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Dec 23 2008

Mothers and blorts! Fight the power!

An excerpt from yesterday’s discussion, which veered off into a sort of stay-at-home mothers vs career-girls tangent.

Blamer Hedgepig: I understand your frustration with the situation of parents, but why are you directing it at people who are pointing out those frustrations and their underlying causes?

Blamer Tinfoil Hattie: I’m aware of the underlying causes of my frustrations and of the frustrations of many other mothers. I am responding to people who have said less-than-kind things about motherhood on this thread. One other mother and I felt attacked by some comments here. I responded from the trenches. I am asking for support from fellow feminists, while at the same time shaking my very tired fist at patriarchy.

O, Tinfoil Hattie, you do have the support of your fellow blamers; no true blamer would –

Yikes! Looks like I’m about to wander down Fallacy Lane. I’d better start again.

Post-revolution, things’ll be different, but currently in our culture motherhood is not just a matter of pregnancy followed by childbirth. It is a big ole set of behaviors and expectations and consequences and connotations and allusions and obligations and dogma — what I think of as nuclear motherhood — that is so deeply entwined with patriarchal praxis it is almost impossible to see the forest for the trees. Thus do some feminists take issue with the concept of stay-at-home momming, and do some stay-at-home mom feminists take issue with being conceptually taken issue with.

I do not now and have never advocated blaming women for what some of us radical feminists may experience as their capitulation to or collaboration with the dominant culture. Some blamers may, in a unguarded moment, express frustration with patriarchy in a way that seems to take aim at women who look to be cozied up with the Man. Lap dancers. Women who lurch down the street in 4″ heels. Fun feminists. Workplace-rejectin’ mothers.

We need to cut that shit out.

Except for the BDSMers. I’m still gonna make fun of you guys.

But anyway, check it out: we’re all of us cozied up to the Man in one way or another. Turn over the keyboard you’re typing on right now and read the fine print. Mine was made by slave labor in Malaysia.

Yo, mothers, we really understand. Really, we do, because our fists are tired, too. The maddening antifeminist zeitgeist is exhausting us all. It’s just that we — and when I say we, I mean those blamers who see the nuclear family as an enormous obstacle to liberation — are desperate for women who are living the status quo to challenge the status quo. We are desperate for women to reject the specious narrative that within the nuclear family we have “choice,” when in fact the “choice” (regarding motherhood) is between doing one full-time job (stay home and raise kids) or two full-time jobs (do paid work and also raise kids).* We are desperate for women to stop buying into the patriarchy-sponsored message about women’s fulfillment — that is, the notion that you are a selfish blob of failure, or worse, that you are missing out on life’s greatest joy, if you don’t martyr yourself to home and family and totally subsume your identity in the process. We want women to reject marriage and the nuclear family. We want women to not have kids in the first place. But above all we want women who do have kids to realize that, despite our critique of the traditional feminine behaviors in which they are encouraged — by forces larger than feminism — to engage, we’re on their side, because ain’t they women? And ain’t we for the liberation of women?

A feminist revolt will improve the lives of all women, and all kids, too.

So, even as mothers need the support of the — whaddya call us? Non-mothers? — we need the support of the mothers, goddammit!

That’s right! We want the mothers to step up.

I know, I know, they’ve got a lot on their plate. But we need them. We need them to confirm the notion that the thankless, unpaid drudgery of nuclear motherhood is a product of the astonishing degree to which everyone hates women. We need them to affirm that the nuclear family system doesn’t work. We need them to cop to the fact that nuclear mothers are in an untenable position, often stuck between poverty and either some crap marriage or some crap job or, holy shit, both. We need them to affirm that, as an oppressed class, nothing they do is without political significance. And we especially need them — this one, ho boy, is the biggie — to quit defending nuclear motherhood, because when they defend nuclear motherhood, they are defending the primary method by which patriarchy replicates itself.

Of course we forget how much we’re asking of these women. Some of us are not, perhaps, as keenly sensitive as we might be to the extent of such women’s investment in patriarchy. This investment is often substantial — in many ways more so than that of non-mothers, and it is often invisible to them. So often they’ve married men, changed their names, totally immersed themselves in the nuclear motherhood identity. Of course they have; it’s been expected of them since the cradle. And of course it’s a lot more complicated than that; their husbands are abusive, or they suffer from depression, or they’ve got a special-needs kid, or they’re finally in a pretty good space at the moment and don’t want to rock the boat. Because of the bogus set-up, even the consciousness-raised feminist mother’s survival, and that of her kids, more or less depends on playing nice with the dominant culture. So what we’re asking is no less than a voluntary rejection — ideologically, if not practically — of pretty much their entire reality. Heavy-duty.

This might be a good time to remind the group of the official position of this blog: that neither women as a class nor individual women are to blame for their own oppression, or for implementing such survival strategies as they have found necessary.

So, blamin’ mothers out there, you go girls. We know it’s tough in the trenches.

As an aside, I would like to point out that there is no word in the English language meaning “woman who doesn’t engage in human reproduction” which does not involve the prefix “non-” (“non-mother”) or connote some negative medical condition (“barren”) or express the condition in terms of negative space (“childless”). Even the attempt to turn it into a positive — “child-free” — is clumsy and kind of smug, and defines the person in question in terms of another entity. I mean, there’s no antonym for “mother.” You can’t, because bias is built into the language, write an essay using the phrase “mothers and blorts alike enjoyed a pitcher of delicious margs on the Lido deck.”

I blame, it will come as no surprise, the patriarchy.

Speaking of “support,” another aside: You know, although coping strategies often pop up in the discussion, this blog isn’t really a support group, per se, in that its primary focus is on patriarchy-spotting rather than on survival tips. I sure wish somebody would write that blog, though, because everyone sure gets tired of me de-transparentizing their oppression without offering any handy solutions that don’t involve the word “revolution.” I’m such a goddam downer.

___________________
* UPDATE: A communiqué from a long-time blamer reminds me that there is, in fact, a third “option.” She says, “There is the third, and for me most depressing, permutation of doing one paid job and paying another woman daily only slightly more than you pay for a meal – and in many cases considerably less than a meal – to raise your own kids.
These paid kid-raising women of course are most often doing 2 jobs themselves. The patriarchy has the slavery loop well sewn up.”

122 comments

8 pings

  1. Mooska

    Christ, this is difficult. As a potential – let’s face it, eager and broody – breeder, it’s hard to read from such a respected source that I should not have children at all. And to think that I was infuriating my friend only last night with a faithful rendering of your ‘femininity and its behaviours are NOT a *free* choice’! Hoist by my own petard, fo’ sho’.

    Whether or not my resistance to the idea of not having children is due to patriarchal influence (and I know that won’t be in question at IBTP..!), it’s there, and it’s strong. Surely, my brainwashed maternal instincts are screaming, the don’t-have-kids solution to the problem of being turned into a drudge by having children is only one, rather drastic response?

    OK, a non-rhetorical question. Twisty, given your antipathy towards the concept of the nuclear family and/or parenthood, do you think that the fabled bond between mother and child doesn’t actually exist?

  2. larkspur

    Hee. Blort.

    No, I’m sticking with spinster. It’s supposed to be all negative and sad, but “spinster” implies that although one has failed to reproduce, one is nevertheless out there making stuff and doin’ for herself, and that the fruits of her labor can be used for such various things as baby blankies and huge revolutionary banners.

    But just because I’m gonna die without issue (that’s legalese, because everyone knows I have issues) doesn’t mean I don’t care. (I’m okay about the no-children part, but I like children. Especially the little Blamer on this blog’s masthead.) As proof, I swear that from now on, when looking after the cute offspring of others, I will no longer try to teach them fun little songs from my youth. You know, the ones that go:

    Put down the bassinet!
    Pick up the bayonet!
    Put down detergent
    Become an insurgent!
    The only solution is
    Revolution!

    PS: I really do look after the offspring of others. Sometimes I actually baby-sit. Sometimes I simply cup my hand around the sharp corner of a cafe table as a little one goes toddling by.

  3. Dr. Steph

    Great post! Motherhood *is* tough work no matter whether you work outside the home or not. *Everyone* has an opinion about your position and you get tons of criticism and not a whole lot of help.

    I do love my role in my children’s lives and I get a lot of joy from being a mother. But that is purely emotional and also due to my privileged existence–I have money, a good home, a great job and a partner who loves his role too. It is not perfect though and I see how the bubble of the nuclear family protects me from feeling all the other crap that comes with motherhood within patriarchy. It’s the easy way out, and I choose to take it a lot of times because it’s tiring to confront patriarchy while taking kids to soccer practice or the endless laundry.

    As for the mythical bond. Well, it’s hard to divorce some of my biological experiences of pregnancy, birth and nursing, from my intellectual and emotional experiences, but I say it’s a myth. If the stork had brought me a baby, I would have felt very much the same. But it is not an on/off switch. Like all relationships it takes time, has nothing to do with gender (my partner has a very strong bond with his kids) and isn’t automatic. I chose to bring these people into my life and chose to love them. Friends who adopted children made the same choice and their bonds developed, but didn’t follow the fabled patriarchal scripts.

  4. larkspur

    Mooska, I don’t know what Twisty is going to say, but I believe that there’s no good reason to have children except because you really really really want to. And that is a good reason, as far as I’m concerned. I also believe that if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing imperfectly, and before all the ducks are lined up in a row, etc. I also think that I need to do a lot more studying about child-raising in other societies, like in pre-European Africa, or American Indian tribes. We haven’t always been nuclear about this stuff.

  5. estraven

    I have a job I love and children. I could have been a blort, if I hadn’t met my husband with whom I share parenting, according to our individual taste and inclination: he cooks, puts order in the kitchen, and mounts IKEA furniture; I shop, organize, and am the first referent for household help/school issues. We also have occasional bouts of single parenting to allow each other the possibility of extended job travel (up to two months/year).

    Can I imagine a better situation? Sure I can! I can imagine open communities, commonal childrearing, and public kitchens; I can imagine having a decent work schedule, nonsexist schoolbooks, GLBT rights and so on. On a more realistic level, I can imagine taking less than an hour to reach the nearest public library.

    And I fully support blamers blorts, blamers SAHMs, and every other blamer, whatever their choice (let’s no forget the infertile and those that my country doesn’t allow to adopt children, like lesbians and single women). Thanks for being so inclusive.

  6. Kate Dino

    I weep with delight at your analysis. I would be honored to contribute to a I Cope With The Patriarchy blog.

  7. Kaethe

    Some of my best friends are blorts, and thank the powers that be, because rearing little blamers and working full-time outside the home doesn’t leave me with the energy I need for defiance. I know I’m lucky to have a partner who is willing and able to stay home and parent, and based on my times as the stay-at-home-parent, I know I’m lucky to have a job that supports us, and is flexible.

    Thanks, Twisty, for all the blaming. The support of the blorts takes the edge of my rage, and helps me direct it appropriately.

    And may I offer a shout-out of appreciation to the prior generation of blamers who help me at least muddle through?

