Monday, September 26, 2011

Becoming a doula and midwife

Over the past couple of years I have been a lot more inspired to participate in the feminist community, both through starting this blog and The Border House, and wanting to volunteer to help women.  5 years ago, I was in a rigorous nursing school program with the intention of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife.  I love babies and the idea of helping bring new life into the world and assisting women during one of the most trying times of their lives was so appealing to me.  I ended up leaving nursing school and moving to San Diego to work on video games for a living and gave up those aspirations in exchange for working on my hobby.  I also wasn't thrilled about having to go through all basic nursing training in order to deliver babies. 

Fast forward to now.  I've found out that you can become a Licensed Midwife in California by going to a 3 year program that costs around $10,000.  You can deliver babies and make your life all about supporting women and families.  And I don't have to jump right into it...for $365 I can attend a 3 day seminar in San Francisco that allows me to become a certified doula.  A doula doesn't physically deliver the baby, but assists the mothers by giving them massages, relaxing them, talking to them throughout the birth process, and helping them after their newborn is born with lactation and feeding, caring for their new baby, and balancing their changed lives.  I can be a doula on a volunteer basis for organizations, or I could start my own side business.

The idea of becoming a doula and eventually a midwife is that I feel that I can really change lives and bring a unique perspective.  I know that I would want to specialize in a more radical doula approach, focusing on natural home births and experiences for non-traditional families.  I would love to help gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender families bring their new children into the world without judgement.  I would like to volunteer to offer doula and midwife services to low-income families. I would like to offer full-spectrum care, including providing doula services to women going through abortions and adoption processes.  

Working on video games is incredibly fun and can be rewarding, but at the end of the day it doesn't make me feel satisfied.  For some reason, I've been wanting more.  I want to make a real impact and be important to people on an individual level.  When I was a nursing assistant in a Women's Oncology unit at a hospital, my favorite part of the job was sitting and talking to the patients, getting to know them, and helping them out emotionally.  I was told time and time again that I am reassuring to be around, and that I will make a good nurse.  I don't regret leaving my nursing program, but I do sometimes regret getting out of the business of helping people directly.  That was rewarding and amazing work that made me feel whole.  Exhausted, but whole.

I'm interested in hearing about more feminists who have gotten into birth work.  I know of Radical Doula and she is amazingly inspirational...are there any other great bloggers out there who talk about their experiences?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feminism and marriage

Marriage is one of those feminist issues that I struggle with.  I find my views around it to be very mixed and confusing and I'm not sure how to navigate my thoughts around it.

On one hand, I think it's absolutely ridiculous that marriage is considered a religious institution based on morals and faiths yet is all but required to get federal benefits.  I absolutely hate the fact that I can partake in it while same sex couples cannot. I feel that it is very privileged of me to want to get married when others cannot, and at one point I considered boycotting the entire institution until everyone could be a part of it.

But on the other hand, I love my partner and I want to be bonded with him forever legally. I want to have tax benefits with him, I want to be considered his 'spouse'. I find myself selfishly wishing that we weren't "boyfriend and girlfriend" because it feels so juvenile, but that I could refer to him as my husband or my fiance. It's all very silly, and I know it.  But is there something inherently wrong with wanting to be married? I think not. I certainly don't see it as passing ownership of myself from my dad to my new husband, and I don't see it as being an oppressive relationship between my partner and I.  

I know many wonderful feminists who are happily married in both gay and straight marriages. Does that mean that they're validating this unfair institution?  I don't think so. I know that it's a very privileged thing that my partner and I can get married, but I also know that it's privileged that I have a maid service. I know that is privileged that I make almost 6 figures per year in one of the most fun industries around.

So yeah, my thoughts aren't clear on marriage enough to write a post that is actually informative.  I guess I'm just interested in hearing some thoughts an opinions about how you reconcile marriage with your feminism.  Thoughts?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent is a debut novel by Veronica Roth, and I picked it up after seeing lots of buzz surrounding it on Goodreads.  It's a dystopian young adult fiction based in an alternate Chicago setting and featuring a teenage female protagonist as she struggles to find her identity in a wartorn world with rigid societal roles.  Sound familiar?

Divergent is very much a spiritual throwback to The Hunger Games trilogy, which is a series that I devoured as rapidly as possible.  It's so close in spirit and feel to The Hunger Games that it almost feels like a ripoff in places.  I've recently found out that it too has been picked up for a potential motion picture, so clearly these types of books are flying off the shelves.  Divergent is also more than reminiscent of the Harry Potter world, with the members of its society taking assessment tests to see which 'clan' (read: house) they will join.  These clans are very much similar to the houses in Harry Potter.  The Dauntless might as well be Slytherin.  It's basically the Reaping meets the Sorting Hat.

The protagonist of the story (Beatrice, or Tris) is likable enough, though not a spectacularly deep character.  Other than her current struggles within the Dauntless society she finds herself in, we don't know much about her likes and interests.  Aside from her family ties and her romantic interests, of course.  Did she have close friends other than her brother before the assessment tests?  Did she have any hobbies?  The entire book becomes a whirlwind of mental and physical training and at times I find that Tris's thoughts and motives are predictable and shallow.  I found her much less frustrating than Katniss Everdeen though, and connected with her in a stronger fashion.

The pacing of the book is odd, spending tons of time on and going into detail about the assessment testing and the training that Tris goes through, before whipping into the real conflict 75% through the book.  Clearly Divergent is preparing us for the second book in the series, which I will eagerly read to see how certain conflicts and relationships are resolved.

My biggest issue with this book (and also with The Hunger Games and Twilight) is in the way the teenage girl protagonists interact with their love interests.  In Divergent, Tris is completely mindblown and baffled by the fact that Four has taken an interest in her.  Though she is brave, strong, and the top of her class in assessments, she is completely timid and self-loathing when it comes to her interactions with Four.  She puts herself down, basically calls herself ugly, and can't believe that a guy like Four would be interested in her.  The fact that she tosses aside her achievements and her personality and only thinks about her appearance when talking with Four sets a bad example about the confidence a young woman should have in herself.  I found her budding relationship with Four to be far less annoying than Katniss and her relationships with Peeta and Gale, but just once I'd love to see a more confident young woman interacting with the male characters in these books.  It's frustrating to see such strong and powerful young women in these fantasy/dystopian novels who can kill people, save the world, win wars, and outsmart anyone yet they are still portrayed as weak girls when it comes to being interested in boys.

All in all, I did enjoy Divergent.  I read it in 3 days total and found myself turning the pages long after I intended to go to bed.  I will be reading the next book in the series to see how it plays out.  I think Veronica Roth is a very accessible reader with a knack for making battles engaging and interesting, and this is a great first effort by her. It's worth picking up if you enjoyed The Hunger Games and wish there was more of it.