Straw Feminist Weekly: The baby-hater

Introducing what I hope will be a regular feature here: Straw Feminist Weekly! In which we give a shout-out to the egregious straw feminists that cunningly populate the media and blogosphere.

<div><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=This week’s Straw Feminist is a classic, and it comes to us from that site which is itself gunning for the 2009 Straw-Feminist-Fighting Championship: DoubleX. Shapelings, welcome an old favorite: The Baby-Hater. Katie Roiphe’s essay on how much she loves her newborn is accompanied, naturally, by the subtitle: Why won’t feminists admit the pleasure of infants? Come on, feminists! Why do you hate tiny babies?

This is you

This is you.

Who are all these feminists who hate infants and want to take away Roiphe’s ability to experience “The high of a love that obliterates everything. A need so consuming that it is threatening to everything you are and care about”? Well, for one thing, they’re Second Wavers:

One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a “vocation.” The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.

Hear that, ladies? You may find yourself longing for adult conversation and wishing you could get a full night’s sleep while your partner feeds the baby for once, but that’s because you’re denying the narcotic effect of your infant’s natural musk!

Feminists of the world, how can you not love the “opium-den quality to maternity leave”? Maternity leave, as we all know, was benevolently granted to women by men because they understand that motherhood is like an addiction, and hey, we all deserve a little time off from work when we’re high on opiates, am I right? Wait, what’s that — maternity leave is only available to you because of feminist activism that “analogized childcare to the work of men” (you know, real work!), and in fact we have far less paid parental leave than many of our international peers? Oh, you feminists and your politics! Why don’t you put those boring history books down and pick up a baby, for god’s sake? Quit being so dishonest and tell it like it is: motherhood is just like drug addiction, which is a financially supported and widely approved lifestyle.

But look, it’s not only Betty Friedan and her lying friends who hate babies: it’s also every great woman writer of the past 250 years.

BO-ring

BO-ring

I remember visiting one of my closest friends on her maternity leave last summer. We sat on a wooden bench in her garden and drank iced coffees, and gazed at her second baby. She is a writer, and we talked about how the women writers we most admired had no children, or have had one child, at the absolute most, but never two. (Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen had no children; Mary McCarthy, Rebecca West, Joan Didion, and Janet Malcolm all had one.) My friend looked down at her newborn and her tiny eyelashes. She could entertain this conversation in an academic way, but as she adjusted the baby’s hat I could see how far removed it was from anything that mattered to her. Here, sitting in the garden, looking at the eyelashes, would you trade the baby for the possibility of writing The House of Mirth? You would not.

Oh, sure, some women writers had babies, but they totally hated them! You can tell because they only had one: real women love babies so much they have as many as possible. You never see books about how much women love their children and miss them when they’re gone. I mean, Virginia Woolf had that whole room of her own, right? Surely she could have fit a crib in there.

Look, Edith Wharton may have had a Pulitzer Prize and a bibliography as long as her baby-less arm, but The House of Mirth is some crazy feminist novel and thus totally not worth having written. It’s all about how upper-class women are forced into marriage because it’s their only economic option and beauty is their only currency! What kind of crazy nonsense is that? Leave the novels to the men, ladies. You wouldn’t want to spend all your time crafting deathless prose if you would just snorgle a baby once in a while. Those eyelashes!

Remember, feminists: you’re all a bunch of baby-haters who are so selfish you don’t even want Katie Roiphe to love her baby — even if you are parents yourselves, even if you advocate for longer parental leave, even if you run an orphanage filled with nothing but sweet, sweet babies. Katie Roiphe knows: she wrote a whole article dissing you; therefore, she’s right about feminism and you’re wrong.

Straw Feminist Weekly: We define feminism so you don’t have to!

421 thoughts on “Straw Feminist Weekly: The baby-hater

  1. This almost made me register over there just so I can rant. Yes, you love your baby. That’s really all to the good. and while I might somewhat snarkily ask if you’re sure that high isn’t from sleep deprivation, I can only assume that you know yourself better than me. But grant me the same respect. NOT EVERYONE WANTS A BABY, YOUR EXPERIENCE ISN’T UNIVERSAL (sorry for yelling, but it’s true). I’ll wholeheartedly support what you need to raise a baby so I don’t have to, k? and guess what-that baby supporter is a feminist.

  2. I truly think that “You’re denying the narcotic effect of your infant’s natural musk!” may have to go on a t-shirt to be sported around the town. *snort*

    Something that people can never seem to separate is the two entirely different concepts of whether or not a woman has children (or more than one!); and whether or not a woman enjoys children; and how neither of those is ANY of ANYONE ELSE’S business!

    It is as though there only exists this very strict binary of possible realities (similar to Thin=Healthy; All Else=About to Die): You either LOVE Babies and therefore HAVE LOTS (or bemoan your lack) OR you HATE Babies and therefore HAVE NONE. The goal of course being to LOVE the little buggers and have them all over the place. Unless you’re Not Wed or some other “Undesirable” with many babies…then you’re a sympathy case or a drain on some system? Very confusing.

    Heaven forbid a woman maybe even (gasp!) enjoys her lack of wee eyelash wielding baby-musk-opiates. If you don’t already have and dote on children or Actively Desire to have some (more?) then you are denying the natural nature of woman’s only role in this universe (which is to appear attractive to mens so you can Make with the Babies!) and breaking reality as it is Meant To Be! The audacity!

    *goes out to break reality some more by ignoring baby musk allure*

  3. I love babies! Baby-flavored donuts!

    Honestly, just b/c I have a womb, I am supposed to love babies and omg, I am not complete and a bad woman for not having babies? Puh-lease. Best thing feminism ever did was to encourage the concept of choice to procreate or not. I love reliable and dependable birth control, thanks. Oh, and let’s not forget feminism and the maternity leave that she is currently enjoying.

    GAH

  4. I was furious beyond belief, but am now putting the whole article to ‘new mum becomes a boring idiot who thinks she’s the first person in creation to have a child’.

    It doesn’t happen to all women, but when it does… BAM!

  5. AprilD, you have just cracked me up. Maybe bumper stickers?

    Puts “baby powder” to a whole new level, doesn’t it/

  6. Remember, feminists: you’re all a bunch of baby-haters who are so selfish you don’t even want Katie Roiphe to love her baby

    This makes it sound so unbelievably ridiculous that it totally invalidates anything really moving Katie Roiphe might have to say about her baby.

    Please, Katie Roiphe. DO love your baby. BE addicted to your baby. Be so addicted to your baby that you never write anything else ever again. You’re horrible at it.

  7. Awesome post. DoubleX has been mostly disappointing, so far. Some good stuff in there, but a lot of fluff.

  8. I fail to see how I am less of a woman because I am not drawn to the scent of old puke and poopy diapers like a sailor flinging himself off the ship in search of the Siren?

  9. I’m confused. So, if I have a second child, I can’t be a writer? Or my non-existent paid maternity leave will turn me into a drug addict? Or I really honestly don’t want another child (and of course, secretely loathe the kid I have) because I’m a feminist?

    Katie Roiphe, please tell me what I’m doing wrong!!!

    (Answer: Actually clicking through to DoubleX and trying to make sense of the drivel.)

  10. Oh goodness I just read the 2 pages that Ms. Roiphe wrote up and have to shake my head.

    But for now, I feel like closing the shades and staying in the opium den. I know somewhere out there is a great world where people talk and think and write, but I am not interested in going there yet.

    Maybe I’ll never understand the personal joys of having a baby sling out of my body but it doesn’t even once seem to cross that particular woman’s mind that if she feels like she’s so drugged on parenthood that she doesn’t want to THINK then maybe she shouldn’t really put pen to paper and attempt to analyze why that particular opium-den feeling isn’t a universal constant (and therefore indicative of Evil Feminists if a woman is unable or even worse Unwilling to capitulate their entire selves for the sake of a baby)???

  11. I always thought I was a feminist because I believed in things like equal pay for equal work and having autonomy over my own body. Luckily I read this article, http://www.conservapedia.com/Feminism, and realized how wrong I was. Since I like things like baking and wearing skirts, I am clearly NOT a feminist.

    Thanks for posting this, Sweet Machine. It was a nice reminder that since I love nothing more than holding a tiny newborn I cannot possibly ALSO be a feminist. It’s so nice and uncomplicated to live in a black and white world.

    /end sarcasm, continue on with day

  12. “I mean, Virginia Woolf had that whole room of her own, right? Surely she could have fit a crib in there.”

    You absolutely slayed me with that one, Sweet Machine! Excellent take down of Ms. Roiphe’s [baby-musk-addled-brain-droppings-of-an] article.

  13. Y’know, Opium is illegal because it is bad for you. Just saying. I feel sorry for Katie’s baby in 13 years whenshe is no longer cute and snorgely but awkward smelly moody and angry.

    Perhaps this song should be amended to “Pregnant women and new mothers are smug”:

  14. I’d be willing to guess that more than a few male writers wouldn’t trade their baby for a chance to write The Naked and the Dead. Guess men can’t be writers.

    You know, I don’t *at all* begrudge women (or men!) in the thicket of this new overwhelming experience being able to talk about nothing else, or even feeling like they invented parenthood. Lots of people feel like that when they fall in love – whether romantically or with a baby. But if you’re going to write about it, you have to step back and realize that this is one experience among many. And you can’t lie & say that some evil feminist is trying to take it away.

    On an optimistic note, I was recently with an old friend who told me that since she had her baby girl, her husband (a wonderful man but not always the most progressive one) has taken to cooing “that’s for beating up misogynist pigs” every time she makes a little fist. What’s that? A baby making someone more of a feminist?? But how could that be???????

  15. Maybe Shapely Prose needs to add “baby-hating” to its tagline?

    “urban, liberal, feminist, latte-drinking, baby-hating, overeducated, intellectual, unapologetically p.c., American Patriots”

    Well, maybe not. But it sounded funny to me. Now, off to find more baby-flavored donuts!

  16. OFFS. Someone appears to have inhaled too much baby musk and killed off some brain cells….

    And for the record, I love small babies – sauteed in butter and wrapped in bacon! Muahahahahaha!!!

  17. Whenever the daughter of a prominent Second Wave feminist (Anne Roiphe is Katie’s mother) writes about the evils of the political agenda of the Second Wave (Rebecca Walker, I’m looking at you, too!) AS IF all so-called Second Wavers were/are one monolithic group, I can’t help but think that she is working out some kind of transferred mother issue rather than offering a careful critique. These kinds of things read very much like Mother = (All of) Second Wave = Enemy. And, of course, that’s just not true!

    But I think the real problem here is not that these women have Mommy Issues (and I’m certainly not trying to provide the final word on their personal relationships), but that they rail against this INACCURATE definition of feminism as a singular entity. Further, and more importantly, they are not the only ones who maintain such an unnuanced and reactionary understanding of feminism(s), but they are some of the ones who are taken seriously (or at least published in widely-read publications). And I fear that somehow their status as the daughters of “famous feminists” is supposed to lend some kind of credibility to their positions even though their ability to become “straw feminists” seems simply to rest on their willingness to promote sensational positions and support the status quo.

  18. Uh oh, I have the same name as banned-Ashley. I swear I’m a good one!

    That music video cracked me up. I very recently was in one of those situations wherein two mothers talked around me (I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about) about how women without children have poor priorities and are selfish whores.

  19. Whenever the daughter of a prominent Second Wave feminist (Anne Roiphe is Katie’s mother) writes about the evils of the political agenda of the Second Wave (Rebecca Walker, I’m looking at you, too!) AS IF all so-called Second Wavers were/are one monolithic group, I can’t help but think that she is working out some kind of transferred mother issue rather than offering a careful critique.

    DING DING DING DING DING DING DING.

  20. The thing is, I’ll be the first to admit that I was completely caught off guard by the whole “narcotic effect” thing. I remember a couple of months into maternity leave reading somewhere that the cumulative effects of the post-birth and breastfeeding hormones your body makes has been compared to heroine, and I was like “Heroine is this good? Why the fuck didn’t I ever try heroine?”

    But I don’t get what that has to do with feminism, or the fact that I still needed adult companionship and intellectual stimulation even in the midst of my baby-mommy swoon. And I don’t think I have to deny the intensity of the baby experience in order to maintain every feminist tenet out there. This either/or construct simply doesn’t make sense. Addicting? Yes. Hard work? Also yes. Undervalued and undersupported? Absofuckinglutely.

    In other words, this is why I don’t read DoubleX.

  21. You know, I really appreciate the intelligent commentary here, and Sweet Machine, I think you’re my fave overall. I agree that the straw feminism in Roiphe’s article is stupid, and it’s frustrating that it’s so bio-mother-centric.

    However, as a woman in an incredibly male-dominated field (engineering) and who also happens to be a mother, I have to say, there is something to what Roiphe is saying, no matter how badly she said it. Although my experience of newbornhood was nothing like opium (more like a bad acid trip), I do identify with some of the underlying questions in the piece.

    From my selfish perspective, at least, I think it’s worth talking about the internal struggle and conflict that goes on when you have a passion for your work and also a passion for your child(ren).

    My take on Roiphe’s article is that she might be arguing more with herself and her own ideals than with these supposed ‘feminists.’ But maybe that’s just me projecting.

  22. Anne Roiphe is Katie’s mother

    Ah, this is news to me. That definitely helps to clarify where she is coming from with her weird universal statements about “feminists.”

  23. Now my brain hurts. I mean, I loved my baby, when he was a baby. But I didn’t love other people’s babies. Like hell someone else’s baby is going to spit up on me. But what does that have to do with feminism? Is my attitude supposed to make me a good feminist or a bad one? Is confuzzled.

    Seriously, this baby-hater vs. baby-lover is another divide and conquer strategy from people who want to marginalize feminists. “I loved being a new mom, therefor, I can’t be a feminist!”

  24. I never enjoyed being around children before I became a parent. I didn’t dislike them, but it was never my “thing” to feel that someone needed me all the time.

    I have one child and I”m still like that. Children are lots of work because they need so much of you. I have one son and it is stressful to be doing the work for two humans all at once. This is why I teach him all the time how to do things on his own. How to be independant. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love him like crazy. In fact I enjoy spending time with him doing things outside the house and he’s amazing.
    But I wouldn’t go out and have more children, because I’m in the reality that this is pretty much what I can handle. It hasn’t got anything to do with whether I’m a feminist or not.
    I enjoy my time to myself and that’s my personality. I think women who think feminism is against babies need to wake up and realize they have their freedom of choice because of feminism. It’s not their enemy.
    Women who choose not to have children have made that choice because it was right for them. Not because they hate babies and think it’s anti feminist to have a child. In fact feminism really struggles for equality for women regardless if they stay with their children or work at a job. Women who think otherwise are really insecure about their choices.

    “Oh, sure, some women writers had babies, but they totally hated them! You can tell because they only had one: real women love babies so much they have as many as possible”

    I get this all the time. I get told I am selfish and a bad parent because I’m letting my son be an only child. Such ridiculous stuff because alot of those “real” women who have many children, again must be stating this out of a place of insecurity or complete exhaustion!
    I say once again I had one child because I knew it was what I could handle, and no more.

  25. But for now, I feel like closing the shades and staying in the opium den. I know somewhere out there is a great world where people talk and think and write, but I am not interested in going there yet.

    If Katie Roiphe’s baby has eradicated its mother’s desire to write or speak, its very existence has done the world a great favor. (Roiphe has never shown any predilection for thinking, so we can’t credit that to the baby.)

  26. On a more serious note, whenever this topic comes up, I can’t help but think about my own mom:

    My mom had 4 kids. Coming from a large family, she had always wanted one of her own, but being the stay-at-home mom of 4 kids wasn’t exactly an opium den all the time. I love how writers like Roiphe write these encomiums to motherhood in the second fucking month after the kid pops out. What happens when the novelty wears off? What happens when kid #2, #3, or #4 has health problems or throws violent tantrums for no reason? I’m just saying.

    My mom expressed almost nothing but satisfaction as a mother of three children, prior to the birth of my last sister. Actually, let me rephrase that: her dissatisfaction expressed itself in the form of outbursts of anger, crying jags, and passive aggressive moodiness, but I don’t think she was ever really allowed to own her feelings of rage, helplessness, and loneliness for fear of being a bad Mom.

    Anyway, she had a pretty near total nervous breakdown after Emily (#4) was born. She remained an attentive, devoted mother who ran car-pool, made sure our birthdays were special, and tucked us in every night, but I remember living in fear of her mood swings, which were usually swift and arbitrary. At that point, she nearly lost her faith in God–which had always been so important to her–because the people at church had nothing but “pray more and God will help you do your duty as a wife and mother” to offer. Fortunately, she said “well fuck that” and sought anti-depressants and professional therapy. She remains today a loving mom whom I totally adore and who started her own (ultimately very successful) business the year I left for college, but there were some pretty horrifying years there.

    I guess my point is that when women are taught that the only emotions mothers are supposed to feel is blind, giddy elation–never loneliness, never frustration, never helplessness or despair–bad, scary shit happens to both moms AND children. The feminist choice is to weigh the potential for elation against the potential for despair and make a choice one way or the other, with your eyes completely open, and with the full knowledge that it’s ok to seek help (the year of Mom’s Therapy was also the year of The Live-in Nanny and the Once-a-Week Cleaning Lady–though of course those are options available only to those with the resources).

  27. This drives me truly and thoroughly insane. It is ok to be a good mother and have bad days where one feels that if the diaper leaks one more time you are going to take a valium and retreat to one’s bed. This doesn’t mean one is necessarily a feminist and it doesn’t mean all feminists are like this.

    What is with the all of the unexamined generalizations by writers, esp. around feminism?????

  28. I guess my point is that when women are taught that the only emotions mothers are supposed to feel is blind, giddy elation–never loneliness, never frustration, never helplessness or despair–bad, scary shit happens to both moms AND children.

    SO TRUE. I sometimes wonder how much of my mom’s moodiness was because of this and how much was due to other issues. She did everything for us, but then sometimes if we asked her for something she didn’t want to do rather than just say “no honey not now” she would just lose her shit and start yelling at us. My younger sister started prefacing any request with “Mom, Don’t go crazy at me… but…”

  29. Rachel in WY — Exactly! It can catch you off guard just how intense the feelings can be but what has that got to do with the price of tea in China (as my grandma likes to say)? While I love and truly adore my two boys, I am capable of understanding the many reasons why someone might not want to have children. Feminism is about the freedom to choose for yourself what would be the best life for you. What is wrong with that?

  30. How nice of that woman to turn her lovely story about how much she loves her baby into her personal misinformed rant about how every woman who is slightly different is WRONG and a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE human being. Also, who are these alleged feminists trying to make her feel bad about wanting to be with her child? Sounds more like she’s trying to convince herself. I’m surprised she hasn’t decided to become a stay at home mom yet. Not any stay at home mom, mind you, but the kind that’s always making working moms feel guilty for being selfish and not spending every waking hour with their perfect rays of sunshine. I’d love to hear her views on post.partum depression!

    Btw to all the shapelings with kids I’ve read so far, you are deluding yourselves if you think you love your kids; you don’t, because feminists are cruel and devoid of feelings. Also, we hate men.

  31. Ms. Roiphe (and most mother’s of newborns) are under the influence of a powerful substance called oxytocin…this is a hormone that keeps us from dropping babies at the side of the road until they are able to keep up with the pack. It creates feelings of attachment and it definitely helps a person redefine their own priorities toward this helpless infant.

    This is all a good thing because otherwise I think that most of us wouldn’t be here.

    I think it’s lovely other people have children. Many of my friends are parents. Indeed, if I wanted to parent (and had someone to support me), I would drop my work in a hot second to do so. I even sympathize with those who are parents, love their jobs, and are torn between the demands of each (coming down on the side of caring for their children often to the detriment of their careers).

    And I will also proudly say that I am resisting the siren call of that oxytocin inducing potential person with a clear heart and head. This is the best choice for me…just as having a baby is the best choice for her.

    I wonder when people will ever stop pretending that feminists are all baby-donut eating haters?

    Now pass the baby donuts!

  32. I think this woman is blaming her terrible writing on her child. I mean clearly she was well on her way to being Edith Wharton but she had a kid and now not so much.

    Fortunately many women who write far better than Roiphe have managed to avoid having their talent expunged as their children are born: Starting close to home with our very own A Sarah, mom of two and quite the writer; Alice McDermott who somehow managed to write some award winning books, work as a Professor at John Hopkins and have three children; Geraldine Brooks has not allowed her children to stop her talent and in fact starting writing novels has a second career after she had a child; and my favorite for escapist fiction Kathy Reichs an author, anthropology professor and forensic anthropologist who is now also producing a TV show accomplished all of this and had three children.

    Aside from A Sarah I pulled these authors from my memory because they have all been presenters at the National Book Festival. I find it astonishing that I can come up with these examples so readily when Roiphe cannot manage to come up with any. Perhaps, the narcotics took over long before the baby came.

    Roiphe, knock if off, women with many children accomplish much and the many feminists who have come before and will come after have made this possible. Oh, and the women writing better than you who do not have children write better than you because they have more talent not because you have more kids.

  33. I am a feminist and I LOVE BABIES! I want to have babies! If it were up to my hormones, I would have 100 babies right! now!

    Thankfully, I have a brain that recognizes that I also love my spouse, and my job, and my neat lifestyle, and that when I have a baby it will be when we can support that baby and also stay sane.

    Actually, let me rephrase that: her dissatisfaction expressed itself in the form of outbursts of anger, crying jags, and passive aggressive moodiness, but I don’t think she was ever really allowed to own her feelings of rage, helplessness, and loneliness for fear of being a bad Mom.

    This, exactly.

  34. As soon as I saw the byline I knew that article would be preposterous. Am I dating myself if I ask if anyone remembers the uproar over The Morning After (which all but argues that feminism totally invented date rape)?

    Deploying Roiphe’s favorite anecdata technique: Sorry Moms, I think babies are boring as hell – I am hopeful that I will feel differently about my own hypothetical offspring should I ever have the opportunity to find out, but I maintain that other people’s babies are stunningly dull to me. Unlike Roiphe, I don’t think this means everyone on earth is secretly as bored by babies as I am. Different people are different. It’s not complicated.

  35. 1. I love babies. Absolutely love them to pieces.
    2. I love my two pieces more than I love babies in general.
    3. I am a feminist.
    4. I believe it is a woman’s right to chose whether or not she wants babies or even likes babies.
    5. Liking babies does not negate your feminist stance.
    6. Disliking babies does not make you evil.
    7. Feminism, IMHO, is having the choice.

  36. I think you are going to ban me from SP, because, you know what? I do not like babies! No! I don’t like them! And I am a feminist!

    And you know what also? I really couldn’t give two cat farts about how other women feel about babies, unless I care about these other women for a reason like they are my friend (and only then, if they feel like they want me to know that.)

    And you know what that means, don’t you? Every other single woman in the whole world who is a feminist is exactly like my white, fat, diabetic, baby-apathetic, sci-fi watching, gamer self, because I MAKE THE RULES HERE.

    I still can’t understand why so much of people’s personal lives is supposed to be everyone else’s business. Weight, baby-ness (or lack thereof), health practices, marital status. Next, Katie Roiphe is going to really care about which dish sponge I buy.

  37. Katie Roiphe? The same Katie Roiphe who said it couldn’t possibly be true that 25% of American women were raped, because if 25% of her friends had been raped she’d know about it? So much for any pretensions that Double X is a “feminist” site. A Sarah Palin column can’t be far behind. (I know, don’t give them any bright ideas.)

    And for the love of everything peanut butter, if people (or even just people of a certain gender) are all “hardwired” to do a certain thing, they don’t need to be reminded to do it over and over and over again by silly-ass n00z stories. Nobody in the media has to remind us to pee, amirite?

    The thing is, Katie Roiphe’s views aren’t that far off from her mother’s; Anne Roiphe frequently chided women for waiting too long to get pregnant because they wanted some big old goofy turbo career first. (Example.) But Anne Roiphe, as evidenced by that link, also espoused the point of view that Gloria Steinem held that children have too much mother and not enough father, and advocated “getting fathers into the nursery” to take some of the burden off mothers. You wonder if Katie Roiphe would turn the firehose on her husband if he dared try.

  38. Heh. I’m a child free feminist who voluntarily works with middle-school kids. For some reason, this blows the minds of the unimaginative.

  39. …we talked about how the women writers we most admired had no children, or have had one child, at the absolute most, but never two…

    So – let me see if I can work this one out: no babies, and you’re a stunted (but not drug-addicted, so… yay?) hater of babies. At least two babies and you’re… well, you can’t be a productive writer (CLEARLY – I guess unless your Ayelet Waldman, and we all know how baby-lovers are supposed to feel about her).

    One baby and… well, what? You’re not really a mother or something? Because if you’re a productive writer with the one baby, then the whole house of cards goes falling down.

    This really gets me close to my only-child soapbox, which I will avoid, but there’s a similar point to be made when you add that image to this one:

    Here, sitting in the garden, looking at the eyelashes, would you trade the baby for the possibility of writing The House of Mirth?

    There’s this rhetorical thing that people do when you say you don’t want kids – some parents will look at their kids and to imagine themselves childless they have to imagine those specific people not existing, and that seems horrific. They know these people. They gave birth to them – they’re raising them. And they have eyelashes.

    But that isn’t at all what happens when you say you don’t want to have kids. You’re not pointing at someone and saying, “You – specifically – I don’t want you, eyelashes or no eyelashes.” You’re saying, “Universe, generally: I don’t really want a kid.” You’re not defining your life by deleting imaginary people, you’re making choices based on what you already have and saying something like, “This. This is enough.”

  40. Wow, those quotes sounded like copy from a slick PR firm trying mightily to stuff feminism back in the box. Scary.

    Katie Roiphe has clearly never eaten a baby donut, or else she wouldn’t settle for the high she gets from mere baby-proximity.

  41. Feminism is about the freedom to choose for yourself what would be the best life for you. What is wrong with that?

    stlwtr I think what is perceived as the problem in a nut shell is that People Might Make the WRONG Choice (by which they mean, the one they don’t agree with)!

    Shinobi my brother and I used to refer to our mother’s mood crazes as “The Alien Is Out”. Those were times when you walked on egg shells and didn’t ask questions. And reflecting now I can’t help but think that if mom HAD been allowed to feel like having moments like those didn’t truly negate all the other wonderful moments of mothering then perhaps she wouldn’t have gone through such harrowing cycles of anger/guilt! That idea of “Moms are always happy and love their kids EVERY MOMENT” really does a disservice to parents and children I think.

  42. Also, what’s with the “many babies” thing? Since when is a mother’s worth measured by the amount of infants she pops out? A mother of one is less of a mother than a mother of three? What an awful thought to have, so petty and mean.

  43. Am I dating myself if I ask if anyone remembers the uproar over The Morning After (which all but argues that feminism totally invented date rape)?

    Definitely not! Roiphe is the queen of fallacious argumentation and faux feminism, which is why it felt particularly right to inaugurate Straw Feminist Weekly with her work.

    The same Katie Roiphe who said it couldn’t possibly be true that 25% of American women were raped, because if 25% of her friends had been raped she’d know about it?

    OMG I had forgotten all about that. Because of course, if you’re going to disclose your rape to anyone, it would be to the woman who wrote an entire book about how rape isn’t really rape.

  44. A mother of one is less of a mother than a mother of three? What an awful thought to have, so petty and mean.

    Totally petty, but also not unexpected from someone who thinks Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton really missed their chances to do something important with their lives.

  45. The sad thing is that it could have been an interesting article — I always like hearing about other people’s experiences, and this whole baby thing is so far removed from my own life that I find it fascinating. Plus, she’s clearly a talented writer.

    But rather than just writing about how much she loves her baby — which she says herself, is all she thinks about anyways — she throws in the “oh feminists are so dumb to not get this” trope. WTF? Why?

