Oh, hold the phone

At the risk of opening up another “You hate children!” can of worms* here, I feel the need to respond to this vomitrocious piece in the San Francisco Chronicle that reads like a piece of Rovian agent provacateur propaganda designed to make the childfree look as bad as possible.

When you showed me your freezer filled with a three months’ supply of stockpiled breast milk, I had to turn and confirm you were the same girl who would jump into the mosh pit and hold her own with misogynist skinheads. And when you were ecstatic over the 10th pink baby outfit, I had to squint to see the same girl who would gyrate until 3 a.m. and then make out with bad boys on the sides of cars in the gritty twilight.

When we were both in our early 20s, you were my best friend. Now in our 30s, I’ve moved to the Bay Area and we speak only a few times a year. Most of those conversations seem to be consumed with your new baby, some function of toilet training or how your husband seems to do nothing around the house.

Here’s the problem with this entire piece, in a nutshell: Miss Elisa Gonzalez Clark is in her 30s and is mad at her friend for not being exactly the same as she was more than 10 years ago.

Actually, I should say Mrs. Gonzalez Clark, since as Amanda points out, despite all her denunciations of her friends’ conventionality in getting married and having kids and not being so punk rawk anymore, she herself got hitched and took her husband’s name on top of it.

I mean, taking your husband’s name? That’s soooo Guy Lombardo, Punk Princess. Though I doubt Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians would stoop so low as to rationalize their choice by snotting at their friends this way:

I was never a big believer in marriage and procreation. No one was more surprised than I was when I became engaged six months after a first date. Then you and my other leg-shackled pals asked me, “So, when are you having kids?”

“What? We just got engaged!” I said. And unlike you guys, we didn’t have to get married.

Sweetie, own your choices. For crap’s sake.

Rebecca Traister also commented on this piece, pointing out that there was a germ of an idea that Gonzalez Clark completely fucked up because of her posturing and bile:

The most poignant point Gonzalez Clark makes, to my mind, is about her impulse to cry when her friend tells her that she is going to go through with an unplanned pregnancy because, without kids, she “didn’t feel complete as a woman.” “You were always complete to me,” writes Gonzalez Clark. “You were always so confident, smart, bright and such a great friend.”. . .

OK. I completely agree with what I think might be Gonzalez Clark’s larger ideas about how the fetishization of motherhood — the idea that women only reach their highest potential as mothers, that they are incomplete as women or humans without children, and that once they have them their lives must revolve around only them — is dangerous and regressive and worth bitching mightily about. The country does seem dangerously ensnarled in a backlash cult of mommy madness that values the lives of children over the lives of mothers, and has unnecessarily professionalized the job of child-rearing to the point where women must sacrifice everything else in their world in order to do it right.

The problem here, as I see it, is that Gonzalez Clark doesn’t serve her point well by being so goddamn fucking immature about the fact that her friends’ lives have taken different turns than hers in the past decade. Decade! And she doesn’t serve the rest of us — you know, the ones who are fighting against the idea that motherhood is the only way for a woman to be considered a woman, that being single and childfree is to be a child oneself — very well, either, with her whining about dirty diapers being the reason her friends don’t want to endlessly reminisce about flirting with Johnny Depp and making out with guys up against cars.

I mean, for fuck’s sake. I’m 38 myself. I’m not the same girl I was when I was in my early 20s, for the simple reason that I’m not a goddamned girl anymore.

______

* Like, really. Anyone whining that all the childfree hate children or are Just! Like! Antisemites! or hate the elderly and disabled or want to eliminate school funding or are awful, awful people will be thrown in the wolverine pen along with the people who misuse “A Modest Proposal.” I’m warning you.

101 comments for “Oh, hold the phone

  1. Fred
    December 13, 2006 at 11:30 am

    Just how damned immature is Elisa Gonzalez Clark?

  2. Holly
    December 13, 2006 at 11:35 am

    You forgot the capstone of Gonzalez Clark’s emblematic 20s, the one thing she’s sure will remain even after the “Motherhood Borg” has swallowed all of her peers whole: “the time that transsexual hooker helped us escape those slimy A&R guys.” How picturesque! It almost feels like the piece hangs around these flashbacks to exciting escapades.

    Like you and Traister have pointed out, there’s certainly enough material for a piece about being pressured into having kids, into being overwhelmed in a demographic-wide rush towards motherhood… but Gonzalez Clark primarily seems to be mourning the fact that she doesn’t have buds to go out with her and “party like craaaazy until dawn, baby!” Not anymore. But you know, that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with having kids. I’m in my 30s now, I don’t have kids, I have plenty of friends who don’t either… and a lot of us don’t stay out doing wacky stuff until 3 AM anymore because WE’RE TIRED OF DOING WACKY STUFF UNTIL 3 AM, ok?

    Gonzalez Clark’s attitude reminds me of a whole other kind of peer pressure: the kind that insists we all have to stay “young and carefree” and party it up–at least once a month, c’mon, and sure, not on weeknights anymore–lest we lose the precious commodity of being (or at least passing as) a 20-something. It’s also pretty tired, in more ways than one… my friends who have stubbornly clung to staying out all night and living the wild life are also the ones who are showing the tracks of that lifestyle the most, whether it’s from cigarette-stained skin and teeth or permanent bags under their eyes. There is such a thing as “aging gracefully” even when you’re far from being old, and the kicking, clawing, and screaming in this article seems to be resisting that far more than the pressures of family life.

  3. elektrodot
    December 13, 2006 at 11:37 am

    she sounds like a jerk. same basic thing just happened to me (cept im only 20!) with my best freind (who is punk, as am i) having a kid and getting married. shit if your good freinds you dont get all snippy like that, you….continue to be good freinds.

    ive gotten alot of punker than thou attitudes from punks a lot…its funny how extremely judgemental alot of them are (oh, your not vegan? well why do you hate animals?, you have a job that isnt dishwashing where you make a good bit of money? well your a capitalist pig!) sorry, living in squathouses and doing nothing with my life just doesnt appeal to me anymore. (at least thats what ive gotten from alot of baltimore punks…dont know about any of the punks in other states)

    sorry that was a bit of a rant hah.

  4. December 13, 2006 at 11:39 am

    Why do you hate people who hate children?

  5. Frumious B
    December 13, 2006 at 11:43 am

    I know you’re not that happy. I hear the regret when you say, “Sometimes I wonder why I got pregnant,” or “Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, but. . . .”

    Evidently mothers aren’t allowed to complain about anything. Why does choosing to have kids (either by deliberately getting pregnant or by carrying an unintended pregnancy to term) mean you have to love the smell of dirty diapers, lack of personal space, or lost sleep.

  6. Sniper
    December 13, 2006 at 11:53 am

    Why do you hate people who hate children?

    Hee! Yeah! That’s exactly the same as racism!

    My husband (gasp) and I are in our 40s and we don’t have children. We haven’t so much as gone out for a movie in six months because we’re busy hanging out and working on job/home/family stuff. Yes, people without children are also part of families. Go figure! Also, we outgrew the hard living stuff a long time ago and weren’t frankly, all that much into it to begin with. Different strokes.

  7. Ailurophile
    December 13, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    Shorter Gonzalez Clark: “I’m still glamorous and oh-so-KEWL and you’re not, you suburban frump you!”

    Oh, and what Holly said. I’m childfree, unmarried, and tired of the party-hearty lifestyle a long time ago. I may be dull, but I don’t have bags under my eyes.

  8. December 13, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    It’s funny to see how many people are mis-interpreting Amanda’s call-down on Clark’s hypocrisy as Amanda being anti-marriage.

  9. December 13, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    I was never a big believer in marriage and procreation. No one was more surprised than I was when I became engaged six months after a first date. Then you and my other leg-shackled pals asked me, “So, when are you having kids?”

    “What? We just got engaged!” I said. And unlike you guys, we didn’t have to get married.

    I love how she claims superiority based on the distinction that she chose to get married, but her friends had to get married. No, they all chose to get married. With her superiority complex and inability to let go of the past, I’m inclined to think that the reason she and her friends have drifted apart has nothing at all to do with children.

  10. Ron O
    December 13, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    I’m with Holly above. I lost my desire to party hard long before I became a parent at 38. All day hangovers are not something I need to repeat. I started to appreciate waking up functional on Sunday mornings. I began to value getting to work on time Thursday mornings.

    My friends and family who are childless generally adore my son and dote on him. Parents are busy caring for thier own children. We do make some time to go out with them without the boy.

    IMO punk is about more than mosh pits, getting drunk & making out. All that is fun but it doesn’t define punk.

  11. Xocolotl
    December 13, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Re: the misuse of “A Modest Proposal”– is there an exception for presenting it as literal in order to freak people out? Because that’s just fun.

  12. Roy
    December 13, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    a lot of us don’t stay out doing wacky stuff until 3 AM anymore because WE’RE TIRED OF DOING WACKY STUFF UNTIL 3 AM, ok?

