Emjaybee recently introduced Daniel, a contributor to the summer 2010 (and introductory!) issue of SQUAT: An Anarchist Birth Journal. In addition to covering some of the content, we also wanted to introduce you to the people behind SQUAT! in an attempt to continue covering many voices related to birth.
For this interview, my questions are in bold, and the answers are marked with the particular responder. I will be sending the link to the editors, and they may choose to answer questions here as well. For some answers I have edited for length, but never for content. If requested, I would be happy to publish the entire answers (if those quoted feel I edited improperly). For basic introductions of each of them, please check out their journal, available online here.
What inspired the creation of SQUAT, both the magazine and the entity it seems like it’s working to be? I read the intros, of course, but was there a certain event or gathering or fortuitous happening that led to the creation?
DANNY: SQUAT was born after way too many conversations between friends about how the mainstream midwifery movement (and midwifery schools) are not representing many of the concerns that a lot of individuals comprising the “next generation” of midwives will have to contend with. For example, I’ve heard a lot of conversations behind closed doors in which midwives have questioned and critiqued the licensure movement, but have yet to see a strong representation of those opinions in the literary circles of our movement. Likewise, the midwifery/birth publications that do exist are wonderful in many ways, yet, on the whole, are severely lacking in their acknowledgement of how race, class, sexuality, gender identity, citizenship status, and a myriad of other identities and experiences interplay with our birth culture. SQUAT was created, in many ways, to give priority to those voices and stories, and to embrace the reality that birth work is political, instead of shying away from it.
JAYDEE: A car ride, an idea, then a response to the request of the public. And with an understanding of the need to create an outlet for the expression of alternative birthing perspectives.
MEGHAN: Actually, to answer the question literally, Jaydee and I were driving in my car and getting really hyped up about the future of midwifery and the idea of a radical publication. I think the conversation went something like:
Meghan: “Let’s just fucking do it.”
Jaydee: “Yeah! Let’s fucking do it!”
Why “an anarchist birth journal”? What does that mean to you? I know a lot of people have negative connotations of the word “anarchy” (*raises hand* I admit to having to ask someone about some things in the journal; military and law enforcement raised here - anarchy meant FIRE! and jail and not much else), so why use that word? What meaning does it have for you?
JAYDEE: Having a more extended experience in Anarchy throughout my life up to this point, I have been holding the term within my own personal definition. To me, anarchy and SQUAT is the integration point of everything radical within birth. A word that represents an evolutionary leap into the next generation of childbirth and midwifery. The editors and I have had conversations even, as to if this word is appropriate, that it may turn off people in the anarchist communities because of it’s relation to procreation, not really represent ‘anarchy’ in it’s truest form. And on the flip side, turn away more traditional birth consumerists that do not feel an affinity to anarchy. However it has seemed to do the opposite in both regards. I have witnessed first hand the opening and understanding within ‘hardcore anarchists’ as to how impactful childbirth practices are to the greater revolution. And how anarchy can be an inspiration point for those more mainstream birth workers to go further into their radicalism.
DANNY: As for what anarchy means to me, as one person involved with this project: when I envision a more anarchistic birth culture, I dream of communities where every parent who wants the assistance of a midwife or doula has the support of one regardless of economic ability; a community in which birthing parents are respected and their work honored; a community in which women’s bodies are restored to sources of empowerment and safety, and where those who engage with her body do so consensually; where intuition and ancient ways of knowing how to birth are respected in the same regard as science and medicine; and where individuals have the opportunity to live in well-loved, well-fed bodies that are free from the deep and traumatizing stresses of sexism, racism, classism, ableism, and homophobia.
