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The battle over breastfeeding Feminism has recoiled from female biology

Women have such power. Credit: Getty

Women have such power. Credit: Getty


June 8, 2023   5 mins

My eldest son is currently in the middle of his GCSEs. I’m not worried about the results, though, because I breastfed him.

Babies who were breastfed “get better GCSE marks” apparently. Get in! I did this for all three of mine! To be fair, it’s not why I did it, which is just as well, since the science upon which this is based turns out to be shaky. Moreover, one of the key outcomes of this sort of reporting doesn’t make breastfeeding any easier, it makes women who have bottle-fed feel bad.

If it looks as though mothers are being shamed, that’s because they are. At a time when feminists fight to articulate why femaleness matters, stories such as this back up the idea that any appreciation for female bodies will be used against us.

I didn’t choose to breastfeed out of some desire to meet standards of feminine compliance — if anything, that was something I feared. I believe that the feeding relationship is unique, and that it matters, like pregnancy and birth, in relation to women’s social and political status. I know this might sound contradictory if one is simultaneously asserting that women should be free to choose not to do it. How can you value something only a woman’s body can do without suggesting this is what all women should do? But this is a trap into which so many of us fall, and which “breastfeed for GCSE grades!”-style reporting only makes worse. It doesn’t represent the truth of what breastfeeding is and means.

When we strip it away from narratives of duty, breastfeeding is not at all feminine. Nothing to do with femaleness — actual femaleness — really is. To be honest, I often found it comical. There was the time my middle son turned his head at an inopportune moment, making me projectile squirt milk across Costa Coffee; the time I was so feverish and exhausted, I became convinced my electric breast pump was playing the theme to Byker Grove; those months when my youngest son favoured one breast, leaving me shrivelled on one side, engorged and enormous on the other (it felt like a metaphor for something, though I could never decide what).

I don’t miss feeling my body was not my own, those moments when — usually pumping, not feeding — I feared I had become the patriarchal non-person: woman as animal, the very image of femaleness so often dreaded by adolescent girls (is that all you want to be, some beast of the field?). I do miss the connection, the utter bizarreness of my body’s responses, that sudden awareness that no, this did not make me a lesser human. How could I ever have feared that? Just because I was experiencing something men didn’t? Women are terrorised out of appreciating the magic of our own bodies — we’re terrorised out of using words such as “magic” — by the constant threat of dehumanisation.

“The ancient, continuing envy, awe and dread of the male for the female capacity to create life,” wrote Adrienne Rich, “has repeatedly taken the form of hatred for every other female aspect of creativity.” Now, more than ever, women and girls are told that if they wish to be considered full human beings, with complex inner lives, they must set aside any politics focused on the female body. A million misreadings of de Beauvoir’s “one is not born, but rather becomes a woman” — or of the phrase “biology is not destiny” — are deployed to suggest that the way to liberate women is to liberate the concept itself from any association with the bodies of menstruators, gestators, lactators. That sort of “inclusive” language reduces one half of the human race to pure function and leakage.

Like pregnancy and birth, breastfeeding cannot be compared to anything else. It is extraordinary, yet because only female people do it, it is often ridiculed, treated with disgust or aligned with women’s subordinate status (unless male people can contrive a way to simulate it, whereupon it becomes a miracle worthy of a victory statue). “Breasts,” wrote Mary O’Brien in The Politics of Reproduction, “have been sometimes flaunted, sometimes flattened, understood as sensual tit-bits rather than as purposeful instruments of nurture. All the while, men have fashioned their world with a multiplicity of phallic symbols which even Freud could not catalogue exhaustively.”

When I breastfed my children, I still bore the scars of a complex relationship with food, flesh and femaleness. With my first two babies, part of me was still obsessed with the idea of not getting “captured” by maternity. I feared getting sucked into what Naomi Wolf described as “a primordial soup of femaleness … the unbounded, unidentified matrix out of which new life comes creeping”. “But I’m an individual!” I’d protest. “A proper, unique person in my own right!” It took me until the birth of my third child, when I was already in my forties, to understand the way in which uniquely female bonds are disrupted by this terror of being forced to hand back one’s “human” card. We would rather deny the specificity of our embodied relationship with our own children than risk being written off as some mindless blob of reproductive matter.

Yet the men who would write us off, won’t change their minds. Look at the treatment of any woman who pushes back, even in the mildest way, against the idea that femaleness is socially and politically irrelevant. How quickly her status crumbles; how soon she’ll be told she’s a biological essentialist who thinks all women are baby making machines. Denying what our bodies can do will not save us. Recognising it might.

The pride women take in their female bodies ought to be a collective one. It should not be reliant on individual experience — my child might do slightly better on WJEC English Literature Paper 1 because I was getting my tits out in Costa Coffee in 2007 — but on an understanding of ourselves as the sex class with the capacity to create life.

It pains me to know I will now get the “oh, so you think all female people are fertile?” or “what about women who don’t want children?” or “my mum’s had a mastectomy, are you saying she’s not a woman?” treatment. But this is where we are: intelligent people feigning stupidity rather than countenance that female people should ever be bonded by collective pride at that power to gestate and birth. On the other hand, no one has a problem with shaming us because we can’t breastfeed.

Rich wrote of her belief “that female biology — the diffuse, intense sensuality radiating out from clitoris, breasts, uterus, vagina; the lunar cycles of menstruation; the gestation and fruition of life which can take place in the female body — has far more radical implications than we have yet come to appreciate”: “Patriarchal thought has limited female biology to its own narrow specifications. The feminist vision has recoiled from female biology for these reasons; it will, I believe, come to view our physicality as a resource, rather than a destiny.”

This is feminism, not flight from the body, nor fear that our own bodies do not measure up. We’re the reason men had to pretend they were gods. It’s about so much more than GCSEs.


Victoria Smith is a writer and creator of the Glosswitch newsletter.

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Cynthia W.
CW
Cynthia W.
10 months ago

Speaking as a mother of 10, I would like to point out that breastfeeding is a lot cheaper and more convenient than bottle-feeding. At the most difficult times, I would say to myself, “Remember, it’s free.”

Alison Wren
AW
Alison Wren
10 months ago
Reply to  Cynthia W.

And more freedom….. no need for any paraphernalia just a spare nappy and we’re off out!! Feed on the bus in the pictures at a party!! And better for the mother (get shape back, no stressful screaming in the night, less washing up) what’s not to like?????

Brendan O'Leary
BO
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago
Reply to  Cynthia W.

Mother of 10?
Brava, Cynthia!

Cynthia W.
CW
Cynthia W.
10 months ago

Thank you. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy very good health.

Ali Maegraith
AM
Ali Maegraith
10 months ago
Reply to  Cynthia W.

All that feminism did for me was made me feel guilty for not achieving enough even though I had three kids in 3 1/2 years. Now as an older women I wish I’d said ‚stuff it‘ and just had more kids! I think you should be the one writing about women Cynthia!

Ali Maegraith
AM
Ali Maegraith
10 months ago
Reply to  Cynthia W.

All that feminism did for me was made me feel guilty for not achieving enough even though I had three kids in 3 1/2 years. Now as an older women I wish I’d said ‚stuff it‘ and just had more kids! I think you should be the one writing about women Cynthia!

Cynthia W.
CW
Cynthia W.
10 months ago

Thank you. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy very good health.

Alison Wren
AW
Alison Wren
10 months ago
Reply to  Cynthia W.

And more freedom….. no need for any paraphernalia just a spare nappy and we’re off out!! Feed on the bus in the pictures at a party!! And better for the mother (get shape back, no stressful screaming in the night, less washing up) what’s not to like?????

Brendan O'Leary
BO
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago
Reply to  Cynthia W.

Mother of 10?
Brava, Cynthia!

Cynthia W.
CW
Cynthia W.
10 months ago

Speaking as a mother of 10, I would like to point out that breastfeeding is a lot cheaper and more convenient than bottle-feeding. At the most difficult times, I would say to myself, “Remember, it’s free.”

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

This is a welcome article as far as i’m concerned. It’s also topical, since my daughter is currently breastfeeding, including discreetly in restaurants. No-one bats an eyelid: the most natural and nurturing thing in the world.

The author could have mentioned the idiocy around the term “chestfeeding” but resisted the temptation. She made enough pretty salient points around both female and male perceptions and attitudes to womanhood without needing to venture into the trans debate.

She’s also right about patriarchal expressions of inadequacy around bringing forth life into the world; feeling the need to act like “gods” to compensate. Indeed.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

She was defending Paris Mayo on Twitter last week. Look the name up.
Spoke about the “trauma” of being a child murderer. She didn’t say a word about the trauma the baby must have felt being murdered by the woman who “brought it forth”.
So much about inadequacy about bringing forth life. You can bet Smith supports murdering children inside the womb, so it is no surprise she supports it outside the womb.
Funny how she femsplains what men feel, and yet, for men, it is “no uterus, no opinion”. Feminists say what they like about men and then say men are not qualified to talk about women, unless it parrots their narrative, of course. Funny how that works. Can you, or her, explain how women bring forth life without men?
Also, if she were an honest individual, she would acknowledge how feminism has a history of biology denial and social constructivism. But she isn’t, so she won’t.

Last edited 10 months ago by Galvatron Stephens
Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

A typical example of mansplaining feminism.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Double post

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Unherd’s moderation policy at fault with these repeat posts

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

A typical example of the pollution of English with the excrementitious term “mansplaining”.
I could just as easily accuse you of “mansplaining”, “Steve”.

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

How would you classify your use of the term “femsplaining”, then? With each successive post, you’re digging yourself deeper into a… erm, manhole.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Don’t give up the day job, Steve. Although I pity whoever has to work with you.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Don’t give up the day job, Steve. Although I pity whoever has to work with you.

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

How would you classify your use of the term “femsplaining”, then? With each successive post, you’re digging yourself deeper into a… erm, manhole.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Thanks for triple-mansplaining, Steve

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

A typical example of the pollution of English with the excrementitious term “mansplaining”.
I could just as easily accuse you of “mansplaining”, “Steve”.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Thanks for triple-mansplaining, Steve

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

A typical example of mansplaining feminism.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Double post

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Unherd’s moderation policy at fault with these repeat posts

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Samir Iker
SI
Samir Iker
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“patriarchal expressions of inadequacy around bringing forth life into the world; feeling the need to act like “gods” to compensate”.
One of the curious aspects of feminists, most modern women really, and white knights, is the extraordinary degree of projection.
The mythical patriarchy didn’t feel inadequate about the motherhood – most cultures venerated and celebrated the miracle of pregnancy and motherhood.
And men, for thousands of generations, didn’t act like Gods. They acted like mortal, frail human beings who died like flies, in war, building society, working dangerous jobs, providing, just so that women didn’t need to, and children would not be deprived of their mothers.

The problem is modern women feeling inadequate because they want to compete against men. Those same women denigrate feminity and traditional feminine roles. And while they mostly work in nice care and office jobs, they fall short of men when it comes to competing in male domains, as Wrexham FC over 40s showed in spectacular fashion.
They hate their inadequacy, and they project that on men.

Last edited 10 months ago by Samir Iker
Terry Raby
TR
Terry Raby
10 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

it is truly bizarre – this fantasising attempt to implicate males in these intra female ideological disputes; as though males are the explanation for everything female.

