So, a baby was born. Actually, according to the NewsOn6 report, a grandfather “delivered” a baby in an Oklahoma service station car park.
Firstly, I want to extend my warmest congratulations to this new mother and her family. The birth of a baby is a precious and often ineffable time for a woman and her intimate family and I wish for them all the joy in the world.
Reading this article, however, one could be forgiven for thinking the woman to which I extend these wishes actually doesn’t exist. In fact, she’s so poignantly absent from the story I can’t help but wonder if she was deliberately excluded for some reason.
In this retelling of one woman amongst a global 360,000 on any given day expelling a baby from her body, there is not one mention of her. Nothing. Not even an obligatory pronoun. Granted, the article is only 150 words, but surely one or two could be spared to acknowledge the owner of the uterus that pushed the baby out?
It would seem what is desirous of clicks in this story is a man undertaking some ostensibly heroic event. And bravo to him, I'm sure he's a nice man. And certainly, this isn’t the first time such an oddly-slanted birth story has aired. (Janet Fraser does a much better job here than I ever could of highlighting the news media phenomenon of the invisible birthing woman.)
"...as they crossed the river he pulled into a gas station parking lot and started to deliver.“OK, I've watched National Geographic, I can do this,” Rocky said.Sure enough he did; that night he and all the rest welcomed London Faith Anderson into the world."
Although it's an area where women should surely be most notable (you know, uterus ownership and all that) invisible women isn’t a concept unique only to birth. One needn't search hard to find examples of the gross underrepresentation of women where equal gender representation should be reasonable. Australia's current Federal Cabinet, for instance, containing one woman and 18 men. Or news stories such as British-based international and human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin relegated to a qualification of "engaged to George Clooney" in a news story where her male colleagues were afforded relevant descriptions of their legal qualifications. And hands up who else's parents-in-law still insist on sending joint correspondence addressed to ‘Mr and Mrs [His initial] [His surname]’? (It would seem I've disappeared so completely that I no longer even warrant a first initial of my own, let alone the fact that my name hasn't changed since birth. But don't get me started.)
This daily, entrenched, universal invisibility of women sends a subliminal yet powerful message to society: Women aren’t people. Women aren’t worthy of the treatment people should expect and deserve.
And it is precisely because of this woman-as-invisible-object acceptance that one in five women have experienced some form of sexual violence, that obstetric violence is so prevalent, that courts can overrule an autonomous adult woman in favour of a foetus. It’s why the cognitive dissonance of a woman making an independent, seemingly unconventional choice causes such public anger. (I won't link, but just look for any opinion articles about homebirth.) It’s why the Steubenville rapists futures were lamented, instead of their actions condemned. It’s why when rapists rape, we ask what she was wearing.
And so, to return to my original point. I want to acknowledge the woman who was neglected in this news story, so I’ve rewritten the story for her:
Muskogee Woman Births Daughter In Gas Station Parking Lot
MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma—Grandparents love to tell stories about their grandchildren, but one Muskogee family has one they'll be telling for a long time.(Woman's name) birthed her daughter in a gas station parking lot, with her baby's grandfather, Rocky, alongside her.It all started when (Woman) cried, “It's time,” awakening her family. She laboured while her family took a few minutes to get ready, but they eventually made it on the turnpike heading for Tulsa.“We just rounded the big curve, I can see the McDonald's up ahead,” Rocky said, and then (Woman) knew her baby was on the way, and told him so.As they crossed the river, the driver pulled into a gas station parking lot and (Woman) pushed out her baby, with Rocky offering a joking kind of support.“OK, I've watched National Geographic, I can do this,” Rocky said.But he didn't need to, because (Woman) was clearly perfectly capable; that night she and her family welcomed London Faith Anderson into the world.