When did Measles Become a Human Rights Issue?

If you are anywhere near the social media these days, you have been hearing about measles and vaccines….A LOT. Let me just preface this post by saying I am not hosting a debate on whether or not you should vaccinate yourself or your child. Don’t go there. Neither will I. (and if you comment on anything other than supporting families, regardless of their decision, and supporting human rights, it will be deleted) So, when exactly did measles become a human rights issue?

That happened right around the time that some (not all by any means) people started calling for the police to round up any parents who haven’t vaccinated their children, others called for non-vaccinating families to wear the equivalent of a Nazi star, still others cried for concentration camps, and a few of the really far out violent people suggested that parents just be shot and the children taken to foster care. It wouldn’t be the first time the United States has forced people into concentration camps, and for much less than choosing not to vaccinate, but I can hope that our society has come a bit farther than that in this day and age.

Photo by Markus Grossalber

Photo by Markus Grossalber

Personally, I don’t care what you do. Vaccinate. Don’t vaccinate. My hope would be that you do your research. And by research, I’m not talking about reading the propaganda from either side but by digging into actual medical journals and evaluating what is there. I know I am not the only one who can lose track of time due to the joy of digging through the stacks. Then, take that information, along with your personal and family information, and make an informed decision (because you know your health and your family’s history). That would be my hope.

However, even if you don’t do your research and make a decision, I still don’t care what you decide. Why? It is not my decision to make. I have this thing about bodily autonomy. I happen to enjoy it. I want the right to make my own decisions regarding my heath care and what I allow others to do with my body, whether that is addressing birth choices, reproductive rights, sexual assault, physical assault, cancer treatments, or anything else. And if I want that right for myself, than I can’t expect to tell someone else that they must or must not allow someone to do something to them.

Life comes with no guarantees. There are always risks. If you are fearful that an un-vaccinated person will put you at risk or that a just vaccinated person is shedding and putting you at risk, you probably need to stay home. You have no idea who has or has not had the diseases, had the vaccines or not, had recent boosters or not. If you aren’t comfortable with the decision you have made for your family, then maybe you should re-evaluate that decision.

Now, some will loudly say that people who don’t vaccinate are putting the population as a whole at risk, and therefore we can’t risk allowing a person to have bodily autonomy in this matter. Frankly, there are a lot of factors which people at risk for these diseases, and I think we should focus on those for a minute.

Healthy lifestyles – the Standard American Diet really isn’t helping you stay healthy. Sanitation – sanitation is such a key point when it comes to preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Poverty – families living at or below the poverty line are much more likely to suffer from all types of illness. We need to help everyone make a decent living wage so that they can provide for their families to be healthy. Maternity and paternity leave – the United States gets a big, huge fail on this. We need both so that our fragile newborns don’t have to go to daycares right away. Breastfeeding, breastfeeding rights, and milk banks – we should be supporting this first step in the immune system. Paid sick leave – sick people need to be able to stay home and get better instead of passing it on to everyone else. Share baked goods you bring in. Leave the illness at home.

As a recap: Let’s advocate for doing your own research. Let’s advocate for information on healthy living. Let’s advocate for good sanitation. Let’s actually work to help people who are at a higher risk in general, such as families living at or below the poverty line. Let’s call for changes in work and school policies which encourage health so that we don’t have sick people out there running around. Let’s have women not be the only ones taking time away from their chosen careers (WOH, WAH, or SAH) to care for the sick, the young, and the elderly. Promote breastfeeding! Instate both maternity and paternity policies so that parents don’t have to drop their newborns off at daycare. Let’s promote a decent living wage so that people can be healthy. 

All of these things sound like much better options than sending families to concentration camps or shooting parents, who love their kids just as much as you love yours. And all of them are positive ways to advocate for and support families without crossing that bodily autonomy line.

If you are sick, by all means…….STAY HOME!