  8. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Hey, it was the gul-dang priest who called me “the spinster aunt”, and I wear it proud.

    And I tip my dorky hat to any woman willing to birth and care for kids — her own and/or anyone else’s. It’s a goddamn hard job, and frankly, I was never willing to take it on. Thank bog I knew myself well enough to know that the 24-7 thing would’ve driven me batshit crazy.

  9. Alderson Warm-Fork

    Without wanting to what-about-the-menz, I wonder what people think about fatherhood. I mean, traditionally it’s been defined as a position of power, of controlling and managing the ‘household’, hence patri-archy. That’s beginning to crumble with the progress that feminism has made (obviously lots more needed), and at the same time the biological role of fatherhood has perhaps been put in question by the possibility of sperm donation.

    This seems to mean space opens up for a redefinition of male roles in child-craft. Anyone have any thoughts on what direction this should take? For example, it might be that detonating the nuclear family makes biology just generally less important, and hence ‘fathers’, whose biological role is fairly minor compared to pregnancy, childbirth, etc. could be completely got rid of, replaced simply with ‘carers’ who happen to be men.

    Also, Twisty, I’ve just started a blog and would like to link to you in my blogroll, and thought it polite to ask first. Blamers may be interested in my post on making the Pope defensive: http://directionlessbones.wordpress.com/2008/12/23/homosexuality-will-kill-millions-leave-billions-homeless/

  10. Twisty

    Well, Mooska, as a lifelong blort, I cannot speak to the “bond” issue, except to speculate that because human attachments can form whether one has given birth to the attach-ee or not, and because there are plenty of mothers who don’t give a flip about their kids, it is likely that the vaunted mother-child bond narrative is fed from external sources.

    As for not having children, it is a political decision I advocate based on the current state of global overpopulation and the rate at which H. sapiens is hurtling toward a major die-off due to the earth’s inability to sustain us in these numbers. The emotional fulfillment one seeks through reproduction can be found in countless other, less privilege-weilding ways. If reproduction is to be used to bolster a wobbly relationship, or to provide a sibling for the one you already have, or to create built-in caregivers for your old age, or to gift the world with your irreplacable genes, or to create an adorable mini-me to mold, or indeed for any purpose, it is an irresponsible act.

  11. Barbara P

    To be fair, there aren’t really any antonyms for father, either. (Can I suggest “blortones”?) To me this just clarifies the notion that there’s a cultural impetus to reproduce, regardless of gender. (Where the patriarchy intertwines with this is in the way it assigns responsibility and sacrifice to motherhood v fatherhood.)

    I wonder though: is it reasonable to say that cultures should stop their promotion of procreation? Isn’t it part and parcel of why a culture survives? I’m not saying I KNOW that to be true; perhaps enough people would want to have kids on their own with no societal influence – but I wonder. (The Shakers quite nicely illustrated what happens to a culture that promotes the opposite.)

    Is it possible to be rid of patriarchy while still allowing a standard narrative where kids grow up to have children of their own (allowing exceptions, but kind-of assuming at the same time)? The reason I ask this is because I would hate to think that an oasis of non-patriarchy would quickly go the way of the Shakers.

    PLEASE realize when I say this, that I in no way think it’s some kind of moral imperative to have children. (If anything, it might be the opposite, given the state of overpopulation.) Also, I very strongly disagree with the intense pressure for women to have babies, which I have unpleasantly experienced myself. However, what I AM saying is that for an over-arching vision, a society where most people would choose to not have children wouldn’t last very long. So I’m wary of that being the definition of non-patriarchy.

  12. Twisty

    Well, reports vary, but some sources suggest that sustainability cannot be maintained until the human population is reduced by a factor of 1000.

    I’m just the messenger.

  13. Grumps

    Not only are you pressured to have the babies, you must have them on time. You felt you weren’t ready to give up your blorthood (for which you must have a ready excuse: irresponsibility, time or money constraints, general discomfort around children, etc)? Well, tootsie, you’re not getting any younger, and if you don’t breed right now or sometime very close to that, you’re going to miss your chance. And then you’ll never be a ‘real’ woman, and then how will you feel? So you must get started now, it doesn’t matter whether you’re ready or not. You’ll never be ready so you might as well go ahead and do it now. Now!
    I am 29 and a new aunt, and have this feeling in my family for the holidays.

  14. LisaB

    My women friends and I grew up together and all 5 of us have elected not to procreate. We don’t really talk about it, and I don’t think it was a deliberate political decision on any of our parts. If I had to venture a guess how we all ended up this way, I think we value our time, mobility and freedom too much. Also, I have seen people who appear to be “naturals” with kids, and I am definitely not one of those people, although I do ok with my part-time step-kid.

    Anyway, I’ve often wondered, what is the right reason to have a kid? None of them sound pure. I do think that so many people have kids because *that’s just what you do*. It makes my blood boil when I have to spend time with people who have kids but don’t seem to like, respect or have any interest in them — parents who barely pay any attention to their kids except when they’re correcting or punishing them. I always want to say: why did you choose to become a parent? How many people never even think about it before they dive in to parenthood?

  15. norbizness

    That’s fine for you to say after you’ve been all born and shit.

  16. Barbara P

    I totally agree that the best policy for all humans now would be to reduce our population.

    What I question is whether pro-procreation = patriarchy and anti-procreation = non-patriarchy in all contexts.

    A policy set in motion to decrease population would presumably have a time limit (even if that time limit is determined by all humans disappearing from the face of the Earth). At the end of that time limit (or close to it if we’re talking about everyone dying off), what prevents the re-application of patriarchy toward the goal of humankind’s survival?

    It’s reasonable to argue that people don’t really need cultural incentives to reproduce, but I don’t really know that. What I do see is that cultures that push reproduction seem to have survived. They also seem to be patriarchal. And I just wonder if they’re necessarily linked (and I hope not!)

  17. cafesiren

    What if blorts considered bonding with mothers to offer an alternative to an unnaceptable patriarchal household?

    I once knew a woman — waitress by trade — who had a two year-old daughter and a well-off professional husband. But said husband was no longer working out, for various reasons. Yet she knew that she could not support her daughter on a waitress’ wages, and didn’t want to lose her daughter. I really liked both mother and daughter, and we joked that we should just get a house or a duplex and co-parent the daughter, even though both of us preferred teh menz as sexual partners.

    Of course, as a confirmed blort, I don’t see myself as ever being even a half-time parent. But maybe a quarter-time one? Helping to provide a sense of “family” and support for my fellow woman? Not to mention getting to be a spinster aunt to someone I’m not really related to?

  18. EF

    Yeah but, who the fugg is gonna look after the kids then? I’m of the mind that if ye give birth to a little critter then ye should be of a mind to take care of it. I don’t get where things would go if there wasn’t someone taking care of the kids born. I mean, daycare is absolute shite mosttimes.

  19. Ruthie

    Yeah, but…I do like having a kid. I wish I could have more kids. It’s exciting and great to see another human being grow, to feed them and take care of them while they learn everything. Yes, there is a social structure that requires me as a mother to do a lot of things on my own or with my husband that I should get to do in a wider community. But the flipside is an authentic relationship with another human being that is so amazing.

    The thing that makes patriarchy, patriarchy is men owning women and children. So I can’t say “oh no, love that nuclear family, oh but my husband is different, blah blah blah…” I’m with you on that part. I’m even with you on the oppression of children and the ways that parenting replicates the oppressive structures of our childhood.

    But to say that women shouldn’t have children–I don’t know. There’s something in that which seems to me to collude with sexism. Specifically with the part of sexism that thinks women’s bodies are gross–menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation. What I notice as patriarchy is a society that doesn’t like women’s bodies or children, period. (Or periods! Ha!)

  20. Laima

    Larkspur, as a fiber artist, I love the idea of being a “spinster”, but I’m actually married to a guy, so “blort” it is. Thanks, Twisty, for inventing that word we have been needing.

    My mother is a pathological narcissist, and her idea of what the mother-child bond means, thereby, is very screwy. As the eldest of her four children, I got to function as her emotional crutch while still a small child, up until I was in my mid-30s. Years and years of therapy finally got me to the point where I could realize our “bond” was trauma bonding, similar to Stockholm Syndrome, not true affection. I grew up with a family legacy of 5 generations of child abuse, but I am not passing it down to anyone.

    I have 3 nieces – my brother’s two daughters, and my husband’s brother’s daughter – and I’m hoping they can grow up to be feminists, without necessarily having to learn the hard way, as I did, why it’s still so essential.

  21. K

    Cafesiren, I think that could be called a Boston marriage. Maybe it could use a new name.

    This post made me laugh out loud with joy and agreement. Thanks, Twisty!

  22. Tina H

    What if blorts considered bonding with mothers to offer an alternative to an unnaceptable patriarchal household?

    Sweet merciful Maude, where do I sign up?

  23. wolfhound

    Twisty, you are my very favorite goddam downer.

    Can I just say that “because I want one” is one of the most remarkably selfish reasons I’ve heard for having a child? Just my not-so-humble opinion. I have a friend whose mother told her she’d birthed my friend so that there would be someone in the world who lived “just for her” … creepy, huh? I want a horse, but since I can’t afford to feed and house one, I’m pretty sure it’s not a good idea.

    For all the Mamas out there, hang in, it’s tough, it’s thankless and maybe some of us think it’s pointless, but you’ve started it and now you’re on the hook to do a damn good job. And if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably doing great, so thanks.

  24. Jonathan

    Barbara P, there are antonyms for “father”, such as “Bachelor”. “Bachelor” has far fewer negative connotations than “barren”, and it has even gotten itself a movie deal or two.

    Mooska, the problem, as I see it, is not that physical human reproduction is inherently patriarchal, but that reproduction has been co-opted by Patriarchy to such an extent that it’s impossible to completely separate your choice to become a parent from it. In the same way that a nude sculptor cannot have her work received by the public in a non-patriarchal way, parents cannot make their parental decisions in a patriarchy-free vacuum through sheer desire. But what you can do is to mitigate the patriarchal aspects of your parental decision through other actions:

    * Raise your kid to be a radical feminist
    * Speak out against the crap that men dump on you on a daily basis; from the lack of daycare to the demeaning mommy and Baby (proper noun) ads
    * Don’t hide or whitewash the bad parts of motherhood, raise a ruckus and work them! (This one is extra tough if it involves confronting a Nigel)
    * Speak out when your fellow mothers give blorts trouble. Patriarchy despises mothers and the blorts, so join with the blorts against the Man.

    Believe me, it’s hard being a blort too! My S.O. is an extremely good blort who works relentlessly as a financial consultant for non-profits. She’s kept billions of dollars of non-profit endowments away from the Bernard Madoffs of the world. The Patriarchy HATES this, and I can’t tell you how many of our newly-married and new-mother relations have given her trouble for not ending her blort ways. She won’t do it, but the onslaught is relentless. Worse, a lot of the anti-blort volume comes from male relatives and their spouses who back them. If some of that volume went back at the husbands for giving us trouble in the first place, things would be a lot easier on her end!

