The thread following that Feministing post I linked to earlier ended up being absolutely horrifying. I almost regret mentioning my experience of the general social pressure to have children, because it certainly makes me feel like I’m part of the problem demonstrated in that thread. Basically, in sum (and generally speaking, since a few people on both sides were quite reasonable), childless women told stories of that pressure, referred to mothers as a privileged group in society, and thereby justified mocking, criticizing and evaluating their choices. Oh, and threw in a hefty dash of class privilege by repeatedly saying that people who couldn’t afford to have children should damn well stop doing it. When mothers, stay at home and otherwise, expressed shock at that kind of “discussion” on a feminist board, still more childless women came out to say things like this:
I wish I could say I’m surprised at the number of commenters who’ve somehow taken the existence of childfree people as a direct attack upon themselves and their desire for children.
I wish I could say I’m surprised that the whole thing turned into a battle of victimization between mothers and the childfree. I wish I could say I’m surprised that the tone of the post–sarcastic, victorious, and smug, as I mentioned before–would encourage comments like these ones.
Here’s the thing about reproductive rights, “choice” and motherhood: women lose on both sides. Mothers are a privileged group in our society? Are you kidding me? Mothers, who, when not also wives, are statistically one of the poorest classes in society? Mothers, who are expected to do well over half of child-rearing duties, even when a father is an active participant in the process? Mothers, who are under constant scrutiny from friends, family and strangers about how they are raising their children?
This is not unrelated to one of the main points of contention often raised by WOC with respect to feminism–white, middle-class women’s right to control their own fertility has, in general, been about access to birth control and abortion. Poor women of all colours, WOC of all classes, and lesbian women have had to fight to get people to recognize that they are worthy of reproducing at all, ever, that more of them are desirable in our society, that a social safety net that provides assistance to mothers in poverty is a valuable investment.
It sucks that a 24 year old who is absolutely convinced she does not want children has to struggle to find a doctor who will perform a tubal ligation. That would be a sign of doctors and the establishment condescendingly asserting control over women’s bodies. It sucks worse that a 24 year old First Nations woman who goes to the doctor for a first trimester checkup might have her child forcibly aborted, and find herself permanently sterilized without her consent. That would be a sign of the establishment asserting control over women’s bodies, maintaining a system of racial oppression using women’s bodies as a battle ground, and a violent, disturbing, horrifying physical assault.
Childless women are not an oppressed class. Mothers are not an oppressed class. Women are an oppressed class. Commentary on when, how, whether and with whom they have children is part of a system used to continue to oppress women, regardless of what the choice is. We can continue to throw things at each other and argue about who has it worse, while the people benefiting from the problem? Laughing all the way to the fucking bank.
This isn’t actually the post I came here to write, but it turns out I have two major points I want to make from that thread, so part two to appear shortly.