Last week’s #DiversityJC discussed this article, that used interviews with 25 mothers who reject recommended vaccines to examine the gendered discourse of vaccine refusal. By analyzing the gendered discourse of vaccines, this article identifies how women’s insistence on individual maternal choice as evidence of commitment to their children draws on and replicates structural inequality in ways that remain invisible, but affect others. If you want a quick catch-up you can read the science daily article about it or the author’s blog post by Gender & Society. We had a great discussion about it! I am going to try to summary it here
Our discussion started with Megan McCuller bringing the point that fear is a strong motivator for mothers to refuse to vaccinate their children. Anne Jefferson posted a link to Virginia Hughes‘ excellent piece “I Asked My Mom Why She Didn’t Vaccinate Me”. Emily S Klein also pointed that some mother’s are worried about what goes into their kids bodies, and prefer to act in a more natural way. Michael Hunter reminded that there are also highly religious people where fear takes over from evidence based reasoning. Then the next question was:
Indeed, the article suggests that “putting bad stuff” in kids’ bodies is a more realistic threat than epidemics, to privileged parents. InBabyAttachMode commented that it seems these moms are highly skeptical about “mainstream” science and “big pharma”. Doctor PMS pointed to this NPR article where they explore the psychology behind vaccine refusal. So it seems that this mothers indeed know the possible outcomes of not vaccinating their children, but they still prefer to do so because they are scared of the risks of vaccines. Also, a desire to be in control, & distrust of public health (what is described in more details in this post by Kate Clancy). But there’s also the belief that you’re only at risk of communicable diseases if you go to India, Africa, 3rd world nations, as NotThatKindaDr.Kline pointed out. Ian Street brought up that a big part is that these moms are in a “tribe” of similar thinking people; social pressure trumps real science.
That post started a conversation about reinforcing SES/ethnic segregation, as Anne Jefferson pointed out. And this already started, as some states require vaccines for daycare. Also, some doctors refuse unvaccinated kids, and some parents go along with Dr’s requests, as you can read in this article. This vaccine refusal is already bringing some strong feelings, as you can read in this open letter “To the Parent of the Unvaccinated Child Who Exposed My Family to Measles”.
In the end the fear and the responsibility always was coming back to our discussion:
Exactly! Motherhood is new and scary. Scary to be so responsible for such a small, helpless child. So many decisions, all feel so important. Wandering Scientist pointed out that she never considered not vaxxing, but felt enormous pressure to show she was a “good mother” by researching decisions.
And just to finalize in a good mood, here goes the Daily show link that Dennis Eckmeier posted to complement our discussion
Let us know what you think in the comments! Thank you to everyone who participated and hope to see you in the next #DiversityJC on February 23rd, 2 pm EST. Let us know if you have a suggestion of topic or if you want to extend your view by writing a guest post!