    LisaB, the notion that a culture cannot sustain itself without procreation is pure propaganda. Outside of religion, I’d say most kids reject a sizable portion their parents’ views by the time they are adults. Also, I’ve known plenty of feminists who cropped up out of conservative households. Feminism will survive, or thrive, or be rediscovered after it is lost, because it is sorely needed by women to resist the dehumanizing quagmire that surrounds us. Women have the same basic survival instincts as everyone else, albeit one that has been tamped down hard by Patriarchy. The truth that feminism highlights can be ignored for awhile, but it is always felt. Another wave will be coming. Until then, if you want a non-procreating culture to survive, share it with the young you have contact with (I would start by giving Tamora Pierce books to 5-year-olds). They will certainly need it!

  25. tinfoile hattie

    Twisty, it rends my heart to see you assuming such things about every mother. Many of us do challenge the status quo. Many of us don’t give two shits about whether we’re Mother-of-the-Year material. Many of us would laugh our asses off at men who assume the Lord-and-Master role vis-a-vis parenthood and household stuff. I am catching a whiff of “blame the victim” here. Who is going to stand up for mothers caught in abusive relationships, caught without daycare, caught in poverty, if mothers don’t get help from people who disdain them for having kids in the first place?

    I don’t ever tell women that they “should” be mothers. Hell, I tell everyone I know NOT to do it, and I have had a very enjoyable and fairly distributed experience with it so far.

    I have never criticized anyone, on a feminist blog or anywhere else, for not being a mother. Nor would I. The only thing I’m asking is that my fellow blamers give me the same courtesy. Nigel and I are making a conscious effort to do the best we can to raise decent, blamey human beings. I don’t want a medal. I don’t even want any recognition. I want to be free of sneery comments about motherhood from people on feminist blogs.

  26. tinfoil hattie

    When did I turn into “tinfoile” hattie, by the way? I like it. Sounds kinda French-like.

    Also: When Nigel & I were figuring out whether to have kids, we realized: There are no rational reasons for having children, only rational reasons for not having them.

    I had them because I hoped it would turn out like it has. There. How’s that for specific? I love my kids. They are fun, energetic, hilarious, empathic, infuriating, quirky, human. I’m lucky. I love them, and I love being their parent, and I just … love them.

    See? Nothing rational.

  27. tinfoil hattie

    Oops – I read more carefully & I see Twisty is advocating help from Blorts. Yes. And to that I’d add: Blorts, help would be great. But you’re NOT obligated! Can we think of freeing motherhood from the clutches of heinous patriarchy as one more cause people can choose (there’s that word again) to get involved in, or not, as suits their fancy?

  28. Jezebella

    To be fair, Ruthie, I’m fairly certain that Twisty et al. would prefer that mean also decline to have children, alongside the “women not having children” policy, eh?

    In fact, I’d like to frame it this way: until men prove themselves capable of behaving like respectful and civil partners, they should not commence to breeding. Vasectomies all around!

    Furthermore, I am abandoning “spinster” and grabbing “bachelor” away from teh menz as my current designation. They can’t keep it all to themselves.

    And whoever said there wasn’t an antonym to “father”? INCORRECT! The term is “man”. Fatherhood is irrelevant to manhood status.

  29. TP

    I like spinster. Sounds independent, decided, strong. The whiff of disapproval you get is strictly from the patriarchy, not from the definition itself. Also, consider virgin. Once, in the far-off days of my heavenly youth, I read that in Aramaic, virgin actually meant “hasn’t had kids yet” versus the more radical male-centric definition of never having had sex yet. That word, if rescued, could do a lot of good in the world. But I’m dreaming.

    Fatherhood is exactly like motherhood, or is more and more like motherhood, the less patriarchal baggage you have to bring to it. I have known such transcendent, infinite joy just holding my child that it takes my breath away just to think of it. I understand tinfoil hattie’s feelings well. This incredible joy – even though mixed with equal pains, drudgery, and endless sacrifice – is not something I would have missed if I had known beforehand what I would get from it. It’s just love, on the one hand, and it’s also something more precious. It’s time spent with love and no cultural crap mixed into it.

    As she has aged, the culture has impinged further and further into our relationship, but it’s still much purer than the love I get from anyone else. Even though I’m a father, I feel like the love between my daughter and I is the most patriarchy-free love I have ever known.

    I feel guilty about adding my tiny drop to the enormous flood of human life on the planet, but I must note that it’s really all too late anyway. Nobody should blame themselves for reproducing, when the over-reproducing is really the fault of the patriarchy itself.

  30. Sarah

    We want women to reject marriage and the nuclear family. We want women to not have kids in the first place.

    Now I’m convinced that this is a joke blog.

    Sort of the Andy Kaufman of the internet.

    You’re for the liberation of women, and the free choice of women…but you’re telling us what we can and cannot choose.

    Which is, in fact, the most antifeminist thing one can do.

    See, funny thing: The purpose of life is to make more of itself. That’s what everything, from the simplest forms to the most complex, does.

    There’s nothing wrong with motherhood, fatherhood, families, or reproduction.

    The way you continually vilify the very concept of being a mother is sickening.

    You say “Oh, I’m on your side”, but then you fill your posts with hatespew about how having children is the wrong choice/bad choice/etcetera.

    Fuck. You.

  31. Panic

    @tinfoil hattie:
    Blorts, help would be great. But you’re NOT obligated!
    Why the hell not? Twisty’s saying that mamas are obligated, as women, to help fight for the revolution. We blorts should be obligated to help our sisters with kids. Otherwise, we’re just back to divide and conquer.

    Sometimes having children is selfish; sometimes being a blort is selfish. We have to just drop all that shit if we’re to get anywhere.

    Cheers!

  32. mir

    I’ve witnessed this inevitable ‘debate’ happen on female-centered online discussion groups, bulletin boards (back in the days of internet yore), and blogs over and over for years. We’d be all talkin ’bout oppression and sisterhood then Having Kids would come up and suddenly it’s like sex workers vs. anti-porners, My Nigelists vs. Fuck the Menz Completelyians. Big like that, you know? One of these topics that affects women almost exclusively, and is based in choice.

    And whichever you choose, insomuch as you can choose anything in the P, there are those of the opposing view ready to sniff at you. Hattie’s got it right, it is sneering, and it feels like a slap in the face- having kids, THEN hearing other feminists deride your actions, is the ultimate frustration- shall I take the human child in my life and stuff him tidily back into me uterus? Send her back to the adoption agency C.O.D? No take-backs, sorry.

    And parsing out the ‘reasons’ others have children, and which reasons are valid, is none of anyone’s business. In future-topia whoever gets to decide which reasons are correct- feminists, the P, some egalitarian non-gendered wholly democratic party of asexual giant-brained-beings- will still be autocratic assholes who are almost always wrong.

    I don’t want women to have children. I don’t want women to not have children. I don’t want women to do one goddamned thing but feel strong, autonomous, and free. Whatever that looks like to them.

  33. e.

    “And whoever said there wasn’t an antonym to “father”? INCORRECT! The term is “man”. Fatherhood is irrelevant to manhood status.”
    thanks for this, Jezebella.
    im 22 and while reading this blog i thought “hey, there IS an antonym to “mother” – its “woman”.” then i started thinking that this is a) probably generally not connotated like this and most people presumably wouldnt share that notion, and that b) i wouldnt want to say that a “mother” is no woman. motherhood, fatherhood – thats an addition to being a woman or a man, nothing else. for me it has nothing to do with their fulfillment personalitywise (though it may, in individual cases).
    just thought id share that, since i have three siblings, one of them a little brother who thinks just the right way about this whole thing and gets as infuriated by the degradation of men and women alike.
    theres hope :)

  34. Angiportus

    “Blort” sounds like a fart in the bathtub.
    “Blortone” sounds like if you sample this for your cellphone.
    That said, it’s good to have a discussion like this. I just want to ask this favor, whoever you are–
    If you want to have kids, 1) don’t fool them into believing in a god you yourself don’t believe in, just to keep them in line, 2) don’t gouge up their skins with your nails if you think they don’t have that perfect complexion, 3) don’t obsess over their bathroom habits and make them feel like freaks, 4) don’t stand there like a bump on a log if your man goes crazy and starts slapping the poor kid around. I don’t care if he’s got a golden pecker and 2 emeralds; the mama bear doesn’t let anyone hurt her cubs and I expect at least as much from humans.
    Worse stories could no doubt be found among the blamership. I sometimes feel like the kids that get drowned in the bathtub are the lucky ones because they at least are past suffering. Least I knew better’n to have any myself.

  35. Dauphine

    Sarah, as I understand feminism, it’s about choices that benefit women, not just you as an individual. For example, I believe that you cannot be anti-abortion and be a feminist. Incompatible. YOU may choose not to have an abortion, but taking away the choice of other women to choose abortion for themselves is taking away their agency, putting their health at risk, and a whole lot of other things that are entirely antifeminist and anti-women. No one is telling you you CANNOT choose motherhood. You can. But there are reasons why maybe you shouldn’t.

    See, funny thing: The purpose of life is to make more of itself. That’s what everything, from the simplest forms to the most complex, does.

    Would that include making more of ourselves until we consume all the planet’s resources and kill ourselves off en masse?

  36. tinfoil hattie

    Well, Dauphine, one choice that benefits women is the choice not to lecture them on why they shouldn’t have had the kids they already have. I request the same courtesy you want for yourself: Don’t try to blame and shame women for being, or not being, mothers. If you alienate mothers from feminist blogs, please tell me where else we can go? To Saddleback Church’s blog? To Quiverful blogs? To blogs that urge women to do the very things Twisty is begging mothers not to do? Shall we try and rebel against the patriarchy all by our lonesome, with feminists attacking from the left and “traditional” mothers attacking from the right? Because that doesn’t serve women on any level, does it.

  37. Shiloruh

    I shared this post for conversation tonight with my Nigel. He first pointed out there was no antomyn for father either. As we discussd this he suggests we begin to use the sibling words, brother and sister for non parental adults. I am not sure I agree, as these words have plenty to carry already. Still, as a woman who has not and will not reproduce, I must assert my obection to being referred to as a “blort” immeadiately. Sister in that case is fine with me.

  38. Nolabelfits

    I am going to weigh in here, as a mother. I did not choose to get pregnant, in fact, I was on my way out of the marriage when Surprise! I found out I was pregnant. (Birth Control failure and I also blame the patriarchy. another story) Since I am not obsessive about tracking my periods, I did not know I was pregnant until I was ten weeks along and by then they had to do a sonagram to figure out how far along she was. So when I saw a fully formed human with a beating heart happily swimming around my womb, I could not have an abortion. So I did not choose to get pregnant, but I did choose to give birth. I am totally in support of Twisty’s analysis regarding the nuclear family. There are so many systems in place to rob mothers of their power, and many of them are sneaky and you don’t even notice until say, you get your Social Security Statement in the mail and notice that because you stayed home because it made sense because your salary wouldn’t pay for childcare your “eligibility” for a payout at sixty-two is negligible. Your husband qualifies for 2000$ at sixty and you qualify for 200 bucks. Which conspires to keep you married. But hey, if you get divorced you are worth half of what he gets. I could go on. I feel as though I have been Domesticated Against My Will by forces of patriarchy I can hardly see much less control. And I am married to man who changed diapers and does the shopping. You know, A Nice Guy. I hate marriage and I hate the nuclear family structure, even tho’ I love my two daughters. I’m pissed off at a bunch of stuff but I’ll leave it at that.

