Sunday, February 11, 2007

To me it was dilution

It passed without much comment here, but over the water people were going a bit apeshit a while ago over a snidey comment made by Democrat senator Barbara Boxer to Condoleeza Rice.

Mrs Boxer remarked that Condi wasn’t making any sort of personal sacrifice over Iraq - this was interpreted as ‘What do you know about anything, you don’t have any kids’.

Overblown storm in a teacup, but it’s given me a nice introduction to what I wanted to talk about today

The pernicious, idiotic, but widely held assumption that you cannot understand/experience/appreciate love unless you have children.

See also the oft-parrotted: ‘I was so selfish until I had children.’

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

I hate the notion that having children makes women ‘better’ in some sort of indefinable way. And that women who don’t have children are regarded as not altogether complete. Older women who haven’t had children are always asked in interviews if they regretted it. I’ve yet to see a seventy-odd Grande Dame Of Something-or-other answer with ‘fuck away off’, but I’m sure it’ll happen before too long.


  • ‘I was so selfish until I had children.’

    Response: A shame they didn't stop you being self-obsessed, patronising and insensitive.

    Fuck away off is a better response though.

    By Blogger Billy, at 6:35 PM  

  • Helen Mirren must have managed a 'fuck away off' at some point. In her wiki entry, it's at pains to say 'Mirren, who doesn't have children...', just so we're clear on how far she's deviated from the default.

    By Blogger orange anubis, at 7:25 PM  

  • It's true I was so selfish before I had children - but the good news is I still am, which is why I'm off down the pub any minute now.

    By Blogger Wyndham, at 7:28 PM  

  • This really drives me crazy too. I was on training about working with sex offenders last week (barrel of fuckin laughs, by the way) and my approaching the work with a vaguely professional, objective attitude was interpreted - very openly - as 'heartless barren witch' by a bunch of ladies who began 90% of their witless, irrelevant utterances over the course with 'As a mother...'. Which basically translates as 'You are not allowed to disagree with anything I'm about to say, especially if you have the cheek to not have any kids yourself.' I, apparently, can't really empathise with or understand the trauma of victims of paedophiles because I don't have kids of my own. Fuck away off indeed.

    Ooh, felt good to get that off me chest. Sorry spin.

    By Blogger violetforthemoment, at 7:45 PM  

  • People who try to imply that they had children because they're really unselfish, caring human beings who want to bravely contribute to the future of humanity get on my nerves. They decided to have children because they had an instinct to do so. End of.

    Some of us don't have that instinct - fair enough. It doesn't make us any more or less selfish than people who have children.

    There are some people who justify any dodgy actions by the fact that they have children. "Yeah, I've got a big gas guzzling people carrier but it's because I've got kids", "yeah, I've just had a massive pay rise but made loads of people in my company redundant, but, sorry, I've got a family to support and I have to think of their needs and futures". Very unselfish ...

    By Anonymous betty, at 7:55 PM  

  • I don't think this is completely exclusive to women though - I'm sure for men it's not much less likely that it's pointed out they're "lifelong batchelors" or something.

    By Blogger Loganoc, at 7:59 PM  

  • Do interviewers ever ask female subjects if they regret having HAD children, I wonder?

    I was just thinking about this sort of thing in Tesco this afternoon as I watched a woman screaming at her 4 children for being annoying. I don't think I'm that unusual in not liking children all that much, it's just that a lot of people don't extend the thought process to the logical conclusion that perhaps they shouldn't sodding have any.

    By Blogger GreatSheElephant, at 8:30 PM  

  • Hurrah! Well said. I know a lot of women get this weird urge to have children but it's definitely a fact that they're encouraged heavily down this path by society.

    I still find it very hard to congratulate people who say they're expecting. "Oh fuck - what the hell have you done?" has to come out as "Great, that's brilliant!"

    I was very selfish before I had children, but I'm even more so now because time spent by myself is more rare and therefore valuable now.

    By Blogger looby, at 10:08 PM  

  • Er, snider still, a few months before that fuss, Laura Bush said that Condi could never be president because she was a single woman, and didn't have a family to support her emotionally.

    Oddly enough the US Right/Media didn't make a fraction of the fuss they made over Boxer's remarks.

    I'll try and find the exact quote.

    By Blogger Bowleserised, at 10:15 PM  

  • Here we go:

    'The President also said there is no doubt in his mind that a woman candidate could be president, and the First Lady agreed. Mrs. Bush referenced Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and noted that while she would be a "really good candidate", Rice is not interested in the job.

