I think it’s high times we found a new catch-all scapegoat for infertility. I’m getting seriously bored with the now specious “feminisim killed my chance at motherhood” argument. Knowledge about the ticking female biological clock has been around since the late 80s, and more recently men have been warned of similar age-related biological impediments to fatherhood. Hard to claim ignorance about a now well understood fact of life: eggs and sperm have a shelf life — “a best by XX date.” That’s why I was a little surprised to read a piece in the London Times once again blaming feminism for hijacking the happily ever after ending.
The 36-year-old author of Madonna syndrome – I should have ditched feminism for love, children and baking” would have been 22 — give or take a year — when mainstream media first seized on the notion of age as a factor in successful childbearing. It seems blaming feminism is easier than taking responsibility for not paying closer attention to the calendar or acknowledging that even in the best of circumstances up to 14 percent of couples have problems conceiving.
If it weren’t for feminism and the work of women 10+ years my senior demanding equal rights for equal pay and removing gender as a convenient excuse for keeping women out of certain jobs or promotions, I shudder to think what sort of special Hell would have awaited me. As a bona fide barren woman who first tried to conceive in my late 20s, my world without children sans the hard-won results of feminist efforts would have been a variation on a scene out of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale — which I wrote about in an earlier post called An Unwoman’s Perspective.
If being expert at childbearing was the only thing today’s woman had in her grasp to derive a sense of purpose or esteem from, well, that’s not a world that would be very satisfying or pleasant to live in. That’s where the Times author fails to see irony. She writes:
“I feel a great
pressure from other women of my generation, who have partners and kids, to
join their club. In their eyes I am not the trailblazer but the failure. My
friend Rita Arnold, 36, works in marketing. ‘It’s not men who judge me for
being a careerist. It’s other women. The claws come out.'”
In a real sense, she’s actually making a case for feminism and taking issue with women who perpetuate the idea that a woman’s “success” and ideal identity can only be found through the act of reproducing. To that I say: shame on those mommies who unfairly devalue their childless counterparts. I also want to give them a heads up on these facts:
percentage of American households with children has dropped from nearly
five out of ten in 1960 to slightly more than three out of ten today.
And this proportion is projected to decline further. According to
Census Bureau projections, by 2010, households with children will
account for little more than one-quarter of all households—the lowest
share in the nation’s history.”
The same trouble-making types who excel at devaluing women without children may find a boomerang effect in the not too distant future. I can almost hear their protests now. I’m getting dizzy from the pendulum swings. Let’s do the next generation of girls a favor — is it too much to ask to keep the claws in? Better yet, let’s recognize that there’s only so much control that we can exercise over biology. The premise that we’re all breeding machines (and that that ability above all others is what makes us inherently “valuable”) has caused more than a few awkward misunderstandings, bad assumptions and serious misjudgments.
In the meantime, if you want to read the perspectives of some women I admire … the third issue of Exhale created and edited by the fabulous Monica is now available with some amazing art and essays available to review. You can find my latest column here.