    Exactly. Strange as it may sound, priorities and attitudes change.
    Particularly over the course of, say, ten years.
    Personally, I’d feel… I don’t know… lame if I were still doing exactly the same stuff now that I was ten years ago. I’d probably feel worse if all I were doing was talking about the stuff I did ten years ago. I kind of like that I’ve moved on with my life.

  13. bmc90
    December 13, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    Friendship is about being supportive and non-judgmental. If someone goes in a different direction than you, why not enjoy it instead of letting it piss you off? Babysit for your buddies so they can go out on the town sometimes. I do that for my best friend from college. She’d much rather leave her kid with me than a teenager. It is a radical change of pace for me (i.e. learning experience – this writer should try it). I appreciate her cute child, my freedom from motherhood, and she loves me all at the same time! If you insist on things being the way they were in your 20’s, you will be like those guys in the Diner, sitting around the same haunts, having the same conversations, while your adult life (wives, jobs, etc.) continue to be largely invisible to you emotinoally. Except when they intrude on your continued adolecence.

  14. Linnaeus
    December 13, 2006 at 1:26 pm

    Holly and Roy bring up some points that I didn’t make note of over at Pandagon. I’m going to drift a bit…

    I think some people might put the idea of being “young and carefree” on a pedestal well after one’s 20s, because, quite frankly, “growing up” is often portrayed in terms that aren’t very fun. You’re “supposed” to get married, have children, get a steady job and a house, go to bed at 10, get up at 6, watch (and laugh at) Everybody Loves Raymond reruns, and so on. When our images of being “grown up” are so staid, it doesn’t surprise me that there are those who will resist them.

    (Which is not to say that the above list doesn’t have good things in it…I’m making more of a Gestalt case here.)

    As one who didn’t have the blast of my life in my 20s when you’re supposed to and who finds the idea of one’s “best years” being a discrete (and past) period in one’s life profoundly depressing, I can understand wanting to indulge in some excess some times.

  15. bmc90
    December 13, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    Let’s face it. You do certain stuff in your 20’s like drink too much because on a lot of levels, your 20’s suck. Why?:

    1. Starting salary v. parental support.
    2. Group house in bad hood instead of own bedroom in lovely single family home where parents did most yard and housework or gothic college dormitory with janitorial service.
    3. Own food shopping and preparation v. slouching over to dining hall in sweats.
    4. Boss who docks your pay if you don’t show up v. professor who doesn’t really take role.
    5. Getting fired versus a bad grade for poor work, failure to meet deadlines (no extensions from the dean anymore).
    6. People expect you do accomplish something that can’t be reduced to grades on a report card any longer.
    7. Having to wear hose every day, even though you have to walk to public transportation, and when you get on it, no AC.

    Sometimes I drank a lot in my 20’s because I could not afford my own hooch, so when someone else was buying . . . . People in my group engaged in whacky sex stuff because condoms are cheaper than opera tickets or nice vacations. You get the idea. Ah, the bad old days.

  16. Older
    December 13, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    “Have” to get married — is a very revealing turn of phrase. I believe what she’s saying (but perhaps doesn’t realize it) is: “I was faking it all along. You guys were honest enough to change your minds when your circumstances changed, but I really bought the whole marriage-kids idea, though I never admitted it. In fact I’m not admitting it now, (Oh yes you are, sweetie!) because that way I can so put you down!!

  17. December 13, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    But…but…people aren’t SUPPOSED to change. i don’t LIKE IT when that happens.

    for some odd reason, i am making this free-association to the way my best friend described ducks (his father had a couple as pets), “the Republicans of the animal kingdom.” apparently they got very bent out of shape if, like, something (a branch? a water dish?) was in a different spot than it had been in the day before.

    “What’s that?! That wasn’t there before! I don’t know what that is! I don’t know where I am! O dearie dearie me, this is none of I! QUACK HONK”

  18. Meredith
    December 13, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    Well, if some of the “friends” she writes about are still remotely talking to her, they won’t be after reading this.

  19. Roy
    December 13, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Linnaeus,

    I think you’re right- part of the problem is defining “young and carefree” as “getting drunk and staying out till 3 in the morning every night.”

    I’m not quite 28- hardly an old man by most standards. ;)
    I think that I’m still pretty young, at least.
    Sure, I have a steady job, and I pay my bills, and I meet my responsibilities- but I still find time to attend game nights, go to the bar with my friends, attend conerts/plays, and, most importantly, I find time to be happy.
    I think that there are people who get obsessed with this kind of warped Peter Pan mentality that, in order to be happy you have to “stay young and carefree.” And, to them, it seems like “young and carefree” mean staying immature and irresponsible. But, they’re not the same, anymore than “growing up” is the same as becoming hardened, boring, unhappy or giving up on your dreams. Sure, there are a lot of irresponsible young people, and a lot of hard, boring, unhappy “old” people- but that’s not because it has to be that way.
    What I’m driving at (in this admittedly meandering manner) is that it’s entirely possible to “grow up” and still enjoy doing things to excess on occasion- still be happy, have fun, and be a whole person. I certainly enjoy going out once in a while and tearing the town up with my friends- it’s just that I’ve managed to find a balance. I don’t feel like I have to do that kind of thing every day to be happy or “stay young.”
    Maybe it’s because, like you, my early 20s weren’t really all that fantastic- but I’m more interested in trying to make every year the “best year of my life.” I’m certainly not always going to be successful, but I like to think that living in the present and looking towards the future is more likely to get me there than living in the past. /heartwarmingcliche

  20. Alicia
    December 13, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    ahh, the punk rock midlife crisis.

    i’ve come to grips with not having pink/blue/purple hair all the time anymore. if punk rock was only the externals, than maybe she was alot less punkrawk then she really thought.

    everything evolves.

  21. BlackBloc
    December 13, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    I’ll talk to you about one of my punk friends who hasn’t changed since his 20s. He’ll never get to change either. He fell to his death when he rolled over while squatting under a bridge. Innumerable friends of friends who froze to death or overdosed, or died from alcohol poisoning or slit their wrists. Yeah, sorry little miss scenester if I’m not as *wild* as I used to be when I was in my teens and early 20s. (Shit, who am I kidding, I was the token straight-edge kid in the group. Maybe that’s why I’m not the one who died. Who knows?)

    Some of those kids I’d gladly take the place of, if I could. They deserved better.

  22. RonnieTalkToRussia
    December 13, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    You know what is the least cool thing about this article? Even less cool than the 3rd-rate starfucking? (Keifer Sutherland?! HOLY SHIT, that’s amazing!!! ) And even less cool than the really uncomfortable and obvious display of the author’s neuroses? I’ll tell you! It’s the Chronicle being all like “what? Is someone in a weird fight with mothers? Or non-mothers? We are on it like Christmas. Holla!” The mommy-war (sorry) missive is its own journalistic genre (see like, every article in the New York Times ever), and by engaging this genre, Mrs. Clark-Gonzalez is encouraging and snuggling up to the super-scrutionus culture that creates and abets the nutbar obsessive mythical mommy-beast that she complains about her friends succumbing to. Way to be totally unreflective, forright? Does that make sense?

  23. RonnieTalkToRussia
    December 13, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    uh, super-scrutinous. Scrofulus.

  24. Ailurophile
    December 13, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    BlackBloc: I, too, could tell stories about friends from my clubbing and drugging days who didn’t make it. Or who are alive but their minds are gone.

    And what Roy said. It’s tedious and, frankly, pathetic, to reminisce endlessly about one’s “glory days” (as Bruce Springsteen put it) rather than try to create a decent and fulfilling life for oneself in the present. “Growing up” is what YOU make it. It doesn’t have to entail being a boring, stodgy, mega-church-attending, Republican-voting shell of a person – unless YOU want it to be that way.

  25. December 13, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    i fully support any woman’s right to define herself and her place in society free of children; it seems an obvious component of feminist self-determination. however, i have to say that i have come across not only commenters but entire web sites displaying a disturbing amount of hateful rhetoric against “breeders” and their “crotch droppings”, a fair amount of which i read as misogynistic. i think respect and support for the role of mothers is a feminist issue just as much as respect and support for a woman’s choice not to be one.

  26. Neil C.
    December 13, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    Reading an article like Mrs. Gonzalez Clark reminds me of how lucky I am to have my wife! Although we’ve been married for nine years (she’s 37, I’m 41) and have no children, it’s not because we hate kids, we’ve both kind of that it’s not right for us. I work nights, she has a good day job, so we barely see each other, but still find time for fun on vacations, though neither of us sowed wild oats much when we were younger and she did take my name. We have plenty of friends who have children, most of whom are well-behaved, and we still can talk with them, although my schedule limits that. Heck, my sister is pregnant and I think my wife is as happy for her as if it were her own. If anything, I’m the one with less patience for kids.

