(I wrote the title that way to show that I'm in the know.  I just recently learned about all the hashtag business.)

I'm at the National Women's Studies Association's 35th conference this weekend, in Oakland, CA.  I feel a bit like an extravert at this conference, because I get to hang out with my cool, funky, super-smart feminist friends from around the continent, and I just get in the habit of talking and talking and talking.

Because of the time zone shift, though, I get tired really early.  Last night Patricia Hill Collins gave what I'm sure was an excellent keynote address, but she started at 7:45pm.  Which to my body meant 10:45.  And you all know that I tend to go to bed by 10, so I couldn't really process what she was saying.  I'll get her new book, though, and then maybe I'll have things to say about her.

At lunchtime I was wide awake.  Just before lunch I'd been up in my room, pondering a chapter in my book project, and thinking about eugenics.  Disability studies scholars use the term "eugenics" quite often, particularly when talking about prenatal testing and termination of pregnancies, but I find it troubling given the conversations I've had with women who've terminated their pregnancies.  Their stories aren't stories of "we need a better baby."  Their stories are about feeling that they can't bring a person into the world when that person will suffer and not have the life they want their child to have.

So I sat down at the lunch table next to a person, and asked her what she studies.  "The history of science," she said.  "Particularly eugenics."

Hark!  What a perfect coincidence.  So I asked her questions and wrote down her answers.  I'm going to be quoting her in my talk on Saturday.  She agreed with me that this whole line of questioning is incredibly complicated (the thesis statement for my book), but she made a compelling argument that decisions people are making today about which children to have do seem quite similar to the Progressive Era eugenics she studies.  She said that eugenics becomes a kind of cultural context, so people are voluntarily making decisions that fit within a eugenic context.  It's not that the individuals are eugenicist--they aren't Nazis--but they are part of a context that's shaping the choices available to them.

Her name is Susan Rensing, and she knows who I am because she teaches my stuff in her classes.  She doesn't teach Girl Zines--that would be too obvious.  Instead, she teaches my Motherlode essay and one of my favorite blog posts, "Reasons why feminism is a good prerequisite for having a child with Down syndrome."  I think it's awesome that her students are discussing these pieces!  I would love to be part of the conversations.  Susan, you should Skype me in.

Also, I learned from Susan's colleague Christie Launius that Susan's students think we look alike.  So let me say to any of Susan's students who are reading the blog:  she has a much funkier haircut than I have now.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

How have I missed these posts? I can't imagine how difficult it is to really tackle these issues head-on, as you're doing, and I admire you for doing so. My own feelings are so conflicted that I resort to the thought of the impossibility of them ever being resolved. I look forward to reading and studying what you come up with --