  46. I recently had a talk with my mom about her decision to embark on a new career once we went to college and how she has been employing alot of empty-nest moms. She’s hilariously snarky but also just plain sad about just how infantalized so many of these women she hires are–how before she can teach them QuickBooks or Point of Sale or whatever, she has to more or less teach them how to learn job skills and teach them how to be employees. These are women who’ve never had to do this and feel that they CAN’T do it simply because they are women and their skillset was limited to changing diapers in their early twenties.

    She rather bravely acknowledged that the notion that women need to make their families their entire lives is an absolute load of manure. In her words, “my family could all die in a bus crash tomorrow, and then where/who would I be?” Morbid, but true.

  47. Holly, I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at about being in engineering and identifying with Roiphe.

    Sorry, I will try to explain more clearly.

    Being in a male-dominated field (engineering very much so, grad school somewhat less) has meant that I personally value feminism (theory, advocacy, etc.) more than I think I might have otherwise. I come from a place with fairly significant privilege, and without some of the things that I saw and experienced as a woman in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), I might not have had the chance to open my eyes and see how relevant feminism remains.

    Because women are in the minority in STEM and also because I like my work and career path, I feel a certain self-imposed pressure to continue along this path, even though — being fortunate enough to be in a position to have a genuine choice, for which I am profoundly grateful — there have absolutely been times when I have been tempted to chuck it and stay home with the kid. (I have never admitted that to anyone before, and it’s a little hard for me to state so openly that my ambitions are divided in this way.)

    And although I recognize how ridiculous and self-centered it is to imagine some universal feminist position on my own life choices, I think that if I were to change my mind and decide to stay at home, I would feel guilty about that on some level. While I completely recognize that feminism is truly supportive of women having real choices, somehow, I have internalized the idea that certain choices are valued more than others.

    So, as I said, I may well be projecting my own unresolved (and perhaps under-examined?) issues when I read Roiphe’s piece, but part of what I see is some real internal conflict about what it means to be a feminist mother.

    I hope that makes a little more sense.

  48. You know, I had just been thinking I wanted to comment here more often, and I can’t think of a better time.

    Unfortunately, my paroxysms of rage prevent me from being more articulate. Let me just say:

    - Even though people like Virginia Woolf were able to afford help, the lack of baby formula, various time-saving devices like washing machines and disposable diapers, daycare and good antidepressants (not to mention birth control) meant that historically, many women had to choose between having children and having a careeer of any kind, a situation which persisted well through my mom’s childbearing years.

    - Attitudes about education, public education and the role of women meant that there was not a lot of support for the artsy woman who wanted to do it all. Come to think of it, there still isn’t.

    - My kid is the cutest in the world and still I have yet to experience any kind of narcotic effect from her. And also, I’m only having one. If this makes me less womanly, so be it.

    Sorry; I’m in the midst of career crisis and contemplating how many things I could be doing if I didn’t have a kid. Which, you know, means I hate her and all. If only I weren’t so feminist.

  49. I look forward to this series with glee. Because somehow I got left off the feminist mailing list and I didn’t know I was supposed to be hating babies.

    Thanks for keeping me updated.

  50. I love how writers like Roiphe write these encomiums to motherhood in the second fucking month after the kid pops out.

    Oh, don’t worry. Roiphe will no doubt continue writing a long series of articles about the her unique and super-special struggles with toilet training, teething, finding the right school, etc. You know, the Caitlin Flanagan career path.

  51. I can say unconditionally, as a woman who is as much a woman as Ms. Roiphe, that I would trade the ability to spawn a baby for the ability to write The House of Mirth in a heartbeat.

    Unless that baby’s daddy was potentially Christian Bale. Then we might have a race.

  52. “Some of my fear of returning to work may just be an accurate assessment of my capabilities. The other day it emerged that I lack the intellectual wherewithal to set a table: It was just a little too challenging to hold the number of people at dinner in my head on the walk from the kitchen to the deck. Some of this may be hormones; some is certainly sleep deprivation….”

    and some of it may be straight-up money and the privilege that comes with it.

  53. [i]Why don’t you put those boring history books down and pick up a baby, for god’s sake?[/i]

    Honest and real life LOLs at that.

    I am actually coming to realize that I like young humans, and might try to produce one myself. I think. Or at the very least I would like many of my close friends to produce or procure small humans so that I can supervise those small humans while the parents go out and do things that are impossible to do with small humans in tow.

    I guess I’d better get cranking on my own personal House of Mirth, then.

  54. How strange, I’m the baby product of two feminist parents, and I managed to survive infancy! My sister too!

    I guess my parents weren’t fast enough with a fork.

  55. Holly,
    There are times when I am genuinely tempted to chuck it and stay home with the dog. I don’t have a feminist crisis over this. WORKING SUCKS! That’s why they have to pay us to do it. (I don’t actually have a choice, or I would not be working, except no one would laud me as a stay at home mom taking care of her kids, they would call me unemployed.)

  56. I wish women would be OK with other women not having Big Huge Feelings! over things like babies, weddings, engagements, etc. I feel constantly pressured by the media, and by women around me, to have huge, emotional reactions to life events–even things like shopping, or back-to-school, or holidays, or my period, or just…anything.

    But I just don’t have those kinds of reactions, and while I’m OK with you (general you) having them, I just want y’all to leave me alone about it, already. I’m not depressed, or less female, or more male, or whatever…simply by dint of being a person who more often has thoughts about things, than feelings about them. And you’re not better, or more female, or less male, if you have lots of emotional reactions.

    Hell, my husband is more sentimental and gooey about stuff than I am–privately. (Few people but me really know his sentimental side.) He’s OK with me being how I am, and I’m OK with him being how he is.

    Women like Katie Roiphe just wear me out. Or maybe I’m worn out from the 27 cumulative years I’ve so far spent parenting my 3 kids. Maybe I’m all out of feelings, because I’m so tired from working full-time and commuting and all the other grownup crap I have to do to support my family. (Oh, and I wouldn’t have a decent-paying technical job in a completely harassment-free workplace if it weren’t for feminism.)

    Actually, just fuck her. Enough said.

    About moms who have mood swings: My mom had mood swings. I have mood swings at my kids, too. In my case, it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not I know it’s OK to not love parenting every moment; I definitely DO know that, but I still have mood swings. I have mood swings because sometimes my kids are horrible, awful little brats; or because they try to maliciously undercut or outright harm one another; or because I am just exhausted from trying to keep the whole household together financially and physically. Moms have mood swings because life is life, and life just will induce mood swings.

    I think we have a “kids are innocent, perfect angels” doctrine in this country that is just as bad and harmful as the “moms should always have only positive feelings” doctrine. The truth is that kids are little jerks, often! Now, them being jerks doesn’t justify abuse (obviously), but it does explain why parents get their buttons pushed. And I don’t have to feel like I -should- enjoy my kids, even when they are being assholes.

  57. @ Alison:

    “I can say unconditionally, as a woman who is as much a woman as Ms. Roiphe, that I would trade the ability to spawn a baby for the ability to write The House of Mirth in a heartbeat.

    Unless that baby’s daddy was potentially Christian Bale. Then we might have a race.”

    I advocate the secret use of contraception in the event that such an opportunity presents itself. Kind of the reverse of the old trap-him-into-babies thing, right? That way you can write House of Mirth 2 -and- have sex with Christian Bale!

  58. >That way you can write House of Mirth 2 -and- have sex with Christian Bale!

    Sarah2, will you please run my life for me?

  59. Holly,
    There are times when I am genuinely tempted to chuck it and stay home with the dog.

    LOL. :)

    I don’t have a feminist crisis over this. WORKING SUCKS! That’s why they have to pay us to do it. (I don’t actually have a choice, or I would not be working, except no one would laud me as a stay at home mom taking care of her kids, they would call me unemployed.)

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that I was having a feminist crisis (and I didn’t want to make this so me me me, either.) The vast majority of the time, I’m completely satisfied with my choice to pursue a career. Working doesn’t suck for me, and I recognize that that, among other things, makes me extremely fortunate.

    I just brought up my own occasional doubts to explain why I thought the Roiphe piece wasn’t entirely pointless. But I had intended that to be just one small qualified-supportive comment among many justifiably critical comments, so I’m now going to revert back to lurking and actually go do some of the work I purport to like so much.

  60. I think we have a “kids are innocent, perfect angels” doctrine in this country that is just as bad and harmful as the “moms should always have only positive feelings” doctrine.

    Seriously though, I vaguely mentioned it in my previous post, but I do think that this mentality hurts women very deeply and we need to start acknowledging it more often. It only helps keep post partum depression and less extreme but still harmful feelings in the closet, making the women who suffer them feel very guilty and not reach out for help. But when something tragic happens, everyone gets so self righteous and wonder how that terrible woman could do something like that. Why oh why didn’t she get help??

  61. Sarah L,
    I agree with you about the thoughts thing. My inability to have an overly emotional response to shoes makes me feel like an alien. I also feel like an alien every time a woman says “My body just WANTS to be PREGNANT you know?” or some derivative. No, I don’t know.

    Re: Mood swings I think we need to define what we mean by that maybe. I mean, if a mom yells at her kids and punishes them for behaving badly, I don’t think that’s really a mood swing. Maybe some days the rules are less flexible because you’re in a bad mood, or you lose it and everyone is in trouble because one kid was being a brat. If a kid walks into a room, asks a question with an easy yes or no answer, and then gets yelled at until she cries and is then threatened with punishment for crying, that, is well, crazy.

    With my mom at least, I know she got angry at me because she felt like she had to be perfect all the time, because she pretty much only got angry at me when she wanted to say no to a request I made. She couldn’t just say no without having this huge emotional outburst, and we’re not talking about me whining and harassing her either. I never even got to that point because she just skipped it. We would go from “Can I please” to her head shaking (something that happened when she got mad) and crying and yelling, it was shocking. And I really think a lot of that came from this idea that she had to be perfect and give everything to your kids, it was just so hard for her to say No to us.

    (Also, Yes, I am totally spoiled as a result.)

  62. “I guess my point is that when women are taught that the only emotions mothers are supposed to feel is blind, giddy elation–never loneliness, never frustration, never helplessness or despair–bad, scary shit happens to both moms AND children. The feminist choice is to weigh the potential for elation against the potential for despair and make a choice one way or the other, with your eyes completely open, and with the full knowledge that it’s ok to seek help”

    AMEN. I am currently pregnant with my first kid, and reading that article was scary to me. Why? Because I seriously doubt that I will feel that way. I know plenty of women who haven’t felt that way. It is vitally important that people – all people – are aware that parenthood is not all sunshine and daisies. That sometimes kids are hard and sometimes you might need help. And that it is ok to ask for help. I fully expect to love my kid and be totally enraptured with her/him. I also know that I have a tendancy to get depressed, and I will probably be overwhelmed at first, and may need help at some point.

    I fail to see how Roiphe feeling addicted to her baby has any bearing on feminism. As far as I can tell, feminism is about equality, about the freedom to do what you want, not what you must. Feminism is about saying that it is ok for Roiphe to have 100 opium-infused children and never write again. It is also ok to not have children at all. Both choices are valid. Anything in between is valid.

    There is no right and wrong choice for all women – all people for that matter, since women aren’t the only ones involved in the process – when it comes to deciding whether or not to have children.

  63. Does anyone else find the phrase “the pleasure of infants” extremely dehumanizing to the infants themselves? It’s like “the pleasure of dancing”, “the pleasure of fluffy pillows”, these are people we’re talking about for fuck’s sake.

  64. So much for any pretensions that Double X is a “feminist” site.

    To be fair, I’m not sure they ever said they were. They clearly don’t have a feminist editorial perspective.

  65. Does anyone else find the phrase “the pleasure of infants” extremely dehumanizing to the infants themselves?

    Oh yeah, I mean, that’s what kills me about the whole thing. Those selfish feminists, denying that babies can get you high!

  66. Sarah L – YES. Thank you. Sometimes, I just completely snap at my kids for no reason. It actually amazes me how I can grind my teeth through the worst tantrums without so much as raising my voice (sometimes) but then 5 minutes later when other child asks me something completely benign I’m all OHMYGODNOWOULDYOUJUSTLEAVEMEALONE. And then I have to apologize because she stomps away upset and confused about why she just got yelled at.

    Sigh.

    Parenting is not all rainbows and lollipops. Sometimes, it sucks. It sucks so much that even if I didn’t have to work because I’m all alone in supporting these kids, I would, because staying at home to take care of children all the time would not be good for me OR the children. We need to be apart.

    That said, I love them with all I have. I just know better than to think full time mommy is suited for me. Does that make me less of a woman or less of a mother? I DON’T THINK SO.

    err sorry about all the capsrage there.

  67. Once the New Baby smell wore off, my children’s natural musk started to smell a lot like overheated gerbil—nature’s way of telling me it’s time to armor-up for hair washing time. . .

    I don’t get the ‘either or’ choice here. I don’t get the comparisons or the judgements or the what ifs. Apples, oranges, kumquats, bananas. . .

    Can’t I just raise my kids to be feminists and write a couple of books along the way about whatever I damn well please? It’s working so far . . .

    And just for the record, I have yet to meet a truly loving mother who doesn’t occasionally feel like mailing her exasperating offspring to their grandparents in a box while reminding them that breathing holes are an earned privilege. Some are just more guilty and secretive about these feelings than others.

  68. *sadly hands in her credentials*

    And here I thought that I could have two babies and still be a feminist. Thank you, Katie Roiphe, for showing me the error of my ways.

  69. My son saw the “evil baby hater” button and said that he likes that, because he HATES evil babies.

    I think once again we’re seeing what is a genuine societal problem–a very child- and mothering-unfriendly culture (and one that is simultaneously unfriendly to those who remain childless, I realize as well)–that is blamed on feminists, even though they are not the originators or perpetrators of the problem. But it’s so much easier to just say “Those bad feminists hate babies” than to look at the ways in which our achievement and money driven society sees anybody who doesn’t somehow directly contribute to the market economy–like children and like SAHMs–as nothing more than resource-suckers.

  70. Oh, and I wanted to add that I kind of felt like a heartless monster yesterday because I was relatively unemotional about hearing my baby’s heartbeat at my prenatal appointment. It was cool to get confirmation that there actually is something growing in there. It was awesome that my son got to hear it. And I’m really looking forward to having another baby, and I’m thrilled it seems healthy, but I wasn’t like overcome with emotion.

    People are different. I love kids and babies. I’m one of those people who has to resist the urge to ask if I can pick up strangers’ babies. But, I’m kind of detached about pregnancy. My husband (who is NOT a baby person at all) wept when we saw the ultrasound of our son, and I was just like, “It’s kind of creepy to see what’s growing inside me.” When my son was born my first words to him weren’t “I love you so much” but “YOU came out of ME!” There’s something I just find kind of unbelievable and even a bit off-putting about the whole childbearing thing. It’s a neat experience, for me, but not one I get super sentimental about.

  71. MeanAsianGirl Says:

    “- Even though people like Virginia Woolf were able to afford help, the lack of baby formula, various time-saving devices like washing machines and disposable diapers, daycare and good antidepressants (not to mention birth control) meant that historically, many women had to choose between having children and having a careeer of any kind, a situation which persisted well through my mom’s childbearing years.”

    Someone give this woman a baby donut!

    Jane Austen, amazing woman and fabulous novelist though she was, had to work because penury was the other option, because her middle class family wasn’t rich, because she didn’t have, as Miss Grey had, 50,000 pounds.

    One reason she wrote about the anxiety of “gentlewomen” with little to reccomend them besides their charms is because she was well familiar with that life experience.

    The fact that she was talented and produced lasting novels is fortunate for us, but she was a one in a thousand thousand in that way. She could have been (and many women just like her *were*) poorly paid governesses or pared and scrimped on their inheritences or lived on the generosity of their relatives.

    None of those options is appealing to me, thanks.

    So Ms. Roiphe, with her vast misunderstanding of how womens’ lives were lived- and her misunderstanding that whether or not you got to get addicted to babies had a lot to do with HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAD- can go jump in a lake.

    I am going to go read The Yellow Wallpaper now and remind myself that FEMINISM is a reason you can have a career AND a baby now. And that before feminism “freedom to choose” meant “freedom to choose to be a spinster of the parish restricted by class in the forms of occupation you could have who worked. Or a mother (maybe married to an Eminent Man if you were lucky). Kind of. If you were really lucky.”

    Not “freedom to choose to live your life in a way that fulfills you, whatever that means, however you find it.”

    Grrr.

  72. I thought that part of the radical idea that women are people too is that being a mother is not the only important thing a woman can do. Being a parent is very important and very difficult, but women are capable of doing other important things. (and, by the way, parenting can be a very important part of life for many men)

    I want children and a career someday. Do I know how I’ll eventually balance those two things? No. But I do know that it would be easier if people in our culture replaced the lip service about the Blessed State of Motherhood with actual support for mothers. (Generous parental leave for BOTH parents comes to mind.)

  73. @ Shinobi, I see what you define as mood swings, now. Yeah, that’s not really OK. My mom (on occasion) actually went physically crazy and hurt me a few times; but I’m not sure what all that was related to. Could have been her alcoholism, having kids pretty young, financial stress, being pissed at my dad, whatever. (For the record, she has more than made up for all that by 20 years of sobriety, and a lot of hard work to be a better mom and grandmom.)

    I’m just glad I do a little better than that–I still snap at my kids, more often than I’d want, but there’s been generational progress. I am -so- thankful for feminism that DOES acknowledge that raising kids is really hard, exhausting, and often totally thankless! It probably does help my mental state that I can commiserate with my husband over the difficulty, or with my best girlfriend, or my mom or sister, or with women online.

    @ April – I’d suck as a stay-at-home mom, too! I need someone to pay me to stay home while my kids go to school, and I get to sleep in, then drink coffee and read all day. Where can I get that job??

    @ qbertina – Hey, I can barely manage my own life. But any time you need cheeky wisdom that I probably wouldn’t follow myself, you’re on! ;)

    Back to the original-original topic, here’s a review of Katie Roiphe’s 2nd book, from 1997, which i thought shed some good light on the latest piece of trash from her: http://www.salon.com/feb97/badgirl970226.html Sounds like she’s got a long-established history of thinking all women should do/want exactly what she’s doing/wanting in her privileged tower.

  74. “With my mom at least, I know she got angry at me because she felt like she had to be perfect all the time, because she pretty much only got angry at me when she wanted to say no to a request I made. She couldn’t just say no without having this huge emotional outburst, and we’re not talking about me whining and harassing her either. I never even got to that point because she just skipped it. We would go from “Can I please” to her head shaking (something that happened when she got mad) and crying and yelling, it was shocking. And I really think a lot of that came from this idea that she had to be perfect and give everything to your kids, it was just so hard for her to say No to us.”

    This was really what I was talking about. We were total assholes as kids sometimes. There’s no doubt about that, and we got spankings and grounding when we misbehaved. I don’t think I suggested at any point that we were faultless little angels who were damaged by our savage, crazy mother.

    What I’m talking about is moms who quite reasonably feel, “you know what? Sometimes my kids are assholes, and sometimes this parenting gig is the suck” without really being allowed to talk about it. My mom survived sexual abuse in a family where it was never ok to talk about the abuse, how angry and unsafe and crazy it made her feel, because it was a family in which no one–but especially girls and women–expresses feelings that might disrupt the pretense that this is a Happy Family. That’s an extreme example of how many women are asked to swallow their feelings and ignore that dark side of parenting and family life in order to keep the peace.

    I’m talking about the fact that I learned to dread Sundays, because Mom always yelled at us on Sundays, sometimes because we were being assholes but also because she hated church with the burning rage of a thousand suns and was never allowed to say it. She hated that she was struggling, that she needed help, that it wasn’t as easy for her as her mom made it look (who is, by the way, wheel-chair bound from a debilitating neurological ailment that doctors think may have a psychosomatic component), and sometimes that volcano just had to erupt.

  75. “Oh, and I wanted to add that I kind of felt like a heartless monster yesterday because I was relatively unemotional about hearing my baby’s heartbeat at my prenatal appointment.”

    This reminds me of the SATC episode where Miranda “fakes a sonogram.” That show was feminist fail alot of the time, but I loved the way they handled her pregnancy and new motherhood.

  76. “I love how writers like Roiphe write these encomiums to motherhood in the second fucking month after the kid pops out.”

    Freudian slip of the eye: I read this as “meconiums to motherhood.”

  77. She’s just pissed because I don’t love HER baby.

    Pffft. Give her a little time. After the hormones wear off she’s gonna want to send the little monster to grandmas for a month.

  78. umm, also, Toni Morrison (of whom I assume she’s not a fan) had two kids. So did Nadine Gordimer. Doris Lessing had three. All Nobel laureates.

  79. Liking babies is a foreign concept to me, and has been all my life. However, if I substitute ‘cat’ for ‘baby’ in her article, much of it seems to make more sense to me. (Well, not the part about producing ‘it’ from my own body, but … you know.)

    I was almost ready to blame my narcotic-cats for my perpetually brain-addled state, until I remembered that I used to feel this way before i got the cats as well. I’m a grad student, and expected to be dedicating my life to constant thought and communication, but everytime I think about writing I feel just as she describes. And then I get started and somehow do it. Isn’t that what we all do?

  80. Well.

    I was in the middle of a comment echoing much of what others have said, when my husband called; whereupon I had to rush home from my new job because my older son had come home from school and promptly puked all over the garage. Now he’s at the after-hours urgent care place while I hang with my younger son, Purell myself every ten seconds, and try to get my syllabus ready and a lesson prepared for my very first class as a faculty member the day after tomorrow.

    So my short reply is: THE KID THING IS SOMETIMES REALLY HARD AND ALSO I HAD POST PARTUM DEPRESSION SO FRANKLY THIS LADY CAN SUCK IT. Yes, you’re allowed to be blissed-out, or annoyed, or unaffected, by any damn thing that motherhood involves. But making it the standard for all mothers everywhere is out of bounds, and grounds for me to tell you to suck it. SO SUCK IT. And while I’m at it, all of DoubleXUngood can suck it too.

  81. After the hormones wear off she’s gonna want to send the little monster to grandmas for a month.

    I do have to admit, I LOVE the breastfeeding hormones, especially at first when they all surge in, and I did find they had a nicely calming effect on me. Not on everybody, but I do remember the first couple of months of being a mom mostly as a haze of sleeplessness and not really giving a crap about much of anything because the breastfeeding hormones were so relaxing. Oh, and still having hemorrhoids, which really sucked.

    But, yeah, when Roiphe has a three-year-old behaving like a whiny little tyrant for days on end and no longer has the baby snuggles or breastfeeding hormones to fall back on, I think she may realize that being a SAHM isn’t quite the opium den it seems like. Not that there aren’t plusses to have preschool-aged children–they can talk to you after all, and they do tend to see amazingly funny things very often–but while babies, in my experience, require a lot of physical work, as they get older they become much, much more emotionally demanding and draining.

  82. This all makes me think of three women I’ve loved: my mother, my sister and my daughter in law. My mother, born in 1903 was, variously, a Times correspondent, and anthropologist, and a pretty good bond trader. (and at 6’1″ 160 lbs of muscle could deck most men). She took for granted a woman could do anything she wanted. Something clicked when she got pregant. That was what she wanted to do. Motherhood was IT for her, and she did it amazingly well.
    My sister, born in 1943 went ideological, in the manner of the 70s. Consequently she gave her baby up, so she could continue her dedication to the cause. I would have taken the kid, but she wanted it with some kind of advanced commune. There was a rift. We’re trying to heal it.
    My daughter in law born in 1972, is actually a feminist scholar of some note, with a specialty in men who were supportive of the women’s movement. It’s wonderful to see
    the delight and intensity she brings to mothering.
    Any moral? no. I don’t believe in morals to the story

  83. >although I recognize how ridiculous and self-centered it is to imagine >some universal feminist position on my own life choices

    Thanks, Holly! I was thinking about Katie Roiphe’s article, and I had the vague sense that she’s a narcissist, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. Your comment and the Salon article that Sarah L. linked to above clarified it for me. Assuming that other people’s lives should be exactly like one’s own, otherwise they’re “haters” is a deep form of narcissism: mirror me, mirror me, mirror me!

    Not to mention that she seems to miss the fact that for many women maternity leave benefits are non-existent, and working is not a choice.

  84. Just want to point out, the only thing that has really changed since Virginia Woolf, et al. is that now we can have sex. Really frighteningly successful women still have to limit or curtail having as many children as they might like. More feminism please!

    Also, I must be a super feminist because sometimes I feel trapped by my dog . . . I attribute this feeling to a strong sense of self, others attribute it to a terrifying fear of commitment.

  85. I’m a new mom and super feminist who has done her best to ignore the “motherhood=puppies and rainbows” line. Obviously, it doesn’t. The sad thing is, because I dared complain about some of the exruciating pain I suffered during my pregnancy and was yelled at by a barren friend about it, I feel like I can’t complain about when my 2 month old is an impossible asshole, or how much it sucks to get peed on. I whine to my husband about this stuff, but I can’t say it in public because I really don’t want to be chided for not thinking it’s all puppies and rainbows.

    AND I’m one of those women still in the opiate den of motherhood. They seriously need to bottle up postpartum hormones and sell them on the black market. That shit is GOOD!

  86. Didn’t Betty Friedan dispel this “every woman is ecstatically content to breed and clean” myth 60 years ago?

    Why are we still even arguing about this? *sigh*

    I love babies. I especially love that as soon as they get cranky, I can give them back to their parents and go on my merry way.

    Also feminism and friendship have taught me that

    1) parenting can suck beyond the telling of it in ways I can’t even imagine
    2) that moms in particular carry a painfully heavy burden of both internalized and external expectations
    3) and that any person who sees a mother or any parent struggling to cope with the kids while doing ordinary things like grocery shopping and gets snippy, judgmental or rolls hir eyes? should burn in hell.

    Including Katie Roiphe who doesn’t seem to give a shit that she’s implicitly making every one of the millions of women who didn’t have her experience feel bad. Fuck her for that.

    DRST

  87. Just for the record, someone should mention to this woman that Elizabeth Cady Stanton had, I believe, 7 kids–and still managed to co- found a feminist movement in the U.S.

  88. Babies are not drugs. Torchwood’s Children of Earth taught me that.

    I’m glad Katie Roiphe is happy being a new mom. But she doesn’t have to paint us women who choose not to have children, or don’t feel those warm glowing maternal feelings towards our children as heartless monsters. I’m far from a radical feminist, but the worth of a woman is not based on her womb and I’m capable of delivering more than just children.

  89. I suppose this is one way of talking about Torchwood: Children of Earth, but I’m not sure Ms Rolphie wants to be compared to the 456.

  90. and that any person who sees a mother or any parent struggling to cope with the kids while doing ordinary things like grocery shopping and gets snippy, judgmental or rolls hir eyes? should burn in hell.

    Dude, seriously. I feel like I live in mortal fear that someone will find my kids unacceptable while we’re in public. I’m constantly on them about their behavior, and the consequence is that I never want to take them anywhere. And it’s not even their fault, they’re pretty well-behaved kids! It’s just the social pressure, and my reaction to even the possibility of getting negative comments or looks. I mean, I have gotten -good- comments from strangers about their behavior, and never any bad ones–but the good comments actually reinforce my fear that people are watching and judging us.

    Actually, it’s a lot like not wanting to go places because I think people might hate on me because I’m fat. I guess those fears compound, too, because being a fat mom + having tantruming child in public = more social shame than you can shake a stick at. Add to that the broken-down, unwashed van I drive, and…yeah. (Here I must shamefully admit that I am consciously aware of being relieved that my kids are all pretty normal-sized, because although I can bear the social shame for being fat myself, I’m not sure I could also stand to take blame for my kids’ size.)

