How to Live with a Pregnant Comrade Without Losing Your Head (Or Laboring Hers)

 Significant Comrade is pregnant.

 

I, the Rev, am going to become a FATHER! Not that I subscribe to the idiotic, bourgeois, reactionary model of the patriarchal family where the biological male has all the power and the privileges within the family cell and the woman is left as the proletariat of the marriage, as Comrade Engels would say. Because I don’t. Let us be clear about that.

 

If the doctors are to be believed, I’m to ‘have’ a daughter, not that she will ever be my property, not at all, or that she will necessarily identify as a ‘girl’ as portrayed by the heteronormative patriarchal society, gender being a social construct anyway as Comrade Butler explained it. She will be absolutely free to become whatever and whoever she will want to become and I’ll fiercely love her anyway. Although in hindsight, perhaps maybe not if she decides to work for the World Economic Forum or for Morgan Stanley, or if she becomes a right wing militant, or worse, a Stalinist. Imagine that. Sometimes I can’t sleep just thinking about it.

 

Huh. I realise Significant Comrade and myself will have to tread very carefully if we want to transmit our beliefs and values to our child. But then again, is sharing these with her an act of oppression? Will I be crushing her critical thinking and creativity? Have I already started? You know, because I talk to her, and read things to her, things like ‘Marx at the Margins’, the ‘old social classes and the revolutionary movements of Iraq’ and ‘Hezbollah and Hamas: A contemporary study’. I also sing to her sometimes, things like the International in French, English and Arabic, although Significant Comrade’s temper seems to be slightly shorter than usual and I kind of got yelled at. I tried Bella Ciao, thinking it might be better received, but got the Petit Manuel pour En Finir Avec le Capitalisme thrown at my face, by accident I’m sure.

 

I’m kind of getting yelled at, or cried on, quite a bit at the moment. Sometimes, I wish Comrade Trotsky would have been more of a ‘family’ man, instead of running around in Mexico with iconic painters, so he could have written a book in the vein of the Russian Revolution but on how Revolutionaries could better support their comrades during pregnancy and childbirth. Like last time, when I found the Significant Comrade crying her eyes out in front of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which is in itself a very sore subject in our marriage. I hoped she was being tearful because of the stupidity and crass consumerism of it all, but apparently it was because Kourtney was being mean to Kim. Who are these people? Who is Kourtney? Who is Kim? And why are they making my Significant Comrade cry? Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how Comrade Marx managed with Jenny. I mean, she has been pregnant seven times. Seven. Ah but look at Comrade Karl daughters, all socialist activists, translating the works of their daddy! Sometimes I wonder if my daughter shall do the same with me?

 

When I share my concerns with Significant Comrade, it seems to me that she is not quite so keen on discussing these things with me. Something to do about having enough on her own plate and how would I like to weigh a ton and be full of water and having trouble breathing, sleeping and eating? I have to say, that left me speechless. As a revolutionary, I can not speak in lieu of the oppressed, and my Comrade is clearly being oppressed. Also, when I tried and talked to Significant Comrade about the absolute need of trusting our child to make her own experiences in life and not be overly protective of her, Significant Comrade did not seem to share my views either. I believe her exact words were: ‘Listen to me you stupid Rev, are you the one being asked to expel a baby the size of a ginormous turkey from a hole the size of your nostril? HUH? HUH? Nah, I don’t think so, so you shut the fuck up and you leave me to decide when that child will be able to start with her own experiments with life and that is never, or not until she’s 30 anyway, the world is filled with serial killers and sexual predators’. Which I thought was a bit much, in all fairness, but I thought it best not to argue.

Now that I’m about to become a dad, I value my life.

I am nevertheless hoping that the revolution will prevail soon so that patriarchy and neo-liberalism become things of the past and so I’m trying twice as hard to make it happen before she turns 5. Time is running out my Comrades, let us build a whole new world.

 

Sometimes, when I try and lay my plans for the triumph of revolutionary socialism to the Significant Comrade, she just hugs her pregnancy pillow (which she dubbed ‘her new husband, but I am fine with that, as I do not own my Significant Comrade. Also, it’s a pillow) and tells me to shut up and go to sleep. ‘Your child will be a Menchevik anyway’, she said.

 

And here I am, eyes wide open in the dark. What if she is?  

The Big C

Picture from the Scar Project - Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon http://www.thescarproject.org/gallery/

Picture from the Scar Project – Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon http://www.thescarproject.org/gallery/

October being Breast Cancer Awareness month or something, you see little light pink ribbons sprouting wings everywhere, to ‘show support’.
I don’t get how the ribbon shows support but okay.

