Hey Wait a Minute…

Before I started Law School, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and take a few university courses just to get used to studying, writing essays, etc., again. I took two courses. One was a Sociology of Collective Behaviour and the other was a Women’s Studies course. I’d never read any of the feminist literature so I thought it was an opportunity to educate myself.

Although it was not evident to me at the time I signed up, these courses has some overlapping principles.

Well duh – you may be saying. I know. I told you already, my brain was a little rusty.

In the sociology course we learned how collective behaviour in one country can have an impact on behaviour in another. The American Revolution’s influence on the French Revolution is one example of this phenomenon. (I know this image to the left isn’t from the American Revolution but I thought Uncle Sam’s pose fit.)

Although the factors that lead to the French Revolution had been brewing in France for a while, there is a strong belief that it was the American Revolution that really made those Frenchmen say “Hey, Wait a minute…” or “Attendez une minute!!!” They heard what was happening in North America and they said to themselves – If those Americans can have democracy why can’t we? If they can take on King George, why can’t we take on Louis and Marie Antoinette? Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!

Something similar happened with women but there is an ironic little twist. Most of the strides in the fight for women’s equality can be tied to the participation of women in various social causes. The women who were fighting for abolition of slavery in the 19th century and civil rights in the 20th century were not too happy that their role was to be making coffee and generally supporting (and sleeping with) the men while they did not have the full equality they were fighting for on befalf of other groups.

I was reminded of all this recently watching a Special Feature on the Season 2 DVD of Mad Men,

I will confess to being crazy about Mad Men.

Among other reasons for its historically accurate portrayal of the way women were treated in the 1960’s. The men frequently behave very badly. They make disgusting jokes in front of the women (e.g. Why is a woman like a lobster? Because all the good meat is in the tail.) that would earn most people a sexual harassment complaint these days. The women are for the most part secretaries, no matter what their level of education. It is an extremely well written show. The costumes are great, the acting is good and the use of music from the era (there is always an ironic twist) is literate and interesting.

And, OK I’ll admit, it Don Draper (Jon Hamm) ain’t bad to look at either.

But Madmen and thoughts of Don Draper have made me stray from my topic.

The special feature on the DVD is entitled Towards an Independent Woman and it is a short course in the things I have described above. How women who worked for the abolitionist cause and civil right were none the less treated like second class citizens themselves.

One of the things we learned in my Women’s Studies course was how women rarely fully face the front in photographs while men always do. Look to the left. Peggy who is trying to make it in a male world is slightly turned to the front. Joan, well, need I say more.

According to the Madmen DVD, there were African American women who were denied the opportunity to speak at the March on Washington – because they were women!!

I never knew that. It turns out black women along with white women were saying “Hey wait a minute guys, there is something wrong with this picture?”

And so I have meandered my way to the topic of adoption. What will be the “Hey Wait a Minute” moment for birth/first/natural/just plain mothers?

I have this feeling that it may have something to do with the right for open adoption records. The fight for OBC’s. I think most people see it an an adoptee issue. But is it really?

Are they the only ones who were denied the right to be who they really are?

I don’t think so.

Every woman who has lived in the closet for years because she lost a child to adoption has been denied the right to be who she really is.

And who is that?

Somebody’s mother, maybe yours – that’s who.

Sure because of circumstances, the person, their child, has another, adoptive, mother but that doesn’t negate the first mother’s role role.

I can’t help but think, when the right to OBC’s is won, and I think it will be, all those mothers who have been incredibly supportive of the fight and who lost children to adoption will say –

Hey, wait a minute!

You have recognized their rights, what about mine? What about my right to know my child and my right to be recognized as a very important part of my child’s life.

I really think that day is coming.




5 Responses to Hey Wait a Minute…

  1. Margie says:

    Just stopping by to say hi and I miss you here!

  2. Bingo! I agree with you 100% I live in British Columbia,
    and lost my son to adoption here as well. When he was 19 yrs old, I
    was allowed to send in my $50 to the provincial government’s Vital
    Statistics Branch (in the Ministry of Health), and in exchange they
    sent me copies of the adoption court order and his adoptive name on
    the birth record. Having his adoptive name enabled me to find him.
    After 18 yrs of fruitless searching and hiring a private detective,
    with his adoptive name I was able to find him within weeks. We
    hugged for the FIRST time one day before his 20th birthday — I had
    not even been allowed to touch him at birth. If I did not have his
    adoptive name, this reunion would not have happened at all. Why it
    is that if an American mother loses her child to adoption in BC,
    she can do as I did and obtain her child’s adoptive name, but if
    she loses her child just over the border in WA state, she cannot?
    Same in Ontario and Michigan? Alberta and Montana? Mothers and
    babies are shipped both ways across each border all the time by the
    adoption industry. Why are open records for both mothers and
    adoptees considered “normal” in Canada but “too radical” in the
    U.S.? I’ve lived in both the U.S. and Canada, my grandma was from
    OK, adoption laws in both nations were based on the same model.
    This topic was discussed over on the First Mother Forum blog, which
    inspired me to update and post this article from the Origins Canada
    Website: A Tool for Adoption Activism: Model Open Records
    Also you might want to read Open Records is a Motherhood Issue
    Let’s keep this issue alive and keep discussing it!

  3. Margie says:

    That day most certainly is coming. Access to OBCs is a
    gender-neutral adoptee issue as well as a woman’s issue, all rolled
    into one. It sounds like you are super busy, but with good stuff!

  4. Denise says:

    Great post! I think about this sort of stuff all the
    time… why, for example, women managed to win the right to vote
    against all odds, and yet first mothers of today can’t make any
    headway in terms of acknowledgement and open records. I believe
    there are a number of factors at work here. Off the top of my head,
    many first mothers are still in the closet — or, if not, they
    aren’t confident and pushy enough. We are still (as one mother’s
    book said, Shadow Mothers). Also, the power of the adoption
    industry and adoptive parent lobbies. HUGE! Plus, few in the
    general public see it as an important issue — unlike equal rights
    for women and other races. I wish I had your confidence that things
    will change anytime soon. I sign petitions, write letters, blog
    about it, and support every effort I hear about. I see no movement.
    I wish I had the answer.

  5. Susie says:

    This: “Every woman who has lived in the closet for years
    because she lost a child to adoption has been denied the right to
    be who she really is.” really struck me tonight. I am “out of the
    closet” and reunited with my son, yet I still don’t know who I
    really am…

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