I’m a little thrown by this article about “push presents” — gifts given to new moms from their partners as a reward for birthing a baby. There’s nothing wrong with giving your partner a gift, especially after she’s just been through a trying ordeal. There’s nothing wrong with thinking it’s really nice that your partner bought you a present after you just lived through an experience that, as one woman describes, “redefines the meaning of pain.”
So it’s not the idea itself that bothers me. It’s the way it’s being discussed. The Times article follows the tired narrative of the greedy nagging gold-digging wife and the slightly clueless but well-intentioned husband handing over the cash to keep her happy. It’s stuff like this:
Push presents seem to have taken off within the last decade, particularly in the last couple of years. In 2005 the Southeast-based jewelry chain Mayors marketed diamond earrings with the tag line, “She delivered your first born; now give her twins.” Fortunoff, the jewelry and gift chain with a Fifth Avenue flagship, established a push present registry six months ago.
“She delivered your first born; now give her twins”? Mama isn’t a stork, and she didn’t miraculously push your sole creation out of her body.
And the rest of the article goes on about whether or not women “deserve” expensive baubles as a gift for child-birth, all while maintaining the argument that women en masse are demanding diamonds and men are patting the little dears on the head:
In general, women enlighten their men about push presents, not the other way around. Chris Beggini, a 43-year-old mutual fund manager in Radnor, Pa., didn’t know about the practice until his wife, Jennifer, straightened him out. “We talked about how she had nine months of difficulty, and ‘Aren’t I the good soldier?’ blah blah blah,” he recalled.
So when the Begginis begat Abigail in 1999, Ellie in 2002, and Julia last year, Mr. Beggini responded with earrings, a bracelet and what he jokingly calls a “suffer ring.”
“You have to keep mama happy,” he said.
…which is the other thing that bothers me: The persistent feeling that women are being bought. A woman is doing her husband this favor, see, by birthing “his” child, and so he pays her for her services. There’s also an aspect of infantilization — a little “there-there” for the whiny lady who just pushed a football-sized human being through a hole the size of pencil. The narrative is that he’s the provider and she’s the providee entrusted with creating a new generation of provider, and when she holds up her end of the contract, she gets the carat (har har). Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you think that parenting should be a strictly business arrangement. I’m not of that persuasion. And then I think, well, pregnancy is long and difficult, and childbirth really sucks, and she has to leave work and she isn’t as mobile as before and she’s risking her health to do this — why shouldn’t she be compensated?
…but with diamonds?
Like I said, I don’t begrudge anyone their presents. If I impregnated someone and he carried the pregnancy for 10 months, sacrificing his body, his professional life, and possibly his emotional stability to give birth, I would probably feel inclined to get him something really, really nice — and to be really, really nice to him. And I suspect that a lot of the interviews for this article were manipulated so that they would fit into the simplistic gold-digger narrative. But I’m also sure that there are people who feel entitled to expensive jewelry when they give birth (do I need to mention what socio-economic class these people probably belong to?). It’s a class thing that I’m not accustomed to, and that I find thoroughly out of touch — after all, the sector of the population that relates to this article is, in a global perspective, teeny-tiny. It’s a very privileged view to be able to worry about “push presents.”
To my ears, it sounds incredibly bizarre; but for some women, it’s a survival skill. When your social worth is dependent on how much stuff you have, and you’re in a situation where even greater status is conferred when someone provides you with that stuff, you adapt. It’s not a great system, but there it is.
Which makes me think that all of the men who read this article and wring their hands over the selfish, selfish bitches demanding demanding presents for labor should really start thinking about how to dismantle a patriarchal social structure thats puts a small group of men at the top, privileges men in accordance with their wealth, and otherwise screws over the rest of us.
But I have a feeling it’s easier to just blame the selfish bitches.
Thanks to Fauzia for the link.