Round-up of thoughts on womanhood and feminism….
Louise Livesey // 7 March 2008
So let’s start with womanhood shall we….
According to Penelop Trunk at Boston.com we should be planning to have children earlier as Generation X is suffering from increased infertility. Of course she offers no evidence for this whatsoever, relying instead on a mishmash of issues to create a sense of fear. For example highlights from her article are:
Women who want to have children should make it a priority in their twenties to find a partner. That’s because one of the most dramatic issues facing Generation X is infertility. No generation of women has had more trouble with fertility than this generation, who received the terrible baby boomer advice, “Wait. You have time. Focus on your career first”. If you are past your early twenties, and you’re single and want to have children, you need to find a partner now. Take that career drive and direct it toward mating – your ovaries will not last longer than your career.
There is plenty of evidence to show that the quality of your eggs takes a nose dive at age 35. And about 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, which means you have almost a 50 percent chance of having to go through three pregnancies to have two children. And it’s recommended that you breast feed, which decreases your ability to get pregnant, at least while you’re breast feeding. So be realistic: You can’t count on getting pregnant three times in three years. You can’t control fertility. Waiting until your midthirties to start a family, if you want to carry the babies yourself, is a risky endeavor. Which means, of course, you probably want to find a partner by the time you’re 30.
Now lets just rewind that argument shall we? What Trunk seems to be saying is if you want kids partner up early because that gives you more time. Fair enough. But her method of approaching this is dubious – for example 1 in 5 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage is true but this is across all age groups whether younger or older. Additionally whilst egg quality does begin to deteriorate at 35 that doesn’t mean women need to be procreating in their early 20s, generally speaking we don’t need 15 years to create the family sizes that are now dominant in the West. But what’s most worrying is her claim that women should worry more about when to have children than their careers – because obviously once a woman has had children there is absolutely no chance that 1. she will need to earn money to keep the family going or 2. that she would want to or 3. that she might have to if she is if her partner leaves or she is widowed.
She goes on to say that:
The good news is that psychology research shows you will gain more happiness anyway by finding a partner than by having a good job.
Ignoring the other corollary of partnership – that is shortens life expectancy for women whilst increasing it for men!
Meanwhile over at Atlantic.com Lori Gottleib is telling us that women who claim to be feminists are actually hypocrits..
The dream, like that of our mothers and their mothers from time immemorial, was to fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. Of course, we’d be loath to admit it in this day and age, but ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won’t tell you it’s a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she’ll say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child).
To the outside world, of course, we still call ourselves feminists and insist—vehemently, even—that we’re independent and self-sufficient and don’t believe in any of that damsel-in-distress stuff, but in reality, we aren’t fish who can do without a bicycle, we’re women who want a traditional family. And despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra to get married young was finally (and, it seemed, refreshingly) replaced by encouragement to postpone that milestone in pursuit of high ideals (education! career! but also true love!), every woman I know—no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure—feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.
So there you have it, we are actually all lying to ourselves and should admit the truth and get down to having kids rather than pretending we’re actually interesting in, you know, careers or achievements outside the home or anything, especially if we are over 25 or so.
(Tips hat to Undercover Blonde for those links)
Onto less insulting ground, Germaine Greer has put her finger on something which has nagged me for a while. When all these people and magazines talk about the need to “rebrand” feminism I never felt comfortable but couldn’t quite dig out why. Greer however has said it brilliantly.
Greer rejected a report released this week by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission that found feminism had a poor “brand image” among young women today. “Somebody should explain that we’re not selling anything,” she said.
From The Australian
Yes! That’s exactly what made me uncomfortable – feminism isn’t a product, it’s about seeking social change. Which leads me onto the next thing, a review over at Comment Is Free about the rise of Italian women politicians and whether this represents a significant change. Previously the most famous Italian woman politician was the porn actress La Cicciolina. This time around the field for the General Elections includes high-profile women across the parties including:
- Daniela Santanché, standing for Prime Minister for the far right part La Destra. She’s a self-declared fascist and has written an attack on Muslim veiling called La Donna Negata (the Women Denied). She also tried to introduce a tax on porn, one of the country’s most successful businesses.
- Michela Vittoria Brambilla who is a journalist, animal rights activist and business woman standing for the People of Liberty party.
- Fiona May, British woman who married an Italian and competed in the athletic World Championships (winning gold twice)
Additionally there is debate over abortion rights following TV presenter Giuliano Ferrara’s creation of a single-issue party calling for a ban on abortion. Apparently this has led to debate of the issue in staunchly catholic Italy.
But of course we can’t mention Comment if Free without reviewing the comments left (what would be the fun in that!) which includes Lost Cause‘s comment that: I don’t see how it’s possibly to say that women are “at the centre of the political agenda”… only in the same sense as turkeys are “at the centre of the Christmas experience”.. Seems debate will rage on….
Meanwhile, whilst searching on this issue, I realise Cameron may have actually backpedalled somewhat on his pledge around women in the party. An article by Ralf Dahrendorf from December 2006, in which he claims Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Yuliya Tymoshenko and Segolene Royale represented a new women’s ascendency in politics also pointed up that Cameron pledged 40% of candidates for the Conservatives would be women. Lets see if that holds up shall we? However Dahrendorf also argues that:
It is not the women at the top who have changed the scene. Rather, it is a more general trend, helped along by open-minded leaders of both sexes, that has changed the political climate in countries. No one, man or woman, can today aspire to setting the tone of public discourse without recognising that politics is no longer only a man’s game. In other words, normalisation by equal opportunity is itself the change. Whatever the particular values of leading candidates, this is undoubtedly progress.
From Comment is Free
I really find this difficult because
1. Segolene Royale wasn’t elected, Hilary Clinton’s campaign still hangs in the balance and Yuliya Tymoshenko has always had to play support to Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian PM.
2. It appears to be saying the only way to get change is through men agreeing to it. And I am reminded on Audre Lorde’s “The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house”.
Meanwhile, to close up, Susan Kaiser Greenland, over at the Huffington Post issues this rallying cry in her analysis of the Barack Obama/Hilary Clinton situation:
Feminism is not a badge but a way of life. Being a woman does not make you a feminist nor is it a prerequisite to being one. A feminist lives his or her life in a way that supports and encourages a shift from the elitist and machismo sensibility of traditional backroom politics to a sensibility based on reason and fairness…A feminist candidate is by definition the candidate that walks the walk of change. “
The Huffington Post