    "Probably because she is single, her parents are no longer living, she's an only child. You need a very supportive family and supportive friends to have this job," the First Lady said. '

    By Blogger Bowleserised, at 10:18 PM  

  • Heh. Hear, hear, Spins. I am childless by choice; I fully enjoy being an aunt, but I have no desire to share my time. I respect those who do, but I see no value added or removed in being oriented in one way or the other.

    Plus, Barbara Boxer (who is my hero anyway) was just making a point — and that point was *not* "Condi you suck because you haven't suckled." Sadly, it got lost in the dog pile.

    By Blogger Valerie, at 10:20 PM  

  • I think Boxer's point, as Valerie suggests, was that the strain of Iraq in the US has fallen disproportionately on lower-income groups - the sort of people who don't end up on Capitol Hill. I don't know that it was much about Condi's childless status. Although the points you make, Spin, are completely on the ball.

    Read a very good article somewhere suggesting that the US should bring back conscription, with no get-out clauses. If this had been in place, the Iraq war would never have happened, because the politicians would be sending their own kids.

    By Blogger Tim Footman, at 5:24 AM  

  • Yeah, Mrs Boxer's comments have been widely misinterpreted - it was the resultant fuss I was referrig to, rather than her actual words.

    I didn't know about that quote from Laura Bush though, most interesting.

    I would suggest that, actually, a single woman is particularly capable of handling an extremely demanding job. Twenty/thirty/forty years of doing absolutely everything for yourself gives you a tough skin and an strong spine.

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 10:31 AM  

  • Just because we can have children does not mean we have to. Technically men have the equipment to breast feed but I don't see anyone shouting about how selfish they are for not lactating.

    By Blogger Flirty Something, at 11:43 AM  

  • I think Laura Bush has to justify her entire life/existence, and that's what the comment was about. Extraordinary that she could only manage to say that Condi was, "really good". Knock yourself out, love.

    I'm pretty sure we've had bachelor PMs.

    By Blogger Bowleserised, at 1:13 PM  

  • It's George Bush senior who could have done us all a favour by not having kids.

    By Blogger Murph, at 1:21 PM  

  • which reminds me of a rather splendid t-shirt I saw:

    'Dubya - pull out now.
    Just like your Daddy should have done.'

    By Blogger GreatSheElephant, at 1:42 PM  

  • >>>‘I was so selfish until I had children.’

    I hate that crap - parents are the most selfish members of society, because nothing else matters to them other than the wellbeing of their children. They can justify pretty much and shitty behaviour to themselves as being in the best interests of their children.

    "Oh of course I know I don't really need a four by four just for nipping around town, but it's just so much safer for the children - and that's what really matters..."

    By Blogger LC, at 1:42 PM  

  • Funnily enough - the particular woman I was thinking about with the 'selfish' comment was at a party I was at on Saturday.

    Despite the fact that I spent a very long evening a couple of years ago listening to her going on about how her daughter was going to private school she didn't remember or acknowledge me at all.

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 1:51 PM  

  • Oh my God! I'm forty-eight and I forgot to have children!

    Actually, I love every minute of my selfish, bratless life, especially the smug feeling I get when my "happy family" mates tell me how jealous they are. Hee hee.

    By Blogger dive, at 2:02 PM  

  • Yeah, but you're a man, Dive.

    You can always do a Saul Bellow and knock one out when you're 84 and drop dead a year later.

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 3:13 PM  

  • S, we'd love your UK take on Valentine's Day over at Standing by Herself (www.standingbyherself.blogspot.com). Your site's a small piece of sanity. (Using comments in lieu of e-mail address...)

    By Anonymous singly blessed, at 7:19 PM  

  • I shall sneak in at the end and not mention the kids. 'The Selfish Gene' says it all.
    I only had them so I could nick their kidneys if required.

    By Blogger realdoc, at 9:01 PM  

  • "Just because we can have children does not mean we have to. Technically men have the equipment to breast feed but I don't see anyone shouting about how selfish they are for not lactating"

    Damn straight. My hubs and I are so sick of hearing "so when are you two going to have children?" at every family/friend reunion...like we're somehow incomplete for not having any kids. After being amrried 7 years, there is the even more infuriating sentence that comes it: "Oh...unless you can't have any...oh sorry is that it?"

    Oh fuck right off indeed. I"ve known people to use their children for the most selfish reasons/excuses out there...

    By Blogger Geosomin, at 8:09 PM  

  • I was more or less guilt-free before I had children. Alas, no more.

    By Blogger Kav, at 3:25 PM  

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