I would also politely ask you to go wash your hands, because I have been in public restrooms;  I know the majority of people out there are not washing their hands and science backs that up. A little bit of soap and water and scrub for 20 seconds. Doesn’t that feel better? (imagine that said with the voice of your own mother)

Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children

Welcome to the July 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning About Diversity

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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When our first child was born, we lived in a wonderfully diverse and liberal area. He was born to a plethora of self-proclaimed uncles and aunties from all over the globe, of all different religions, races, languages, and experiences. What they had in common was a thirst for knowledge and open-mindedness. I knew that when we had friends over or when we visited with friends, my child would hear multiple languages, be exposed to a great understanding of diversity, and see that his skin was just one hue of many. Race didn’t matter. Everyone was equal.

Then we moved here. Suddenly, race did matter. For, as much as people may tell you that racism doesn’t exist in the Mid-West, it most assuredly does. (The truth is, it exists, at least in pockets, throughout the United States, a country forged through the discrimination and abuse of non-Caucasians.) Sometimes it is blatant. Sometimes it is subtle, but there is always an undercurrent. From extended relatives who mention the nice black lady who cut their hair, as though a person’s skin color has something to do with either their hair-cutting skills or how nice they are, to the people who blatantly deny that racial discrimination exists to the face of a woman who has just shared that her family has been racially profiled when out driving because they are an inter-racial family. It is there. It is there in the neighborhoods where people tend to stick with people of similar ethnicity because they know they won’t be discriminated against by others like them or whose socio-economic status, stagnant by discrimination, keeps them in neighborhoods which they would rather move from. Here, race matters.

Sure, race matters to the bigots who think the color of their skin makes them better than others, but race also matters to those of us who think it shouldn’t have to. We should never forget the atrocities in our history, held at the hands of those who claimed to be doing what was best for another group: the discrimination, the prejudice, the hatred. It matters because it still exists, and it matters because we can do something about it.

My children, despite their freckled whiteness, know something about discrimination. That happens when you are a non-Christian family in an area where the majority are, or at least identify with, Christians. To be fair, it is my husband and I who made the decision. We encourage our children to learn about different beliefs and decide for themselves what they believe, knowing that they may not have that maturity or may change their minds numerous times as they grow older. My children have seen the hatred expressed at women as they simply nurture their children by breastfeeding. They have heard the hatred of non -“white Christian males” during elections. They have experienced the ageism from others that we have all experienced as children.

We talk about prejudice and discrimination. We talk about the fear and hatred behind it. We talk about history, read books about it, and watch movies and documentaries. We talk…a lot, and we stand up to those who would put others down. We talk about the privileges of being in a majority, even though it definitely doesn’t win a popularity contest. We have been verbally attacked for our beliefs of equality. That won’t stop us.

We are raising the next generation with our children. Children who will grow up to fight for others, because they believe it is the right thing to do. Children who will grow up to make a difference. It isn’t minorities alone who make changes, otherwise the majority would continue to oppress. There would never be change. It takes people, banding together in what they know is right, to make real change, and I want my family to be a part of that. When we are all equal, we can look to the past and vow never to let that happen again. Until then, we will continue to make a difference.

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon July 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter’s life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
  • The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
  • Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
  • Differencessustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
  • Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about “semi immersion” language learning.
  • Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
  • Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
  • People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn’t seem to them to be disrespectful.
  • Just Call me Clarice Thomas — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
  • Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
  • Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
  • Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
  • The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
  • Children’s black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
  • Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
  • Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid’s art!
  • Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
  • The Difference is Me – Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
  • My daughter will never know same-sex marriage is not normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
  • Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
  • EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
  • Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
  • Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
  • 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family’s place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
  • Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
  • 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
  • Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn’t do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it’s more about the little things.
  • Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn’t matter. Ethnicity doesn’t matter. Love matters.
  • The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless reponse to her son’s apparent prejudice.

Feel Free to be Offended

There are those who are offended by the sight of a mother nursing her child in public. To them I say, “Feel free to be offended.”

In a world as diverse as ours, something is bound to offend another person – sexuality, race, gender, religion, clothing, speech, habits, etc. We have the right to our individual beliefs and, as a part of that, a right to feel offense. Where our rights stop is where they interfere with another person’s rights.

