Saturday, July 29, 2006

Non-Motherhood and Feminism. Party on.

Let me first express my deepest love for all of you. Now let me express my deepest hate for my modem, which might be the oldest modem in current use in all of Los Angeles. It has caused me to lose not one, not two, but THREE posts in process here at blogger. I am very dumb, see, and it takes me that long to go, oh wait, let’s type this shit up offline and THEN transfer it to the blog.

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.


Blogger TNTrash said...

Hey!! Y'all linked to me and I had no fucking clue since I been trapped in the land of the Motherfucking Mouse, overworked and blog-dormant.

Thanks so much!! Good shit you got going here. *links to you*

10:58 PM  
Blogger spotted elephant said...

Edith, I love you.

This is a tiny thing, it doesn't compare with real problems, but I dread going to get my hair cut. I go to those chain places (cheap!), so I get a different person each time. She always starts by asking if I have kids. Now that I'm 37, my negative response results in such shock/horror/pity, because I'm clearly too old to "fix" things.

People who know me often behave as if this is a freakish part of me that is better left alone. At least that attitude is less irritating.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Laura Linger said...

Hey! Another Goddamned Liberal here...and I love your site. I see Spotted Elephant here, too! (*waving*)

The "feminism" here in the United States has long left me cold for one very distinct reason: women are bitches. It's part of our nature; or, rather, it's the defining aspect of a large segment of our gender. Call it "Mean Girls Syndrome," if you will.

Mothers don't have to give a hot damn in a whorehouse about their childfree "sisters," but whoa to any childfree woman who says that there is more to feminism than passing meaningless tit-baring laws so Junior can latch on whenever he likes. I personally don't have a problem with public breastfeeding anyway. Don't we have more important things, as a gender, to focus on? How about the continued wage gap between men and women for the same work (one could suppose that this is largely due to The Mommy Phenomenon in the workplace, but I'll leave it at that)? The lack of insurance coverage for birth control, when HMOs are willing to shell out BIG BUCKS on fertility treatments? How about insurance coverage for those of us who want or have received tubal ligations? How about love, caring, compassion, and acceptance for ALL women and the choices that they make, instead of being exclusionary to those only belonging to the Tau Iota Tau sorority?

The "feminism" that these mothers spew leaves me cold because it is fraught with self-sabotage. By refusing to acknowledge lifestyle choices other than their own, these mothers fulfill every single shitty stereotype men hold about us.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Amy's Brain Today said...

Go girl, you stopped just when you were getting started!!!!! Where's that ten minutes you promised? Heh?

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when did we start talking about motherhood and feminism?? most of the fems i read dont talk about motherhood at all, in fact most of them are childfree for various reasons. and since when did women with children get societys thumbs up? they seem to be used as easy scapegoats for most things to me.

perhaps its all about personal perspective. im just not seeing this mothers takeover of feminism. as a mother though, i suppose i would say that.

loving your blog edith, but just, eh? when did it happen and why did nobody tell me? have i been left out of the mommy club??

*just as i was about to post this it struck me you may be talking about the whole fathers rights thing?

and, um, i was listening and you stopped writing - wheres the stuff about Ms Stereotypical?

10:41 AM  
Blogger Yawning Lion said...

Yes, I want to hear more too!

And I think I'm developing a big old crush on you. I was getting a little teary and starting to wonder where you live. Not in a scary stalker way, just in an "ohmygoddesscanawomanlikethisreallyexistonthesameplanetasme?" way. Though, I guess if I have to make the stalker disclaimer that makes it a little scary anyway.

Suffice it to say - This post is excellent.

And, really, when are those next few minutes coming?

3:25 PM  
Blogger alyx said...

Ms. Stereotypical = Hairy-legged feminist who doesn't want kids. (right, e?)

v, I'm feeling Edith on this one. While I don't feel any hostility towards mothers in the slightest, I resent that so much of mainstream feminism (especially as reflected in the media) has come to focus on the concerns of white middleclass women with kids.

When I was at a feminist rally a couple of years ago, the rallying cry was, "fund chilcare, not warfare!" The only mainstream magazine features I've seen address feminism do so to talk about how women can juggle work and child-minding responsibilities. Meanwhile, the only feminist debate that ever goes on in my country seems to revolve around the issue of "Working Mothers vs Stay At Homes"--it doesn't appear to have occurred to these writers that many women don't want children at all. Actually, they seem completely oblivious to the fact that this choice even exists.

If I had a white-collar office job and a friend had to rush off to care for her sick child, I wouldn't mind picking up the slack. I think we need to support each other, and really don't mind doing that--whether it's with time or money or whatever.

But I do wish that so much of the media focus on feminism (at least in this country) would focus on concerns that aren't related to childrearing vs. careers (and the oft-reapeated cliche that women can't have it all. Says who? They love ramming that down our throats, eh? Course, patriarchy can only think of 'having it all' in terms of binaries...rant for another time!)

