Homemaker-mothers stake out their territory after centuries of being treated like crap. Childfree and otherwise biologically childless women who will stay childfree are in the minority (20%) and seek out others like themselves. Working women have to defend their decision to work outside of the home*. Infertile women feel intense pain that is often mocked or misunderstood.
And then there are women like me, who've wandered along a few different points of the spectrum, in my case going from vociferously childfree to grieving (thanks to that biological clock) to being a stepmom, and yes, finding co-parenting intensely meaningful. Men and other-gendered folks who are wrestling with similar issues. We're barely even acknowledged as part of the conversation.
Now let's suppose we all start flinging mud at each other. Not just bemoaning or celebrating aspects of our own lives, but lashing out. The Internet boosts the battle. Online, we can all vomit out whatever words we want, any ol' time, and feel few real-life consequences, compared to standing in a group of real people and announcing our views. I've been doing this since 1992; I can be a total Internet asshole. But it's not necessarily helpful or useful.
The media promotes the mommy conflict because they're guaranteed to get a zillion comments whenever they run: a story about allegedly self-absorbed, wealthy infertile women; an opinion piece by an allegedly aloof childfree person; a clearly arrogant parent who thinks that parenting is the ne plus ultra of all existence. In the resulting blog comments and counter-blogging, everyone will accuse each other of selfishness.
I'm a sucker for a good fight, but this one has really gotten me down. When we're all disrespecting each other and playing Queen of the Hill: who wins? Some fat cat media executive? Ariana Huffington? A desperate blogger wishing to be understood, to have her views affirmed by similar people who must be out there? In the latter case, how long will that blogger's outburst make her feel better?
In that small moment of smugness or desperation, when we write that defensive, angry post: we want to reach out. We want to say, "HEY I'M HERE, MY EXPERIENCE MATTERS, AND I HAVE A VOICE." This is the genius of the online communications revolution, along with the zine revolution, pirate radio, independent music, and small press.
I get paid real folding money to write about my experiences and opinions for newspapers and magazines. That, and teaching, constitute the bulk of my day job. Here on Nymphe, I can blog. No one pays me, but I can blather without going through an editor or making everything nice and pretty. I can be me, and I can be completely real.
Millions of other lucky ladies--- those with jobs or disposable incomes or local libraries that allow us to get computers and Internet access---can do it, too. What we seem to be saying, underneath all the clawing and spitting, is simply, RESPECT ME. Respect me and my choices.
Try to understand the hand fate or god or biology or nature, or whatever's in charge of this mess, has dealt me. Respect the emotions I go through. Don't tell me that your way is the superior way, we bloggers and yellers seem to be saying. Don't judge me. I'll just get defensive and yell back.
How can we get on the same page and agree to put up with each other and each other's lives, including reproductive choices? I think we put too much pressure on ourselves. My mom was among those first women to use the birth control pill in the US, in the 1960s. C'mon, guys, we've had only one generation to get used to contemporary feminism, to start acclimating our new gender roles in the larger culture. Think of all the changes in that short span of time. There's no way all the issues can be ironed out in such a blip of history. We're totally freakin' confused by all the options... but hey, maybe that's OK.
Our entire culture has just begun dealing with this. A television show called Murphy Brown was considered revolutionary about 20 years ago, because in it a single career woman decided to have a baby. The vice president of the United States bothered to mention this fact. Dude: that was only two decades ago! Speaking of babies, we are all infants, newcomers to this radically altered, feminist way of life. There's no adequate social, cultural, political, or often familial infrastructure for handling what we're all going through.
Realistically, how can we get there? Is fighting enough? Is yelling enough? Is blogging enough?
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Some stuff to read:
"Ack! What's going on? If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd be convinced we were in the midst of a well-coordinated, full-on assault against those who can't or don't have children." From "Moms, We Hear You Loud & Clear," by Pamela Tsigdinos on the Coming2Terms blog. http://coming2terms.com/2009/11/16/something-in-the-water.aspx?results=1
From "Don't Forget to Have Kids, Part Two" by Mika Brzezinksi, at Huffington Post. (Childless/childfree people: take a deep breath before reading this one. Or maybe do like an hour of meditation or yoga. Get ready:) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mika-brzezinski/dont-forget-to-have-kids_b_358839.html