  27. Neil C.
    December 13, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    of course I meant “kind of decided it was not right for us.”

  28. zuzu
    December 13, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    however, i have to say that i have come across not only commenters but entire web sites displaying a disturbing amount of hateful rhetoric against “breeders” and their “crotch droppings”, a fair amount of which i read as misogynistic.

    Links?

    The wolverines are hungry.

  29. Aliera
    December 13, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    As I approach 30, and have left my alcoholocaust behind, it never fails to amaze me that there is still that core group that actually looks down on me for NOT wanting to get so wasted that I wake up in a strange bed anymore. Really, I think in a lot of cases what it boils down to is that at some point, the drinking of your 20s becomes the alcoholism and sad, screwed up life of your 30s and 40s. Addicts never want to be alone…

    Nothing helps you avoid analyzing your own choices in life like kicking back a half dozen Jack & Cokes and bitching about others.

  30. Roy
    December 13, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    As an aside: this post is giving me a delightful new vocabulary- can I just express how wonderful the terms “vomitrocious” and “alcoholocaust” are?

  31. Linnaeus
    December 13, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Roy, BlackBloc, Ailurophile, Aliera, etc.:

    I understand what you all are getting at…I should clarify – just in case – that I certainly wasn’t justifying a reluctance to move on, grow up, or whatever you want to call it, but rather explaining why someone might be that way.

  32. everstar
    December 13, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    My dearest friend from college is in the hospital waiting to see if her first child is going to make his appearance today or later this month. I’m both single and childless myself, and I’m not sure I ever want kids. I still threw her baby shower and have gone shopping with her for baby outfits. Sure, she falls asleep at 10 or 11 instead of 1 or 2 these days but I have to get up at 6 myself, so it’s really just as well. The important thing is that I love her and I’m excited for her at this big step into being a parent. It’s not about me.

    Er. That may have come across as slightly preachy. Ah, the hell with it; so was the original article. Time to finish retrofitting the little studded black leather dog collar for the baby.

  33. Ailurophile
    December 13, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    Linnaeus – I actually agree with the points you have raised in your post. It’s very true that growing up, in our culture, is often framed as becoming a shell of a person in one way or another – an empty, bitter shell or else a smug, bland, Republican shell. So people naturally resist this kind of “growing up” and who can blame them?

    However, part of growing up (sorry!) – one of the most important parts – is realizing that you don’t have to choose between eternal Peter Pannish fabulousness on the one hand vs. puffy appliqued sweatshirts and Family Circle magazine on the other. And, of course, plenty of YOUNG people don’t do the club-hopping thing.

    Clark, it seems, is trying desperately to hold on to fabulousness. In fact, she is trying desperately to convince the readers just how faaaaaaabulous she is. Kiefer Sutherland wanted her phone number! She got engaged after dating for six months! Isn’t she just hawwwttt and faaaabulous?

    Hah. Obnoxious is more like it. And, given that she seems to be living in her fabulous past, pathetic. I’m reminded of another phenomenon from my own club daze – aging hipster men who affected leather jackets and body piercings, trolling the clubs looking to pick up girls half their age, aging Peter Pans trying desperately to remain hip and cool. Blech.

  34. Frumious B
    December 13, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    Links?

    The wolverines are hungry.

    check out some of the childfree tribes on tribe.net. even I was turned off.

  35. zuzu
    December 13, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    Tribe.net?

    You know, I’m sure you could come up with entire tribes there on just about any topic, but it doesn’t make it terribly relevant to the discussion here.

  36. December 13, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    Difficulties and adversity, which are a core part of parenthood and non-parental meaningful endeavors, build character. Difficulties are unpleasant and some people go to huge lengths to gird against them.

    Example: my wife and I would like to attend a party at my parents’ house for Christmas on the 23rd. We cannot, because it is an adult party and few are available to babysit our two in diapers that night, at any price. Too bad. For a single childless person, it may be possible to go to 6 parties in one weekend.

    I guess a few (very few) single childless people hate our guts because the idea that we are more happy despite more aggravations (diarrhea storms in car seats on plane, rotovirus dehydration and 3 days in the peds unit with an IV, endless IEP meetings for our autistic son, teaching him sign language with the English so his special ed will “take” better, locking down the house to keep the kid in more than the burglars out, etc.) and less entertainment (movie theatres? Going OUT to dinner? sex??!! haha etc.) really pisses them off. They think about our “crotch droppings” more than I think about their rampant wildness and their, well, “crotch insertions.” Actually, I lack the time to think about their genitals, let alone the interest.

    The vast majority of single people we know (both with kids and not) are mature and happy with their lives, and they show our kids a lot of love. We are very grateful. We are not evangelists for our lifestyle like some kind of parental Amway or religious missionaries. Do not have kids if you do not want them. Don’t. Please don’t, unless it’s for you.

    Some will say life is unfair. Perhaps it is. Lobby for policies that will make life more fair. By the time you are 37, however, someone your age you knew pretty well has probably died. So life’s unfairness is a matter of perspective. This is a general principle, applicable to non-parenthood or parenthood or anything else.

  37. zuzu
    December 13, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    And, you know, people over at Pandagon have already busted out the “you’re a smug parasite who wants children completely eliminated from the public sphere, and you probably hate gays and the elderly and the disabled, too” thing. But I’m not going to say that just because they exist, and just because they feel perfectly comfortable making comments like that on a feminist site run by a childfree woman, that they’re representative of all parents. So I’d rather just not go down that road again here, thanks.

  38. ks
    December 13, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    And, you know, people over at Pandagon have already busted out the “you’re a smug parasite who wants children completely eliminated from the public sphere, and you probably hate gays and the elderly and the disabled, too” thing. But I’m not going to say that just because they exist, and just because they feel perfectly comfortable making comments like that on a feminist site run by a childfree woman, that they’re representative of all parents. So I’d rather just not go down that road again here, thanks.

    I just read that thread over there and commented on a couple of the bits. Although I did agree with some of the points about the general attitude towards parents taking their kids in public, I don’t think it all only comes from the childfree. In fact, I’ve had more issues with other parents than with those who don’t have kids themselves.

    And for the record, if someone does not want kids, they absolutely should not have them. Children are difficult and if you aren’t absolutely sure, you probably shouldn’t have one. I do not at all think that anyone needs to reproduce in order to be a complete person. That idea is a total load of bull.

  39. December 13, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    Dood, I just read that story and linked it in my blog with approving commentary. I’m 28, and the piece rang heavily true for me. I am often worried that my friends are all going to have kids and turn into Stepford robots like Clark’s friends.

    ‘course, I’m a member of one of those communities that uses terms like “breeder” and “crotchdropping,” so I may be biased. (FWIW: They’re not misogynist terms. “Breeder” is non-gendered, and so is “crotchdropping.” Being enraged by the overly child-centered and self-important is not the same as hating women.)

    The thing is, it sucks when people change so dramatically and horrifically in the space of less than a year. Women can go from carefree feminists to “listen to graphic stories about my baby’s body fluids over lunch” Stepford wives in less time than it takes to carry a baby to term. Hell, the fathers are perfectly capable of doing it too (“Yay, let’s grab a six pack and hang out” becomes “look at all these pix of my baby”). It’s scary, and those of us who don’t have kids don’t generally have a similar turning point – so our friends change radically with little or no warning. Worse, they always seem to think that we’re the assholes if we don’t react with utter pleasure at their abrupt metamorphosis and coo over things we couldn’t care less about as though they’re the center of our universe.

    Sure, not all parents are like that, but enough are that it makes things pretty crappy for us CF folks at times. Was Clark a bit ranty? Sure. But I totally understand why, and that identification is why I dug her piece, occasional slides into name-dropping and snideness included.

  40. Ailurophile
    December 13, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    Someone over at Pandagon made the excellent point that Clark seems to define her oh-so-fabulous past in terms of men. Flirting with celebrities, making out with “bad boys” in alleyways, etc. And, of course, the whirlwind engagement and her taking her husband’s last name. It’s like Kitty Bennet complaining that Lydia has become such a bore since she popped out a little Wickham.

  41. Tiffany in Houston
    December 13, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    Well I’m 33, single and childfree (for the moment as I do want kids) and I think terms like ‘breeder’ and ‘crotch dropping’ are horrid and vile. Parents are not SUBhuman.

  42. evil fizz
    December 13, 2006 at 6:39 pm

    (FWIW: They’re not misogynist terms. “Breeder” is non-gendered, and so is “crotchdropping.” Being enraged by the overly child-centered and self-important is not the same as hating women.)

    Yeah, well they’re still fucking obnoxious terms.

  43. everstar
    December 13, 2006 at 6:51 pm

    Ealasaid said:

    The thing is, it sucks when people change so dramatically and horrifically in the space of less than a year. …It’s scary, and those of us who don’t have kids don’t generally have a similar turning point – so our friends change radically with little or no warning.