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the motherhood vs careers debate? i thought that was just a guardian thing.

feminists are often very involved in motherhood issues and not involved at all, or even downright opposed to, issues facing childless women.

i am very involved in motherhood issues i admit. im not even sure what edith means by issues facing childless/free women.

im obviously missing something important so im looking forward to reading more.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous verbify said...

More, please.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

im not even sure what edith means by issues facing childless/free women.

I don't know if this is quite what Edith meant by issues, but I know that one of the major problems I face as a childfree woman is the automatic assumption by a lot of members of society that something is wrong with me for choosing not to have children - and it often degenerates into outright verbal abuse.

As an example, a lot of people I've met who've found it necessary to comment on my lack of children pull the "Oh my God, you hate children and mothers, and you should feel ashamed of yourself" line that rapidly degenerates into shrieks of self-righteous rage. I've been told by people that there's medication for my "problem", I've been told (quite rudely) to see a therapist about my lack of desire for children, and so on.

I know many feminists who would say that this is simply part of a larger pattern of abuse against women and disrespect for women's choices, which it is, but it's often not enough to just address the general situation - you have to address specifics, too, and harassment of childfree women is something that I've often seen pushed aside because "mothers have it worse".

Like Edith said so excellently - childfree women don't have it better, we just have a different set of problems to face.

One last note, and then I'll stop ranting: It would make a big difference to a lot of childfree women just to know that there's honest support for their decision out there, since so many people are pressuring us to have kids. We're constantly on the defensive in this (as we all are in so many things), and it'd be nice not to have to be.

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


i know that parents and parents in law pile on the pressure. but i had no idea that childfree women got verbal abuse for their choice!

thats completely mad. bloody hell.

so when does it start then? at what point does a woman move from being young and free to "childless"?

4:08 AM  
Blogger ms. jared said...

so when does it start then? at what point does a woman move from being young and free to "childless"?

i think it starts pretty much when you get out of high school. everyone starts pressuring you to "settle down" and start thinking about a family.

then several years pass and you still haven't settled so people start butting in and asking "why?WHY?WHY?!when?WHEN?WHEN?!" and when you say you're not interested in it and are happy the way you are they start telling you that you're wrong and that you WILL be interested in it when your "clock starts ticking".

then several more years pass and people start butting in telling you how selfish you are and how parenting is the best thing ever and you don't know what you're missing and you'll be sorry and why are you so selfish and what do your parents think about not being grandparents and blah, blah, blah.

and then a few more years pass and people stop asking you about it as much and just pity you instead because they assume you did/do want kids and just can't find anyone to love you enough to impregnate you.

then a few more years pass and you're "past your prime" and no one ever mentions it again because it's obvious your window of opportunity has come and gone and they're pretty sure you're sorry about it. such a pity, you.

at least, that's how it's been for me. :-)

xoxo, jared

9:14 AM  
Blogger TNTrash said...

Ok, I've chewed on this one for a while now.

I got no kids. I don't know if I'll ever be in a place where kids will be a doable thing. I love kids. They're great. All that shit.

But I did want to comment on a little blip in the post- just a little one.

"other than getting our periods, the only other universal thing that nearly all women in all cultures do is have children."

It seems more accurate to say that women across cultures share an experience of exploitation and oppression based, at least in a big part, upon their ability to "give birth." True, not all women CAN have children.

And childless women who have the ability to acquire resources have the ability to hold out on poor women who have children- which is a bit of a pain. But it ain't like I just jump up to volunteer to babysit for my pals with kids; mostly on account of the hours that I work in a week.

But if you think about it, radical women, it seems, would want to surround their kids with other radical women, no? I mean, who's gonna be that influence, just the kid's mom? Doesn't she need help in that?

I mean, we want to raise feminist daughters and non-oppressive sons, right?

I think that singleness can perhaps be added to the discussion. But ever since I read "The Handmaid's Tale," and then went to college, and then my eyes opened up to the mechanics of our exploitation, I've realized that I share a lot more with those sisters in "other cultures" than I initially thought. And more is different than I thought too.

It's a little more complicated than just "we all happen to be able to give birth," is what I'm saying. Which is why it's an important thing, IMO.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Amananta said...

Well, I wasn't aware mothers got a lot of press, but I do know the bs childfree women are put through.
There is this game that is played and I struggle not to play it. I am a bisexual mom with long hair who is a feminist. It is sooooooooo tempting to jump up and play the "I'm a breeder who doesn't look like a stereotypical butch!" card whenever feminists are uniformly accused of being such. But that's a losing game - even when you win, you lose playing that. Because the whole point of comments that stereotype feminists is to put them on the defensive, because the implication is whatever the insult is about - be it hairy legs, short hair, one's sex life, how many babies one has popped out, or who one has sex with - the implication is that whatever that thing is, is objectively undesirable. So even if you don't have all of those traits, you need to stick up for women who choose not to. But too often women let it become a dividing thing, like with the Pretty Feminists protesting so much that they aren't like those ugly feminists who don't take care of themselves, and the feminists with children protesting that they don't hate families, and so on and so forth.

