Saturday, February 02, 2013

On Why You Shouldn't Have Children, and other things

Got a bundle of feminist books for my birthday last year and am just on to reading them. (Finishing the BBCs 100 books you should read has had me distracted.....)

Ashamed to say I haven't before read The Female Eunuch or The Golden Notebook. They are yet to come. But I have just finished How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran.

 * Incidentally, I have made the most awful reading choices recently, in terms of how it relates to my life. Not long after a miscarriage in June, I read The Time Traveller's Wife, which is punctuated by several such tragedies. I had seen the film previously but had somehow forgotten that part. Then in early stages of pregnancy, I read We Need To Talk About Kevin. I knew it was about a high school killer but not about his mother's reluctancy to be pregnant and struggle to feel positive about his arrival. And finally, thinking I was safe, I embarked on How To Be A Woman. Best not to read the chapter on having children, pregnant ladies, I would say. But I digress. *

I expected to be guffawing away at this book, and it wasn't like that. But I did enjoy it. I think the last 4 chapters were best, possibly as these discuss the life stages closest to my own.

I like Moran's admission that we're kidding ourselves to suggest women have achieved as much as men, as we trawl out the token female scientist for our list of acclaim. Women have not. But this is to be expected: after years of being sidelined, it was always going to take years for us to get our mojo back. I also like her suggestion that we females need to stop thinking it's enough just to 'be', while letting the men 'do'. Why should we believe what we're told - that it's enough for us to look pretty, manage relationships well and be the stable force of the domestic sphere? We can also go out in the world and work hard, make a difference, get in people's faces.

I especially enjoyed the chapter Why You Shouldn't Have Children. Even though I'm about to have some, I wish women who say they don't want to were typically a) believed and b) applauded. Why do female celebrities get asked about work / baby balance when men never do? Why do we all shy away from saying pregnancy and labour and motherhood are a bit shit, for very much of the time? Why do we feel sorry for a woman who reaches 45 without children, as if her life is really now over and she hasn't done the one thing she was made for? And, most exasperatingly, why would we suggest it is selfish for a woman not to have children; an accusation it would never cross our mind to direct at a man? Hello! Apart from the fact this is patriarchal rubbish, you may have noticed that the world already has quite enough people.

Moran says: "Every woman who chooses - joyfully, thoughtfully, calmly, [...] not to have a child does womankind a massive favour in the long term". Hear, Hear! Being honest, I have often wondered to what extent societal pressure made me believe my own qualms about motherhood were invalid.

To quote Moran, when considering children, "If you're insanely talented and not at all broody, why not just go and have more fun?"

1 comment:

Dr Danny said...

Totally agree with all of the above, and I congratulate you on the appalling timing of your reading choices. All good books though!