Monday, June 9, 2008

Do conservatives think women are clueless?

Over on Have Children or Not, Beth asks whose 'fault' is it that women have delayed having children? She quotes an article that essentially blames feminism for giving women so many choices that they don't think about having kids until it is too late. My first thought was, "Who could possibly believe any woman could 'forget' to have kids?" Even as someone who is pretty darn sure that I don't want kids, I still sometimes worry that I might wake up one day and suddenly realize I really do want kids and what if that happens when it's 'too late'? The fact that I can't shake that possibility from my head is what keeps me from saying I'll never have kids. And I just can't believe there are very many single women who don't have similar thoughts - it's simply too deeply ingrained in our society that as women, we are supposed to want kids so it's virtually impossible to make the opposite decision without giving it some serious thought.

Or maybe what the author of that article was thinking was that women don't know that they don't have all the time in the world, that there are women who do want kids but don't know there is a biological limit on their ability to do so and therefore they just go about their single, career-driven lives (which feminism now allows us to do) and then when they do get around to the kids thing, they are shocked to finally be told that there's an expiration date on their eggs? I'm not going to say that's not possible (I am often surprised by the bizarre ignorance of many people about many things - maybe these clueless women see the stories about older women having babies and think that means it's easy?), but again, the idea that every woman has a biological clock that must be ticking down is so prevalent in the media and society that I have a really hard time believing that any woman could possibly get to her mid-30's without knowing her fertility days are numbered.

I guess my point is that whenever one is trying to change the status quo, one naturally focuses on the changes, just as feminism has focused on telling women that they do have options, options that didn't used to be available to them. Feminism doesn't spend a lot of time educating women about the options that have always been available because it assumes we already know all about those and it is obvious that these new options are additions to the choice set. The fact that more women are choosing not to have kids doesn't mean they are clueless - for many, that choice is a very difficult one - but it simply means we are taking advantage of our new options. Maybe there will come a day when there truly is no 'norm', when it is so established that every option is equally valid that women will need just as much education about the kid option as the non-kid option, but even if you live in California, we've got a long way to go before that's a reality...


Mimi said...

It's not always an easy decision and one that usually leaves people baffled. I am married so that makes it a bit harder because people always question when we are going to have children. Honestly it's none of their business, but I live in a very conservative environment (Virgin Islands) and women are supposed to have babies. We go forth and multiply and all of that. When will it end?!?!

Oh by the way, I found you through blogher! :D Glad I did!

Jenn said...

Thanks Mimi - I sometimes forget that married folks who choose not to have kids face a whole different level of pressure than us single women. And I'm glad you found me - isn't Blogher great? :-)