Keep your het mommy issues far away from me, please.


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!

Here goes…

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.

 

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9 comments

  1. Saye Bennett · August 8

    Well said. As usual, you’ve cut to the core of the issues at hand and clearly state what everybody else is either too asleep to notice or too afraid to say.

    • joannadeadwinter · August 8

      My courage is bolstered by the likes of you and Dirt, Icemountainfire, and others. Thank you!

  2. MintLeaf · August 31

    Excellent post.
    I had to think about this one for a while because my knee-jerk reaction is “but mothers can have it so hard! they deserve more support!” And I think this is mainly based on my own experience being raised by a single mother who struggled to support me on minimum-wage with no family or community help at all. But, as you point out, the whole mommy movement is not about the quality of life of poor, marginalized, or non-white women. You’re right, there is a lot of bizarre entitlement, a lot of neo-conservative life choices defended in the name of feminism, and a lot of me-me-me consumerist bullshit going on. It’s infuriating that lesbians are jumping on the reproduction bandwagon so thoughtlessly, and you are so right that it overwhelmingly ends up favoring male babies and thus patriarchy! So many good points, and the fact that there really isn’t a forum where you can have these opinions without being called a hateful bigot or whatever is very telling about whose interests are privileged.

    • joannadeadwinter · August 31

      Thank you for giving this some thought. ❤ Rest assured that I was not talking about mothers like yours. I am very protective of bio and non-bio mothers who actually *need* protection…like low wage working mothers, deaf, blind and disabled mothers, etc. But as you correctly noted, mommy culture doesn't do jack shit for these women and, in actuality, hurts them and leaves them behind. If staging a protest at Target actually improved the material conditions of the welfare dependent, low wage mothers that work at Target…I might feel a little bit of sympathy. But the people that actually need protecting and need a voice are not allowed one.

      • grumpyoldnurse · September 1

        And, this is why I don’t like Liberals. Neo-liberalism allows bourgeoisie to piggy back on the advances that actual radical movements made, but then leave the marginalised behind. I tend to think of crap like this as classist, rather than sexist, but it does illustrate, very neatly too, how patriarchy ties into capitalism.

      • joannadeadwinter · September 1

        Bingo, Grumpy, you got it!

  3. k.jane39 · October 12

    It looks like my reply to you got really long but it’s nice to see more women questioning the sacredness of motherhood.

    I’ve been in a few online childfree groups and I can vouch for some similar experiences. It’s weird how everyone still defers to parents, even in groups where parents supposedly aren’t allowed to join and is paranoid about sounding bitter. Elinor Burkett’s book “The Baby Boon: How the Family Friendly America Cheats the Childless”, while dated, does make a valid point about the favoritism towards parents, not to mention the weird alliance between conservatives and liberal feminists promoting motherhood.

    I completely agree that being housewife is not an empowering choice, no matter how good it makes you feel. It is an anti-intellectual choice to willingly become economically dependent on a man, and repackaging it as “feminist” doesn’t change that.

    I agree that two months should be enough time off of work too, except for women recovering from medical problems as a result of childbirth. That leads to another point. For all that conservatives and liberal feminists go on about how magical the female body is for being “designed” to give birth, there are plenty of health risks, including death, short-term disability, and permanent disability. Unsurprisingly, the male-run psychiatry industry considers being afraid of getting pregnant to be a phobia. As in, an irrational fear even though pregnancy frequently kills and maims women. Fun fact, in the United States and many other countries, it’s safer to get a legal abortion than to carry the pregnancy to term.

    I know a lot of liberals who think America would be so much better if all parents (mothers and fathers) got a year off of work whenever they had a kid, just like in some European countries. My question is how is it fair for those parents to expect their childfree co-workers to support their lifestyle to that extent? Burkett’s book that I mentioned above points out that it is often childfree women who end up having to pick up the slack for the parents ditching work. Isn’t that just creating more sex inequality in the workplace? And yes, you are right that the point of work is to work!
    Just like in the United States, in those countries you can have a profession that pays very well, putting you firmly in the middle-class or upper-class category, and yet your company, fellow co-workers, and other childfree adults with less lucrative employment have to pay taxes to support you because you had a kid.