  91. It’s funny. I’m not particularly interested in having children myself, but I didn’t read Roiphe’s article as attacking feminism, or as universalising in any way. I just thought she was describing her own experience, which to me sounds fairly repugnant but which she seems to be enjoying. And she does write well.

  92. Oh, and actually this is her second child. If memory serves, she already has a little girl from her first marriage.

  93. I have two kids. Yes. I did it twice! Aren’t I something!? Jealous? You must be. Or you hate babies. Pick one.

    Isn’t that the sum of her piece? Who gave this woman a platform? And why does she get to speak for anyone but herself?

    Speaking for myself only (which is the only thing any of us can do, unless we’re egomaniacs), I find motherhood to be incredibly complicated in every aspect, and at every stage of life. They are now young adults. Some things were easy (loving them like I’ve never loved anyone else ever) and some things were hard (putting them first at times when my needs were unmet in very real ways, making choices about which parts of myself to give and which parts to keep in the constant struggle to be both a good mother and a good example of a whole person.)

    At this point, I think we all did okay! None of us is perfect, but if you asked them I think they’d say I’m the kind of person they’d choose to confide in, request advice from, and even hang out and have fun with even if I wasn’t their mother. Without realizing it, that’s kind of what I was going for.

  94. I am a feminist. I’m also a stay-at-home mom to two kids. And I’m married to the father of my children. And I’m white and middle class. So I’m doing everything “right” by a lot of arbitrary standards (P.S. it does happen to feel right to me, personally, but my point is, it isn’t a Universal Right).

    So given all that, I am often out of touch with how the happily childfree (or the somewhat ambivalently childfree or whatever) ladies are told they are doing something Wrong by just, you know, living their lives the way they want to. I hate hearing that childfree women are still being told they SHOULD have babies, or should WANT to have babies, or if they’re anything less than planning to have babies, and support them in some “right” way, and also work at a “good” career – because, you know, it’s not worth it to take care of other people (one’s own progeny), because hey that’s a shit job and you should pay someone ELSE to do it – but somehow you’re supposed to work this “good career” and be a “good mom” and take care of twice the housework as your male partner (if you have a male partner) but also somehow do it all really fabulously in a glamorous way because you know, it’s just DRUDGERY to have to do dishes or change diapers (drafting memos or whatever is somehow more worthwhile?).

    I hate this. Because in all this I see people picking on the Straw Housewife too:

    Whenever the daughter of a prominent Second Wave feminist (Anne Roiphe is Katie’s mother) writes about the evils of the political agenda of the Second Wave (Rebecca Walker, I’m looking at you, too!) AS IF all so-called Second Wavers were/are one monolithic group, I can’t help but think that she is working out some kind of transferred mother issue rather than offering a careful critique.

    Yes, this. THIS. My own mother claimed a feminist agenda while I was growing up. Part of this meant she always told us how GLAD she was not to be home with us. Part of this meant she constantly, constantly put down stay at home mothers. All because for a variety of factors she was scrabbling so hard for her piece of the pie, meaning working with a bunch of douchebag dudes she felt she had to impress (and to an extent, she did have to impress). She said women who could stay home happily were “cows” – less smart, less ambitious, just sort of, vacuous and bereft of their own hopes and dreams. It confused me then and it stings now even though I know it’s not true.

    So – I don’t want to put down the whole Second Wave movement – and I’m not going to. But man. I can almost sympathize with some idiot who wants to go on and on about babies’ eyelashes and how important that shit is – who wants to go on about this because they are finding it is true for THEM, personally, and they felt their mother (or father, or both) disparaged this stuff while they were growing up. Babies eyelashes? Yeah, they’re important. So are novels. So is being able to do what you WANT to do. I can understand the Resentment some of us may have at our mommies (and HELLOOO, where was Daddy in all this?) but I do agree that a *careful critique* is worth reading – not a bunch of family legacy that’s unresolved. Kind of like what I was posting a bit ago.

  95. I am a graduate student in English writing a dissertation. I love children. I hope to have children. I even worked in a daycare center for a year ( a daycare center known as “Little Beaver Daycare Center” that required me to wear a shirt with a dancing beaver on it). I also love my dissertartion. I am sure that once I have children I will love them more than any dissertation, article, or book project I have going because they are human beings who are close to me. I love my husband more than my dissertation.

    I do get sick of fellow graduate students with children acting as if a) nothing I have going on is at all important compared with their wondrous offspring b) I should be willing to give free babysitting to said wondrous offspring c) I should be willing to teach classes at crappy times so they can get plum sections d) we are living in the world of The Children of Men and the fruit of their loins is the only hope of civilization. To me a lot of this smacks of the pre-feminist workplace where men got the promotions because they had families to support.

    I guess to the babylovers who expect me to bow down and worship I am saying that while I applaud the fact that your flesh and blood child is more important to you than anything else in your life, my as-yet-nonexistent, hypothetical child is not more important than the many other things in my life. Your child, as you fervently tell me, might be more important than your dissertation, but your child is not more important to me than my dissertation. Also, your child is far less important to me than my dog and cat are. Yes, I said it: I love my dog, my cat, and my dissertation more than I love your child.

    Thre is also an even more disturbing corollary to the (almost entirely white, economically privileged) baby love that I witness at my university. I’ve heard a few parents say that it is good that “people like us, with our genes and educational level” are reproducing (!) (since the unwashed masses are apparently happily procreating, and that population surge needs to be countered). It’s kind of like the birther movement for intellectuals. Anyway, I’ve seen more than one conversation about childbirth and reproductive rights go down a path that to me smacks of classism and even eugenics. For instance I have two friends who totally support free childcare for grad students but thinks welfare benefits for lower income women should be tied to mandatory birth control

  96. I guess my point is that when women are taught that the only emotions mothers are supposed to feel is blind, giddy elation–never loneliness, never frustration, never helplessness or despair–bad, scary shit happens to both moms AND children.

    Yes yes yes yes yes yes. We’re not the ones whose words and attitudes are harming mothers. I’m going to point the finger right at you on that one, Roiphe.

    I’m another person who had (has!) a mother who has clearly never felt she has the right to be tired or overwhelmed or frustrated or unhappy, or to say no, or to establish boundaries. She took it all out on us with unpredictable mood swings, martyrdom, guilt trips and passive-aggressiveness elevated to an art form. (Apparently her depression was our fault. For…being born? I’d say the husband she hardly ever saw and no help with a big house and three children and no contact with the outside world was part of the problem, but what do I know.) I would far rather have had a mother who did less for us and was still a whole person, but I don’t think she ever felt she had that option. It would have fucked us all up a lot less. And Katie and her opium-den-universality can go to hell.

    I feel sorry for Katie’s baby in 13 years whenshe is no longer cute and snorgely but awkward smelly moody and angry.

    Exactly! As others have said, that child is an entire person with a personality of hir own and the way Roiphe’s talking about hir is really creeping me the fuck out. It is not fair to expect that your child spend its life behaving in a way that allows you to continue your delusions. What’s Roiphegoing to do the first time her kid is selfish, rude, hateful, stubborn, angry, or any other actual human emotion? I see a lot of guilt trips in that child’s future.

    Totally petty, but also not unexpected from someone who thinks Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton really missed their chances to do something important with their lives.

    What a perfect way to put it.

    Holly, I think your (considered and interesting) perspective is making you attribute to Roiphe a clarity of understanding and goodness of intention that I don’t think she has. The subtitle tells me roughly all I need to know about what she actually knows about the “feminism” she’s so quick to condemn.

    I feel constantly pressured by the media, and by women around me, to have huge, emotional reactions to life events–even things like shopping, or back-to-school, or holidays, or my period, or just…anything.

    Oh fuck yes. End of school, graduation from university, moving house, breakups…I just don’t have big emotions about most of things I’m supposed to, AT ALL, and I am more than a bit sick of being made to feel that this means I’m missing out on something/somehow less of a human. Things happen; I deal with them, or am happy or sad or whatever, but quite often I just move on.

    In conclusion: Roiphe’s clearly the new mother version of Susan: she knows there are SOME PEOPLE, SOMEWHERE who will not acknowledge that what is happening to her is THE BEST AND MOST WONDERFUL AND IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD. Why? WHY WON’T EVERYONE ACKNOWLEDGE THIS? THEY MUST BE MADE TO ACKNOWLEDGE IT.

    Um…calm down.

  97. any person who sees a mother or any parent struggling to cope with the kids while doing ordinary things like grocery shopping and gets snippy, judgmental or rolls hir eyes? should burn in hell.

    *blows kisses at DRST for this*

  98. Well, she’s certainly got a fist full of straw.

    But I think that’s what Double X is doing. Hirshman’s over on Double X and the fallout vis Hirshman a few years back was painful for me at least. I think that’s what they’re playing at: Mommy Wars, Feminist Version, polarized for no good reason. (Of course I might be controversial here in that I don’t find Hirshman terribly useful for feminist dialogue, but I know others disagree. I find her about as considered as this woman, tho’.)

    However, I think this is simplified characature springing out of different flavors of feminism.

    We almost all agree on equal opportunity and treatment for everyone regardless of what’s in their pants. IE: Biological sex should not create or proscribe gender role or destiny. Women are human. All feminists I’ve met agree.

    Another, less universal aspect of my own feminism is about respect for and empowerment of those things traditionally seen as femme. (And for me, the soliciting of those who have penises into such a sphere.) Nurturance, aesthetic, crafts-not-arts, even the celebration of the (mediocre/everyday) – but also things like dependency, which happens to us all at some point. As with ablism and ageism, the Stay at Home Parent brings up certain cultural fears around dependency and less-than.

    Shinobi banged the gong there, in saying “…except no one would laud me as a stay at home mom taking care of her kids, they would call me unemployed…”

    Only, really, if you’re feminist, it becomes pretty clear that the world really actually dislikes SAH moms & kids, but it doesn’t really look like it from the outside, for totally valid reasons – before you have kids, the world crams children down women’s throats. But, it’s a lot like the women-have-power-because-they-have-vaginas argument. What the world loves is the Idealized Mom, and the rest of us are invisible, doing it wrong, and broken; and even if you are the Paris Hilton vagina it’s still not the same as someone giving a shit what your opinion is.

    So my feminism did undergo a shift after kids, because I didn’t really have a feminist re-envisioning of femme mom-hood on hand; only those pedestals. And I did get pulled into parenting more than I expected to be.

    Not everybody does focus on validating the femme, and I think that’s fair – I wouldn’t call them un-feminist! – but they are people with whom I have a philosophical difference in perspective.

    (I’m also socialist, which frames my feminism differently – enough to think that we can reject politics based on economic power; and that’s an open question when it comes to the SAHM issue.)

    So I’d say that there’s more debate around Femme in feminism, that it’s more problematic; plus becoming a mother can be like waking up in the middle of a personal and philosophical minefield, and those things you believed about yourself can change.

    Now, of course I’m not saying that we should this woman a pass – and of course, no one is going to force you to put down/pick up those heels. But I think what I’ve seen of Double X is that they’re skirting the issue the way the Mommy Wars does; there’s actually fundamental philosophy to talk about here, and the straw she’s aiming at is masking a more complete discussion.

    And women (and men) need feminist mentors crossing into the territory of parenthood, especially if they SAH.

    Of course, it’s hard, and it’s personal. It’s hard to be the woman who keeps being nagged to have kids; it’s hard to be the woman who is told her new focus is boring or her brain has disappeared due to kids; it’s hard to be the mom who DOESN’T have or want to focus on her kids when she feels like she should.

    Patriarchy: It fucks with motherhood.

  99. Yes, I said it: I love my dog, my cat, and my dissertation more than I love your child.

    Reportedly someone once shouted at Bruce Springsteen “I love you!” And he replied: “You don’t know me”.

    Someone who thinks I should love their child that I barely know? Isn’t thinking.

  100. I’m not too smart. But if I remember correctly penises and semen can also be used to make babies.
    The odd thing is I’ve almost reached the age of 44 and my penis and semen have never been used to make a baby but not once has anyone ever expressed shock or scorn or dismay or curiosity about that, or even asked me why not. In fact I can’t even remember anyone ever simply asking me if I had kids.

    I wonder how come that is.

  101. When I took a 12 week maternity leave from work when my son was born, I honestly didn’t know whether 12 weeks would be way too little time, way too much time, or just right. I felt like it was a toss-up whether I would be eager to return to work or eager to stay home with my baby.

    I was chomping at the bit to go back to work after TWO WEEKS. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to get through 10 more weeks of leave. And that’s with my wonderful feminist husband who took a leave from work for six weeks and then worked only very part time for my entire leave. I remember wondering how ANY woman would actually want to quit her (other) job to stay home with her baby. It just didn’t make sense to me at all.

    A woman who worked at my agency went on maternity leave at the same time as I did for the birth of her first child. When I came back to work after 12 weeks (Halleluyah!), I found out that she loved being with her baby so much that she decided to quit and not return to work. It totally boggled my mind. But it just goes to show that not all women — even all feminist women! — are the same. I respected my colleague’s decision even though it didn’t make sense for me. Why can’t Roiphe realize her experience is only one of many and does not apply to everyone?

    One more point…. could it be that the reason staying home with a baby is such a “narcotic” for some is it is still the only job that our society fully approves of for women? That kind of societal approval certainly can give you a “high”! (Didn’t work for me, though. :-) )

  102. “One more point…. could it be that the reason staying home with a baby is such a “narcotic” for some is it is still the only job that our society fully approves of for women? That kind of societal approval certainly can give you a “high”!

    This is really no more the case for many of us than society gives you full approval for being a sex worker, even if it looks like a woman is well applauded for being sexy.

  103. … Uh, which is not to compare the work of SAH parenting with sex work. All I mean is appearances are deceiving, and patriarchy isn’t telling the truth, here.

  104. I’m fracking sick of the assumtion that woman who only have one (or no) babies are doing it for selfish reasons.
    My 28 yr old sister has just been told that unless she falls pregnant within the next YEAR – her endometrious (however you spell it) will be so severe that she will NEVER bear children – how is she being selfish?

    However, I find that giving them a sobby overshare about why I only have one child (“It’s hurtful of you to suggest that I only have one because looking after a baby is hard work. I’m infertile – my eggs don’t release, they just become cysts”) tends to shut them up toot-sweet. I’ve never had it brought up more than once by the same person.

  105. And, you know Mrs. Gaskell wasn’t an astute critic of her society and how it treated women; she couldn’t have been after all, she had five children. Probably she just put her name on her husband’s work, and didn’t write those novels at all.

    In my experience too, the same woman can have very different reactions to her own infants. I was gaga over the first, took a couple months to really bond with the second, and was moderate with the third. It varies not just with the woman, but with her circumstances, *and* with the baby. All three of mine were clearly different from birth in their personalities and how they interacted with me.

    And may I assume her kiddo doesn’t have colic? Mine didn’t either, but I’ve always felt that must be the limit in temper-fraying distressingness.

  106. I hope this author does not let the fact that capitalist patriarchy is the force that devalued traditional mothers’ and women’s work in the first place get in the way of her fascinating analysis. That would be a shame.

  107. “One more point…. could it be that the reason staying home with a baby is such a “narcotic” for some is it is still the only job that our society fully approves of for women? That kind of societal approval certainly can give you a ‘high’!”

    This is really no more the case for many of us than society gives you full approval for being a sex worker, even if it looks like a woman is well applauded for being sexy.

    Um, yes. Thank you, Arwen.

    “Fully approves of”, my ass!

  108. but I didn’t read Roiphe’s article as attacking feminism, or as universalising in any way.

    The subtitle was: Why won’t feminists admit the pleasure of infants? How is this anything *besides* universalizing and attacking feminism?

  109. What a stupid generalization to make! Just off the top of my head: Jamaica Kincaid has 2 kids, Annie Proulx has 4 kids, Toni Morrison has 2 kids.

    FYI: The Year of Magical Thinking is about the death of Didion’s husband, not her child.

  110. What’s Roiphe going to do the first time her kid is selfish, rude, hateful, stubborn, angry, or any other actual human emotion? I see a lot of guilt trips in that child’s future.

    Well, actually, many of these parents who feel this continued narcotic effect of all that is Their Baby refuse to see bad behavior. They’re not prepared to deal with it, because that would require them to 1) not be passive, actually set boundaries, and ultimately look like “bad” parents for “punishing” their angels and 2) acknowledge their children as human beings who need to learn valuable consideration for other people if they expect it back themselves. I can’t even begin to tell you how many parents I’ve seen excuse their children’s disrespectful, hateful, selfish behavior as “She’s spirited!” or “He’s not afraid to speak his mind!” I can totally see Roiphe and her like enabling bad behavior for years, until the behavior actually begins to hurt THEM somehow (i.e. costs them an outrageous amount of money, makes them look bad in front of other parents, etc.).

    That’s part of the reason why people love babies so much- babies are sweet and vulnerable, but ultimately lack personality. When a child reaches two and three and starts expressing themselves and acting like their own person, that’s when the real behavior problems begin. And that’s when many parents are happy to just fold and continue treating their children like they’re still babies, and undeserving of learning life skills, which unfortunately are often acquired through very unpleasant boundary-setting.

  111. Just a thought:

    I’m not sure that the point here is that because Roiphe displays a dismissive, aggressively ignorant attitude toward feminism, the childless, and women-who-aren’t-like-her, therefore she is obviously going to be a permissive, deluded, or otherwise terrible parent. I don’t think it’s fair to diagnose her or speculate about her child-rearing abilities based on this paltry amount of evidence. It’s her expressed opinions about feminism and motherhood that are up for grabs here.

  112. Heh. I’m a child free feminist who voluntarily works with middle-school kids. For some reason, this blows the minds of the unimaginative.

    Well, because they’re lovely, Sniper! (The kids, not the unimaginative.) But you knew that. :-)

    Great post Sweet Machine. I think the idea of a straw feminist series is really good – I’ll be following it!

  113. Well, because they’re lovely, Sniper!

    I think so, but for some reason, not everyone looks at a 6-foot-tall, pimpled, sullen 8th grader and thinks, “Awwww! He’s precious!”

  114. It is as though there only exists this very strict binary of possible realities (similar to Thin=Healthy; All Else=About to Die): You either LOVE Babies and therefore HAVE LOTS (or bemoan your lack) OR you HATE Babies and therefore HAVE NONE. The goal of course being to LOVE the little buggers and have them all over the place. Unless you’re Not Wed or some other “Undesirable” with many babies…then you’re a sympathy case or a drain on some system? Very confusing.

    TRUTH. I absolutely adore babies, and I am never ever having any, for reasons that are sort of moderately deterrent on their own but combine into a big flashing sign that says “BABIES ARE A BAD IDEA FOR YOU.” But my female family members & friends-of-family all remark on how great I am with my cousin’s babies, especially because of how young I am (20). News flash: I love babies. They are adorable, and they smell nice, and I think when a baby smiles at me it is the GREATEST THING EVER, and of course I am convinced that my cousin’s babies are GENIUSES, and I love playing silly games with them.

    But I’m a fat woman with mental health issues in a STEM field. My genes are not the best and I don’t think I’d be able to provide an environment that would help my future progeny overcome their tendencies to have the same mental health issues I do. Bottom line, I wouldn’t be able to do right by my baby, let alone do right by my baby and myself at the same time. Too bad Kate Roiphe doesn’t understand things like complex reasoning and individual decisions.

  115. You know, another thing that pisses me off is that pieces like this give personal writing, and writing about topics associated with women, like motherhood, a bad name. They lead people to say things like “who cares about motherhood! Write about something important!” (no one here, mind you, but still) We should be writing about motherhood, babies, sex and all that. But in a way that illuminates and reflects, not to score points and gain web hits by pissing people off.

    I was thinking of this because I just happened to reread Gloria Steinem’s essay about her mother, “Ruth’s song, because she could not sing it.” Now there’s some one who was hurt by her mother but actually uses feminist insight to consider the mother’s point of view and why her life was the way it was in hopes the story can help others. And this line, about her mother’s depression, sent chills up my spine and resonates with a bunch of the stories in this thread:

    “In retrospect, perhaps the biggest reason my mother was cared but not helped for twenty years was the simplest: her functioning was not that necessary to the world.”

    If only people like Rophie put 1/100th of the effort they put into basking in their own glow into helping all the mothers, children and fathers out there who are hurting . .. .

    Ok, so ends my attempts at seriousness – feel free to go back to snark!

  116. I haven’t finished reading the comments yet, but so far the horror of postpartnum depression has not been discussed (although it may have, but I had to go ahead and post…). Many womyn do experience a certain bonding “high,” I guess, but many womyn experience severe depression that can turn into psychosis and even suicidal ideations. That’s specifically why (well, it’s one of my main reasons) I’m do not plan on ever getting pregnant-with all my mental diagnosis, I’m afraid pregnancy would put me back in the hospital.

  117. Don’t ever forget Kaitie Roiphe and her horror of a mother were big, big, big on the whole “date rape isn’t rape” thing. They’ve been making money off of hating other women for years.

    aimai

  118. “I don’t think it’s fair to diagnose her or speculate about her child-rearing abilities based on this paltry amount of evidence. It’s her expressed opinions about feminism and motherhood that are up for grabs here.”

    Thank you, Ashley.

  119. I hate everyone under the age of 25 on spec, so I suppose that includes babies. (Sorry all you young whipper snappers.) That’s just me being a cranky, bitchy 30+ year old, and mostly the bi-product of dealing with too many teenagers and drunk college kids, it has nothing to do with feminism.

    (When I was growing up, 13-16 year olds didn’t force themselves into every social space and demand that the adults there give them massive room to talk about thoroughly inconsequential shit. And now we have the internet.)

  120. But don’t we also have a children are brats culture? I don’t see any reason why I should “burn in hell” because I might see something that triggers my trauma from long ago. Don’t we find it funny on TV when the adults always win and the teenagers (especially girls) are seen as ditzy airheads on the phone all the time or dept. store commercials where your kid is a total brat because you didn’t give him/her the right present?

    Look, just because I see things a different way than most adults or humans in general doesn’t mean I’m going to be a passive, permissive idiot. In fact, the reason why I’m trying to become a teacher is because I want to assert myself in a way that my father, and stepmother never could. Do you want me to just sit back and watch my sisters take their anger out on their children? And say ‘it’s ok because they had it coming’? Because I was taught that. I was taught that everything, including the people who lived in his house was the man’s property. And although I won’t have children (because I don’t want to pass on my mental illnesses) that certainly won’t mean I can’t love them and make the world a better place for them. That doesn’t mean I won’t stand up to children/teenagers who bully their peers. That’s another reason why I want to become more educated. Because no one cares who is being bullied in school. They just think the victim is a ‘wuss’. Same for most crimes.

  121. I’ve been lurking and reading back posts for a little bit now… Sorry my first post ended up being a qualified disagreement, but…

    I can see why aa didn’t read the article as attacking feminism. Judging by what’s been said about Roiphe in the comments, I may have been too charitable in my reading of her original article. But I did notice that although the subtitle was ridiculous, the only part where she actually criticizes feminism is one paragraph on page 2:

    “One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a “vocation.” The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.”

    This paragraph still seems clueless regarding the role/goals of feminism, I think. (I commented on this in more detail on DoubleX’s site: http://www.doublex.com/section/kids-parenting/katie-roiphe-my-newborn-narcotic#comment-5550.) But it seemed like the subtitle didn’t match the article very well, and it was put there as a cheap way to draw in readers. What, “My Newborn Is Like A Narcotic” wasn’t edgy and eyecatching enough–you had to insert a manufactured controversy about feminism, too?

  122. Ashley, yes yes, thank you. I was getting really uncomfortable about that, too. Let’s stop with the mom-judging — Roiphe is being an ass with her straw feminism arguments, but we don’t know anything about what kind of parent she is.

    But I’m a fat woman with mental health issues in a STEM field. My genes are not the best and I don’t think I’d be able to provide an environment that would help my future progeny overcome their tendencies to have the same mental health issues I do. Bottom line, I wouldn’t be able to do right by my baby, let alone do right by my baby and myself at the same time.

    I totally support your decision to not have children! But I’m unsure about what being fat and in a STEM field have to do with that.

  123. *wanders out from recent lurkage*

    Whenever I read stuff like this, I wonder what her reaction would be to my saying that I do love babies, and if I have the money and stability to take care of them I totally plan on having a few whether or not I ever get married or have any long-standing relationships.

    Because it really is actually in my life plans. They go like this

    College -> Internships -> Jobs -> Better Jobs ->Babies (if I’ve got the income/time so that I don’t have to neglect them later)

    And dating/marriage? Sure. If the right person comes around and we have compatible lives. But it so isn’t a requirement.

    Because, the thing is, a lot of these people who say that we feminists must love babiezzz and want them, tend to recoil when I tell them I’m so dedicated to the idea of babies that I’m resolved to purposefully become a single mother one day* if I don’t meet someone who’s right.

    And my belief that I should have that option is part of why I’m a feminist.

    So this feminist is even more dedicated to babiez than youuuu! BWAHAHA

    *(in the far far distant future, as I can see from here. And I’m totally into adopting, but know that it might be difficult to do from the single-parent standpoint, so I’ll probably have to go about it the more traditional way. And I totally won’t do it if I’m not sure I can’t support the kiddos.)

  124. Actually, I want to point out that in response to Ashley’s comment I was going to do a tongue in cheek: “Patriarchy loves it when we hate-on-Moms!”

    When an outside observer sees nothing but a mom ignoring bad behaviour and indulgence, spoiling and lack of boundaries, it may be that the parent involved has no clue what they’re doing and is a enabling parent with boundary issues.

    Or, they could be thinking and know something you don’t. They could have experiences you don’t. They may have learned they’re not in control of every behavior their child evidences. They have a full time job none of us have done – even if we have children of our own. They may be picking their battles, or conserving their energy, or trying not to go insane.

    For most fertile cisgendered women on the planet, regardless of their orientation, limiting offspring is a decision made in an amount of educational and economic privilege. I hope that we extend that privilege all over the world; but I must admit some worry that it’ll be easy for moms to go under the wheels for “lifestyle choice” when the privilege slips or if they choose otherwise… well, actually, it all sort of comes together under the same banner:

    “If only she would control herself.”

    Only with children, it becomes about controlling others, too, BY controlling yourself. (Sort of like how we have control over men with our behavior, come to think of it.)

    I must admit, I’m a pretty strict mom; even still, most of those I know with more permissive parenting styles are thinking parents making complex decisions.

  125. And I totally won’t do it if I’m not sure I can’t support the kiddos.

    *not sure I can support

    lol @ typos making the meaning the exact opposite of what I wanted to say!

  126. I love babies. They are so cute that I just want to cuddle them ALL. I don’t want one of my own, however.

    The other day I was talking to my professor friend who is from an Asian country and is about to have her second child. She was explaining to me how she didn’t define herself as a feminist because she felt as though feminists look down upon women who decide to stay home and raise children. I replied, “No, no, no.” and explained how the feminist position, as I understand it, values any decision women make about raising children. It’s about respecting and making sure women HAVE A CHOICE instead of being forced to stay at home and raise kids, or go to work for that matter. I added how childrearing, in all forms, is one of the lowest paid professions in the U.S (if not the lowest, but I don’t have the stats).

    Now, I want to add that she is going on half-time leave in the spring semester but, she is making up the workload in the summer. One would think that a university, which tends to be a liberal-leaning institution, would offer adequate maternal leave, but noooooooooooooooo.

  127. FYI: The Year of Magical Thinking is about the death of Didion’s husband, not her child.

    Actually, it is about the death of her husband while their daughter is also in a coma from a life-threatening illness. I’ve read the book, you see.

  128. Or, they could be thinking and know something you don’t. They could have experiences you don’t. They may have learned they’re not in control of every behavior their child evidences. They have a full time job none of us have done – even if we have children of our own. They may be picking their battles, or conserving their energy, or trying not to go insane.