  39. Dauphine

    Tinfoil, I don’t blame mothers for having children at all and I don’t think I ever said I did.

  40. Kathryn

    We don’t have a word for women-who-are-not-mothers for the same reason we don’t have a word for women-who-are-not-mountain-climbers or women-who-are-not-musicians or women-who-are-not-chefs. Don’t define yourself by the options you didn’t choose.

    Choosing to have children is not antifeminist. Choosing to have children within a pair-bond is not antifeminist. Choosing to have children within a pair-bond with legal backing is not antifeminist. And, for the love of little green apples, choosing to dissociate from the economic sphere — temporarily or permanently, partially or fully — and instead pursue a vocation that doesn’t come with a paycheck is absolutely not antifeminist.

    I’ll tell you what is antifeminist, though, is choosing to denigrate work done outside the cash economy, particularly if that work is done in the domestic sphere.

  41. liberality

    I am a mother of two children. Neither pregnancy was planned. I did not want to have children but I did anyway. I was young. Now my kids are grown up. I see the whole trip: how I was led into this monumental decision, and the lack of support, and the abuse, and all the things that Twisty has outlined in this post, and how it effects women, as I did even then. Until women are truly free, having children is a trap. I do love my children though. And I think women are less free now than they were say 15 years ago. We are going backwards and patriarchy is growing stronger. We need to push back.

  42. slashy

    Twisty, you’re always making fun of us BDSMers, but here we still are (generally not commenting because of all the being-made-fun-of, but appreciating and absorbing and occasionally sending you reference material nonetheless). You can make fun of us if you like, I mean, not like you need my permission, but although my eyebrows go up to my hairline every time I read some random insult about my sex life on my favourite rad-fem blog (one I quote at length and often in conversation), I realise that what I get from reading this is more important than being randomly offended at your (slightly-bizarre-to-me) objection to my sexual sub-culture.

    I guess if you’re agreeing to cut out the harshing on high-heels & lap dancers, I don’t so much mind being the last acceptable rad-fem punching bag/laughing stock. I can take it, but the lap dancers I know, they’ve got too much shit to deal with already to have to put up with diatribes about their capitulation/survival behaviours from supposed allies.

    Back on topic: As a strictly non-reproductive dyke, I am aware that I might at some point wind up in a coparenting sitch- I like juvenile human beings, and do not exclude dykes who have produced them from my dating pool, so it could happen. I do my best to support the mothers I know- up to and including baby-sitting so they can go to rallies, or regularly taking over a bottle of wine so we can bitch about the patriarchy once the juvenile human is in bed. I’m incredibly uncomfortable at anybody’s suggestion about restricting women’s right to reproduce, because heavy-handed reproductive choice curtailment is the patriarchy’s gig, not mine. Maybe I’m lucky that all of the parents I know are raising happy little radical feminist humans, so I am less convinced that reproduction is always and only a method of replicating a) consumer markets and b) patriarchy.

  43. tinfoil hattie

    Tinfoil, I don’t blame mothers for having children at all and I don’t think I ever said I did.

    I beg your pardon, Dauphine. I mistook the quoted sentence below to mean that women’s having children does not benefit all women, and I went on to draw the conclusion that you therefore meant individual women should not have children.

    You wrote:

    Sarah, as I understand feminism, it’s about choices that benefit women, not just you as an individual.

    Clearly I drew the wrong conclusion. I apologize for not reading your words more carefully.

    I still stand by what I said above — I just don’t mean to direct it specifically at you. (and really didn’t before; I was being clumsily hypothetical)

  44. Zofia

    Hear, hear tinfoil hattie.

    I hate this choice conversation. How many women do you really believe have complete control over their fertility? How many have real access to education, medical care, contraception, abortion?

  45. rootlesscosmo

    de-transparentizing

    Ithink it’s a noble and important activity in itself and needs no detailed what-is-to-be-done instructions to justify it. The patriarchy, coyly disguising itself as Biological Necessity or Cultural Universality or some other such tendentious crap, has to be made visible, and that’s what this blog does.

  46. Cara

    Twisty, while I completely agree, conceptually, with everything you said about motherhood under patriarchy, there’s still a small voice piping up in my gut that says, “Easy for YOU to say.”

    So it’s probably better not to go there. Some choose to have kids, some don’t, some never had a choice–so fuck the patriarchy and its aim to keep women divided against each other.

    If anyone wants to judge me for my *selfishness* in becoming a parent, well, tough shit. They’ll have to get over it or die pissed off. I’m not judging anyone for NOT wanting kids.

  47. Ginger Mayerson

    Limb, meet Mayerson…

    Motherhood is a riskier proposition in the patriarchy than anyone has brought up in this thread. Once you have a kid, you are even more at the mercy of the great and glorious State than ever before. I worked briefly and uncomfortably near the juvenile system in Portland, Oregon and one of the greatest taunts one’s neighbors and associates can throw at a family, usually a single mother, is “I’m calling child protective services on you.”

    It was my very limited experience with child protective services that they don’t just show up, look around and decide it’s a false alarm. They usually show up with the cops, don’t leave without the kid and then, while the kid is in foster care, the parent(s) is in hours and hours of classes and counseling, which might or might not be necessary. Even so, very few children were ever returned to their families of origin.

    I don’t have any statistics on how many kids are in dangerous homes, but if it is as many as end up in the juvie system, then either parenting or the State has become pathological. I think the State has gone mad in their quest to punish women for even existing, let alone trying to raise the next generation in a society that despises them for doing so, because how the hell did we all get raised before there were child protective services to rescue so many kids from so many homes?

    I have encountered a certain amount of disrespect for being a blort (thanks for the new vocab, T) of a certain age, but blorthood does have a few perks. One of them is that I have not had to watch my beloved child or children contorting themselves to fit into the patriarchy’s minimal requirements for being allowed to be female and live. Or seen the boys grow into damaged men so eager to succeed in a system that will grind them up eventually, one way or the other. I’ve watched, from afar, this happen to kids and that was sad enough.

    And lastly, and this won’t win me any fans, as a blort I stay the hell away from kids. Caregivers and friends of the family can be accused of crazy things by kids and parents on behalf and at the behest of the patriarchy. We all remember the horror that was the McMartin preschool trial, but what few seem to know is that all those child molesting convictions were overturned because the kids either recanted or the judge threw out their testimony. In the past, one the very effective way to keep women and social rebels in line was to kill a few, usually by accusing them of being witches. Plus ca change…

    Of course, IBTP.

  48. Helen

    Not having children – unless it’s a short, sharp campaign aimed to scare society straight – isn’t a twenty-first century feminist solution. It’s a nineteenth and early-twentieth solution.

    Sure, if you were a talented woman back in the day you could have a fairly satisfying life, and even make a difference – e.g. Rosalind Franklyn – but as soon as you had kids, you were pretty trammelled as far as achieving what you wanted to do in life was concerned.

    Making motherhood your life isn’t really an option either. We have much longer life spans than we had in the C19th, and most of us have two or at the most three kids – not seventeen, ten of whom die, as in the Victorian era. There just isn’t enough in SAHMism to fill a life – you need something else, otherwise you’ll become one of those terrifying parents who Lives For (and possibly through) their children.

    But returning to the late 19th-20th century model, the idea of being a blort in oppsition to being a mother has been around a long time and as far as I’m concerned it just perpetuates the divide and conquer. Ask yourself: Does that male CEO, or this doctor, or this male school principal, eschew having kids in order to have a career? No. In fact, mainstream workplaes have long viewed men with families as being better employees.

    It’s the assumption that a working person has a wife at home that is the problem, and it’s the patriarchal view of domestic work that is the weak link.

  49. slythwolf

    I don’t think “spinster” works as an antonym for “mother”. Why? Because it means unmarried woman past The Age At Which Women Get Married. (Which is what, exactly?) And hell, I’m married, but I ain’t having kids.

  50. denelian

    i thank the gods (yes, yes, i know) EVERY DAY that i cannot have children. that pregnancy can kill me. so that when i am randomly accosted by strangers wanting to know why *I* don’t have a clone or two in tow, i can easily say “i have porphyria, pregnancy will kill me” and be left alone. i don’t have strangers arguing with me public that it’s my DUTY to reproduce, that motherhood is my sole REASON FOR BEING…
    i do not want to be a mother. i, personally, view pregnancy with disgust. i do not care what OTHERS do – if you want to have a full baker’s dozen, go ahead. it’s your body. but me? nononononononononono.
    and as bad as mothers have it (and oh my GODS do they have it bad), there literally ain’t NUTHIN’ that will get me to change my mind (even if i could). mothers are looked down upon by all sides, and no matter what choices they make. they CANNOT NOT WIN. even more so than everyone else. no. just, fuck no. any woman who has made the decision to be a mother is a braver woman than I.

  51. Megan

    “I don’t want women to have children. I don’t want women to not have children. I don’t want women to do one goddamned thing but feel strong, autonomous, and free. Whatever that looks like to them.”

    Yes! Why are we so anti-child, anti-mother in this society (b/c we get it from all directions: those same folks that pressure YOU to have kids will not hesitate to tell ME to “control” them if they so much as giggle/snivel/skip/cry in public)? So I deal with the patriarchy, and I come here, to my happy (i.e., sane) place, and I find that I have to take crap for it here, too. You want feminism to survive? Well, you need us smart feminists to raise our child(ren) to question the status quo (and their offspring). And we need you to be supportive of us (“Oh, look, thoughtful, loving people having babies, how reassuring” is a good place to start). Ok, so we’re imperfect, flawed–but I refuse to look at the relationship that I have with my son as compulsory and sick. I LOVE him. I don’t care where this love comes from–he is wanted, and I don’t regret having him, in spite of the general lack of support I’ve received from society–or maybe even, because of. (I’ve always felt more focused when I’ve got a war to fight.)

    To be anti-mother is to be anti-woman. That said, I love you, Twisty; I love this blog; and I love the many thoughtful blamers who take the time to discuss these issues here.

  52. resh

    Can I first say that I love that y’all refer to male partners as ‘Nigel’? Hilarious.

    I totally believe in helping moms out because I don’t think its an immoral/bad choice to make. But I do think that the burden of child raising rests on the mother and thus women’s careers/personal lives/faculty building is put on the back burner.