    These are also countries where women aren’t having access to abortion and birth control eliminated. Those options are more readily available, so having children is really a choice. I know that there is peer pressure to have children and believe me I’ve bumped into it a lot, but the thing is, I am an adult. The vast majority of women who want the special benefits for having kids are also adults and had children while they were adults. So, why should they have special benefits for a choice they made? Going off on that, it’s interesting how liberal feminism is big on making choices, yet, if you argue some of the above points to middle-class and above mothers who don’t really need the extra help/protection, the response is, “How dare you!” They bring up women in the worst parts of the world, and some in this country who were raped or imprisoned somehow and literally have no choice. Fair point, but how does that apply to you when you had the means to make an informed decision to have children, along with access to reproductive healthcare?

    The United Way Organization is always playing this ad on the radio about how we need to get more tax breaks for “local families”. Of course, by families, they mean adult(s) with children, most likely middle-class and above. It’s also a meaningless initiative for those who are too poor to pay taxes, which includes some people with children.
    As a lesbian, I do not get lesbians who are obsessed with designer babies and artificial insemination. It’s like, are you that desperate for privilege and appearing normal? That’s the other thing too. The arguments put forth by the rainbow organizations as to why lesbians and gay men should have biological children is that we will raise perfectly normal, consumerist, heterosexual children. As in, more enforcers and supporters of patriarchy. That’s another big thing too, they like to brag about how hetero their children are, even if their kid is still a grade-schooler and most likely hasn’t figured that out yet.

    I am actually an anti-natalist and so is my girlfriend. I have never wanted kids, and also it doesn’t seem very ethical for either of us to reproduce and contribute to the overpopulation problem. (*Insert handwringing here about the human race dying out because I refuse to reproduce, despite the 9-10 billion humans that will be on this planet by 2100.*) Any children either of us had would grow up to be the competition for the limited resources on the planet for people who are already here. Also, while neither of us has a lot of money, we do live in the United States and Western consumers still consume more resources than other people. I didn’t want children from a young age, and am 27 and still haven’t changed my mind. (So much for the biological clock rumor.) .

    Oh and one other thing. Ironically, my parents don’t seem to care if I have children. In fact, my mom has said not to expect free babysitting. (Which is fair. She has her own job and her own life, and needs to save more for retirement. If my brother or I was a parent, it wouldn’t be fair to expect her to take unpaid time off of work on a regular basis to watch a kid one of us choose to have.) Yet, most of the hate I’ve gotten recently has been from liberal feminists. About three years ago, I was hanging out with some other women in the apartment building I lived in. I mentioned I didn’t want to have children because it was the “how many kids would you like” conversation, and they all jumped on me, telling me I was being anti-feminist and that I should have children because men were jealous of the fact that we could create life. I wish I was making that up, but I wasn’t. I’m really failing to see how any of this is more than the pseudo-feminist repackaging of the conservative idea that women don’t need to vote or have careers outside the home, because they already have to most important job in the world: being a mother.

    But, partially thanks to those, I will criticize our pro-natalist culture like crazy when appropriate, and I don’t care if I sound judgmental. I don’t personally attack anyone, but that hasn’t stopped others for making all sorts of personal attacks on me for my lesbianism and being childfree. So fuck it. What’s the point of feminism if you aren’t willing to question that sacred cows of the patriarchy, including motherhood?

    • joannadeadwinter · October 12

      Preach it! I could write a damn encyclopedia on Sacred Motherhood and it’s a huge relief to find people like you who get it.

      • k,jane · October 13

        Thank you for your post! And letting me post my long-ass comment here. One thing I’ve learned is to be very suspicious of women who make feminism all about them, especially in cases like this. (It is important to be suspicious of men who co-opt feminist language for their own benefit, like the men pretending to be women.) This mommy movement mainly helps mothers who are class privileged in some way, but doesn’t do jack shit for poor mothers (and poor women without children aren’t even on the radar at all.) This myth that society doesn’t favor mothers over childfree women is just that, a myth, and it’s especially bizarre coming from feminists.

        I told my mother, who is a liberal but not really any kind of feminist about Elinor Burkett’s book and gave her a summary of what it was about. Her response was essentially, “well duh”. She said the government gave her and my dad a lot more tax breaks when they were married with children as opposed to married without children. She said that of course women who don’t have kids get disapproval from society, sometimes including discrimination because conservatives and members of the religious right think that all women should be barefoot, pregnant, and uneducated.

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