    Little or no warning? What did you call the nine months before the baby was born?

    I understand that it’s difficult to have a friend whose interests drift away from yours; my best friend from college is going to have her first child sometime soon, and I’m occasionally worried about whether I’ll still be able to relate to her. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that giving birth is not going to make her less of a feminist or less of a cool person. And if she’s less able to talk about television or current events or whatever, well… she’s got a big new responsibility. I can’t really blame her for paying attention to the baby; in fact, I’d probably be worried if she didn’t talk a lot about him. I figure it’s like any other big life-changing event; of course someone’s going to talk about it a lot for a while.

  44. December 13, 2006 at 7:10 pm

    Evil Fizz says:

    Yeah, well they’re still fucking obnoxious terms.

    And your point is what, exactly?

    There’s a big difference between misogynist and obnoxious.

  45. piny
    December 13, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    (FWIW: They’re not misogynist terms. “Breeder” is non-gendered, and so is “crotchdropping.” Being enraged by the overly child-centered and self-important is not the same as hating women.)

    I think they’re neutral the way “slut” is: in theory, not in practice. Most of the work of childrearing is done by women, and so they bear most of the stigma. Couple that with traditional derision of non-doormat women as selfish, and “breeding” women as “SUBhuman,” and you’ve got misogynist terms.

  46. December 13, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    everstar Says:

    Little or no warning? What did you call the nine months before the baby was born?

    This has yet to happen to me (my two pregnancy-affected friends are generally non-annoying) but from my fellow CFers’ stories, the gist I get is that people generally change either as soon as they learn they’re pregnant and decide to keep it, or as soon as they get home from the hospital. Usually the former. Generally, the only warning we seem to get is the sentence, “I’m/my partner is pregnant!” and then bam, it’s all over.

  47. piny
    December 13, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    The thing is, it sucks when people change so dramatically and horrifically in the space of less than a year. …It’s scary, and those of us who don’t have kids don’t generally have a similar turning point – so our friends change radically with little or no warning.

    I don’t think this is true. Moving any distance, starting a new job, getting the first “real” job, starting or leaving school, getting married, getting the first serious partner, getting divorced, coming out, losing a family member, becoming responsible for anyone else on any level, suffering illness or addiction or other trauma–people who don’t have kids change all the time, and those changes are frequently a lot more sudden or internally-forecast than the, ahem, aftermath of a ten-month pregnancy. And what’s so horrific about this change?

  48. December 13, 2006 at 7:28 pm

    piny Says:

    I think they’re neutral the way “slut” is: in theory, not in practice. Most of the work of childrearing is done by women, and so they bear most of the stigma. Couple that with traditional derision of non-doormat women as selfish, and “breeding” women as “SUBhuman,” and you’ve got misogynist terms.

    That is an interesting point which had not occured to me.

    However, I have two comments in response:

    1) When the comms I’m on refer to breeders we mean people who have kids but don’t parent them – I’ve seen plenty of male folk refered to as “breeders” over on cf_hardcore. There are also the acronyms “PNB” (Parent, not Breeder, used approvingly) and “BNP” (Breeder, not Parent, used disparagingly). I have also seen both of these used to refer to men. It’s true that usually when you see an ill-behaved child in public it’s with it’s mother, and it’s usually women giving us CFers crap for not having children, so lots of our rants are about women, but I suspect that is more a circumstantial thing than a terminology one.

    2) “Selfish” is not an opposite to “breeder,” so I don’t really see how women being the ones called “selfish” makes “breeder” misogynistic. I am probably missing something here.

  49. December 13, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    ‘course, I’m a member of one of those communities that uses terms like “breeder” and “crotchdropping,” so I may be biased. (FWIW: They’re not misogynist terms. “Breeder” is non-gendered, and so is “crotchdropping.” Being enraged by the overly child-centered and self-important is not the same as hating women.)

    Agreed with piny: they are misogynist terms, by virtue of being applied overwhelmingly to women. And “crotchdropping,” I’d argue, would seem to refer directly to the fact that a baby comes out of a woman’s vagina, no?

    The thing is, it sucks when people change so dramatically and horrifically in the space of less than a year. Women can go from carefree feminists to “listen to graphic stories about my baby’s body fluids over lunch” Stepford wives in less time than it takes to carry a baby to term. Hell, the fathers are perfectly capable of doing it too (”Yay, let’s grab a six pack and hang out” becomes “look at all these pix of my baby”). It’s scary, and those of us who don’t have kids don’t generally have a similar turning point – so our friends change radically with little or no warning. Worse, they always seem to think that we’re the assholes if we don’t react with utter pleasure at their abrupt metamorphosis and coo over things we couldn’t care less about as though they’re the center of our universe.

    Sure it can suck when your friends change. But as piny pointed out, people change for all kinds of reaons. What makes having kids so much worse?

    People become obsessed and attached to all kinds of things. I certainly have friends who I’m sure were irritated with my initial forray into feminism, and my obsession with discussing it constantly. Those who valued our friendship enough dealt with it. Those who felt it was a deal-breaker broke it off. That’s life.

    At the end of the day, friendships shift. People end them or continue them based on a variety of factors, including a lack of things to talk about. That’s fine. But blaming your friends for making different decisions than you’ve made is ridiculous.

    And shaming or criticizing women for having children is misogynist, and it is sexist. Would you call a woman who chose to use birth control selfish, or a woman who had an abortion a baby-killer or a slut? No? Then let’s not shame mothers in similar ways by calling them “breeders” and mocking them for the audacity to have children and care about them.

  50. piny
    December 13, 2006 at 7:31 pm

    This has yet to happen to me (my two pregnancy-affected friends are generally non-annoying) but from my fellow CFers’ stories, the gist I get is that people generally change either as soon as they learn they’re pregnant and decide to keep it, or as soon as they get home from the hospital. Usually the former. Generally, the only warning we seem to get is the sentence, “I’m/my partner is pregnant!” and then bam, it’s all over.

    Well, it’s good that you lucked into a couple of flukes, I guess.

    Seriously, if my friends had reacted like this when I came out–“But what about my feelings? You’re gonna go through this enormous life-altering change and it makes me really uncomfortable!”–I would have given them my therapist’s number and told them to lose mine.

    Change is change, sure, and people who have children are affected by the experience just like people who don’t are affected by that decision. But it doesn’t really make sense to latch onto someone only at a specific point in their life, because they probably won’t be there forever. Do you think that the distance somehow isn’t mutual, or that the remaining childfree have kept some sort of bargain by not changing their circumstances?

  51. piny
    December 13, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    1) When the comms I’m on refer to breeders we mean people who have kids but don’t parent them – I’ve seen plenty of male folk refered to as “breeders” over on cf_hardcore. There are also the acronyms “PNB” (Parent, not Breeder, used approvingly) and “BNP” (Breeder, not Parent, used disparagingly). I have also seen both of these used to refer to men. It’s true that usually when you see an ill-behaved child in public it’s with it’s mother, and it’s usually women giving us CFers crap for not having children, so lots of our rants are about women, but I suspect that is more a circumstantial thing than a terminology one.

    But breeder does not refer only or even generally to people who abandon their children–like you said, it also refers to people who are overinvolved and overinvested in their roles as parents. And it’s not circumstantial–rather than an alternative to sexism, it constitutes sexism. Instead of ranting about women simply because you happen to see them instead of their children’s fathers, take that disparity into account when looking at women as parents.

  52. everstar
    December 13, 2006 at 7:37 pm

    piny said:

    And what’s so horrific about this change?

    The fact that something grows inside them. And eats their brains, apparently.

    And Ealasaid said

    [T]he gist I get is that people generally change either as soon as they learn they’re pregnant and decide to keep it, or as soon as they get home from the hospital.

    Well, I hope so. It’d be a bit uncomfortable to get home from the hospital and not have prepared a place for the baby to sleep or have any diapers on hand.

    I shouldn’t be flippant here, but I’m having genuine trouble understanding why the change would come as such a shock. The parents-to-be are undertaking the raising and training of a whole new person. That would seem to require, the majority of the time, a large-scale reassessment of priorities such as time management, money management, household responsibilities, etc. Of course they’re going to change. How could they not?

  53. December 13, 2006 at 7:48 pm

    Jill said:

    And shaming or criticizing women for having children is misogynist, and it is sexist. Would you call a woman who chose to use birth control selfish, or a woman who had an abortion a baby-killer or a slut? No? Then let’s not shame mothers in similar ways by calling them “breeders” and mocking them for the audacity to have children and care about them.

    First: We don’t just call Moms breeders. In fact, merely having a kid doesn’t make you a breeder, not being a parent does.

