This article by Kate Roiphe, where she actually accuses feminists of refusing to admit that babies are cute, seems to be born out of her lifelong need to top a career where she burned out early by denying that date rape is a problem. Really, it’s hard to top her early achievement of assuring millions of men that they’re within their rights to use a little force. Resorting to accusing feminists of being she-monsters who refuse to admit that new mothers love their cute little babies is just a grotesque mockery of her early work in rape apologism. (Hat tip.)
And lest you think I’m kidding, let’s put it this way: Roiphe spends most of the essay congratulating herself for being deeply in love with her baby, to the point where being apart from the baby stressed her out and she had to snub her fans at a reading to get home.* After that, she says that feminists are intent on denying her experience.
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.
God damn, those “feminists” are monsters. And, like many monsters, they don’t exist at all. But this sort of essay does make one wonder: What the fuck is wrong with Kate Roiphe? I decided to write a poll for the Pandagonians to vote in:
I feel stupid even refuting this nonsense, because it seems like Roiphe honestly believes that it’s feminists who are the reason that we don’t have generous maternity leave in America, though of course feminists are at the forefront of all fights to get that specific benefit. Roiphe’s theory would also only make sense if you believed that there’s no such thing as a woman who is a mother and a feminist. I’ve no doubt that Roiphe’s got a bunch of “feminists are too stuck on abortion rights” pieces floating around, but I have to point out that pro-choice feminists have argued since basically forever that adoption isn’t a simple substitute for abortion rights, because giving up a baby is too hard for many women. But who am I to bring up irritating things like facts? Just shows that feminists all think we’re actually men, with our tedious insistence on facts and evidence.
But wait! There’s more! Roiphe isn’t just going to be competitive with those feminist baby-haters out there, she’s going to prove that she’s better than false idols of American literature, such as Edith Wharton.
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.
Take that, Edith Wharton! You think you’re so special, being one of the greatest American writers to have ever lived, but were you able to have two minutes of intercourse that resulted in conception? Novels, schmovels. Try pulling off a feat that only happens 4 million times a year in the U.S. (and that’s only with human beings—many other species of animal, basically most, are also better than Edith Wharton). Those classic writers think they’re so special, but nothing can give one that glow of superiority over all other beings like looking at your baby can. A baby! Who’d have thunk making one of those was possible?
You know, most of the time, I think it’s really great that we have modern medical advancements that allow us to keep our family sizes small and our infant survival rate high. It’s a tremendous public health boon (especially when you consider that 300,000 babies were dying a year as recently as 1920, mostly of malnutrition). And I even support the side effect of this—as people have fewer babies, they tend to get more precious about the act of getting pregnant and having a baby, as the explosion of expensive baby carriages, lactation coaches, birth plans, and midwife vs. doctor wars demonstrates. Again, I figure this is for the best. Children, while numerous, all deserve to be treated like they’re special and given every advantage so they become happy, productive adults.
But once in awhile you read something like this, and after banging your head against the wall for a couple minutes, you still want to say, “Are you fucking kidding me?” Someone should read this back out loud to Kate Roiphe. She’s as annoying as someone who thinks they personally discovered erotic love. Except worse, because she had to take potshots at phantom feminists who are lurking around in the shadows to deny that her baby is adorable.
I can’t wait for future Double X feminist-baiting posts. Next week: “Why Won’t Feminists Admit That Hunting Children For Sport Is Wrong?” And I’ll be forced to point out that we have always said that you should consume all child flesh you kill, because Mother Earth cries when we are wasteful.
*Or that’s how she explains how she got through a reading without signing any books.