“Forget culture”

I search the internet for articles and essays about adoption. This one written by columnist Vicki Woods just really blew my mind. It’s not from an adoptive parent or anyone who appears to have a connection to adoption. I think this essay is supposed to be humorous and tongue-in-cheek – even so, the language used in this essay is so disrespectful. You can read the whole piece published by the Telegraph, but I’m excerpting a few choice pieces here:

This week, it covered the Indian government’s proposals to speed up the country’s adoption process and make it easier and quicker for foreigners to adopt Indian babies. Especially girl babies. The chairman of India’s Central Adoption Resource Agency had fewer than 100 would-be adopters applying from Britain last year. He hopes to shorten the wearying adoption process from more than a year to a snappy 45 days. From what I know about India, I reckon that’s some hope. But it can only be a good thing for wretched women wanting babies.

Eleven million babies are abandoned each year in India and 90 per cent of them are female. Quite staggering figures, eh? Grazia brought them to life with a double-page picture of six tiny little scraps lying on carry-cots in clean nappies and pyjama tops. . . The one at the top left was looking straight through the lens – wide-eyed, crinkle-browed – and gave me a maternal pang so intense that I had to swallow hard. That’s the one I’d pick if I were in the mood to adopt an abandoned Indian baby girl. When I showed it to my daughter, she said that’s the one she’d pick as well. The prettiest one. The one anyone would pick, actually, the one who’d look perfect in a Pampers ad. Any art director would pick her. The photographer picked her – she’s the emotional focus of his picture.

It is slightly discomfiting looking at a display of foreign babies laid out like so many hot summer shoes, though. Slightly discomfiting to find oneself idly picking a foreign baby out of a litter like picking a puppy. Still, it’s easy for me: I’ve had babies. Women who can’t have babies are desperate, filled with longing, and it’s OK by me if they pick a foreign one from pictures, or from Indian orphanages.

The adoption process is notoriously difficult in this country. People in the adoption business have views that are sometimes antipathetic to mine on foreign adoptions. Example: Indian babies should be brought up by Indian families, so as not to deprive them of their inherited "culture" blah blah. That’s a bit holier-than-thou for me. Orphaned (or abandoned) babies do need loving homes. For the woman who wants to be a mother somehow, anyhow – and for the baby, who will have a chance at childhood – I say forget culture.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

4 thoughts

  1. What she says that bothers me is the bit about being “in the mood” to adopt an abandoned baby.
    Perfectly reasonable and good people I know have made the “yeah, but it’s better than their current situation, right?” comment many times, and I probably thought that way myself at one time.
    And while going through the process of becoming humble where adoption is concerned, I can remember feeling very defensive about the idea that giving what it takes to be a parent isn’t enough. I still do sometimes.
    Then I remember moments like one my wife and I had while taking parenting classes prior to the adoption of our older son.
    We met there an Indian couple that were going through the process of adopting from India.
    Their description of the process, where some dozen children are prepared and lined up for their inspection and choice, made me feel physically ill. This article’s use of the language “the one I’d pick” is the same thing.
    Right or wrong, I would say what caused us to choose Korea was because it was a committment one made without choices of any kind. It seemed more human and less like treating human beings like a commodity.
    Amazing how a desire to do something “good” or “right” can lead one into such inhumane language – and choices.

  2. Not tongue in cheek in my book at all. I feel exactly the same way. Millions of abandoned babies (unless you don’t believe they were abandoned) in India are deserving of homes. If you can’t find homes for these little girls in India, they deserve good homes elsewhere.
    I was trying to find a pic i came across not too long ago of a newborn baby Indian girl floating, dead and bloated, down a river. Killing baby girls is a problem in India. I would have adopted that girl in a heartbeat. At least had she been alive she’d have had a chance to learn about her culture later on. Now she’s dead and there’s NO chance for her at all. In some areas of India this is an epidemic: murder and abandonment.

  3. This “article” was offensive on mnay levels. As an infertile woman, I am offended that my experience is characterized as “desperate” and as easily fulfilled as buying a pair of shoes. While I did not adopt, I have friends who adopted and did so ethically and respectfully. I realize not everyone adopts in this way, but there are many and this is a disservice to them too, regardless of how they came to the process. Pink

  4. In any American newspaper you can find a story of a child who was killed or abandoned by her or his parents. We do not talk about this as if it is a monolithic problem requiring foreign intervention. Nor are the children who are tragically murdered ever going to be made available for adoption.
    I can’t provide a source but I have gleaned that there is are links between gender selective abortions (done illegally) and the statistics that are extrapolated regarding female-male imbalances and the resulting conclusions of infanticide.
    When I was in Delhi, two months ago, I saw signs all over the place announcing that gender selective abortion is illegal. This is a problem for India to deal with internally. And it does not make babies available for adoption.
    This article is so dismissive of the humanity of the parents and children (the children can only be made human by adoption, otherwise they are just litters), and also of the efforts by some of us to keep our kids connected to their culture. It makes me weary.

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