    Thank you. This. Arwen, you are knocking it out of the park and saying so much of what I’ve tried so many times to say and prompty gotten too enraged to continue saying.

    The longer I know my kids, the worse I get at being a Good Mother in general… and the better I get at having a workable, loving, frustrating, vulnerable, frustrating (oh, did I say that one already? Because I’ve spent the last hour literally cleaning up shit, you know) relationship with these particular small people who live in my house. It becomes less and less about The Right Way To Parent and more and more about how my older son, e.g., needs to be given lots of time and space to work out and take responsibility for his dealings with adults; or how my younger son completely lacks any healthy sense of fear of strangers, heights, or big and unfamiliar animals.

    And FOR SOME REASON this very complicated relationship doesn’t translate very well into the idiom of expert authors with their Parenting Philosophies; romanticizers of Theoretical Motherhood and Theoretical Baybeez; or judgy onlookers who deem it a crying injustice that they sometimes, in public places, have briefly to encounter examples of rambunctious embodied life that they find personally distasteful or unpleasant. They are about Right Ways To Parent, otherwise known as “reasons why no actual mother is ever beyond blame, according to my universally-valid standards for the entire world.”

    And that’s just too bad for them, because that functionally just makes them irrelevant to my parenting and my life. After all, I’m pretty busy dealing with TWO high-needs people who think the world revolves around them and lack any real perspective of others’ needs. I really can’t take on any more.

  129. But I did notice that although the subtitle was ridiculous, the only part where she actually criticizes feminism is one paragraph on page 2

    Which is why I quoted that in the post. :-)

    The goal of Straw Feminist Weekly is not to argue with or against any particular article, but to point out the fallacious rhetoric of setting up a straw feminist to argue against. We could feature an article that we all thought was totally awesome *except* for its straw feminist moment, and it would still deserve to be called out.

  130. Arwen,

    You are absolutely right. Mom-shaming can often be a form of lady-hating. SP deals quite a bit with the patriarchal notion that women’s bodies–also bodies as evidence of behavior–are public property and subject to public scrutiny. Just ask a pregnant woman: almost nothing invites more unwanted attention and judgment from strangers than motherhood!

    Just to qualify, I don’t think any commenters here were actually engaging in lady-hate. It’s very easy to “go there” with the ad hominem attacks when someone like Roiphe pushes these particular buttons.

  131. Here, sitting in the garden, looking at the eyelashes, would you trade the baby for the possibility of writing The House of Mirth? You would not.

    It makes you wonder why Roiphe is writing this piece. But I guess only novel-writing involves trading in your baby; you can write all the annoying little anti-feminist diatribes you want and still be a good mom.

  132. I have to admit, I don’t hate babies. I don’t particularly like them – heck, I don’t feel too strongly about them one way or t’other. My main thoughts about babies are that they’re small and breakable, and they grow up to be toddlers (who I can’t deal with) who grow up to be kids (who I can’t understand) who grow up to be teenagers (who I can understand, but can’t connect to) who grow up to be adults (who are mostly strange anyway), and that therefore I’m probably not a good person to be having any. That, plus the depression (which appears to have a hereditary side to it) means I’m very glad feminism offers me the option of not having children. I figure my maternal grandmother’s mother did enough for at least three generations – and she died of a post-puerpal haemmorhage after giving birth to her eleventh child.

  133. Lori,

    Exactly. This is like the central hypocrisy of every female anti-feminist writer out there. See also: Phyllis Schlafley (sp?), Caitlin Flanagan, and Camille Paglia.

  134. I can appreciate that Roiphe was writing from her own experience, but as others have mentioned, her assumption that her opiate-enhanced state is universal belies the reality of mothers who don’t fall instantly in love. I had postpartum depression and had a lot of painful, conflicted feelings about my newborn. I was not in love; I was in hell. This didn’t mean I didn’t love my child–but the horror of not being able to feel that love cannot be overstated by anyone who’s experienced PPD (10-15% of new moms, not a small statistic). I actually fell deeply in love with my daughter once I was effectively treated for PPD, which BTW included the time and space to admit that I really did find newborn care to be exhausting, scary, and difficult.

  135. Oh, Katie Roiphe. She’s just a collaborateuse. It’s sad how little she knows about feminism and how far she broadcasts that ignorance.

  136. Schlafly, Ashley.

    I think part of the problem with these sorts of arguments (mother-blaming, lady-hating, etc.) is that it’s automatically assumed that The Right Way to Parent is solely associated with the mother. That’s one thing I cannot tolerate, how even the most progressive-minded people will sometimes without thinking lay all responsibility for a child’s welfare and blame for a child’s bad behavior on THE MOTHER. How unbelievably stupid- to assume that a child in a two-parent household will absorb everything he or she needs to know about life from only one parent. But that’s what we’ve been trained to do. I hate the way it raises anxiety for women about parenting perfectly, and it alienates (many, not all) men from really believing they can identify and connect with their children.

    Just had to make that clear. Honestly, when I see clearly harried-looking moms with rambunctious kids in public, my very first thought is, “I bet her husband doesn’t help her at all.”

  137. I’ve realized that I have a really hard time being a mom and working full time. I often feel like I can’t do both as well as I want to.
    Before I had a child, I did sometimes feel like I wasn’t accomplishing what I wanted to at work, and so I just stayed longer at work. This is no longer an option.
    Thing is, I don’t blame feminism for the situation.
    I was ready to go back to work part time when I did, and I wish I hadn’t had to go back to work full-time. But I’m also grateful that Mr. Rounded has been able to be a stay-at-home parent much of the time.
    And I love being a mom most of the time. I also really like my job most of the time.
    And when Ashley asked: “What happens when the novelty wears off?” — that pretty much sums up what I thought about the piece.

    For mommy writing, I like Anne Lamott.

  138. Actually, it is about the death of her husband while their daughter is also in a coma from a life-threatening illness. I’ve read the book, you see.

    Or, for that matter, the Publishers Weekly review on the Amazon page.

    I have to admit, I don’t hate babies.

    And you call yourself a feminist???

  139. I am so constantly dissapointed in XX. I like Slate and I like SOME of the contributors, but they just seem not to be very self aware. I am ALL FOR a difference in voices. I mean, yes, please! Tell us all about your experience and how it was different from what you expected. Yes, please, explain how that fits in with feminism. No, please, do the latter. No? You’re just going to assume that feminism is Bad and Left Things Out and Didn’t Warn You and that therefore anything you have to say is a stunning revelation you’re throwing in the face of Feminism? Sigh.

    I have no plans to have kids soon, but yes, I want to hear how Hana Rosen thinks it’s ok not to breastfeed and Roiphe thinks it’s great to smell babies. But why does that have to be set up as anti-feminist?

    On a more personal note, I remember being blindingly angry when a colleague brought her newborn in. After she left, another colleague, who desperately wants kids said ‘Even KATE wanted a cuddle!’ I am so pro baby cuddles it’s not even funny. I just don’t want to push one out of my vagina right now, especially since then I would have to work to support is AND give it the love and attention it needs, besides, I’m not done being selfish and irresponsible yet! And it’s not fair to make someone responsible for my resentment, through no fault of their own. Ever think ‘I wish I was never born!’? Well, let me help you with that, imaginary offspring…

    I just was so angry that, as has been said in the comments, either I wanted a huge brood or I hated babies. No other options. However, next time that baby was brought in, I didn’t have snuggle time. It makes me too sleepy….

  140. “Honestly, when I see clearly harried-looking moms with rambunctious kids in public, my very first thought is, “I bet her husband doesn’t help her at all.”

    In my case, it’s probably because my kids can really be little jerks sometimes. *g*

    Ashley (& anyone who thinks I was calling them out too harshly) I agree the feminists here aren’t meaning to lady-hate, but rather, buttons have been pushed by someone on the attack!

    I think, though, I’ll still call mom-judging as a particular trick of patriarchy, and one we are beginning to have the privilege to avoid through uterine choice. Still, its same way I’d call out “skank”, or “cunt”, or “bitch” (in a context where bitch wasn’t being reclaimed). Even if the intention was not anything but ad hominem, there’s a bigger context and maybe one I’m threadjacking when talking about.

    A Sarah spoke of being ‘enraged’ in certain discussions of judging and it was mentioned upthread by DRST, too. I think it’s because the discussion has greater context, you know? But I think I’ve not been as savvy to that discussion, not even really aware of it, even.

    For example, women spend their lives being told to take up less space, and I for one internalized that really well. Now, my KIDS are the ones who are little jerks & take up space, and I and my husband are responsible for socializing them.

    The woman who has internalized sit down, shut up, cross your legs is more equipped to repress the shit out of her offspring because she won’t give it a second thought.

    Whereas some of us spend hours THINKING about this sort of thing, in sort of a Gaaaahmorphos way. Shut up but not too much. Boy children vs. girl children. Empathy, expression, boundaries. The graduated dance of boundaries: because, unlike any other relationship a grownup will have, a parent has to negotiate on behalf of their kids as well as themselves. In some ways, parenting is the ULTIMATE in objectification, because you *are a love object to your children*. Even your adult children – very few of us can totally see our parents for who they are even when grown, because our parents were more than people. They were our world. Which makes the objectification of other parents, and mom as the primary, easy.

    Raising wee feminist boys is an ongoing process for me. Hard theoretical, political, psychological, social, and emotional work. And the judgment of moms especially in the social sphere, along side the infantilization of dads (oh good daddy remembered to put a coat on for the snow! yes he did!), well, it’s really *powerful*.

    Plus, I recently commented to another feminist (stay at home for now) mom that the aphorism “a woman’s work is never done” has embedded itself in my brain as a secret roots of feminism cross-stitch sampler. Because the thought of doing this without choice of partner or backup makes me want to run right out and suffrage.

    But it’s like all the other lessons about how I look, and how I should behave, boil down to this strange romantic ideal about how I should be with the kids, and how the kids should be. It really is all very deeply connected. Amazingly so.

  141. For mommy writing, I like Anne Lamott.

    I second that. I almost cried when I read something she wrote about being sure, many times, when her child was 2 and 3, that it was all over and he was already ruined for life, because I felt like that so many times.

  142. This is the same Katie Roiphe who, a few months back, complained about mothers who can’t talk about anything but their children, right?

    Also, if any of my kids (boys) ever talk about helping their wives with the children, they will be chloroformed and sent to re-education camps, at my expense, because the spouse and I will clearly have failed at explaining how parenting is supposed to work.

  143. This is the same Katie Roiphe who, a few months back, complained about mothers who can’t talk about anything but their children, right?

    That was BEFORE she had a baby, silly!

    Besides, you don’t expect much consistency to come out of an opium den, do you?

  144. *sigh*

    KrystalI don’t see any reason why I should “burn in hell” because I might see something that triggers my trauma from long ago. Don’t we find it funny on TV when the adults always win and the teenagers (especially girls) are seen as ditzy airheads on the phone all the time or dept. store commercials where your kid is a total brat because you didn’t give him/her the right present?

    I sincerely doubt anyone who frequents this site would find any of those things funny. Also there’s a big difference between being judgmental and invasive about someone else’s parenting and being triggered.

    (Though to be honest, I’m not actually sure that being triggered yourself is itself a justifiable reason to insert yourself into a random stranger’s life by commenting on their parenting. It would be, at best, highly situational as to where that would be a good idea and where it absolutely would not, for both parties.)

    Look, just because I see things a different way than most adults or humans in general doesn’t mean I’m going to be a passive, permissive idiot. In fact, the reason why I’m trying to become a teacher is because I want to assert myself in a way that my father, and stepmother never could.

    For starters, I wasn’t talking about passivity or permissiveness, I was talking about respecting boundaries and recognizing that someone else’s parenting choices are just as much none of your business as their weight or clothing choice. Staying out of other people’s private matters is not being passive, it’s showing that you understand their lives are not there for you to judge and that you don’t have any right to lecture other people on how they live, or dress, or eat, or take their kids to the grocery store.

    And due respect, but as a teacher, your reasons for wanting to become one make me extremely uncomfortable. Teaching is not about control. One of the first things you learn in teaching is you in fact do not actually have any control. You can lay down all the rules you want, someone will break them. You can be as rigid and tough as you want… and you won’t be an employed teacher for very long. Each class, each group has a distinct personality and you’re the one who has to adapt to it, not the other way around.

    Do you want me to just sit back and watch my sisters take their anger out on their children?

    Family is a very different story from strangers. How you deal with your own family members is private. How you treat total strangers in public isn’t.

    DRST

  145. “Besides, you don’t expect much consistency to come out of an opium den, do you?”

    Life has a way of defeating our expectations. If I had connections to a famous, more-talented writer, I bet I could spin that into an intentionally dim but combative essay. And then I could claim that I’m just too avant garde for soi-disant thinking women to appreciate me.

    In the interim, I will celebrate the news that I don’t have to get bogged down in consistency just because I’m a parent (I’d heard that was important, but no? Great! I found it awfully inconvenient.)

  146. I think the poster on double-x who said: ” This is typical of the narcissism of this article. Roiphe thinks she’s obsessed with her baby, but she’s just continuing her obsession with herself: *her* exquisite feelings over *her* baby emerged from *her* body.”

    She was the same way when she wrote that feminists had invented date-rape and was mad because it destroyed her personal enjoyment of single-girl sexuality. She thinks that her experience is the only one that matters and is lashing out at feminism because it shows her that not all women are the same as she is. Instead of being able to empathize with women who don’t experience motherhood the way that she does (or single-hood the way she did before she had her baby) she criticizes feminists for confronting her with a reality other than her own.

  147. @spoonfork38
    And just for the record, I have yet to meet a truly loving mother who doesn’t occasionally feel like mailing her exasperating offspring to their grandparents in a box while reminding them that breathing holes are an earned privilege. Some are just more guilty and secretive about these feelings than others.

    It’s a very good thing I wasn’t drinking anything when I read this, I ruined a computer keyboard last week with a spill, and don’t want to repeat the show.

  148. Loved this thread! What a bunch of ornery women—just my kinda folks. I too have been seriously misinformed about whether or not I can be a feminist. I always thought I was, ever since junior high, when I was told not to “act so darn smart” in front of boys. Then I went to college and graduated and got a good job. Then I got married and didn’t change my last name. And I was fairly indifferent to children, and didn’t think much about whether or not I wanted any.

    But then we decided to have kids, and after some difficulty, I became pregnant. Several of my co-workers asked me if it was planned. (!) I had some maternity suits made, and freaked out my Mormon boss by working up until the day before the baby was born.

    I took seven weeks off for maternity leave. I do not recall being overwhelmed with the great hormones, as some of you have said. I did breastfeed, but I remember the first couple of weeks as being a nightmarish experience, which I attribute to a combination of sleep deprivation and inexperience. (I had never so much as changed a diaper before.) After that, things settled down, and I got the hang of it. The baby was adorable and had a good temperament, and I loved holding her and playing with her. I was also perfectly happy to go back to work after the seven weeks was up.

    And then a year later I did it all again. Still no hormone euphoria, still a short nightmarish period—-sleep deprivation plus an 18 month old toddler not wanting to share Mommy. And baby #2 was a bit colicky. Went back to work after 8 weeks.

    The children are now teenagers, and quite nice children. Sometimes they are huge pains in the ass, too. I do not want to spend 24 hours a day with them now, nor did I when they were infants; although I wish I had been able to do some kind of part-time job. Being a good mom and a good manager was really tough, and I had a useful husband, thankfully.

    If I had it to do all over again, I would do it pretty much the same. So far the children are turning out quite well, because of or in spite of my mothering skills. It was all pretty hard, and my kids are relatively easy compared to a lot I know. And they are both growing up pretty darned feminist, bless them.

    So am I a feminist or not?

  149. When my husband and I were just affianced, we planned on having 3 kids, because, you know, that’s what you do. And then we both went into our chosen career of teaching and grew up a little and realized that we did not, in fact, want to have any children. And we patted ourselves on the back for realizing this BEFORE said children were already here. Yay us.

    I’ve been amazed at how many people who want children see this as a critique of them. They think we hate kids because we don’t have any, when the reality is that we don’t have any because we appreciate the effort it takes to raise children, and we didn’t have that driving need to do it beyond the 160 kids a day we were already parenting in our classes. Our friends started to breed, and they all made comments about how we must not like kids, and one particularly desperate mother-to-be requested we not speak of our child-hate to her husband. Of course, that child hate never existed; we wouldn’t have become teachers if it had. And all our friends were amazed at how well and naturally we interacted with their babies, then toddlers, then preschoolers. How could that be? We hate babies! One mother apologized to me for all the anger at my baby-hating self she swallowed, once she realized it wasn’t true. It’s so very weird; I don’t deny other people’s right to have and fully enjoy babies, nor do I take their desire to (which is really the majority desire) as a commentary on my life choices; why is the reverse not true?

  150. The subtitle was: Why won’t feminists admit the pleasure of infants? How is this anything *besides* universalizing and attacking feminism?

    Subtitles are usually not written by authors themselves, but by editorial staff. I have to say I don’t even read them any more: they just don’t register.

  151. “Here, sitting in the garden, looking at the eyelashes, would you trade the baby for the possibility of writing The House of Mirth? You would not.”

    Ugh….can someone explain to me why we can’t do both? Why is it so impossible for Dr. Roiphe to imagine a feminist capable of being as good a mother as she can AND writing a novel about the trappings of social expectations? How small minded of her to think that you must only be capable of one or the other. Must be the opium-like trance or something.

    Personally, I am the mother of TWO ‘only’ children. My oldest was 14 when my youngest was born. Both girls vastly different in personality, disposition, and needs. I dare to say that I love both of them equally, yet differently because they are individuals. It sucks that Roiphe seems to lose all ability to understand that everyone that is not her, has their own unique experiences in regards to motherhood and spends most of her time writing an essay that heaps coals upon the heads of those who didn’t feel the same way she does. Way to further the feminist movement!

    Listen, to each hir own. Who am I to dictate the feelings another is required to have regarding motherhood? For that matter, who am I to impose ANY expectations on anyone else? As a mom, I have a duty to ensure my kids get their needs met because I chose to have them. Everything else is open for interpretation. When I worked for Child Protective Services, it was my job to intervene when children were not being given the “minimum sufficient level of care” required by law….the basics. It wasn’t my job to dictate feelings, mandate love, and force my morals on those parents who fell short in providing the basics for their kids. Today, when I see a parent frustrated with a kid in public, I don’t cluck my tongue in judgement because I learned firsthand as a social worker AND a single parent, that one can never know the circumstance behind that stranger’s frustrations. I couldn’t do that job for long BECAUSE of some of moral compassing that occured in that field. It just didn’t feel right to me to critique parents in areas that were more intrinsic than physical.

    Roiphe’s essay just seems to indicate how very inept she perceives women to be, in spite of her own accomplishments. Yay for her..she’s in love with her newborn. What is the purpose of diminishing other women who don’t feel the same way?

  152. If people think I hate babies, why would they want me to have any? They should be grateful that some of us know ourselves well enough NOT to have kids. I see in the newspapers how badly certain parents treat their kids, and I wonder why they even bothered to have any.
    Am I being too judgmental?

  153. I fail to see how it can be selfish not to want to have children, and unselfish not to have children. Surely at least some of the people who have children must have wanted them…

  154. #
    Lori, on August 26th, 2009 at 3:33 am Said:

    Okay, this is totally O/T, but I had to post it before my (puny, shrunken) brain exploded:

    Obese People Have ‘Severe Brain Degeneration’

    It’s like they’ve stopped trying and have just completely reverted to phrenology. Seriously, they are now arguing that fat people have smaller brains than thin people.

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. Really? Now we’re brain damaged, too? Well, that’s fucking charming.

  155. of course, because clearly the universe is divided into two kinds of women: real women who don’t mind the fact that their baby has turned them into zombie milkmaids and feminazis. *sigh*

    she should just tattoo Breeder to her forehead and save us all the near lethal overdose of trite, fatuous writing spun from fairy-floss and Pollyanna reruns.

  156. As a dad, what I wonder is why anti-feminists believe that it is only the mom that should be bonding with an infant when feeding, or the mom who feels the caring instinct. The ‘bond’ formed through breast feeding has more to do with the feeding than the breast. Feeding through a bottle is at least as important an experience.

    There is also the reality I acknowledge that not all fathers will feel the same upon the birth of their children as I (unbridled joy), likewise not all mothers go through the same emotions.

  157. ONLY ONE CHILD!?

    I think I’m a gettin’ the vapors. Please somebody get this woman Clomid and some semen so that the human race can go on. *gracefully slumps over on her parlor divan*. Pardon the anachronism.

    “A mother of one is less of a mother than a mother of three? What an awful thought to have, so petty and mean.”

    Its such a commonly spoken and unspoken assumption about only child families you might be shocked. In fact, I was waiting for the ‘only one’ phrase as soon as I saw the worlds ‘two’ and ‘children’. Of course Roiphe never considered that perhaps the aforementioned women felt blessed they had ONE child because she was told she would have NONE. Or that the mother is lower middle class to working class and that means MAYBE she could get one child through college but two was out of the question.

    And quite frankly, after seeing some of the horrifying child neglect case’s that we’ve seen here in my state lately, I think that people like Katie Roiphe should STFU.

    This cult of motherhood bullshit is exactly why we have people like Nadya Suleman and (dare I say it) Kate Gosselin. Women who think that being an incubator is something noble. Its not. It just means 1. you can’t make an informed decision because you live in a sick society that equates zygotes/embryos with actual human beings 2. You’re going to be really tired.

    I really want the experience of getting pregnant and having a human baby but then I want the baby to just go away… Therefore I know its not a good idea for me.

  158. Fatsmartchick, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but pregnant women aren’t incubators, even if they choose to be pregnant a lot.

  159. ONLY ONE CHILD!?

    And, at 41. I am clearly both a better woman and a better mother than Roiphe, as I’m ten years younger than she is and expecting my second.

    I have to say, there is something about that particularly attitude–a woman who did apparently (by her own reasoning) trade in babies for writing for the first 2-1/2 decades of her childbearing years deciding that she is now, six weeks after becoming a mother, the authority on what the experience of motherhood is like and what choices other women should or shouldn’t make regarding their own childbearing–that really does not sit well at all with me. If Roiphe regrets waiting until she was in her 40s to start having kids (and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s part of why she’s writing this), she can regret it, but pointing the finger at feminists for somehow duping her into not liking babies is just absurd.

  160. I just explained to my 11 year old niece that when she grows up, she will be expected to me beautiful, thin, have a career, get married, want children, smile, be happy and be perfect and never complain. I then explained that what society wants is unattainable and a LIE. She should listen to her own gut and follow her own path and be true to her own inner voice. I also told her that if she didn’t want to have babies, she shouldn’t.

    I have had 4 miscarriages, three failed adoption situations and I’m pushing 40. I’m really OK with NOT having a baby at this point. I tried, it didn’t work. Because I have, like, a life. Filled with people I love and people who love me and a delicious niece and nephew whom I adore. And that, folks, is enough for me. Now pass me a baby donut. A glazed one.

  161. It I didn’t say that pregnant women were incubators.

    I did imply that having 6-8 babies at one time is incubator-like… and I stand by that. The human body doesn’t normally produce that many children.

  162. I just want to clarify, obviously I don’t see anything wrong somebody waiting until they are 40 to have kids.

    I just think it’s ironic that Roiphe would somehow hold up all of these childless novelists as examples of how feminists hate babies and are tricking women, when she in fact spent most of her childbearing years not having children and instead writing books, including a not-very-successful novel. I get more of a feeling that Roiphe had created a fantasy about what her life would be like–the childless writer, composing the next House of Mirth–and when that didn’t go exactly as she wanted, and she didn’t write a novel that would be remembered in a hundred years as great literature, instead of accepting that sometimes the life we envisioned for ourselves isn’t the life we get, she turned around and decided to blame feminists for deluding her into having such a stupid, selfish dream in the first place, when she could have just been happy snuggling babies.

    It’s hard, when somebody’s writing is so incredibly narcissitic, to not resort to analyzing their motives.

  163. I’ll be lucky to have any kids. I had severe endometriosis which is now in abeyance, but my chances aren’t good. And I’m 34 and recently single, as my ex-boyfriend didn’t want children, so I’m now wondering if I’ll ever get to have them, and it’s really, really hard to think that I might not. But if I ever manage to have “only one” and someone starts banging on about it being because motherhood was too difficult for me or selfish of me not to have a sibling for my baby, I’ll probably deck them. Katie Roiphe – you are not the sole arbiter of What Women Want, so stop thinking it’s either with you or against you.

    Because of course, if you’re going to disclose your rape to anyone, it would be to the woman who wrote an entire book about how rape isn’t really rape.

    I didn’t know much about Roiphe, so I had to do some searching, and came across this review of The Morning After, by Katha Pollitt, in which she makes exactly the point that SM makes above:

    It may be that Roiphe’s friends have nothing to tell her. Or it may be that they have nothing to tell her. With her adolescent certainty that bad things don’t happen, or that they happen only to weaklings, she is not likely to be on the receiving end of many painful, intimate confessions. The one time a fellow student tells
    her about being raped (at knifepoint, so it counts), Roiphe
    cringes like a high-school vegetarian dissecting her first frog: “I was startled… I felt terrible for her, I felt like there was
    nothing I could say.” Confronted with someone whose testimony she can’t dismiss or satirize, Roiphe goes blank.

    The whole article’s worth reading.

  164. I now want to read The House of Mirth. See, Roiphe did something right. She made me want to read more Edith Wharton.

  165. Why does anybody care? Katie Roiphe, Camille Paglia, et al are “academicians” who are rich and famous by participating in the antifeminist/mommy wars, which are the highbrow equivalent of professional wrestling, complete with heroes to cheer and villians to hiss. This link, and all the people who registered just to hiss at XX, are just leaving $5 on the dresser. No attention whore minds that at all.

  166. Why does anybody care?

    Seriously, why would it ever be important to call out false, insulting claims about feminists? They only exist because people are trying to tear down feminist solidarity, after all! And it’s not like anyone reads articles like this and believes them — that would require some kind of widespread cultural prevalence of patriarchy and misogyny! Much better to allow the people who are trying to destroy feminism from the inside to just go ahead and do it — if you argue with them, you just call attention to their attempts to weaken the movement that’s trying to strengthen you.

  167. Many people can have the career and the kids now and can do it all swimmingly. However, I don’t think we are at a place where we can accurately characterize the choice between kids and exciting careers as a situation that persisted until recently, but is now in the past. Things have gotten better, what with daycare centers on campuses and such — thanks, feminism.

    Still, I would argue that the choice between babies and exciting careers remains very real for a whole lot of women. Poverty can be a barrier that forces that kind of choice.

  168. On a different note, echoing all the Wharton-lovers in the thread & echoing liberalandproud: that would be one good outcome!

    BTW, among the reasons Wharton might not have had kids was that she was in a loveless, and, IIRC, pretty much sexless society-approved marriage. She finally divorced and had the first passionate relationship of her life in her 40s. Wow, it’s almost like life’s complicated. Or something.

    Also, Rophie can also kiss the asses of my lesbian and/or single mother friends whose motherhood is made more possible by feminism.

  169. Speaking as a feminist who DOES want kids (someday), I thought her article was awful. Because even though kids are great and fulfilling and wonderful, they are VERY difficult. And being a SAHP can be fun, boring, fulfilling, stressful, tear-inducing, hair-pullingly awful, smelly, and wonderful all at once. Denying that sometimes primary care parenthood isn’t all that great will just make certain personalities of SAHMs feel guilty that they aren’t Supermom every freaking second of the day. The narcotic effect of a kid’s eyelashes is not enough to sustain you through the really tough bits. You have to really be in it for the long haul.

