Ryan G. alerted us to a commercial for First Response pregnancy fertility tests. He noticed that the commercial cuts off the pregnant mother’s head, turning her into a faceless baby incubator (like in these editorial cartoons and not unrelated to this photography).  Ryan writes: “It’s clear what’s most important in this picture.”


While Ryan couldn’t find the commercial to embed, he did take down the narration and sent in some screen shots.  Here is the text of the voiceover:

The moment we pass from womanhood to motherhood, we cross a threshold. For many of us, that step is filled with wish and worry, hope and how, wonder and when. Fertility is a woman’s most sacred birthright. For over twenty years, First Response has been there, helping women answer the most important questions of their lives. Now we bring you new help: the First Response fertility test for women.

Ryan offered commentary, so I’ll rely on him.  He writes:

…”womanhood” and “motherhood” are presented as two separate things, with motherhood trumping womanhood. I’m assuming this is partly because a woman is not allowed to have a sex drive after she becomes a mother, and we all know that a woman without a sex drive is the higher form of woman.


He continues:

“Fertility is a woman’s most sacred birthright.” God knows the most important thing any woman can contribute to society is being a baby farm. Strangely, I never see Viagra commercials arguing that knocking people up is a man’s most sacred birthright.


“[H]elping women answer the most important questions of their lives.” The most important question in a woman’s life doesn’t involve her own personal needs, but the needs of her children and soon-to-be children.

Finally, Ryan writes:

And of course, there’s no father pictured here, or even a passing mention of one. Why would there be?  Conceiving, planning for, and raising a child is exclusively the job–ahem, the “sacred birthright”–of the mother.

Thanks for the excellent and provocative analysis, Ryan!


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Stephen W. sent us a photograph of a billboard in Rock Valley, IA.  It suggests that keeping your baby, instead of having an abortion, is good for the economy:


Sociologists talk about how nations are invested in reproduction.  Without babies, nations literally disappear; too many babies and nations collapse under the strain of a population they cannot support.  Because nations need babies (but not too many babies), states adopt pro- and anti-natal policies (e.g., the one child rule or medals for mothers) that encourage or discourage childbearing.  This billboard is an interesting example of a call to women to have children so as to help the nation (though it is sponsored by a pro-life organization, not the state).  Women, in this argument, have a responsibility to the nation (perhaps equivalent to military service?) that transcends their individual reproductive preferences.

(See this related post on making babies for the military.)


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


“Pregnant? Scared?”  They don’t mean hemorrhoids and contractions; they mean social opprobrium and economic ruin due to stingy social services.

Jill at I Blame the Patriarchy writes:

There is only one reason that pregnancy should “scare” you: your culture hates women and kids. It especially hates teenage women. It especially hates pregnant teenage women. It especially hates teenage pregnant women who get knocked up under unapproved circumstances.

It had never occurred to me before that a generalized fear of getting pregnant is a culturally and historically contingent state of mind.  But, of course, it is.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Found here.

The solutions for parentless (and unparented) children have varied tremendously over history and they vary, in part, based on the particular technological, economic, and cultural realities of the time.  For more than 75 years, one answer was the orphan train.  

In the 1850s,

…thousands of children roamed the streets of New York in search of money, food and shelter–prey to disease and crime. Many sold matches, rags, or newspapers to survive.  For protection against street violence, they banded together and formed gangs. Police, faced with a growing problem, were known to arrest vagrant children–some as young as five–locking them up with adult criminals (PBS).

At the same time, farmers in the country were having as many kids as they could because kids were great farm labor.  They could use as many hands as they could get. 

So, in 1853, a minister named Charles Loring Brace started the orphan train.  Brace believed that farmers would welcome homeless children, take them into their homes, and treat them as their own.  So he rounded up the kids, got parental permission when he needed it, and took the city kids to the country.  Between 1854 and 1929, the trains took over 100,000 children to adoptive parents in 47 states and Canada.

On the orphan train (image here):


Children lined up to board the train (1920) (image here):



The orphan train in Michigan:


Orphan train children (images here):



Howard with his adoptive parents, the Darnells (1910) (image here):


Orphan train children with their chaperones in Bowling Green (1910) (image here):


An ad and a news story from the Tecumseh Cheiftan (1893) and Nehama County Herald (1915) respectively (found here):tecumseh



In this 7 1/2 minute video Hans Rosling maps the relationship between life expectancy, GDP, and sexual health and rights over 300 years of Swedish history:

Found at GapMinder.

Elizabeth C. sent in an English and Spanish version of a pamphlet for pregnant women from Kaiser. Here they are:



Translation (by member blogger Jeffrey):

A healthy pregnancy and care of your baby

You are going to have a baby!

We want to help you with your pregnancy, and therefore we invite you to the following classes:

1) Series of prenatal information. Information about labor, birth, and care for your baby, breast feeding, taking care of you after labor, and your recovery.

2) Take a look at the hospital.  Make an appointment with us to see the facilities. Please register for these classes by the fourth month of your pregnancy.

3) Tubal sterilization. Includes all that you need to know if you do not want to have more children. Take this course by the fifth or sixth month of your pregnancy.

Notice the difference?

The English version of this pamphlet lists a series of options for pregnant women (“our classes include”), including Lamaze classes and classes on tubal sterilization.

The Spanish version says here are the three things we’d like you to do (“we invite you to”): prenatal info, hospital tour, and tubal sterilization.

In sociology, we call this targeted anti-natalism. Targeted anti-natalism is an effort to reduce the reproduction of certain populations and not others.

UPDATE! Socorro Serrano, representing Kaiser, posted a reply in our comments thread:

Greetings everyone: The initial posting on this topic is incorrect. Any suggestion that there was an intention to coerce Spanish-speaking women to take a tubal sterilization class is patently not true.

As bloggers Elena, Jaya, and Nora Ann have pointed out – This class is listed on both the English and Spanish flyers. And whether we say in English “Our classes include,” or in Spanish “le invitamos a las siguientes clases (we invite you to the following classes),” our goal is to provide information for a “Healthy Pregnancy & Baby Care,” or “Un embarazo saludable y cuidado del bebé.”

Also, please note that the hospital tour and free English and Spanish-language classes cover the same curriculum, including childbirth preparation (parto) and breast-feeding (lactancia materna). There has been no interest from Spanish-dominant parents for Lamaze classes, but if this changes, we would be happy to add this to our schedule of offerings.

Providing health care to our members in the language they prefer and in a manner that is respectful and culturally responsive is a core value for Kaiser Permanente. That is why your input and that of the communities we serve is so very important to us.


Bush’s comment is offensive (yes, all pro-choice women are ugly, angry, and undesirable). Clinton’s complicity is unfortunate.

In the comments, Sabriel asks what my “sociological angle” is.  Sabriel, I think Bush’s comment and Clinton’s complicity reveals that it’s still essentially fine to be hateful towards women, especially those who refuse to play by the rules of patriarchy (whether that be measured by attention to their attractiveness to men or accepting that their role of mother should take precedence over any and all other needs and desires). Regarding Clinton’s complicity: Imagine the flak he would have taken had he defended the woman that Bush castigates. By and large, at least in politics, it is easier to be sexist than it is to be feminist.

Via Feministe.