    I’m the boss of a lot of people who have kids who often ask me why I don’t have kids. I just say “why should I?” and no one has given me a good answer yet. I don’t want kids anyway, however I’m the only lady boss and probably wouldn’t be if i had kids. The men bosses have kids but can still work 60 hours a week ? oh right, because their wives are at home taking care of the kids.

    Bitch PHD once wrote that the non-gestative partner has to want kids more for equal parenting to work. Brilliant.

  53. madeleine

    How could humans be the only animals without mother-child bonding? Because we are ‘essentially different’ from animals, just like women are ‘essentially different’ from men? Yeah, tell me another one.
    And as for reproducing in a non-patriarchal culture: I suggest a look at our nearest relatives, the matriarchal bonobos.

  54. civiliberties

    At a holiday party today I told a republican male that I’m a confirmed bachelor. He tried to correct me & say ‘maiden’ & I corrected him right back I explained that since I lived w/ a man for 6 years I certainly am not a maiden & for the same reason, I’ve been single for 7 years & happy to stay that way. Unless I meet a suitable woman & even then I wouldn’t want to have to share a bedroom. Funny that blort should come up immediately afterwards!

    Most child-rearing in traditional cultures around the world relies on an extended family living situation. Some are even matrilineal, though of course those are the ones under the most pressure to change from the dominant culture. I recently saw a documentary about matrilineal people in central asia who live from birth to death in the households of their mothers. Only women, (starting from the age of 13, when they are considered adults) have private bedrooms in the family home. Women initiate sexual contact & their lovers visit over night. The primary parenting roles are filled by the biological mother and her brothers, with the various biological fathers of the children playing peripheral roles.

    In Venezuela, stay at home moms earn social security because the value of their work is included in calculations of GDP/GNP. One of the western world’s favorite subsidiary of the patriarchy, capitalism, depends on the unpaid labor of women in the home for its existence. If that work were included in the actual economy as wages the whole lousy setup would fall apart. Not that it’s not falling apart anyway.

    Something to think about: one American baby consumes the amount of resources that would keep 30 children alive in India. I lived in India for 5 years, so that’s not an abstract statistic for me. I do think that exhorting women not to reproduce is controlling their bodies & by proxy antifeminist. I also think that the real costs of having kids aren’t easily justified. At the same time it saddens me that patriarchy has wrought a world where we should justify our decisions to reproduce. I struggled with this a lot when I had a bad case of baby fever that lasted for many years. I rode it out & it finally cleared up & I’m so thankful now that I didn’t have or adopt a kid. Which brings me to my compromise exhortation. Have a baby if you must, but if you want more than one, adopt. For those of you who want them, there are so many children out there who need you!

  55. tinfoil hattie

    To be anti-mother is to be anti-woman.

    Yes.

    Just as to be anti-abortion is to be anti-woman.

  56. virago

    “And as for reproducing in a non-patriarchal culture: I suggest a look at our nearest relatives, the matriarchal bonobos.”

    How about we look at modern day human matriarchal societies like the Mosuo of China for one. They don’t have husbands, and the children belong to the family of the mothers. Children aren’t considered illegitimate, and women are not stigmatized for having children by more than one man. Rape is uncommon, and a lot of outsiders think that the Mosuo language doesn’t even have a word for rape (not exactly true). However, as uncommon as rape is, there is still a punishment for the rapist that you don’t see in most western countries-execution. And while Mosuo women don’t have “husbands” in the traditional sense, they frequently do form long-term monagamous relationships with one man who comes and visits them at night, and sometimes, serial monogamy is what happens. A lot of westerners labeled these women as “promiscuous”, but that’s because the Mosuo women are free to enter into sexual unions without being stigmatized by people within their own culture. I think we can learn a lot from them.

  57. Independent

    Reproductive rights? Unless rape is involved, we all have the ultimate reproductive right – and we all know what behavior causes pregnancy.

  58. yttik

    If I’m a stay “at home” mom, how come I’ve spent the last 18 yrs in my car???

    “Just as to be anti-abortion is to be anti-woman”.

    Yes but pro-choice does not equal pro-female. You can have very misogynistic reasons for being pro-choice, like being a male who does not want to be burdened with an unwanted pregnancy and doesn’t want to take any responsibility preventing one. I’ve heard idiots say, “I’m not wearing a glove, the dumb bit%ch can just have an abortion”. Or anti-female abortion policies in places like China or India where abortion for gender selection or forced population control.

    I think there’s also a feminist argument against abortion. It is a terribly inadequate way of dealing with rape, incest, extreme poverty, lack of access to birth control, male irresponsibility. In a perfect world, women’s bodies should not be subjected this. The conditions that exist that create unwanted pregnancies are the real crime. Being “granted” the opportunity to have an abortion in response to all these societal horrors just isn’t good enough.

    I think you can be pro-choice and realize how anti-woman it is to even have to have pro-choice policies. It’s abusive to impregnate a woman who cannot or does not want to carry a child.

  59. Silence

    To be anti-woman is to be anti-woman. Could we please just say that? Because all women are women, but not all woman are mothers. Or to put it another way, if we just say ‘to be anti-mother is to be anti-woman,’ where does that leave us blorts?

    I don’t want to start some idiotic hierarchy of pain here. We’re all suffering because we’re women. Mothers get blamed for adding to the burden of the planet, for not controlling their kids in public, for not working (ha!) and a whole legion of stupid notions that I do not have the energy to list right now. I’m sure the mothers could write novels on the subject, and please feel free to do so. I hope this blog continues to be a place to vent where you don’t feel threatened.

    Blorts such as myself are looked down on for being selfish, unwomanly, and unnatural. Or we are pitied, the supposition being that we were not attractive enough to ‘catch’ a man. Sometimes it’s assumed we are lesbians, and while there is nothing in this world or any other wrong with being a lesbian, the assumption is irritating.

    It’s a lose-lose situation no matter which way you play it. The patriarchy has it set up so that we cannot make the right choice. I think, bottom line, that’s Twisty’s point, though of course she’ll correct me if I’m mistaken.

    No right choice. If you’re female in this life, you receive an automatic ‘F,’ so there’s no use squabbling over who got the ‘F-’ as opposed to the ‘F ‘ or any such crap like that. Especially once you realize that the patriarchy’s the one handing out the grades.

    We need a new scoring system.

  60. Twisty

    “I’m incredibly uncomfortable at anybody’s suggestion about restricting women’s right to reproduce, because heavy-handed reproductive choice curtailment is the patriarchy’s gig, not mine.”

    Whoa there! Slashy! What you have done is to surmise that I advocate “restricting women’s rights.” Where did you get that? Why do people always imagine that I’m on some kind of anti-agency warpath when I merely point out the ways in which patriarchy is served by this or that behavior? You make it sound like I’m proposing that some government agency be set up to prevent women from having babies.

    I’d be happy if they’d just get rid of the one that’s set up to force women to have babies.

    I, too, want women to do what they want, when they want. But we can’t, because we live in a patriarchy. This social order, which benefits white males at the expense of everyone else, could not exist without nuclear motherhood. Nuclear motherhood, as I tried but perhaps failed to explain in the post, has nothing to do with “choice” or “rights.” It is a patriarchal institution that, like all patriarchal institutions, benefits white males at the expense of everyone else.

  61. Twisty

    “And as for reproducing in a non-patriarchal culture: I suggest a look at our nearest relatives, the matriarchal bonobos.”

    The bonobos!

  62. goblinbee

    I had kids and I loved it (they’re grown now), but I don’t kid myself that it was anything but the ultimate selfish act. That there is most likely a biological imperative to reproduce does not change that. The kids certainly didn’t ask to be here, and the earth needs no more humans, so who else was it for?

    Of course, I didn’t think about it like that at the time — I was young, stupid, AND MORMON. But ignorance also does not change the facts.

  63. yttik

    It is not selfish to have children. It is also not selfish to not have children.

    Besides, what’s wrong with being selfish anyway? That’s a patriarchal concept right there. Everyone knows women must first take into account the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs of the entire human race before making any “selfish” decisions.

  64. Jonathan

    @Cara

    If anyone wants to judge me for my *selfishness* in becoming a parent, well, tough shit. They’ll have to get over it or die pissed off. I’m not judging anyone for NOT wanting kids.

    No one is judging you (read Twisty’s post again, third paragraph from bottom), but why should motherhood be off-limits from a critical feminist analysis?

    I find it alarming that it is A-OK for us to criticize shopping at Wall Mart, even though many of us shop there (some out of economic necessity), but as soon as the nuclear family is viewed with that same critical eye, suddenly all political criticism is drowned out in the personal.

    I think this stir on the commnet board has happened because Twisty has indeed hit a nerve.

    We need to remember that our criticism of Patriarchal Nuclear Motherhood Inc. is separate from the individual mothers on this list.

    And please be careful, for every mother yelling at Twisty and lauding the goodness of her own family choices, there are 10 mothers not on this board getting crushed under the weight of the nuclear family.

    Perhaps we should focus on those who haven’t made it through parenthood in as good a shape.

  65. tinfoil hattie

    Blorts such as myself are looked down on for being selfish, unwomanly, and unnatural. Or we are pitied,

    Well, if it’s any comfort, I often find myself envying blorts. And I fail to see how knowing you don’t want children and then NOT having them is “selfish.” Huh? If by “selfish” you mean “making sure I don’t have a kid I don’t want.” I suspect that many people who say NOT having kids is selfish really mean, “You had the courage to not have kids; I wish I weren’t stuck with mine so I’ll make you the bad person here.”

    yttk, I didn’t say being pro-abortion is being pro-woman. I said being anti-abortion is anti-woman. Slight difference.

    And yes, yes, YES! To be anti-blort is to be anti-woman. Absolutely. In my Walter Mitty dreamland I lead big rallies of women who don’t want to have children, and I bestow medals upon them.

    Then I award them with “blort leave,” which translated to “Ha-ha, I don’t have kids so I don’t have to take off work for the school play! I’m going HIKING instead!” Because you shouldn’t have to have a family in order to justify taking off work in the middle of the day, or leaving early, or not working weekends.

    I run everything in my dreamland. Work, health care, human rights It’s a great place.

  66. M the Pedagogue

    This:
    I find it alarming that it is A-OK for us to criticize shopping at Wall Mart, even though many of us shop there (some out of economic necessity), but as soon as the nuclear family is viewed with that same critical eye, suddenly all political criticism is drowned out in the personal.

    Thank you. It makes me crazy that even in feminist discussion, the ritual of obeisance to the cult of motherhood seems to be the great sacred cow. The number of comments in this thread alone is pretty indicative: “I’m not a mother, but wow you’re all just the best and good for you and you have it the worstest etc etc etc.”

    Well, I don’t know, I mean, I’m thinking of the lesbian in the town near me that was just gang raped for being a lesbian. Do I really have to prioritize your social security worries over that? That, of course, is a false choice, too, but it’s actually quite freaky that motherhood is a no-analysis zone.

    We can say this: mothers, like women of color, lesbians and the varieties of queer, disabled women, etc, experience patriarchy in specific and amazingly shitty ways that exacerbate and multiply the damage that patriarchy would wreak upon them for simply being female.