    This is something I get on the religious-centered feminist blogs I frequent — women who CHOOSE to stay home and take care of their children, and WANT to help them grow up to be awesome human beings, sometimes getting frustrated and not thinking that it’s all that great. And it’s OKAY to feel that way! Really, you’re totally a human being who sometimes needs intelligent conversation and the ability to not get covered in puke? You’re totally NOT going to hell for that!

    But does Roiphe just want us to ignore that, and just convince ourselves that no, we really are happy 150% of the time, because OMG TEH BEBBIES ARE SOOO ADORABLE!

    Lame.

    (first time poster, btw. Go easy on me)

  170. I just want to bring up PPD down here again because its existence deserves to be repeated again and again.

    The process of giving birth to a child affects everyone in a different way.I mean, it HAS to….we’re all different people. Roiphe had her experience and I had mine.

    For me, those very same hormones that wash through your system after birth made the first few months (or longer…or shorter) of having a newborn seem like a living hell consisting of being trapped in a puppet’s body while my brain slowly dissolved into a puddle of panic and oblivion. I had lost myself and I feared that I would never come back

    If that’s a narcotic, I don’t want any part of it.

    And it DID NOT help that I could tell that I “should” have been happy because people had told me that I “should.” As A Sarah said upthread, those people can suck it.

  171. This link, and all the people who registered just to hiss at XX, are just leaving $5 on the dresser. No attention whore minds that at all.

    Right, why should anyone care? Clearly, antifeminists have made no inroads, since no one ever uses misogynistic slurs to dismiss women they don’t like!

    Seriously, who let you in?

  172. (first time poster, btw. Go easy on me)

    Well, first thing you should know is we don’t use the word “lame” around here to mean “bad,” because it’s ableist. Otherwise, you’re okay by me so far.

  173. I just want to say, on the week before school starts– when I have to cram in 3 soccer practices, 2 “back to school” parties, a meet the teacher night, kindergarten bus practice, walk-your-schedule day, and trips to three stores to find the CRAYOLA (ONLY CRAYOLA DAMMIT) 8-color watercolor tray (all after my full-time job)–that yes, I find the idea of trading the kids for a garaunteed work of genius like The House of Mirth very, very appealing. It must be my feminist baby-hating streak that makes me feel that way or maybe they have the wrong eyelashes.
    Seriously, I’m very greatful to have the opportunity to provide this life for my kids. I couldn’t do it without my child-free sister who rescues me from over-extended days. I couldn’t do it without the support of my mother, who went to D.C. to advocate for Title IX in the 70s, and adores my children. My children wouldn’t have the opportunities they have if I weren’t a feminist.

  174. Still, I would argue that the choice between babies and exciting careers remains very real for a whole lot of women.

    And the whole idea of having an “exciting career” is a very privileged one; most people have jobs which, if they had their choice, they probably wouldn’t have to do, or at least not as much or as often as they must to get by. I mean, Roiphe’s whole construct of maternity leave as this blissful period of (we can assume) several months were you get to just relax and enjoy your baby is not reality for most jworking moms for many reasons, including the many women who have to be back at work within 6 weeks, who aren’t getting paid for their maternity leave and so are stressed about money the whole time, and who have to spend that time scrambling to find decent infant care they can actually afford.

    Roiphe just seems so insistently oblivious, in this and her other writings, to the fact that her extremely privileged life is NOT the reality facing most women.

  175. why in the world would you look at women and put them in categories by the number of children they had? what kind of a monster are you, Kate Roiphe? women have, or do not have, children for various reasons. they may want children, or not, be able to care for them and pay for them, or not, be able to bear them, or not. do you honestly read a writer’s work and think about whether baby smells were around? why do you judge me on the basis of my uterus? aren’t we trying to judge all people on the basis of their work? I’m a woman who cannot have children and really, really want them. I don’t have any more or less respect for a person based on whether they have a child. I look at their work. kate you are a monster for judging other women. oh, wait, Roiphe…that’s my new word for vomit.

  176. Does anyone else find the phrase “the pleasure of infants” extremely dehumanizing to the infants themselves?

    Yes, yes and yes. She has objectified her baby to suit her own needs and agenda. How will she take it when this child er I mean doll, asserts her own indepence?

    As a mom of 1 I have been treated as a dabbler by those with more children, I mean real families.

  177. Thank you, atiton. Sometimes sentiments like Roiphe’s get me, just for a moment, to question whether I’m some kind of defective human being for having experienced the babymoon as a nightmare. I’ve gotten to the point where I can mostly regain my equilibrium on my own, but still, it really helps to hear from someone else who’s BTDT.

  178. As a woman who’s earning a living wage, but not much more, I can’t imagine having a child. (Okay, also: I don’t want one at ALL.) I can afford a studio apartment in the area of town I like. If I had a child, I’d have to move into a less awesome neighborhood. I’d have to try to find money to buy a car, and stop shopping at the farmer’s market and start shopping at Walmart. I don’t know how I’d swing child care.
    Many of my hobbies, thankfully, can be accomplished at home, but I’d feel obligated to do more outside stuff, especially since there’s no way I could afford a house or an apartment with a yard, and I wouldn’t want my baby to never see the light of day (which is more or less how I spend my free time.) I could no longer justify my sub-par cleaning habits as only affecting me. My ability to just stop for coffee or just jump off the bus to go walk by the lake would change completely.
    I’m not beneath any poverty line, and the state thinks my salary could support a family of four in a good fashion. *How* they think this is possible is a question best left unprobed.
    Since I don’t want kids at all, this sounds totally less than appealing. Some of this is a single-parent thing, some of this is a lower-middle class thing, and some of it is me. I totally advocate as much help as possible for women who want kids who don’t have resources, but honestly, I’m surprised there’s not more women who say “I wish I could, but I just can’t.”

    True confession: When I see misbehaving kids in the grocery, I willfully ignore them and have trained my eyeballs not to roll. And if my jaw clenches when they shriek for fifteen minutes without breath, I do it in solidarity with the parents. (Usually. Children’s shrieks really do inspire a deep well of anger in me, which I tamp down hard, because good people don’t hate it when children scream. Good people think kids are awesome all the time.)

  179. My mum loves us (me and my brother) loads, but had a difficult time with depression and (I’m guessing) feeling unfulfilled by staying at home, at least after we’d started going to school for most of the weekdays. She ended up retraining to go back to work when I was about 9/10, and made it back into the workplace but is paid pittance — less per hour than I get in one of my uni-related part time jobs — for essentially keeping a small business afloat and suffering a lot of stick for her trouble… So she kind of did both the SAH and the not-SAH thing, and neither were perfect. I imagine this is the case for lots of people. Incidentally she often said stuff to me like ‘don’t ever have kids’, in relation to the worry she had over us when we did dumb stuff or when she was depressed. I knew she didn’t mean she regretted having us, because we were way too loved for that, but I think it did stick with me.

    I’m left feeling like I might like a family (this I take to mean 1 kid plus maybe more but probably not more than one for me because scary-hard and much respect to those who do!) one day, but also I’m thinking more about adoption than giving birth because of the tendency to postnatal depression in my family, and also because there are lots of already-born kids who could do with having someone/some people to look after them. Am also aware that adoption comes with its own set of hards stuff (my bf is adopted) and heck, it’s also not that easy to be allowed to adopt in the first place. But I might have a kid of my own, maybe, if I can get over The Terrors I have when I think about how I’d deal with that – I don’t know, but the point is I get a choice…. Plus any/all of this is entirely theoretical at this stage because I Have No Money. Unless I get Some Money, I won’t intentionally be starting a family (and no idea what I’d do if I got pregnant but still had no money — yet very glad feminism also gives me a choice in that hypothetical situation too!), and the more time that goes by the less likely Ever Having Any Money seems :-(.

    Or, according to Roiphe, I just hate babies.

  180. Oh, Anita I think lots of good people hate it when children scream. I’d venture to say more than a few moms aren’t overly fond of it! What makes people jerks is when they think (or say) “why can’t that terrible mom control her kids?” instead of “wow, that mom might be stressed or having a bad day and this must be even more frustrating for me than it is for her. and maybe they aren’t out of control kids but they themselves are frustrated/in pain/having a bad day and I can feel for them too, even as I wish they’d be quiet.”

    And what this no-kids woman who still, in spite of the screaming really, really wants one is, “wow, I’m going to go home to my quiet solo apartment and instead of feeling lonely I’ll really enjoy my space, because if I do have a kid someday, I know I’ll miss it!”

  181. And another thing: why do these straw-feminist-constructors assume that being childless by choice = hating babies? Can’t you love something without insisting on having half a dozen of ‘em in your house? What is so unfeminist about loving other peoples’ kids?

    p.s. JennyRose makes a great point -an addiction to the romance of babymommyhood is in no way the equivalent of loving children: not one’s own, and not children in general. I love kids, but I despise people who lose interest in them after they turn into hyperactive 5 year olds or nerdy 12 year olds or surly eye-rolling teenagers: the truly great parents love them at all those stages.

  182. Cripes, Virginia Woolf didn’t have kids because she was seriously mentally unstable and she, Leonard, and everyone else all thought that having a kid would send her over the fucking edge. Not because she was too busy writing boring novels to schedule some trying to conceive or hated children or something. Research FAIL.

    And then some writers and other famous women — Julia Child, for instance, I’m sure creating such a huge cookbook can count as writing — really wanted kids and couldn’t have them.

  183. fatsmartchick, if you are serious about wanting pregnancy; but not the baby after that: have you considered being a surrogate?

  184. If you’re a writer and can’t have kids, then your writing is just a way to fill the empty, worthless void of your life. Unless you’re a man. Stop me if this is a “What about teh menz”, but if we’re all huffing babies, maybe instead of convincing the non-addicts among the women, Dr. (Ms.?) Roiphe should appeal to the menz. Maybe they, too, would want to stay in the opium den. Or maybe our society survives only because men have no hormones. (Tru biologee.)

    In Julia’s case, then it was writing and butter and TV shows and living in France filling that void. Since I’d rather smell mushrooms in butter than babies, I’m at least grateful that one of the void filling materials was a semi-drug. (Mmm, butter. Also: mmm, mushrooms.)

  185. @It — Yup, I’m nodding vigorously in response to your comment. I also hate it when children scream. I just can’t always do anything to stop it, when it’s my kids, and sometimes people make snippy comments as I’m beating a hasty exit to the door.

    And of course I would hope that this would make me *more*, not less, empathetic towards another group of women — those without children who don’t want children — who *ALSO* get snipped at for not being female in precisely the way that that particular judgmental asshole-stranger-in-public happens to want at that particular moment. And vice versa. But sometimes these conversations proceed as though everyone has granted that at least ONE group of women has to be doing womanhood wrong… and the only thing left to haggle over is whether it’s the stupid talent-squandering vacant-eyed selfish population-exploding sing-song-y baby poppers-out; or the tar-hearted cold careerist castrating calculating money-grubbing soulless incapable-of-love don’t-see-what-really-matters-in-life selfish childless beasts. Pssst. The real enemies are those who came up with that forced choice.

  186. And you know, I’m a feminist who doesn’t want children, but screaming babies — they totally don’t bother me. Stick me in the weird group, I guess.
    I kinds just figure that everyone, myself included, was an annoying, screaming tot at one point, and every parent, including myself should I ever change my mind will have a screaming child in public and nothing they can do about it at some point, and loud noises don’t bother me per se — in fact, it drowns out the ringing in my left ear, so it’s kinda nice sometimes — so I an cut them some slack.

  187. “…an opium-den quality to maternity leave.” I didn’t realize that continual dirty diapers and baby spit-up were part of the opium-den experience, but now I know to steer clear.

    It’s been my experience that raising children (2 boys and a girl) has made me more of a feminist because like most parents, I want my kids to have it better than I did. And not necessarily in the financial/materialistic sense (cause I have failed? miserably there) but I want all of them to be open-minded, compassionate individuals who don’t limit themselves or their dreams based on their gender or expectations of society. I try to be very aware of the messages my kids are getting via the MSM and advertising, which in turn has made me more aware of messages that I am getting/have gotten and how it’s affected my attitudes and beliefs. Raising kids can be a great opportunity to see yourself and the world differently ( and not just because you are hallucinating from inhaling the sweet, sweet baby smell. ahhhh. ) but obviously it’s not for everyone. And even though I love being a mom, I do get that. If you think you shouldn’t have kids, for whatever reason, then you’re probably right. The bottom line, I think, is that a woman should get to choose what she wants to do in life, without limits and without being judged for it.

  188. @A Sarah: Right back at ya.

    As for not liking screaming children, shouldn’t the evopsych people have something to say about that? I mean, who LIKES a screaming child? Question is: how do you respond to it? It’s all about context, baby, all about context.

  189. Good idea, Piffle! My friend did that and she enjoyed pregnancy so much that she carried two more children for the same couple.

  190. atiton, they do. the frequencies at which children cry and scream is apparently especially grating to the human ear, which they think means that we’re hard-wired in some way to respond immediately to the sound. some people also think this is why domesticated housecats learn to purr on the same frequencies when they want something from you (apparently some people find that purr annoying, but I find it ridiculously cute. Maybe this is why mine have learned to cry loudly until my head explodes).

  191. “The goal of Straw Feminist Weekly is not to argue with or against any particular article, but to point out the fallacious rhetoric of setting up a straw feminist to argue against. We could feature an article that we all thought was totally awesome *except* for its straw feminist moment, and it would still deserve to be called out.”

    I guess I wasn’t very clear about my point: because the actual article left me thinking that the subtitle didn’t reflect the author’s actual opinion and was tacked on, possibly by an editor rather than the author, to get eyeballs–I wonder if it’s completely accurate to paint Roiphe’s opinion in the way that you do. In fact, the subtitle is almost a straw-man version of the contents of the actual article. (Which is not to say that I’m OK with taking cheap shots at feminism or misrepresenting/ sensationalizing what your article is about just to grab eyeballs.) On the other hand, I can’t say for sure that Roiphe doesn’t wholeheartedly agree with the subtitle. And I’m not sure which would be worse.

    By the way, I do love the idea of a Straw Feminist Weekly

  192. Jill, I just saw your comment. I’m really not sure why you’re asking us if you’re a feminist! The whole point of this post and comment thread is that whether you want children, don’t want children, never have children, have them and are euphoric, or have them and hate it, it’s basically irrelevant to whether or not you believe women can do and should be able to do any of those things without judgment.

  193. This:

    Oh, Anita I think lots of good people hate it when children scream. I’d venture to say more than a few moms aren’t overly fond of it! What makes people jerks is when they think (or say) “why can’t that terrible mom control her kids?”

    And this:

    But sometimes these conversations proceed as though everyone has granted that at least ONE group of women has to be doing womanhood wrong

    FTW.

    DRST

  194. And quite frankly, after seeing some of the horrifying child neglect case’s that we’ve seen here in my state lately, I think that people like Katie Roiphe should STFU.

    See, I’m not sure how these things are related. That Katie Roiphe is arguing with straw feminists is unrelated to how talented she is at parenting. Non-feminists can be both good and terrible parents, and so can feminists. People who really wanted children can turn into horrible parents down the line, and people who didn’t want them can come to terms with it and do just fine. It’s really not as simple as woman-who-didn’t-want-kids-has-them-anyway => neglectful-parent.

  195. FANTASTIC POST! This is so timely for me.

    I am working on a movie inspired by all the pressure I feel under to have babies already… (ok shameless self promotion – please feel free to view the trailer and clips i post… http://www.shmotherhood.com/trailer.html )

    ALSO, apropo feminism, they are having an animation contest for an american history special on the History Channel. So a friend of mine is helping me enter it with a speech by Susan B Anthony. (I’m sure I will be back here to shamelessly beg for your votes, or at least invite you to view it when it’s up.) The contest is to animate various speeches from american history and that’s the one I chose.

    Anyway I am at work now so can’t spend too much time. But I MUST go over all the comments here. This kind of anti feminist backlash pisses me off so much, esp when the very people enjoying rights hard-won for them by feminists are the ones doing it.

    Thank you for the post and the comments…

  196. “wow, I’m going to go home to my quiet solo apartment and instead of feeling lonely I’ll really enjoy my space, because if I do have a kid someday, I know I’ll miss it!”

    I never understood the appeal of the convent until I had my son.

  197. And you know, I’m a feminist who doesn’t want children, but screaming babies — they totally don’t bother me.

    I think this is one of those individual differences. I love kids, but I’m also relatively unaffected by their screaming. My husband, on the other hand, cannot handle listening to a baby cry or scream. This was a huge issue around whether or not we’d have our son cry it out. I wanted to do it, because honestly he can cry for hours and as long as I know he’s not actually in danger, I can tune it out and happily go reading or knitting or whatever I might be doing. My husband just becomes completely overwhelmed by the sound of a child screaming, and cannot function until it stops. I tend to think that it’s not that either of us are less caring or less child-friendly, just that different noises affect different people in different ways.

    Last time I gave in and we never let our son cry for long. This time, now that we’ve got a 5-year-old who we still can’t get out of our bed, I’m just getting my husband some really, really good noise-cancelling headphones.

  198. As an antidote to Roiphe, I recommend Ayelet Waldman’s interview on Fresh Air about her memoir “Bad Mother.” She is a bad mother to more than one kid, and she had them with Michael Chabon.

    My own bad mom (who claimed she loves us but would also have made a really great and very happy nun) is a great blessing in my life. But I should think having Waldman as a bad mom would also be a pretty good gig. If I am ever a mom, I wouldn’t mind being as bad at it as they are.

    By bad mother, I mean, of course “awesome and accomplished human being all around.”

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103794433

  199. It’s interesting that childfree gets translated into “hates kids” rather than “doesn’t want to be a parent”. I don’t hate kids (although I find babies to be disturbingly fetal until their eyes focus and they can hold up their heads), but I sure as hell don’t want to be a mother. I don’t want to be a lot of things, actually, but people don’t give you crap about not wanting to be a firefighter or a nurse.

    I’ve also noticed a significant overlap between the people who treat their children as appendages (babies as narcotics all the way through “I went to College X so you have to go to College X”) and the people who diss the childfree. The parents who see their children as people who are distinct from them also see *me* as being distinct from them. A lot of straw-feminism (and straw-people in general) does come from this impulse to treat the entire world as an extension of the self. To say that it’s obnoxious to be the target of this behavior is rather an understatement.

  200. It’s interesting that childfree gets translated into “hates kids” rather than “doesn’t want to be a parent”.

    While I agree, I do think that some of that is because there ARE some extremely vocal child-haters (actual child-haters, not the straw kind) who use “child-free” to refer to themselves. They seem to be especially prevalent online, and I have seen some rhetoric about children coming from people who use the label “child free” to describe themselves that is truly hateful. I certainly have no problem with an individual choosing not to have children, but there do seem to be some people who think that being “child-free” means that they are entitled to an entirely child-free existence, and so any child daring to cross their path is infringing upon their happiness and freedom. I WISH that this were a straw figure, but unfortunately it’s not. There really are people who hate children, think they are disgusting nuisances, and honestly wish that they were barred from being out in public (or at least that their mothers would have the decency to never, ever, ever take them out).

    But, it’s also not feminist. I mean, when I hear people railing against maternity leave because if somebody decides to get pregnant it’s her own damn fault, I don’t think “Oh, that’s a feminist!” I don’t understand why anybody would.

  201. Wait, I thought we were supposed to ~eat~ babies. We only need to hate them? Heck, I guess I can stop sharpening my knives now.

  202. Wait, we’re supposed to cut up the babies? I thought the challenge was to encompass a whole baby per doughnut.

  203. I wish we could all just stop hating on each other for our personal choices!!! I have two kids. I’m also a feminist. If you want to have kids, then have them, and yes, you absolutely deserve maternity leave! Paid, and more than 6 weeks IMHO.
    If you choose not to have kids, that is you’re right, and NO ONE has any say (although I may ask you to babysit once in a while, lol!), and it certainly doesn’t mean you hate children! And yes, I will TOTALLY read your books if you write them!
    There are people in my family who don’t have kids. they have nieces and nephews whom they adore, and who adore them. It’s wonderful!
    (BTW, Edith Wharton’s husband was bat-shit crazy, they had a difficult relationship, and he kept screwing the maids. Can’t imagine why she wouldn’t want to have kids with him! And “House of Mirth” is one of the GREATEST books, EVER!)

  204. Once again, an Enlightened True _____ steps in to tell me how I’m Doing It Wrong. “It” in this case, apparently, is Being Female.

    What I like best about babies is that I do not actually have one, but my friends do. So if I want to snorgle one for a few hours on a Saturday, I can drop by any of my friends’ houses and do so, then leave before the cleaning cycle begins.

    This is also why I like swimming pools and boats. ;)

  205. While I agree, I do think that some of that is because there ARE some extremely vocal child-haters (actual child-haters, not the straw kind) who use “child-free” to refer to themselves.

    And there are probably some women out there who consider themselves feminists, and who also don’t want to have children because they hate them. I don’t think anyone has argued that there aren’t child-haters in the world. The whole point is that it’s idiotic to consider that the rule, or somehow defining of feminism (or anything else). It’s straw because it doesn’t have anything to do with any particular group (other than, you know, child haters).

  206. Admittedly clean babies smell nommy. BUT I did not have the Early Opium Honeymoon experience–in fact the first few weeks were miserable, and then it got much better. Part of that was certainly sleep deprivation and recovery from caesarean in one case and Scary Hemorraghing in another, but part of it was also LACK OF FEEDBACK. Because if I did EVERYTHING RIGHT, my reward from the person I was slaving away for was that he DIDN’T SCREAM AT ME for a while. It was like working for the World’s Angriest Boss. “Wow, Mr. Burns didn’t throw anything at my head today! I think he liiiikes me!” It was…not sufficient.

    But then, at six weeks or so, they started SMILING at me. And THEN I was all, “Oh, HI, there’s a PERSON in there! And you LIKE me! *SWOOOOOON*”

    Smiles do more for me than opium, I guess.

  207. I am working on a movie inspired by all the pressure I feel under to have babies already… (ok shameless self promotion – please feel free to view the trailer and clips i post… http://www.shmotherhood.com/trailer.html )

    cggirl, that was an awesome trailer. I need to remember to keep you in mind when I go out to have my awesome illustrious film career.

  208. A couple of comments:

    @Ashley said: how infantalized so many of these women she hires are–how before she can teach them QuickBooks or Point of Sale or whatever, she has to more or less teach them how to learn job skills and teach them how to be employees. These are women who’ve never had to do this and feel that they CAN’T do it simply because they are women and their skillset was limited to changing diapers in their early twenties.She rather bravely acknowledged that the notion that women need to make their families their entire lives is an absolute load of manure I really don’t think that spending one’s time as a mother/homemaker makes a woman “infantile”, and their “skill-set” involves much more than changing diapers, I’m sure. These women may have to learn specific job skills, but in a way, they’ve been self-employed, so of course, they aren’t familiar with the whole idea of identifying oneself as an “employee.” Frankly, I’m a tad bit envious that these women may not have had to immerse themselves in corporate/business culture all their lives–it can be soul-destroying for some. Also, I think if we really want to identify ourselves as feminists who support choice in all its forms, we better come to grips with the fact that many women will make choices that are unimaginable to ourselves.

    @Fatsmartchick said: I did imply that having 6-8 babies at one time is incubator-like… and I stand by that. The human body doesn’t normally produce that many children. Actually, absent effective birth control, having that many children can be quite normal. You should see my family tree. There are lots and lots of families of 8, 9, even 15 children. Of course, that doesn’t imply that having fewer children is abnormal.

  209. Ah, kids screaming in public, the never-ending maternal dilemma.

    If you ignore their tantrums, people assume you inflict your brats on the world for shits and grins, to trigger their internal rage.

    If you take the kid out and swat ‘em a time or two (yeah, I’m from a region where this is still pretty common) people are righteously disgusted by the child abuse they’ve just borne witness to.

    My solution: don’t leave the house! Short of a mass famine, you ain’t gonna see this woman in public much for the next… five years.

    Seriously, though, it IS hard to take a lot of feminists seriously after you’ve had a bunch of kids. Not all, by any means, but there’s a certain brand of upper-middle-class white-girl feminism that I might have aspired to at a childless 20, but just honestly can’t connect with much today.

    Today I’ve got more common ground with the “weird” religious housewives of my acquaintance. How odd it is to feel more at ease with a quiverfull fundamentalist mom than with the adjunct English instructor at the university.

    Your life-choices often change your practical politics, and maybe that’s the point this writer was trying to blunder her way towards. More of life is felt than reasoned.

    (ooh, I kind of like Ayelet Waldman, too. I remember my mommy message board being all up-in-arms about her essay on how she loved her husband more than her kids, but I felt like it was a breath of cool air in an infantile hothouse.)

  210. Hmm, something makes me think of this. I can’t link to the original comment thread in which this brilliant comment from UnhingedHips appears, because my work computer considers it inappropriate and won’t load the page.

    So I’ll link to belledame222′s post in which she quotes it:

    UnHingedHips said:

    Dear Woman Doing Something: I am a feminist and want women to be able to make their own choices. However, YOU are too (young/old/poor/x/y/z)and I think your choice to (have babies/not have babies/sail around the world/a/b/c) while being so (young/old/poor/x/y/z) is reprehensible and you should be loudly condemned for daring to do something like *that*, even though it has no impact on my life.

    I hope you see the error of your ways.

    ~Another Woman

  211. I just found this website from Atrios’ link. What a great find! Loved the article.

    On the subject. I realy am a “baby hater,” I guess. Well not “hater” in the traditional sense that I actually hate/loathe the little critters. I just find the thought of having to produce and care for one a bit… nausiating.

    Oh and I’m male, so I guess that’s okay. But my wife doesn’t want kids either so I guess that makes her a heretic. THE EYELASHES, DAMNIT! HOW CAN SHE NOT GET HIGH ON THE EYELASHES!?

  212. ^What I love about that comment I just linked to, is that it works equally well for Linda Hirschman, this Roiphe person, people who think every woman is required to want a baybeeeeeeeee and to be blissed-out at all times by motherhood and will obnoxiously tell them so, and people who think that the world has WRONGED them if they ever see a child in public acting like a child.

    On a related note, who was it here who, a few months ago, recommended the retort, “Well, it’s nice to want things” when presented with an unreasonable request?

    Because, OMG THANK YOU, I have used that so many times.

    Kid: “I want juice!”
    Me: “It’s nice to want things.”

    Antifeminist douchebag #1: “I want you to feel exactly as oopy-goopy super-duper-fulfilled about motherhood that I think you should, which is VERY.”
    Me: “It’s nice to want things.”

    Antifeminist douchebag #2: “Because I don’t want to have children, I therefore want to be able to go out in public places but never encounter any snot-nosed rugrat scum or their horrid selfish stupid mothers.”
    Me: “It’s nice to want things.”

    Antifeminist douchebag #3: “I basically just never want to have to acknowledge the existence of any woman who doesn’t exist solely to confirm what I already think about women.”
    Me: “It’s nice to want things.”

    See? It’s so useful.

  213. “My husband just becomes completely overwhelmed by the sound of a child screaming, and cannot function until it stops.”

    Oh, God, this is me. I just become filled with a horrible anxiety/rage, tense up my whole body, and scream inside my head, ‘MAKEITSTOPMAKEITSTOPMAKEITSTOP!!!’. If this is supposed to induce human beings to care for their offspring, something’s gone amiss in my own evolution.

    Yet I still have enough compassion to understand that people’s children cannot help it. But those mothers who try to transport their precious bundles of colicky joy in *SUV-sized* baby carriages on the public bus are quite another matter…

  214. eh, baby strollers do indeed occupy more space than one would expect, in much the same way that a car seat occupies more space than an average-sized adult’s ass.

