As I had mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, I participated in the Feminist Futures Hackathon in Helsinki and our team worked on the topic of surrogacy. The final presentations are behind us, so maybe a few more articles about the topic of feminism would follow. But don’t be afraid! If you believe that people are equal, you are also feminist even if you don’t use this term.
Today I would like to write a few words about how impossible it is to bring so-called “objective” information. Who we are, what kind of values we have, what is our perspective, knowledge or experience, and much more influence what data/information we bring to the table. We are already selective when it comes to what information to choose for discussion. We are selective in interpretations because we all might focus on different aspects of the one phenomenon we are talking about. We are selective because we have certain blind spots and we simply can’t see all possible explanations, solutions and effects such solutions might have over the life of different people.
Feminists understand this because for a long time explanations and solutions that have been affecting women were made by men and from their perspective. This is why we have underpasses in towns with many stairs, but no elevators – the perspective of a disabled person or a parent with a pram was excluded. This is why we have legislation that recognises only married men and women as parents or as a family – only the perspective of heterosexual married couples was taken into the consideration. This is why we still don’t have so many women in the leading positions because you can’t be what you can’t see… And I can continue like this on several pages, but I guess, you got my point.
But what if a group of feminists observe the same topic. Would they come to the same conclusions? Not necessarily. They are individuals with their own set of values and perspectives. But let me explain it on the topic of surrogacy, as an example.
Imagine you know a surrogate mother, who altruistically helped her friends to have a child. It is a happy story for everyone involved. Imagine you know a commercial surrogate mother, who agreed to have a child, but the child was never picked up by the intended parents and was left in the orphanage. Would you have the same perception of surrogacy based on the stories you know? I don’t believe so.
Imagine you are a male couple or a couple that have dealt with miscarriage or can’t even get pregnant. Would you see surrogacy through the same lens as a woman or couple who has their children without any big deal?
My perspective on surrogacy is also shaped by who I am and what beliefs I have. “My body – my business” is something I believe in. People often have to choose the best possible option out of the bad possibilities. As a social worker, I would only like to have regulations that protect the surrogate mother and intended child. Because the child is here in the most vulnerable position. In general, we live in a pedocentric society, but for social workers, children are a really important focus. What are their best interests? Are their rights guaranteed? What happens to a child if the intended parents don’t want him after all? Or if we speak about cross-border surrogacy, what country has the authority to make decisions over the children?
For somebody else, it might be important that commercial surrogate mothers are coming from less resourceful countries, while intended parents are from rich Western countries. Isn’t this an example of exploitation of the female bodies? Do these women have a free choice, when they come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds? As a feminist, should I agree with the exploitation of other women?
Another perspective is the whole overview on parenthood and family. What does the family look like? What does parenthood look like? Who is considered a mother? The one who gave birth to a child? Or the one who cares for a baby? Or both of them? Instead of 1-2 guardians, should a child maybe have more people responsible for his/her care?
Can you see now how all our perspectives are subjective and based on our positionality? And this is a good thing. Our diversity helps us to better understand complex situations and to see different perspectives. Feminists are very open about it. Instead of one universal objective truth, we bring many subjective individual truths. We try to see things from several points of view and value them all. And for me, this is the best thing about feminisms.
I still have my blind spots. Spending more than 2 weeks in discussions with other people during such event as Feminist Hackathon helped me to see again more clearly and be more aware of my privileged position. Thank you all for that <3