Disclaimer/Trigger Warning: This post includes content about rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, violence.
The recent, meaningful discussions on this forum about how so many of us feel broken due to our own personal histories have fortified and inspired me. I’ve marveled as women have spoken up so honestly and even brutally about the effects of trauma, rape, cold and dismissive mothers, abusing fathers and so on.
Some of you know my own story. I am a survivor of my father’s childhood abuse and then a rape at knifepoint in my early twenties. I carry a deep and abiding sense of shame. This feeling has always flummoxed me. Why should I feel shame when I didn’t do anything to create my own abuse? Shouldn’t my father have felt the shame? The rapist? Why did I get saddled with it? I was the victim (and survivor), not the perpetrator. But shame is indeed the feeling I carry and I’m not alone. Why is this feeling so pervasive? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some clues about where to look.
The trappings of motherhood are all too powerful reminders that, as Catherine Keller reminds us in her book From a Broken Web, mother goddesses have to be continually slain for patriarchal heroes to be born. Indeed, she suggests that conceptions of Western selfhood are based upon this symbolic matricide—so it is no wonder that breast milk might be considered abject…
Once upon time formula companies and complicit medical experts launched a serious campaign to sell more formula, telling a generation of mothers that this product was both superior to breast milk and far better for baby and mother. Some were convinced, others found formula a good alternative to breast milk given their employment status, hormonal changes, their particular baby’s needs,personal choice, difficulty producing their own milk, or the like; and still others chose to breastfeed despite criticism, like my mother-in-law, who received scorn and derision from medical personnel as the only breastfeeding mother in the hospital in which she gave birth in 1970.
Despite this effort, science has finally “proven” that breast milk, when it is possible to give it, is better for your child than synthesized alternatives. Wow. Well, the politics of believability aside, women in the U.S. are now encouraged to trust their own bodies to feed their babies and give the breast a try. In fact, every new book, article, website and internet forum, birthing class teacher and hospital nurse will tell you that “breast is best,” repeatedly, for months, asking you about your breastfeeding plan, and urging you to keep trying until you and baby get it right. A counter-campaign, this vigorous encouragement is working to undo the attitudinal changes within popular culture that placed a stigma on the breastfeeding woman. Continue reading “Breastfeeding and the Abject? by Sara Frykenberg”
The data came as somewhat of a shock to me. I stumbled across it one day in The Civilization of the Goddess, a mammoth book by the late Lithuanian-American archaeologist Marija Gimbutas about what Gimbutas dubbed “Old Europe” – a culture area in southeastern Neolithic Europe that she maintains was centered around female deity.
Until she had the temerity to suggest that people at some point in the past might have worshipped goddesses rather than gods, Gimbutas had a sterling reputation among academics, even being hired to teach at two of the most prestigious of all American archaeology departments, Harvard’s and UCLA’s. After presenting her goddess theory of Old Europe, however, Gimbutas came under attack by a few powerful male archaeologists, after which her reputation among academics began to plummet (see Spretnak 2011 for a good accounting of Gimbutas’ fall from grace).
Before I get to the data that so startled me, I need to tell you a bit about archaeologists. Like the members of many academic disciplines, they disagree with each other – sometimes vehemently (and perhaps even somewhat more vehemently than scholars in other disciplines). One thing however they all agree on is this: the higher the quality and quantity of grave goods buried with an individual, the higher that individual’s status in her or his society. Continue reading “When Baby Girls and Old Crones Ruled by Jeri Studebaker”