Amy J
AJ
Amy J
10 months ago
Reply to  Terry Raby

You have to be a True Believer of the Feminist Myth to accept her analysis (which I am not). In the same way, only true believers of the Christian myth (which I am) will accept the Christian Narrative. This kind of Feminist does not see a world of ordinary men and women living together or struggling to live together as the world changes (socially, morally, economically). In this Great Myth there are no ordinary men struggling to make ends meet to feed their wives and children, only male predators conspiring to “control women” and prevent our inevitable breakout; the Great Patriarchy conspiracy theory. For what it’s worth, there’s, I believe, an increase number of feminists who see this as what it is: a false myth: a mere fantasy that exists against a Christian vision of the world.
Her worldview is radically uncharitable and fantastical. In my opinion, a certain level of charity is owed to the past.

Amy J
AJ
Amy J
10 months ago
Reply to  Terry Raby

You have to be a True Believer of the Feminist Myth to accept her analysis (which I am not). In the same way, only true believers of the Christian myth (which I am) will accept the Christian Narrative. This kind of Feminist does not see a world of ordinary men and women living together or struggling to live together as the world changes (socially, morally, economically). In this Great Myth there are no ordinary men struggling to make ends meet to feed their wives and children, only male predators conspiring to “control women” and prevent our inevitable breakout; the Great Patriarchy conspiracy theory. For what it’s worth, there’s, I believe, an increase number of feminists who see this as what it is: a false myth: a mere fantasy that exists against a Christian vision of the world.
Her worldview is radically uncharitable and fantastical. In my opinion, a certain level of charity is owed to the past.

Terry Raby
TR
Terry Raby
10 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

it is truly bizarre – this fantasising attempt to implicate males in these intra female ideological disputes; as though males are the explanation for everything female.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

She was defending Paris Mayo on Twitter last week. Look the name up.
Spoke about the “trauma” of being a child murderer. She didn’t say a word about the trauma the baby must have felt being murdered by the woman who “brought it forth”.
So much about inadequacy about bringing forth life. You can bet Smith supports murdering children inside the womb, so it is no surprise she supports it outside the womb.
Funny how she femsplains what men feel, and yet, for men, it is “no uterus, no opinion”. Feminists say what they like about men and then say men are not qualified to talk about women, unless it parrots their narrative, of course. Funny how that works. Can you, or her, explain how women bring forth life without men?
Also, if she were an honest individual, she would acknowledge how feminism has a history of biology denial and social constructivism. But she isn’t, so she won’t.

Last edited 10 months ago by Galvatron Stephens
Samir Iker
SI
Samir Iker
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“patriarchal expressions of inadequacy around bringing forth life into the world; feeling the need to act like “gods” to compensate”.
One of the curious aspects of feminists, most modern women really, and white knights, is the extraordinary degree of projection.
The mythical patriarchy didn’t feel inadequate about the motherhood – most cultures venerated and celebrated the miracle of pregnancy and motherhood.
And men, for thousands of generations, didn’t act like Gods. They acted like mortal, frail human beings who died like flies, in war, building society, working dangerous jobs, providing, just so that women didn’t need to, and children would not be deprived of their mothers.

The problem is modern women feeling inadequate because they want to compete against men. Those same women denigrate feminity and traditional feminine roles. And while they mostly work in nice care and office jobs, they fall short of men when it comes to competing in male domains, as Wrexham FC over 40s showed in spectacular fashion.
They hate their inadequacy, and they project that on men.

Last edited 10 months ago by Samir Iker
Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

This is a welcome article as far as i’m concerned. It’s also topical, since my daughter is currently breastfeeding, including discreetly in restaurants. No-one bats an eyelid: the most natural and nurturing thing in the world.

The author could have mentioned the idiocy around the term “chestfeeding” but resisted the temptation. She made enough pretty salient points around both female and male perceptions and attitudes to womanhood without needing to venture into the trans debate.

She’s also right about patriarchal expressions of inadequacy around bringing forth life into the world; feeling the need to act like “gods” to compensate. Indeed.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Caty Gonzales
CG
Caty Gonzales
10 months ago

I have never read a male version of something like this. A man going about how his ability to gain an erection (some men are impotent!) or grow a beard (not all men can grow beards!) is somehow spiritual or life affirming. What it is like to implant your seed in someone else and watch her belly grow. The radical act of walking down the street with a hidden erection. The torment of wet dreams! Let’s talk about the sensuality of the male form…
Do men just go through life accepting of their bodies or what? Are they disconnected to them? Do they read articles like this and think women must come from another planet, or do they wish there were more similar articles about the male body and the sense of self in relation to it?

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

We do, pretty much. Fact is, men know that no men want to hear about their bodies and very few women, either. They also know the shouty feminist women online would accuse them of male privilege or mansplaining or whatever.
To be honest, it is only feminists I have seen this kind of writing from. The ideology is very attractive to women with a bit of left-wing education and a lot of narcissism. And writing about your body involves literally zero expertise, entails writing about yourself and indulging in a load of emotional nonsense and solipsism. Perfect fodder for fems like Smith. They seem to think women have superhuman powers, despite being oppressed and marginalised on the basis of biology, apparently.

Last edited 10 months ago by Galvatron Stephens
Betsy Warrior
BW
Betsy Warrior
10 months ago

Ho, ho. Men don’t brag about their ability to have an erection even in their eighties? And their obsession with E.D. drugs to keep up their virile image. All that grooming of mustaches and beards so as not to be scraggly or skimpy. And the steroids and protein shakes to bulk up the muscles that in the end might give them a heart attack or send them into a roid rage. Sure men have their own vanities. There is a lot of empty swagger about strength and virility.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Warrior

Thanks for proving my point Betsy.

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Warrior

Thanks for proving my point Betsy.

Betsy Warrior
BW
Betsy Warrior
10 months ago

Ho, ho. Men don’t brag about their ability to have an erection even in their eighties? And their obsession with E.D. drugs to keep up their virile image. All that grooming of mustaches and beards so as not to be scraggly or skimpy. And the steroids and protein shakes to bulk up the muscles that in the end might give them a heart attack or send them into a roid rage. Sure men have their own vanities. There is a lot of empty swagger about strength and virility.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Men accept their bodies because what choice do they have? They know there would be next to no audience for such an article and fems like Smith would harangue them for mansplaining or male privilege or whatever.
Feminists seem to be quite adept at this kind of writing, as they need make zero reference to any scientific works and can essentially just talk about themselves and their opinions. With some of them, like Smith, it is almost like they are talking about having superpowers.

B Davis
BD
B Davis
10 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Truthfully, most of the time, most of us (men & women alike) have better things to do than worry about the silliness which is the philosophical nature of the reality of our biological existence and whether or not some twit somewhere is dissing that reality in some academic journal that no one ever reads.
The vast majority of us do not have …and could not conceive of proclaiming that we somehow possess “scars of a complex relationship with food, flesh and femaleness (or maleness, as the case may be)”.
Instead we’d ask, “How complex can a relationship with a burger be? How scarring a bowl of oatmeal?”
The embodied self is the embodied self; there is nothing else. To struggle to accept that fundamental truth is to struggle to accept the necessity of breath and the compulsion of a heart beat. We accept Truth because it is impossible to refuse it.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

We do, pretty much. Fact is, men know that no men want to hear about their bodies and very few women, either. They also know the shouty feminist women online would accuse them of male privilege or mansplaining or whatever.
To be honest, it is only feminists I have seen this kind of writing from. The ideology is very attractive to women with a bit of left-wing education and a lot of narcissism. And writing about your body involves literally zero expertise, entails writing about yourself and indulging in a load of emotional nonsense and solipsism. Perfect fodder for fems like Smith. They seem to think women have superhuman powers, despite being oppressed and marginalised on the basis of biology, apparently.

Last edited 10 months ago by Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Men accept their bodies because what choice do they have? They know there would be next to no audience for such an article and fems like Smith would harangue them for mansplaining or male privilege or whatever.
Feminists seem to be quite adept at this kind of writing, as they need make zero reference to any scientific works and can essentially just talk about themselves and their opinions. With some of them, like Smith, it is almost like they are talking about having superpowers.

B Davis
BD
B Davis
10 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Truthfully, most of the time, most of us (men & women alike) have better things to do than worry about the silliness which is the philosophical nature of the reality of our biological existence and whether or not some twit somewhere is dissing that reality in some academic journal that no one ever reads.
The vast majority of us do not have …and could not conceive of proclaiming that we somehow possess “scars of a complex relationship with food, flesh and femaleness (or maleness, as the case may be)”.
Instead we’d ask, “How complex can a relationship with a burger be? How scarring a bowl of oatmeal?”
The embodied self is the embodied self; there is nothing else. To struggle to accept that fundamental truth is to struggle to accept the necessity of breath and the compulsion of a heart beat. We accept Truth because it is impossible to refuse it.

Caty Gonzales
CG
Caty Gonzales
10 months ago

I have never read a male version of something like this. A man going about how his ability to gain an erection (some men are impotent!) or grow a beard (not all men can grow beards!) is somehow spiritual or life affirming. What it is like to implant your seed in someone else and watch her belly grow. The radical act of walking down the street with a hidden erection. The torment of wet dreams! Let’s talk about the sensuality of the male form…
Do men just go through life accepting of their bodies or what? Are they disconnected to them? Do they read articles like this and think women must come from another planet, or do they wish there were more similar articles about the male body and the sense of self in relation to it?

William Shaw
WS
William Shaw
10 months ago

Just one small quibble…
The author writes: “an understanding of ourselves as the sex class with the capacity to create life.”
Simply put, women are the “sex class” that gestates a baby (life), but they do not create it. Only a man and woman together can create life.
A small point but an important one I think.

B Davis
B Davis
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Not so small…and indeed, quite critical! Egg & sperm…love & marriage: I suspect they both go together like a horse & carriage!

B Davis
BD
B Davis
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Not so small…and indeed, quite critical! Egg & sperm…love & marriage: I suspect they both go together like a horse & carriage!

William Shaw
WS
William Shaw
10 months ago

Just one small quibble…
The author writes: “an understanding of ourselves as the sex class with the capacity to create life.”
Simply put, women are the “sex class” that gestates a baby (life), but they do not create it. Only a man and woman together can create life.
A small point but an important one I think.

Anthony Roe
AR
Anthony Roe
10 months ago

This poor woman has spent her entire life worrying about what other people thnk or write.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Roe

Hating one half of the population to a deadline for a handsome sum is a lucrative kind of insecurity.

William Shaw
WS
William Shaw
10 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Roe

For someone with three sons (and maybe a husband) she sure seems to have plenty of grudges against men.

Last edited 10 months ago by William Shaw
Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

She has boasted on several occasions on how all her sons wore dresses. Totally their choice, of course.

William Shaw
WS
William Shaw
10 months ago

Her exact words were:
“I have three children, all biologically male, all of whom have played with dolls houses and worn dresses. Two of them have Frozen-style long blonde hair and I’ve never bought any of them a toy gun (nor have any of them asked for one).”

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

I am sure we can take her word for it.

B Davis
BD
B Davis
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

I’m heard that story before…and it’s usually accompanied by the punchline: …and then one day my 3 yr old boy walked out after having his bath, surrounded there by little rubber duckies, and this time he has a duck with him, upside down in his hand. He’s grabbing it by the head & neck with the tail pointed towards his brother, going “bang, bang, bang! I got you!”

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

I am sure we can take her word for it.

B Davis
BD
B Davis
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

I’m heard that story before…and it’s usually accompanied by the punchline: …and then one day my 3 yr old boy walked out after having his bath, surrounded there by little rubber duckies, and this time he has a duck with him, upside down in his hand. He’s grabbing it by the head & neck with the tail pointed towards his brother, going “bang, bang, bang! I got you!”

