“Bastardized” via adoption?

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I have to admit, I feel very uncomfortable with the word “bastard.”   Mainly because it originated as a derogatory term used for children born out of wedlock and I feel strongly that any form of discrimination against a person due to their circumstances of birth  is reprehensible.  Even if the term “bastard” has come to mean  “jerk” or “impolite/rude/inconsiderate [male] person”  — or even sometimes serving as a humorous term of endearment/admiration for someone who has managed to come out ahead of the game (“Hey, you know Bob?  He won the lottery last week — that bastard!”) —  I still refrain from using it even in casual conversation.  And if I do “slip up” and say it, I feel a small pang of something (guilt?).

Having said, that, I have a huge amount of respect for adoptees such members of Bastard Nation, and bloggers such as Bastardette and Bastard Granny Annie and Ungrateful Little Bastard, for proudly taking ownership of the term and using it for their own purposes, and in doing so are removing some of the stigma from it.  Good for them!

But this post is not about the term, it is about the stigma that is still attached to the birth of children outside of marriage.  You can see this in figures quoted in newspapers, about how it is a measurement of the “social ills” in society.  You can hear it in the derogatory words thrown at single, young mothers on buses, at least where I live. And the “campaign against teen pregnancy” that assumes that all young mothers are not only irresponsible monsters but are unwed.

I personally knew the shock when I met a woman in 1990 who had also given birth at age 17 in Canada, but had been allowed to keep her baby — the hospital did not abduct her baby at birth — the difference was that she was married!!

… And having to wear my grandma’s wedding ring whenever I left the wage home to go anywhere.

… and when I found out 24 years after the fact that my father had phoned my son’s father around the time of the birth of my son and asked him if he would do the right thing and marry me (Grandma Maxwell told my son about this one).  I guess, that was the condition on which they would allow me to keep my baby.

… and being a single mother giving birth in a hospital in many places in Canada will still prompt a social worker visit while you are still in hospital, questioning your motherhood and your right to raise your baby, giving you adoption pamphlets and asking “How do you intend to support this child?”

But getting back to the stigma that in many places still surrounds having a baby outside of marriage, it is interesting about the double-standard that surrounds adoption.

Question:   Given that it is such a social crime to give birth to a baby outside of marriage that the child is termed a “bastard”:   What about a child who was born to a married couple, surrendered (perhaps due to poverty — this is happening all the time) then adopted by a single person (male or female)?   That person was not born “illegitimate. ”  The modern child adoption system that was invented in 1851 makes a child “As If Born To” the person who has adopted them.  So, does that child become “illegitimate,” and hence a “bastard”?   If not, then why not?

Only in adoption is there a paradox that a single mother “deserves” to adopt a child —  but a child *born* outside of marriage is “illegitimate” and the mother is deemed not to deserve her own child.

Why is it is okay to adopt as a single mother, BUT if you dare to give birth to a child outside of marriage, that child is called a “bastard” and the mother vilified???   The woman who adopts is put onto a pedestal while the mother who has given birth is considered by the same people to be inherently irresponsible and potentially unfit?   Being unwed is still considered to be “just reason” to surrender a child, or imply to a mother that she should surrender her child (“Have you considered adoption?”).  Books on “how to adopt” advise prospective adopters to, in public places, approach pregnant women who do not have wedding rings, to hand them “adoption cards.”   To imply that the people who want to adopt deserve her baby more than she does.

An interesting double standard.

~ ~ ~

Postscript:  I want to recommend a related blog post, about how some mothers are condemned while others are honoured:  “The Right Kind of Mother: Intersections of Race and Class and Choice


12 thoughts on ““Bastardized” via adoption?

    Mara said:
    May 12, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    I was bastardized by my government. California Social Services terminated my biological father’s parental rights by allowing my mother to relinquish me for adoption and not track him down to notify him of my existence. I am 40 years old and my father still doesn’t know I exist.

    This happens every day in a system where social workers get bonuses for every “placement”. The adoption industry bastardizes as many children as possible for the flesh trade and to line the pockets of “social workers”.

