Saturday, January 26, 2013

Representations of Self

I noticed that members of the Open Adoption Roundtable are doing a blog hop around art that they have in their homes. I am neither an open adoption blogger nor a serious artist/collector, but as I was in my kitchen this morning, I thought that I could share some of the works I have hanging in my home and why they represent me (if it's not immediately obvious).

On my long-ago trip to India, my friend Thomenon and I went to the Jama Majid (great mosque) in Old (Mughal) Delhi at 5:30 in the morning. The light was perfect. We wandered around, talked to people, listened to the fountains, and I watched the cats with delight. I took a slide of two men, after asking their permission, as they were talking on a porch (it was going to be for teaching purposes, back in the dark ages). I was surprised how beautifully the image turned out. My husband had the slide restored and made into a picture on canvas, that we mounted in the kitchen. The scene reminds me of my trip, and I imagine the men's friendship. I can remember the coolness of the marble under my bare feet, and the smell of the city. It's intensely personal.

On the other side of the kitchen are two photographs. One is a documentary photograph (copy of an original from the 20's) of a lid of a casket from the tomb of Tutankhamun, from which I taught my kids some rudimentary hieroglyphs, and how to read cartouches (pretty much all I know, to be honest). I love that the form of the lid is a cartouche.

Next to it is a print of a photograph by Charles Sheeler, the American photographer/painter, who did some photography for the Metropolitan Museum in 1943. He took this marvelous shot of some arms from a Neo-Assyrian relief, showing a king, Assurnasirpal II, and his cupbearer. Considering how blocky and schematic much of Neo-Assyrian art can look, I love the articulation of the muscles and the jewelry. Sheeler made such an interesting choice in how he framed this, with the phallic dagger hilt, the snake's head on the cup, and all. It's 100% testosterone. I wrote my A.B. thesis on the Neo-Assyrians and have a very soft place in my heart for the art of these warlords.

Next to my bed I have a framed print of the white hart from the Wilton Diptych, representing Richard II. I see it every morning when I awake. It reminds me of my childhood in England; my lithe staghounds, the Arts and Crafts Movement (which mined such objects for inspiration); Catholicism (it's part of an altarpiece); and peace. I apologize for the not-so-lovely photograph, but the glare on the glass was hard to avoid. (You can see my elder child, currently ill, lying in bed and reading if you look hard enough.) I couldn't get a decent picture because of terrible lighting, but I have a framed print of the scene of Virgin, Child, and Angels from the Diptych over my desk; the blue (surely expensive lapis) of the Virgin's and angels' gowns is calming, and I can always use the blessing of the Madonna.

And my muse, this young woman with a stylus (sometimes identified as Sappho), watches over the living room and my collection of books. I have adored this Roman wall painting from Pompeii for decades; she reminds me of myself. When I first put this up, Dad saw her and said, "Oh, it's YOU!"

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Women's Bodies

I have had some rough cases at work recently, dealing with demises of babies close to term, but not quite. And having to help moms deal with their losses, and their tipping over the edge into despair that was truly psychosis. Extremely sad to watch. I felt powerless to do anything except to sit there and listen.

I am dedicated to helping women and children be healthy and safe. Every day at work, my goal is "Healthy mom, healthy baby."

And then I read horrible stories about women being sent to jail for ridiculous things concerning pregnancy, mostly because of their race and class. I hope you will read this article and think of ways in which we can work together to advocate for women who don't share the same privileges we do. I've copied the first paragraphs below.

Pregnant? That Might Get You Arrested

Abortion continues to be a hot-button issue in the US, as dozens of states have passed measures to limit women's access to the procedure. But even women who want to be pregnant are not free of legal restraints on their bodies, as a new paper in the Journal of Health, Politics, Policy and Law demonstrates. In many instances, women have been arrested, institutionalized, or subjected to unwanted medical interventions due to their pregnancies.
The paper looks at 413 criminal and civil cases from 1973 to 2005 in which women were subject to legal action related to their unborn children. In all the cases, the women were deprived of their own civil liberties by legal authorities claiming to seek protection of the fetus. Many dealt with charges related to drug or alcohol use during pregnancy, refusing to follow doctor's orders, or for miscarriages that were blamed on their actions (even if there was little to no evidence to prove that those actions led to the miscarriage).
In a piece at RH Reality Check, the paper's authors detail some of the examples they found in their search of legal and public records, as well as media accounts. Here are just a few of them they include: 
  • A Louisiana woman was charged with murder and spent approximately a year in jail before her counsel was able to show that what was deemed a murder of a fetus or newborn was actually a miscarriage that resulted from medication given to her by a health care provider.
  • In Texas, a pregnant woman who sometimes smoked marijuana to ease nausea and boost her appetite gave birth to healthy twins. She was arrested for delivery of a controlled substance to a minor.
  • A doctor in Wisconsin had concerns about a woman's plans to have her birth attended by a midwife. As a result, a civil court order of protective custody for the woman's fetus was obtained. The order authorized the sheriff’s department to take the woman into custody, transport her to a hospital, and subject her to involuntary testing and medical treatment.
Fifty-two percent of the women in the cases they found  were African American. Seventy-one percent were likely low income, as they were represented by indigent defense in the legal case. Sixty-nine percent were under the age of 30, and 56 percent were in the South. And, lest you think these are mostly old cases, they found more than 25 in 2005, the last year included in the paper. The authors also said that, while not included in this research, they are aware of at least 250 cases since 2005.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Reactive Attachment Disorder, Racism, and Resistance

I have recently felt over, so over being adopted; not that I can erase it from my identity, but that I am too busy just living to focus on anything remotely related to its thorniness or boggy idiocies. I have had nothing meaningful to say about adoption, and I haven't being reading much of interest, either. Novellas, short stories, and criticism are more up my alley at the moment.

I was moved, however, by my friend Daniel's thoughts on Reactive Attachment Disorder as he expressed them over at Transracial Eyes. I encourage you to read his post, if you haven't already.

Here are the first wonderful, challenging paragraphs:

I’d like to touch back on to two discussions we’ve had so far, one on nature vs. nurture as posited by Snow Leopard, and the other one having to do with Russian adoptions, and the idea of a second-best race-based adoption, i.e., one that does not (seemingly) require those adopting from having to mythologize their ability to raise a transracially or transculturally adopted child.
The reason I think this deserves more focus in terms of Russian adoptees is that from the web sites that I’ve seen on so-called Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), the majority of the children so diagnosed seem to come from predominantly “white-identified” countries: Russia and Eastern Europe, read: those places deemed as deserving salvation from Soviet-era “Godless Communism”.
Much of the RAD diagnosis is focused not on the adoption itself, but instead on the child as manifesting an “illness” that needs to be corrected via a variety of therapies physical and psychological that I believe would constitute torture if performed on prisoners of war, as defined by the Geneva Convention.
So much of the discussion that needs to be had here seemingly can’t be had, if only because at first glance we are not dealing with a question of “racism”. I would like to challenge this, while also pointing out that the notion of “adoption” is just as culturally specific as the psychological diagnosis of RAD, along with the racism implied.