This post was edited on 1/2/08.*
The motto of Origins-USA is “Motherhood is Forever” and you can read the text in full at this link.
Feminists have their "Mommy Wars" and it seems some in the adoption community find it necessary to have a War of Words regarding personal and organizational choices of self-identifiers. Origins-USA has no word police, we do not change quoted material, we simply request respect and, as is one of our goals - seek to educate and make adoption HONEST.
In an attempt to start such a war of words, however, the following specious mis-interpretation of the text of "Motherhood is Forever" was criticized as having a "nasty undercurrent " having an "unspoken subteext" and using examples of terms like adoptrix to prove the point that we are the "real mother"!!! -- except that that wrd is no where in the OUSA Motherhood piece.
The War of Words was posted on the BN email list, asking feedback from adoptees -- how they feel about us choosing to reclaim the name mother.
Interestingly, the question got few if any takers. The replies I saw ranged from not caring much at all what we called ourselves, to no problem, to thinking it's fine. Most said they had no problem and were perfectly clear who their TWO mothers were and how to speak about them. As indicated in my article, they had personal preferences as to terms of endearment, based not on legal status or anmy set or "rules" of decorum or language police on one side or the other, but on their feelings toward the person, and the circumstances - i.e. to whom they were speaking and whether clarification was needed or not.
There was agreement - including from me - that "I'm more real than you, nyah, nyah, nyah...." is not nice. But, it is also no where said nor implied in the article being commented on, nor in anything that I have written - or said, ever, at any time.
What was done was akin to a former a.com blogger, exiled to her own personal boring "paradise" with nothing better to do than blog....who, under the guise of reviewing my book - which she admittedly never read - quoted 'statistics' from AMFOR in an attempt to discredit me (and in this case an entire national organization) falsely.
It's a sad statement about a mother's own feelings about herself...suggesting that reclaiming the title Mother is about acting superior, and believing it does nothing to educate!
It is, first and foremost about empowerment. Taking back what is rightly ours. Reclaiming our identity and our right to do so.
Secondly, it is very much about education. When I write about a MOTHER having a child taken from her by use of coercive, exploitive practices -- whether it is a mother in Ethiopia, Guatemala, or Salt Lake City, USA...it is VERY IMPORTANT for the public to KNOW that it is a MOTHER who is loosing her child to the adoption industry! To make her less of her mother is akin to dehumanizing an enemy in war and making it thus so much easier to exploit and cause harm to a non-person.
When I write about a FATHER fighting for custody of a child that was taken without his consent, it is important he be identified as that child's FATHER...his kin, his caring family - willing and able to provide for him....as I did when writing about David Banda who was taken by Madonna from his father and uncles. And, as I did when writing about Matt Tennison and every other father fighting for their right to be a father. These are parents, and none deserve to have that name taken from them because their child was...ESPECIALLY in cases where their parental rights were never legally terminated, just ignored.
And, yes, when I write about people entrusted with the care of another's child who abuse that child - I refer the THEM as adopters, and they are lucky to be called that and not simply BEASTS! Do I judge them more harshly than related abusers? You're darn tootin' I do! They went out of their way to obtain this child and the child's family was made to believe that they were SUPERIOR as parents and that it was in the child's best interest and preferable for them to raise this child over his or her own parents. I judge them harsher as one judges a crooked cop harsher than a common criminal....as one judges a Priest molester! And rightly so, because in each such case, they have placed themselves in a different --SUPERIOR -- position of expectation.
And, yes, when I write about contested adoption custody cases - specially when the PROSPECTIVE ADOPTERS (NOT parents; not mother or father - even by adoption) or fosterers have violated a court order and are keeping a child unrelated to them and not theirs by blood or law -- you are damn right I will identify them as what they are: KIDNAPPERS!!
HONEST use of language is very necessary to counteract the press which loves nothing better than to paint these roles in reverse...calling strangers parents and "the ONLY FAMILY a child has ever had"...when they are not family at all and the child HAS family! How the press loves to play on the hearts of the public about the broken hearts of those waiting for a child - usually through some unscrupulous means- that falls through, writing about their:"broken hearts and empty nursery they had readied for their child!" Yet th loss of the MOTHER who bore the child is swept under the table as her "choice" - period. As if, even if she did choose it, it was without as much as a tear.
It is necessary for me and others of my sisters who wish to, to reclaim our identity and our self respect that was taken with us along with our chidlren when we were convinced that others were better, superior, more fit...that we were lesser than and unfit to care for own chidlren simply because we were too young, or had no support...and is taken from us over and over and we see ourselves maligned like this in the press.
The public needs to know we are MOTHERS and we ache. We are not incubators or misfits or uncaring, cold abandoners. We are MOTHERS who live and breathe and FEEL and hurt and ache - and never forget - just like ANY mother who lost a child does!
It is our right to self-identify as we each choose, and to use language respectfully and to educate - just as adoptees need to continually correct those who call adult adoptees "adopted children." How pitiful the adoptee who self-identifies as an adopted child and doesn't "get it"!
In addition to a right to self-identify and to educate, the other purpose of the article "Motherhood is Forever" was to attempt to help coalesce a very loosley formed - and splintered - "group" of mothers some of whom had very strong objections to the identifier that had been used the past 30 years. In order to avoid using a term that was very highly offensive and "triggering" to some, substitutes were soguth: natural mother, original, life, first, and my all time least favorite: "exiled."
Language is not stagnant; it EVOLVES. Sometimes over centuries, sometimes decades, or even in a day (if you have a teen!). I - and others - found that all of these "replacement" terms merely replaced one prefix with another and added far more confusion and not accomplishing what was necessary: that we are mothers, plain and simple. As I wrote my book, I needed to find clear language; a word that is understood by any two-year old no matter how often he might see that person, and regardless if he is cared 24/7 for by a grandparent, auntie - whom he may well call "Mommy"...or a nanny or other mother substitute. That word is MOTHER. if he has more than one, as children of divorce or chidlren raised in some same sex families might - he creates ways to distinguish Mommy Lynn from Mommy Sue, or Mommy from Mamma or mother....So, for those who still don't get it, ask a kid, please!
And thus, the attempt to entangle adoptees in her last disagreement of the year, didn't pan put too well. They didn't buy into it. She, and she alone, very sadly, has a problem claiming her own status. Adoptees know they have two MOTHERS and neither is less than the other and needs no prefix or qualifier! When a way to distinguish is necessary for clarity, we are mothers who lost a child to adoption - or surrendered, just as persons with disabilities are "persons with disabilities" and not disabled persons. We were mothers before this happened to us, and are mothers still.
When in doubt as to what someone prefers to be called: ask.
Happy New Year.
* this post does not now, nor did it, ever contain a CrossPosted material. It contains the views of the author with brief, credited, quotes, as is legal and ethical by any and all standards.