William Shaw
WS
William Shaw
10 months ago

Her exact words were:
“I have three children, all biologically male, all of whom have played with dolls houses and worn dresses. Two of them have Frozen-style long blonde hair and I’ve never bought any of them a toy gun (nor have any of them asked for one).”

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

She has repeatedly bragged about her sons wearing dresses. Totally their choice, of course.

Last edited 10 months ago by Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

She has boasted on several occasions on how all her sons wore dresses. Totally their choice, of course.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

She has repeatedly bragged about her sons wearing dresses. Totally their choice, of course.

Last edited 10 months ago by Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Roe

Hating one half of the population to a deadline for a handsome sum is a lucrative kind of insecurity.

William Shaw
WS
William Shaw
10 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Roe

For someone with three sons (and maybe a husband) she sure seems to have plenty of grudges against men.

Last edited 10 months ago by William Shaw
Anthony Roe
AR
Anthony Roe
10 months ago

This poor woman has spent her entire life worrying about what other people thnk or write.

John Murray
JM
John Murray
10 months ago

At risk of being pedantic about biology, but women cannot create life. Very hard to do absent male, uh, input. Grow life after the deed is done though, undoubtedly aces at that.

Simon Blanchard
SB
Simon Blanchard
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

To be fair, there were reports in the news yesterday of a female crocodile that managed to self impregnate. So who knows what evolution has coming down the pipe? So to speak.

Cynthia W.
CW
Cynthia W.
10 months ago

Many female animals, especially invertebrates, can store sperm in their bodies until conditions – usually food supplies – are optimal for egg-laying.
When my 3rd daughter was raising black widow spiders, her female produced four egg sacks while living alone in a jar because she was getting so much to eat. Daughter C would use chopsticks to feed crickets to the spider, which got visibly fat.

Ray Andrews
RA
Ray Andrews
10 months ago

Males don’t exist because evolution can’t do without them, they exist because they are worth the trouble. They are the device whereby genes are recombined and tested for fitness. That’s why even in civilized societies men, to this day, are tested, and only the fittest succeed. The rest are thrown away like drones and nobody gives a damn.
Only women are entitled to protection. Men are expendable and the best of us devote our lives to the sustaining of women and children. That’s called Oppression — when women make less money than men exactly because they get to spend the money that men make for them and don’t have to bother earning it themselves.

Alison Wren
AW
Alison Wren
10 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Gosh. So all those sleepless nights, harrowing births, traipsing around on buses to do the family food shopping, and the rest….. that’s not working??

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

I get your point about feminist hypocrisy, but your argument about men being expendable is morally abhorrent. This is not the place, however, to get into that.

Alison Wren
AW
Alison Wren
10 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Gosh. So all those sleepless nights, harrowing births, traipsing around on buses to do the family food shopping, and the rest….. that’s not working??

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

I get your point about feminist hypocrisy, but your argument about men being expendable is morally abhorrent. This is not the place, however, to get into that.

Cynthia W.
CW
Cynthia W.
10 months ago

Many female animals, especially invertebrates, can store sperm in their bodies until conditions – usually food supplies – are optimal for egg-laying.
When my 3rd daughter was raising black widow spiders, her female produced four egg sacks while living alone in a jar because she was getting so much to eat. Daughter C would use chopsticks to feed crickets to the spider, which got visibly fat.

Ray Andrews
RA
Ray Andrews
10 months ago

Males don’t exist because evolution can’t do without them, they exist because they are worth the trouble. They are the device whereby genes are recombined and tested for fitness. That’s why even in civilized societies men, to this day, are tested, and only the fittest succeed. The rest are thrown away like drones and nobody gives a damn.
Only women are entitled to protection. Men are expendable and the best of us devote our lives to the sustaining of women and children. That’s called Oppression — when women make less money than men exactly because they get to spend the money that men make for them and don’t have to bother earning it themselves.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

The feminists’ new-found interest in biological facts has a long way to go.

Simon Blanchard
SB
Simon Blanchard
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

To be fair, there were reports in the news yesterday of a female crocodile that managed to self impregnate. So who knows what evolution has coming down the pipe? So to speak.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

The feminists’ new-found interest in biological facts has a long way to go.

John Murray
JM
John Murray
10 months ago

At risk of being pedantic about biology, but women cannot create life. Very hard to do absent male, uh, input. Grow life after the deed is done though, undoubtedly aces at that.

Kathryn Dwyer
KD
Kathryn Dwyer
10 months ago

How sad and disconnected that women (notably here in France) are presented with the choice of breast feeding or not before leaving hospital as if it is merely their lifestyle choice and nothing to do with biology, immunology, the baby’s and mother’s needs. My young neighbour told me she would have liked to breast feed at least for a few weeks before the need to return to work imposed but it was all or nothing for the milk suppression drugs protocol!
No fault ascribed of course to those (a tiny minority) who try but can’t breastfeed, though another neighbour told me she might have done better with more support.

Amy J
Amy J
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathryn Dwyer

when everything is equally as good as every other thing (with the caveat that it doesn’t “harm” anybody), it is the market that benefits, as everything becomes a commodity. That is to say, even in a culture incapable of recognizing any higher goods than “choice,” you still don’t really get a choice, as the market is there to maximize itself. And the market does know what those “higher goods” are, and it will aim at tearing tearing them down.

Ali W
AW
Ali W
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathryn Dwyer

Wow, so in France the hospital forces milk suppression drugs on new mothers if they can’t breastfeed right away? I don’t know if that’s required in the US or elsewhere, but I’ve never heard of that before. Apparently, France also forces children into school at only 2 years old as well, at least according to “Escape to the Chateau”. These two tidbits in tandem make France seem like some caricature of a Marxist villain corrupting a child’s family bonds as young as possible.

Amy J
AJ
Amy J
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathryn Dwyer

when everything is equally as good as every other thing (with the caveat that it doesn’t “harm” anybody), it is the market that benefits, as everything becomes a commodity. That is to say, even in a culture incapable of recognizing any higher goods than “choice,” you still don’t really get a choice, as the market is there to maximize itself. And the market does know what those “higher goods” are, and it will aim at tearing tearing them down.

Ali W
AW
Ali W
10 months ago
Reply to  Kathryn Dwyer

Wow, so in France the hospital forces milk suppression drugs on new mothers if they can’t breastfeed right away? I don’t know if that’s required in the US or elsewhere, but I’ve never heard of that before. Apparently, France also forces children into school at only 2 years old as well, at least according to “Escape to the Chateau”. These two tidbits in tandem make France seem like some caricature of a Marxist villain corrupting a child’s family bonds as young as possible.

Kathryn Dwyer
KD
Kathryn Dwyer
10 months ago

How sad and disconnected that women (notably here in France) are presented with the choice of breast feeding or not before leaving hospital as if it is merely their lifestyle choice and nothing to do with biology, immunology, the baby’s and mother’s needs. My young neighbour told me she would have liked to breast feed at least for a few weeks before the need to return to work imposed but it was all or nothing for the milk suppression drugs protocol!
No fault ascribed of course to those (a tiny minority) who try but can’t breastfeed, though another neighbour told me she might have done better with more support.

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago

I’m so angry that I could write a book about Smith’s point of view in this article. In fact, I have. Not in one book but in four. And each of them has “misandry” in the title, although Katherine Young and I studied not only misandry but also its gynocentric matrix (ideological feminism). I think that Smith argues, ultimately, in favor of female essentialism. But I’m not sure, because she argues against it, too, throughout her article. On the rhetorical level, it looks as if she wants to have her proverbial cake and eat it, too.

(1) “If it looks as though mothers are being shamed, that’s because they are. At a time when feminists fight to articulate why femaleness matters, stories such as this back up the idea that any appreciation for female bodies will be used against us … Yet the men who would write us off, won’t change their minds. Look at the treatment of any woman who pushes back, even in the mildest way, against the idea that femaleness is socially and politically irrelevant. How quickly her status crumbles; how soon she’ll be told she’s a biological essentialist who thinks all women are baby making machines. ”
Well, precisely who is doing all of this shaming? Not men but women–that is, women whose egalitarian version of feminism relies on the fantasy that men and women are interchangeable except for gestation and lactation (and who sometimes argue that technologies should simulate even those natural functions). Oh, and then there are those women whose essentialist version of feminism (a recent and radical reaction against the liberal ethos of egalitarian feminism) makes the opposite argument. Would Smith have us believe that all of these women are merely innocent victims of misogynistic men? If so, I’m not buying it. Both femaleness and maleness do indeed matter, but they do so because humans are physiologically and psychologically interdependent, not polarized.

(2) “How can you value something only a woman’s body can do without suggesting this is what all women should do?”
Okay, that’s a good question. But why ask it only about what female bodies can do? Countless people to this day value male bodies for their muscular strength and mobility, which is why they suggest–no, insist with the force of law and supposedly with the authority of evolutionary psychology–that men per se are “expendable” in war. I argue against that claim, but my point right here is only that Smith ignores this male counterpart of female reductionism and thus succumbs to the hypocrisy of a double standard.

(3) “When we strip it away from narratives of duty, breastfeeding is not at all feminine. Nothing to do with femaleness — actual femaleness — really is. To be honest, I often found it comical.”
Okay, so there’s nothing innately female that allows women to make any contribution to the family or society that is (a) distinctive, (b) necessary or (c) publicly valued. How, then, is it possible for women to have a healthy identity specifically as women? And, as you all know from some of other comments, I ask the same question about maleness and men. But women, so far, still have some advantages over men. Even though many people now claim that motherhood and fatherhood are interchangeable, falsely in my opinion, few people even now try to legitimate that claim by implying that mothers really amounts to assistant fathers and are therefore luxuries at best in family life. Few people want the law to favor divorced fathers, moreover, instead of divorced mothers (although a growing number do advocate joint custody). Few people would argue that fathers should have an equal say–or any say at all–in the fate of fetuses (although many people, including legislators, argue that birth certificates need not include the names of fathers).

(4) “I don’t miss feeling my body was not my own … ”
Maybe not, but many women insist that their fetuses really are extensions of their own bodies. Otherwise, how could they argue for abortion on demand by claiming the right to do whatever they like with their own bodies?

(5) “We would rather deny the specificity of our embodied relationship with our own children than risk being written off as some mindless blob of reproductive matter.”
Here, Smith recoils from the association between a mother and a “mindless blob of reproductive matter.” From this premise, it would make sense to approve of abortion on demand (the fetus, too, presumably being a mindless blob of reproductive matter). But elsewhere Smith argues for the uniquely positive association of women with gestation.

(6) “Women are terrorised out of appreciating the magic of our own bodies — we’re terrorised out of using words such as “magic” — by the constant threat of dehumanisation.”
Here, and elsewhere, Smith goes into reverse by advocating female essentialism–which is her main argument in this article. What would she say, however, about men appreciating the “magic” of male bodies? And this motif is, in fact, common both historically (obviously in art history) and cross-culturally. Would she ascribe it to androcentric neuroticism? To overt or covert homoeroticism? To misogynistic hostility (or indifference) toward female bodies? She doesn’t bother even to ask these questions. In the same paragraph, though, she continues as follows:

(7) “Women are terrorised out of appreciating the magic of our own bodies — we’re terrorised out of using words such as “magic” — by the constant threat of dehumanisation.”
Smith returns here to the argument against essentialism: the reduction of women either to their messy natural functions (a theme that Camille Paglia has discussed, too, but brilliantly and with very different conclusions) or to reproductive machines (incubators or dairies). It doesn’t occur to Smith that men are routinely reduced to supposedly sterile cultural abstractions or lethal machines (weapons). Not surprisingly, she fails also to acknowledge the profound psychological and moral differences between associating women with life or life-giving machines and men with death or death-inflicting machines (although, in other times and places, death was associated indirectly with the protection of life and therefore the renewal of life).

