(This post originated as a comment to Shannon Kelley’s post of Dec. 14, “Freedom, Fertility and Feminism.” It was a topic I felt so strongly about that I selected it, w/some minor revision, as my first blog post.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Daniel Kronlid, who encouraged me to post this comment separately—thanx, fella!)
Although feminism was indeed about choice, it seems to me that a lot of women who now complain about the choices they made, just didn’t think through the matter thoroughly enough for themselves. It wasn’t that women could “have it all,” but that that they could “have it” AT ALL. The business of “having it all” was already proving to be a myth in the early 80s, when all those career women found out that “having it all” meant for someone ELSE, mainly their husbands, children, careers—and had very little left over for themselves.
Still, I can’t help but feel that feminism is getting a bad rap mainly from those women who reaped the most benefits from that choice. Whining about how your ovaries retired on you after you got your education/ job/career/marriage/whatever squared away? At least you got the chance to GET that education/job/career/marriage/whatever, that you CHOSE, OF YOUR OWN VOLITION, to pursue such. It was NOT chosen FOR YOU by your father or other male relative, as would’ve been the case not that long ago. In short, you were finally given credit for a brain. And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: however narrow those choices may have been then, they were much narrower for women OF COLOR.
I’ve always felt that feminism actually “liberated” women of color more than anyone else. I came of age in the late 60s/early 70s when the women’s movement gained steam, and I remember the criticism that it was white, middle-class women who suffered from “the sadness that had no name,” women who wanted to join the workforce, have/not have children, and otherwise be free to choose their own lives. Women of color didn’t “get it” then b/c they have ALWAYS worked: they were the cooks, laundresses, housekeepers, seamstresses, etc, that, while still honorable labor, was mostly back-breaking, dead-end work—that paid such low wages that they needed a husband just to have any life at all. We really did go from our fathers’ homes to our husbands’ homes—and God help you if you didn’t have one. Then you stayed home w/your parents and cared for them in their dotage—again, nothing wrong w/that, but it did leave your own future, upon their eventual check-out, in serious question as to how you would face your own golden years.
What this discussion and others like it leads me to believe that it’s a not-so-subtle attempt to change women’s minds about not just “having it all,” but about “having ANYthing” at all. Better to be that pretty flower in the garden and just wait to get picked by some “dway big man,” or you’ll be a lonely old spinster, or worse, a ball-breaking career woman, that no man would ever want. The false pity heaped upon Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock is testament to that. Nevermind that they’re more than able to take care of themselves; all that beauty, fame and $$ and they STILL can’t get a date. Worst of all, even other women do that to each other and to themselves—no loyalty among each other, alas.
So I still believe it’s a good thing we CAN earn our own livelihoods and make choices about our own lives, including fertility, that heretofore had made good on the idea of “biology is destiny.” Perhaps women now realize that they MUST ponder, more thoroughly, all the options they now have, child-bearing among them—and then decide what’s more important to them: pop out that kid before their body clock winds down, regardless of how prepared we may or may not be. Or, we establish ourselves first and make sure that that kid, when and if it arrives, comes to us into the best possible life we can make for it. Either, or. That’s the way it is, ladies. Either way, a woman decides her life FOR HERSELF and then stands by that decision. That’s what adults do.
Women are forced to make choices in ways that men never have to face. That’s why we have to be far more responsible about choosing, on ALL levels.