    Second: I wouldn’t call a woman who had an abortion a baby-killer because it’s inaccurate (fetus != baby). I wouldn’t call her a slut because it’s a really messed up, loaded word. (“breeder” is loaded too – with anti-heterosexual terms. I’ve been called a breeder for being straight by a bi person who knew I was childfree. There’s a reason we generally just use “breeder” among the likeminded where it’ll be understood rather than hurling it in people’s faces.)

    Third: Breeders don’t care about their children. Not really. They don’t raise them to be happy or healthy. Those who do raise their children to be happy and healthy are not breeders, they’re parents.

    I honor parents – they have an incredibly hard job that you could not pay me enough to do (so do lawyers and honest politicians).

    Piny said:

    Seriously, if my friends had reacted like this when I came out–”But what about my feelings? You’re gonna go through this enormous life-altering change and it makes me really uncomfortable!”–I would have given them my therapist’s number and told them to lose mine.

    Neither I nor Clark reacted this way to our pregnant friends. Hell, she bit her tongue and didn’t snark at her friend for years (clearly she should have spoken up or dumped the friendship earlier, she seems pretty damn bitter).

    Do you think that the distance somehow isn’t mutual, or that the remaining childfree have kept some sort of bargain by not changing their circumstances?

    I do think the distance is mutual in most cases, but it seems like the child-obsessed don’t get that. They want to talk about their kids all the time and ignore even the most polite hints that we’re only vaguely interested and would rather hear about our friends themselves than our friends’ kids.

    One of my mottos (courtesy of Sars) is “Friendships have a lifespan.” It sucks but they do. But that doesn’t mean we CFers can’t gripe now and then that it sucks when people who were awesome become child-obsessed.

  54. December 13, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    And what’s so horrific about this change?

    I know you were asking Ealasaid, but for me, where there is any problem really depends on the mother-to-be/new mom. I have had friends who’ve become mothers and have never horrified me, but I have also had friends with whom all conversations degenerate to this template:

    Friend: –so I was finally able to get back to sleep around 5:00, but of course then the alarm went off an hour later. I am just so wiped out by all this. But anyway! Enough about me. What’s new with you?

    Me: Oh, gosh, nothing that exciting, but I did–

    Friend: [Something in rapid-fire German, a language I don’t speak or comprehend.]

    Me: I’m sorry . . . ?

    Friend: Oh, right, I forgot: You don’t speak German. Well, someday when you take lessons, you’ll understand just what I’m talking about.

    Me: When I do what? I have no plans to learn German.

    Friend: Oh, I used to say the exact same thing when I was in your shoes. But when you meet the right guy–

    Me: No, what? I have no plans to travel to Germany. I know no Germans. I don’t speak German. What’s the right guy got to do with any of this?

    Friend: I’m just saying, you’ll change your mind is all.

    Me: Well, anything’s possible, but I really doubt I’m going to sprechen sie Deutsch any time soon.

    Friend: Why? What have you got against the German language?

    Me: Nothing! I just–

    Friend: You know, as your friend, I have to say, I think it’s very selfish of you not to at least consider the idea.

    Except substitute “having children” for “learning German.” Regardless, the effect is just as crazy-making, because I get hit with three bad ideas all at once: One, that I’m a bad person for not knowing much about children. Two, that I’m a bad person for not particularly wanting to know much about children. Three, that it isn’t at all insensitive for the mother to make every aspect of the conversation about children and the having of them, but rather it is insensitive of me not to make her job easier by having children myself.

  55. December 13, 2006 at 7:55 pm

    None of the above, however, means I sympathize with the perpetually immature Gonzalez-Clark, or that I endorse “breeder” (as used by the childfree, not by the gay community) and “crotchdropping.” Add me to the chorus with Jill and piny on that score, Ealasaid.

  56. December 13, 2006 at 8:02 pm

    Piny said:

    rather than an alternative to sexism, it constitutes sexism. Instead of ranting about women simply because you happen to see them instead of their children’s fathers, take that disparity into account when looking at women as parents.

    I do not agree. I use “breeder” the way I use “asshole.” It is not sexist to call a person who gave me shit for not having kids a breeder any more than it’s sexist to call him/her an asshole. I suspect that we CFers only use the term “breeder” instead of “asshole” because we want a word for that special kind of asshole that breeders are.

    I’d say that the terms “breeder” and “asshole” are on about the same level, profanity/vulgarity-wise. Thus, I generally don’t use either when talking to the person who strikes me as being one, but I’ll happily use it while ranting to like-minded friends.

    Also: I have to say it rocks my socks to be in a dialog with some of the folks I most respect here on Feministe. I love being able to talk about something this important to me without it dissolving into a flamewar.

  57. piny
    December 13, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    I think gay people should give it up too, personally–especially given the number of us who’ve gone and bred.

    First: We don’t just call Moms breeders. In fact, merely having a kid doesn’t make you a breeder, not being a parent does.

    Second: I wouldn’t call a woman who had an abortion a baby-killer because it’s inaccurate (fetus != baby). I wouldn’t call her a slut because it’s a really messed up, loaded word. (”breeder” is loaded too – with anti-heterosexual terms. I’ve been called a breeder for being straight by a bi person who knew I was childfree. There’s a reason we generally just use “breeder” among the likeminded where it’ll be understood rather than hurling it in people’s faces.)

    Third: Breeders don’t care about their children. Not really. They don’t raise them to be happy or healthy. Those who do raise their children to be happy and healthy are not breeders, they’re parents.

    I honor parents – they have an incredibly hard job that you could not pay me enough to do (so do lawyers and honest politicians).

    I just don’t buy this. It’s not the way the word works, for one thing–you and the people in your immediate circle might use “breeder” this way, but most people definitely do not. Second, it doesn’t really work to separate a group of people into “the good ones” and “the bad ones” where the slur depends on the characteristic they have in common. If bad parents are characterized by selfishness and not by having children, call them selfish.

    Neither I nor Clark reacted this way to our pregnant friends. Hell, she bit her tongue and didn’t snark at her friend for years (clearly she should have spoken up or dumped the friendship earlier, she seems pretty damn bitter).

    What she should have done was not let her preferences get in the way of her respect for her friend as an adult and a human being. She doesn’t just come off as bitter. She comes off as self-absorbed. And just plain stupid.

    One of my mottos (courtesy of Sars) is “Friendships have a lifespan.” It sucks but they do. But that doesn’t mean we CFers can’t gripe now and then that it sucks when people who were awesome become child-obsessed.

    So you don’t mind when they in turn see you as horribly immature because you have failed to have children? That it sucks that you didn’t have a baby so you could keep them company?

  58. December 13, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    Except substitute “having children” for “learning German.”

    Ilyka Damen, you ROCK. That’s the best analogy I’ve seen on the topic in a long time.

  59. December 13, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    She seems to be talking about new parents, not just regular old parents. Babies are taxing and they take up most of your mental energy when you’re not dedicating it to something else — but babies grow up and children become more dependent. If her friends are new parents they probably will be completely flummoxed by everything they have to do in order to bring up baby, but babies aren’t babies forever.

    Once my little guy hit an age where I could leave and go out for an evening, I went out. I didn’t talk about him all night unless there was an event to talk about. I was more than happy to have company that wasn’t talking about Blues Clues and maybe had an interest in adult subjects like politics and world events. And access to gin.

  60. December 13, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    INdependent. Jesus.

  61. piny
    December 13, 2006 at 8:10 pm

    I do not agree. I use “breeder” the way I use “asshole.” It is not sexist to call a person who gave me shit for not having kids a breeder any more than it’s sexist to call him/her an asshole. I suspect that we CFers only use the term “breeder” instead of “asshole” because we want a word for that special kind of asshole that breeders are.

    I don’t think I can agree with this. “Asshole” really does seem to be gender neutral; it carries no gendered connotations, and really does seem to be a scatalogical reference. A good parallel would be, oh, “cocksucker” or the aforementioned “slut.” It can be applied to both men and women, but not in a neutral way.

    Also: I have to say it rocks my socks to be in a dialog with some of the folks I most respect here on Feministe. I love being able to talk about something this important to me without it dissolving into a flamewar.

    Same here. I’m currently child-less, but I do plan to have children, and love to hear about the ones my friends have. So I can’t connect with the “Feh” mentality, but it’s an interesting discussion.

  62. December 13, 2006 at 8:11 pm

    Also, I just have to say, I adore sharing the grosser parts of parenthood with my childfree friends.

    “And then they had to stitch my asshole closed thanks to the massive tear,” and “By the time I walked back to the room he pooped all the way up to his neck.”

    Talk about punk rawk points.

  63. piny
    December 13, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    Once my little guy hit an age where I could leave and go out for an evening, I went out. I didn’t talk about him all night unless there was an event to talk about. I was more than happy to have company that wasn’t talking about Blues Clues and maybe had an interest in adult subjects like politics and world events. And access to gin.

    Hah!

