How women who celebrate their dislike of children let down the sisterhood
Baby-hating! It's the new feminism! Except, obviously, it's not. But you could be forgiven for wondering. This week it was an article on the highly respected, liberal-leaning website Salon which made the pitch. Regular contributor Alanna Weissman wrote a piece celebrating her "visceral" hatred of children.
She recoils in horror if a child touches her. If one sits next to her on the Tube, she immediately moves away. If it's making a noise, she makes a "snarky comment"; if it's behaving well, she simply raises the volume of the music on her headphones.
"I can't remember a time when I felt anything more positive than contempt for children," she chirps.
Society must not judge her, she insists; if it was cats or dogs she hated, people would be fine with it. We can't force her to want to procreate.
If you're her friend and you get pregnant, rest assured she'll be happy for you. But she will "still hate your baby, and for that, I will not apologise".
Reasonable people will recognise the moral chasms in Alanna's argument. Most of us are wholly comfortable with the notion of compassionate, intelligent, generous-spirited women who don't want to have children. I would hope that, with the strides we've made, at least among our own gender, the majority of us back that particular freedom. Supporting proud proclamations about hating children as a species, however, is not the next logical step.
If Alanna had considered how her article might read had it been focused on, say, old or disabled people, she herself might have seen that, rather than having penned a bold call to arms for child-free women's liberation, she has revealed pathological levels of misanthropy, or perhaps even a mental illness.
It would be nice to be able to wave Weissman's horrible little confessional away as clickbait sensationalism, or a misguided one-off. What's more troubling is the wave of "me too" comments that her article inspired. She's the voice of truth, heralded one reader: "You are the only one that likes your kids and you know it."
There is currently a popular trend among like-minded groups, embraced by Weissman's supporters, to refer to children as "brats", or "sprogs", and mothers as "breeders", and to blame the latter for "destroying the planet" by, as one commenter put it, "grunting out runts".
One reader felt Weissman's views were to be welcomed by the "environmentally conscientious". The majority of those who welcomed her "brave" article considered themselves modern feminists, battling the oppression of a society in which parenthood is considered the sensible, rightful norm. There is no subject which ties modern feminism up in knots more than motherhood. The undervaluing of stay-at-home mothers versus the pressures of guilt for working mums.
Accusations of selfishness and egotism thrown at child-free women versus the perceived smugness and arrogance for those who are wallow in their kids.
These are conversations worth having; we still have plenty to iron out. But the increasing trend to celebrate your passionate dislike for children, and derision for those who choose to become mothers, is an errant diversion on our road to equality and sisterhood.
The answer to the narrow-minded, disapproving old auntie who told you it was unnatural not to want a family is not best contested by gleefully spewing your irrational lack of compassion for young people onto public forums and calling it feminism.
And for every Grazia/Cosmopolitan/Guardian/Daily Mail journalist who pats herself on the back for refusing to give up a bus seat to a heavily pregnant woman ("It was your choice to become debilitated"), I ask, do you really want women's liberation at the price of a rotten society?
Be careful what you wish for, girl.
Women still losing battle of the sexes
Research this week showed that women who get angry in the workplace lose their authority, while men who do the same gain more.
An illuminating backdrop for Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence’s comments. “All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive,” she said. Lawrence added that she held back from pay demands to avoid seeming “difficult”, then discovered her male co-stars were all being paid more and yet were all still seen as reasonable likeable chaps.
It kind of makes you want to scream. But that wouldn’t be cute at all.
Insider’s view of life in Norn Iron
Folk in Northern Ireland are used to seeing stereotypes of themselves which come from outside.
The nation has produced some of the UK’s most memorable politicians, sportsmen and TV personalities, and comedians and impersonators have had a field day.
But with eagle-eared Fermanagh journalist Rodney Edward’s new book, Sure, Why Would You Not, we have something fresher and somehow more satisfying; an insider’s creation of two instantly recognisable Northern Ireland characters, “oul fellas” Charlie and Bob, who speak in a characterful, unique dialogue any native will recognise.
They footer aboot, avoiding their wives, moaning about how much things cost. We all know them. A wonderful bit of blether.