(8) “Like pregnancy and birth, breastfeeding cannot be compared to anything else. It is extraordinary, yet because only female people do it, it is often ridiculed, treated with disgust or aligned with women’s subordinate status … We’re the reason men had to pretend they were gods.”
Actually, pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding have been universally admired and even divinized. Among the earliest human artifacts are the “Venus” figurines, after all, let alone the vast array of later statues and paintings that depict goddesses (or Mary) with their infants. (So much for men, other than the few rulers such as Roman emperors, pretending to be gods.) On the other hand, not all goddesses are mothers or fertility figures. And, of those who are, some have also been worshipped in return for wisdom (such as Athena) or even success in war (such as Kali). Kali, a popular Hindu goddess, is associated with both death and rebirth, both creation and destruction. She represents nothing if not cosmic power. And her devotees are by no means confined to women.

(9) “On the other hand, no one has a problem with shaming us because we can’t breastfeed.”
I’ll have to take Smith’s word for that, but, once again, she makes it sound as if men are not shamed for being either unable or unwilling to do what all other men do effectively and gladly–notably, in warfare.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. I conclude by noting that Smith’s point of view, in itself, might be very worthwhile. People are not all alike, after all, and should be valued for whatever they can contribute to their families or communities. And that applies also to both men and women as collectivities. But Smith’s argument is littered with contradictions or double standards and tainted by gynocentrism (and its implicitly misandric fallout).

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I agree with your central and concluding claims, Paul. Personally, I’d recommend the term “female chauvinism” over “gynocentrism” or even misandry in most cases. As I’m sure you’d admit, not every misunderstanding or self-serving preference amounts to “phallophobia” or hatred-of-men–nor gynophobia, hatred-of-women, etc.–writ large.
I appreciate your arguments and research-backed approach and think your decades-long campaign of pushback is important and necessary. But I think the terms misandry and misogyny are both like terminological kryptonite in a sense: quite sure to hurt the ears and poison the reception of many who don’t already agree with you. However, it’s not like “female chauvinism” is about to catch on amongst radical feminists!
And we can both agree, I think, that the journey or path of return (the Garden of Eden; Golden Age) to the best of all possible or probable worlds is not paved primarily with ultra-careful speech or continually-updated terminology. Plus, we don’t get to stich our own definitions and vocabulary out of whole cloth–even if we outsource the labor.

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

But I say nothing, AJ, about the suffix “-phobia,” which originated in the vocabulary of psychology. In this context, it means not hatred toward women but neurotic fear of women (gynophobia), and not hatred toward men but neurotic fear of men (androphobia). But I reject the idea that opposition to ideas is necessarily due to neurotic fear of the people who hold them, either personally or collectively. Some men who oppose this or that version of feminism, for example, really are neurotically afraid of women (gynophobia). Others really do want to harm women (misogyny). Still others, however, simply disagree with feminists (and have no political label). And yes, I reject the words “transphobia” and “homophobia” for the same reason. Not everyone who disagrees with me about homosexuality, for example, is motivated by neurotic fear of gay people (let alone ignorance, stupidity or hostility). Some people simply disagree with me, and I agree to live in a world that permits respectful disagreement.
Two other words refer to worldviews have nothing at all to do with opposition (at least not directly). These revolve exclusively around the needs and problems of either women (gynocentrism) or men (androcentrism). I doubt that anything good can come from an exclusive focus on one sex or the other. That’s partly because our species is a social one and therefore depends on the inter-dependence of men and women, but it’s also because any worldview that focuses exclusively on “us” (our needs, our problems) flirts with dualism and is therefore unlikely to foster either reconciliation with or compassion for “them” (their alleged needs, their alleged problems). But this exclusivity is not, in itself, tantamount to hatred toward men (misandry) or hatred toward women (misogyny), although it sometimes leads to hatred of one kind or the other. I see misandry as the fallout from gynocentrism and misogyny as the fallout from androcentrism.
Misandry and misogyny are synonymous, as you say, with “female chauvinism” and “male chauvinism,” but I see nothing to be gained by replacing the former with the latter, because even “chauvinism” carries an inherently negative charge.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Ok, a fair and thorough explanation. In my reading the frequency with which you and others employ any of those terms over-pathologizes or medicalizes an otherwise stronger argument, making it less “hearable” to those who are not otherwise inclined to agree with you. Not that you are using the labels especially often, or that I can’t detect the validity in your claims.
I don’t think male/female chauvinism are near synonyms for misoprefix words, but certainly agree that the negative charge is not removed. What about sexism as a “gender-jumping” term? Again, I admit that won’t change much but I think we, as a culture, are resorting to the same catchall, abstract nouns and isms too often, from a stylistic and argumentative standpoint. I didn’t mean to make a particular target of your sensible claims and I’ll make an effort to let it go in the future.
(I wonder if this comment will also be “quarantined” for 12-plus hours. Not sure what was so volatile about my last post and wonder if I might be on some kind of probationary commenter status).

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I don’t think that anyone but you is left to read this, AJ, but your comments (at least on what I’ve written) are always worth replies.
All words are “labels,” but we still have to use them. I do try to avoid stuffing them with empty clichés and postmodernist jargon. Less is more, I always say. But if you think that my comments are difficult to read, you should read some of the pretentious stuff that I’ve had to wade through for thirty years!
There’s something to be said for diplomacy, it’s true, but a little of that goes a long way. Clarity is more important than diplomacy, which doesn’t always work in any case. (For one reason or another, almost nothing that I say is “hearable” in the public square.) I’m an academic (although I’m almost ashamed to admit that by now) and was trained to choose my words carefully, explain them if necessary, and then use them consistently.
Actually, I do sometimes refer to “sexism,” a word that refers, or should refer, to both misogyny and misandry. Trouble is, the word usually refers in common parlance only to misogyny. It never occurs to many people that men, no less than women, can be the targets of sexism. I refuse to cooperate with ignorance, let alone prejudice, so I make sure that everyone understands exactly what I mean by “sexism” and also what I don’t mean.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I don’t think your comments are unreadable, Paul. They are well-argued, informative, and have influenced my opinions and stance where anti-male sentiment and practice is concerned. I was already an overall “believer”, aware of the “flip-side” phenomena and terms around misandry and toxic femininity before I encountered your persistent and conscientious arguments, but you have brought me significantly closer to your stance as I perceive it.
I do wonder: Would you estimate misandry is about as bad and vicious a phenomenon or now far worse than misogyny? Of course these comparisons are often unilluminating, and one needn’t prove one’s central focus is the biggest or “best” problem for it to have merit and weight.
Yeah, we need consistent terms that might be perceived as labels or oversimplifications. That’s completely accurate. I wonder if you’d would accept either “mens’ rights advocate” or “masculinist” for yourself? I like the term equalitarian/ism (equal before the law and the creator, not identical or falsely levelled via “equity” movements).
You are fighting an honest and sincere fight that is accessible and to the point–especially for an academic! As a non-doctoral graduate student (until just recently), I waded through what felt like more than a lifetime’s worth of jargon-riddled, opaque text myself, much of it labelled feminist or queer, often assigned in connection with literature classes but sometimes on my own time. I thought Audre Lord, David Halperin, and Camille Paglia (provocateur though she is, and directed at a general reader) were among the most sensible and readable, even when their “lived experience” (ugh) and politics diverged from mine. You write in clear English that avoids jargon and circuitous constructions. I find that to be true of your first co-authored book (Spreading Misandry) as well, of which I’ve read a major chunk and appreciate, finding it engaging though now about 20 years old.
Overall, it seems you are on a single-minded campaign to combat misandry and–to a lesser-but-real extent–sex-based bigotry in the world. Since you’ve already convinced me to the degree I wasn’t already, I guess much of your continued “campaigning” isn’t for me–and that’s fine. You do tend to bend every article back to your established, central focus of misandry, but not unfairly and not without exception. I still find a great deal that interests or surprises me in your comments, Dr. Nathanson. Cheers and have a great weekend.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I don’t think your comments are unreadable, Paul. They are well-argued, informative, and have influenced my opinions and stance where anti-male sentiment and practice is concerned. I was already an overall “believer”, aware of the “flip-side” phenomena and terms around misandry and toxic femininity before I encountered your persistent and conscientious arguments, but you have brought me significantly closer to your stance as I perceive it.
I do wonder: Would you estimate misandry is about as bad and vicious a phenomenon or now far worse than misogyny? Of course these comparisons are often unilluminating, and one needn’t prove one’s central focus is the biggest or “best” problem for it to have merit and weight.
Yeah, we need consistent terms that might be perceived as labels or oversimplifications. That’s completely accurate. I wonder if you’d would accept either “mens’ rights advocate” or “masculinist” for yourself? I like the term equalitarian/ism (equal before the law and the creator, not identical or falsely levelled via “equity” movements).
You are fighting an honest and sincere fight that is accessible and to the point–especially for an academic! As a non-doctoral graduate student (until just recently), I waded through what felt like more than a lifetime’s worth of jargon-riddled, opaque text myself, much of it labelled feminist or queer, often assigned in connection with literature classes but sometimes on my own time. I thought Audre Lord, David Halperin, and Camille Paglia (provocateur though she is, and directed at a general reader) were among the most sensible and readable, even when their “lived experience” (ugh) and politics diverged from mine. You write in clear English that avoids jargon and circuitous constructions. I find that to be true of your first co-authored book (Spreading Misandry) as well, of which I’ve read a major chunk and appreciate, finding it engaging though now about 20 years old.
Overall, it seems you are on a single-minded campaign to combat misandry and–to a lesser-but-real extent–sex-based bigotry in the world. Since you’ve already convinced me to the degree I wasn’t already, I guess much of your continued “campaigning” isn’t for me–and that’s fine. You do tend to bend every article back to your established, central focus of misandry, but not unfairly and not without exception. I still find a great deal that interests or surprises me in your comments, Dr. Nathanson. Cheers and have a great weekend.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I don’t think that anyone but you is left to read this, AJ, but your comments (at least on what I’ve written) are always worth replies.
All words are “labels,” but we still have to use them. I do try to avoid stuffing them with empty clichés and postmodernist jargon. Less is more, I always say. But if you think that my comments are difficult to read, you should read some of the pretentious stuff that I’ve had to wade through for thirty years!
There’s something to be said for diplomacy, it’s true, but a little of that goes a long way. Clarity is more important than diplomacy, which doesn’t always work in any case. (For one reason or another, almost nothing that I say is “hearable” in the public square.) I’m an academic (although I’m almost ashamed to admit that by now) and was trained to choose my words carefully, explain them if necessary, and then use them consistently.
Actually, I do sometimes refer to “sexism,” a word that refers, or should refer, to both misogyny and misandry. Trouble is, the word usually refers in common parlance only to misogyny. It never occurs to many people that men, no less than women, can be the targets of sexism. I refuse to cooperate with ignorance, let alone prejudice, so I make sure that everyone understands exactly what I mean by “sexism” and also what I don’t mean.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Ok, a fair and thorough explanation. In my reading the frequency with which you and others employ any of those terms over-pathologizes or medicalizes an otherwise stronger argument, making it less “hearable” to those who are not otherwise inclined to agree with you. Not that you are using the labels especially often, or that I can’t detect the validity in your claims.
I don’t think male/female chauvinism are near synonyms for misoprefix words, but certainly agree that the negative charge is not removed. What about sexism as a “gender-jumping” term? Again, I admit that won’t change much but I think we, as a culture, are resorting to the same catchall, abstract nouns and isms too often, from a stylistic and argumentative standpoint. I didn’t mean to make a particular target of your sensible claims and I’ll make an effort to let it go in the future.
(I wonder if this comment will also be “quarantined” for 12-plus hours. Not sure what was so volatile about my last post and wonder if I might be on some kind of probationary commenter status).

