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Monday, 9 June 2008

Whose 'fault' is it that women have delayed having children?

I came across this article called Baby Gone which argues that feminism has played a key role in encouraging women not to think about babies and having families untill it is too late and they find that it is difficult (if not sometimes impossible to conceive). The author says this:

'THE strategic silences of feminism are having profound effects on society. For all the brilliant choices ushered in for women - the freedom to forge ahead with careers, to stay single, if that was their wish, not to be tied down by family and babies, if that was their choice - feminism failed women by refusing to inform them that their new-found choices came at a price.
By failing to remind women about their biology and their declining fertility, feminism deliberately ignored the innate desire of most women to have a child. The silence continues. It is there in the classroom where, like previous generations of young girls, the present generation is still not taught that fertility cannot be taken for granted.'

I find it quite shocking that someone can actually seek to blame the feminist movement for women not having choices about their biology! It's something I'm aware of in writing my book - I know how easily it is to turn this debate into 'all those career minded feminists - look where that has led!'

I don't want to turn back the clock - I don't want us to return to the world of my mother - who was told in her senior year of a top ivy league college in the 1950's that her degree made her very well qualifited for an admin post in an art gallery!!! We have a lot to be grateful for - the feminist movement has fought for our right to have control over our bodies and lives.

What I feel is that women in their 30's now are dealing with a dilemma or issue that our mothers and grandmothers never had to deal with - it's an un-intended consquence of having more choices. Whereas in our mothers and grandmothers day, it was implicit that women would get married and have kids - it wasn't really seen as a option. Yet, today it's not. Therefore, we now have more responsiblity to make that decision, to choose. Unfortunately, as I've explored before, for some women who are ready to have kids, they have to deal with the reality that the men in their lives also see themselves as liberated from past expecations of settling down and raising a family.

The solution isn't to hark back to an idealised 'glory days' of motherhood and apple pie. But to deal with this new reality and explore alternative solutions and new realities which weren't so acceptable in the past - including fostering, co-parenting, child-free life and having a child as a single women.

1 comment:

UKShell said...

I totally agree with your comments. I think as much as some women are putting off having children [god forbid they should want to live a bit freely before embarking on motherhood!], so are some men. It’s just as women, we have the biological clock to deal with.

I think the author has made a big mistake by confusing Feminism with Sex Education. In fact, I think I’d go as far as to say she has ‘confused’ them on purpose ie to make her [flimsy] argument. Some points on this:-

Part of feminism as a movement is to encourage not only real life choices for women, but how these decisions in life can be made via having knowledge of proper sex education in schools. Until all children/teenagers, female and male, are receiving decent compulsory sex education, including fertility issues and what being a mother/father really entails [downsides as well as up], then I guess only the government can be ‘blamed’ for the women who miss out on being able to have their own children. It’s down to the government to start bucking it’s idea’s up. For all I know, for every one unplanned teenage pregnancy there is [due to crap Sex Ed], there could be one women finding out that it’s too late for her to have children [due to crap SexEd]. That why feminists are so keen on sex education.

Not every woman who has forged ahead with a career, and, as a by product left it too late to have children, is a feminist. Some of these women won’t care what feminism is. Being a woman does not equate to being a feminist. Choosing a different path to motherhood may make you seem to be a feminist when you may not even know what the word means. So when she harps on about ‘Feminisms strategic silences on fertility’ [as if all women tune into some mystical “Feminism Hour” on BBC every day] she is grasping at straws. For all her imaginary ‘strategic silences’ from the feminist movement, how long have we been spoon fed the ideal from some mothers that motherhood is the ultimate goal, how wonderful motherhood is, how every woman should be a mother…rose tinted spectacles made sure we didn’t know the realities of motherhood/childbirth. I understand that feminism has made it more acceptable for women to take on different roles in life, rather than just being forced into motherhood at a young age, but that isn’t the same as *blaming* feminism for not being out there telling every woman on the street about fertility problems in later life.

Also, personally, I think that we are living in a bit of a blame culture. If something goes wrong in someone’s life, they want to be able to blame someone/something. And picking on the big ol’ faceless widespread and varying Feminist movement is always going to be any easy target. Feminism and contraception gave us [women and men] real choices, and I can’t imagine going back on that. It’s just going to take a while for the sex education to match up to the changing societal circumstances. As you said, we are having to make choices that are grandmothers and mothers never had the chance to make. It’s going to take time for the adjustments.

I think information is slowly trickling through to society/women about fertility. At the moment I can’t seem to open a [woman’s] magazine without reading about articles on how to increase fertility, the best time to conceive, best things to eat for a healthy baby, biological clocks tick ticking away, IVF this and that etc. I can’t remember the amount of times I’ve read about fertility rates dropping in women and men. Hopefully this will start to get people thinking about their life choices and how to plan for if/when to have a child. Hopefully it will lower the amount of women who find themselves wanting a child later on in life and the difficulties that can arise.

I also ditto what you said about adoption, fostering and childfree lifestyle as just as valid legitimate choices that need to be seen as such.