    The Improper Adoptee said:
    May 13, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I don’t like the word “bastard” but everybody knows that and I have seen other Adoptees starting to say the same. Years ago, when my daughter who is also a “bastard” was little, a new woman and her family moved to this town. She was a Baptist, having moved up here from down South, and wore a cross. One day at a fair here, she was sitting a row behind me on bleachers while our kids played in one of those blow up houses with balls (like Mickey D’s used to have on their playgrounds) and she was blabbing away about some people she knew and then said “the illegitimate child” with a total digust in her voice. She knew I had my child out of wedlock and beleive you me she said it so I could here it and I know damn well she was saying it to me. She might of just as well said to my face, I think you are a peice of dirt for having a child unmarried, but she was too much of a coward I guess. I never said anything. I did turn around and look at her but she purposely ignored me. I still fantazize about telling her off. I may someday. Better late than never. I think we need to say to people when they use this term “bastard” that it is an insult to children born to single Mothers, a form of discrimination and a word that should be substituted with another sentiment. I agree too that it is a double standard to let single infertile women Adopt and it is also a double standard to let married gay couples Adopt. Especially gay couples who call other men “bastards”…..

    joan wheeler said:
    May 14, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    This was my very first blog post on June 18, 2008 at my first blog (now deleated and moved to http://forbiddenfamily.com):

    Legitimate by Birth, Bastardized by Adoption
    Legitimate by birth – the youngest of five
    Bastardized by adoption – because Mom wasn’t alive
    Grew up alone – spoiled only child
    She must not be told – yet rumors ran wild
    Found at age eighteen – by siblings I never knew
    Shocked my parents lied – rage was all I could do
    Anger turned into action – writing with insight I gave
    Both sides attacked me – spoiled child should behave
    Our births are sealed – as if a sin
    Dirty orphans, scheming bastards – forever children
    Fake birth certificates rename – adopted parents pretend
    Can one love a lie? When will this mockery end?
    Others speak for us – they know what’s best
    They’re in control – you know the rest
    The records are sealed – you’re not supposed to know
    You can’t have more than one – mother and father, no
    Reality is quite different – when you live it
    Adoptees are unimportant – and irrelevant
    Everyone has an opinion – which wins over fact
    Always telling us what to do – don’t overreact
    The records are sealed and they’ll stay that way
    Be good little children and go away
    Legitimate by birth – the youngest of five
    Bastardized by adoption – because Mom wasn’t alive
    Three decades later – we’re still in the fight
    My record of birth – still locked up tight
    Fifty-two years old – treated as a child
    My frustrated bitterness is not mild
    At ninety-two, adopted Mom sees the light
    All these years – you were right
    This is a lie – I did not give birth to you
    I missed all of that – this is true
    An adoption certificate – indeed would be better
    Then to live a lie – and for a lifetime be bitter
    by Joan Wheeler (born as) Doris Sippel
    copyright June 18, 2008 

    unicorn said:
    May 15, 2010 at 12:14 am

    The Ontario government still refuses to let my son’s father name be put on the original birth certificate because we were not married.

    I also remember the CCAS telling me that they would never let single parents raise their children.

    Why is it OK for the CCAS to let single adoptors raise children now? How hypocritical.

    joy21 said:
    May 19, 2010 at 5:38 am

    Do you realize that Bastard Nation who you have huge respect for consistentally shames adoptees? Even those that want unfettered access and thinks the idea that adoption can be harmful to the adoptee is hysterical?

      Cedar said:
      May 19, 2010 at 5:53 am

      No, I admit I did not realize this. I am in Canada and we do not have Bastard Nation or a similar organization active up here. I respect them for ‘reclaiming” the term “bastard.” But I admit I know little about U.S. politics, other than I disagree stridently with “one-sided” open records campaigns, which I know BN supports. I believe in equal access to the OBC and ABC for both adoptees and natural parents. I obtained a copy of my son’s adoptive name when he turned 19, on the documents I applied for from the B.C. govt’.

    joy21 said:
    May 21, 2010 at 5:57 am

    Yes, you need to rethink this. Bastard Nation has done a great deal of gaslighting about what they represect. They represent shaming of adoptees, they say that moms have no dog in this hunt. They criticize and humilate newcomers. They are meanspirited and have no respect for others. Visit their web page.

