Okay, fair warning: This is a blistering rant, not for the easily offended. It is also not meant for heterosexual mommies and their defenders. Basically, this is a rant about women with money and education who use their motherhood to make feminism all about them, at the expense of poor/older mothers, childless women, and lesbians. If this sounds rambling, keep in mind that I have been nursing this in my bosom for years and this is the first time I have ever been able to get it off my chest. It’s also a hard-core, unabashed, no-holds-barred demand for celibacy because I am so, so done!
Years ago, I was kicked out of a hardcore childfree/childless space for having the nerve to criticize liberal feminism’s obsession with motherhood. Yes, a childfree space was upset because I offended the sensibility of het mothers, who supposedly aren’t even allowed to join this group.
Hence why I don’t buy the ideas that middle-class mothers, particularly married mothers, are oppressed moreso than childless women or lesbians. If you can command mainstream feminism AND infiltrate supposedly lesbian and childless spaces and have people do your bidding? That’s privilege, my friends.
Okay, we all suffer the consequences of male supremacy, and that includes women who are otherwise privileged according to education, according to class, and so forth. Yes they struggle with poor and degrading obstetric care, yes, they suffer domestic abuse, yes, they face discrimination on the job which is exacerbated by their being mothers. Yes, mothers have issues, including women who have class privilege, and many of them are universal to women. This isn’t about that.
No, this is about the mommy wars and other peculiar hangups of heterosexual, middle class mothers of babies and young children. It seems I can’t go into supposedly lesbian or childless Facebook pages without a meme hand-wringing about the fact that men find breasts sexual and that some people, women included, disapprove of indiscreet public breastfeeding. When was the last time feminist sites dedicated to biological mothers of young children paid special attention to adoptive or foster moms, single women, or women raising young children not their own (siblings, nieces, etc?) It’s next to zero. Yet certain mothers feel they have a right to demand our attention and throw tantrums and invade our spaces when we don’t oblige.
I hate to break it to you, but breasts ARE sexual. Not just to men, but to lesbians. Breasts are very sexual. Women can and do experience sexual stimulation and orgasm during breastfeeding. Are they solely sexual? No. Do they have another function, their primary function being to feed babies? Yes. Do breastfeeding women deserve rights and privacy? Of course. Are there people who are ignorant and rude about breastfeeding? Sure. But facing other people’s disapproval is not oppression and being free from critical views is not a right. Being accommodated everywhere, totally, to your exact liking, even on private property, is not a right. At least I don’t think it is, or should be, and I won’t be joining you in demanding special rights. Also, just because sex isn’t the primary function of breasts doesn’t mean that they aren’t sexual. Lips, bottoms, hips, vaginas, and penises have primary functions that aren’t sexual, but no one denies that those parts are erotic. When I hear cries of “Breasts aren’t sexual!” I can’t help but think these women are hung up on the Madonna aspect of the Madonna/whore complex. Chill out. It is also very, very heterocentric and male-centricbecause it assumes that only men desire women’s breasts and that women are just these nurturing, sexless shrinking violets.
Also, there are women worldwide who cannot breastfeed or who experience complications from breastfeeding, and they and their children suffer. Sometimes the children die. There are women who choose not to breastfeed and are harassed in similar ways that breastfeeding activists are always complaining about. There are poor working women worldwide who do not have a choice in how to feed their babies, who maybe struggle to breastfeed or pump in the backrooms of factories, shops, warehouses, barns, etc. And unlike privileged mothers, these women do not have the freedom of speech or labor protections to protest their treatment, or face retaliation if they do. But when was the last time that middle class mothers offered to buy plane tickets to protest these injustices the way they offer to show solidarity outside a Target in response to what amounts to hurt feelings.
Seriously. I went to a page designed to support formula-feeding moms and I feel like every other post was written to placate breastfeeding mothers, show them support, and assure them that no one means any offense. (Of course, breastfeeding moms rarely do the same, but that’s neither here nor there). In one post, a bunch of women were chiming in saying how they would TOTALLY buy a plane ticket and attend a nurse-in with their formula-fed babies to show solidarity. Never mind that most working mothers don’t have that much disposable income and could never entertain the idea of spending what income they do have on a plane ticket, no matter how important the trip was. Never mind that most nurse-ins seem to happen in places where most of the world’s women can’t afford to patronize. No, I as a low-income, working, aspiring adoptive parent am supposed to just ignore all that and mindlessly lend my support.
Then there is the stay-at-home mom debate, tied in with longer paid maternity leave. Again, most of the world’s women, including most women in fairly developed countries, don’t have access to any of these choices and benefits, so this leaves them out entirely, making this a very class privileged fixation. I’ll come out and say it: It is not feminist to choose to stay at home, tend to the house and children while the husband makes his money. I don’t give a shit how good and empowered it makes you feel. I don’t give a fuck that you discussed it first and chose this. It’s not about you. Your chose to engage in behavior that has been expected of women for centuries, that makes you dependent on a man and at his mercy, that sends the message to your children, particularly your daughters, that men are women are supposed to have different roles, that men are supposed to be in charge, that women are supposed to serve. If women did this occasionally, it would be destructive to you and your children, but when thousands or millions of women do it, and are cheered on, it becomes a cultural choice that enables male privilege rather than challenge it. It’s also dangerous in the event that your husband leaves you, abuses you, divorces you, or becomes disabled or dies. If you want to stay at home, start a business, have a savings account, do something, and for God’s sake, don’t tie up your finances with his!
