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A mother’s scorn…a feminist’s scorn?

May 26, 2008

Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

They expect the daughter of Alice Walker to deliver a very different message. Yes, feminism has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It’s helped open the doors for us at schools, universities and in the workplace. But what about the problems it’s caused for my contemporaries?

  she [Alice Walker] wrote me a letter saying that our relationship had been inconsequential for years and that she was no longer interested in being my mother. She even signed the letter with her first name, rather than ‘Mom’. (more)   (Via Feministe)

This is a very sad article. Makes me feel sad for Rebecca Walker. The ones you love know how to cut you, and maybe one of the most painful things you can go through is a loved one who uses this against you. And she happens to be your mom.

There’s a second reason this article is frustrating—Its cliched and unfair critique of feminism.

I meet women in their 40s who are devastated because they spent two decades working on a PhD or becoming a partner in a law firm, and they missed out on having a family. Thanks to the feminist movement, they discounted their biological clocks. They’ve missed the opportunity and they’re bereft.

Did feminism really rob a generation of women of children by simply positing against an inevitability about motherhood for women? Did it really betray women by saying, “you can choose not to have children, you can choose to. Both choices are okay. You are allowed to put yourself before your future, unborn child” ? Clearly not. The argument that because of the feminist movement, I went out and got a PhD and now I cannot have children because I wasted all my years on book-reading, and not baby-making… is dumb. Do we ask this of men who want children later on in life, but cannot? Obviously not.

Also this:

For feminists to say that abortion carries no consequences is simply wrong.

It is wrong. Because feminists don’t say that, nor do pro-choice’rs, for that matter. It is one of my lasting irritations that pro-choice is often seen as a view that places abortion on par with getting your teeth cleaned. It doesn’t. 

It always amazes me how often women’s autonomy, women’s choice has to come with a warning label—“Use with caution. You might regret it. This is complicated stuff. Are you prepared for The Consquences?”. umm.. yeah, we are. Quit asking.    

This article also reminds me of ??!’s post on perceptions of authors. My first thought after reading about Rebecca Walker was, “I have always disliked Walker’s nonfiction.” And it’s true. But her novels…

The Color Purple is Alice Walker’s most famous novel (and movie adaptation), however the book that stole my heart was Possessing the Secret of Joy. A gorgeous novel that has stayed with me over the years about a black African woman who chooses to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) as an adult. Aside from the bizarre and discordant last 20 pages of the novel (where Walker goes off into a paranoid tangent about HIV/AIDS, Africa and monkeys), the novel expertly weaves in the complexities of FGM, highlighting its terrors with painful precision. Oddly (maybe not so oddly), Walker’s nonfiction work on FGM, “Warrior Women” was uncomfortable and a classic example of cultural imperialism. Particularly the parts where she walks around yelling at old, African women for being old, African women.  

I started reading Color Purple, but didn’t keep reading. Partly because the movie adaptation followed the novel so closely (at least the beginning chapter), that it was difficult to stay interested. However, how many happy, defiantly optimistic novels are there out there about incest, rape, domestic violence, racism in the deep south, and child abuse?  The closest I can think of is the wonderful (and superior) Their Eyes Were Watching Godby Zora Neale Hurston.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 26, 2008 11:04 pm

    I think it’s quite unfortunate that this family’s dirty laundry is being aired in such a bitter and public way. Certainly this does get some of feminism’s dirty laundry out in the open, which I view as a good thing. It’s high time for the ‘mommy wars’ to move beyond this either/or dichotomy that it is stuck in, and for parenting to be considered a valuable societal contribution. I’m just not sure this is the best way to do it.

  2. earlgreyrooibos permalink
    May 26, 2008 11:09 pm

    [NOTE: I also posted this in response to your comment on my blog, but I just wanted your readers to know what I thought about your entry on the Walker article]

    I liked your take on Walker’s article. I was definitely coming at it from the childfree/parenthood perspective, but your post is interesting to me because of the way you focus on agency and choices. My favorite part of your entry is when you say:

    “It always amazes me how often women’s autonomy, women’s choice has to come with a warning label—”Use with caution. You might regret it. This is complicated stuff. Are you prepared for The Consquences?”. umm.. yeah, we are. Quit asking.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head there. I wish I had come up with that!

  3. mmwdeckers permalink
    May 26, 2008 11:54 pm

    I am amazed by the number of young, talented, intelligent and educated people who still regard feminism as the root of all evil. My own partner has quite a mouthful of prejudice against feminism and I am, quite naturally, rather saddened by this.

    It is my honest opinion that many men still feel threatened by the ideology of feminism as it advocates total equality of men of women. It empowers women in areas men can not longer control: such as reproduction.

    The main problem is the way people handle self-control (locus) and self-responsibility.

    When are we going to stop treating women like incompetent, naive and dense individuals? When are women going to grow up and own their choices?

    Women are more than capable enough of understanding their bodies. Women plan their lives just like men do. Praise feminism for showing the world there are more things in life than just reproducing! However, ‘feminism’ wasn’t a subject at school. Nobody ever taught you to ignore our wish to bear children. Life is all about choices, goals and priorities. A woman only has herself to blame for ignoring her inner feelings. A woman has to be quite immature or bitter to blame feminism – of all ideologies! – for the lack of self-responsibility and self-consciousness. It was feminism that taught women to be strong, reflect upon theirselves and take their lifes into their own hands.

    People like my partner often don’t realize they are still forcing women in the position of mother and wife by putting strong emphasism on infertility issues and a childless existance. Please, don’t try to traumatize me! We women have learned from the past. Not all of us want to bear and rear children. My life does not evolve around having children and no woman in her right mind should be just a mother. We women fought hard to remain our individuality, meaning to work, have hobbies and educate ourselves during motherhood, so please don’t emphasize motherhood as our destination in life! It is insulting and degrading.

    Why should women feel guilty if they don’t miss having children? Why is it still such a taboo to remain childless? Why should pro-choice and femininism belong in the same sentence? Why do people thrive on these mindless prejudices?

    Here’s a thought: let’s not forget our men still need us to reproduce: they can’t go to the spermbank like us to have their sons and daughters. It’s fairly easy for us to reproduce if we can’t find a suitable partner. Men are in quite a predicament if they want to have a baby without a woman. That’s because men are dependant of us. Our autonomy makes it impossible for them to control our bodies and I believe this creates a strong sense of anxiety within the minds of the opposite sex. I only recently realized this while discussing the topic of having children with my own partner. Although initally annoyed, I decided to forgive his manner since men are still emancipating themselves. Men have yet to learn to accept their new position: when it comes to reproducing, the opposite sex has become submissive. Men who realize this aspect of modern society but would love to become a father – like my partner – might get a little fussy. If you want to have children and are a man, women’s independence can be a genuine cause for concern.

    We can only hope science will provide satisfactionary solutions for men in the future, otherwise men will need to accept their total dependence of women’s choices when it comes to delivering offspring. Men are in a submissive state when it comes to having children right now and still finding ways to accept their new position.

  4. observer permalink
    May 27, 2008 2:57 am

    Great post, you picked up all the things that irritated me about that article and addressed them really well.
    Personally, I think the article had more to do with Rebecca Walker than feminism or even her mother. It’s sad she’s so angry. But by challenging everything her mother stood for she’s also embracing the ability to be critical and make her own choices, which in a way is a tacit endorsement of her politics. If that makes sense?
    Agree totally on your comments about abortion, it’s insulting that the world doesn’t seem to believe women can make informed decisions and need to be protected from themselves.

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