The Last Three Paragraphs

I wrote another piece for Broadsheet yesterday because this Daily Beast piece made me tremendously ranty, and I figured I might as well get paid for it. I’ve been thinking a lot about the social advantages and disadvantages of motherhood these days, so once I started, I couldn’t shut up even more than usual. Which meant that the piece I turned in was absurdly long, and I fully expected to see large chunks of it missing in the final version.

What’s missing, as it turns out, is the last three paragraphs. They were exactly the right thing to cut, since I’d already made my argument (and then some) by that point, and the rest was a combination of tangent and reiteration. But the tangent was one I really wanted to get in there — that choosing not to have kids really doesn’t come off as a glamorous, attractive choice, just because it might increase a woman’s chances of reaching the top of her field. If you know you want kids, the message childless* women send is kind of beside the point. I know people who want/have kids, who don’t want kids and who are ambivalent — and sometimes, ambivalence gives way to a default decision one later regrets — but I have yet to meet a woman who’s like, “I am absolutely certain I want to be a mother, but I’m going to completely ignore that overwhelming urge because it might ruin my career.” Some women gamble on delaying pregnancy and lose, but that’s really not the same as saying, “I desperately want children but have officially decided I will never have them because Sonia Sotomayor is my hero.” And that’s what Beinart seems to be worried about.

So. Please do go read the Broadsheet post, because that’s all about how brutally hard it is to balance motherhood and career ambition, and if you just read this part in isolation, you’ll think I’m missing the point entirely. (I’ve been writing and thinking a LOT lately about my own ambivalence toward having children and how much of it stems from the fact that neither childless women nor mothers get the social support and respect they need, so committing to either feels like asking to have a load of shit shoveled down my throat — whereas existing in this liminal state allows people to project whatever future they think is best on me, and thus not harass me too much about my choices. Problem is, this state has a fast-approaching expiration date.) But I think there are lots and lots of important points that arise from Beinart’s piece, basically — too many for one post — so I wanted to put up the rest of my rant, and open a space for discussing the whole thing that’s free of Broadsheet trolls. And make sure you all saw Tami’s piece, because it’s brill, and I basically spent the whole rant working up to quoting her, but then that got cut.

Without further ado, the last three paragraphs:

And trust me, young girls are hardly getting the message that choosing not to have children is an easy path — or if they are, they shouldn’t be. If you haven’t thought too hard about it yet, girls, let me break it down for you: In addition to the potential for lifelong regret, which you’ll never stop hearing about from the Hewletts of the world and their proxies among your friends and family, you will be widely regarded as a freak, as incomplete, selfish, irresponsible, unfeminine, somehow broken — what kid of woman doesn’t want kids? — and you’ll spend half the time and energy you saved by not having kids defending that decision and your credibility to people who inexplicably think it’s their business. So basically, the message you should be hearing loud and clear is that you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t — which means the only good reason to have kids or not is because it’s what you feel is best.

Blogger Tami of What Tami Said nails it:

The problem is not that women without children are getting too many extra goodies, too many shots at the brass ring. The problem isn’t that working mothers don’t have enough role models to demonstrate that they can have it all. The problem is that for all our superficial obsession with “baby bumps” and our pledges that “the children are the future,” we aren’t willing to walk the walk. We don’t support women in having it all. We fail to back up our supposed belief in families with legislation and societal values that truly establish successful nurturing of the next generation as a priority. (I can pretty much guarantee that our “family values” friends on the right would be the first to rail against any sort of strengthened parental leave or socialized childcare.)

Beinart concludes his argument, “[C]hoosing Wood would send the message that women can have kids and still reach the apex of their profession. That’s a message that I’d like my working wife –and our 2-year-old daughter — to hear.” Hey, as a married 35-year-old professional currently grappling with the question of whether I can handle motherhood, that’s a message I’d love to hear myself — but only if it’s true. And for the most part, right now, it’s just not. Right now, the number of women who reach the apex of their profession, kids or no kids, is still so tiny relative to the number of men who do, the girls and women I know will take any dingdang role model we can get. So instead of scrutinizing potential Supreme Court appointees’ reproductive choices, it would probably be more helpful if men who care about their wives’ and sisters’ and daughters’ futures would help women agitate for longer parental leave, subsidized day care and a culture that supports women who choose motherhood, women who don’t, and women who want to balance parenthood and career ambition without being condemned as either coldhearted monsters or half-assed employees, just like men always have.

*I’m using “childless” because I actually find “childfree” just as problematic, in addition to the fact that not everybody without kids identifies as such. To me, “-free” overcorrects for the lack implied by “-less”; now, instead of implying that people without children are missing something, we’re implying that people with children are burdened, and those of us without have dodged a bullet, suckers! I don’t particularly like what that says about parenthood or about people who choose not to have kids, who are often stereotyped as simply unwilling to sacrifice and take on the responsibilities of parenting. So what I’d really love is something in between, but since I can’t think of anything, I revert to the word that’s more commonly used.

Read more Kate

If you haven’t yet read Kate’s latest piece on the Kevin Smith/Southwest Airlines debacle, get thee to Broadsheet, stat. It is definitive, and it is moving, and it will remind you of why you started reading Kate’s work in the first place.

