Whoa. First of all, let me give this disclaimer: Babies freak me out. They don’t look or act like people. They look like beans with fat, wriggling arms and legs. They often smell. They are sticky. I can’t figure out how they turn into fully functioning people, and I don’t like to think about how I used to be one. As you can imagine, I am pretty iffy on having kids. I suppose I will have to see when the time comes. Whatever that means. Have to say that I think I’ll be sticking to pets for awhile.
All that being said, taking a step away from the creatures themselves, I found the politics surrounding babies, birthing, and pregnant women to which The Business of Being Born (TBBB? Why not.) introduced me were pretty interesting. I really didn’t need to see those water births, but again I digress. Even while Ricki Lake jokes about “granola” midwives, TBBB has quite the second-wave feminist bent. While I liked what Lake had to say about women being having the primary say in the process of giving birth (as opposed to doctors who just “want to make it home by five”), I guess I found myself wondering what the film had to say to queer women who are not interested in having children.
It seems ironic that, in a country so invested in individualism and pulling one’s self up by one’s bootstraps, one of the most championed figures to have emerged in contemporary politics is that of the helpless fetal person. I think that one of the most insightful points that Lauren Berlant discussed (and discussed the implications of) at length in “America, ‘Fat,’ the Fetus” and that Lake touched on in TBBB (how interventions are often justified with the “for-the-good-of-the-baby” argument). Berlant discusses how representations of this mythological figure are frequently cited in order to police those who are not involved in the project of building a normative family structure like the one that Berlant describes “so beautifully, symmetrically arranged” on page 192.