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

But I say nothing, AJ, about the suffix “-phobia,” which originated in the vocabulary of psychology. In this context, it means not hatred toward women but neurotic fear of women (gynophobia), and not hatred toward men but neurotic fear of men (androphobia). But I reject the idea that opposition to ideas is necessarily due to neurotic fear of the people who hold them, either personally or collectively. Some men who oppose this or that version of feminism, for example, really are neurotically afraid of women (gynophobia). Others really do want to harm women (misogyny). Still others, however, simply disagree with feminists (and have no political label). And yes, I reject the words “transphobia” and “homophobia” for the same reason. Not everyone who disagrees with me about homosexuality, for example, is motivated by neurotic fear of gay people (let alone ignorance, stupidity or hostility). Some people simply disagree with me, and I agree to live in a world that permits respectful disagreement.
Two other words refer to worldviews have nothing at all to do with opposition (at least not directly). These revolve exclusively around the needs and problems of either women (gynocentrism) or men (androcentrism). I doubt that anything good can come from an exclusive focus on one sex or the other. That’s partly because our species is a social one and therefore depends on the inter-dependence of men and women, but it’s also because any worldview that focuses exclusively on “us” (our needs, our problems) flirts with dualism and is therefore unlikely to foster either reconciliation with or compassion for “them” (their alleged needs, their alleged problems). But this exclusivity is not, in itself, tantamount to hatred toward men (misandry) or hatred toward women (misogyny), although it sometimes leads to hatred of one kind or the other. I see misandry as the fallout from gynocentrism and misogyny as the fallout from androcentrism.
Misandry and misogyny are synonymous, as you say, with “female chauvinism” and “male chauvinism,” but I see nothing to be gained by replacing the former with the latter, because even “chauvinism” carries an inherently negative charge.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I will look into those books. Fantastic post. Thank you.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I agree with your central and concluding claims, Paul. Personally, I’d recommend the term “female chauvinism” over “gynocentrism” or even misandry in most cases. As I’m sure you’d admit, not every misunderstanding or self-serving preference amounts to “phallophobia” or hatred-of-men–nor gynophobia, hatred-of-women, etc.–writ large.
I appreciate your arguments and research-backed approach and think your decades-long campaign of pushback is important and necessary. But I think the terms misandry and misogyny are both like terminological kryptonite in a sense: quite sure to hurt the ears and poison the reception of many who don’t already agree with you. However, it’s not like “female chauvinism” is about to catch on amongst radical feminists!
And we can both agree, I think, that the journey or path of return (the Garden of Eden; Golden Age) to the best of all possible or probable worlds is not paved primarily with ultra-careful speech or continually-updated terminology. Plus, we don’t get to stich our own definitions and vocabulary out of whole cloth–even if we outsource the labor.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I will look into those books. Fantastic post. Thank you.

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago

I’m so angry that I could write a book about Smith’s point of view in this article. In fact, I have. Not in one book but in four. And each of them has “misandry” in the title, although Katherine Young and I studied not only misandry but also its gynocentric matrix (ideological feminism). I think that Smith argues, ultimately, in favor of female essentialism. But I’m not sure, because she argues against it, too, throughout her article. On the rhetorical level, it looks as if she wants to have her proverbial cake and eat it, too.

(1) “If it looks as though mothers are being shamed, that’s because they are. At a time when feminists fight to articulate why femaleness matters, stories such as this back up the idea that any appreciation for female bodies will be used against us … Yet the men who would write us off, won’t change their minds. Look at the treatment of any woman who pushes back, even in the mildest way, against the idea that femaleness is socially and politically irrelevant. How quickly her status crumbles; how soon she’ll be told she’s a biological essentialist who thinks all women are baby making machines. ”
Well, precisely who is doing all of this shaming? Not men but women–that is, women whose egalitarian version of feminism relies on the fantasy that men and women are interchangeable except for gestation and lactation (and who sometimes argue that technologies should simulate even those natural functions). Oh, and then there are those women whose essentialist version of feminism (a recent and radical reaction against the liberal ethos of egalitarian feminism) makes the opposite argument. Would Smith have us believe that all of these women are merely innocent victims of misogynistic men? If so, I’m not buying it. Both femaleness and maleness do indeed matter, but they do so because humans are physiologically and psychologically interdependent, not polarized.

(2) “How can you value something only a woman’s body can do without suggesting this is what all women should do?”
Okay, that’s a good question. But why ask it only about what female bodies can do? Countless people to this day value male bodies for their muscular strength and mobility, which is why they suggest–no, insist with the force of law and supposedly with the authority of evolutionary psychology–that men per se are “expendable” in war. I argue against that claim, but my point right here is only that Smith ignores this male counterpart of female reductionism and thus succumbs to the hypocrisy of a double standard.

(3) “When we strip it away from narratives of duty, breastfeeding is not at all feminine. Nothing to do with femaleness — actual femaleness — really is. To be honest, I often found it comical.”
Okay, so there’s nothing innately female that allows women to make any contribution to the family or society that is (a) distinctive, (b) necessary or (c) publicly valued. How, then, is it possible for women to have a healthy identity specifically as women? And, as you all know from some of other comments, I ask the same question about maleness and men. But women, so far, still have some advantages over men. Even though many people now claim that motherhood and fatherhood are interchangeable, falsely in my opinion, few people even now try to legitimate that claim by implying that mothers really amounts to assistant fathers and are therefore luxuries at best in family life. Few people want the law to favor divorced fathers, moreover, instead of divorced mothers (although a growing number do advocate joint custody). Few people would argue that fathers should have an equal say–or any say at all–in the fate of fetuses (although many people, including legislators, argue that birth certificates need not include the names of fathers).

(4) “I don’t miss feeling my body was not my own … ”
Maybe not, but many women insist that their fetuses really are extensions of their own bodies. Otherwise, how could they argue for abortion on demand by claiming the right to do whatever they like with their own bodies?

(5) “We would rather deny the specificity of our embodied relationship with our own children than risk being written off as some mindless blob of reproductive matter.”
Here, Smith recoils from the association between a mother and a “mindless blob of reproductive matter.” From this premise, it would make sense to approve of abortion on demand (the fetus, too, presumably being a mindless blob of reproductive matter). But elsewhere Smith argues for the uniquely positive association of women with gestation.

(6) “Women are terrorised out of appreciating the magic of our own bodies — we’re terrorised out of using words such as “magic” — by the constant threat of dehumanisation.”
Here, and elsewhere, Smith goes into reverse by advocating female essentialism–which is her main argument in this article. What would she say, however, about men appreciating the “magic” of male bodies? And this motif is, in fact, common both historically (obviously in art history) and cross-culturally. Would she ascribe it to androcentric neuroticism? To overt or covert homoeroticism? To misogynistic hostility (or indifference) toward female bodies? She doesn’t bother even to ask these questions. In the same paragraph, though, she continues as follows:

(7) “Women are terrorised out of appreciating the magic of our own bodies — we’re terrorised out of using words such as “magic” — by the constant threat of dehumanisation.”
Smith returns here to the argument against essentialism: the reduction of women either to their messy natural functions (a theme that Camille Paglia has discussed, too, but brilliantly and with very different conclusions) or to reproductive machines (incubators or dairies). It doesn’t occur to Smith that men are routinely reduced to supposedly sterile cultural abstractions or lethal machines (weapons). Not surprisingly, she fails also to acknowledge the profound psychological and moral differences between associating women with life or life-giving machines and men with death or death-inflicting machines (although, in other times and places, death was associated indirectly with the protection of life and therefore the renewal of life).

(8) “Like pregnancy and birth, breastfeeding cannot be compared to anything else. It is extraordinary, yet because only female people do it, it is often ridiculed, treated with disgust or aligned with women’s subordinate status … We’re the reason men had to pretend they were gods.”
Actually, pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding have been universally admired and even divinized. Among the earliest human artifacts are the “Venus” figurines, after all, let alone the vast array of later statues and paintings that depict goddesses (or Mary) with their infants. (So much for men, other than the few rulers such as Roman emperors, pretending to be gods.) On the other hand, not all goddesses are mothers or fertility figures. And, of those who are, some have also been worshipped in return for wisdom (such as Athena) or even success in war (such as Kali). Kali, a popular Hindu goddess, is associated with both death and rebirth, both creation and destruction. She represents nothing if not cosmic power. And her devotees are by no means confined to women.

(9) “On the other hand, no one has a problem with shaming us because we can’t breastfeed.”
I’ll have to take Smith’s word for that, but, once again, she makes it sound as if men are not shamed for being either unable or unwilling to do what all other men do effectively and gladly–notably, in warfare.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. I conclude by noting that Smith’s point of view, in itself, might be very worthwhile. People are not all alike, after all, and should be valued for whatever they can contribute to their families or communities. And that applies also to both men and women as collectivities. But Smith’s argument is littered with contradictions or double standards and tainted by gynocentrism (and its implicitly misandric fallout).

Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
10 months ago

‘I don’t miss feeling my body was not my own, those moments when — usually pumping, not feeding — I feared I had become the patriarchal non-person: woman as animal, the very image of femaleness so often dreaded by adolescent girls (is that all you want to be, some beast of the field?).’ How dreadfully sad that the author’s and her daughter’s idea of motherhood is diminished in this way. Without the achievements of the so called patriarchy, the author would be living a very different life.

Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
10 months ago

‘I don’t miss feeling my body was not my own, those moments when — usually pumping, not feeding — I feared I had become the patriarchal non-person: woman as animal, the very image of femaleness so often dreaded by adolescent girls (is that all you want to be, some beast of the field?).’ How dreadfully sad that the author’s and her daughter’s idea of motherhood is diminished in this way. Without the achievements of the so called patriarchy, the author would be living a very different life.

Ray Andrews
RA
Ray Andrews
10 months ago

“Yet the men who would write us off, won’t change their minds.”
Once again we see a fem attempt to blame the excesses of their own ideology on men.
“It is extraordinary, yet because only female people do it”
The author longs to say ‘woman’. She’s sane enough to avoid ‘people who lactate’ but she can’t quite make a clean break, so she says ‘female person’. Take the next step Mx. Smith.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

If they didn’t blame men, it wouldn’t be very feminist of them, would it?

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

It would not be a feminist article without the author blaming men for something.
Feminists are not very good about how their ideology led them to exactly where they are now.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

If they didn’t blame men, it wouldn’t be very feminist of them, would it?

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

It would not be a feminist article without the author blaming men for something.
Feminists are not very good about how their ideology led them to exactly where they are now.

Ray Andrews
RA
Ray Andrews
10 months ago

“Yet the men who would write us off, won’t change their minds.”
Once again we see a fem attempt to blame the excesses of their own ideology on men.
“It is extraordinary, yet because only female people do it”
The author longs to say ‘woman’. She’s sane enough to avoid ‘people who lactate’ but she can’t quite make a clean break, so she says ‘female person’. Take the next step Mx. Smith.