    Criticizing racism is not an indictment of white individuals.
    Criticizing compulsory nuclear family formation, or motherhood, is not an indictment of individual mothers. How is this not clear?

    Now, I challenge you to go back and read the comments in this thread, specifically the “No really I love mothers, it’s so hard” and imagine those coming from white women toward black women, I think we’d all see how weirdly patronizing that is.

    So what’s with the special status category for motherhood? Perhaps one easy step towards eliminating the *compulsory* aspect of motherhood is to stop the compulsory worship of motherhood as the fullest and best expression of womanhood. That does not mean not having to support women who are mothers. But I think it kind of sucks to take the kudos from the patriarchy for doing its work with one hand, and then, with the other, extracting kudos from feminists for supposedly having it worse than anyone.

    Real support, rather than patronizing smoothing of bruised egos, entails mothers & blorts all fighting for pretty much the same old list of feminist concerns: health care, equal treatment under the law, equal pay for equal work, childcare that is treated as the work that it is, whether by those who share genetics with the little ones or by others, etc etc etc. That might mean having to knock off a sense of entitlement to nothing but praise from feminists and assholes alike, however.

  67. phaedras

    I keep searching but can find…what is a blort?

  68. phaedras

    sorry meant can’t find…

  69. thebewilderness

    Blort is a potential antonym for ‘mother’.

    I think that what most of us are advocating is people making an informed choice. Difficult to do when the information is not available and the propaganda is ass deep. It never occurred to me, married at seventeen, that there was a choice of any kind available to me.

  70. Nolabelfits

    My head is swimming from this discussion. I wish I could articulate as well as some of you here.

    I find that a woman in our society can achieve as much career success as a man as long as she does not have children. Once you have children, planned or not, you are basically screwed. In fact, once you are in a pregnant state, you are controlled. Its no accident that all of the women in my male dominated workplace who have made it into the upper levels of management do not have children.

    The nuclear family unit leaves women with very poor choices. Once upon a time, I had a strong, willful little girl, a wind in her hair, “I want REAL tools for christmas!” righteous right on female child. She also hated school with a passion. (Mom, I HATE IT, its too RULE-Y!” At this time I was also discovering I was more than likely a lesbian and had to get a full time job to get out from under the economic control of a man. Said female child begged me to “home teach” her. Literally begged me. I was faced with a decision: DO I work full-time and subject my fabulous girl-child to the patriarchial public school system and watch the life being sucked out of her, or do I forgo work to home school her and get the life sucked out of me? What kind of fucking choice is THAT? Either way, one of us becomes the walking dead.
    Thanks for the space to rant Twisty.

  71. pilgrimsoul

    It is tremendously bizarre to me how quickly people leap to self-defense when responding someone’s observation about the ways in power/patriarchy is enmeshed in [insert concept]. Well, okay, not bizarre, but certainly sad. (I suppose we can’t expect the patriarchy not to defend itself.) Let me restate what Twisty was saying, which she did quite clearly in my humble opinion but apparently some of you are not understanding: this presumption that motherhood is a politically neutral decision in a woman’s life has got to go. Like all other decisions, it is shaped by patriarchal messages and mores, and we get nowhere in terms of either political action or coping strategies by assuming otherwise.

    Does that mean that all women who choose to procreate are more entwined with the patriarchy than all women who do not? Not at all. Did Twisty say that? I didn’t hear it if she did. I assume that she would, like I am, also be skeptical of women who choose not to have children, tell us the patriarchy had nothing to do with this decision, and that they made a patriarchally-neutral decision to “pursue their careers.” Because I will never and have never understood why or how anyone seriously interested in feminism could believe there’s an opt-out clause in the patriarchal forced-adhesion contract that greets us all at birth. We are all complicit in some way, and yes, that complicity merits talking about, because the old adage about rulers only ruling if you let them has some truth to it. End of story. You have children, don’t have children, adopt some, whatever, but please stop telling me that feminists shouldn’t rightly be talking about this. This is what feminism is.

  72. Kathryn

    It’s not that motherhood, nuclear or otherwise, is or should be beyond criticism. But I do feel that it’s unhelpful to suggest that there is no way a woman can conceive and bear a child without endorsing the grinding bootheel of the patriarchy. It’s true that motherhood locks you into a web of dependence; a child is dependent on its parents, and until the revolution happens, the chances are very good at least that one parent will be dependent on the other. And 90% of the time, the dependent parent is a woman.

    But rather than say “We want women to reject marriage, to not have kids in the first place,” why don’t we recast the debate? Why not say “We want domestic work to be valued equally to cash-economy work?” Why not work to break that web of dependence, so that women don’t have to choose between themselves and their children? Why not acknowledge the unpaid, invisible work that women so frequently do as a vital and necessary part of the economy?

    Of course it’s ridiculous to suggest that motherhood and childbirth is somehow an essential part of being a woman. It isn’t, no more than going to law school is, or being a competitive athlete. But just like law school or training for the Olympics, it is an expensive, time consuming proposition that often takes a person out of the cash economy for months or years. Why is it not equally valued? Where are the motherhood scholarships, the Pell grants for infant care, the teaching stipends for homeschooling?

  73. Trumpet12

    I guess some of us in California, after the clobbering gay and lesbians got from the nuclear family heteronormative majority here on Prop 8, don’t have much patience or compassion left. Nothing personal, but I just don’t associate anymore in that world if I can avoid it.

    I want to thank the straight allies, and interestingly enough, all of the women who were straight allies in our neighborhood did not have children, and maintained their own last names. Hmmm?

  74. slythwolf

    You know what, who cares if having kids or not having kids is “selfish”, what the fuck does that even mean? Putting yourself first. Ha. There’s not a damn thing wrong with being selfish and anybody who tells you there is is trying to get something from you, and they’re trying to guilt you into giving it even though you both know you don’t want to.

    As an example of why it’s not bad to be selfish: my Nigel suffers from depression. The other day I was attempting to explain to him that he deserves happiness, and he said he couldn’t see saying that about himself because it sounded “selfish”. Selfish to want your life not to be miserable. And you know what? It is. That’s why there’s nothing wrong with it, that’s why it’s healthy to be selfish.

    Unless to have your happiness you’re stealing it from someone else. But that’s not selfishness, that’s being an asshole.

  75. Bloog Mandrake

    No. Really. Women should stop having children. Species annihilation is the only way out of this mess. Please. Please stop having children.

  76. Nolabelfits

    >

    But Slythwolf….here’s the rub. If Mothers want their happiness it very often means denying the happiness or well-being of their children. Thats a patriarchial construct. So…in doing so… are we being assholes?

  77. thebewilderness

    Happy winter/summer holiday to you all, and to all a good night.

  78. yttik

    “…as soon as the nuclear family is viewed with that same critical eye, suddenly all political criticism is drowned out in the personal.”

    The problem with criticizing motherhood, is that mothers are already down on the bottom of the rubbage heap. It gets so personal and defensive in feminist discussions because mothers are getting it from all sides. Even the kids will probably go thru a healthy period of hating you.

    As is usual in the patriarchy, things are flipped on their head, so what appears to be a reverence for mothers is really despising them. If you look at how many mothers are raising kids alone in poverty, obviously there’s no respect for motherhood. So when feminists try to point out problems with motherhood there’s this defensive reaction on the part of mothers, like oh great, now the feminists want to line up and poo on me too.

    I have lived the status quo, but I absolutely challenge it. This is not an ideal way of doing things, LOL, far from it. Sure the kids are beautiful and it has it moments, but motherhood really sucks. If women had actual power and real choice, we’d strike and refuse to bear children until the conditions were improved. And my situation was ideal, for those without money and support, it’s even worse.

  79. Zofia

    If Mothers want their happiness it very often means denying the happiness or well-being of their children.

    Or we can challenge the definition of “happiness” or “well being” and examine what that’s come to mean in this twisted, unjust, consumer driven, free market, psuedo-Democratic world. I have never wished I didn’t have my daughter since the relationships of daughter, sister, aunt and mother are the most potent and influential in my life and my reason to keep fighting. ¡VIVA LA REVOLUCION!

  80. orlando

    Nolabelfits, I don’t believe you’re right about that at all. Doing your best to be happy yourself is the only way to raise a healthy, well-balanced child. A child is going to be more harmed by watching its mother be miserable (guilt, fear, unhealthy patterns to copy, sense of unrepayable obligation) than by having to negotiate the difficulties thrown up by mum going down a different path.

    I don’t know how many times we have to repeat the mantra “we’re not pooping on mothers, we BTP”. Isn’t “the personal is political” the first principle we all digested before we arrived here?

  81. Nolabelfits

    Doing your best to be happy yourself is the only way to raise a healthy, well-balanced child.

    I am not certain that is the absolute truth. I know a woman who took six months off and hiked across Spain when her daughter was two and a half years old. The child cried for weeks, feeling abandoned I suppose. It did make the woman happy, but at what cost to the child?

    And Zofia, I have never, ever wished I had not had my daughters, either. My relationship with one daughter, in particular, is what sustains me in this life.

    And it has not escaped me that along with blaming the patriarchy in these posts, most mothers, me included, seem to feel we have to reiterate that we love our kids, as if being pissed off at the status quo means that we don’t somehow love our offspring. A woman’s love is used against her all the time. Love your children? Then raise them for free! The love is the reward! The Nuclear Family means economic enslavement to a man for many, many women.

  82. Hattie

    What I think is that non moms need to look to their own needs and let moms look after their interests and their kids’ interests. It is patronizing to suggest that women become vassals when they have children.

  83. Nolabelfits

    I think the question I have is this:

    Why does any woman’s happiness have to mean someone else’s misery? Something’s fucked up about that and I know I have experienced it myself so its no illusion. I’m not a feminist scholar so I cant really figure it out, but that’s been my reality many a time.

  84. Hattie

    It’s Lesbians who need help. Geez, the discrimination against gays and Lesbians is horrible, especially in Redneck parts of the country. It makes their lives miserable. And even dangerous sometimes.

  85. gerda

    twisty said;
    “As for not having children, it is a political decision I advocate based on the current state of global overpopulation and the rate at which H. sapiens is hurtling toward a major die-off due to the earth’s inability to sustain us in these numbers. The emotional fulfillment one seeks through reproduction can be found in countless other, less privilege-weilding ways. If reproduction is to be used to bolster a wobbly relationship, or to provide a sibling for the one you already have, or to create built-in caregivers for your old age, or to gift the world with your irreplacable genes, or to create an adorable mini-me to mold, or indeed for any purpose, it is an irresponsible act.”

    so i dont have to. thanks.
    couple of great cartoons here;
    http://www.vhemt.org/biobreed.htm#babies

  86. gerda

    oh, and before i get screamed at, i have done my time as spinster aunt and honorary member of the mothers’ union in another relatively non-patriarchal set up (although within an intensely patriarchal environment); several single new age traveler women parking and moving together and living, working and bringing up several (mostly under school age) kids between them.