Whenever the issue of whether larger people should be forced to buy two airline seats comes up — as it did this weekend, when director Kevin Smith was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight, and as it did last April, after United introduced a policy practically identical to Southwest’s — the first and only thing a lot of folks think of is that time they had to sit next to a fat person on a flight, and it was so uncomfortable.


Here’s the first thing I think of when this issue comes up […] The weekend my mom was dying.

Read the whole thing, and the next time someone concern trolls you about fat people flying, send them that link. If their heart’s not broken by it, they didn’t have one in the first place.

Polanski, Polanski, Polanski

kateiconThat has been my entire week. Since my first post about it here got a lot of responses, I figured I’d share everything I’ve been doing on it in one place. (Trigger warnings on pretty much all of it.)

But before I get to that incredibly depressing shit, please go watch Chris Rock going off on Polanski on Jay Leno last night. I was beginning to despair of ever seeing an actual big-name celeb I like join Team Child Rape Is Bad (see second Thursday post below). The clip is both painfully (and I mean that) funny and quite satisfying if you’ve been waiting like I have, though not perfect. In any case, it’s ABOUT FUCKING TIME.

Reminder: Roman Polanski Raped a Child

Letters from Hollywood: Roman Polanski’s Rape of Child No Big Thing

Sharon Tate’s Sister: It Was A Consensual Matter

Peter Fonda and Roman Polanski on Rape vs. Murder

Lynchpin of Polanski Misconduct Case: I Lied

Are Anti-Polanski Celebs Afraid To Speak Up?

Oh, and Thursday was also the day I appeared on The Today Show to talk Polanski, because that’s just how bananas shit had gotten by that point. (If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t get excited. They literally left in one sentence of my 15- or 20-minute interview.)

Speaking of shit being bananas, I was also on Nightline last night, though that was not Polanski-related. They finally aired a teeny part of an interview I did weeks ago (I got like two sentences in that one!), squished in among Crystal Renn, Brooke Elliott and headless fatty B-roll. Woohoo!

Polanski, “Hounddog” and 13-year-old voices (After Monday’s post, this is probably the one I’m proudest of.)

And, finally, The best Polanski you might have missed this week — a round-up of other people’s posts I loved this week, though it doesn’t include two amazing ones by survivors: Lauren’s at Feministe, and our own Tari’s — which, if you read one Polanski post, should maybe be it.

I wrote about Drop Dead Diva

kateicon Caught up on the last few episodes, and wrote about them over at Jezebel. Conclusion:

But I can get past it enough to enjoy Drop Dead Diva for what it is — a fairly typical Lady Network show with a lot of atypical, unprecedented, truly body-positive twists. It’s not 100% PUF-approved, but holy crap, it’s a better portrayal of a fat woman than damn near anything I’ve seen since Roseanne, so I would really like to see this show do well. Since they already seem to have cut down on the binge-eating gags in recent episodes (THANK YOU), and they can only do so much about the premise, all I can really ask for is a little more sensitivity to the pitfalls of having Deb learn shit in Jane’s body that should be obvious to any thinking person, fat or thin. Oh, and more Fred. For the love of all that’s holy, do not take Fred away from us again.

To see what I had to get past and what PUF stands for, among other things, go read the whole (long) thing. Then discuss.

World domination: One step closer

Our fearless leader is beginning a fortnight of guest blogging over at Jezebel! This is an explosion of awesome, as you’ve probably guessed, since Jezebel has lately been one of the most reliable blogs around for feminist news (often with a fat-friendly slant) as well as pictures of Zachary Quinto.

This means that Kate won’t be posting quite as much over here as usual, but the rest of us are still around (though busy and be-jobbed and unreliable about posting and all that). And, of course, you can still get your usual dose of Kate at Jez and at Broadsheet.

Have fun, Kate!

Elsewhere on the internet

I wrote about anonymous cyberbullying for The Guardian’s Comment Is Free:

Yet all over the web, people operating under the illusion that their identities are thoroughly hidden continue to prove John Gabriel’s famous theory of internet behaviour: Normal person + anonymity + audience = total prat.* And too often, particularly when it comes to misogynistic attacks that not only harm women’s public reputations but drive them away from participating in online communities, citizens of the internet side with the prats. People become obsessed with hypothetical legal arguments about freedom of speech – even the kind of speech that’s never been protected – to the exclusion of looking at a larger, more important question: What kind of internet culture do we want?

And then I wrote about the fake controversy over Michelle Obama wearing shorts over at Broadsheet:

That’s right: Michelle Obama wore shorts. In August. To The Grand Canyon. Which is in Arizona. Which is really, really, really hot. And which is also in the United States, where it’s been common for women to wear shorts in public for decades. Not seeing the news angle? Neither is any other thinking person, but that didn’t stop outlets from the L.A. Times to “The Today Show” from discussing the American people’s ostensibly conflicted reaction (unfortunately, most journalists haven’t been able to locate an American person willing to express an opinion other than, “Seriously?”) or the Huffington Post from asking readers: “Does Michelle Obama have the right to bare legs?” … My favorite part of that poll is that the pro-shorts answer is, “Absolutely! It’s so modern!” Shorts. In August. “Modern.” Did Peggy Olson sneak in and write that copy? Or Laura Ingalls Wilder, maybe?

Talk about those posts, or anything else your heart desires, in the thread below. ‘Cause I am way too lazy to write something new here today as well.

*Gabriel’s phrase is, of course, “total fuckwad,” but the editor cleaned it up in a delightfully British way for me.