Category Archives: Glossary

Glossary

emovtypical/emovatypical

Emovtypical is a new word1, meaning those with emotions and moods which fall into the range which society expects. It is based on the use, largely in Autism circles but in other “mental disability” circles as well, of “neurotypical”, to contrast with the neurodivergent or neuroatypical, that is, those whose brains do not conform to society’s expectations.2

Emovatypical is the opposite: those with emotions and moods which exist outside the range society expects. As someone with bipolar disorder, I am emovatypical, whether or not I am stable (that is, exhibiting emotions within a societally expected and acceptable range) at any given time. The Man is emovtypical, even when he is exhibiting emotions society discourages in men, because while they are supposed to be prohibited to him, they are still a part of the range society generally expects.

In other words, it’s a way of talking about those with and without “mood disorders” in such a way that does not rely on the insulting concept of “disorder”. (Someone emovatypical may indeed identify as having a mood disorder; the point is not to prohibit that identity, but rather to not force it upon anyone.)

  1. I.e. one I made up.
  2. I have and will call myself neuroatypical at times, because mood and migraines originate in neurology, but as useful as I find that solidarity at times, I also think it helps to make the distinction at others.

EC / elimination communication

What is elimination communication (EC)? First, it is predicated on the idea that babies — even half-finished human babies — are born aware of their elimination needs, and with the instinct/inclination to communicate those needs to their care providers. While infants’ bladders and bowels are very tiny (and thus their ability to hold their waste is comparatively quite limited), they do have voluntary control of the release of the sphincters of elimination. Conventional diapering, or diaper-training, teaches infants that the diaper is the appropriate place for elimination, which brings some convenience for adults, but also must be untaught later.

(A note on physiology: sphincters are muscles that by default are contracted/closed, and, in a physiologically “normal” individual, require deliberate signals from the brain to release, as in swallowing as well as urinating or defecating. The meme that infants cannot be pottied because they do not have control over the necessary muscles is widespread but mistaken, and bad science to boot.)

In the practice of EC, older humans — parents, grandparents, caretakers, older siblings, alloparents of all kinds — respond to infants’ needs and attempts at communication by providing opportunities to eliminate in appropriate places, such as toilets, potties, small bowls, sinks, bushes, a pile of towels or diapers, or whatever may be available. As we provide those opportunities, we offer a cue — usually a psss or some other auditory signal — that communicates to the infant “I heard you, this is a place you can eliminate”. And so communication is achieved, both from and to the infant. Combined with timing (more appropriately termed rhythms) and intuition, this means infants as early as birth can eliminate in an appropriate receptacle away from themselves, rather than in a diaper next to their skins. (Diapers, either cloth or plastic, are usually used as backup for “misses”, either full or part time. “Diaper-free” is a a catchy but inaccurate title for this practice.)

Elimination communication is about communication primarily, and honoring the young person’s innate desire to avoid eliminating on hirself. With both parties of the communication being fallible humans, and with at least one being new to the communication, elimination, and living gigs, it is not a “perfect” science, but rather a process: its goal is not future independence, but present interdependence.

EC is one aspect of the approach I term biologically appropriate parenting, and as with all aspects, it is neither “all or nothing” nor intended as a “checklist” item. All infants are born with the need to eliminate, and all parents seek to deal with that elimination in a sanitary way that meets their own needs as well; EC is the biological expectation, and conventional diapering, like formula and bouncy seats in our kyriarchal, child- and parent-unfriendly culture, is an oft-useful, if overused, substitute.

autonomous birth/unhindered birth

I speak of autonomous/unhindered birth rather than homebirth or freebirth/unassisted birth because what matters is not birth location, or even birth attendants, but birth style and who has the power. I am not sure unhindered birth ever happens in hospitals (which is not to say positive, joyful births do not happen in hospitals), but it is not a given at home, either. Whether a woman has autonomy in labor, whether she is free of violations to her body and her humanity, should not depend on whether she needs medical assistance or would feel safer with the presence of a birth attendant.

I often use autonomous and unhindered birth interchangeably, but the terms have subtle distinctions. Autonomous birth refers to the woman being “in charge”, or at least centered, during labor and birth. This is most likely to happen in a free/unassisted birth, and some people do use the term specifically to mean birthing without a professional attendant, though I do not.

