Laurita Dianita

Reflections and art on the topics of public health, social justice, and love

Archive for the ‘politics’ tag

23 weeks

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¡Viva la mujer!

Pregnancy and Policy on The Night of the Government Shut-Down

It can be hard to feel like there is worth in writing about my pregnancy or pregnancy in general when the US government just shut down and families will go without pay and essential services will be disrupted. So I definitely understand if folks are not really interested in reading this. But I also work in public health and know how important so many provisions of the Affordable Care Act are to reproductive and children’s health and therefore to long-term health, so I guess writing about pregnancy-related issues seems relevant in my mind to the current government dysfunction, albeit in an indirect way.

I think of how painfully the personal and political are connected and how policy plays out in our bodies and our diseases, and also how ideologies of gender, race, class, health, worth, individualism versus communalism, etc. shape policy. Plus, now that I know what I know about how early life toxic stress, including prenatal stress, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) affect brain development and coping behaviors, I often find myself wondering to what degree the toxic ideologies and politics around us are shaped by trauma and how cyclical this might be. (For example, rigid gender ideas create atmospheres in which sexual violence is more common and accepted, and experiencing or witnessing such violence as a baby or child damages the brain and provides poor role modeling, thereby putting the child at greater risk for both perpetration and victimization as a teen and adult). So, all that is to say that, uh, talking about and promoting healthy pregnancy and childbirth and postpartum bonding and attachment is all part of preventing problems later on that may (though I totally can’t prove this) contribute to the kind of idiotic politics we are all experiencing right now. Or maybe that’s just a self-agrandizing way to get you to look at my blog.

That said, I don’t actually have much to say right now. I need to catch up on my sleep. But these are things I plan to write about soon, including the first topic, which is related to the “¡Viva la mujer!” shirt I am wearing in this photo:

  • On how in awe I am of my friends who have just given birth and of the pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding process in general, and how I can try to make sense of this very sex-specific admiration within the context of the feminism I believe in—one that argues that gender (the attributes that are assigned to male sexed people and female sexed people) is mostly constructed and performed and not essential to who we are biologically.
  • On the importance of sound maternal child health policy at the governmental and institutional/organizational levels.
  • On what kinds of questions for expectant parents to ask/what to look for so they don’t get either a knife-happy/intervention-happy doctor or an unsafe midwife.
  • On how even an honest portrayal of a pregnant body such as the photos in this series provides is still curated and still represents visual choices. That is, the photos look different depending on how much food I’ve eaten before the photo is taken and how much air I put in my belly and what I do with my muscles and what angle Oscar shoots from and how he lights the shot and so on. So no matter how real they are, we still can’t depend on images of others to make us feel okay because images are not the same as what we will see in the mirror from minute to minute–we still need our own resilience, our own self-assurance and self-love, to feel good with ourselves and our changing bodies.

Plus, I am open to ideas from you on what to write about.

I also want to share with you the close-up of baby, drawn loosely from a Leonart Nillson photograph from inside the womb. And as I write this, baby is making my belly protrude with little hands and feet moving around. Baby is not quite as calm as in the drawing.

All photos taken lovingly and patiently by el amor de mi vida, Oscar Avellaneda-Cruz, who also carried Chino the dog onto and off of the roof safely for this photo session.

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P.S. As is obvious from its appearance here, on my bio pic, and in many other places, I love my alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, and this Mount Holyoke sweatshirt that Virginia Speciale gave me.

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September 30th, 2013 at 8:56 pm

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20 weeks

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Either baby and I had a growth spurt since last week, or it just looks like it because here in this photo I had already eaten lunch and dinner. Since my guts are now riding on top of my uterus, I look extra expanded. Either way, baby is growing and VERY active. I can feel baby doing dancergetics against my belly most of the day.

The country into which we bear children.

I don’t want baby to be born into a country engaged in yet another nebulous, costly, deadly war with unclear objectives in yet another Middle Eastern country.

When I was a 19-year-old college student organizing against the war in Afghanistan and then the war in Iraq, I decided that, disenchanted as I may be, I would remain a US American citizen. In spite of my attraction to a few other countries’ systems of affordable healthcare, paid maternity leave, lower rates of violence, and more equitable school systems, I decided I needed to stick around here because: 1) it’s my home and I do have mad love for it; 2) I really love Alaska; and 3) I felt that of all the good work needed in the world, helping to make the United States less violent and militaristic would be the best use of my position as a US Citizen.

So I guess I knew then that I might be giving birth someday into a country engaged in a new war—or tactical strikes, or whatever they’re calling it. But I would like to show baby a different reality. I think I have some phone calls to make to my Senators and Representative…


P.S. This week I spent hours working on this collage of baby. I love it. Fiercely. It is my favorite piece yet, and it was so meditative to make.

P.P.S. It was extra challenging for Oscar to make these photos in the on and off and sometimes pouring rain, but we are both so glad that we got out into the devil’s club while it still displayed the multiple colors of fall.

P.P.P.S. I hope that my life of preventing violence and dysfunction on the interpersonal and societal level through systems and family and health work, and of making maternal-child-health-related artwork like this and talking to you all and trying to create a warm, nurturing, competent family life for our child, is fulfilling my promise to my 19-year-old self.

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September 9th, 2013 at 8:52 pm

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Let’s Get Some Women in the House!

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Please join me and many wonderful co-hosts…

I’ve been working hard on organizing this fundraiser for my mom and Lupe, getting a bunch of co-hosts who are cyclists, athletes, promoters of bike transportation, etc. This event will be a fundraiser, meaning people come and eat tasty appetizers and drink wine, write a check to support the candidates with their campaigns, visit with their friends and colleagues and have fun. But it will also be a forum to discuss parks issues, transportation and bike planning, etc. Both these candidates are advocates for planning that includes bike transport and public transportation, and both, as parks users, support our municipal, state and federal parks. Please come with questions and comments, concerns, friends…and money, even if it’s just a little bit.