Don’t get me started on paid parental leave, state-issued income to stay-at-home moms, or other entitlements that have been suggested as of late. Sure, I want both men and women to have a chance to bond with new children, born, fostered, or adopted, of all ages. I want women to have a chance to recover from childbirth, nip post-partum issues in the bud, get some rest, and bond with their newborns. I also want adoptive dads to get a chance to settle into life with a new 13-year-old. Personally, I think two months is more than sufficient to achieve this, and if it’s not, FMLA should protect you. For most women I know, it is. Most women I know choose to come back earlier. For the average woman I know, being a mother is a part of their lives, not the entirety.
But for a small section of privileged mothers, this isn’t enough. They want their employers to pay for a year of more, of their whole salary, for maternity leave. Just how much do you expect childless people, older parents, and companies to finance your lifestyle choices? It is a job, you know, which means you need to be working. How long does it really take for the average person to start living a normal life? Honestly, this is part of the reason why women don’t earn as much as men and part of why women face discrimination in the workplace. There is a subset of mothers who insist on only working part-time, only working certain hours, coming late or leaving early, and taking large chunks of times off because of their children. Fathers rarely do this, and it further creates the impression that women just don’t care about work and makes even female bosses reluctant to hire women. I have had them admit as such to me. And bosses do discriminate. There are all kinds of ways to discriminate without it being provable in a court of law. It’s a thing, whether we want to admit it or not.
My view is, if you can’t afford children on your own if necessary, you should not have them if you can avoid it. Don’t be the sucker that believes men’s promises and gets left behind. Don’t be the fool that stands for hours in a welfare office hoping that the caseworker cares enough to give you more than five minutes of her time before she tells you that you aren’t destitute enough for so much as $16 in food stamps (funded and managed primarily by MALE bureaucrats and MALE taxpayers, hello!) It’s a dead end.
It’s also a thing that heterosexual mothers, especially married mothers, of means have done to themselves. I do not believe that with their education, their money, their resources and their sheer numbers that they cannot help themselves. What would happen if these women, en masse, decided to put a stop to this? Stop doing the housework? Refuse to give up their jobs, their hours, their incomes? Stop staying at home? Stop marrying men who expect them to live in the 1950s? Stop having babies (and for men to stop demanding that women have babies?) What if heterosexual women agreed to connect with each other and provide each other with childcare? Agreed to take women into their homes who were single, divorced, or abused? What if women stopped putting their men, and their nuclear family, at the center of everything? What if women agreed to keep in touch with single women, with other mothers of all ages, and meet without the influence of men? Started demanding that men accommodate this or leave? What would happen if women as a whole realized that changing men and waiting for men to come to their rescue is a waste of time and started providing for their own needs? Together? How fast things would fucking change! But women don’t make these choices, in this world of choosy choice feminism. They don’t want to. They want to retain married, straight, middle class privilege. They want to serve their men. They don’t want to commit to celibacy. They want to have their cake and eat it too, then demand to be rescued when they face the inevitable consequences.
I wish I could let lesbians off the hook, but I can’t. There seems to be a growing number of lesbians who want to imitate heteropatriarchy by getting married and making use of artificial reproduction, particularly artificial insemination. Putting aside the usual ethical concerns regarding artificial reproduction, how can it be feminist to send the message that even lesbian women are destined to marry and bear children, and can only be fulfilled insofar as they fulfill heterosexual expectations? Does no one care that artificial insemination drastically favors male babies over female babies? In our world, baby girls are aborted or left to die because they are girls. Girls are stuck in abusive homes, married off to men, often much older than they are, neglected, homeless, stuck in foster care and in orphanages, trafficked, impoverished, lacking in opportunity, and impregnated at young ages. And the best use of lesbian energy is to invent a designer baby that is more than likely going to be male? And to invest the primes of our lives into privileging this baby, I mean, being good mothers and giving this male baby the very best because he’s ours? And leaving girls already living with absolutely nothing? That’s not feminism, that’s not gay rights, that’s not progressive. It’s horseshit.
The more I learn about women around the world, and here, who make strides with much less privilege, the more I learn about our feminist foremothers, the more I learn about lesbian feminism, butches and femmes, the more I learn of what women are really capable of…the less sympathy I have for these women who don’t just choose men once and then learn better. They choose again, and again, and again to center heteropatriarchy and never get a clue.
Celibacy is the way forward. No excuses. Everyone I know who gets involved with men becomes part of the problem. I have turned down many men, and also many women aspiring to heteropatriarchy, because they didn’t share my principles. Because they were part of the problem and not revolutionary enough for me. Not all women can choose. Many women are poor, abused, exploited and trapped. But many of us are free and choosing slavery instead. I can wait. I will wait forever. I don’t need men. And neither do you. Take a stand already. Time for some tough love. Stop waiting for a knight in shining armor because he ain’t coming. But I and other women will always be there for you.