On the personal yeah I had a kid front - while of course, yes, I love my child, I wonder these days, now that I have become more radical, if I would have had a kid if I hadn't been brainwashed into believing this was my One True Way to become a fulfilled adult woman. I mean, I had a kid by the time I was only 23, but already my mother had been calling me up for years and saying things like "I will have to wait for my grandchildren from your younger siblings, because I know you will never give me any!" When I was a teen, I didn't want children, and said so all the time. Everyone kept telling me I would change my mind. And so eventually I did.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Biting Beaver said...

I'm loving this post!

I've got 3 kids and I can tell you the secret to why folks seem to get so indignant when you tell them you don't have children and don't plan to, are you ready?...

We're jealous *grin*

Let me just say that I will make no apologies for myself when I say that I don't like kids. Sometimes I don't even like my OWN kids *biggrin*. I think it's an issue of jealousy (at least it is for me).

In any case I often end up with people saying something along the lines of "You must be a TERRIBLE mother!" because I don't qualify myself when I say, "I'm excited as hell for the day they turn 18 and I can get rid of them and have a life" most other moms tend to give me a baleful eye and immediately start thinking that I must lock them into rooms and burn them with lit cigarrettes because I didn't say something like, "I've never regretted having my kids but...."

So yeah, I think we're talking about least for me anyway hehehe.

In any case, great post! Now, feel some sympathy for me and go have kids so I can feel miserable with friends!!! *bigbiggrin*

5:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi :)

i tagged you two for this book questionnaire thing..

5:54 AM  
Blogger Edith said...

Dudettes, hold onto your hats and cloaks, because there is more coming on this party party train. Of partying. Woo.

Thank you Amananta and TNTrash and v for the food for thought.

And Yawning Lion, the feelings are beyond mutual. ;)

BB, you crack me way up. I am like, not even kidding. Check out these cracks.

And omigod, we've been tagged, v?! OMG!!

10:46 AM  
Blogger steller said...

i am pro women as well but by being a feminist do you have to hate men as well? i hate men and a lot of characteristics but i think it;s stil natural to feel an inclination towards them.. i love SOME men for their brains so as much as possible i try to get inside first before getting more intimate with them.. went to webdate_dot_com and so far i was able to talk to a lot of brilliant minds and so far i;m enjoying it..

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has come to my attention that the liberal left have distorted the English language by making up non-sensical phrases to describe things and activities that have been easily defined for hundreds of years. The true meanings of these propagandish phrases are as follows:
Embrace diversity-love a nigger, spic, wap, chink, or sand nigger
Empower women-have politicians looking for votes allow the courts to become communistic tools to give women money from fathers getting screwed by the system so they won't tax the welfare wystem and get handouts with less shame
gay rights-allow fags and dykes to sodomise and copulate without getting castrated or de-cunt lipped
domestic violence-what happens when a husband catches his bitch sucking his neighbors dick
wetland-a worthless swamp that should be used for a garbage dump but liberals want it for "wildlife"
undocumented alien-a spic in the USA illegally
politically correct-what the unhappy commentors to this post will attempt to define so readers will think they are "in the know" and "cool"-fuck you man hating cunts!!!

8:43 PM  
Anonymous kmtberry said...

WOW you really have to wonder about a poster like the dude above! I mean once he types in his horrific, hateful words, does he see how hateful and revolting they are? How could he not? Would he like his parents or fellow churchgoers to read it, how about would he like to have it read aloud in his church or at his workplace, with him being exposed as the writer?

I mean seriously, what a sick fuck. Does he think he is being FUNNY? Is he really that stupid? Sigh. Probably he is just very very stupid.

12:01 PM  
Blogger fMhLisa said...

I love this post, thank you for writing it. I've never looked at the way I talk about feminists from this perspective and it's really nice to be asked to think about it this way.

I am surrounded in my life by people who demonize (or buy into the demonization) of feminists. So I've always been eager to point out how far I am from the stereotypical hairy-legged butch lesbian (anti-family!) feminst, trying to make myself palpable and not-scary, I guess. But I suppose (in my eagerness to please) I am also implicitly suggesting that hairy-legged butch lesbian feminists are somehow flawed, and that makes me think I suck. Time for a personal paradigm shift.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Dee said...

Look, I just want control of my body that's all. I chose to get impregnated. It really bothers me when women judge each other ("your a parasite because you have kids" or "childless evil lesbian has corrupted feminism"). My body is my own, and I don't want any elite male/female/trans whatever telling me what to do with it. Get we get back to the real issue of feminism maintaining power and control over ourselves instead of having someone always trying to exert control?

9:51 AM  
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12:30 AM  
Anonymous tubal ligation reversal said...

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4:55 AM  
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7:16 AM  
Anonymous tubal reversal surgery said...

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9:43 AM  

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