Monday, September 19, 2005

Defying Nature

So the other day I woke up to the latest breaking story on BBC 4: women who wait till the age of 35 to have babies are defying nature. Now, I haven't defied nature in this way yet, and actually, I doubt that I ever will want to, but listening to this story elicited a really strong psychological reactance in me. Waking up to this story, about how inconsiderate and self-centered "career women" are to wait until their mid-thirties to conceive just simply started my day off on the wrong foot. Not again, please.

How long will it take until people -- including women -- stop trying to put women back in their place: young, barefoot, pregnant, and dependent on men? On how many points is this tired old chestnut about selfish career mothers just wrong and bad?

1. Is it defying nature to inoculate people against smallpox, pneumonia, and tuberculosis? Why are all these medical advances: transplant operations, stem cell research, gene splicing, or whatever, why are these not defying nature, while a woman who waits until she is secure in her career and confident in herself and chooses to be a mother when it is right for her (and therefore optimal for the hypothetical child), who might use medical technologies to extend her fertile years, why is THAT defying nature?

2. The people who wrote this editorial in the British Medical Journal are infertility specialists and their clientele is, overwhelmingly, the women 35 and over who they criticize. Really, rather dumb of them. Do they want to put themselves out of business?

3. The point made already by lucid women, including Diana Holland and Rehana Azam, who have pegged the authors of this British Medical Journal editorial for who they truly are: people, men and women (one of the authors is a woman, a successful medical doctor specializing in infertility -- wonder how old she was when she had her children) identified with the patriarchal arrangement who try to use "science" to justify the gender hierarchy and women's disadvantages relative to men. As Diana and Rehana point out in their article in the Guardian today on p. 27, the problem doesn't lie with women 35 and older waiting to have babies, the problem is with a social structure that is set up to the advantage of people (other than women; men) with wives at home to take care of their reproductive needs, not for two-career families, or, god forbid, single-parent (mother or father) families. If childcare and childrearing were valued, then the social system, which is artificial and constructed and no ways natural, would be reconstructed so that people could parent without career and income penalties. The system would be structured so that parents could take care of their children and their careers: more and better childcare programs for all -- regardless of economic status, and more and better childcare facilities within the workplace. For example.

4. Why do we never hear about men sacrificing their careers, working part time, sharing jobs, putting their careers on hold, for the sake of having and rearing children? Why is it still and only women? Why aren't men like Tony Randall, who had his first child at age 77, criticised for the fact that their children are, in all likelihood, never going to be able to even remember them, because these fathers are probably going to croak before the child's fifth birthday, for christ's sake?

Why do women who choose to delay motherhood get criticised by the very medical doctors who are making big bucks off of their fertility treatments?

These authors insist that the optimal time for a woman to enter motherhood, to conceive, is age 20 - 34, before she's even of legal drinking age in the United States. No, say those who know better than us what we should do with our bodies, no, we won't let you have that glass of wine, but please, this is your window of optimal opportunity for motherhood, please go conceive. We trust you with a baby, not with that dangerous glass of wine. Please find yourself a wealthy, preferably older, father for your optimally timed child, go forth, and conceive! It's only natural.

Why in the world would a medical doctor be encouraging motherhood to women who are, by almost any definition, still children, or at least girls? Why would any medical doctor encourage a girl of 20 to make herself a slave to diapers and sore nipples before she is old enough to have even earned a bachelor's degree? This is tantamount to consigning her to an uneducated life of dependency and drudgery.

I have half a mind to go forth and conceive, at my ripe old age, just to stick it to the British Medical Society and the authors of this article. But if in defying nature, I am to need fertility treatment, I'll never go to those hypocrites. I will be the $10,000 that they will never make.


Quiconque said...

I'm so happy you wrote about this. This issue has been bothering me all summer, but my bitterness and anger were just too much for me to write a coherent tirade other than, "Shut the f*** up!"

Ten Feet of Steel said...

Hell, if Tony Randall and Larry King aren't defying nature, then what, exactly, *is* defying nature? Eloquent post. Well done.

ashyknees said...
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