Personally, I’m offended by smoking. I think it’s disgusting, and I really don’t want to be anywhere near it. However, I’m not going to ask someone to quit smoking. I will quietly go somewhere else so that my children and I don’t have to be around it. I am also disgusted by the site of people chewing food with their mouths open. Apparently the memo that watching partially masticated food is unappealing didn’t make it’s way through the entire human population (or my in-laws’ house). I reserve the right to look away in my offense.

What I don’t have is the right to dictate how people legally live their lives. I may be offended by some things, but frankly it’s none of my business. I don’t have the right to dictate what they can and cannot do based on my sensibilities.

So the next time I’m out in public and breastfeed my child, feel free to be offended. Feel free to look away, walk away, cover your head in shame, or however you choose to deal with your uncomfortable feelings. You have that right, just as I have the right to nurse whenever and wherever I have the right to be.

 

This post was originally written and posted for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. I am reposting due to timely discussions.

A Matter of Choice

An Afghan woman and child in Parwan Province, Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. Sean A. Terry, USA

A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with my children about women covering themselves, after we saw a woman who wore a head covering. My then 5 year old daughter wanted to know why the woman’s head was covered, and we discussed the fact that some religions require women to cover their heads or bodies so that others do not see them. The next question to follow was whether or not the woman had chosen to cover her head or whether someone had made her do it.

This brought about a very insightful discussion about women’s rights, and human rights in general. Some women choose to cover themselves based on their beliefs. Others are forced to cover themselves or suffer persecution.The distinction between the two – freedom and oppression – is clear; it’s a simple matter of choice.

The choice to cover oneself, including covering when breastfeeding, is a personal choice. Women who choose to cover do so out of personal preference based on their beliefs. To tell tell others that they should cover themselves is an attempt at oppression, whether the cover is meant for the woman’s head or her child’s.

Previously posted on Living Peacefully with Children and Nursing Freedom.

With Privilege Comes Responsibility

I am privileged. It’s a fact we don’t often talk about or that we often don’t even acknowledge. However, whether we notice it or not, privilege is very much a part of our lives and impacts our decisions.

Photo by Brain Glanz

I am white. While that shouldn’t make any difference, in our society it does. It means I’m less likely to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin. It means I can walk around in parts of our country without being harrassed by police or having it assumed that I am a criminal or an illegal immigrant.

I grew up Christian. While, after years of careful study and scrutinization of world religions, I no longer lay claim to that label, the fact that I grew up Christian lent a privilege of its own. I was not discriminated against due to my religion at that time. At the same time, I often consider myself privileged because my mother encouraged me to question things. She stood up for me, when as a small child, I questioned Sunday school and church leaders about various topics or positions. It was her support that allowed me to study world religions and viewpoints as a teenager and come to my own decisions.

I am intelligent. While I may have grown up poor, I was able to go to college on scholarship. I breezed through classes without studying. I am able to research and make my own decisions. I can hold my own when confronted by those in positions of authority regarding my decisions.

I am middle class. I don’t have to worry about having enough money to feed my children. I am married to a wonderful man and am able to stay home with our children. I am able to keep my children with me rather than being forced to find alternative child care which may not be in accordance to my beliefs. I can spend the time needed to establish good breastfeeding relationships. I can afford food which I otherwise might not be able to. I have greater choices available. I am less likely to be affected by environmental pollution based on the areas I am likely to live.

I live in the United States NOW. I am not someone’s property. My children will not be ripped away from me. I am not forced to stay with an abusive husband. I will not be sold and treated as mere property. I am able to access resources and information.

I am female. While this normally does not allot privilege, being female in the US means that the idea of cutting my genitals when I was born never occurred to my parents.

I am an adult. According to US law, I became a person when I turned age 18. My voice counts. I can vote. I can make decisions for myself. It is a crime for someone else to hit me or abuse me. If I were to ever be in such a situation, I could leave.

For all of the ownership I try to take over the choices I make, I cannot overlook how privileges beyond my control, and often allotted me by those who have gone before me) have affected my life. To do so would be to discount those who do not have the same privileges and opportunities. As the saying goes, with privilege comes responsibility. I cannot turn my back on those who are less privileged…those who have been disciminated against…those who are just as deserving of opportunities as am I. That is why I feel I must speak up for others…why I speak against discrimation and injustice.