KUMSN Translation Room
This is presented at 12th International Women's Film Festival In Seoul, held in April 14, 2010 at Ehwa University. This is translated by You Ji Young, a research associate of KUMSN and proofread by Kim Tompson, a volunteer of KUMSN. Please contact KUMSN if you have any questions.
Motherhood between 'Evil' and 'the Blue Ocean': Captured or Expelled Motherhood by Modern Patriarchy
Hee-Jung Kwon (Coordinator, Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network)
After reading the four presentation papers for the second session of the International Conference of IWFFIS, I thought of these sentences from Virginia Wolf
We are located between evil and the deep ocean.
Patriarchy is behind us. It is full of worthless, immoral, hypocrisy, and servile in private families. The formal world in front of us is the occupational world that is full of demand for ownership, jealousy, desire for struggle, and greed.
One locks us up like slaves in harem. Another one forces us to become larva from head to toe, and to walk around a mulberry, holy water of the possession.
This is a story by Virginia Wolf talking about the hopeless reality of women who are required to choose either the patriarchal private home or a patriarchal formal society. Like the contradiction in Virginia Wolf's story, motherhood as an innate feeling to love one’s own children is completely 'captured' between two realms: one is in the realm of the modern-patriarchal-nuclear family in which women are forced to deny their identities and selves, and finally the motherhood becomes distorted into being obsessive and akin to madness. In the other realm, motherhood is denied by society and is expelled from the beginning. In this realm, children are either aborted or adopted.
As Tammy Chu and Trenka point out, the children who were relinquished by single mothers are experiencing the dispersal and the separation that occurs within the structured and industrialized adoption system. The statistics say that more than 90% of adoptees were newborn babies from unwed mothers in Korea.
I believe that one mother and one child is enough to constitute a family. The discourse that identifies marriage and childbirth, and the concept of a so-called “normal family” are continuously breaking up the family already comprised of the mother and her child. The concept that a normal family consists of both parents who live in comfort is the ideology of modern middle class families in a capitalist society, is far from the truth.
Many unwed mothers are pushed to think about what the best choice for themselves and their children is, while listening to how they are not qualified to be good mothers. After being told this it is then that they end up choosing adoption. As Trenka pointed out, unwed mothers' relinquishment of babies for adoption is not a choice they make among other choices, rather it is the only choice they can choose. Adoption that is practiced by sweet false tolerance is continuously producing adoptees.
Korea is not the only case of this kind of social practice. Western societies have already experienced the history of expelled motherhood while passing through the modern era. Controlling pregnancy and childbirth out of marriage and making efforts to place the resulting children into the homes of middle class married couples started from the beginning of modern times and peaked when the capitalist economy boomed. At the end of the modern era, around the late 19070s and early 1980s, oppressed motherhood started slowly to appear on the surface.
In Australia, up until the late 1970s, it often happened that extramarital babies were killed right after birth if their mothers failed to abort them or adopt them to a married-middle class family. This Australian history of maternity can be witnessed in the film, "Maverick Mother" by an Australian film director, Janet Merewether shown at the 11th International Women's Film Festival In Seoul.
In Australia, it was unwed mothers themselves who organized an association to fight against these practices and started the work to protect their rights from 1969. They were successful in passing the Single Parents Support Law. This 1973 law guaranteed that the government gives around 1,000,000 won to unwed mothers per month and a tax deduction. There were almost 10,000 cases of adoption in the beginning of the 1970s; but it was reduced to half that after the law passed. There are almost no cases these days. (Jungang Daily Newspaper, September 24, 2008)
In the cases of Northern Europe where marital status is no longer an issue in having children, extramarital babies are more than 50% of the total birth rate. Unwed mothers in those countries are not separated from their families and stigmatized by society. On the contrary, they are fully supported and guaranteed to have rights for both labor and education. There are only about 10 cases of adoption in Sweden and Denmark.
However, in countries like the US and Canada which show higher numbers of adoption than countries in Northern Europe, you can find activities to protect the rights of unwed mothers through searching on the internet.
Below are examples of activities to protect unwed mothers rights.
The web-site, called exciledmothers.com is fighting for the rights of birth mothers with the slogan "Birth mother exploited by adoption: Adoption is not about unwanted babies — it is about unwanted mothers.”
“Birth-" Mothers Exploited by Adoption
“Adoption is not about unwanted babies — it is about unwanted mothers.”
Adoption: Mothers In Exile
We are mothers who lost our babies to the adoption industry in both closed adoptions and "open" adoptions.
NONE of us willingly surrendered our children. Our babies were NOT gifts. They were NOT "unwanted."
We were exiled from our babies NOT because we were proven unfit, but because we were vulnerable (young, single, sick, or poor), and lied-to and coerced by social workers, doctors, lawyers, maternity homes, and churches: brokers that made money from selling our babies to a market driven by "consumer" demand.
They told us we'd forget. They told us to "get over it," "put it behind us," and "get on with our lives."
Exiled mothers never forget. We never stopped loving our babies.
"Contrary to popular belief, our lives are colored by the tramatic event and we are never the same afterwards.
Young parents today are still pressured and coerced into surrendering their children.