Frank McCusker
FM
Frank McCusker
10 months ago

My better half has been breast-feeding continuously for nearly 12 years.
She says she had no particular doctrinaire reason for doing it, the main reason for her was it was so much handier than all the expense and faff of formula.
We tried top-up formula once, and once only. Our eldest little one promptly got colic, so never again. Our kids have never had colic. Reason for colic is formula makes little ones cramp up. We travelled the world with the kids, 18 hour flights etc, never a cheep out of them, boobs are a magic “off” button.
You’d see hapless bottle-feeding parents with screaming kids on planes, vainly trying all sorts to calm down little ones in discomfort because of cabin pressure changes etc. 
It was exasperating to watch their futile efforts at soothing (as you know, you can only give formula feeds at set intervals). So until it was time for their next bottle, the bottlers had to resort to games and other nonsense, none of which worked. Whereas all we had to do was for my BH to get her ya-yas out, and instant silence from the little ones. 
We’ve continually been amazed at how anyone can be bothered with the hassle, discomfort and expense of formula feeding. 
My better doesn’t drink of course, and that’s key to it. 
That’s the real hidden reason for so much bottle feeding – most Mums in Britain and Ireland need to get back onto wine-o’clock after a few weeks, so the breast feeding has to stop.  

Last edited 10 months ago by Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
FM
Frank McCusker
10 months ago

My better half has been breast-feeding continuously for nearly 12 years.
She says she had no particular doctrinaire reason for doing it, the main reason for her was it was so much handier than all the expense and faff of formula.
We tried top-up formula once, and once only. Our eldest little one promptly got colic, so never again. Our kids have never had colic. Reason for colic is formula makes little ones cramp up. We travelled the world with the kids, 18 hour flights etc, never a cheep out of them, boobs are a magic “off” button.
You’d see hapless bottle-feeding parents with screaming kids on planes, vainly trying all sorts to calm down little ones in discomfort because of cabin pressure changes etc. 
It was exasperating to watch their futile efforts at soothing (as you know, you can only give formula feeds at set intervals). So until it was time for their next bottle, the bottlers had to resort to games and other nonsense, none of which worked. Whereas all we had to do was for my BH to get her ya-yas out, and instant silence from the little ones. 
We’ve continually been amazed at how anyone can be bothered with the hassle, discomfort and expense of formula feeding. 
My better doesn’t drink of course, and that’s key to it. 
That’s the real hidden reason for so much bottle feeding – most Mums in Britain and Ireland need to get back onto wine-o’clock after a few weeks, so the breast feeding has to stop.  

Last edited 10 months ago by Frank McCusker
Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
10 months ago

“Collective pride”? What, are we going to devote a month to another vanity project? Welp, June’s taken . . .

Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
10 months ago

“Collective pride”? What, are we going to devote a month to another vanity project? Welp, June’s taken . . .

Jonathan Andrews
JA
Jonathan Andrews
10 months ago

Two things struck me.

First to borrow for the woke when talking about the statistical research I would say that it’s not a question of if statistical jiggerery pokery took place but how it manifest itself.

Secondly, I would such that why there are moronic men who hate women (for whatever stupid reason) I suspect most men see pregnancy as such a miracle that being able to help someone who can carry and feed a new life is quite a wonderful duty. What better can a man do than to help the mother of his children?

Patriarchy my ar£e

Jonathan Andrews
JA
Jonathan Andrews
10 months ago

Two things struck me.

First to borrow for the woke when talking about the statistical research I would say that it’s not a question of if statistical jiggerery pokery took place but how it manifest itself.

Secondly, I would such that why there are moronic men who hate women (for whatever stupid reason) I suspect most men see pregnancy as such a miracle that being able to help someone who can carry and feed a new life is quite a wonderful duty. What better can a man do than to help the mother of his children?

Patriarchy my ar£e

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago

This is a fine article but “…bonded by collective pride at that power to gestate and birth…” is perhaps not a ‘thing to aspire to’ any more than “…bonded by collective pride at the support of my football team…” or ” “…bonded by collective pride at that power of my political beliefs…”
My guess is that breastfeeding is an intensely personal activity and hitching such feelings to a ‘collective pride’ could easily go astray.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

It is the type of baseless semantic nonsense that typifies her writing and that of many of her ideological co-travellers.
Much like her idiotic assertion that men had to pretend to be gods. Complete drivel.

Last edited 10 months ago by Galvatron Stephens
Anthony Roe
AR
Anthony Roe
10 months ago

I fear that the stand taken against transgenderism by unherd has led certain female journalists to imagine there is a great desire to have rehashed the dreary internal arguments of post-war feminism.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Roe

Yes Unherd has essentially become the Daily Radfem, forgetting that the overwhelming majority of feminists cannot write about anything other than feminism. You can count good feminist writers on one hand (Mary Harrington). The trans issue was the worst thing to happen to Unherd, as they now pretty much do a daily article on it.
Speccy published a restaurant review by Julie Bindel the other month. What the hell does Julie Bindel know about food?

Last edited 10 months ago by Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Roe

Yes Unherd has essentially become the Daily Radfem, forgetting that the overwhelming majority of feminists cannot write about anything other than feminism. You can count good feminist writers on one hand (Mary Harrington). The trans issue was the worst thing to happen to Unherd, as they now pretty much do a daily article on it.
Speccy published a restaurant review by Julie Bindel the other month. What the hell does Julie Bindel know about food?

Last edited 10 months ago by Galvatron Stephens
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

For an example of “men acting like gods” one only has to venture into museums housing works of art from antiquity till around 1950. Where are all the female artists?
Creativity in the arts was regarded as an almost exclusively male preserve. The only justification for this was the male need to create art to offset the female capacity to bring forth life itself.
That’s why your argument is drivel. Things have changed since then, pretty much due to the feminist movement which you so decry.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

That’s men acting like artists, not gods. Quite a few of those artists created works to impress women and women were more than happy to let the men do the work to impress them and provide comfort. Women have always controlled access to sex and sex is quite a big motivating factor for men, in case you hadn’t noticed.
And even if men ran society once upon a time, it was not along the lines feminists would have you think. Women were very often the backseat drivers and exercised subtle, indirect forms of power. You could not have social censure (known as cancel culture today) without women.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Lol. That’s men acting like artists, not gods. Women were more than happy to let men create the world around them.

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Actually, there were female artists even hundreds of years ago. Most of them were very effective in the styles that male artists had invented. And the same is true to this day, although there have been innovative exceptions such as Georgia O’Keefe, and more will follow.
You do make it sound like a conspiracy of men to oppress women. In any case, I seriously doubt that men have ever become artists in order to establish their own male form of creativity. (Similarly, I doubt that gay people have ever become artists to establish their own gay form of creativity.) But art is in fact a form of creativity, and it does indeed establish a symbolic balance that every culture requires to ensure (apart from anything else) the interdependence and reciprocity of men and women. That’s not drivel.
The fact is that every society needs to perpetuate itself demographically. And that requires the distinctive, necessary and publicly valued contributions of women per se. It’s a very time-consuming occupation. Some elite women have the resources to get around that by hiring other women to help them. But no society–until now–has assumed luxury of demoting child-care to a kind of hobby that might or might not interest women as much as their artistic, academic or commercial careers. We’re in the midst of a colossal experiment in social engineering, Steve, and the result is by no means a foregone conclusion. You might think about that before dismissing rival arguments with mere assertions (something that applies equally, of course, to Galvatron).

Last edited 10 months ago by Paul Nathanson
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Of course there were female artists, i’ve studied the entire canon as part of my work (thought you’d have known that).

Some of them are now, finally, receiving recognition, such as Artemisia Ghentilleschi. I’ll maintain my point that artists such as her were deliberately suppressed. Having a quick look at her life history would confirm that, amid the general misogyny prevalent at that time. It’s still with us, with the likes of Galvatron, but his views are easily dismissed.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Don’t worry Steve, you’re still mad about the time you lost a debate with me on here so badly other commenters asked me to be merciful to you.

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Yes, Steve, I should have known that you would be familiar with art history. Maybe it slipped my mind because I addressed my comment mainly to the readers in general, not to you personally.

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Don’t worry Steve, you’re still mad about the time you lost a debate with me on here so badly other commenters asked me to be merciful to you.

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Yes, Steve, I should have known that you would be familiar with art history. Maybe it slipped my mind because I addressed my comment mainly to the readers in general, not to you personally.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I also suspect that a great number of the works attributed to Anonymous over the centuries–well before people like Artemisia Gentileschi or Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot)–were made by women. Many women also directly contributed to famous works which were credited to their husbands alone, something JS Mill had the grace to acknowledge.

Amy J
AJ
Amy J
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Great point Paul! I think a form of Presentism makes it impossible to fairly and charitably evaluate anything that came before modernity: or even our own time. Perhaps we have no desire to because this is simply an extension of the Oppression Olympics and the goal is to win.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Of course there were female artists, i’ve studied the entire canon as part of my work (thought you’d have known that).

Some of them are now, finally, receiving recognition, such as Artemisia Ghentilleschi. I’ll maintain my point that artists such as her were deliberately suppressed. Having a quick look at her life history would confirm that, amid the general misogyny prevalent at that time. It’s still with us, with the likes of Galvatron, but his views are easily dismissed.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I also suspect that a great number of the works attributed to Anonymous over the centuries–well before people like Artemisia Gentileschi or Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot)–were made by women. Many women also directly contributed to famous works which were credited to their husbands alone, something JS Mill had the grace to acknowledge.

Amy J
Amy J
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Great point Paul! I think a form of Presentism makes it impossible to fairly and charitably evaluate anything that came before modernity: or even our own time. Perhaps we have no desire to because this is simply an extension of the Oppression Olympics and the goal is to win.

B Davis
B Davis
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

How much of the KoolAid have you drunk?
Where are all the top-tier, world-class female artists from the Middle Ages through at least the first half of the 20th Century? Don’t we already know the answer to that question? (as horribly unpopular the answer may be) With very rare exception they simply did not exist. Those few that were of that quality, producing timeless work, are, indeed, equally present in those same museums. (Artemisia Gentileschi, anyone?)
But that’s not because there were tons of female Da Vinci’s and Michelangelos….truckloads of female Rubens & Rembrandts & Caravaggios, et al that were being actively blackballed and ostracized and refused…no. They’re not there because there were none (very few).
How do we justify the adoration of these giants, et al? We justify it because their work is brilliant, stirring, timeless, and transcendent.
How do we justify the obvious male/female inequity? We don’t. History is not something anyone justifies. It simply is. Female artists of that caliber simply have not existed (again, with rare & remarkable exception). And the argument, “Well gosh think how many great female artis there’d be if the world were a different place for the last 2000 years?” is nonsensical.
As to why this is a pattern repeated in Art, Music (where is the female Beethoven?), Literature (the female Shakespeare?), Poetry (the female Yeats?), Sculpture (the female Bernini?), et al? Who’s to say? Part of it is undoubtedly cultural and the nature of the social patterns set-up over millennia that defined male & female roles. Part of it is also undoubtedly a consistently repeated behavioral preference expressed by both men & women and sourced in what we now term a kind of ‘biological essentialism’.
In the meantime, for all time, Quality is everything.