  87. Tupe

    Twisty, what feminists ALL need to step up to is the ways in which Patriarchy sneakily finds ways of forcing false dichotomies into our communities, dividing and conquering. Whether you have children or don’t have children you are still caught on one side of a serious double-bind. After reinforcing a patriarchy-serving Difference between mothers and non-mothers, you tell mothers they need to support us by agreeing with you that their lives suck and they’ve got WAY more patriarchy in their systems than you do, wacka wacka.

    One small note: Not having children and/or other dependents functions as a HUGE economic privilege in terms of time, money and other resources in our society. You need to seriously check yours before you ask for anyone’s assistance.

  88. Nolabelfits

    One small note: Not having children and/or other dependents functions as a HUGE economic privilege in terms of time, money and other resources in our society. You need to seriously check yours before you ask for anyone’s assistance.

    Wow. Enough Said. Thank you.

    A Mother.

  89. Twisty

    Either I am right or I am wrong, and neither contingency has the slightest thing to do with whether I personally have kids or not. I believe that, if you read my post again, you will find that I am exhorting all women to acknowledge the egregious injuries inflicted on child-rearing women by institutionalized misogyny. “All women” must include child-rearing women. This dang ole patriarchy isn’t gonna overthrow itself.

  90. mandor

    If you read the Twistonian archives, you’ll see that mothers are far from the only ones called to step up.

  91. Zofia

    It’s Lesbians who need help.

    ————

    Do you think that mother and lesbian are mutually exclusive? Where I reside in the Southwestern U.S, at least half of the mothers I know are lesbians.

  92. CJ

    Twisty and blametariat -

    I wrote this whole stupid long self-aggrandizing post about how you can’t possibly know what it’s like to be a parent from a place of non-parenthood, but thought better of it.

    We’re all women. We all suffer. We all need support and love.

    So,

    *support and love for all of us*

    CJ.

  93. orlando

    This seems just the place to highly recommend an excellent critique of motherhood in a patriarchy – go read Susan Maushart’s The Mask of Motherhood: How Mothering Changes Everything and Why We Pretend It Doesn’t.

  94. virago

    I’m really sick of the mommy wars, or moms versus child free women debate. In the meantime, the patriarchy is working to take away the rights women do have, but women are too busy arguing about who is the better mother, or woman for having (not having) kids that we don’t support each other. The problem is the patriarchy, but until we realize that, women are their own worst enemies. In the meantime, the patriarchy is probably slapping itself on the back because it’s divide and conquer strategy is working. Way to go!

  95. larkspur

    You know what? The mommy wars rage on, and there’s lots of arguing and ranting, and I can’t pretend it’s not happening. But I just want to say that very often, at the boots (or flip-flops) on the ground level, we’re sometimes getting around this shit. Face to face, we are. I’ll give personal examples, but that’s because (duh) I can only speak for myself.

    Like on Christmas Eve, during the day, I’d walked over to a local coffee shop to treat myself to a sweet foamy holiday themed latte. It was crowded, but everyone was pretty cheerful. As I was leaving, a young woman was approaching with a toddler plus one infant in a bright shiny Baby Jogger. There is room in the cafe for a Baby Jogger, but I was thinking it was going to be hard to order and keep an eye on the toddler. I didn’t have any place I had to be just then, so as I held the door and we smiled at each other, I said, “I could totally babysit right out here. You can see us from the window. It’d be fun.” She declined, but she gave me the sunniest smile and thanked me sincerely.

    See, that woman who is a mom knew I was ready to be an Instant Auntie. It’s no big damn paradigm shift (which I don’t even believe is a real phenomenon BTW), but it’s the kind of thing I and other people do all the time. It’s a way to briefly lighten the load and remind each other that we’re a community. You do it standing in line at the supermarket, and the person ahead of you is holding a fussy child, so you play peekaboo until the child calms down. Or you see a woman and some children walking up the sidewalk to the library, and one child looks like she’s going to dart off to the park, so you give a head’s up, and mom/grandmom/auntie calls the little girl back.

    It’s not policy, it’s not world-altering, but it’s real, it counts, and every little bit helps clear the wreckage that gets thrown in our paths to divert us. Because the last thing they want us to do is get organized.

    Actually, I learned this from my parents. Alas, my parents do not like children, or most other people, in fact, and after a childhood of watching them glare at other people, talk trash about misbehaving children, and assume the worst about everyone, it finally occurred to me that I might be more comfortable in the world if I did everything the exact opposite from them.

  96. SolNiger@gmail.com

    Feminists love their mothers.
    That is all.

  97. awfisticuffer

    Actually, 54 percent of impoverished women in America are in fact single women with no dependents. Ta.

    xttp://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/10/pdf/women_poverty.pdf

  98. Jodie

    “But I do feel that it’s unhelpful to suggest that there is no way a woman can conceive and bear a child without endorsing the grinding bootheel of the patriarchy. ”

    Just about ANY choice we make as women endorses the grinding bootheel of the patriarchy. Why can’t everyone SEE that?

  99. Twisty

    “Just about ANY choice we make as women endorses the grinding bootheel of the patriarchy. Why can’t everyone SEE that?”

    Jodie, I wish I knew. I wish I knew.

  100. Hattie

    Zofia: I can think of one Lesbian who has two birth children: my daughter. So make no assumptions.

  101. Octogalore

    I think the marriage and motherhood no-nos are red herrings. If women and men had economic equality, neither of these would be a trap. And neither of these are reasons, in themselves, we don’t.

  102. PhoenixRising

    We need them to confirm the notion that the thankless, unpaid drudgery of nuclear motherhood is a product of the astonishing degree to which everyone hates women. We need them to affirm that the nuclear family system doesn’t work.

    We’re bailing as fast as we can.

    There are moments of this parenting thing in which I notice the stray thought, Hmm. Have we truly and irretrievably lost the receipt, or can we return this kid? But for the most part, I find that integrating parenting and blaming makes two great tastes even better together!

    For instance, as a mother I have access to the masses of women who don’t realize that it is impossible for their husbands to ‘baby-sit’ THEIR OWN DAMN KIDS! Quietly, sometimes quite passively, but firmly, my wife and I have the opportunity to demonstrate what it looks like to share parenting joys and duties between two people.

    It sounds small but recently one of the moms I have known since pre-school days (5 years ago) ran into me at the co-op and told me that her divorce was final–and that it had been initiated when she realized that day in Feb. 2004 that she and I both had the flu but only one of us had real spousal/parental support for admitting that she was very sick.

  103. Jonathan

    @PhoenixRising

    But for the most part, I find that integrating parenting and blaming makes two great tastes even better together!

    It feels to me like the two “sides” of the “mommy wars” are united on this issue, even though they are approaching the problem from different ends of the experience spectrum.

    Mothers:
    We need help down in the trenches fighting the Patriarchy! Mothers shouldn’t have to choose between their children and their own lives. The work of mothers should be valued, and mothers should not be left to be financially dependent on a man.

    Blorts:
    Nuclear motherhood is the central reproductive tool of Patriarchy because it forces mothers into the trap of choosing between their children and their own lives. The work of mothers is undervalued by the Patriarchy so that mothers are left to be financially dependent on a man.

    Would it be correct to say that solving one of these positions would also solve the other?

    If so, then IBTP for using the mommy-mystique to drive a wedge between women in order to divert anger away from it’s proper target: the privilege-saturated child-dumping Dudes!

  104. tabbadabbadoo

    Thank you larkspur. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of two worlds. There isn’t a lot of support for mothers who choose not to be in a relationship with their childrens’ fathers. I think that if people envision a world where child rearing doesn’t fall to just mothers then they need to step up in their communities.

  105. Hattie

    It’s clear to me from seeing my daughter and her partner share parenting duties that the subordination of mothers comes from fathers who refuse to share equally in the upbringing of their children. It’s not the kids who are the problem, it is the dads!

  106. Tsu Dho Nimh

    You say “We need them to affirm that the nuclear family system doesn’t work.”

    OK: it doesn’t work! Now, what do you suggest as an alternative?

  107. Kathleen

    The invocation of the ecosystem which is gonna punish you for your evil ways, so choose not to listen to my opinion on issue X at your own peril! is a little too spot-on a substitute for any angry god for me to take seriously in any specific discussion (it can be turned to any end — why you should stop driving, stop buying non-locally-grown-food, stop reproducing, like, it’s too general a consequence to attach credibly to any single cause)

    Anyway, we already know how to reduce the birthrate. The more education and opportunity women have, the more choice they have in the matter, the fewer babies they produce. I personally suspect that if we changed our child-rearing policies to be a lot less patriarchal, ie, if we said have em whenever you want em, society will support em, you’d see the birthrate drop off *even more*. Because babies wouldn’t become a way to shore up relationships (at the bottom end of the socio-economic scale) or be symbols of achieved status (at the top end of the socio-economic scale), they’d just be what they are: a lot of work for that subset of the population interested in doing it. In a post-patriarchy, I am guessing that subset would be pretty small (though I am enough of a believer in the effects of biological sex to reckon it probably would include more women than men) (though enough of a feminist to reckon I could be wrong about that — maybe it really is patriarchy all the way down).

    That being said, Ginger M’s comments above, about single motherhood being a great way to become subject to the discipline of not just one patriarch but the whole patriarchal structure of the State, were terrifying. How we’d emerge from a patriarchal system using state support for child-raising, that’s a tricky one.

  108. Shira

    Shiloruh said:

    I shared this post for conversation tonight with my Nigel. He first pointed out there was no antomyn for father either. As we discussd this he suggests we begin to use the sibling words, brother and sister for non parental adults.

    I’m studying this semester in Ankara, Turkey, and I thought you’d be interested to know that they actually have that convention here. Turkish is by and large not a gendered language – they use the same pronoun, “O” for he, she, and it – although there are a few words for professions that are gendered. But to address your comment, it’s extraordinarily common for adults to address each other (and children to address non-parental adults) as older brother and older sister – a?abey and abla, respectively, sometimes with a more personal -cim ending attached – as a sort of “excuse me” way of getting someone’s attention. The other word that’s just as common is “Hocam” or “my teacher.” I get called this all the time, and it confused the fuck out of me when I first got here, but people use it for everyone – taxi drivers, cashiers, actual teachers, anyone. It just seems so friendly to go up to someone and say, hey, my older brother, my teacher, how do I get to X place? And then to say goodbye by saying “sa? ol” which basically translates to be healthy. To the best of my knowledge there’s a similar convention in Japanese, but I don’t know if it extends beyond younger children referring to any older person as an older sibling (ex. oneechan).

    Because this is how everyone addresses everyone else regardless of whether they’ve ever met before, this clearly has nothing to do with the reproductive status of the person involved. So clearly, your idea is workable, and already exists in some cultures, though I don’t know what it would take to import it into the American context.