    I don’t want to anger the solvency gods, but this is totally why adopting a child rather than an infant doesn’t sound so bad to me. You mean they’ll sleep through the night right from the beginning?

  64. Medicine Man
    December 13, 2006 at 8:16 pm

    But breeder does not refer only or even generally to people who abandon their children–like you said, it also refers to people who are overinvolved and overinvested in their roles as parents. And it’s not circumstantial–rather than an alternative to sexism, it constitutes sexism. Instead of ranting about women simply because you happen to see them instead of their children’s fathers, take that disparity into account when looking at women as parents.

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, one way or the other, but I’m not sure your response makes that much sense, Piny. I re-read the post in question and your reply a few times and I’m trying to follow what you’re driving at. Let me know if I’m close.

    The most common use of the term “breeder” in my experience is as a put down on hetrosexual people. Along these lines, I would agree that using the term for another purpose (wastrel parent in this case) is probably unwise, as it carries derogatory connotations that have a more shotgun effect. I take it you are not saying this though, as the term is rather gender-neutral in this context.

    So what I think you’re saying, put in simpler terms, is that because the term is being used to critize parents and their parenting, and the majority of visible parenting is being done by women, the term is functionally sexist.

    If my second interperation is close to your point, then I think what you are saying is defensible, although you are putting a rather fine point on things in my opinion.

  65. December 13, 2006 at 8:26 pm

    MM, I think there’s something to be said about the heteronormativity of “breeder.” Gay people have kids and parent them too.

  66. December 13, 2006 at 8:29 pm

    Piny said:

    I don’t think I can agree with this. “Asshole” really does seem to be gender neutral; it carries no gendered connotations, and really does seem to be a scatalogical reference. A good parallel would be, oh, “cocksucker” or the aforementioned “slut.” It can be applied to both men and women, but not in a neutral way.

    I can see now that my setup was faulty – it only explains that I don’t mean to use “breeder” in a sexist way. Drat.

    In scientific terms, “breeder” refers to a creature who produces offspring – not sexist. Males can be breeders (think of breeding stallions, for example).

    In CF terms, it is not specifically used to talk about women. Men are perfectly capable of being breeders too, and will be called on it as such in CF comms. It’s not like it’s somehow OK to be a breeder if you’re a guy, unlike say, “slut,” which is more of a snarky compliment to a guy in today’s society.

    As an experiment, I went back through the archives of cf_hardcore searching for the word “breeder.” In the 80 most recent posts I found 3 non-specific uses (“breeder-friendly doctors,” etc), 1 male breeder rant, 1 female breeder rant. The other rants didn’t use the word at all. Not much of a study, I admit, but not bad, especially since cf_hardcore is one of the nastier rant comms for the CF on LiveJournal.

    Drat, time to head out to class. I look forward to reading responses later! Thanks everybody for being so thoughtful and polite to me even though you think I’m wrong. Rock on. Hope I did ok returning the favor.

  67. r4d20
    December 13, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    Single, Childless, Male …. and I love my friends kids.

  68. December 13, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    That article hit a nerve, so I apologize in advance for a long comment. Twelve years ago I was the equivalent of Ms. Gonzalez Clark’s friend.

    I got pregnant when I was 23, just as my superclubalcoholofaze lifestyle was starting to wear thin. The father and I had sort of found each other right when we were both sick to death of partying all of the time and the accompanying one-night, -week, or -month stands. We got married, I had my son, and after a year home with him I went back to school. Community college, undergrad, law school and now I’m a commercial litigator.

    I know for a fact that for quite a few of my old friends, my lifestyle changes were just too effin’ much. There were ugly confrontations. A number of my old friends refused to accept my new responsibilities–notably, the same ones that used to call me a “coffee-achieving corporate bitch” when I became an assistant manager at a freakin’ Natural Wonders and went to work every day. Ha! What would they say now?

    Some of my friends from my party-days, however, are still my closest friends. And some of them have kids, and some of them don’t. And some are married and childless, and some are single and childless, and some are gay and some are straight. And we have great fun parties about once every other month on a Saturday where everybody, with and without kids, all get together and hang and game. Interesting punkrock parents are raising interesting punkrock kids who all have several “aunts” and “uncles” as role models in their lives that (a) aren’t their parents, (b) are cool as hell, and (c) demonstrate to our kids that not everyone lives life just like they do. And we all love and support each other even though our lives are very different. It’s not easy to accommodate all of those different lifestyles into one big happy family-by-choice but we manage–by not being selfish and self-absorbed, and by respecting each others’ individual choices and identities.

    I was pregnant when I got married, but I think it’s misogynist as hell to characterize that as if I “had” to get married. I fucking chose to get married. Had I not wanted to marry my soon-to-be-ex, I wouldn’t have. I chose to have a baby after I got pregnant unexpectedly. Both choices were independent choices made for distinct reasons. Why in the hell would my being pregnant and choosing to have a baby mean I would HAVE to get married? By that point I’d been taking care of myself for years. I didn’t need someone to take care of me just because I was pregnant.

    The other thing that struck me as a bit rich was how impatient the author is with her friend’s talking about the baby and venting about her life, in an article in which all the author seems to be doing is venting about her life. Listening to a friend vent in a seemingly incessant fashion about her parenting woes might be tiresome, but don’t we all listen to tiresome venting from our friends when they need it? Believe me, it’s just as tiresome to let someone vent about their string of failed dates or days-drunk-in-a-row in a self-absorbed and obsessive fashion. Everyone vents to their friends, and everyone thinks that the subject matter of their venting is more interesting than it actually is to anyone listening. I’m sure Mrs. Gonzalez Clark thinks that article is utterly fascinating, for example.

  69. Medicine Man
    December 13, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    MM, I think there’s something to be said about the heteronormativity of “breeder.” Gay people have kids and parent them too.

    Granted.

    The term is still mostly associated with anti-hetro sentiment though. That sentiment, at the very least, is going to colour any other purpose the word is put towards.

  70. Medicine Man
    December 13, 2006 at 8:59 pm

    I guess I just don’t agree with Piny that the word “breeder” is particularly sexist. I’ve heard it used to slur people of both genders often enough to feel that its primary use is not to denigrade a certain gender.

    If Piny’s point was that the term, when used often to critize female parents, could easily be re-interperated as a functionally sexist term, then I would admit there is some truth to that.

  71. Starfoxy
    December 13, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    I don’t think that any of these child-induced drastic personality changes really are what they’re being made out to be. People just don’t really change that fast, I think it is normally one of two things:

    1. They always were like that (or have been becoming like that for months/years), now they have an outlet for it or don’t have to/want to hide it anymore.
    2. They’re acting out a common social script because they feel that is the most acceptable way for them to act or feel that they are supposed to act that way.

    Like many people have said becoming a parent is a huge change in responsibilities and priorities, and it is hard to know how to feel. This is especially true when there are no good role models because the whole parenting thing is so political that any display of a healthy array of genuine feelings will look like betrayal to some political ideal.

  72. December 13, 2006 at 9:51 pm

    there are no good role models because the whole parenting thing is so political that any display of a healthy array of genuine feelings will look like betrayal to some political ideal.

    I think I’m going to cross stitch this into a throw pillow and launch it in people’s faces when they question me about my life.

  73. Siobhan
    December 13, 2006 at 11:16 pm

    Meh. I’m in my 40’s and I still occasionally stay up until 3 AM playing silly buggers when I feel like it. (Occasionally my parent friends will get a baby-sitter for the evening and join me.)

    And I still wouldn’t have any interest in partying with Clark, because I think she’s a tool.

  74. December 14, 2006 at 12:43 am

    I am way late to this party, but I wanted to chime in on the use of “breeder” — because I was introduced to it as a term for heterosexual people that was the equivalent of “fag” or “dyke” for homosexual people. Consequentially, this whole thread has been an exercise in learning for me.

  75. exangelena
    December 14, 2006 at 9:45 am

    Here’s a link from a feminist blog about what she perceived as misogyny against mothers, the link is #6.

  76. December 14, 2006 at 9:48 am

    Huh. I’m no longer sure where I fit in. I like children, as long as they aren’t mine. I’m okay with my friends having kids and their lives changing, and if we grow apart, it’s sad, but I accept it. It doesn’t mean I’m no longer their friend and that I’ll never be there for them, it means maybe we can’t relate to each other right now. But I’ve never had that happen just because someone had kids (or got married)–it’s happened because someone’s values/views have changed, or we haven’t been putting time into the friendship.

    And I’ll cop to being like the parents that GC rails against, and I don’t even have kids. Didn’t matter. For the longest time, I bored people to tears with pictures of my niece and nephew, and stories of their exploits and their oh! so! insightful! out-of- the-mouths-of-babes comments. It ain’t just parents who do that. I’m just sayin’.