    Babies! such a hassle. School-aged children are at least housed in appropriate institutions most of their waking hours.

    One can see why so many parents flee to the burbs. At least there, we can decently shroud ourselves 22 hours a day or so.

  215. I did imply that having 6-8 babies at one time is incubator-like… and I stand by that. The human body doesn’t normally produce that many children.

    MamaD, I agree with your response so this. Normal according to what, exactly? I mean, wtf?

    friendly daughter, maybe I’m just thinking of all the other comments you have made and putting them together with your comment here, but it gets my hackles up that you are repeatedly saying how shitty those academics/intellectuals/feminists/unitarians are, and how much nicer the fundamentalists/traditionally-religious/anti-feminists are. This comment wasn’t as severe and at least you said you’re only talking about certain people that you’re not comfortable with, but it’s hard to forget the other things you said and put this in that context.

    Yet I still have enough compassion to understand that people’s children cannot help it. But those mothers who try to transport their precious bundles of colicky joy in *SUV-sized* baby carriages on the public bus are quite another matter…

    I bet those chidlren can’t help it, either, actually.

  216. But those mothers who try to transport their precious bundles of colicky joy in *SUV-sized* baby carriages on the public bus are quite another matter…

    I suspect this is at least partly because if you’re a bus rider, you don’t have a place to store stuff (like the trunk), so you end up carrying a lot more. So women with small children must haul around *all* the various equipment their child might need for the day. I’d be very surprised if a small, flimsy stroller plus eight bags is better than a large stroller in which many bags can be tucked.

    I feel intense solidarity with these women, as I carry home produce from my community garden on the bus, and you wouldn’t believe the shit I get, despite the fact that I haven’t *once* actually stabbed anyone with my hori-hori. And my produce doesn’t scream. I find that a large messenger bag and a box is easier to handle than many smaller bags (ie when I get groceries), and I’ve often pondered getting one of those little granny push cart things.

  217. Heh, Anita, both of those examples are probably for similar reasons as the whole fatties-taking-up-too-much-room-on-the-bus bullshit crap. People seem to think their bus fare buys them roomy seats in a soundless bubble, instead of just passage with other people.

  218. I KNOW. And sometimes those other people smell, or have wheelchairs, or are old, or don’t want to talk to you when you want to talk to them, or don’t know which stop to get off at, or carry ginormous skateboards, or have the nerve to also bike, or speak other languages.

    Although I did sit right in front of someone yesterday who was loudly describing hir intensely sexual dream involving a person I have to work with. *Awkward.*

  219. My copy of House of Mirth should be in my hot little hands Friday.

    It’s a great book. When Wharton writes about what she knows, she’s pretty hard to beat.

  220. Eh, volcanista, I can only report what I know to be true about my life, and it is that my life’s path has taken me down a road wherein the traditionalists are rather easier to find everyday common ground with than the progressives are.

    Maybe if I had not had children, maybe if I’d spent more time in college, maybe if I’d not been born into a military family… if, if, and some more if.

    I tell you about it because I doubt I am the only one who drifts this direction. I tell you about it to explain how it is that not everyone with a heart and a brain is automatically a proper progressive.

    It isn’t corporate brainwashing, and it isn’t that the milk at Wal-Mart poisons your soul. It’s that certain life-patterns lend themselves to social networks and belief systems. Childbearing is one of those things that changes most people’s lives in a fundamental way. It’s hard to believe it till it happens to you, which is one of those truths repeated so often it’s a cliche.

    And I think that’s what this author was trying to say. Having multiple children only raises the stakes. Mostly, you can’t afford to fuck up. You can’t afford to experiment on your own life. Fairness hasn’t got much to do with it anymore.

    So what, if fathers are held to a lower standard than mothers? Can you afford to complain about it? After all, is it not true that he has to bust his ass in the hot sun ten hours a day that you and the children may eat? Yes, you think, it is true, and no, you would not change places with him. His work is not more glamourous or less drudgery-filled than yours.

    Long live the patriarchy.

  221. friendly daughter, you’re breaking my heart here. “Can you afford to complain about it?” is a completely different issue than whether you’re “a proper progressive.” And I understand completely that sometimes the answer is no, you don’t have the energy to complain about the same things – or possibly care about the same things – as an adjunct English prof.

    And that doesn’t make you an improper progressive.

    Somehow, I feel like that question – “Can you afford to . . . ?” is at the heart of progressiveism, but I’m not feeling able to pull that into a cogent argument.

  222. friendly daughter:

    I am glad we are one on Ayelet Waldman. I kind of loved that interview.

    I also would like to observe being an adjunct professor at the local university means you are not earning anything like an upper middle class salary. Or living with upper middle class benefits. I will barely make the bills this month, and until I am a tenure-track faculty member, that’s how it will be.

    If I had kids, I don’t know how I’d make it as a single person. I’d be snorgling on empty. Journeyman (journeywoman?) academic status sucks. You might not have a lot in common with me right now, but trust me, it’s not because of my income-based-class status.

    Snorgle is a great word, btw!

  223. Yes, actually, it does make me a lousy progressive. And, what’s more, that is OK. (believe me, I’ve thought about this a lot.) There is no way for middle-class progressives, as a whole, to see working-class breeders as anything other than 1) poor deluded rubes awaiting re-education or 2) entrenched enemies using fertility as a weapon.

    The more “compassionate” attitude is hilariously condescending, while the other attitude is at least sort of honest. lol.

    Anyway, who cares about me?! sheesh. lol

  224. Hoo-yeah. Great article, great comments (which I shall read in more depth at home, when I’m not grinding at ye olde work desk instead of washing diapers like a good 3rd wave feminist or soemthing).

    I will do my best to temper my comment, as I am one of those feminists who really, truly DOES actively dislike babies and small children, but I love reading and posting here, and I realize that I may have stepped on a few toes in the past. Srsly.

    Right now I am in the grips of suffering rather serious side-effects from surgery related to my chosen form of fertility control, and actually very very uncomfortable right now (we’ve gotten away from “may need emergency surgery” to “let’s wait and see and try not to OD on Tylenol and Motrin for another month while you have random phantom pains in your lady bits and all over your abdominal cavity”).

    However…whenever I see a kid behaving badly in the presence of oblivious parents who expect me to be bemused by their offspring’s antics, my pain goes away a little bit as I mentally pump my fist in my mind and yell in my head “FUCK YEAH!! DOING MY PART, PAYIN MY DUES, AND DOING MY TIME IN THE WAR ON REPRODUCING BABY, WOOOOOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    Which raises another point–let’s think for two seconds about why it’s “OK” for young men–especially sexually active ones (you know, if they were girlz they’d be called sluts and all that) to abhor the very THOUGHT of children. Nobody challenges their “manliness,” in fact, it’s sort of encouraged–otherwise they’re sissies or worse yet Teh Gaye.

    Glaring example: A very dear friend of mine is a guy who is VERY large and rather bearish in appearance, however, people express great shock when he says that he loves living with his two cats and how much he loves to cuddle them, and how much he fusses over them. Now, he doesn’t want kids either, but he has taken lots of flack over the cat thing when it would go completely unnoticed, even expected, in my case (and no, I don’t have pets either–it’s a space and schedule thing).

    But yeah, back to the original point. Some people think it’s cute when they let their toddler (for example) count out three pounds of string beans one at a time at the only scale at the store, while a line piles up behind them–I just want to scream. Do I have to turn in my Feminism Card because I fulfill some folks’ examples of a Big Bitchy Kid Hater?

    Oh, and Katie’s article made me want to throw up every last thing I’ve eaten in the past two weeks, and then have a barium enema to make absolutely sure that there was NOTHING left in me, just so I could stop retching.

  225. I’m not erasing your experiences. It’s the stereotyping that’s angering.

    And nobody here said it was because of corporate brainwashing or Walmart that different groups of people have different cultural backgrounds. Nobody has said that everyone with a heart and brain is automatically a progressive. On a post about straw feminists/progressives, these are excellent examples.

  226. There is no way for middle-class progressives, as a whole, to see working-class breeders as anything other than 1) poor deluded rubes awaiting re-education or 2) entrenched enemies using fertility as a weapon.

    OH I never KNEW that about myself, THANKS FOR TELLING ME.

  227. Well, Jenonymous, the reason it’s okay for men is that whole patriarchy thing, I think!

    And of course you can be a feminist and not connect with children. I think we are just saying that judging them and/or their parents is not in keeping with general progressive/feminist principles.

  228. Seriously, friendly daughter, wtf? There is no way? NO WAY? People who do that are NOT progressives, they are fauxgressives. They don’t get it. Being a progressive for real means getting that those things are wrong.

  229. No true Scotsman!

    I kid, I kid. I’d like to think there aren’t some fundamentally unreconcilable differences at play (and, of course, people’s beliefs don’t fall neatly into two or even five “camps”) but I really think there is always going to be some tension there.

    It’s okay, it’s interesting, and it’s nothing to be too angry about. People will adjust fire, as we do all the time.

  230. @jenonymous–You said I am one of those feminists who really, truly DOES actively dislike babies and small children

    While I have no issue with anyone not wanting to have children, raise them, or be around them all the time, I have to wonder, when I see it stated this way, if we’d think it was okay to replace “babies and small children” with “old people” or “middle-aged females”, etc. Ageism can be directed at any age, I think. It is difficult for me to understand actively disliking a big chunk of our fellow humans just because of how recently they were born.

  231. Okay, so I’m not sure where I fall on this weird scale… I’ve had two children, but the first one died before the second one was born. I’ve had two kids, but never physically had more than one at a time. So am I a baby-hating feminist, or am I addicted to my narcotic babies? I’m SO CONFUSED!

  232. MamaD,

    I’m not sure how to quantify or describe it, but I’m one of those folks who really does get physically uncomfortable around infants or toddlers, especially mobile ones.

    I think that a large part of it is that for most of my life, I lived in a family environment where infants and toddlers were literally physically foisted on me from a young age on (“Hold the baby–isn’t he CUUUUTE?? No? Well, you’ll get used to it”)(Oh, you’re the oldest, you can take care of him/her/them no problem” “Clean up after the baby” “Get home in time from school to let X in/make him dinner/etc). I see babies and toddlers as things that I’ve had involuntarily pushed on me, which is a large part of why I don’t want them myself. I’ve seen and lived all the sloppy, horrid, noisy, exhausting, limiting factors of motherhood from the age of 10 on, and I would truly rather die, in the real physical sense, than have it forced upon me again.

    If I had had a negative experience with someone of a different certain age, gender, etc and reacted negatively around them, it would be called “conditioning” and not “bias.”

    I know a lot of other women who don’t want kids for the same reason–because they grew up seeing, and sometimes experiencing, households and families where children and babies were nothing but 10-ton rocks tied around the necks of fertile women who had absolutely zero other real options at the time, or who at one time may have had options that melted away the second a baby grew up. Those women, myself included, shouldn’t have to apologize for our own pasts and if we prefer not to have children or voluntarily spend time with them.

    Which as per my original comment is why Roiphe’s article made me want to blow chunks and bleach my eyeballs.

  233. Sorry, typo error above–should read “..options that melted away the second a baby came, until they grew up.”

    RE conditioning–reminds me of a woman I went to school with who cut one class, constantly. When threatened with being failed out of the program, a bunch of us took her aside, and it turns out that as a child she had been molested by someone who was the spitting image of the Prof teaching the class (it wasn’t him, but close enough to make her shut down if he was in the room). It’s not that she hated all white males with certain types of glasses and straight silver hair, they just freaked her the fuck out with a firehose of panic and negative emotions–two different things.

  234. If I had had a negative experience with someone of a different certain age, gender, etc and reacted negatively around them, it would be called “conditioning” and not “bias.”

    I’m not so sure about this. Having panic attacks around people of a certain race because you have experienced trauma at the hands of someone belonging to that race is horrible, but you’re right, it’s generally regarded as unfortunate brain chemistry that a person cannot help (but that they should work very hard to overcome). But not being comfortable around, say, a person of color because you knew some assholes when you were a child and that was formative — well, that IS racist, you know? I’m not saying it’s not understandable, but it’s still a problem.

    And friendly daughter, I’ll just remember that it’s no big deal the next time I feel insulted to my face, thanks.

  235. Re: SUV-sized strollers.

    A few years back, when I was in college, I was hanging out with a friend in the campus center, and one of my friend’s friends dropped by with the baby she was nannying for. And, no joke, the stroller — which was huge, was made by Jeep. Like, big old Jeep logo across the front, like it was the grill on a car or something.

    (As a side note, I went to a women’s college in a hippy-dippy town. It was not abnormal to see students on campus with the children they babysat or nannied for. One of my house-mates would bring the kid she sat for to brunch in the dining hall every weekend.)

  236. Volcanista,

    I actually agree with you–negative conditioning is not great baggage to carry around, and it is something that I know I have to check myself on.

    OTOH (as per the original point of this post reacting to Roiphe’s excretory article), it becomes a tenfold burden to carry when society is constantly pushing you to not just embrace what makes your skin crawl, but in fact PUNISHES (for the most part, in lots of little ways) even women who DO go ahead and have kids. It’s like having another negative in a lose-lose situation.

    Nuther anecdote: A childfree friend of mine grew up with 8 sibs and an overwhelmed, alcoholic mother, an aunt who was a single mom who was just getting by but was able to hold her shit together, and another aunt who became a NUN. Guess who would “win” a “good female” argument here (including my employed, sucessful, childfree friend)?

    Answer: NONE of them. Her mom was obviously selfish for having ALL those kids and not “being able to handle them.” Single mom who still had two normal kids and put food on the table? Scandalous! Nun? Enough said! Sex-positive businesswoman with no kids? Why, she’s just a slut who will wind up manless and alone!

    In games where it’s just about impossible to “win,” attention to this fact is diverted by pointing out the biggest perceived “losers.”

    Sigh.

  237. friendly daughter, do you think none of us feminists criticizing Roiphe here have children, or come from “working class breeder” backgrounds?

    Just curious.

  238. I just reread my comment referring to children as “big chunks” of humanity, and since I normally don’t use the word chunks in reference to anything but food, I am now beginning to wonder if there isn’t something to this whole “baby donut” thing after all. :)

  239. Assorted responses–

    I too adore Ayelet Waldman and want to be her when I grow up.

    I strongly dislike this woman’s writing (srsly lady? date rape doesn’t exists and feminists hate babies??). I still don’t think that makes it ok to dogpile on her potential skill as a mother.

    @ friendly daughter–> what’s up with the academia & “upper class feminism” trashing? you said much the same in the thread on faith & FA a few weeks back. I’m sorry if you’ve have some bad experiences with women and academia. But I’d appreciate it if you’d stop generalizing and making this into an implicit “you” vs “us” thing.

    On a different note, the women and writing thing is an interesting issue. Of course, Roiphe frames it horribly, but there is something in the idea that writing requires large amounts of alone time, something which society is loathe to give women with children.

  240. Oh, one more thing, FD–

    For the record, I’m from “low class breeder” parents AND I make my living in academia. The two can co-exist, you know. I also make under 25k a year. So I don’t know that you have an “on the whole” leg to stand on.

  241. There is no way for middle-class progressives, as a whole, to see working-class breeders as anything other than 1) poor deluded rubes awaiting re-education or 2) entrenched enemies using fertility as a weapon.

    Well. Guess we don’t have to look very far to find next week’s straw feminist. Sheesh.

  242. Yeah I’m not getting the ‘on the whole’ academics thing either. Most people I know coming out of PhDs spend approx a year or two, or five, trying to piece together poorly paid teaching work (paid by the contact hour, nothing for the prep time, amounts to about, ooh, £2 an hour overall) and other part time jobs. If they do get a ‘proper’ academic job you can bet your bum it’ll be a fixed term contract on crummy pay, with a super-crummy OTT workload, and then MAYBE get a permanent position (I think this is what’s called tenure in the US, am assuming so, that it basically means ‘job you know you get to keep barring redundancy or doing something bad or just quitting’?) after like, ooh, maybe 6-10 years. If you’re lucky. They kind of don’t tell you this before you embark on the PhD.

    I mean I still think I’m extremely lucky to have the opportunity of trying to get an academic career because I like my subject and enjoy teaching (mostly), but it royally pees me off to hear people talking about it as if I just was too lazy to leave uni and someone will just hand me a well paid job for gazing at my navel. That’s SO not how it works. And just to make it super-fun, I lost count of how many male (and female) academics have lectured me on having to be committed to the career and to ‘show willing’ by working for shit/nothing/doing their photocopying, and that of courseit’s probably pointless because I’ll probably want to leave when babies make me stupid/can’t have babies and a job in academia so will be miserable/can’t have a job in case I get babies and somehow ruin their department/am only good for the ‘soft’ side of academia, eg helping students who are sad out and not my teaching (which I do anyway because I am a human but I don’t think it makes my teaching crap, it just makes me more tired at the end of the week).

    /rant off

  243. There is no way for middle-class progressives, as a whole, to see working-class breeders as anything other than ….

    My family was also mostly working-class. Then I went and got degrees, and my mother’s family pulled this fucking shit on me too – told me I was too educated for them any more. Mind you, I heard the pain and fear in it. But it was STILL BULLSHIT.

  244. @ Eucritta–

    Yeah. As of yesterday, I am the first person in my family to get a graduate degree. Doesn’t suddenly make me unable to understand HOW I FREAKING GREW UP.

  245. Hey Jenonymous (assuming you were Childfree Jenonymous before?) — I just wanted to say that I respect that you’ve stuck around and said what you did about that earlier thread.

  246. Thanks Sarah! Well, the pigskin is in the mail, so they tell me, but all the paperwork for my masters got put through yesterday.

    I have one or two family members who did undergrad, but I’m the first one to get a graduate degree. So far the fam is pretty supportive, although my father still believes my PhD will serve to get me a great well paying job with which I will have the leisure time to write novels. ;-)

    /threadjack

  247. Huh, you know, I had forgotten this… but I think our stroller actually IS a Jeep stroller, lol. I’m not sure. It has a friggin’ suspension, at any rate. It was a gift, from my parents, because it allowed us to take the kids to the state park and on the trails. I don’t think we’ve ever taken it on the bus, AFAIK.

  248. I gotta say, I also really like the whole “I comment on this blog written by four white middle-class progressive feminist intellectuals about how snotty and condescending middle-class progressive feminist intellectuals are, because I want to show them not everyone agrees!” thing. Like = don’t like.

  249. Congratulations, chava! That is awesome.

    Throws little mortarboard-shaped confetti in the air.

    I am the first person in my entire entended family to get a degree (and one of the few to finish high school) and will be the first in a few months to get a graduate degree. This is what my (blue and pink collar, respectively) parents wanted for me as soon as they noticed I was a fairly bright kid. Since when is getting an education a bad thing?

    I’ve seen and lived all the sloppy, horrid, noisy, exhausting, limiting factors of motherhood from the age of 10 on,

    I wonder how often this happens. I’ve never wanted kids, so people are always surprised when I’m able to handle them competently. It’s because I had to help look after younger children from a very early age. There were always a bunch of them around, and that’s what oldest girls are for, right? I associate young children with work, not love, although I do think they’re pretty cute.

  250. Time-Machine – thanks so much! And please do. Are you a filmmaker too then?

    Ashley – we are 4 kids too, and our mom was very similar to how your mom sounds. And we can’t even talk about that now without having some big emotional outburst. So much guilt and shame… argh. But you described very well what it really is that causes women to suffer so much – the way they are told they are SUPPOSED to feel a certain way. That’s WHY i was moved to make a movie about this type of thing… because even today when i bring this type of thing up, it’s often stifled.

  251. Ya Know, I don’t give a green fig for babies. I am very prepared to love your 13 year old, esp if s/he is a geek.

    And don’t even try to tell me since I haven’t had a baby I can’t really understand kids.

  252. Aww! Congrats, chava!

    I am a first-generation college student with a recent MS and in the final push for the doctorate. I hear so much of my experience in the comments about familial assumptions and snarks. Suddenly I feel like I am in good company.

  253. I for one sincerely hope that in Katie Roiphe’s case babies are so addictive that she can’t bear to be away from them for long enough to write anything ever again. Trust me, sweetie, the world won’t miss your particular brand of special snowflake-themed essays.

    It is odd how so many people can’t seem to grasp the concept that some women are just sort of indifferent to babies. Take me – sure, they can be cute, but I’ve never had any desire to have one. Puppies and kittens are also cute, and easier to take care of, and less ouchy to acquire.

    Does Double X have any purpose other than whining about feminism? You have to admit that it is funny that their self-perception seems to be that they’re brave iconoclasts fighting the all powerful monolith that is contemporary feminism, which of course runs the world. The world that only exists in Katie Roiphe’s head.

  254. Volcanista,

    You said,

    “Jill, I just saw your comment. I’m really not sure why you’re asking us if you’re a feminist!”

    I was kidding. Apparently my attempt at humor was not that obvious.

  255. Hmmm, while I loved my baby and quite enjoyed him years ago, he is now a teenager and I’m not sure what was so great about having a kid.

    No, no, I kid because I love….

    Seriously though, I really don’t see what is all that great about babies. Mine was awesome (though he did not make me into a baby addict with his narcotic baby!vibes) but other people’s, not so much.
    So maybe I am an evil baby hater….

  256. @Jenonymous — I hear what you’re saying — I was also the oldest, and took care of younger siblings from when I was 10 years old.

    Becoming an adult and moving away from home was the opportunity to STOP providing childcare, not to START doing so by having babies.

    This is a totally personal feeling … I imagine I’d feel this same way whether I were a traditionalist or a feminist. I’ve matured and changed in many ways from age 19 to 33, but this basic gut feeling has been consistent.

    (The only way feminism might influence my opinion is that I think I’d be more open to having children if I were a man: someone else could do the worst of it! Not that I’d want to be that type of guy of course … but an interesting thought experiment.)

    Still, for chrissakes, I’m happy to “admit” babies are cute, lovable, etc. No, not to everyone, but saying that babies are lovable is kind of a “duh” thesis — no wonder K Roiphe had to basically invent an antagonist.

  257. Oh, and re: Sniper’s follow up on — surprise! being pretty good with kids, yet not wanting to bear any — YES, THANK YOU.

    I do like kids and like interacting with them, and actually would be willing and happy to babysit from time to time. It makes me a little sad that my parent-friends at first presume that, because I don’t have or desire my own children, that I’m (a) inexperienced with them, (b) don’t like them, and (c) would be a poor caretaker. When I actually do interact with their kids, I think they can see that I know my way around a baby. True, I’m usually not *giddy*. But, gushing is just not a part of my personality.

  258. Time-Machine – thanks so much! And please do. Are you a filmmaker too then?

    You’re very much welcome and I definitely will. And yeah, I am. Sort of. In film school as we speak. Mostly just trying to pass all my classes and applying to every single relevant internship opening the UTA job list has to offer, to absolutely no avail *sigh*. I think I need to lower my standards a bit and start applying for more low-end internships (lol – “I think I need to lower my standards a bit and apply to work for even more free at crappier places”). It seems like you’re on the East coast (?), but if you know anyone around the L.A. area who’s looking for help on something, I am probably very interested in the job/internship/unpaid chimpanzee job.

    And I’m so keeping you in mind for projects later. I think your animation is wonderful, and clearly, considering the blog and the topics, we share some ideologies, so that saves a lot of time.

    Oh, and volcanista? I totally wish I could high five you for your perfect response to There is no way for middle-class progressives… — I was fuming and then your completely apt snark made me lol. You’re awesome.

  259. oh give me a break, Katie Roiphe.
    Yep, I loved, adored and wanted to be with my babies all the time. I was a walking, talking cliche of baby mad womanhood from the time I hit puberty. I worked, I travelled and I wanted babies and then at 22 I met someone who also apparently wanted to marry and have babies.
    So i had 2 babies…and their father decided this whole baby thing was actually not to his taste, left me and pissed off overseas for a six months to go rock climbing in Spain.
    when he came back he started on his mission to get out of child support as it wasnt fair that I took ‘ half his stuff.’ when we divorced.

    thank fucking christ for feminism, the sole parent pension and childcare, because if it wasnt for that wonderful safety net agitated for by FEMINISM then my children and I could have starved and he would have said ‘oh, well.’
    And once again thank christ for feminism because i worked and i studied and made myself employable enough to give my children at least some of the opportunities i wanted them to have.
    and no, I wasnt a perfect parent. I was often exhausted, grumpy and there were too many times that I felt unable to give the children everything I felt they needed. But we also had some wonderful times and i cherish them. Mothering has been my primary career and my principle life experience, though that may change now my children are almost adults. (one is all ready.)
    I don’t regret it, but i wish the circumstances had been easier, and that i had the time just to sit around and ponder my kids’ eyelashes.

    Adolescence was so much harder than babies. The opiate haze is long gone and its all about them. And sometimes they make terrible decisions and you have to deal with the consequences. Will Katie Roiphe end up raging at the world or raging at her teen for taking it on? But who knows? maybe she is the perfect mother and will end up with the perfect teen.

    Want babies, don’t want babies. That’s personal. Being able to support your babies, being able to choose NOT to have babies as part of contract that enables you to eat … that for me is feminism. It’s not about diminishing the work that women do, its about recognising a woman’s need to make choices and her ability to take action to manage her life. Sometimes you make decisions that ( in retrospect) weren’t so great. I think that the changes feminism has made gives us a much better chance of coming back from that.

  260. I had to come back to this thread. From the moment I married, I was asked when I was going to have a child. I have had miscarriage after miscarriage and it’s no one fucking business but mine and my husband’s. He is appalled that folks stroll into our business and ask us how the baby thing is going. There are tons of women who want babies who can’t have them. They are no less real women than the person who has one or twelve kids. And we decided early on that we would not go the fertility treatment route. It is not the right thing for US. It is the right choice for many other people. And if we do adopt a child? I’m raising that kid in a feminist household, damn skippy. And if we adopt a child, we are adopting a singular child, so to many I’ll STILL be a bad mother for denying my child a sibling.

  261. Y’all, I have the most coveted of academic positions (for someone who is not a scientist who needs access to a big R1 facility) – a tenure track job at a small, private liberal arts college.

    I make less than 40K per year, I have over 70K in student loans (my loan payment every month is more than my car payment and my rent combined), and I work 70-80 hours a week. And remember, I’m *lucky* because I have “security.” Other people work like this from semester to semester with no idea if they’ll have a job in three months.

    I hate it when people talk about academics like we’re all living off (pardon the expression) the fat of the land. The people you see on tv who are professors are not representative of the field. Academia may or may not be an ivory tower, but it sure ain’t a gravy train.

    DRST

  262. >Wait, what’s that — maternity leave is only available to you because of feminist activism that “analogized childcare to the work of men” (you know, real work!), and in fact we have far less paid parental leave than many of our international peers?

    I’m a single, full-time dad to two girls, and I’ve benefited from the women’s movement. It’s because women demand flexibility that I have options, such as working at home. Admittedly, it’s career-killing, but at least I can hold a job and raise kids. A generation ago, this would have been impossible.

    However, I think comparing our paternal leave to countries like the Netherlands or France is specious. They don’t support longer leave because they’re progressive/feminist; they support it because they think it’s more important for women to be mothers than career-climbers.

    Part of the difficulty of analogizing motherhood to work is, it gets treated like work, compromised like work, and ultimately, cast aside for better opportunities, like work — which is great for the individual, but bad for the group. As it stands, we’ve made so few kids in the last generation that we’ll have to relax immigration standards just to maintain a tax base for Social Security.

    For an even better analogy, see “Idiocracy.” :)

  263. “Want babies, don’t want babies. That’s personal. Being able to support your babies, being able to choose NOT to have babies as part of contract that enables you to eat … that for me is feminism. It’s not about diminishing the work that women do, its about recognising a woman’s need to make choices and her ability to take action to manage her life. Sometimes you make decisions that ( in retrospect) weren’t so great. I think that the changes feminism has made gives us a much better chance of coming back from that.”

