguistics under my belt and I am eagerly anticipating the day when someone publicly tries to characterize me or anything I’ve written this way.

Furthermore, I am not opposed to international adoption in principle. Its actual practice is rather questionable, but even most of the pro-adoption groups recognize this and some of them might even be thinking about doing something about it, someday, maybe. I am friends with parents of international adoptees. Our children play together regularly and I think they’re very nice people and wonderful parents who, as far as I can tell, have pursued international adoption in ways that have avoided exploitation. And there are some other terrific parents of international adoptees who I don’t know personally but who keep great blogs and are clearly hip to the fact that adoption isn’t just about them.

But there are some people out there who really scare me. Occasionally I click on my blog’s adoption tag and have this big WTF moment.

First, there are the child collectors. I don’t even know what to say about that one. Except that children are not beanie babies. I posted that comment and was surprised to see it make it through, but it was lost among all the congratulations over their latest acquisition.

Then there are the adoption tourists. Yeah, that Lonely Planet travel guide to Ethiopia will really help you understand your adopted child’s culture. Does your infertility stem from engaging another type of tourism in, say, Thailand or Cuba, and bringing back an unwanted souvenir?

And finally we come to the religious crazies, and not surprisingly the people in the first two categories tend to fit into this one as well. Um, look. Saying that adoption is God’s plan is like saying that amputation is God’s plan. Sure, if you believe in a wholly deterministic universe where everything has been set in motion by an omniscient creator, then adoption, amputation, and every other thing that happens, good or bad, is God’s plan, in which case calling anything in particular “God’s plan” is pretty meaningless. If you don’t believe that, then how on earth can you see adoption as anything better than an imperfect human solution to human problems? Medical amputation is not done because it’s a good thing to do; it’s done because it’s better than any of the alternatives.

Should I just stop reading crazy adoptive parent blogs? It sure would make life less stressful. But the thing about crazy adoptive parents (or prospective ones) that bothers me the most is their complete, often willful obliviousness to the other sides of the adoption experience. They shut out everything they don’t want to hear about, they comfort themselves with safe adoptee bloggers affiliated with adoption industry sites, who just happen to be adoptive parents themselves. In short, they construct a reality bubble for themselves, a safe internet echo chamber where they won’t have to consider other perspectives. I would be quite a hypocrite to do the same thing.

So I guess I will just have to engage in the occasional blog rage. Who knows, maybe they’ll at least stop posting all that bad adoption poetry.