Saturday, May 24, 2008

Feminism's Fallout

I've written before that feminists act as though their beliefs have no real-world consequences. Abortion harms no one. Neither mother nor potential child feels the results of the decision, when it's patently obvious there are negative consequences. Having potential life snuffed out is a consequence. And mothers, who choose to have a child later, realize with disturbing clarity what the loss really meant.

Abortion is just one thing. The diminishing of men to promote women has been another. It seems that bring women to "equal" has been achieved to the detriment of men. But that's not what I want to talk about today.

Children of feminists are growing up and reporting what feminism looked like in practice. Some of the pictures aren't pretty as Dr. Helen notes this article about the daughter of Alice Walker writer of the book The Color Purple:

You see, my mum taught me that children enslave women. I grew up believing that children are millstones around your neck, and the idea that motherhood can make you blissfully happy is a complete fairytale.

In fact, having a child has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Far from 'enslaving' me, three-and-a-half-year-old Tenzin has opened my world. My only regret is that I discovered the joys of motherhood so late - I have been trying for a second child for two years, but so far with no luck.

I was raised to believe that women need men like a fish needs a bicycle. But I strongly feel children need two parents and the thought of raising Tenzin without my partner, Glen, 52, would be terrifying.

***********

Although I believe that an abortion was the right decision for me then, the aftermath haunted me for decades. It ate away at my self-confidence and, until I had Tenzin, I was terrified that I'd never be able to have a baby because of what I had done to the child I had destroyed. For feminists to say that abortion carries no consequences is simply wrong.

**************

Then I meet women in their 40s who are devastated because they spent two decades working on a PhD or becoming a partner in a law firm, and they missed out on having a family. Thanks to the feminist movement, they discounted their biological clocks. They've missed the opportunity and they're bereft.

Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

But far from taking responsibility for any of this, the leaders of the women's movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them - as I have learned to my cost. I don't want to hurt my mother, but I cannot stay silent. I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.

I suspect that more stories like this will be written. Women have many choices now, being a parent is just one of many. Women can find out, after having a child, that the child is not just a choice but a revelation.

What once was self-evident: that motherhood is a gift uniquely given to women, that it is a blessing to be a part of creating life, that giving birth transforms a person (or can), that no other earthly achievement parallels the potential world-changing benefit of a child, seems lost on women.

A deep ambivalence has taken hold Western women and men. To question our own existence and purpose so fundamentally leads to places like where Margaret Cho finds herself. For all her proclamations about "not being a breeder", I sense sadness and grief over the loss of her relationship and the potential child that could come of it. For all her worldly success, time runs short for her to know what it means to mother. And while that might be the best choice for her, she'll never know for sure, will she? (More about Margaret by Cassy Fiano.)

That's the thing about taking a risk like motherhood. Even getting pregnant and having an abortion, a woman can't retreat and go back. A woman is a creative vessel. That makes her uniquely vulnerable. The feminists focus on that part of womanhood to the exclusion of the other: that motherhood makes a woman powerful beyond her own comprehension. That power is terrifying which is why so many women run from it.

We've all heard the saying that "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world". Ironically, feminists forgo rulership to be bit players on the world stage. Their artistic contributions will fade in memory. In Alice Walker's case, though, her gifts will carry on because she became "enslaved" by motherhood. Her child is an artist. And the blood that runs through her daughter's veins now runs through her grandchild's. She would forgo this piece of immortality for her own passing glory? Well, she gets her reward and it will only last as long as she walks the earth. Lucky for her, she made the mistake of having a baby. With another generation, there is hope.

One more thing. The feminists have enslaved themselves with a false dichotomy: that you can either contribute externally and make your mark on the world or you can "waste" your potential and turn inward to raise children. It is impossible to do both. Yet there is much evidence to the contrary. It might not be possible to do it all at once, but it is possible to do both. Unfortunately, many women are waking up to this reality too late and biology reigns. Feminism has robbed many women of their choices. How ironic is that?

9 comments:

doirjohnnybravo said...

I have long wondered how the children of strident abortion advocates must see themselves. Do they wonder if they would have even existed if their mother had gotten pregnant at an inconvenient time, or by the wrong man?

My own mother was born as a preemie to a very sick mother in 1944. When the doctors had given up on her, her stubborn Irish grandmother insisted on taking her home. Incubating her in a roasting pan on the oven door, she fed her green tea from an eyedropper. At 4 months old, she was finally out of the woods, and her grandmother, her final work being done, died in her sleep with my mother resting at the foot of her bed.

Without my great-grandmother's devotion and stubbornness, there would be no me to even comment here, let alone live the life I have lived. I hate abortion so much because each life belongs to God, and a great woman I never had the chance to meet demonstrated its enduring value.

And my autistic son, who will never be in a place to live independently or meet his own needs, depends on me to see things the way she did. And with God's help, and the support of great friends, my wife and I will do just that.

The former John F Not Kerry

MaxedOutMama said...

Dr. M, you've isolated something about the stage feminism has reached, and that something is fear:
A woman is a creative vessel. That makes her uniquely vulnerable. The feminists focus on that part of womanhood to the exclusion of the other: that motherhood makes a woman powerful beyond her own comprehension. That power is terrifying which is why so many women run from it.

