Non-Motherhood and Feminism. Party on.
Oh, I am slick.
So let’s get right into it. No disclaimers here, because here at Mean Feminism, we don’t need no stinkin’ disclaimers:
I don’t want to talk about motherhood and feminism anymore.
That’s it for me. I’m done. I’m off. I have set sail into the non-mother sunset, and I have not child-proofed a damn thing on this boat.
There are two general ways you can look at this, if you want. You can go, being anti-mother is being anti-feminist, because all mothers are women. Or you can go, being anti-mother is a little fucked up, Edith, but it’s not anti-feminist because all women aren’t mothers. So, like, as Mr. Hassanali, my ninth grade geometry teacher would say, QED. Or except, not so much, since all I’ve proven is that I have two distinct sides of my brain arguing with themselves again. Oy.
In any event, I am not anti-mother. But what I AM “anti,” if you will, is the idea that feminism should be all about mothers all the time because other than getting our periods, the only other universal thing that nearly all women in all cultures do is have children. And we need to use motherhood as an issue to platform on, because we can reach more women with that appeal.
I get that. I do. But first, I’m tired of this “feminism is universal” thing because it seems to me, that, well, it isn’t. No matter how hard we try to position feminism as helping out all women all over, it isn’t. This is something that has to be done, to make feminism global, not something that can be discussed (and somehow, that makes it so, since we talked about it). And second, we can’t go around trying to break bread with all the family rights’ activists over motherhood because, let’s face it, a lot of them couldn’t give less of a damn about feminism. Motherhood issues are feminist issues are motherhood issues but they’re not ALL THE SAME THING. We all know that, we all believe that, so let’s stop pretending that we don’t.
If I’m losing you, let me bring you back home with some personal interjection and rumination. Do any of you remember when you first became feminists? If you’re like me, you don’t, because “feminist” was probably one of your first words and you may or may not have dressed up like Gloria Steinem for your fourth grade “Career Day” where you said you wanted to grow up to be an activist and a writer. (And you may or may not have been encouraged to dress up like her when you lamented to your mother that there were no cool Jewish girls with glasses to dress up as and your mom said but a-ha, indeed, there are. Another example of the greatness of mothers.)
But let’s say you do remember. When you first became a feminist, maybe someone made some comment about all feminists being lesbians. And maybe you shot something like this back: “No! Not all feminists are lesbians! They’re totally two different things! God! That is such a myth!” And then a few years later, when you were drunkenly coming out as a lesbian during your first semester at Grinnell College to a girl you had such a bad crush on you basically couldn’t think anymore, a girl that later became your best friend, Platonic life partner, and blogging buddy, it occurred to you in your drunken stupor that perhaps that kind of a reply made it seem like straight feminists wanted nothing to do with lesbian feminists, indeed, RESENTED lesbian feminists for going and GAYING UP feminism, resulting in said stereotype.
Kind of like those feminists that don’t do their makeup or their hair right or even AT ALL!!! They really fuck shit up for pretty feminists, or feminists that CARE about their physical appearance and don’t going around looking like such a, such a, such a DYKE.
Anyhoo. Back to motherhood. (Yes, I totally remembered that’s what I was purporting to be talking about. Totally.) If being stereotyped as gay and ugly wasn’t bad enough, feminists are stereotyped also as being anti-family, for some reason. Maybe it’s all the lobbying for childcare services, maternity leave, family planning, domestic violence shelters, etc. You know, all those “anti-family” things like that. So one of those things you do when you’re a feminist newbie is that you make a plea for “choice” and talk about how pro-family feminism is, and how it’s every woman’s choice to be a mother or not.
All well and good. Here’s where it gets tricky: because we are so fearful of that stereotype, because we are so adamantly clinging to “choice,” feminists are often very involved in motherhood issues and not involved at all, or even downright opposed to, issues facing childless women.
It’s gotten to the point, finally, where feminists feel comfortable supporting one woman’s right to abort and another woman’s right to give birth without blinking. We are all very comfortable debating fertility issues and abortion issues and breeding issues of all stripes. But single women, and women without children … well, what’s the issue, you might be thinking? Why bother with them? Isn’t it easier for them, anyway, not to have children?
It’s not easier. It’s different. It’s not easier to be a lesbian in a feminist community than a straight woman in a feminist community, either, gang. I’ve been hearing that a lot lately, and I’m sick of it. It must be easier to be a Black woman in a feminist community too, right? Because everyone wants to be friends with you and no one wants to exclude you!
When you have children, when you are straight, when you are pretty, you are definitely NOT immune to a ton of issues. You do, however, pretty much always have society’s thumb up in your direction. I want to talk about, for ten minutes or so, the people who don’t have society’s support, or even most feminists’. I want to talk about Ms. Stereotypical for just ten minutes, and how we can start bringing her back into the fray.