    THIS.

    DRST:

    “Academia may or may not be an ivory tower, but it sure ain’t a gravy train.”

    AND THAT.

  264. @ DW:
    First, please accept my profound sympathy re: the miscarriages; I hope your health is otherwise OK. Next, I hope that the next time somebody asks you about when you’re having kids, that you use exactly the same language you did in your post: “it’s no one fucking business but mine and my husband’s. ” Say that loudly, clearly, with good posture and direct, intimidating eye contact; say it again if anybody starts cross-examining you about adoption: why you’re adopting locally, why you’re adopting internationally, why you will or won’t adopt a kid of a different race, why you will or won’t adopt an older child, why you will or won’t have an open adoption.

    One of the things that bugs me about our culture’s attitude re: having children is that most parents consider it almost criminal to ask them to correct their child’s behavior/manners/noise level in a public place, even if the kid is doing something dangerous, unsanitary, or terribly rude, BUT it appears to be completely acceptable to ask childless adults, or those considering adoption, to explain their circumstances and their choices in excruciating detail.

  265. I doubt anyone’s going to read this far, but I believe Fatsmartchick meant having 8 or so babies at once, all gestating in the womb together. Which, I have to admit, we’re not terribly well-equipped as humans to deal with.

    But I think the cult of the mother is just another diversion to get us women all distracted comapring ourselves to each other to decide who the “good” woman is, so we’re not left with enough free time and energy to take over.

    …Aaaaand that was probably not a timely or relevant response, but I thought I’d add it, because I don’t have much to do right now.

    I guess I could make some baby doughnuts – Anita, you can either chop them fine and make a fritter, or roll them into an “o” shape (feet by mouth) and batter dip them. Either way, I love babies.

  266. I actually watched this short horror film from Hong Kong recently about an actress who wants to look younger, so she goes to this weird medicine woman who prepares her dumplings made out of stillborn fetuses. The medicine woman tells her, “Don’t think about what it is. Just eat it.” She makes all kinds of baby dumplings- steamed, pan-fried, sauteed with vegetables. Apparently first babies are the most nutritious, and products of incest have particularly strong anti-aging properties. The actress starts looking so young and beautiful that her husband is suddenly really attracted to her again, and she gets pregnant. But she can’t have babies and eat babies at the same time, so she gives herself an abortion. And yes- eats it.

    All the talk about baby donuts and baby fritters made me remember it. And I feel like less of a freak now for watching it and thinking, “Oh, I could SO have some dim sum right now…”

  267. I think comparing our paternal leave to countries like the Netherlands or France is specious. They don’t support longer leave because they’re progressive/feminist; they support it because they think it’s more important for women to be mothers than career-climbers

    Rick – you base this assessment on… what exactly? Your extensive understanding and first-hand personal experience with the family care incentives in both the Netherlands and France? Are you a policy expert on family leave programs globally? Can you at least link to where this is stated as fact in some way?

    Also:

    As it stands, we’ve made so few kids in the last generation that we’ll have to relax immigration standards just to maintain a tax base for Social Security.

    Or we could up the ceiling and require people making over $100K to pay into SS. If we bump that up to $250K or even $500K we could pretty much solve the funding problems for SS.

    DRST

  268. However, I think comparing our paternal leave to countries like the Netherlands or France is specious. They don’t support longer leave because they’re progressive/feminist; they support it because they think it’s more important for women to be mothers than career-climbers

    OH WHAT?

    By any measure of being progressive/feminist you care to name — off my head I’m thinking maternal/paternal leave, universal health care, drug law, same-sex marriage/civil unions, separation of church and state, ACTUAL equality under the law (for gays and everything!) and gender pay gap, and I’m tipsy right now so that’s not exactly exhaustive — France and the Netherlands MASSIVELY OUTSTRIP America in every way. The Netherlands is one of the most progressive countries in the world! You are talking nonsense.

  269. Also, France hasn’t executed anyone since the 70s and the Netherlands since 1952 (and they were Nazis).

    But serial posting to say: I should say ” by almost any measure [] you care to name” — life is never that simple, there are bound to be exceptions.

  270. Wait, it’s bad for the group to be having fewer children because we just need the population to expand expand expand? That’s bullshit. We can handle Social Security in all kinds of ways that will work around that problem, as DRST outlined. And overall a rapidly growing population is a problem in terms of finding and sharing resources, not an advantage.

    Also PLEASE, YES, let’s relax immigration standards. Though not for the tax money.

    Personally, I don’t care why the Netherlands has longer maternity leave. I still want us to have longer maternity leave, and their reasons don’t matter to me. Mine do.

    FFS, Idiocracy had some funny moments, but the whole premise of the movie is straight-up classism. Poor people are often less educated than rich people, but they are not innately dumber.

  271. volcanista, I have no idea as to your upbringing, but in my young adulthood I moved to one of those godforsaken places where people actually did act like the family in “Idiocracy” which reproduced like mad. Not just clumps of them here and there; they were all over the state. *shudder*

    Parenting isn’t for most people, though most people become parents.

  272. DW, my sympathies. I too had multiple miscarriages, though in my case I did eventually have three live births with the help of some progesterone.

    aelo, you got it exactly right!

  273. Mostly, you can’t afford to fuck up.

    The thing is, you can. In fact, I think this is probably the most oppressive myth of modern parenting, that we cannot afford to fuck up. But, we all fuck up. Lots of times in little ways, sometimes in big ways, but we’re always doing it.

    If parents couldn’t afford to fuck up, I’d venture to say there would not be one well-adjusted, compassionate, usually happy adult around. I love my parents dearly, but they fucked up. And, my son loves me dearly and I hope he continues to, but I cannot count the ways I have fucked up as a parent. I figure I’m continuing the longstanding human tradition of fucking up as a parent and just being grateful that it appears that as long as parents truly love and care about their kids, they will turn out all right in the end, the million little and big fuck ups they committed in the first 18 years notwithstanding.

    Yesterday my son refused to clean up an enormous mess he’d made while I friend was over. I put the Wii away, and he still refused to clean. Then he started throwing toys at me. And, I got really angry, and gave him a spank on the butt. I fucked up. I could have handled it in two zillion better ways. I don’t feel good about it. But, it’s going to be okay. I mean, thirty minutes later, it was already okay. Kids are super forgiving, which is comes in handy considering that parents are human.

    It’s always an experiment. Every child is a whole new person who has never existed before. There’s no way you could figure out the best way to parent them without fucking up, a lot, because it’s going to be trial and error.

    I think we’ve made parenting so, so much harder than it needs to be, and of course the brunt of that falls on mothers. I mean, on the one hand, yes, the status of mothers/mothering had to be elevated if we wanted to see women respected. On the other hand, when we start talking about raising a child as if it’s the hardest job in the world (not the most emotionally draining or the most time consuming, but the most risky and serious), then we put pressure on women that doesn’t need to be there. That’s what I freaking hate the “being a mother is the most important job in the world” stuff you hear out of conservatives, usually religious conservative men. It sounds like it’s respecting women, but it’s not. Instead it’s saying that they better watch every single little thing they do, because if they make the smallest mistake they are responsible for the downfall of society. The future of civilization rests on you raising your child perfectly.

    It’s just not reality. Thankfully, most kids with loving parents, no matter how they are raised, are going to turn out to be just fine, because people usually turn out just fine. But if we start expecting ourselves to do it without fucking up, I don’t see how anything could result expect constantly feeling like a failure.

  274. You know, I liked Double X when it first started, but now it’s editorial direction is about re-affirming the traditional wife.

    Really empowerful, New Bride articles like: a short wedding dress is a radical choice, things I changed about myself for my husband, taking your husbands name after years of marriage and “gaining your family” (remember her kids and husband were estranged and confused before she took his name…), wedding/marriage/babies rinse and…repeat. I’d think the editors were all part of Phyllis Schafly’s coalition.

    Then, as noted on Jezebel, the editor of this baby article plays dumb, saying she didn’t think the article would stir anything up. First of all, it’s her job to get linkage and stir things up. I guess to “play dumb” and “cute” is in the “good girl” playbook for DoubleX employees. Hey, the title is a question. It was meant to stick somebody with being on the wrong side. You know, the baby eating feminist side. MMMMM. delish.

    On DoubleX, they take a retro position of they love wedding/marriage/babies and act like they are “saying what women are thinking.” whatever their tagline is. Instead, they are writing what really nice preppy WASPs would write in the early 1960′s to oppose those mean feminists.

  275. Cheddar, statistically, people who are poor and people who have more children are not dumber by genetic inheritance than people who are rich or people who have fewer children. It’s like saying that people are unemployed/on welfare/poor because they’re born stupid and lazy. Idiocracy conflates markers of education and class status with biologically inherited brain function. You’re doing the same thing. (Shuddering? Implying those people shouldn’t be parents? really?)

  276. Parenting isn’t for most people, though most people become parents.

    At the level of biology, reproducing probably IS for most people. I mean, I’m not a biology is destiny person, but reproduction is a natural function for most organisms. That doesn’t mean that everybody will or must do it–and it’s fine that some people don’t–but I certainly don’t think we could say that most people shouldn’t be reproducing, as if some evolutionary good would come of that.

  277. DRST and Caitlin, I base this assessment on having lived there. The Dutch and French are progressive, but only in very limited (and in my opinion, exaggerated) ways. They are actually quite conservative, culturally. As for backing up my opinion with policy references, I am not defending a PhD. I am offering an opinion on a blog. Lighten up.

    DRST, Re SS, there aren’t enough people making over $100k to take care of the fund loss. And most of them will not be willing to take a tax hike, and have the PACs and lobbyists to defend their desires. When SS started, the worker to retiree ratio was 33:1. Now it’s 3:1.

    Caitlin, the “gender pay gap” is another straw man. Women, on average, make less money than men, on average, because they demand work flexibility, not because they are belittled in the workplace. Men who demand the same get the same lowered opportunities (as I have experienced).

    Corporate America doesn’t give two shits about whether you’re XX or XY — if women truly did the same work for less pay, American offices would be nothing but women (just look how quickly they move offices overseas, due to payroll). This is not the 1960s, and we don’t live in MadMen world. It’s all about who can deliver for the lowest price — white, brown, male, female, human, or robot.

  278. Hey Rick! Thanks for the definition of institutionalized sexism!
    I find your claim that women are discriminated against not because they’re women, but because they want work flexibility so that they can do all the other crap they have to do (this is crap they have to do because they are women, obviously) intriguing. This is because I like nonsense.

  279. Cheddar, statistically, people who are poor and people who have more children are not dumber by genetic inheritance than people who are rich or people who have fewer children.

    Volcanista, THANK YOU.

    A few years back when a friend of mine was here in Finland for a year at university, he expressed dismay that myself and my partner were not going to have kids because too many stupid people were having lots of children and more smart people like us needed to have them.

    I gave him the hairy eyeball because his words implied ‘poor, uneducated rednecks,’ and I told him very firmly that good education for everyone would do more than me producing babies ever would, and I would rather write books and hope they gave people from a variety of backgrounds hope and inspiration.

    But I had a very personal reason to be pissed off at him–while my mom only had myself and my sister (and I was an only child until I was 13), she definitely hit a lot of other poor people markers–youngest of a big (poor) family, history of drug abuse, low education, factory job, dressed her often-sickly kid(s) in clothes from Salvation Army and Wal-Mart, lived in a trailer on the wrong side of the tracks. Well-spoken autodidactic counterculture queer that I am, I am also a product of the poor redneck background he was dissing, and an example of what good education (I really lucked out on some of my schools/teachers) can do to improve any child’s ability to learn and navigate the world.

    On the bright side (hah), this has given me a minor epiphany about why, way back in high school, a wealthy kid who picked on me for my weight and secondhand clothes accused me of cheating when he found out I got far better scores on a test than he did. I couldn’t figure it out at the time, but if he’d bought into the poor=stupid meme, it’s possible he couldn’t fathom the idea that a poor kid like me could be smarter/more skilled than him.

  280. Err, just to clarify, I would have given my friend a talking-to about the whole ‘stupid people have too many kids’ meme even if I hadn’t found him implying that poor redneck = stupid.

  281. OK, this is the longest comment in the world, because it’s in response to a whole bunch of themes and threads here…

    Children in supermarkets: (1) The most rational response to being forced into a supermarket against your will and held there for ten to sixty minutes buying things you don’t want and almost nothing you actually choose *is* to lie on the floor and scream. (2) If this results in getting out of the supermarket, it’s a very effective tactic and should be used again. (3) I am an evil woman who walked around the supermarket with one hand over her baby’s mouth *doing the shopping anyway*, so take what I say with a grain of tyranny, I guess.

    Who should have babies and when: People who want them, when they want them. Next question? (Yes, I was told that I was too young to have children, when I was 25, and too intelligent and well-educated, and all sorts of other things. My friends who waited until they were 30 were told they were too old, my acquaintances from lower social strata are told they shouldn’t clutter the world up with people like them, there is no win).

    What is feminism: The radical notion that women are people.

    Big strollers: They’re like crutches, but you can put the baby AND the diaper bag in them! I loved a big stroller so that I could, you know, WALK, at least as far as the bus-stop. And now that I can walk all on my own, I have a weeny little stroller which folds up easily and can turn on a dime (what’s a dime look like? Wrong side of the Atlantic…)

    The Last Acceptable Prejudice: it’s not you, whichever minority you’re in. There’s someone else out there who feels that they are getting it in the neck just as much as you are, whether you’re a childless, childfree or child-having adult. Total strangers at parties or in doctors’ waiting rooms suddenly ask offensive questions of all three groups and hand out ridiculous unhelpful advice too. (If you listened to more whalesong you’d totally conceive, you’ll feel different when it’s your own, don’t you know that baby should be wearing a hat?)

    Good-enough parenting: It’s what’s for breakfast. The relentless pursuit of perfection isn’t good for anyone, though aiming vaguely in that direction might be nice sometimes.

    Women Are Equal Really, They Just Demand More So Obvioulsy They Get Less: please pass the gin.

  282. Thankfully, most kids with loving parents, no matter how they are raised, are going to turn out to be just fine, because people usually turn out just fine.

    For that matter, even when we’re fucked up, I suspect most of us manage to cope and live reasonably good lives anyway.

    Irrational perfectionism is a means of oppression.

  283. Caitlin, the “gender pay gap” is another straw man. Women, on average, make less money than men, on average, because they demand work flexibility, not because they are belittled in the workplace. Men who demand the same get the same lowered opportunities (as I have experienced).

    Rick, setting aside that this is just false – EVEN IF IT WERE TRUE, it proves nothing about lack of institutionalized sexism.

    Because, see, why is it that WOMEN are the ones who primarily demand work flexibility, or take time off from working to have kids, or don’t ask for raises (all of which are commonly quoted as reasons for the pay gap)? If there were no institutionalized sexism re: women (and specifically women in the work force) wouldn’t the people getting screwed by this be equally men and women?

    Surely you think there’s a reason. Maybe you think it’s biology? I don’t know, but I think it’s because society tells women that their value is in the domestic sphere (until they inevitably do that wrong, too, but that’s another story), and that they shouldn’t be pushy or aggressive or ask for things. But what do I know, with my baby-addled ladybrain.

  284. Rick, who the fuck let you in? People are challenging your arguments because they seem backed by nothing but anecdotes, and other people’s experiences (as well as, you know, statistical studies) don’t agree. And you haven’t earned the respect to be taken lightly when you misstep. No one needs to lighten up when you’re insultingly arguing to their faces that they aren’t discriminated against, they just don’t understand the mysteries of business, or something.

    Where is your evidence, for that matter, that the gender pay gap is entirely attributable to work flexibility? Because all those studies I read about seem to find that gender pay gaps are mainly initiated by differences in socialized behavior and expectations: women are socialized not to ask for things or to negotiate, so they generally ask for lower starting pay or benefits or don’t realize how much they can actually negotiate up from an initial offer. Their requests for higher pay, start-up, etc. are then received much more unfavorably in general (by both male and female supervisors) than similar requests made in similar ways by men. Women aren’t supposed to ask for things. They are punished if they try.

    The pay disparity is then propagated and increased by workplace review practices. For the most part, measures of workplace success are based on characteristics especially prized in men, but that are not necessarily more beneficial to businesses than positive characteristics that are especially prized in women. But that means that women who are heavily socialized from birth not to have those highly valued characteristics generally receive less favorable reviews and get smaller raises — not just smaller total amounts of money, but smaller percentages, as well. This can easily add up to at least a million dollars less in earned income over a lifetime.

    But hey, don’t let me stand in the way of your oh-so-reliable anecdata or anything. I’m just quoting actual employment statistics and controlled studies and boring stuff like that. Because I have a PhD.

    It’s conveniently naive to believe that corporate America is not an old boys club, and that the social side of a work environment plays no role in how people are positioned and paid. Nobody is paid just based on efficiency and skill.

  285. Oh lolololol, Rick. So, to review:

    a) It’s crazy to use the gender pay gap as any kind of measure of how “progressive/feminist” a country is as the gender pay gap only exists due to women (not men) experiencing discrimination for bearing and raising children. Which is totally cool, and in no way problematic, and the narrowing of such a gap would in no way indicate that a society was moving toward becoming less institutionally sexist.

    b) You can make whatever broad generalisations you like about a country, its people and its culture (they’re “actually quite conservative, culturally”, they “aren’t progressive/feminist”, they “think it’s more important for women to be mothers than career-climbers”) but when asked to provide one iota of evidence for your opinion you’re going to act like that’s ridiculous and continue to expect us to take your unsupported and completely subjective perspective as Fact because You, A Man, Have Said It.

    Lol. Thanks, but it doesn’t really work that way round here.

    (Cheers, everyone! I raise my glass to you all.)

  286. Also, what volcanista said, because (I am assuming) she hasn’t had a significant amount of vodka. Mmm.

  287. @ Caitlin

    Well, I mean, he probably heard people at a Dutch Chili’s talking about how it’s more important to be mothers than career-climbers.

  288. *Throws confetti for volcanista, Caitlin, farfalla, and Sweet Machine*
    I think, on a feminist blog, basic feminist concepts like the pay gap and the existence of sexism should generally be taken as given.

  289. Well, I mean, he probably heard people at a Dutch Chili’s talking about how it’s more important to be mothers than career-climbers.

    That’s actually where I get 100% of my factual information.

    I think, on a feminist blog, basic feminist concepts like the pay gap and the existence of sexism should generally be taken as given.

    But Rick disgrees with these things, Puffalo! And as Rick is a man his perspective totally overrules controlled studies, factual evidence, the founding principles of the blog and the perspective of every woman here, for reasons that aren’t really clear to me. DON’T YOU KNOW THE MEN HURT TOO??!?!

    I play a sad song for Rick, here on my tiny violin.

  290. I’ve been to Canada a couple times. Can I go on tv posing as an expert on their health care now?

    What is with the trolls sneaking in lately?

    that is NOT IN ANY WAY a slam on the mods. It seems like there’s been an uptick of people who comment and seem fairly innocuous but then just get worse and worse with every comment lately. Not something anyone could see coming, at all. Also possibly I’m doing that “female thing” of reliving each interaction repeatedly to analyze it?

    DRST
    who needs more chocolate for this day

  291. I liked Rick’s comment about how, if women were REALLY being paid less for doing the same work, wouldn’t we be seeing offices filled with women?!

    Has he looked at the unemployment figures lately? Does he see who is being laid off and who is keeping low-paying, crappy jobs? A huge part of the reason why we’re seeing such a disparity in unemployment rates between men and women is because companies know that laying off men saves them more money, since the men get paid more.

  292. I have just remembered something great my mum did with regard to the screaming in supermarket scenario. Somehow when it was just me to look after she managed to keep me quiet by ‘giving me a job’ so I was officially on ‘lookout’ from the trolley seat in case anyone tried to take her bag while she inspected yoghurts or whatever (the worst thing that happened with this was that I picked up a cucumber and started jabbing it at people I thought were coming too close…) but when my brother came along too, it got more difficult to do the shopping with double the kids in tow. Anyway, so I’m about 4 or 5, and my little brother is about 2ish, maybe 3. We are in a supermarket, and my brother is pointing at something he ‘wants’ on the shelf and starting to kick up a fuss, crying and screaming etc. Mum gets at eye level with him and says words to the effect of ‘Noodlebrother, what would it be like if we all made that noise when we were upset and wanted something we couldn’t have?’, and then got me to scream along with her, in the middle of the supermarket. My brother looked very surprised and confused and rather swiftly shut his cakehole. We apparently attracted many stares from ‘aghast onlookers’, but according to Mum, all it took from then on was a warning glance from her and occasionally a ‘what would it be like…’ warning, and he would not re-engage the ScreamMachine (TM). Heh.

    Thinking about this now, it seems incredibly clever (and also brave/lucky that it worked because imagine the aghast onlookers if it just got to my mum and her two kids screaming and being unable to stop!) but also when mum talks about this she also really remembers the looks of disgust from others (even though it worked). So to recap, if in public and your kid screams, onlookers may well judge you if you ignore said screaming kid, judge you if you tell kid off, judge you if you smack kid, and also judge you when you engage in clever but slightly off the wall kid psychology (even if the latter is effective). Hmmm.

    Also, I was going to rant at Rick, but I see he has now been banned. In any case case I think you could boil down what I had to say to: fucking fuck off with your fucking rubbish fucklogic.

  293. Brava Volcanista~! You said that so damn well that I am acttually “pen in hand” writing it down in my book of awesome quotes and comments!

    Thank you Dr. V!

  294. Zenoodle: I’ve not done that in a supermarket, but I have done things like “Go on, do that louder. No, louder. Do it again,” etc. And “I can scream louder than you can,” and done it. And I fairly often whine right back.

    Someone is going to have to employ the therapists of the future, right? I’m guarding against future recessions.

  295. whoa, whoa, WHOA! Geezus, I leave the place for a day and y’all go tearing off on the topic of baby hating without me.

    I like some of the babies and children I’ve met. I’ve never wanted to give birth to one. In other words, THE TWO THINGS HAVE NO CONNECTION. It’s like conflating ‘I really like movies’ into ‘I want to be a filmmaker.’ I guess they have some relationship, but it’s not a direct line from one to the other. The assumption that it is strikes me as Patriarchal in the extreme.

    By the same token, I get the stabby pain when people assume I don’t like ‘children’ because I don’t have any. Again, NO CONNECTION. I don’t have children for a multitude of reasons, none of which are any of their business, and none of which have anything to do with how I feel about babies as a species. My brain does not have a cable connection to my uterus, thanks.

    But by far the stabbiest pain is reserved for women who tell me I ‘simply can’t understand’ unless I’ve given birth to and fallen under the spell of my own child. I’ve known many brand new humans, thankyouverymuch, and found some of them narcotic, some of them sort of ‘meh,’ and some of them downright ‘ew.’ Just like the other, bigger humans.

    I’m suspicious of people who ‘love’ or ‘hate’ ‘all’ babies and/or children. To me, it just means that they aren’t experiencing those individuals as individuals, which, frankly, makes me want to suggest they stay out of the gene pool entirely.

  296. volcanista, i want to preface this with the statement that i am in no way trying to turn this into a vitriolic argument – i think i might have been vague with what i was trying to say.

    you said:
    “Idiocracy conflates markers of education and class status with biologically inherited brain function. You’re doing the same thing. (Shuddering? Implying those people shouldn’t be parents? really?)”

    all i was saying was that i saw the lifestyle portrayed by “Idiocracy” (multiple children and bad parenting, and yes, lots n lots of [sometimes comically implemented] adultery) in the communities in which i lived for a time. i was not trying to say that the people whom i observed were stupid, merely that the BEHAVIOUR described in “Idiocracy” (i use caps b/c i don’t know how to use html yet – it’s coming, i swear) does, indeed, exist on a large scale in certain pockets of this country. (and the world, but that’s a bit large for this reply.)

    as to “those people” being parents and my shuddering at it – i was shuddering at the subculture (the food, the outlets for entertainment, the backwards attitude toward women and minorities, etc., etc.), not “those people” having children.

    so, volcanista. want a cookie? :)

  297. Lori -

    again, as i explained in the comment i just posted, i was vague earlier – too little coffee and class looming; though there really is no excuse for fuzzy writing.

    what i meant was this: in my opinion, most people don’t parent as effectively as they could. the reasons for this are too large for me to get into. essentially, i have a cynical attitude about parenting in general. i realise this is ONLY my opinion, and i am not trying to sway anyone to my opinion – merely to share it on this wonderful and thought-provoking forum.

    to get a bit personal, i was raised by people who shouldn’t have been allowed to own a chia pet, let alone raise human children. obviously my upbringing has coloured my viewpoint on parenting. i’m hoping (yes, actively hoping) that my cynicism about children and parents and parenting will mellow and perhaps even fade, because my experience during childhood was not the definitive one for most people.

  298. liberalandproud and savagewoman, it was Dumplings, and it was by a director called Fruit Chan. It was a pretty sick little movie. But I thought it was interesting social commentary on aging and the quest for beauty and ambivalence about motherhood. (I’m sure it didn’t necessarily mean to be, but I read into it.) And seriously, no joke, watching it made me hungry. Maybe I hadn’t eaten lunch that day or something.

    p.s. Shapely Prose bloggers- since you just banned Rick, I ought to mention that I got my first troll on my blog earlier in the week, and after his comments devolved into personal attacks, I did a Shapely Prose comments policy and banned him. Now he’s going around to every other Internet forum that will listen reposting our conversation and talking about how I am everything that is wrong with both astrology AND feminism. It would be terrifying if it wasn’t also hilarious. Water off a duck’s back. Thank you for reinforcing that banning people is sometimes necessary and can actually feel really, incredibly liberating. I can’t even tell you all the other ways I appreciate you guys and your brilliance, and what a fantastic “happy place” this has become for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  299. Brava, minervakoenig! I share your sentiments on the topic of babies and baby “hating”. You expressed them far more clearly and eloquently than I am capable of doing today.

    I love the quality of writing on Shapely Prose, both in the posts and in the comments. The content is awesome as well, but how many times have you seen blogs, articles, and forum posts with insightful ideas that are hampered by poor writing? I have seen the “It’s the Internet, who cares about proper English?” syndrome too many times to count. Shapely Prose is my refuge from a sea of lolspeak and writers who have forgotten everything they learned in their high school English classes.

    *raises her giant mug of coffee, complete with real half-and-half and real sugar* Cheers, Shapelings!

  300. Cheddar wrote: ” in my opinion, most people don’t parent as effectively as they could.”

    This is quite a broad brush stroke to make whilst trying to “clarify” what you were saying. It also causes my eye to twitch because it is such a “generalization” that fails in countless ways, such as:

    1) define “effectively”…and while you’re at it, please indicate what you use to measure effectiveness
    2) “effectively” REEKS of superiority and judgement
    3) Please explain how you can know every factor involved in said parent who is not up to snuff in the “effectively” department
    4) what place, if any, does temperament, genetic anomalies, societal pressures/conformities, internal desires, tiredness of child and/or parent, ability to comprehend, presence of disability, stereotyping, privilege, etc etc etc…. play in your determination of “effective” parenting?

    All of the above factors, and more, are present in every single example of parenting that you may witness in your lifetime. While most people’s own personal experiences may and usually do provide a backdrop by which we compare other people’s behavoir/experiences/lives, it is still just a backdrop, and not the be-all-end-all beacon of truth in which the world operates.

  301. I’ve been to Canada a couple times. Can I go on tv posing as an expert on their health care now?

    I actually do that freelance because I stayed in Vancouver once. It’s a handy source of income, I can tell you.

    Zenoodle, seriously, your comments bring me endless delight.

    fucking fuck off with your fucking rubbish fucklogic

    Indeed!

