Saturday, May 24, 2008

My eggs are ticking. No, not a Lysol bomb.

Well. I got issues again. What do I do with this?

Basically, the rightniks are loving this, because it demonstrates that Alice Walker--a 'feminist icon' (okay, I cannot deny this, she really is a feminist icon), has now been exposed as a really lousy mother by her daughter. (Anyone who read the kid's first book might have noticed this.)

I have a ton of issues with both Alice and Rebecca Walker, as it happens, and this is not helping any of them. This passage, though:

Then there is the issue of not having children. Even now, I meet women in their 30s who are ambivalent about having a family. They say things like: ‘I’d like a child. If it happens, it happens.’ I tell them: ‘Go home and get on with it because your window of opportunity is very small.’ As I know only too well.

Then 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.

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

I'm turning thirty-five this summer, and I plan to be pregnant by the time I'm thirty-six, baruch Hashem an' the crick don't rise. Since I hit about twenty-eight, I have been hearing ceaseless warnings about my dwindling egg supply. And I have had a simple answer for all these people: if, by the time I have enough money and financial stability and a partner, and all the stuff I need to raise a child in today's fairly non-child-friendly world, I do not have the biological capacity, you know what I will do? I will ADOPT. It works great. I see all these forty-something women with law doctorates and little girls from China, and they look tired, but not at all bereft.

Some basic stats here: the birthrate in the U.S. in 1910 was just over 30 per 1000 of population. We have never returned to that high. The birthrate dropped steadily, hitting a low of 18.7 in 1935. I'm guessing the Depression, plus increased availability of birth control contributes to that low. Then we climb, taking off as we hit the 50s. The Baby Boom peaked in 1957, with 25.3 births per 1000 pop.--still well below the 1910 rate. Following 1957, we begin to drop, falling below 15 per 1000 in the early 70s, then rising through the 80s and early 90s. (Brief question--are we seeing the results here not so much of feminism but the fluctuations of the American economy?) In 2002 we drop to our lowest point, 13.9 per 1000, (possibly 9/11 combined with a tanking economy, there) but then hold steady at 14ish. We're currently in the middle of a Boomlet, hitting our highest point since 1961.

Patently, as Andrew Greeley would say, feminism has NOT betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness, although it may have betrayed us into small families.

Oddly, this reminds me of an article I saw in, I think, People Magazine some time ago, about how being too thin makes it likelier you won't get pregnant. (This was when Nicole Richie was expecting.) They ran picture after picture of frankly anorexic starlets--unfortunately, the women they picked had all actually managed to have children. Thereby sort of undercutting the point of the article. Some of them were past forty and under 120 pounds. The human body does tend to reproduce, given a chance.

Look, Rebecca, I realize this may be hard for you to understand, but I haven't put off having children because I was deluded by your mother's so-so novels. I put off having children because I wanted to be sure I could feed them, and would be a good strong mother for them. This isn't about 'having a career', although I'm down with that, it's about putting oatmeal on the table, and buying board books, and knowing how to raise them well.

This is also not the first time in history women have done this. After the potato famine in Ireland, marriage ages rose sharply. After generations of kids marrying at sixteen, and having as many children as God sent, men and women who survived the Hunger chose to wait until their thirties, have fewer children, and a better chance of raising them. In Victorian England, many people similarly waited--not because of scarcity, but because they idealized marriage, and did not take it lightly. In Elizabethan England, girls waited until well into their twenties, often later--and this was in an age with a much shorter average lifespan--working for wages, and waiting until they could afford to set up house. Feminism never told us that we could defy biology--but it also told us that we didn't have to accept a 1950s definition of what biology meant.

And I don't think I want to take patronizing advice from a woman who, in her memoir, whinged about how she was oppressed by going to private high school, and then Yale. God, all that identity politics victim-of-the-week is SOOOO 1994. This Mills girl is grabbing the goodies feminism gave her and going on the road with them. See ya at Mommy and Me!

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