Unhindered birth is an alternative to the less precise, more historically loaded term “natural birth” (which has come to most often mean “birth without prescription pain medications”, and which some even use synonymously with “vaginal birth”, with or without medications). One of my favorite midwives describes it this way:

Unhindered meaning on your own terms, without direction or management by someone else, given privacy to do your own thing.

Unhindered birth is a birth without unnecessary interventions (not just without pain medications), in which the environment is structured to acknowledge and support the mammalian nature of the laboring woman, to not disturb the physiology of birth. It means that procedures are not done because they are “routine”, or to measure or encourage a “schedule”, and when interventions (such as fetal heart rate monitoring) are elected, they are done in a way to minimally disturb the laboring woman. The Mother Friendly Childbirth Initiative outlines the basics of what I consider unhindered birth.

I do not give a strict definition of what is or isn’t compatible with unhindered or autonomous birth because it’s not about a checklist, and I’m not interested in labeling others’ experiences. Rather, I hope to reframe the discussion to center women and respect for our autonomy and our bodies and our power in birth, without shaming women who need or desire medical assistance, while celebrating what most women’s bodies are capable of.

woman-centric

One of the ideas I find most anti-feminists/non-feminists are especially prone to misunderstanding, and taking issue with womanism/feminism over, is that of what it means to be “woman-centric”. Their objections come up when womanists/feminists try to talk about the importance of women having access to health care, helping women procure higher education, creating space for women’s voices, and so on.

“But what about men?” they object. “I support everyone having access to health care. I want to make sure everyone can go to college. I want to hear what everyone has to say.”

As though womanists/feminists don’t.

We say “let’s do something for women” and they hear “let’s take away something from men”. We say “let’s talk about women” and they hear “men don’t matter”. We say “women are people” and they hear “men are not”.

The thing is, we are women-centric not because men don’t matter, but because the entire rest of the world is male-centric. Men are surely screwed over by kyriarchy also, but in this messed-up system, there can be no rational doubt that men have more power, more privilege, more authority than women. The whole world is already centered around men and their concerns.

Feminisms’ woman-centricism, then, is not a case of “reverse discrimination” against men, it is not because we “hate men”, it is not that we don’t want men to have the things we work for for women (health care, safety, autonomy, freedom from discrimination: a life free of kyriarchy) — no, it is simply saying: “Women matter. We matter. For once, for one small moment out nearly the whole of history, let us be able to center women and our concerns. Not because men don’t matter, but because we do, despite what the rest of the world says.”

That’s all. That is what it means when I say this blog is woman-centric, for all that it is inspired by a certain small presumably-male being: this is a space where women and our concerns have priority, and I make no apologies for it.

zie/hir

Zie/hir (pronounced “zee” and “hear”) are gender-neutral replacements for third person singular pronouns when one wishes to avoid specifying gender. Also used by many individuals who do not feel well represented by either he/him or she/her.

In this blog, I alternate between using she/her as the default (to counterbalance centuries of “he/him” being used as the default for all humans, and also because this is a woman-centric space), using they/them as a third person singular (this is a deliberate choice, not a grammatical error, as is my placement of most punctuation outside quotation marks), and using zie/hir.

I am most likely to use she/her when discussing things that primarily — but not exclusively — women do (such as birth, breastfeed, or caretake), they/them when discussing a hypothetical person of any gender, and zie/hir when discussing a specific person of unknown gender or who I know prefers those terms. However, an observant reader will notice that all three sets are largely used interchangeably here, and it primarily depends on my mood, whims, and subtle effects of tone I am trying to create. In other words, more or less at random.

One further note: I will use s/he and hir at times, but almost exclusively in reference to my own fetus. When I was pregnant with the Boychick, The Man and I chose to use those pronouns (pronounced the same as “she” and “her”) for our child-to-be of unknown sex, not wanting to use “it” to refer to our baby-in-utero, and having no desire to discover hir sex before birth. In writing, s/he and hir are obviously gender-non-conforming, but in speech they sound female. This was a deliberate attempt to recast the fetus as female-default, male-aberration; to turn on its head the kyriarchal assumption of male-default, female-aberration that permeates our society. However, in online feminist spaces, it is the more neutral-sounding zie and hir that have achieved relative popularity as the gender-neutral third person singular pronouns, and I happily accede to group agreement on that topic.