Friday, October 28, 2011

The War Against Fertility

Nudged by her mother, Columbia University undergraduate Boykin has written a long and cogent article about the feminist bias against fertility.

She describes her epiphany: “I am one of many driven Barnard women who exist to succeed, to graduate, and to excel in the way our college has prepared us to—to work one day in a profession on the same level as our male peers, in whichever field we desire. But that sunny summer morning a black, vaguely baby-shaped cloud impeded my images for the future—apparently, I’d forgotten to consider children.”

Why had the thought never crossed her mind? Why had it been repressed from consciousness? Clearly, the feminism had forbidden it.

When it comes to sex, feminism worries most about contraception, abortion and STDs. It has militated for the right not to conceive, and for the right not to bear children. It has always placed far more value on orgasms than on fertility. Motherhood, feminists say, can wait.

For decades now, feminism has been at war against female biology. The victims have invariably been women. Those who have suffered the most are those who put off having children until it was too late.

Feminism has been in the business of repressing female reproductive potential. It has made fertility the enemy of women’s career success, but, most especially of women becoming feminists.

Boykin writes: “The practice of sublimating biological conditions in order to achieve greatness is cemented by a mindset cultivated in college. At Barnard, and at many colleges, it is the norm for students to have a full course load and an internship, straight As and a great set of extracurricular activities. Students overload their schedules and forgo sleep, proper meals, and often, sanity, in order to keep all the balls in the air. But with this extremist devotion to academics and passive attitude to our physical selves, what does the future look like? If you spend your college years ignoring your body’s needs in order to get ahead, what’s to stop you from accepting an 80-hour workweek in the future? What’s to stop you from being too afraid to ask about maternity leave, or cheating the biological clock to satisfy your professional dreams even if you desire children?”

As I say, Boykin gets it.

She gets that every woman knows about the biological clock. But she also gets that young women are indoctrinated to believe that fertility is their enemy, something to be suppressed, controlled, or ignored.

So, Boykin set out to learn about how fertility is or is not discussed at Barnard. She discovers, unsurprisingly, that it is always defined in terms of work/life balance, as though it were an accretion that will naturally follow after graduate study and a brilliant career.

Boykin's mother is hinting at the joys of motherhood, especially the joys of grandmotherhood, but campus feminists have nothing to say about the joys of motherhood or the miracle of conception.

Feminism is willing to acknowledge motherhood, but it never sees it as something to be embraced, enjoyed, or relished. Surely, it has never seen motherhood as something to be done when the body is better equipped to do it.

Feminists have never been honest about fertility. They have told young women that postponing childbearing will bring them a great career, a great husband, a great family.

Boykin discovers that it’s a lie. Life is never about having it all. Life is about making trade-offs.

As a friend of mine, a working mother, once told me, a woman can have a successful career and be a mother, but she cannot work full time and be a great mother.


Webutante said...

Another terrific piece of realistic writing among many, many others!

Here, here!

David Foster said...

The worship of credentials in making this problem much worse, as it is with so many other areas of life.

For a woman who wants to have kids, the difference between getting out of college at 21 and having7 years to establish a career before having kids at 28...with the idea of then working part-time while they are young VERSUS getting out of undergrad at 23 or 24 (which is often what it takes these days, not due to content but due to administrative confusion) and then being expected to spend 2 or 3 or 4 years in grad school or professional school...resulting in not actually starting work until pretty significant.