You can also sign up to volunteer or donate online.

The candidates’ websites:

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July 19th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Posted in social justice

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Becoming an Outdoors Woman & the politics of hunting

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Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) Weekend out in Chickaloon:

I spent the glorious weekend of March 12th-14th with 4 other friends and 200-some other women out in Chickaloon, Alaska at a retreat sponsored by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, with support from other corporations and orgs, including the NRA (*chuckle*). As you can see in the picture on the left, I learned to field dress game. My best friend Jessica Laura (picture on top) from Santa Cruz, CA and I learned gun safety, loading, unloading, aiming, etc. She, my roommate and dear friend Tiffany (bottom pic), and I all learned fish filleting skills. Our friends Mel and Kiatcha also did tracking, trapping, snowmachining and other workshops.

It was loads of fun and it was empowering as an Alaskan woman to be equipped with skills that could help me feed my future family. Oscar and I are always talking about the things we want to grow & ways we want to eat as a family once we get a place; this made me think through the logistics of including wild animals into that diet.  It was beautiful to spend a weekend with so many women, many of whom explained that they were learning skills their husbands wouldn’t teach them or that they’d prefer to learn from better teachers. And I soaked in the opportunity to develop and strengthen friendships.

This weekend also exposed me to the politics of hunting in Alaska in a new way. When we first moved to Alaska in 1992, little ten-year-old Californian Laura thought hunting was barbaric. 12 – 15-year-old vegetarian Laura certainly did. But when I started to eat meat again, I figured I should be able to kill it myself, and so I enjoyed fishing and thanking the fish for their lives. I’ve wanted to hunt now for a number of years, a desire especially influenced by knowing more Alaska Native people who tell me about their son learning to duck hunt at age 3 or their experiences growing up and preparing the beaver & moose meat. It has been influenced by reading Velma Wallis’ heartbreakingly honest memoir Raising Ourselves: A Coming of Age Story from the Yukon River, Ernestine Haye’s Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir, the book Eagle Blue by journalist Michael D’Orso about the Fort Yukon Boys basketball team, and the interviews in Growing up Native in Alaska. The relationship that these books describe people having to the earth and to the animals is one of such respect and necessity that it begins to seem less like a choice and more like part of the life cycle. On a more superficial level, my desire to hunt was also influenced by trying dall sheep meat for the first time years ago, when my dad made an Afghani rice pilaf with sheep koftas after a patient of my mom’s sent her home with a chunk of meat. It was delicious.

Yet, being out there for BOW and learning the skills to be a better fisher and hunter, I was struck by the incongruence between the way I had come to think of hunting through Alaska Native narratives, and the culture of it among some of the folks there. There were, indeed, people who saw it as a means to eat well and eat sustainably, and who strove to preserve and use as much of the animal as they could. Fish and Game promoted this attitude, for the most part. But, as Kiatcha bore witness to in her trapping class, there is also a culture of people who want to wear fox fur hats and lynx stolls and ermine coats–not in the way described in Eagle Blue where the kids must wear beaver hats to get through the -50 degree weather in Fort Yukon and they eat the beaver meat anyway–but in what I perceive as a colonialist way. It strikes me as very 18th and 19th century European colonialist, Russians-forcing-Aleuts-to-trap-Otters-for-fur and very un-self-conscious to, in this day and age, trap animals  just for their fur and not eat them.

I also got the feeling–although the rules of the weekend were that we could not talk politics–that there were hunters there who do not believe in rural preference and giving priority to subsistence and to Alaska Natives. In fact, the entire absence of mention of subsistence rights and Alaska Native approaches to hunting made me uncomfortable. Hunting and fishing may be part of a sustainable life in Alaska, as Elaine Frankenstein argues in her film “Eating Alaska” (which we watched and which I enjoyed thoroughly), but it seems to me that how we do that should be influenced not only by the Dept. of Fish and Game, but by AFN and/or other Native organizations who know what the needs are of people in the villages. As a white person and as an immigrant to this land, I don’t feel comfortable making those decisions without that kind of input.

So…it was odd to be there. On the one hand, I felt RIGHT filleting fish after fish and cleaning clams and unzipping the reindeer, skinning him, removing his front quarter, opening his abdominal cavity, holding his heart. I felt like I was born to do this. It felt spiritually important, like this is the part that has been missing from the 16 years that I’ve been cooking, like I’m supposed to provide food in this way. And I adored the instructors of the filleting and field dressing classes. I also really liked using the guns. But I was also weirded out by the enthusiasm of the gun class instructors about youth shotgun leagues and by the woman in Kiatcha and Mel’s classes who was gleeful and almost sadistic about killing animals, and by the snowmachine instructor with her giant wedding ring who taught us how to put on our helmets so that our hair wouldn’t get messed up, and by the whole idea of a sport that uses two stroke engines (although I do admit, it was fun).

The experience certainly helped me understand the cultures within Alaska that I don’t know as well, part of the electorate who my mother is trying to win over (she’s running for State House in East Anchorage:, and the varied approaches to eating Alaska. And yeah, it made me want to go to the range and learn to shoot, maybe even invest in a .22 someday. But it also left me with a lot of questions, a desire to push that kind of (primarily white) environment to listen to the perspectives of the original inhabitants of this land on how to harvest from it, and a need to learn a lot more about sustainability before I begin hunting.

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March 28th, 2010 at 9:20 am