Straw Feminist Weekly: The baby-hater ” Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose
Introducing what I hope will be a regular feature here: Straw Feminist Weekly! In which we give a shout-out to the egregious straw feminists that cunningly populate the media and blogosphere.
This week’s Straw Feminist is a classic, and it comes to us from that site which is itself gunning for the 2009 Straw-Feminist-Fighting Championship: DoubleX. Shapelings, welcome an old favorite: The Baby-Hater. Katie Roiphe’s essay on how much she loves her newborn is accompanied, naturally, by the subtitle: Why won’t feminists admit the pleasure of infants? Come on, feminists! Why do you hate tiny babies?
This is you.
Who are all these feminists who hate infants and want to take away Roiphe’s ability to experience “The high of a love that obliterates everything. A need so consuming that it is threatening to everything you are and care about”? Well, for one thing, they’re Second Wavers:
One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a “vocation.” The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.
Hear that, ladies? You may find yourself longing for adult conversation and wishing you could get a full night’s sleep while your partner feeds the baby for once, but that’s because you’re denying the narcotic effect of your infant’s natural musk!
Feminists of the world, how can you not love the “opium-den quality to maternity leave”? Maternity leave, as we all know, was benevolently granted to women by men because they understand that motherhood is like an addiction, and hey, we all deserve a little time off from work when we’re high on opiates, am I right? Wait, what’s that — maternity leave is only available to you because of feminist activism that “analogized childcare to the work of men” (you know, real work!), and in fact we have far less paid parental leave than many of our international peers? Oh, you feminists and your politics! Why don’t you put those boring history books down and pick up a baby, for god’s sake? Quit being so dishonest and tell it like it is: motherhood is just like drug addiction, which is a financially supported and widely approved lifestyle.
But look, it’s not only Betty Friedan and her lying friends who hate babies: it’s also every great woman writer of the past 250 years.
I remember visiting one of my closest friends on her maternity leave last summer. We sat on a wooden bench in her garden and drank iced coffees, and gazed at her second baby. She is a writer, and we talked about how the women writers we most admired had no children, or have had one child, at the absolute most, but never two. (Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen had no children; Mary McCarthy, Rebecca West, Joan Didion, and Janet Malcolm all had one.) My friend looked down at her newborn and her tiny eyelashes. She could entertain this conversation in an academic way, but as she adjusted the baby’s hat I could see how far removed it was from anything that mattered to her. Here, sitting in the garden, looking at the eyelashes, would you trade the baby for the possibility of writing The House of Mirth? You would not.
Oh, sure, some women writers had babies, but they totally hated them! You can tell because they only had one: real women love babies so much they have as many as possible. You never see books about how much women love their children and miss them when they’re gone. I mean, Virginia Woolf had that whole room of her own, right? Surely she could have fit a crib in there.
Look, Edith Wharton may have had a Pulitzer Prize and a bibliography as long as her baby-less arm, but The House of Mirth is some crazy feminist novel and thus totally not worth having written. It’s all about how upper-class women are forced into marriage because it’s their only economic option and beauty is their only currency! What kind of crazy nonsense is that? Leave the novels to the men, ladies. You wouldn’t want to spend all your time crafting deathless prose if you would just snorgle a baby once in a while. Those eyelashes!
Remember, feminists: you’re all a bunch of baby-haters who are so selfish you don’t even want Katie Roiphe to love her baby — even if you are parents yourselves, even if you advocate for longer parental leave, even if you run an orphanage filled with nothing but sweet, sweet babies. Katie Roiphe knows: she wrote a whole article dissing you; therefore, she’s right about feminism and you’re wrong.
Straw Feminist Weekly: We define feminism so you don’t have to!