    I also don’t use breeder (though I admit, I’m sorely tempted when som assberet tells me that I’m a selfish leech for not having children). I think it’s an ugly word, and it’s dehumanizing. I got irritated with my gay friends for using it with me, and made Piny’s point that, duh, I don’t have kids. And crotchfruit is just gross. It does NOT make me think of children.

  77. Frumious B
    December 14, 2006 at 9:48 am

    You know, I’m sure you could come up with entire tribes there on just about any topic, but it doesn’t make it terribly relevant to the discussion here.

    you asked for references for “entire web sites displaying a disturbing amount of hateful rhetoric against ‘breeders’ and their ‘crotch droppings’, a fair amount of which i read as misogynistic.” I provided what I thought was a reference. I apologize for misunderstanding.

  78. zuzu
    December 14, 2006 at 9:54 am

    And crotchfruit is just gross. It does NOT make me think of children.

    It sounds like a brand of edible underwear, frankly.

  79. Thomas
    December 14, 2006 at 10:30 am

    The ex-Mother Superior that ran my high school’s AP English program many years ago got me to read Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons. The theme is that people don’t stay in one place in their lives, and those that refuse to adapt, die. It stayed with me. My politics have changed surprisingly little in the last few decades, but I now wear a suit every day and go home to a house in the suburbs with three young children. I decided many years ago to accept that I would evolve, and that acceptance has served me well.

  80. December 14, 2006 at 10:50 am

    Saying “Well *I* use the word breeder to mean [concept]” reminds me just a little of the guy who used the N word to mean people (or possibly POC, it wasn’t entirely clear) who failed to live up to their full potential. Not as extreme, but you can’t take a word that has an accepted meaning as a slur and make it mean something related but distinct. See also piny’s post about reclamation.

    And while breeder is delicately poised on the brink of misogynistic, I’ve read posts from LJ CF comms that use “moo”, and I have a hard time seeing that as anything else.

  81. orange
    December 14, 2006 at 10:56 am

    The only thing I could summon up when I read that article was a quote from Anchorman: “We’ve been coming to the same party for ten years. And in no way is that depressing !”

    Yeah, in real life ? It would be depressing. Thank goodness people change.

  82. bmc90
    December 14, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Ya know, it would be some poetic justice in a way if Clark ever had to take responsibility for a parent with dementia. She would find out very quickly how consuming care giving can be, how hard it is to get away, and how difficult it is to find things to discuss when you don’t have time to read the paper, watch TV, read novels, etc. How offended would she be if her “friends” would not cut her a little more slack when she can no longer relate to all night raves and goes on and on about losing her mom at the mall and cleaning up poop.

  83. Penny
    December 14, 2006 at 11:34 am

    The article made me remember how frightened I was in my 20’s. I got a good job, moved, and lost a few friends, not many though. When my friends in the city with the “everyone hangs out there” apartment left the country to earn money to pay off huge debts, I felt personally betrayed. As if they owed it to me to stay poor and keep that apartment going so I’d have a nice place to hang out and drink tea! Even though I’d left town the year before! This was when I began to see that I was not the nice person I had hoped I was. I felt very ashamed, and startled by this.

  84. Sara
    December 14, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    On growing up as “becoming a shell of a person,” I refer to the movie most of my generation can reference easily: “The Breakfast Club.” Remember Ally Sheedy’s line? “When you grow up, your heart dies.”

    That’s what we’ve been taught. It’s what we have to avoid. And apparently the best way to do this is to drink oneself to cirhhosis?

    I gave up all that stuff about the same time I graduated from college. Frankly, I never found any of it very fun, and stumbling home from strange houses in the wee hours to shower, still drunk, before getting to the job that was paying for college so I could live in the cool college town and *have* these experiences just wasn’t the totally bitchin’ experience people seemed to think it should be. I was a fuddy-duddy for a good 10 years before becoming a parent!

    But my other question about the original article: While it would have been a good opportunity to question the pressures on women to take on motherhood as proof of femininity, to “do it up right” – all the pressures making parenting so difficult… I’m bothered by her bringing it all down to her own presumtion that a woman who *did* feel “complete” in her own skin would obviously not *want* to have children. “I am enough” she says, as a reason she doesn’t want or need children.

    Why must it all come down to this litmus test of either feminism or individualism on either side? Why is the response to the pressure to breed to imply that anyone who *does* breed must have been an insecure moron who wasn’t strong enough to stand up to societal pressure?

  85. Kim
    December 14, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    Spoken like someone who’s forgotten what typical 20’s are ACTUALLY like. “What?? You’re not into being strapped for cash and having three roommates in a one bedroom apartment? And when was the last time you got drunk and threw up in a cab at 3 AM? Geez!”

  86. zuzu
    December 14, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    I’m bothered by her bringing it all down to her own presumtion that a woman who *did* feel “complete” in her own skin would obviously not *want* to have children. “I am enough” she says, as a reason she doesn’t want or need children.

    Well, that’s because she’s an idiot who can’t make a point.

    The point that’s there — that women are told that they need to have a child and a man in their lives to be “complete”, and that’s bullshit — but she doesn’t express it well, and she lets her own baggage get in the way.

    I’d be really, really, really upset if one of my friends came out and said that she wanted a baby because she didn’t feel complete. Because Clark is right on this one — no woman is incomplete without baby or without husbands. We’re each of us individuals, we’re each complete people, and in an ideal world, society would treat us that way instead of pushing the idea that we need “families” to make us “complete.”

    How about, we’re complete people already and we WANT to share our complete lives with other people? But I suppose that doesn’t mesh well with the idea that women have to be selfless and self-abnegating when they’re wives and mothers.

  87. tinfoil hattie
    December 14, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    No reasonable person believes all child-free/childless/not-with-children people are like Gonzalez-Clarke. Not even sellout, encumbered-with-children, married, took-my-husband’s-name-for-lazy-convenience’-sake me :-)

  88. December 14, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    I’d be really, really, really upset if one of my friends came out and said that she wanted a baby because she didn’t feel complete. Because Clark is right on this one — no woman is incomplete without baby or without husbands. We’re each of us individuals, we’re each complete people, and in an ideal world, society would treat us that way instead of pushing the idea that we need “families” to make us “complete.”

    I’d tried to touch on this on the P-thread, but while it’s probably very likely that someone says they need a baby to feel complete because they’re an ignant tool, there is also the possibility that they’re just not expressing the deep desire to integrate motherhood into their lives that they have — having a baby will create a new dimension in your life that may indeed “fill a hole” that you have in your identity if you want to be a parent so desperately, and we shouldn’t discount that (just like people shouldn’t discount that I don’t feel incomplete without one). It’s really easy to just dismiss statements like that as post-feminist mommytracking drivel, but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s right.

    I think a good friend would challenge a woman to better-articulate what she means when she says something like “Baby/Husband would make me feel complete” but not dismiss someone’s reasoning for a keeping a pregnancy (even an “oopsies” pregnancy) just because they used to party and make out with guys in gritty (Metamucil?) twilight.

  89. December 14, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    I vote we redefine the term “breeder,” as I don’t like either definition of it so far.

    I think “breeder” should be reserved for people who think everyone should have kids, no matter what their situation. Kinda like the people who think all dogs should have puppies because puppies are cute, regardless of any sort of logic told to them about spaying and neutering.

  90. Medicine Man
    December 14, 2006 at 7:06 pm

    Saying “Well *I* use the word breeder to mean [concept]” reminds me just a little of the guy who used the N word to mean people (or possibly POC, it wasn’t entirely clear) who failed to live up to their full potential. Not as extreme, but you can’t take a word that has an accepted meaning as a slur and make it mean something related but distinct. See also piny’s post about reclamation.

    That’s right. I was thinking about bringing up that whole thing with Firedoglake, in fact.

  91. kate
    December 14, 2006 at 11:17 pm

    It’s scary, and those of us who don’t have kids don’t generally have a similar turning point – so our friends change radically with little or no warning. Worse, they always seem to think that we’re the assholes if we don’t react with utter pleasure at their abrupt metamorphosis and coo over things we couldn’t care less about as though they’re the center of our universe.

    If you have no dramatic turning point in your life over the span of 10 years, then I’d say you need to get out and take some more risks. Also, just it might be healthy to just accept the fact that people grow apart as they grow older. Like momma told you every year on the first day of school, you’ll make new friends.

    I’m sure you’ll find a whole posse of like minded anti-change agents hanging at the local pub, holding onto the illusion that they are entitled to live lives of unending fun and carefreeness, otherwise known as immaturity and irresponsibility.

    Just to warn you though, as one gets older, substances usually are required to retain the illusion. Alcohol is widely popular and is famous for its properties of keeping people stuck in early adulthood for the rest of their lives.

    And mind, that has nothing to do with having children. The worse sight I’ve seen is a parent who neglects their child’s needs because they themselves have not grown up yet.

    Oh and its not dood, its dude.