That's true. It is risky in so many ways to have a child (or even an abortion). What haunted me about the art student story was that she was acting out a fear and paranoia about her own ability to conceive.

But life is itself risky, and so in the end this is a life-rejecting stance at its fullest.

mkfreeberg said...

Ironically, feminists forgo rulership to be bit players on the world stage. Their artistic contributions will fade in memory. ...The feminists have enslaved themselves with a false dichotomy: that you can either contribute externally and make your mark on the world or you can "waste" your potential and turn inward to raise children. It is impossible to do both. Yet there is much evidence to the contrary. It might not be possible to do it all at once, but it is possible to do both. Unfortunately, many women are waking up to this reality too late and biology reigns. Feminism has robbed many women of their choices. How ironic is that?

Good observations. The one maxedout cited is even better.

Here's another irony to add to the list, from the gentleman's side of the aisle. You talk about the Steinem/Fish/Bicycle dealybob, which is constructed for the purpose of sending out the message that men are expendable, dispensable...this world can orbit & spin along just fine without us.

Feminism is also about the idea that when we jump ship, abandoning a single mother to her fate, we should be made to pay and pay and pay. Or -- when we don't abandon her, when we are far more passive, perhaps coming home to what we thought was a happy wife and loving household one day and finding the furniture and kids gone, a court summons in their place...then, again, we should be made to pay and pay just as if we are the ones who had done the abandoning.

I'll leave the whining for someone else. I simply have a logical question to ask.

If all other persons and things they try to do are left so intact and unscathed by our absence -- how is it, exactly, that we inflict this harm simply by leaving? Feminism has thrown it's support behind the idea that we are unneeded, and at the same time...for purpose of calculating the punitive counter-damage that is to be inflicted upon us for our sins...that we are needed as all holy get-out.

As a dude, maybe I'm not objective in this, but it seems to me someone somewhere along the line should have picked just one of those two suppositions, and abandoned the other. It's a logical impossibility for both of them to apply.

Wonderful post. I do not know if what's behind the link is entertaining to read, but it was a lot of fun to write...

Feminism In Ten Acts

doctorfixit said...

With Hillary's political demise there is hope that it also will signal the end of boomer feminism, which shares the characteristic narcissism of almost everything associated with that era. Unprecedented prosperity combined with a suppressed fear of the recent unimaginable horrors, to produce a parenting style that was at the same time remote, afraid of intimacy, yet overly solicitous and cosseting. Affluent suburban women in the home were left with almost nothing to do - the role model for success was the young executive husband. Boomer girls grew up thinking that the workplace was the wellspring of fulfillment. Now it is tragi-comic to see them taking it all so seriously. Do they yet not know what an empty farce it all is, or can they simply not admit it publicly? This is what makes Hillary's speaches ring so hollow - I think she knows that what she is striving so mightily for is like a dust bunny that she can't get off the end of her broom.

Pamlet said...

Your image of feminism is entirely unrecognizable to me. I live in a liberal hotbed and most of my friends are women in their late 30s and early 40s who would define themselves as feminists. Some have had abortions and nearly all have children. Most are working and bringing up children. All of us 1) value our children and think that childbearing is one of the most important things we are doing with our lives 2) do our best to combine a satisfying work life with the demands of family. Some of us (including me) err on the side of "sacrificing" our career to support our family while others err in the other direction. While very few of us would say that we've made all the right choices every step of the way, we are all grateful for the opportunities we've had -- which are due to that first, nutty generation of feminists (some of whom were extremists, like all vangards are). Sure, many of us waited too long to have kids. Hopefully the next generation of feminists will have an easier time of things and won't need to delay in order to build up a career. So my real question is, do you actually know any feminists IRL, or just generalize from the most extreme examples you see on blogs or charicatures in the right-wing media?

PS -- and why does it follow that if women are promoted, men are "diminished"? Once again, this seems taken from some 70s feminist tract mouldering in some trash pile somewhere. My feminist friends (and I) are almost without exception married. We support our husbands and expect to be supported in turn. But it's so much easier to charicature feminists as man-hating bra-burners, isn't it?

mkfreeberg said...

Here's the problem, Pamlet. Feminism is not defined by the people who support it, it is defined by the people who lead it and give it a voice. The Gloria Steinem types. As in, a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Sound familiar?

As for why the men are diminished when the women are promoted, the answer is -- the feminists make it that way. One minute, they're asking "how come there are so few woman doctors here" or "how come there are so few woman pilots here" -- and the very next minute they're asking "how come so few of the nurses/stewardesses are men?"

The problem is in the movement itself. The time comes for a powerful advocate to retire, and a successor has to be named. The candidate that will pick up the torch, will be the one with the more forceful voice. The more negative one; the nastier one. The one who does the better job of hating.

The feminist movement has been following through on that pattern, for forty years now. If it had another forty years, it would've just repeated the exercise. You say your feminist friends "support our husbands and expect to be supported in turn." I have to ask -- support, as in, find out what your husband wants, and get it for him? Because I can guarantee I can find more than a few "feminists" who need to see a married woman do that, and nothing more, and they'll be ready to blow the whistle. Women going out of their way to make their men happy -- just plain shouldn't be happening, in their book.

And that's where the feminist train left the track. When it became all about backtalk and negativity.

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