  109. Megan

    Silence:

    I agree with you completely. I am not anti-blort. I tell my blort friends (when they’re complaining about the latest “why don’t you have any babies yet?”) that being a mother is not easy and that they’re smart for doing exactly what they want. I was a blort once. I know. I just felt, at the time that I wrote that comment, that the attitude here was far more anti-mother than anti-blort. I have since come back to this same blog (haven’t even had time to read the new ones yet) and read the new comments and reread the old ones–it’s provided me with much food for thought.

    I commend you on your decision not to have children in the face of immense societal pressure to have children–I know you’ve taken crap for it, just as I have, and just as I continue to take crap for choosing motherhood.

    Tinfoil hattie:

    I am firmly pro-choice; in fact, I have had an abortion. I enjoy reading your responses to this blog, as your life experiences seem to be quite similar to mine at this point.

  110. tinfoil hattie

    Very interesting discussions.

    I’m not begging for sympathy because mothers have it so hard. I’m asking that fellow feminists not add to the pile-on that is motherhood.

    Megan, if I’d been unfortunate enough to become pregnant before I had my first kid, I’d have had the abortion too.

    Right on.

    And thanks for the nice words.

  111. Helen

    oh, and before i get screamed at

    It would be good if we didn’t use language like this, Gerda. I’m hearing “breeder women, irrational hysterical harpies, me good, more like male stereotype rational and cool” from that, and that’s no different from what antifeminist evpsych commenters regularly conjure up. Read what Virago and others are saying.

  112. Ginger Mayerson

    That being said, Ginger M’s comments above, about single motherhood being a great way to become subject to the discipline of not just one patriarch but the whole patriarchal structure of the State, were terrifying. How we’d emerge from a patriarchal system using state support for child-raising, that’s a tricky one.

    I don’t confine the patriarchy’s iron grip to the children of single mothers. In the patriarchy, all children belong to the patriarchy because pulling minor children out of their homes is always an unrealized possibility until it happens, if it does.

    I’m highly in favor of universal education for girls and women as the neatest way to begin pull the world out of its mess. There is always revolution, but it’s so messy, and, historically, usually doesn’t go very well for those who need it most.

    I don’t know if anyone remembers the freak-out in Germany in 2006 about the low birthrate http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/jan/27/germany.lukeharding I can’t find a link now, but I think payments to mothers were increased to get the birthrate up up up. In Germany, the low birth rate did lead to some examining the patriarchal structure. I’d never go so far as to say anyone in power there or anywhere is revising or rethinking patriarchy. That’s crazy talk.

    I’m also in favor of daycare/universal kindergarden, even though it would be a patriarchal tool, because currently there is no escape from the patriarchy, there’s just getting all one can get out of it and trying not to get too ground under its boot heel. And too many working families, including single mothers and fathers, are getting the shit kicked out of them with the cost and hassle of daycare. We all agree that children are beautiful, but the economics of raising them in the patriarchy isn’t. Yes, there might be some early indoctrination in this kind of program, but hey, if it comes with a free breakfast and lunch, a sandbox, a story hour, martial arts training, and zen meditation, (and some peace of mind for the parents), bring it on! There are much worse ways to spend our tax dollars. Even in the best of families, some kind of patriarchal indoctrination, to a lesser or greater extent, is going to happen anyway. It’s like gravity; no one escapes. So until the revolution we can only rebel and make changes from the margins and in small ways, but it’s better than just laying there and taking it.

    Until the revolution, which might not be the solution, we’re all in the big rigged game called Patriarchy. These kinds of discussion chip away at the message of the patriarchy, the one that tells us we should be so happy to be in servitude. We know better than that here at Twistyville. So, first, last and always, IBTP, of course.

  113. Vinaigrette Girl

    I had an abortion at 19; and an actual child at 43. In between, and subsequently, I have found no two people who agree about motherhood-versus-blorthood, as such.

    The people who have made my life more impossible have not self-segregated by sex or even by gender role; they have ranged from the hospital’s night cleaner (female) who said, at 3 a.m. when my screaming son was five days old and being swaddled to contentment by the midwife, “Some women would rather sleep than take care of their own babbies”, to the (female) line manager who couldn’t cope wuith HR giving me different working hours when I was pregnant – the same number, but on a slightly different timetable – to *her* bosses who allowed me to be bullied at work and prayed that I wouldn’t take them to an industrial tribunal. Then there was the female executive who advised me to avoid that IT because it “wouldn’t get me anywhere”.

    Every woman in that sequence was wrong, wrong, wrong. And every one of them used me and my motherhood to work out their own issues and their own angst about whatever it was that was on their minds at the time.

    I don’t blame the patriarchy for them, actually: I blame them, as individuals, for not taking any flipping responsibility for their own emotions. I blame the patriarchy for them seeing me as a natural victim *because I was a mother*, but the final decision to not clean up their own shite was theirs, and theirs alone.

  114. Kate MS

    I’m commenting without reading all of the other 100-some-comments, so I apologize if I’m being redundant. However, I just wanted to get my thoughts to this post off of my chest. Twisty, I love and agree with your blaming 99% of the time, but I take issue with some of the things you said in this post. You cannot tell those of us who decided to have kids that you are on our side too and want us as a part of the movement while simultaneously telling us that you wish we never had our kids and hope we don’t have any more. It is simply dismissive and alienating to many of us who DO raise kids and fight the Man at the same time. And yes, you can do both. I feel like you are the one creating a divide between those with kids and those without because the tone of your post seemed to essentially be saying, “you women who have kids can join our club… but we don’t like your choice” as if it is women without kids who are the lone gate-keepers to the feminist movement. I wish that I could have every person with views like that look into the eyes of my child (who is a HUMAN BEING) and tell him you wish he’d never been born. That is what you are saying, and I find it nasty and heartless. Beyond that, there is another option besides being a SAHM or working 2 full time jobs. Believe it or not, there are hetero coupled parents who both work and split childcare equally. Both my partner and I have taken turns being stay at home parents, and now we both work full time jobs and we both take care of our kid. We are both the nurturers and disciplinarians. We both change diapers, we both clean, we both cook meals, we both do bedtime, we both get the same number of nights out with our friends, and as a result neither one of us gets burnt out before the other. My partner is proud to call himself a feminist and we consciously fight Patriarchy together by creating our own family values that will be passed on to our kid. You are failing a huge block of women by thinking this way because you fail to recognize the real work women like me do to be an example of an egalitarian and reformed family. I can’t help that I wanted a child. There is nothing inherently anti-feminist about wanting a child. There is also no reason that a woman can’t be a successful feminist parent. By refusing to acknowledge that and by putting parenting in such black and white terms you are ignoring the real struggles and hard work that some of us go through and missing an opportunity to understand us. Instead of focusing on whether or not women should have kids at all (which is nobody’s business but the individual woman’s) maybe you should focus on ways to support those of us who are taking on the extremely difficult task of being feminist parents.

  115. Kali

    Avoiding nuclear motherhood in the context of patriarchy: feminist revolution::civil disobedience:any non-violent liberation movement. I am thinking specially of the non-violent civil disobedience movement that finally gave India freedom from the British Raj. Interestingly, there are books and movies from that time which mirror the arguments and debate (pro and con) on this thread – respecting individual choice vs. encouraging revolutionary action.

  116. Jezebella

    @Tupe: “One small note: Not having children and/or other dependents functions as a HUGE economic privilege in terms of time, money and other resources in our society. You need to seriously check yours before you ask for anyone’s assistance.”

    How about you kiss my ass and check your assumptions before you call women without children privileged, eh? I have no children for one reason: at no time in my 41 years on this planet have I looked at my finances and said, “Why, yes, I can afford to have a child. Whatever shall I choose to do?” NEVER. Thanks to Planned Parenthood, I have always had access to contraception, but I have never – and still cannot – afford to choose pregnancy and mothering. It’s a damned good thing I have a lot of other reasons I don’t want to breed, because if I did want to, I’d be shit out of luck. So, don’t you DARE assume a childless woman is just sitting on a pile of money and free time. Just fucking don’t.

  117. Zofia

    Thanks to Planned Parenthood, I have always had access to contraception

    And you don’t think that’s privilege? From PP:

    “Every year, nearly 80 million unintended pregnancies occur. An estimated 150 million women in developing countries say they want to plan their families but are not using contraception. 350 million women lack access to birth control.”

    In the US. “Planned Parenthood’s more than 880 health centers nationwide are helping to meet the growing need for affordable health care, yet more than 17 million women still need publicly funded family planning services.”

  118. Jezebella

    Yes, sure, it’s “privilege” to have access to Planned Parenthood, if that’s what you want to call getting to choose between birth control and groceries, and living without health insurance, as I did for most of my teens, all of my 20s, and part of my 30s. It’s hardly, and I quote, “a HUGE economic privilege” to be a woman without children. It’s fucking ABSURD to paint a picture of all blorts as enormously privileged by the mere fact of our childlessness. THAT was my point.

    You entirely missed the point, Zofia, if you didn’t happen to read what I was responding to. Women without children are NOT rolling in piles of cash because we don’t have kids. A lot of us don’t have kids because we couldn’t afford to. In fact, many women who terminate pregnancies do so because the economic burden of parenthood would be impossible. I didn’t feel particularly privileged when I had to make that choice, I tell you whut.

  119. Dilly

    I don’t know where I’d be without this blog.

    Twisty, have you tried Word Fugitives yet? I’m tickled by the idea of seeing this in print. By the way, in trying to remember the columnist’s name (Barbara Wallraff), I checked out the WF website and found this patriarchy-inspired query (#2 on the Most Wanted list):

    From: Piya Kochhar
    New York, N.Y.
    Posted: 7 Dec 99
    Is there a female version of the term “phallic symbol”? It seems that we often refer to things that resemble the male anatomy as “phallic,” but there doesn’t appear to be a word for things that resemble the female anatomy.

  120. Jezebella

    Artists Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, when they were minimalists, were known for their use of “central core” imagery, their alternative to phallic imagery. It’s not as dead-white-guy-Greek, but I find the term useful.

    I’m also fond of using the term “germinal” where others might call an idea “seminal.”

    YMMV.

  121. Geneva Stewart

    Very interesting discussion here! I respect All of the opinions; here is my own:

    In my youth, long before the first appearance of my menses at 20 years old, I decided to never traumatize my body with the child-birthing process or subject myself to the pain my Mother lived through in maintaining the nuclear family.

    Once I became a responsible adult and realized that being born is a curse [inevitable death], there was no turning back. I am now 50 years old and I have never felt my so- called “biological clock” or any other sentiment or emotion that caused me to change my mind. Further, I do not judge those who have children – IT WAS THEIR CHOICE, one that is equally valid as my own. We all do that which we each decide is more meaningful for our respective lives.

  122. Autonomous1

    I am an American mother who lives with both my legzl husbsnd and fzther of my son and my lover (a different, unrelated man). This is one first honest step out of the nuclear family prison. You don’t throw people away just because they are not your dream lover. The family just got bigger. We tried the normal way, but poverty was the mother of this invention. I think more people would live like us if they were honest. Having money can disguise real problems and keep people from facing teach other.

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