    You need to recant what you said about respect for them if you have any respect for the lost children of forced adoption.

    Bastard Nation mocks our trauma.

    maryanne said:
    May 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Oh come, Joy. I am a mother who surrendered a child and also a supporting member of Bastard Nation. Just because you and your group that does that demonstration every year have a disagreement with some members and leaders of Bastard Nation does not mean that they shame adoptees or are unfriendly to natural mothers. That is just not true. Bastard Nation deserves respect, they have earned it. Their agenda is adoptee access to the original birth certificate. Period. If you have a problem with that, that is one thing, but the rest of what you are saying is as “nasty and meanspirited” as anything you accuse others of.

    joy21 said:
    May 26, 2010 at 4:04 am


    Maryanne Cohen, you have GOT to be kidding me. Why does my group that does a demonstration every year have a beef with BN? Obviously, you are not a very involved BN member or you would know.

    What is the disagreement Maryanne? We lobby for unfettered access, so why has BN gone after the same group they were at one time leading?

    Our agenda is unfettered access. Are you insane? You must be if you have a problem with our lobbying. We educate and lobby for freedom of information. What is BN’s problem with that?

    We don’t have a disagreement with BN, we agree, no restrictions, no step-bills, but still BN went out of their way, no that is an understatement. BN stalked us with NO MATERIAL GREIVANCE. Do you even know what that means?

    They have gone out of their way to attempt to shame us for wanting parity. Which is the same goal they purport to have.

    Yes, Maryanne, you gave up a baby, that does not make you expert-on-the-ocean for what adoptees face. BN did jettison the mothers, which I think is a huge mistake. They have also made a lot of fun ridiculing adoptees, myself included.

    They have TOLD me that I am not allowed to call my own mother, my mother. They have dissed natural mothers out of habit.

    That is why when I stumbled upon their blog in my college years I recoiled. I know I am not perfect. I know it is not just my mother’s fault.

    Don’t tell me this and that about my experience Maryanne.

    Just as you told me I did not suffer from PTSD from losing my mother. That I needed a ‘second opinion’ No, I did, and maybe if you loved your child like I do mine, or you loved your mother like I do mine, you wouldn’t be so smug.

    I do love my mother,losing her was horrible. The worst kind of horrible.

    I am not over that yet, which I am sure you have some kind of neat judgment for.

    maryanne said:
    May 28, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Not claiming to be an expert on what adoptees face, not telling you what your experience is or should be, not expressing any opinion on how much you love your mother. If you say you have PTSD, OK, you have PTSD. That is not the subject of this particular blog or post anyhow.

    I love my surrendered son as much as I love my other sons, which is a lot. You are the one casting aspersions on how much another person loves their child or mother, not me.

    I have had a good experience with BN, as have some other mothers and many adoptees. You have not. That’s ok. I do not speak for BN, I am just a member. It works for me. It did not work for you, and you joined another group doing other things. No need to get hysterical about it.

    Robin Westbrook said:
    June 10, 2010 at 3:44 am

    I’m not going to join in the debate, there are adopted people I respect in both camps. But I have often wondered if we would be listened to if we had a catchy name like “Sluts for Reform.” It sounds oxymoronic, doesn’t it? Something has to be said for any group to take society’s insult and turn it into a label of pride.

    And, as I have told both my reunited children…there are no such things as illegitimate children..just parents with awkward timing.

    Bill said:
    December 9, 2011 at 6:25 am

    jesus people a camp divided is a camp conquered. What do you care if B.N. makes fun of all of us. If you cant take that, what makes you think that you have the balls to fight to the the last breath, when you give up at the first joke., Grow a set. Have you not been an outcast? Can you not understand dark comedy. We don’t have to agree we just have to kill policy. Lets not be “at” each other

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