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home :: abduction politics :: conscientious abductors

Conscientious Abductors

There aren't a lot of "feminist considerations of intercountry adoption" out there, and after reading this one, I feel like that's a good thing. Barrett and Aubin's article is full of familiar racist, U.S.-chauvinist myths and misrepresentations of transnational abduction, only this time they're "feminist," whatever that means. Barrett and Aubin begin the section called "CULTURE VS. FAMILY" with this narrative:

"Traveling all over with our daughter, we tried to soak up the very essence of her birth country. While she had the strong, stunning features of the people in the countryside, we wore the neon signs of tourists. We know a lot about her birth country. We have books, music, pictures and momentos, but we know not how to give her the deep, deep love of her birth country that can come so naturally to native people . . .

. . .Yet, our daughter knows how deeply she is loved and cared about by her family. She has an extensive, loving support system. We can only guess at her life had we not met, but are quite sure that she would have become one of her country's orphanage or homeless statistics" (128-29).

They go on to argue that, "Feminists who adopt internationally are in a unique position to further the active connection among women of varying cultures. We become bi-racial/cultural families immediately. Our children have strong ties to women in other countries, whether they remember them or not. We, ourselves, are inextricably bound to another woman who gave birth to the children we raise" (134-35).

So much of white feminist writing on "global feminism" depends on this kind of self-indulgent wishful thinking. Transnational abduction is the opposite of a movement to build "active connection among women of varying cultures." In fact, many people find transnational abduction appealing because they believe there is less chance of the birth parents trying to contact or "take back" the child. White women wanting to feel "connected" to women of "other" cultures is a classic example of feminist racism. Barrett and Aubin use their power as white, "North American" feminists to represent transracial, transnational abduction as a potentially transformative connection between women of "varying cultures," clearly a self-serving white feminist fantasy.

Most disturbing is Barrett and Aubin's "consideration" of the objections to transracial abduction raised by the National Association of Black Social Workers and "representatives from Third World countries." Barrett and Aubin acknowledge that "There are obviously some strong negative consequences of intercountry and interracial adoption. A child is usually raised as a brown/black child in a white home, without parents who understand directly the impact of racism." And they also state that the "general negative impact" of transracial abduction includes "cultural genocide" (130-131). But Barrett and Aubin abruptly (and conveniently) end their discussion of the "downsides" to transracial abduction before satisfactorily exploring any of them, cryptically stating, "People tend to polarize around the issues of family and culture, creating debates instead of working to see value in both sides. As feminists, we must address the total picture, delving still deeper into seemingly contradictory concepts looking for a fuller truth" (131). And finally, carrying their "culture vs. family" theme to its illogical conclusion, Barrett and Aubin pit "children" and "culture" against each other, suggesting that opponents of transracial abduction willingly and irresponsibly "risk" children "in order to save a culture" (131).

I don't know which is more upsetting, people who abduct without seeing anything slightly wrong with it, or people who claim to have a semi-clue as to what's fucked up about transracial, transnational abduction and then go ahead and do it anyway. Barrett and Aubin think being feminists automatically makes them better, more thoughtful abductors. However, it's clear their analysis doesn't challenge the white middle-class feminist tradition of maternalism toward "other women" and automatic breakdown when it comes to addressing issues of race and culture.

The article just gets weirder and more fucked up toward the end where the authors actually say this: "It is difficult for us, being white and North American, to know what intercountry adoption would feel like if we were, for example, Hispanic and South American. The closest we can come is to imagine a world in which girl children were without homes and only men were available to adopt" (137). Like I said, classic.

Barrett, Susan E., and Carol M. Aubin. "Feminist Considerations of Intercountry Adoptions." Women & Therapy 10.1-2 (1990): 127-138.