  302. Re: this burgeoning Mommy War and effective parenting, there is no way to determine that X is not being as effective a parent as (s)he could. Because children are genuinely different in what they need and what they respond to. Just because it worked for X’s kid or kids doesn’t mean it’ll work for Y’s. This can be less than obvious for those who have limited in-depth experience with chilluns, but I imagine most teachers, day care providers, and parents of many will agree. I base this on being the second of a family of nine kids. We are not the same. We don’t respond the same way to the same parental behavior. It freaked the ‘rents out for a few years, and then they learned to roll with the punches. Same applies for my nieces and nephews.

    Truly a bizarre thing, I know, and, if commonly accepted, could shut down the Mommy Wars meme forever. Which would be bad, since journalism is dying, so don’t tell anyone, K?

  303. Regina -

    You’re right; I was still being fuzzy. I just can’t seem to clarify what I mean without creating yet more confusion, so I will bow out of this discussion. My perceptions about parenting are coloured, anyway.

    BTW – I never meant for any of my statements to “reek” of superiority & judgment, though I can see how they came off that way. The word I used, “effectively,” was the most neutral word I could think of.

    So. Time to just read for a while and not say anything. Sorry for making your eye twitch. :) The offer of cookies is still open!

    /end kinda-threadjacking

  304. @ Alibhe, @ Lori,

    Re: your postings about kids and supermarkets and the necessity of big strollers – that was perfect and I thank you for saying it.

    Because some of the comments here have been just so depressing – for a parent, for any person who likes children. To be honest, I hate the straw mommy more than I hate the straw feminist – at least the straw feminist gets paid to write, while the straw mommy jsut gets to cringe while her selfish, whining child puts all the fun adults into martini-flinging bad moods.

  305. (the worst thing that happened with this was that I picked up a cucumber and started jabbing it at people I thought were coming too close…)

    BWAH!

    I love this image. LOVE.

    Although I’m an Evil Childless Woman, I used to take my nephews out a lot when they were still young enough to enjoy a visit with auntie. Once, while buying groceries with nephew T, he decided it would be hilarious to start howling like a wolf. So I howled back, and he giggled… and howled back. We did that in every aisle of the store, and everyone who watched me probably thought I was an idiot. I don’t recall their faces, but I sure remember his.

  306. Though child free (by choice) I don’t hate babies. It makes me very happy to dandle one on my knee. It makes me even happier when mother takes the baby back. The last time I changed a poopy diaper was when the men walked on the moon in 1969. Ugh. And not all babies are beautiful.

  307. To be honest, I hate the straw mommy more than I hate the straw feminist – at least the straw feminist gets paid to write

    Well, strictly speaking, neither the straw feminist nor the straw mommy get to do anything because they’re straw: they’re not real. Do you mean you hate the people who invoke the straw mommy?

    And everyone, please, let’s deconstruct the “mommy wars” rather than participate in them, okay?

  308. I went to the library last night and checked out “House of Mirth”. Fabulous. Unfortunately, with all the cleaning of the house, crabby children who refused to sleep, and laundry, I only read the first couple of pages in bed, until my husband yelled at me to turn the light off. I am looking forward to tonight. I will sit upstairs and read after everyone’s asleep. Is the trade-in offer of books for babies also for the reading of books or just for the writing of them? Because I have a 7 year old and a 4 year old available. In fact the 4 year old is poking me in the back right now as I type. so good bye.

  309. I’m not going to get into a whole mddle-class academics vs. working-class debate here, but I do wonder if we really can define what class any person belongs to by looking at income alone. As an example, I grew up as the daughter of two educators with master’s degrees. We lived in a bedroom community outside Detroit made up mostly of families with a single income earner, who usually worked at one of the “plants.” (GM, Ford, Chrysler). A big percentage of the men who had these factory jobs had never even graduated from high school, and yet their one income often was greater than the total of my parents’ two incomes. So who was working class? Who was middle class? Is it income that determines this? Or education? The type of job? I just don’t think we can claim low incomes as proof that we don’t possess some of the privileges that come with having attained a certain level of educational achievement. It’s complicated, I know.

    Someone wrote this: (I copied what was written, but not who wrote it, and I’m too lazy to go back through 300+ comments so I apologize to the writer in advance!) My family was also mostly working-class. Then I went and got degrees, and my mother’s family pulled this fucking shit on me too – told me I was too educated for them any more. Mind you, I heard the pain and fear in it. But it was STILL BULLSHIT. This reminds me of an expression used by some of my east Tennessee relatives: “They’re gettin’ above their raisin’.” (No comments, please, about poor white Southerners…that’ll just tick off this descendant of poor white Southerners.) It does show a bit of fear about someone they care about tossing aside the conditions in which they were raised. It can be seen as a sort of rebuke. When people have been looked down upon, made fun of, and condescended to by a big bunch of the world, it indeed can be painful to think that your own child or relative has become one of them.

    Oh, and just one more comment about the screaming baby at the grocery store thing— Once I was frantically trying to finish my shopping at the Food Lion, while my young daughter intermittently screamed and sobbed. I was at the end of my rope, and was convinced that someone was going to come and kick me out of the store. Wouldn’t you know it? A woman determinedly came down the aisle looking at me, and I didn’t know whether to cry or get pissed off. The first thing she said to me was–”You look like you’re having a rough day.” She went on and said, “You know what most of us in here are thinking right now? We’re thinking that we know exactly how you’re feeling and that we’re damned lucky that our kids are old enough not to scream in public anymore. ” Then she handed me a tissue because by then I was blubbering. She then told me to not worry about anyone else, just finish my shopping and go home and rest for a while if I could. Sometimes, when you’ve just about become convinced that the world is full of shitty people, someone does some kind thing, and restores your faith a bit.

  310. Zenoodle’s description of mum having a tantrum in the supermarket toally reminded me of an advertising campaign we have here – I can’t remember what its for though – where that exact thing happens. Kid starts to cry about wanting something in the supermarket – mum gets down on the floor howling and drumming her heels etc. Hilarious! That will be me some day, if I ever have kids.

    Also, YES to all the people who are annoyed by people assuming that because you don’t have kids, you hate them. OMG. Even my husband does this to me! My SiL just had a baby, and I have been going to visit about once a week, to give her some adult contact and cuddle the baby. Babies are cute. But the husband is all “gee, you’re really getting into this baby thing aren’t you?”. I mean seriously. I think miniature horses are cute but I wouldn’t want to own one.

  311. Cheddar wrote: “Sorry for making your eye twitch. :) The offer of cookies is still open!”

    Appreciate the “cookies”….and truly, I understand about not being able to write what you want to say in the most neutral, non biased manner. I’ve been guilty of that myself in this very forum. I’m thankful I was called out on it and able to receive it constructively…which was the point of my post, and hopefully came across that way.

    @Sweet Machine
    Yes ma’am~! (not written snarkily (is that a word?) I am done participating in the “Mommy wars”. (how did it get to that anyway?)

  312. Truly a bizarre thing, I know, and, if commonly accepted, could shut down the Mommy Wars meme forever

    But, not only would it force women’s magazines to find something new to write about–maybe they could include more dieting information!–it would force us to recognize that children are actual human beings, with their own wants and wills and personalities. They actually aren’t just little amorphous blobs we can project all of our desires and egos and/or insecurities and fears onto, and who aren’t actually so simple that if you input X you are guaranteed to get Y out of them. And who wants to deal with the ramifications of that?

  313. Thanks for the book rec, Volcanista! So many career books turn out to be not worth the $, so I’m always on the lookout for personal recommendations.

    And, although this doesn’t relate to babies (sorry), I want to recommend a book that made a huge positive difference for me re: the class and education issue.

    Al Lubrano’s _Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams_ is for anyone from a working-class background who went and got educated (or for anyone who wants to understand some of the subtleties of what this is like). It’s some personal-story stuff from Lubrano, woven in with a lot of interviews.

    The book helped me to some really great insights about my background, and made it easier to cope with family conflicts as well as my own unexpected resentments that popped up in the course of my “new wonderful career.”

  314. Since I seem to have a compulsion to defend people I largely disagree with….

    “The Dutch and French are progressive, but only in very limited (and in my opinion, exaggerated) ways. They are actually quite conservative, culturally.”

    I can’t say that I’m really an expert on France, but I did minor in French and so have some exposure to French culture; my impression was that this part was true, at least in some respects. In particular, there seemed to be more pressure on women to be attractive. (More than the U.S.? Hard to believe, but yes. Like I said, I’m not an expert, so maybe someone who knows more than me [and who is not banned] will disagree.)

    Certainly the fact that a country is more progressive in some/most ways doesn’t mean it’s more progressive in all ways. For example, I’d say that the U.S. is more progressive in regards to feminism than Japan in most ways, but Japan has an extremely low sexual assault rate compared to the U.S.

    “I’m not going to get into a whole middle-class academics vs. working-class debate here, but I do wonder if we really can define what class any person belongs to by looking at income alone.”

    YES. This is often ignored. Often education level has more to do with which class you culturally identify with than does income.

  315. ClosetPuritan: Um, reported sexual assault, maybe? Japan has a huge ugly problem with socially-accepted sexual assaults, to the extent that there are women-only buses and subways to cope with the epidemic of frotteurs and similar. I admit I’m statistics-free on this end, and I apologize, but my impression is that sexual assault short of stranger rape is considered something women have to defend themselves from rather than something prosecutable. So maybe it’s not a great example.

    Your point in general is well-taken, though; much of Europe is considered further along in matters of environmental concern, but is wildly racist towards non-Europeans. So “progressive” or “culturally conservative” are useless categories.

  316. @ Starling:

    Yes, even as I posted this I was wondering how much could be underreporting and wondered if I should say anything. My thoughts are something to the effect of, “but how much worse could the underreporting be than what we have in the U.S.? But wait, maybe there would be a greater effect from a small difference in reporting rates if the rates of reporting for both countries are small? I’m so confused!” :)

    Oh yeah, I’m a little late chiming in on this, but I definitely have the experience of not having Big! Important! Feelings! about things. It has both made me feel unfeminine and made me not want to be feminine. Typical INTJ there, I guess. I get annoyed listening to how I’m supposed to be so much more emotional and in touch with my feelings, and if I’m not Sensitive! and I don’t sandwich all negative/critical statements between compliments I am Mean.

  317. Sweet Machine,

    Right – (i)concept(/i) of straw mommy, (i)concept(/i) of straw feminist, or stock representation of straw mommy (smug antagonist to straw feminist) as a woman with an obnoxiously large stroller and equally large sense of entitlement, who … what was it? Is just not parenting as effectively as she could? Kind of like how, if we all just dieted the (i)right(/i) way, we’d all be thin.

    And of course, the straw feminist doesn’t get paid to write – I was just confusing Katie Roiphe with the imaginary person/s she was talking about.

    (This is gonna look very strange if the i’s in brackets things is not what actually makes italics.)

  318. @Kilberley – LOL. You need to use the pointy brackets that are on top of the comma and full stop buttons – just keep trying all the different brackets and you’ll get there eventually!

  319. ARGHHHH!

    I’m a feminist and I fucking love babies. Equal rights and baby hating are not synonymous. I just want a partner who does their fair frigging share of the work, as much for the kid as for me.

    For the record, I do not consider children and career to be a swap. You have to compromise but that’s true of everything. I’m not going to choose

    a) Baby
    or
    b) Getting published in Nature.

    ARGH, HACKS!

  320. Randomquorum, is that the Vicks advert? I saw it and wondered if the person who came up with it saw my mum in action all those years ago :-)… although actually I think plenty of other people might do similar things! My mum also had a good line in blowing a raspberry at us if we were being too demanding – very frustrating when you were the kid attempting to get your own way, but, LOL.

  321. Unfortunately, I’m sleep-deprived and unable to frame a coherent comment at this point in time, but perhaps someone with more brain than me right now can help come up with a nice compare-and-contrast between our society with the advances of feminism and the era of Baby Farming, where desperate women paid strangers to take their newborns, hoping they’d be raised into better lives… but with an oversupply of desperate mothers, bad things happened…

  322. I luv dis blog.

    Okay, last random comment: The whole idea behind Idiocracy is that stupid people have stupid kids (same goes for the whole icky hard-line conservative “welfare queen” – talk about your straw mommy! – argument). They don’t – intelligence appears to be so deeply and widel spread over our genetic makeup that it’s impossible to say what intelligence our children will have.

    I always laugh when people like Roiphe smugly congratulate themselves over their and their husband’s “super smart!” genes, because smart people have dumb kids, and vice versa. If they didn’t, where would the “rags to riches” kind of inspirational story come from?

    There is no “those kind of people”. We’re all just people.

  323. I just felt like pointing out that I don’t really get the “straw mommy” thing. Since the “straw feminist” argument is based on a misguided notion of feminism, attacking things that have nothing to do with it, like hating babies and men and thinking women are somehow superior. It’s a misunderstanding (perhaps intentional) of the ideology of feminism in order to put it down easily. Therefore, the “straw mommy” doesn’t make much sense as it is, since there are in fact many mothers who do feel a sense of entitlement because they have children, many who don’t, a lot of them do their best, a lot of them don’t, etc. and that has nothing to do with motherhood as concept. Mothers are not a group with a common ideology, a mom is any woman who has conceived and/or adopted a child, really.

    Not participating in the mommy wars here, just discussing semantics because I’m annoying that way.

  324. The House of Mirth, I haz it. Can’t read it yet, ’cause I’m still at work, but haz it! haz it!

  325. I hope this is not taking the thread too OT, but:

    @Laura:

    “There is no “those kind of people”. We’re all just people.”

    I appreciate what you’ve written. I used to toss the phrase “white trash” around a lot. I felt entitled to use it because of my own (supposed) “white trash” background (growing up on welfare, living in a bus, parents who did drugs). I have sense realized this is very wrong, and even in eliminating that funny little phrase (which isn’t that funny anyway) challenged my thinking quite a bit. I do think our language isn’t “throw away” and we should examine it.

    I did laugh very hard at many parts of Idiocracy, but yes, of course, “stupid” (or obtuse and lazy, which I thought was more in keeping with the characters in the film) people can have smart kids, and vice versa.

    People feeling all smugly smart and that they have smart kids… ouch. This hurts to think about.

  326. @Kelly – You’re totally right about eliminating words & phrases like “white trash” from your vocabulary.

    That one bothers me because no person is “trash” and because I think it has a weird implied racism to it. That is, there’s an underlying assumption of white superiority because you have to specify that the “trash” you’re talking about is white–making that the exception. (Kinda analogous to “man whore.”)

  327. Um…maybe the biographies were wrong but didn’t Virginia Woolf want children? I was under the impression that her doctors advised against it due to delicate health (possibly mental). From all accounts she adored her sister’s children.

  328. @ Mary,
    Straw mommy is the phrase that I came up with after reading some of the comments here. (I mean, I read all of the comments, but some stood out more than others because they pushed my buttons more than others) I just think that you can’t fight straw with straw – some mothers feel entitled, some mothers will shove their kids in your face, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to cobble together an imaginary, insufferable stand-in for all mothers… just as it’s not okay to cobble together an imaginary, insufferable, baby-hating stand-in for all feminists.

    Unless you’re doing it in comic-book form and both the straw mommy and the straw feminist end up at the Burning Man festival, and they have to band together to stay alive and avoid all the flaming things – and at the end they decide that “There is no “those kind of people”. We’re all just people.”, like Laura said.

  329. @Mary — I think, just as you might find individual moms who are assholes and claim right to that behaviour due to their parental status, you will also find individual women who are assholes who claim right to that behaviour due to being feminists.

    I wouldn’t agree with any concept of the “straw”-anything that said every member of X group is free from Y bullshit behaviour. All groups have bullshit of all sorts.

    So, I certainly HAVE met mom-, man- or baby-hating feminists, who claim their rude or judgmental behaviour is excused by their feminism. And frankly, I’ve read ridiculous articles that do exactly that. I’ve met moms who are totally self- and child centred stool-heads who claim their entitled or rude behaviour is excused by their momhood. And we have an example of that right here.

    I’ve also met fat people who are certain other fat people eat too much. You know?

    The point for me with straw feminism is that they’re somehow representative of FEMINIST THOUGHT ™.

    This is the straw: that somehow believing that women are human will likely lead to man, mom, and baby hating.

    Straw mommy: that having kids will more likely lead to being an entitled selfish ass, (who doesn’t have a very pragmatic and/or economically necessary reason to have a stroller on the bus).

    Or that eating at Chilli’s will make you fat because you saw a fat person there sometime.

    When you see someone acting entitled with her stroller, you are unlikely to think LOOK AT THAT ENTITLED FEMINIST, FEMINISM LEADS TO STROLLERS. (Although, amusingly, that’s exactly what my stroller was: a result of feminism, economics, and environmental choices.)

    When you see a woman holding a baby hating on ‘stupid oafish men’ you rarely think LOOK AT THAT MAN-HATING MOTHER, MOTHERHOOD LEADS TO MAN-HATING.

    However, there are baby hating or entitled feminists, just as there are baby hating or entitled men, or surgeons, or tap-dancers.

  330. @Mary … Easy case in point: there’s a site called feminists for life, where the women therein do believe in some sort of equal but different for women, but are anti-choice. They see that life sucked/sucks in certain patriarchal structures and want to address the suckage, but still support the traditional role of women in one way or another. Whew!

    If then the “common trope” was that feminism lead to anti-choice beliefs, and people were writing articles about how they were so annoyed by feminists and their anti-choice rhetoric, you’d have a serious straw feminist out there of the “feminists hate babies” sort.

    HOWEVER. These women do call themselves and consider themselves feminist, and there is no central licensing board for feminism. They might be called non-feminist by other self-identified feminists, but there will always be people like me, who see them as supporting the femme in feminism but missing the first most universal point – I’d have them at my feminist dinner party, because I think their input might be important in re: supporting certain types of gender role, only they couldn’t be jerks about the other women there.

    The thing is, they’re a terribly small minority, and their position doesn’t follow from the vast majority of feminist thought, because they – addressed or no – do think that sex proscribes gender roles in one way or another.

    Therefore, uh, they’re missing a good deal of the discussion.

    So. They’re real people, but if they were everywhere as the FEMINIST THEREFORE ANTICHOICE, that would be made of straw.

  331. @Ailbhe – Yo tambien. Arwen is one of my SP commenter BFFs. Or at least I have half the locket, I don’t know if she wears the other half or no.

  332. While I myself am pro-choice, I’m uncomfortable saying that pro-life feminists are not feminists or that they wish to prescribe behavior by gender. Pro-life people believe that embryos are people, therefore abortion is murder; and no-one male or female is allowed to murder. I can understand that, though I disagree that an embryo is a person, so I don’t follow their conclusion.

    That conclusion does place limits on women’s behavior and options, but not a necessarily anti-feminist keep women barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen attitude.

  333. @Piffle – Agreed about pro-life generally.
    Feminists for Life is a specific organization that (as of three years ago) had more essentialist tendencies. Which, as they point out, many first wave feminists also had: some first wavers, and even a bit in the second wave, held out great hopes for the civilizing effect of the “gentler sex”. So I was specifically discussing that particular organization, and as I mentioned, I rather am glad to find some feminists who are specifically honouring some of the less supported aspects of that “femme” gender mode.

  334. Elizabeth Cady Stanton had seven children. She stayed at home and wrote feminist propaganda, pamphlets, letters to Congress, etc. Her life’s work partner, Susan B. Anthony, toured the country. Anthony gave speeches, appeared before Congress, and was a consummate politician. They both ran the woman’s suffrage movement for decades.

    I fail to see how the presence or absence of children has anything whatsoever to do with feminism. Babies do smell good and it’s not a crime to want one. Likewise, it’s not a crime to not want one, and it’s an insult to sterile women such as myself to claim that women who don’t have kids are baby-haters.

  335. @Terra:

    “I fail to see how the presence or absence of children has anything whatsoever to do with feminism.”

    Speaking only for myself, having children has completely rocked my worldview, moved me deeply, challenged me mightily – and unfortunately (or fortunately?) made me instantly aware of the many, many disproportionate expectations, support, and social views of my (male) partner vs. myself – as well as my many friends who’ve had similar experiences.

    I am not claiming this means children are essential for the “full” feminist experience. Ugh, no way! I am claiming my own children have deeply and profoundly changed me as a human and a feminist. Sadder but wiser in many ways but also more joyful, strong, shit-stained and fierce.

    “it’s an insult to sterile women such as myself to claim that women who don’t have kids are baby-haters.”

    It is categorically an insult and worse to claim this, and although I’ve rarely if ever heard this spoken directly and loudly (childfree = baby HATE), I do hear whiffs of it all over the place and I am happy to see so many childfree, mothers, caregivers, etc speaking up when we do hear it.

  336. Sorry, (and I realize that this is following a somewhat tangential post), but I don’t see how you can be “anti-choice” and a “feminist” at the same time.

    At the core of the anti-choice movement, is, well, a lack of choice regarding pregnancy and childbearing; an absolute chaining of women to both their own bodies as they are (with no chance of deciding what happens to it) as well of the whims of lawmakers and those who can make them pregnant without their consent (which, um, if I remember my biology books correctly before the antis came and burned them all), are MEN.

    So, saying “well, I’m really a feminist except that I am willing to live in a world where a man can bring my entire life to a screeching halt, or at least seriously derail it, with his dick, whenever he wants, and I don’t get a say in it. Oh, yeah, and he gets to fuck up a totally NEW person’s life potentially by forcing them into a world where they may not be cared for or welcome.”

    FAIL.

  337. Since the thread has officially Died and gone to Thread Heaven, just want to say thank you to the folks who offered congrats upthread. I didn’t want to derail by saying anything earlier, but it was much appreciated ;-)

  338. weighing in from the UK here, i cannot believe how little maternity leave americans get. seriously – this has nothing to do with fuzzy ‘oh wow a baby’ stuff, but a lot to do with having just had a baby. A process that is always exhausting and life flipping. And you are then mainly responsible for another life – one that really can’t do anything for itself, and spends almost no time sleeping – at least in my experience.

    Scandinavian countries allow parental leave to be taken by either parent.

    And it’s all very well not to really like babies, not want to have any, not be interested in them – that’s fine – but unless someone has babies – there isn’t any population. babies turn into people. everyone’s been a baby at some point.

  339. “but unless someone has babies – there isn’t any population. ”

    Well, there is that whole Voluntary Human Extinction Movement thing. While it seems like a noble thing to do for the planet and the rest of its species, I worry about what would happen if no humans were left to take care of nuclear reactors and such.

  340. “but unless someone has babies – there isn’t any population. ”

    IMO, we’re still at “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.” Yes, much of Europe and parts of Asia have a low enough birth rate that they’re not replacing the population. (The U.S. is just above replacement levels, last I heard.) But in the world as a whole, the population is still growing rapidly, and is possibly already at a level where a first-world standard of living can’t be supported for everyone. First-world nations that want to grow their populations can just relax immigrations regs a little. We probably will get to the point eventually where underpopulation becomes an issue, but I’m more worried about overpopulation at this point.

  341. @Arwen, I apologize, you’re right. Truth is I know that people are usually ignorant about things like feminism and tend to make general and erroneous assumptions about it; I just never thought people could be the same way with something as incredibly common as it is motherhood. But, on second thought, there are straw men of every one of life circumstances, I guess I just never stopped and though about them. Thanks for the response.

  342. Re: childfree and the negative connotations it might have. I love kids (babies I’m “eh” about, but once they can talk they’re cooool) and I’m also childfree.

    Sayig that all people who term themselves childfree are universally baby-haters is tarring us all with the same brush. Yes, some CFs are nasty and spiteful; but some of us love kids. In the same vein, some Christians are fundamentalist wackos, and some are rational, reasonable people. The terms childfree and Christian encompass both ends of the spectrum (and everyone in between!)

    As for why I call myself childfree and not childless – well, it’s because I’m not missing children from my life. To my ears, ‘-less’ implies a loss.

    FWIW, I had my tubes tied at 24, long before I got into any serious relationships. So the decision is very final for me!

  343. I dunno, Liza, I’ve read some pretty awful novels that have left me feeling metaphorically pooped on :P

  344. Oh, wow. So far I am:
    A girl gamer
    A female sci-fi/fantasy fan
    A Christian liberal who is pro-choice and pro-gay
    and now
    A feminist who likes babies and plans to have some of my own (about 10-20 years from now, as I’m only 17)
    Question to the group: How many demographics deemed nonexistent by egocentric internet assholes can one fit into before one actually ceases to exist?

    My brother and my best friend have both decided that they don’t want to have children. I guess according to Roiphe, my brother will be able to lead a fulfilled life without having children but my female best friend will spend her days pining away over her unused uterus? Puh-lease. It’s a personal choice. I fully support anyone who decides to have children or not, because *gasp* I understand that viewpoints other than mine might be valid! I know, I’m a radical that way.

    Her only-child prejudice pisses me off as well. One of my best friends is an only child because his mother had to have a hysterectomy or DIE due to complications with his birth. Does that mean that she is any less than an incredible mother? Hell no. Personally I think having 18 kids is a heck of a lot more “irresponsible” as a parent than having one.

    Seriously, lady. Get. The. Fuck. Over. Yourself. I think this has more to do with the fact that she knows she’s not a good writer and is bitter, so she’s trying to make it seem like all these incredibly gifted women weren’t as “important” or “fulfilled” or whatever because they didn’t have BABIES like she did. J.K. Rowling is a mother. Nora Roberts is a mother. Margaret Atwood is a mother. The difference is, they’re all good writers and she’s not. (And does anyone else want to smack her upside the head with a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale? I know I do.)
    Sorry for the teal deer, but pretension and arrogance make me ranty. Thanks for the awesome smackdown, SM. You rock.

  345. Oh, silly me, for thinking that being a feminist means that I believe that it should be a no-brainer for women and men and anyone within the super-groovy gender spectrum at large to be able to CHOOSE their own life paths.

    You mean that having a baby, not having a baby, enjoying other people’s babies, adopting a baby, or simply shutting yourself away from anyone under the age of 18 are not ALL feasible options?

    Wow, I wonder why people WILLINGLY put themselves in dualism-land and then expect the rest of us to live there too?

  346. Many of you, including the author, really took a giant leap from the original article to your assumptions about what she meant. Sounds to me like a woman in love with her first baby, and trying to show how new, intense, and unimaginable that experience is- her experience is. It doesn’t sound like she’s telling anyone else to have babies, or making any commentary about people who don’t have or want babies themselves. I read her article, this post and many comments, then went back to her article to read it again to see if I missed it. I didn’t. What is with all the vitriol? It sounds like y’all have an agenda that wasn’t even touched upon by her article.

  347. Rosie – or possibly you just missed the point repeatedly. Or thought that waiting at least two months to say so meant nobody would notice.

    The subtitle of the quoted article was “Why won’t feminists admit the pleasure of infants?” That was “making commentary about people who don’t have or want babies themselves” – and don’t even try to tell me otherwise. It involves a boatload of Roiphe stereotyping feminists while simultaneously attacking them for beliefs they don’t actually hold.

    That subtitle would’ve been all it took to start the vitriol, as it always does whenever one extremely privileged person makes decidedly hostile and negative blanket statements about large groups of people without any understanding of said group.

    If you don’t read it that way, well, that’s your issue. But please don’t tell the multitude of people who hashed this out months ago that they were wrong in how they did read it.

  348. Why would I comment if I didn’t want anybody to notice? Just because my opinion is different doesn’t mean I’m a coward.

    And you’re right- the subtitle was inflammatory, but nothing else I read in the article was. And titles are often sensational to attract readers- but, again, the substance of the article wasn’t.

    So because I wasn’t timely my opinion isn’t included in the “hashing it out”? That’s fine, but again, don’t read into that and try to turn me into a sneak.

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