Dr. Stu’s Podcast #119: It’s Still the Content of Your Character!

It’s still the content of your character!   Blyss and Dr. Stu recount some unsafe spaces at the recent MANA conference in Long Beach.


7 thoughts on “Dr. Stu’s Podcast #119: It’s Still the Content of Your Character!

  1. Audrey Levine

    Part of what makes these issues so divisive is the unwillingness within the white midwifery community to take in what midwives of color are saying. We’re so quick to deflect and become defensive, rather than really listen and learn.

  2. Thank you for this conversation! I was also at MANA and felt/ experienced all of this. Not sure where this will go from here but it is sure at a tipping point!
    Sorry Blyss for the way you were treated but I am glad there are more women who can say they were treated and alienated in this way than just our group (I was with Jade)

  3. A few thoughts… I attended the MANA conference.

    I came away with such a different story of what the conference was like. I thought it was a wonderful step in the right direction.

    Some people perceive adding additional language that acknowledges pregnant people as somehow “eliminating women.”

    Yet, no one is saying for women or the word “woman” to be eliminated as some have claimed.

    Further, MANA has not eradicated the word woman from all written & spoken material as some have claimed. You can view the conference program here: https://conference.mana.org/schedule

    Additionally, some are claiming that speakers were told to only use the term “birthing person” and not to use the word “woman.” That’s also false.

    We need to include those in our community who do not identify as women.

    Yes, they are few. But it takes little effort to make them feel seen. So what’s the big deal?

    I want everyone to know that I see and acknowledge them. So, I use “woman” AND “pregnant person.” It costs me nothing to be emphatic and inclusive. I do not feel reduced, diminished, or invisible.

    When one of the award recipients asked people to stand if they were committed to working against racism, about half of the room remained sitting.

    It was incredibly disappointing, but yet reflected the truth. Many people don’t care about racism. They can’t even physically stand as a gesture of, “Yes, I’ll take the first step to doing something.” I can understand why POC and queer folks are outraged! This has been the reality for years.

    And rather than be defensive, perhaps elder midwives should just listen. POC & queer folks don’t speak with the intention of making you uncomfortable. They speak to be heard… like all of us. Because the only way to understand each other is to first listen. And if you are uncomfortable, sit with that and listen more.

    Yes, we only see the world through our personal lens. But it is possible to get a glimpse of someone else’s lens if you listen and listen and listen.

    Sometimes white people say, “But what can I *do* about racism?” Or “How can I learn more?” This is a great beginning resource: http://damaliayo.com/pdfs/I%20CAN%20FIX%20IT_racism.pdf

    In terms of the pre-conference session that Blyss was asked to leave, the session description was clear it was for queer birth workers, not allies:

    “The convening is open to all LGBTQIA and gender non-conforming birth workers and folks who are interested in birth support. The event is meant to be a space for queer, trans and gender non-conforming folks to build community, expand possibilities, and help each other break down barriers to access and care and navigate the unique challenges we face… Allies of the community who would like to support the convening please make a donation.” https://conference.mana.org/national-queer-and-trans-birth-workers-convening-challenging-barriers-taking-space

    This is perhaps the only time that queer birth folks get to be together in real life. I have no issue with that. I’m sorry you didn’t see that description, cleared your schedule, and drove there.

    I’d love to get someone on the podcast who could delve into these issues with you. I’ll share it and see if anyone bites.



    • Wonderfully, expressed, Jen! Is it okay for me to share this, or parts of it, with folks who have questions on Facebook?

  4. Sara Howard

    Thanks to you both for your honest thoughts. A dialogue about these topics is critical in our communities today. And I am SO glad that Jen cleared up a few critical pieces of misinformation. Please read her comment in detail if you haven’t already.

    I’d like to add a few things. And for background, I am an out queer midwife serving the LA community. I am also white and cisgendered, meaning that I present as a woman.

    I think its essential that you both understand that nobody wants to exclude women from the story of midwifery, its history, or its future. People are simply asking to add some other terms. If you look at MANA’s site, they reflect that clearly. This is not an either/or situation, simply a yes/and.

    And nobody is offended if you don’t know what your pronoun is! That’s totally fine! But it worries me that some people were SO offended that they were asked (not you, but others). If asking makes just a FEW of us feel more seen and understood, how does that hurt the majority of us? It simply doesn’t, in my opinion. If you are embarrassed because you aren’t sure, just say so. We are all humans and actual none of us are usually offended by a genuine desire to learn.

    One piece of feedback I have for you both is that I think it is important to examine just the very fact that you’re offended by people who are hurt, upset, scared and struggling for a voice. These are the folks who you seem to think made the MANA conference “tense”. If I’m clear about who you are talking about, these are also people whose children and relatives are dying at 4x the rate of mine (white and non-native). These are folks who have been historically ignored by our organizations and institutions, as you mentioned. There is a lot of PAIN here.

    Instead of blaming them for being emotional about it or there being tension, it would seem to reason that you could just as easily try not to be defensive. Try to listen and hear their words, which aren’t hostile, actually. Usually, they sound scared to me, honestly. Because people they love are dying, and here they are having to basically beg for the time of day in an organization and community that they are just as much a part of as you and I.

    When I hear white people saying that people of color are being “aggressive” or they are being “hostile”, those are code words to me that the white people are too scared to listen. There is inherent bias there, which is systemic. I encourage you to challenge the very notion that these folks are being aggressive, because I don’t believe that they are. They’re emotional because they have a right to be, and we can all work together to help them.

    And I encourage you to consider that maybe saying things like, “everything is too PC these days” is simply a cop-out. Think about how it sounds to someone who is marginalized when you say, “you can offend someone just by breathing these days”. That’s unkind, and putting the blame back on others instead of taking a genuine perspective of curiosity and humility to get on the same page with someone who is different than you. If you need to ask a question to get on the same page (for example, re: pronouns), nobody is going to be offended by that! We all have things to learn.

    And lastly, I’m sorry that you felt hurt and embarrassed by being asked to leave the trans and queer birth worker summit, Blyss. I don’t think that was anyone’s intention. But I think the example that was given to you was perfect– sometimes congruent people (those of a similar background) simply need a space to process their feelings without being worried about what others will say or think. Especially when that group is marginalized and was being attacked online at the very moments we were all sitting in that room, just trying to talk about how we can be better midwives and protect our clients who are also under attack in a world that doesn’t always understand or accept them.

    Again, thanks for airing your thoughts. I hope my comments are helpful– I don’t mean them as disrespectful in any way, solely as another side of the coin, as you mentioned being interested in.


  5. sara

    i agree with your feelings, blyss, totally.

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