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

That’s men acting like artists, not gods. Quite a few of those artists created works to impress women and women were more than happy to let the men do the work to impress them and provide comfort. Women have always controlled access to sex and sex is quite a big motivating factor for men, in case you hadn’t noticed.
And even if men ran society once upon a time, it was not along the lines feminists would have you think. Women were very often the backseat drivers and exercised subtle, indirect forms of power. You could not have social censure (known as cancel culture today) without women.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Lol. That’s men acting like artists, not gods. Women were more than happy to let men create the world around them.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Actually, there were female artists even hundreds of years ago. Most of them were very effective in the styles that male artists had invented. And the same is true to this day, although there have been innovative exceptions such as Georgia O’Keefe, and more will follow.
You do make it sound like a conspiracy of men to oppress women. In any case, I seriously doubt that men have ever become artists in order to establish their own male form of creativity. (Similarly, I doubt that gay people have ever become artists to establish their own gay form of creativity.) But art is in fact a form of creativity, and it does indeed establish a symbolic balance that every culture requires to ensure (apart from anything else) the interdependence and reciprocity of men and women. That’s not drivel.
The fact is that every society needs to perpetuate itself demographically. And that requires the distinctive, necessary and publicly valued contributions of women per se. It’s a very time-consuming occupation. Some elite women have the resources to get around that by hiring other women to help them. But no society–until now–has assumed luxury of demoting child-care to a kind of hobby that might or might not interest women as much as their artistic, academic or commercial careers. We’re in the midst of a colossal experiment in social engineering, Steve, and the result is by no means a foregone conclusion. You might think about that before dismissing rival arguments with mere assertions (something that applies equally, of course, to Galvatron).

Last edited 10 months ago by Paul Nathanson
B Davis
BD
B Davis
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

How much of the KoolAid have you drunk?
Where are all the top-tier, world-class female artists from the Middle Ages through at least the first half of the 20th Century? Don’t we already know the answer to that question? (as horribly unpopular the answer may be) With very rare exception they simply did not exist. Those few that were of that quality, producing timeless work, are, indeed, equally present in those same museums. (Artemisia Gentileschi, anyone?)
But that’s not because there were tons of female Da Vinci’s and Michelangelos….truckloads of female Rubens & Rembrandts & Caravaggios, et al that were being actively blackballed and ostracized and refused…no. They’re not there because there were none (very few).
How do we justify the adoration of these giants, et al? We justify it because their work is brilliant, stirring, timeless, and transcendent.
How do we justify the obvious male/female inequity? We don’t. History is not something anyone justifies. It simply is. Female artists of that caliber simply have not existed (again, with rare & remarkable exception). And the argument, “Well gosh think how many great female artis there’d be if the world were a different place for the last 2000 years?” is nonsensical.
As to why this is a pattern repeated in Art, Music (where is the female Beethoven?), Literature (the female Shakespeare?), Poetry (the female Yeats?), Sculpture (the female Bernini?), et al? Who’s to say? Part of it is undoubtedly cultural and the nature of the social patterns set-up over millennia that defined male & female roles. Part of it is also undoubtedly a consistently repeated behavioral preference expressed by both men & women and sourced in what we now term a kind of ‘biological essentialism’.
In the meantime, for all time, Quality is everything.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago

Yes, I’m hearing more and more of this kind of rhetoric, even from members of my own family. Just last week I was happy to announce a new job position I’d been given only to be told by a female relative that I’d only gotten it because of my white male privilege.

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I hope you broke off all contact with whoever that was.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Congrats on the promotion. Never speak to that relative ever again.

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Choose your relatives more carefully, Julian. Besides, anyone who makes that claim in 2023 strains credulity.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I hope there was a tongue-in-cheek element to that claim or her part or maybe something you aren’t telling about the whole exchange and how you delivered the news. But to the extent they are in earnest, I disagree with comments recommending you disavow or “cancel” a family member on this basis alone.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Why do you disagree with them? If a relative genuinely feels he only got promoted because he is a man, that relatice cannot be a supportive relative. Families are meant to support and be there for one another and congratulate their successes. If this person cannot do that, what assistance would she provide if times were tough?

I would never trust that person. I would never speak to them again.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago

Why would you advocate disowning someone else’s family as if you are in an ideological zero-sum war?
I think that’s such a needless nuclear option in most cases, one that makes one opinion into an absolute litmus test. What if the relative is 17-years-old or has dementia? No latitude, no graceful pushback, just exile and condemnation?
Permanent vilification or life-long estrangement is not something you should commit to lightly, nor advocate for someone else based on the information contained in a typed comment with minimal context. You’re of course allowed to brand people as liars or the Enemy left and right, but I try not to, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a policy.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago

Why would you advocate disowning someone else’s family as if you are in an ideological zero-sum war?
I think that’s such a needless nuclear option in most cases, one that makes one opinion into an absolute litmus test. What if the relative is 17-years-old or has dementia? No latitude, no graceful pushback, just exile and condemnation?
Permanent vilification or life-long estrangement is not something you should commit to lightly, nor advocate for someone else based on the information contained in a typed comment with minimal context. You’re of course allowed to brand people as liars or the Enemy left and right, but I try not to, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a policy.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I’d put a profile pic on the application which is what made her feel that I had an unfair advantage.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Ah jeez louise. I know you’re an intelligent and reasonable man, so I won’t try to advise you in the way we’ve indulged in above, but I agree that is a weak-sauce case on her part.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Ah jeez louise. I know you’re an intelligent and reasonable man, so I won’t try to advise you in the way we’ve indulged in above, but I agree that is a weak-sauce case on her part.

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Why do you disagree with them? If a relative genuinely feels he only got promoted because he is a man, that relatice cannot be a supportive relative. Families are meant to support and be there for one another and congratulate their successes. If this person cannot do that, what assistance would she provide if times were tough?

I would never trust that person. I would never speak to them again.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I’d put a profile pic on the application which is what made her feel that I had an unfair advantage.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I hope you broke off all contact with whoever that was.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Congrats on the promotion. Never speak to that relative ever again.

Paul Nathanson
PN
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Choose your relatives more carefully, Julian. Besides, anyone who makes that claim in 2023 strains credulity.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I hope there was a tongue-in-cheek element to that claim or her part or maybe something you aren’t telling about the whole exchange and how you delivered the news. But to the extent they are in earnest, I disagree with comments recommending you disavow or “cancel” a family member on this basis alone.

Anthony Roe
AR
Anthony Roe
10 months ago

I fear that the stand taken against transgenderism by unherd has led certain female journalists to imagine there is a great desire to have rehashed the dreary internal arguments of post-war feminism.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

For an example of “men acting like gods” one only has to venture into museums housing works of art from antiquity till around 1950. Where are all the female artists?
Creativity in the arts was regarded as an almost exclusively male preserve. The only justification for this was the male need to create art to offset the female capacity to bring forth life itself.
That’s why your argument is drivel. Things have changed since then, pretty much due to the feminist movement which you so decry.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago

Yes, I’m hearing more and more of this kind of rhetoric, even from members of my own family. Just last week I was happy to announce a new job position I’d been given only to be told by a female relative that I’d only gotten it because of my white male privilege.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

It is the type of baseless semantic nonsense that typifies her writing and that of many of her ideological co-travellers.
Much like her idiotic assertion that men had to pretend to be gods. Complete drivel.

Last edited 10 months ago by Galvatron Stephens
AC Harper
AH
AC Harper
10 months ago

This is a fine article but “…bonded by collective pride at that power to gestate and birth…” is perhaps not a ‘thing to aspire to’ any more than “…bonded by collective pride at the support of my football team…” or ” “…bonded by collective pride at that power of my political beliefs…”
My guess is that breastfeeding is an intensely personal activity and hitching such feelings to a ‘collective pride’ could easily go astray.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
10 months ago

Tedious article.
Humans are animals, and men and woman have different roles to play. There’s no need to get mystical about it, or bang on about the patriarchy.
Women ought to breast feed, if they possibly can. Is it hard work? It certainly was for my wife, at least at first, though it’s more convenient than formula over the long term, and much better for the baby.
Not willing to take a career break for extended breast feeding? For women who make that choice, it’s probably the first of many occasions when they’ll put their own desires ahead of the welfare of their child.
Can’t afford to take a career break for extended breast feeding? One answer is that you shouldn’t have children if you can’t afford them, but it’s not a very good answer. This far into the 21st century, we all ought to be rich enough to have several children and still enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.
With a less dysfunctional government, we’d be freer and richer. With a less self-obsessed culture, we’d be happier too.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
10 months ago

Tedious article.
Humans are animals, and men and woman have different roles to play. There’s no need to get mystical about it, or bang on about the patriarchy.
Women ought to breast feed, if they possibly can. Is it hard work? It certainly was for my wife, at least at first, though it’s more convenient than formula over the long term, and much better for the baby.
Not willing to take a career break for extended breast feeding? For women who make that choice, it’s probably the first of many occasions when they’ll put their own desires ahead of the welfare of their child.
Can’t afford to take a career break for extended breast feeding? One answer is that you shouldn’t have children if you can’t afford them, but it’s not a very good answer. This far into the 21st century, we all ought to be rich enough to have several children and still enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.
With a less dysfunctional government, we’d be freer and richer. With a less self-obsessed culture, we’d be happier too.

Kirk Susong
KS
Kirk Susong
10 months ago

Many of the comments in this thread are about the author’s double standard between men and women – how she complains about problems women face but ignores comparable problems men face, or how she blames men for women’s problems without considering how women might be responsible for men’s problems. There’s a general tone in the comments of: “what? more of this?”
The only solution to all this gender confusion is to simply be unafraid to say out loud that men and women are, and are supposed to be, different. That there is no such thing as the patriarchy. That women have long exercised power over men, in a different form than the power that men exercise over women. That women have many advantages over men, and men many advantages over women.
In this case it should come as no surprise that women are always going on about the problems of women, more so than men do about the problems of men. It’s because women are designed (by Mother Nature or Father God, your choice) to feel more, to talk more, and to be more attuned to their bodies.
Men are over here building stuff grunting at each other, while women are over there talking about how everyone’s feeling. This is terribly reductionist but true in broad strokes – and nothing for anyone to worry about. Men and women are, and are supposed to be, different.
And that includes male and female Unherd authors – who do, and are supposed to, produce different kinds of writing.

Stoater D
SD
Stoater D
10 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Well said.

Stoater D
SD
Stoater D
10 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Well said.

Kirk Susong
KS
Kirk Susong
10 months ago

Many of the comments in this thread are about the author’s double standard between men and women – how she complains about problems women face but ignores comparable problems men face, or how she blames men for women’s problems without considering how women might be responsible for men’s problems. There’s a general tone in the comments of: “what? more of this?”
The only solution to all this gender confusion is to simply be unafraid to say out loud that men and women are, and are supposed to be, different. That there is no such thing as the patriarchy. That women have long exercised power over men, in a different form than the power that men exercise over women. That women have many advantages over men, and men many advantages over women.
In this case it should come as no surprise that women are always going on about the problems of women, more so than men do about the problems of men. It’s because women are designed (by Mother Nature or Father God, your choice) to feel more, to talk more, and to be more attuned to their bodies.
Men are over here building stuff grunting at each other, while women are over there talking about how everyone’s feeling. This is terribly reductionist but true in broad strokes – and nothing for anyone to worry about. Men and women are, and are supposed to be, different.
And that includes male and female Unherd authors – who do, and are supposed to, produce different kinds of writing.

Ali W
AW
Ali W
10 months ago

The pride women take in their female bodies ought to be a collective one. It should not be reliant on individual experience

Is this the same feeling we get when our country wins at the Olympics, or our local team wins a game?
I am not an athlete, but I still feel pride that my nation can produce exceptional ones. The conditions that allowed these athletes to succeed are a representation of my nation and I still benefit from those conditions even if not in the same ways.
Watching my sisters and other female relatives/friends have children also gives me a sense of kinship based on our shared sex.
I’m a female, and I don’t yet have children, but the acknowledgement of the possibility and the instincts that go along with it have shaped my experiences in life, just like any other circumstance would.
At the same time, this article is bizarre for me to read; I can absolutely commiserate with the ironic misogyny of modern feminism, but I can’t imagine feeling like I’m submitting to the patriarchy simply because my body is performing as expected.

