Posted by Irresponsibilty
Newspapers love a bit of reproductive angst and news that “number of women over forty having children has almost doubled” triggered the usual yelps and moans. Some commentators timidly suggest that perhaps what older mothers lose in fecundity is made up for in some part by their greater maturity, life experience, financial stability and so forth.
Most, however, form a chorus line to denounce the selfish careerist bitches who insist on being au fait with contraceptives. This is not, however, mere meddling. The medical community, media, et al believe giving birth magically transports a woman into a rosy-hued, baby-powder-scented nirvana where she will dwell in a state of diffuse, post-orgasmic bliss forever. Society isn’t trying to oppress women by questioning their decision making process. It is just concerned, lest any female be deprived of the mystical experience of nine months of enforced fatness followed by excruciating labour and risky childbirth. To drive home the point, papers trot out first-person commentary such as that of childless ‘Annabel Jamieson, 43’ who writes:
I will grieve for ever at my failure to have a family of my own…. I will always wonder… whether I’d be happier bringing up an adored child with the wrong bloke rather than being an increasingly doolally single woman, speeding towards middle age and contemplating the utter hash I’ve made of my life.
With respect to Annabel’s experience, it would be nice to hear the other side of the story. Unfortunately, the Guardian research team didn’t source any 20-somethings in the throes of trying to raise a child with the wrong man; or no man; or in the face of financial, personal or health troubles. Perhaps because glib musing about “bringing up an adored child with the wrong bloke” takes on a different tone for, say, a young woman with a violent partner, trapped by circumstance and finance, desperately trying and failing to protect her “adored child”. But in middle-class fantasy land the “wrong bloke” is one who wears brown shoes with a black suit, not one who leaves you black and blue.
Anxiety about maternity is strictly limited to the middle-to-upper-classes, however. Women who give birth in less than perfect circumstances are in for different treatment. The same Observer edition that airs concerns over the rising over-40 birthrate, gives a full, uncritical page to the UK tour of Californian crusader Barbara Harris whose Project Prevention pays drug addicted women to be steralised. It’s shocking is how delicately her vile mission is handled. “A significant portion of the public are warming to her views,” the article notes, then includes two paragraphs of supportive quotes and a half-baked comment from a medical ethics expert who says: “Her championing the rights of the unborn over the rights of addict mothers also has a certain populist appeal.”
The tone of exaggerated reasonableness deflects from the real horror of what Harris does. She offers incredibly vulnerable women money to permanently mutilate their bodies. Remember Bumfights? A shock-doc TV series, it was banned in the UK because the ‘producers’ paid homeless men to batter each other. Authorities rightly judged the homeless men were victims of cruel exploitation and the scum who started the series wound up with jail sentences. Yet some preening middle-class “do-gooder” pays desperate drug addicts to be spayed and no-one bats an eyelid. In fact, great swathes of the idiot populace think: Hey! That’s a brilliant idea!
This is the exact, ugly point where misogyny in general and the hatred of the poor in specific meet. Middle and upper class women are grudgingly allowed to choose children or not, though the media is quick to criticize them for having babies at the wrong age, or in the wrong way, or with insufficient attention to the hypothetical needs of the sacred child. Marginal women are, however, fair game for every form of savagery – up to and including surgical mutilation. Make no mistake, cajoling drug addicts into being brutalised for money is not about protecting children. That would mean engaging with addict mothers in the long term, providing medical, psychological, financial and emotional support to help them break free of their addictions and empower them to make real choices about their lives and their bodies. No-one wants that though. Empowered women are anathema – hence the endless media carping about clothes, waist size, reproductive choice, etc spewed forth with no other objective than to make women appear foolish, incapable, and untrustworthy.