Are Women’s Reproductive Lives Always A Compromise?

k2309923
This week we delved a little deeper into e-lit with Christine Wilks’ piece “Underbelly“. I must admit that this is the first piece of e-lit I have ever seen that I wanted to spend hours playing with. It is a fully interactive visceral experience that left me feeling sad and disturbed and also intrigued. It intermixes the plight of early 19th century woman working in coal mines with the story of a female artist who was hired to carve a stone sculpture on the site of a former coal mine. As I delved deeper into the work, more and more women’s stories were revealed – often being told right over the top of one another so my ears were unsure which piece of the chorus of voices to follow. One in particular was a woman who had given birth and was back in the coal mine right away, toiling alongside all of the men. She was weak, and having a hard time keeping up with her duties – being beaten because she wasn’t fast enough. As I was listening to her story it occured to me that some things haven’t changed much for women. Granted, most women don’t work in coal mines, but there are a large number of women (especially in the U.S.) who are forced to go back to work directly after giving birth. I have known several women who could not afford to take family medical leave because it was unpaid and were back to work less than a week after having a child. I was one of the lucky ones. I had eight weeks paid leave after having an emergency c-section with my twins, but even then, I physically had a difficult time standing on my feet for an eight hour shift. I can’t imagine what it might have been like if I hadn’t had the luxury of being able to take eight weeks to recover.

This work is an assault on the senses that quite literally sheds light on these womens’ lives and reproductive choices and challenges. At the end of the “Underbelly” there is a choice: try to get pregnant, leave it to chance, or remain childless. Regardless of the choice I pick, there is a sadness and a compromise…a regret. Is this the ultimate commentary on women and their reproductive lives in general? I suppose it depends on how you read the story and on which choice you make.

5 thoughts on “Are Women’s Reproductive Lives Always A Compromise?

  1. “Underbelly” left me very sad as well. While some things have changed a lot, theres still a mindset about work and being a mother than seems the same.

  2. I’m shaking my fist right along with you about how pregnant women are viewed in modern American businesses. My wife is the breadwinner for the family, and she will likely have to work her full time (often longer) hours all the way up until delivery. Thankfully, she will also receive eight weeks off afterwards, but as you say, simply having eight weeks doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be “recovered”. I think it’s so strange that pregnancy is seen as an almost run of the mill medical condition to employers, and treated as if it were a flu in regards to expectations of returning to work and full productivity. They’re making a human being! It’s not as simple as it’s made out to be, and at times it’s incredibly frustrating dealing with the bureaucracy involved with employers/medicine. Okay, end of Daddy-to-be rant. 🙂

  3. I love your perspective on “Underbelly”. While I feel blessed to live in a period and a country where laws do protect women’s rights: it’s obvious that there is a long way to go. I worked clear up to my due date while pregnant with my daughter and returned to work 8 weeks later. Thankfully all my employers have been supportive of my “single mother” status: but I know that is not very common for women today. “Underbelly” seemed to have a profound effect on our class.

  4. Hi Meg. I read this with great interest when you first posted it, and now, a few days later, what’s lingering for me is your personal commentary about how hard it was to stand on your feet for an 8-hour shift even after 8 weeks of paid maternity leave after the emergency c-section with your twins. “Some things haven’t changed for women,” you note as you think through the connections between the miner women in Wilks’ story, and the stories of women we know who go back to work soon after giving birth. I think that the interactivity with the stories, and the game element at the end, gives us new ways to empathize with a plight we understand intellectually but maybe don’t *feel.* Thanks for this robust post.

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Are Women’s Reproductive Lives Always A Compromise?

k2309923
This week we delved a little deeper into e-lit with Christine Wilks’ piece “Underbelly“. I must admit that this is the first piece of e-lit I have ever seen that I wanted to spend hours playing with. It is a fully interactive visceral experience that left me feeling sad and disturbed and also intrigued. It intermixes the plight of early 19th century woman working in coal mines with the story of a female artist who was hired to carve a stone sculpture on the site of a former coal mine. As I delved deeper into the work, more and more women’s stories were revealed – often being told right over the top of one another so my ears were unsure which piece of the chorus of voices to follow. One in particular was a woman who had given birth and was back in the coal mine right away, toiling alongside all of the men. She was weak, and having a hard time keeping up with her duties – being beaten because she wasn’t fast enough. As I was listening to her story it occured to me that some things haven’t changed much for women. Granted, most women don’t work in coal mines, but there are a large number of women (especially in the U.S.) who are forced to go back to work directly after giving birth. I have known several women who could not afford to take family medical leave because it was unpaid and were back to work less than a week after having a child. I was one of the lucky ones. I had eight weeks paid leave after having an emergency c-section with my twins, but even then, I physically had a difficult time standing on my feet for an eight hour shift. I can’t imagine what it might have been like if I hadn’t had the luxury of being able to take eight weeks to recover.

This work is an assault on the senses that quite literally sheds light on these womens’ lives and reproductive choices and challenges. At the end of the “Underbelly” there is a choice: try to get pregnant, leave it to chance, or remain childless. Regardless of the choice I pick, there is a sadness and a compromise…a regret. Is this the ultimate commentary on women and their reproductive lives in general? I suppose it depends on how you read the story and on which choice you make.

5 thoughts on “Are Women’s Reproductive Lives Always A Compromise?

  1. “Underbelly” left me very sad as well. While some things have changed a lot, theres still a mindset about work and being a mother than seems the same.

  2. I’m shaking my fist right along with you about how pregnant women are viewed in modern American businesses. My wife is the breadwinner for the family, and she will likely have to work her full time (often longer) hours all the way up until delivery. Thankfully, she will also receive eight weeks off afterwards, but as you say, simply having eight weeks doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be “recovered”. I think it’s so strange that pregnancy is seen as an almost run of the mill medical condition to employers, and treated as if it were a flu in regards to expectations of returning to work and full productivity. They’re making a human being! It’s not as simple as it’s made out to be, and at times it’s incredibly frustrating dealing with the bureaucracy involved with employers/medicine. Okay, end of Daddy-to-be rant. 🙂

  3. I love your perspective on “Underbelly”. While I feel blessed to live in a period and a country where laws do protect women’s rights: it’s obvious that there is a long way to go. I worked clear up to my due date while pregnant with my daughter and returned to work 8 weeks later. Thankfully all my employers have been supportive of my “single mother” status: but I know that is not very common for women today. “Underbelly” seemed to have a profound effect on our class.

  4. Hi Meg. I read this with great interest when you first posted it, and now, a few days later, what’s lingering for me is your personal commentary about how hard it was to stand on your feet for an 8-hour shift even after 8 weeks of paid maternity leave after the emergency c-section with your twins. “Some things haven’t changed for women,” you note as you think through the connections between the miner women in Wilks’ story, and the stories of women we know who go back to work soon after giving birth. I think that the interactivity with the stories, and the game element at the end, gives us new ways to empathize with a plight we understand intellectually but maybe don’t *feel.* Thanks for this robust post.

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