  92. MARes
    December 14, 2006 at 11:44 pm

    If you insist on things being the way they were in your 20’s, you will be like those guys in the Diner, sitting around the same haunts, having the same conversations, while your adult life (wives, jobs, etc.) continue to be largely invisible to you emotinoally. Except when they intrude on your continued adolecence.

    Um, okay, but how is this different from Gonzalez’s Clark’s judgmental attitude? One of my neighbors was talking about how she doesn’t want to go to her 15th or 20th high school reunion, because she’s basically the same person she was in hs and she doesn’t want all of her peers making fun of her and calling her an overgrown adolescent because they lead radically different lives. Even though she’s not a self centered jerk but a perfectly nice person with a reasonable seeming life. She’s not hanging around the arcade or the package store, but she’s apparently basically the same person with many of the same goals and aspirations, likes and dislikes, and she’s good with it except she feels some sort of guilt trip, like she should be different and she should consider herself lame and want to live some completely different life. GC sounds like someone who wants everyone to live on her terms, but all this stuff about “If you’re the same as you were 10 years ago you must be a loser with Peter Pan syndrome!” isn’t necessarily true, either.

  93. JM
    December 15, 2006 at 12:38 am

    W-ell, clearly her I’m-too-punk-rock smugness is tiresome.

    OTOH, if she’s had to endure years of her friends also playing holier-than-thou and lecturing her on how she can only evolve by moving to the suburbs and wearing a business suit, how she’s appalling for thinking she’s *entitled* to actually live her life without getting it approved at the Bureau of Respectability, when and how her life milestones must occur, and how anyone who has different priorities is immature and irresponsible and obviously living an empty, deluded life of addiction and promiscuity…

    Yeah, can’t really blame her for snapping.

  94. December 15, 2006 at 1:16 am

    Until I was 30 I didn’t want kids. I didn’t have a nurturing bone in my body. I still don’t. But I decided to have one anyway at 30.

    It really didn’t change my life, even though I was a single parent by the time he was 2 1/2. Somehow, he just fit in.

    Now he’s all grown up, 26 years old, and we’re great friends.

    There are days I wonder what I contributed to this world. Work doesn’t count for much when I feel this way. As the old saying goes, no one ever says on their deathbed, “I wish I spent more time at the office.”

    It’s on those days, when I’m in that funk, I think, wow, I contributed this incredible human being who has a big heart and the ability to make his own contribution and if he cares enough, to try and make a difference in this world. And if he does nothing special, it doesn’t matter. He exists. Then I feel a great sense of pride.

    I may not have sacrificed all for my child (I didn’t, I’m too selfish) but in my current middle-age state, his company is one of the most rewarding things in my life.

    All I’m saying is kids don’t stay kids forever, and when they become adults, they become people in their own right — they become someone with whom you share an incredible connection….like being able to complete each other sentences and share a look when just the two of you get something no one else does.

    Having kids isn’t for everyone. I just know that if I didn’t have one, I would have missed out on something indescribable. I don’t reminisce about changing diapers, arranging play dates or leaving work early to take him to karate practice or having to cook dinner every night, all of which were a pain — it was great being liberated from all that as he grew older — but from the final result.

    So please, don’t just think of kids as toddlers. Picture them as adults, the same age as you are now, and how much you could share and enjoy each other when that time arrives.

    Relationships with spouses and significant others and partners are great. It’s been a while since I’ve had one. Yet, I doubt many people love being on their own, without any of them, as much as I do. On the other hand, there’s something about an adult child that just rocks my world.

    So don’t just think about today. Think about your lives 20 and 30 years from now. Having a child is a huge and personal decision. It should only come from the heart. Be grateful that women today have the ability to make this choice regardless of familial and societal pressure. You all know who you are. Make the choice for you.

    I hope you all don’t mind I crashed in here to share my thoughts.

  95. Linnaeus
    December 15, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    OTOH, if she’s had to endure years of her friends also playing holier-than-thou and lecturing her on how she can only evolve by moving to the suburbs and wearing a business suit, how she’s appalling for thinking she’s *entitled* to actually live her life without getting it approved at the Bureau of Respectability, when and how her life milestones must occur, and how anyone who has different priorities is immature and irresponsible and obviously living an empty, deluded life of addiction and promiscuity…

    This is a better statement of what I was trying to get at upthread. I agree with the other posters who say that change in one’s life is usually a healthy thing and that self-analysis about the direction of one’s life is likewise a good thing to do.

    But just as Gonzalez Clark comes off as hipper-than-thou, I think there’s also a tendency in our culture in the other direction to define things like responsibility and maturity in very narrow ways. I’m in my 30s, unmarried, and don’t want the wife/kids/house in the ‘burbs life that some of my friends have (at least not at present). I don’t think that means I’m immature and that my friends are responsible, or conversely, that I’m a bunch of fun and they’re only sticks-in-the-mud.

    As some folks have pointed out, we can all grow up in our own ways.

  96. Ron O
    December 15, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    I second Mighty Ponygirl above regarding feeling incomplete without a kid. I’ve wanted to be a parent most of my adult life. By my early 30s, I had to accept that it might not happen. I never dated a whole lot and would stay single for years at a time, so my prospects looked pretty thin at the time. I had what I felt was an almost full life. It had a lot going for it and I was basically happy, but I did feel that I wanted to be a parent and spouse. I decided that if I wasn’t married by 35-36, I’d begin the process of becoming an adoptive parent solo. Turns out I did get married and had a kid by 37. Now we have a second on the way. I feel very fortunate that I was able to fill a hollow space in my heart, even when I need to vent about being so sleep-deprived I feel nauseous.

  97. zuzu
    December 15, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    But just as Gonzalez Clark comes off as hipper-than-thou, I think there’s also a tendency in our culture in the other direction to define things like responsibility and maturity in very narrow ways. I’m in my 30s, unmarried, and don’t want the wife/kids/house in the ‘burbs life that some of my friends have (at least not at present). I don’t think that means I’m immature and that my friends are responsible, or conversely, that I’m a bunch of fun and they’re only sticks-in-the-mud.

    Right. GC really does damage to those of us who want to be viewed as full, complete adults despite the lack of wedding ring and offspring.

  98. December 15, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    Holy mother of God, how on Earth did her friend express THREE MONTHS’ WORTH of breastmilk? I’m doing well to have five ounces on hand at a time.

    Ahem.

    I am thrilled to be a parent (finally, at 36), but wouldn’t think of denigrating others who haven’t made the same choices I have. That way lie homogeneity and madness.

  99. Mnemosyne
    December 15, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    I’m still waiting for an explanation of how “crotch-dropper” is not a misogynist term.

    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  100. December 15, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    I’m still waiting for an explanation of how “crotch-dropper” is not a misogynist term.

    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

    Perhaps it’s referring to a man with a very, very small penis?

  101. December 16, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    I wish I could remember where I read a really interesting take on the rhetoric of the hard-core childfree people. Basically, as I recall, the poster opined that the terms come out of a lot of rage, and that a lot of people eventually sort of drift beyond the need to use that rhetoric, but their even discovering that there are people who feel similarly can cause a lot of hostility to come out.

    And yes, a lot of childfree people do have a lot of hostility towards people who have children, in part because of the sheer amount of natalist propaganda that’s out there. If I had a nickel for every person who told me that people should have kids because “that’s what our purpose in life is,” I could quit this annoying job I’ve currently got and retire somewhere warm. (I’m the kind of person who answers “What is the purpose of [grand abstract ideal]?” with “Why do you assume that [GAI] has a purpose?” so I’m probably not a good one to talk.)

    I don’t go around calling people “breeders” and “moos” and “duhs,” (but I do like how they started referring to obnoxious youngsters as “Twitney” and “Bratley”), but I have sympathy with the anger. We’re the kind of people who, yes, get frustrated with people who say that we’re “selfish” for not wanting kids; for our encounters with the Pregnancy Police (“So, when are you and So-and-So having kids?”) and, oftentimes, the sheer lack of things for older people (as in, in our 30s) without families or children to do in places. (My hometown is terrible for this. It’s a great place if you’re married and have 2.4 kids by the time you’re my age, but try being my age and finding anything entertaining to do out of the house on a Saturday night. Your options here are basically go to a bar, or go to a mall. Fu-un…)

    Oddly, I read this comment: “So you don’t mind when they in turn see you as horribly immature because you have failed to have children? That it sucks that you didn’t have a baby so you could keep them company?” and thought, immediately, “They’re going to do that anyway, so why not?” When the dichotomy in society is that “responsible adults” grow up, pair off, and breed, and the immature ones don’t, I think it’s nearly inevitable. Just look at the way abortion opponents always speak of having an unwanted kid as “taking responsibility” and how many people equate becoming a mature adult with ultimately ceding your life entirely over to familial and social obligations. The further right you go on the political spectrum, the more you’re going to find that attitude, but it’s still pretty prevalent anyway.

    Madness! It’s all madness!

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