JERAMIE: Throughout the herstory of womyn’s health there has been struggle for control, be it the witch burnings, male obstetricians (from the Latin obstare) , or pharmaceutical/ technological manufacturing companies in our capitalistic society today. These entities have all attempted to control and manipulate in the name of power and profit, and I strongly believe in taking that power back and returning it to the womyn, the families, and our children. This movement/ struggle or identification with anarchistic midwifery is nothing new necessarily, the faces of the movement just change over time, throughout herstory. Barabara Ehrenreich is a great resource for learning more about the herstory of midwifery, specifically her short primer: Witches, Midwives and Nurses published by Feminist Press, SUNY in 1973. In terms of the journal being “anarchistic,” I can say that it is not in a state of disorder or lawlessness (a common definition of the word), but it is without rulers and railing against the ruling class - in this case the medicalization of birth. We are using the word anarchy in its deeper metaphorical sense in my opinion. I hope the choice of the word does not ostracize people who would otherwise be drawn to this movement simply because they don’t identify with the term anarchistic.
A lot of people connect the younger, “anarchist,” revolutionary mindset with one of also being childfree. Is this accurate for the majority? If so, what makes you different? If not, why do you think that misconception exists?
MEGHAN: Most punks go through a period, usually in the late teens or early twenties, when the idea of having children seems dumb. I can understand the argument that the world is fucked up and so it would be cruel to bring a new life into it, but really, I think it is the fear of picking out baby clothes and a car seat, committing to two years of goo-goo talk, years of trying to teach your child to see the beauty in the world and a lifetime of unconditional love that promotes this kind of outlook. How can you be punk as fuck and not give a shit when your baby is cuter than ten puppies?
DANNY: I don’t know of any statistics on what proportion of the anarchist-identifying population are parents or not. What I do know is that topics of birth and parenting are dismissed far too often within anarchist circles, for a variety of ridiculous and offensive reasons that I think stem from pure ignorance, mixed in with a little bit of sexism. The stereotypical anarchist is young, white, and childless. And while there are certainly a lot of young, white, and childless anarchists, there are LOTS of anarchist parents out there, and LOTS of anarchist single parents. Because the anarchist movement has by and large failed to address the topic of birth and child raising, and has failed miserably at welcoming anarchist families or making the movement accessible to parents or children, many of these voices have been pushed out of the scene altogether. We’d like to welcome them back.
JERAMIE: I have always seen the act of serving women as a midwife and the concept of independent midwifery as an anarchistic act and still do. Fighting back against the oppressive healthcare system was what initially attracted me to being with womyn in birth, when I was young (19 years old), white, and childless. I’m still white, but no longer (really) young- I’m 27 now- and I have one 5 year old son and a baby girl on the way. That said, I don’t identify as an anarchist. I identify as a mother- sure there is some anarchy in there, but I have become much less definable, and more flexible since having kids.
What is your ultimate goal with SQUAT? Not how many issues you want circulating, or how many people come to the gatherings, but what would you want the ultimate goal to be, if there is any at all?
DANNY: Just on a personal level, I think my ultimate goal for SQUAT is to get people around the country critically thinking about our birth culture in a deeper way than just the hospital vs. home birth sort of way. I’d like to hear doulas talking about how they can provide their services for free; I’d like to hear about people rioting outside of prisons until incarcerated women are allowed to labor without being shackled; I’d like to hear about midwives using language around birth that can be inclusive for transgender and genderqueer parents; I’d like to hear about licensed midwives and independent midwives working together and truly supporting each other because, in the end, what matters most is that a mother has choices, and that she is supported in making whatever decision she knows is best for herself and her baby.
JERAMIE:To stir shit up. To open/remind/return people to the beauty and power of birth, of mothers, and of our potential as humans. The AMA, the pharmaceutical companies, the equipment manufacturers- they are scared of this movement and we are so small compared them! It is because we are walking in the truth- the ultimate goal for me is for Squat to promote just that, the truth.
MEGHAN: My goal is to open up the channels of communication and pass on the knowledge. I want people out there to know that they are not alone in this and that the world can change to meet the demands of women who are holding the creation of life.
JAYDEE: A place for people to freely express themselves, their opinions and experiences around childbearing and all that comes within its realms. A voice for those who have something else to say other than what is ‘pc’ and redundant in our present world.