When I thought of myself as an adult, all I could imagine was someone thin, and smooth, and calm, to whom things…happened. Some kind of souped-up princess, with a credit card. I didn’t have any notion about self-development, or following my interests, or learning big life lessons, or, most importantly, finding out what I was good at, and trying to earn a living from it.
…I presumed that once I’d cracked being thin, beautiful, stylishly dressed, poised and gracious, everything else would fall into place. That my real life’s work was not a career - but myself. That if I worked on being pleasing, the world would adore, and then reward me.
I presumed that once I’d cracked being thin, beautiful, stylishly dressed, poised, and gracious, everything else would fall into place. That my real life’s work was not a career-but myself. That if I worked on being pleasing, the world would adore and then reward me. Of course, this supposition that women are supposed to just “be”, while men go out and “do”, have been argued as inimically sex-tied traits.
Caitlin Moran on How To Be a Woman (via monkeypipe)
But deciding not to have children is a very, very hard decision for a woman to make: the atmosphere is worryingly inconducive to saying, “I choose not to,” or “It all sounds a bit vile, tbh.” We call these women “selfish.” The inference of the word “childless” is negative: one of lack, and loss. We think of nonmothers as rangy lone wolves—rattling around, as dangerous as teenage boys or men. We make women feel that their narrative has ground to a halt in their thirties if they don’t “finish things” properly and have children.
Men and women alike have convinced themselves of a dragging belief: that somehow women are incomplete without children. Not the simple biological “fact” that all living things are supposed to reproduce, and that your legacy on earth is the continuation of your DNA—but something more personal, insidious, and demeaning. As if a woman somehow remains a child herself until she has her own children—that she can only achieve “elder” status by dint of having produced someone younger. That there are lessons that motherhood can teach you that simply cant’ be replicated elsewhere—and every other attempt at this wisdom and self-realization is a poor and shoddy second. Like mothers can graduate with honors from Harvard, while the best the childless can manage is a high school equivalency diploma.
And if a woman should say she doesn’t want to have children at all, the world is apt to go decidedly peculiar:
“Oooooh, don’t speak too soon,” it will say—as if knowing whether or not you’re the kind of person who desires to make a whole other human being in your guts, out of sex and food, then base the rest of your life around its welfare, is a breezy, “Hey—whatever” decision. Like electing to have a picnic on an unexpectedly sunny day, or changing the background picture on your desktop.
Women, it is presumed, will always end up having babies. They might go through silly, adolescent phases of pretending that it’s something that they have no interest in—but, when push comes to shove, womanhood is a cul-de-sac that ends in Babies “R” Us, and that’s the end of that. All women love babies—just like all women love Manolo Blahnik shoes and George Clooney. Even the ones who wear nothing but sneakers, or are lesbians, and really hate shoes, and George Clooney.
So, really, you’re kind of helping them when you ask them when they’re going to finally get on with it and have a baby. You’re just reminding them to keep their eyes open—in case they see any sperm, when they’re out and about. They might need it, later.
While motherhood is an incredible vocation, it has no more inherent worth than a childless woman simply being who she is, to the utmost of her capabilities. To think otherwise betrays a belief that a thinking, creative, productive, and fulfilled woman is, somehow, not enough. That no action will ever be the equal of giving birth.
Feminism needs Zero Tolerance over baby angst. In the 21st century, it can’t be about who we might make, and what they might do, anymore. It has to be about who we are, and what we’re going to do.
You’ve gone on holiday with another family. You all have children. You notice that the men are doing around half the amount of housework and child care that the women are — they have an amazing ability to sit in an armchair, serenely playing Angry Birds on their iPhones, while the wives run around peeling potatoes and rescuing wailing, shit-encrusted toddlers from disused wells.
‘I’m just not as good at that stuff,’ the men say, almost mournfully, as the women stand in the kitchen, stressed, knocking back shots of whiskey from 4 p.m. onward.
Would Jane Austen’s characters have spent pages and pages discussing all the relationships in their social circle if they’d been a bit more in control of their own destinies? Would women fret themselves half to death over how they look and who fancies them if this wasn’t the main thing they were still judged on? Would we give so much of a shit about our thighs if we, as a sex, owned the majority of the world’s wealth, instead of men?
Women know clothes are important. It’s not just because our brains are full of ribbons and bustles and cocktail frocks - although I believe brain scans will finally prove that at some future point. It’s because when a woman walks into a room, her outfit is the first thing she says, before she even opens her mouth. Women are judged on what they wear in a way men would find incomprehensible - they have never felt that uncomfortable moment when someone assesses what you’re wearing and then starts talking down to you, or starts perving you, or presumes you won’t “understand” the conversation - be it about work, parenting, or culture - simply because of what you put on that day.
In the worst case scenario, however, a wrong outfit can ruin your life. It can lead to a judge dismissing your rape case, as evidenced by the 2008 “Skinny Jeans” case (where it was claimed a woman wearing skinny jeans couldn’t have been raped, because no man could take a woman’s skinny jeans off unaided); or by the Amnesty International survey that found that 25 percent of people believe a woman is still to blame for being raped if she dresses “provocatively.”
I mean every woman is different but, more often than not, we must have a bra to get us through the day- particularly if that day is to involve running for a bus, or wearing a low-cut dress. Otherwise one might have to do that thing of breaking into a trot whilst clutching one’s bosom- lest their breasts bounce so violently they appear to go round and round, like a stripper’s tassels, and inadvertently hypnotize a passer-by. I have done that, it was bad.