I am not a fan of pretty pink ribbons at the best of times, but in this specific case, i can’t help but wonder 1)why the gender stereotyping must follow women even in the ugly realms of cancer (I get it, it’s a WOMAN’s cancer, therefore RIBBON MUST BE PINK otherwise people won’t get it and the WORLD will end) and 2) why the constant need to gloss over the reality of things with sanitizing symbols. Now don’t get me wrong: i’m all for shedding light on the issue, all for urging women to go get that mammogram and all for teaching women to perform their self examination, even though it might lead to false alarms and scares. Better be safe than sorry. But I’m not for reducing all that is breast cancer to a ribbon during a month.

Also, I’m not at all in favour of the recuperation of the ribbon symbolizing breast cancer by corporate powers who on the one hand do not part with even a small portion of their huge profits to fund research and on the other hand produce items that are actually carcinogenic. ‘Cause Marketing’, they call it and it makes me want to puke all over them. The campaign ‘Think Before You Pink‘ exposes said companies, and provides a tool kit for activists who’d like to question the whole pink ribbon hoopla. Here’s an example:

EXAMPLE: In 2011, Susan G. Komen for the Cure commissioned a perfume called Promise Me that contains unlisted chemicals that are regulated as toxic and hazardous, have not been adequately evaluated for human safety, and have demonstrated negative health effects. Although Komen said they would reformulate future versions of the perfume, without official adoption of the precautionary principle, there is no guarantee that future versions would be better.

Make no bones about it, the cancer journey is not smooth and silky like a ribbon, it is brutal, and life altering and very, very fucking scary.
I am not a breast cancer survivor myself, so there’s only so many things I can say on the subject, but I am the daughter, the niece and the friend of many. Some have lost their battles against that ugly beast, some have won, but not without battle scars.
In the words of a friend survivor ‘first they cut you up, second they poison you and then they cure you’. Surgery, radiations, hormonal Therapy and chemotherapy, then, hopefully, cure. Such is the usual journey many women have to go through, and that is privileged women people, women living in high income countries and who have access to medical care. According to the World Health Organisation, breast cancer is usually detected in the very late stages in low to middle income countries, so there you have it: scores of women start off with a worse prognosis because of their socio-economic conditions, and even if the majority of cases happen in the higher income countries, 69% of deaths overall still occur in low and middle-income countries. How is that for a nice little ribbon?

The statistics for five years survival rates just keep going better and better in higher income countries, thanks to cancers being detected earlier and earlier and medical progress. Again according to the WHO, Breast cancer survival rates vary greatly worldwide, ranging from 80% or over in North America, Sweden and Japan to around 60% in middle-income countries and below 40% in low-income countries (Coleman et al., 2008). The low survival rates in less developed countries can be explained mainly by the lack of early detection programmes, resulting in a high proportion of women presenting with late-stage disease, as well as by the lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment facilities.

But women with breast cancer are everything but statistics. They’re women who tell you they instantly trusted their women doctor because ‘she wore nice shoes, so I figured I was in good hands’, they’re women who have to learn a whole new vocabulary (when they even have access to it, as not all women are equal in health care access and coverage) that they could have done without, PET scans, CT scans, Bone scan, MRI, hormonal therapy, metastases, stages and grades, herceptin, hormonal receptors, Tamoxifen and Aromasin, lumpectomy, mastectomy, recurrence, and the hysterical thing is that the list could go on and again, the women who get to learn about all these are actually the privileged ones, they’re women who cry as they’re being taken away for surgery, women who plainly tell you they’re scared, because, well, it is really pretty fucking scary. They’re women who reach out to one another to create a support system, or who decide to close up when it all becomes too much.

But they’re also women who go and cut their hair something fabulous, and tell you ‘i want to live’ with a resolve that honestly frightens, and women who find it in themselves to simply go on, just because they’re a bit like Beyonce shoving that cheating man out: Hey Cancer, you must not know ’bout me. I’ll kick your ass and its mother.

None of these experiences and feelings and grief and anger and hope can ever be encapsulated by a campaign or an article or a single narrative. Yes we need to talk about breast cancer, but we need to talk with and about the women and not just the disease, we need to make sure the gaps between women affected get reduced to the point of non existence. We need to be there for them so their fears get eased up, and we need to support their choices because it’s their lives and their own bodies, and that include the right to refuse a certain treatment sometimes without judgment or questions. In short, we have a lot of things to do, and they don’t include purchasing useless crap that might actually be harmful just because they have a pink ribbon on them.