A little while ago on the internet, I was blithely clicking away on Facecrack when a pic zoomed up in my feed of a nearly middle aged man, poorly dressed, teeth missing, looking down at heel and holding a sign saying, roughly, “I want to find my mum, her name is XXX and I was born XX/XX/XXXX in Such and Such a Place. Please help!” Seeing him and my gut reaction to his visual appearance and thus my immediate (class ridden) impression of his circumstances, I clicked share. I clicked share on a few of those.
Then a friend posted under one of these pics and asked me if I had considered the woman involved. I stopped and thought, crikey, no other than a vague moment, I had responded to this fella, and the other men and women, because their immediate story spoke to me. I had, (you know, those vague moments when a human brain condenses a shit load of information into one second and you react rather than respond?) this instant feeling of “Well I guess they tried all the other ways to find their mums, exhausted those possibilities, probably live places legislation doesn’t allow more fact finding and now they’ve turned to Facecrack.” But was I really thinking?
My friend pointed out to me, very politely too given the subject matter, that I had completely ignored the right of a now middle aged woman to privacy. What if that woman is on Facecrack and suddenly someone in her family or friendship circle, said, “Hey, what a coincidence, isn’t that your name?” All the years of keeping a secret or simply keeping her life private as is her right, gone in an instant because a bunch of us clicked without thinking it through.
It got me to thinking about the times I stood outside parliament house in my early 20s holding right to choose literature because the appalling Fred Nile was yet again threatening the right of women to own their own bodies. Women in their 70s, 80s and even 90s came up to us young women, barely out in the world, weeping to tell us of the forced adoptions they’d endured because abortion was not available. Now some of these pics on Facecrack show us the face of that total lack of access to abortion for women in years gone by, some show women who birthed babies then passed them on and went back to their lives, they show a range of experiences I can’t possible put into a paragraph but which I must think on and respond rather than react.
I have a number of friends who conceived babies in their youth in countries where they could not access an abortion, and some of them would certainly have done that. Others would have raised their child had there been any social support and less stigma to being a sole parent considered a slut for having a child Out Of Wedlock – like all my babies since I’ve never married. In any case, each of those women has the right to privacy around that experience. She has the right to share her story in her own time or not at all. I know for some women the shame will still be present because it was so forcefully punched into them when they signed those babies over to other families.
And where does this leave the hapless Facecrack posters? Well that, my friends, seems to me to be part of our legacy of not allowing women free choice to decide their own destinies, of our communities’ social sanction against women who birth babies young and outside of marriage, of each individual story, many of which are shrouded in grief despite the years which have passed. We have done those women and those now adult children a terrible disservice. We have seen enough in the last few years around the (scant) acknowledgement of forced adoptions in this country to know that it is not unlikely those people were wanted by their mothers but the state intervened to punish young sluts having already failed to provide readily available contraception and access to abortion for those times a woman wishes to end a pregnancy.
I feel for the pain of those adult children. I feel for their mothers. I also feel that outing your mother on Facecrack might not be the best means to an end to finding a woman who hasn’t come forward and found you first. There is no easy answer to this except to remind me that women’s bodies are their own and the state must not interfere in the rights of women to control their own fertility which is, heaven knows, a fickle beast at best. And in the light of Fred Nile again attacking the rights of women to access abortion, I think it all the more important we put pressure on our politicians to remove abortion from Crime Acts across Australia because abortion is a right, a medical procedure and no one else’s goddam business but that of the woman involved.
If our society didn’t suck arse at supporting women and women’s access to healthcare and social support as needed, those people desperately searching for women who birthed them would not be desperately seeking. The folk who blithely recommend adoption as an easy out and a way to avoid bringing up unplanned children, should spend some time contemplating the pain of those forced to birth and those forced to grow up without the woman who birthed them. And they should get the hell out of other women’s bodies and decisions.