Death by Adoption, Cicada Press (1979)
"Adoption is and has always been deeply imbued in classism, as it is adoption's intent and most often outcome to move a child from lower to higher-class status. This is truer today than ever, as adoption has become a business of finding children for clients -(Mirah Riben, Shedding Light on the Dark Side of Adoption)
Origins of Cananda: supporting those seperated by adoption
ADULT ADOPTEE RIGHTS
All adopted adults have the right to know their original identities and their medical and ancestral histories. In addition, they have the right to associate freely with others, including biological relatives, without government restrictions. In many provinces these rights are violated. It is critical to restore the rights of adult adoptees and to restore these rights in law.
PROTECTION OF PREGNANT AND NEW MOTHERS
Pregnant and new mothers must be protected from the influence of Adopters and Adopting Agencies during pregnancy and after delivery for a period of at least ninety days.
Pregnancy, even when planned within a stable marriage can be a daunting prospect for women. Pregnant women are concerned with nutrition, lifestyle,the emotional aspects of pregnancy, the fears of labour and delivery, and most of all their growing baby, it’s health and well being. This is a time in a women’s life when she needs support, particularly when she is young and unsure of how she will cope with an unplanned pregnancy.
The young pregnant youth/woman as stated above, is vulnerable and preoccupied with her pregnancy and her baby. She is hormonal, frightened and is extremely vulnerable to the coercion tactics of the Adoption Agenda as she genuinely loves her baby and wants what is best for her child. She can be easily influenced during her pregnancy.
The problems of infertile couples (although sad) have absolutely nothing to do with young, vulnerable pregnant and new mothers, and the idea that a mother should give them her baby “as a gift” is abhorrant.
The presence of adopters during pregnancy, delivery and post partum can cause extreme stress to a pregnant and post partum mother. The predatory and exploitive nature of the Adoption Agenda, their coercive tactics, savvy marketing, influence and/or financial help causes undue stress, coercion and pressure on a vulnerable young pregnant youth/woman which is unacceptable, and against the UN charter of keeping mother and baby together.
It is critical to review these practices and work for change in Canadian legislation.
FINANCIAL SECURITY FOR MOTHERS
All mothers in Canada should have access to financial resources which allow them to raise their children on their own without fear or stigma.
CONSENTS TO ADOPTION
In Canada, a new mother can give her consent to an adoption anywhere from as early as 48 to 72 hours after a birth in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and New Brunswick respectively and up to 14 days in PEI. Most provinces are around 7-10 days after a birth.
In what universe would any woman be advised to sign a permanent life changing document 48 hours after the delivery of a child except the adoption sphere? In the UK no adoption consent is valid if signed before six weeks after a delivery, but in North America, it is marketed as a positive feature for women to be able to sign papers this soon after delivery.
There are movements in Canada to make this consent period earlier and earlier as shown with the recent change in New Brunswick law to 72 hours. This quite obviously favors the adoption industry and not the best interests of mother and baby.
The law should protect mothers and children from these early consent periods and lengthen these periods to 90 days after a birth, so that a mother has an opportunity to recover from the trauma and changes of childbirth and also to be able to step back and have some perspective on a very important life changing decision for both her and her child.
Maternity in the Marriage System or out of it
"Motherhood" as the universal love for children has been used to force women to play a gender role. Under the system of the patriarchal family they are required to either provide unpaid labor under the name of love and sacrifice or be expelled and silenced from the beginning when it is outside of the system of marriage.
There is a silenced maternity behind the slogan that is well known and that all Korean love so much, 'Adoption is the love born in the heart.' At the moment of realizing the reality of the expelled maternity, one will see the logic of class and capitalism behind the practice of adoption. The equation of love and adoption is possible from the perspective of someone who adopts, but not from the side of someone who has to provide the children for adoption.
In Korean society, many people are getting married later than before. Marital status and sexual contact are not related any more. However, people always consider that marriage should be a precondition for childbirth in Korean society. I believe that this way of thought has created problems such as: a high rate of abortion (about 90 % of unwed pregnant women in Korea ended up getting abortion) and adoption (about 90 % of babies from unwed mothers are put up for adoption).
Recently, a big hot potato issue in Korean society has been its low birth rates. In my opinion, the first step in solving the problem is changing the Korean society's views on childbirth and marriage. In other words, child birth should not be restricted to marriage in order to overcome the low birth rate problem. However, by promoting marriage in order to increase the birth rate the Korean government is doing is the complete opposite of that. As Trenka showed in her presentation, the government has campaigned for people to leave work early every Wednesday to have intimate relations with their spouses in order to create more babies. The Korean government it is spending ￦640,000,000 for projects encouraging young people to get married and have babies. According to the project, it has created various events in order to bring young people together such as going in line skate, cycling or hiking. For married couples, the project provides maternity classes.
I doubt this will be effective to increase Korea's birth rate as the economic structure has changed and more people have difficulty in getting married in their 20s. Furthermore, individuals' life style has altered. Under these circumstances what we need is not to encourage marriage and then have a child, but instead to change our ideas about pregnancy and childbirth. Childbirth should be understood as a possible event, which can happen anytime at any stage in anyone’s life. The responsibility to raise the child is not only on family, but also on society.
I believe that maternity should never be exploited under the guise of love or scarifies in the marital system, nor be denied and damaged outside of it. I want to finish my presentation by saying that motherhood is a natural thing, but it can only be naturally realized when the social infrastructure is fully developed for supporting all three components of motherhood: pregnancy - childbirth – and - nurture.