Last edited 10 months ago by Ali W
Ali W
AW
Ali W
10 months ago

The pride women take in their female bodies ought to be a collective one. It should not be reliant on individual experience

Is this the same feeling we get when our country wins at the Olympics, or our local team wins a game?
I am not an athlete, but I still feel pride that my nation can produce exceptional ones. The conditions that allowed these athletes to succeed are a representation of my nation and I still benefit from those conditions even if not in the same ways.
Watching my sisters and other female relatives/friends have children also gives me a sense of kinship based on our shared sex.
I’m a female, and I don’t yet have children, but the acknowledgement of the possibility and the instincts that go along with it have shaped my experiences in life, just like any other circumstance would.
At the same time, this article is bizarre for me to read; I can absolutely commiserate with the ironic misogyny of modern feminism, but I can’t imagine feeling like I’m submitting to the patriarchy simply because my body is performing as expected.

Last edited 10 months ago by Ali W
Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Isn’t this all a bit déjà vu?
Since at least the 1950’s the controversy over whether to go for ‘in-flight refuelling (IFR) or Cow & Gate, has been the bane of child rearing!
Do we really have to go there yet again?

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago

Money for old rope is not a problem for a clapped-out radfem hack

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

That shows the measure of you with such clarity.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Seethe more, Steve

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Seethe more, Steve

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

That shows the measure of you with such clarity.

Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
10 months ago

Its probably a spurious correlation. Educational achievement generally reflects parental attitudes as to a great extent does breastfeeding.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Gosh! And I thought it was all in the genes.

Nature NOT nurture.

Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
10 months ago

Lots of wasted genes though some are directed into criminal activity: think Pablo Escobar.
Plus you don’t actually need to be intelligent to pass many of the GCSEs. Presumably all those who are being brainwashed/ indoctrinated in various different gender studies and diversity, equity and inclusion studies undergraduate programmes have some GCSEs.

Last edited 10 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
10 months ago

Lot of wasted genes though some find their way into criminal activity: think Pablo Escobar.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
10 months ago

Apologies for the repetition Charles. It seems I am back on the naughty seat. One of my comments placed me there. One under the most recent Kathleen Stock article probably. I think Unherd is a bit like Twitter in that there are moderators who consider some form of dissent from the ‘establishment’s’ position, the party line, to be hate speech. I don’t know how long I will be on the naughty seat this time but it is tiresome as it means it is often many hours before my comment appears.

Last edited 10 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
10 months ago

Lots of wasted genes though some are directed into criminal activity: think Pablo Escobar.
Plus you don’t actually need to be intelligent to pass many of the GCSEs. Presumably all those who are being brainwashed/ indoctrinated in various different gender studies and diversity, equity and inclusion studies undergraduate programmes have some GCSEs.

Last edited 10 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
10 months ago

Lot of wasted genes though some find their way into criminal activity: think Pablo Escobar.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
10 months ago

Apologies for the repetition Charles. It seems I am back on the naughty seat. One of my comments placed me there. One under the most recent Kathleen Stock article probably. I think Unherd is a bit like Twitter in that there are moderators who consider some form of dissent from the ‘establishment’s’ position, the party line, to be hate speech. I don’t know how long I will be on the naughty seat this time but it is tiresome as it means it is often many hours before my comment appears.

Last edited 10 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Gosh! And I thought it was all in the genes.

Nature NOT nurture.

Galvatron Stephens
GS
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago

Money for old rope is not a problem for a clapped-out radfem hack

Aphrodite Rises
AR
Aphrodite Rises
10 months ago

Its probably a spurious correlation. Educational achievement generally reflects parental attitudes as to a great extent does breastfeeding.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Isn’t this all a bit déjà vu?
Since at least the 1950’s the controversy over whether to go for ‘in-flight refuelling (IFR) or Cow & Gate, has been the bane of child rearing!
Do we really have to go there yet again?

leculdesac suburbia
LS
leculdesac suburbia
10 months ago

Thank you. This resonates w/ me personally as well as intellectually. As a radical feminist who was also unusually left-wing-analytical compared to most women I’ve known–I was initially appalled at my loss of identity as I attached my nipple to a cattle pump. Beyond that, I’ve been frustrated for years w/ various online gender critical feminist communities wherein members pounce if you suggest that the contemporary “pro-choice” formulation of life not beginning as conception might be accepting patriarchal definitions of humanhood. If one takes feminist epistemology seriously–I do, or did, when I had time to follow such stuff–the entire enlightenment-present notion of self-hood in life and law is based on the male embodied experience, and thus arguments regarding reproductive choice typically follow that construction. You can’t even get four words out before most fellow feminists (and these are the usually more critical thinking kind–Nordic model, anti-pornography, gender critical–) accuse you of being some right-wing infiltrator. While women should still retain reproductive rights (w/ the usual caveats of not aborting healthy 28-week olds, which I don’t think anyone does anyway), we only reinforce patriarchal norms by defining human-hood, and conception and life, by traditional norms of male bodily autonomy.

If we lived in a society in which the female body was the norm, we wouldn’t have so many unwanted pregnancies in the first place (because women would have enough power to not agree to unprotected sex; rape would be less frequent; and schildbirth and childrearing wouldn’t entail the colossal pressure and poverty-maker it is today or have any residue of shame for unmarried women). Concomitant w/ this hypothetical, we’d have entire infrastructures to support the giving of life & raising of young children. The conversation would be vastly different, based on a redefinition of the individual involving the celebration of the female body’s prowess you’ve described in your article. But these days you can’t even begin to initiate that conversation–and online feminist fora are the wrong place to do it anyway (better to have gone through editorial review and have the backing of a major journal and maybe a full book behind you). I’m just perpetually disappointed that one can’t even venture the discussion, though related to Adrienne Rich’s masterful poetry, I think it’s the profound experience of motherhood, more than feminist epistemological analyses, that opens women to reconceptualize Western notions of individual autonomy. Childless feminists often get defensive about this (see Bindel’s unfortunate essay several months back), but I don’t care how much you read or sacrifice for greater causes–while very engaged adoptive parents and fathers appreciate much more about parenting than those who’ve never had children, there’s simply no other experience like carrying a living child to term, trying to breastfeed, and nurturing them through various stages of development.

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago

I will have great fun with this drivel later. Probably spend my weekend picking it apart.

Amy J
Amy J
10 months ago

You can start with the Catholic Church or early church fathers that affirmed the humanity of the unborn (which the op DOES NOT because she still desires the Primacy of Choice, which requires rejecting the humanity of the human blob you want to destroy). The point is The Great Patriarchy is on both sides of this argument. It is, however, the Great Patriarchy that affirms the value of all human life from his or her conception. In this way, i guess the Patriarchy on the side of life sets himself against women who value, above all else (even the possibility that their fetus may have intrinsic worth), Choice.

B Davis
B Davis
10 months ago

Ducks in a barrel, my friend. Too easy, though possibly pointless. Maybe not, though. Worth a try.

Last edited 10 months ago by B Davis
Amy J
AJ
Amy J
10 months ago

You can start with the Catholic Church or early church fathers that affirmed the humanity of the unborn (which the op DOES NOT because she still desires the Primacy of Choice, which requires rejecting the humanity of the human blob you want to destroy). The point is The Great Patriarchy is on both sides of this argument. It is, however, the Great Patriarchy that affirms the value of all human life from his or her conception. In this way, i guess the Patriarchy on the side of life sets himself against women who value, above all else (even the possibility that their fetus may have intrinsic worth), Choice.

B Davis
BD
B Davis
10 months ago

Ducks in a barrel, my friend. Too easy, though possibly pointless. Maybe not, though. Worth a try.

Last edited 10 months ago by B Davis
Amy J
AJ
Amy J
10 months ago

So human life begins at conception but Choice dictates it has no more value than the amount the mother gives to it. But 28 weeks! No further! Unless it’s restarted! And I’m NOT violating your abstract “Right to Choose!!”

B Davis
BD
B Davis
10 months ago

“I was initially appalled at my loss of identity as I attached my nipple to a cattle pump.”
But why?
Why was your sense of identity so distinctly segregated from the reality of embodiment? How had your life so separated your biological self from the intellectual? Was this identity equally shattered when you changed a diaper, shoveled snow, pulled weeds…or in some other way leveraged your physicality to live? The fact that our 3 dimensional self does indeed, and fortunately so, have capabilities and qualities which exceed what is possible exclusively by the exercise of intangible thought is a very good thing isn’t it? I’m sure your child welcomed the milk that you were able to provide. .
The truth, of course, is that we are our animal selves: we breathe, we bleed, we excrete, we sweat, we procreate, we age, we die and yes — if we’re a female with child, our breasts provide milk, just as our wombs embraced and nurtured those same children. Thank God for all of that.
You say ‘if we lived in a society in which the female body was the norm’….but in fact we do live in a society in which the female body is the norm. How could it not be? 51% of the population has one. Everyone’s wife, mother, sister, aunt, and grandmother: women’s bodies each and all. And as a visual icon or sexual symbol, the female body is everywhere…from art, to advertising, from Pan-Hellenic myth to Playboy. It stirs the blood of 3.5B men perpetually. It always has.
You tell us women don’t have the power to refuse unprotected sex. Yes they do. They simply have to use it. ‘No’ is a powerful word. ‘Hell No’ more powerful still. And long before the question of sex even occurs, the female has the power to refuse an advance, to turn away from a proposition, to prevent a relationship which leads even to the possibility of sex. But if in the face of such adamant and unyielding refusal, the more physically powerful man uses force & threat — then that is rape, and the Justice System again gives women the power to pursue criminal remedy.
You ask for an infrastructure to “support the giving of life (whatever that means) & raising of young children” — but we already have one. It stretches from hospital nurseries to preschool to public school to parks and playgrounds. I suspect however that what you’re looking for is not the infrastructure which already exists but rather an infrastructure which is cost-free (which, of course, is an entirely different question). No free lunches here.
In the end, of course, we agree: “there’s simply no other experience like carrying a living child to term, trying to breastfeed, and nurturing them through various stages of development.” There isn’t. There can’t be. To be a child, brought into the world…and to then be the mother to bring your own child into the world… is to anchor yourself in time, to tie yourself, your blood to blood, forever.
“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?” (Kundera) You chose motherhood; I chose fatherhood.
Forget those who haven’t a clue. Full of sound & fury, they signify nothing.

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago

I will have great fun with this drivel later. Probably spend my weekend picking it apart.

Amy J
AJ
Amy J
10 months ago

So human life begins at conception but Choice dictates it has no more value than the amount the mother gives to it. But 28 weeks! No further! Unless it’s restarted! And I’m NOT violating your abstract “Right to Choose!!”

B Davis
BD
B Davis
10 months ago

“I was initially appalled at my loss of identity as I attached my nipple to a cattle pump.”
But why?
Why was your sense of identity so distinctly segregated from the reality of embodiment? How had your life so separated your biological self from the intellectual? Was this identity equally shattered when you changed a diaper, shoveled snow, pulled weeds…or in some other way leveraged your physicality to live? The fact that our 3 dimensional self does indeed, and fortunately so, have capabilities and qualities which exceed what is possible exclusively by the exercise of intangible thought is a very good thing isn’t it? I’m sure your child welcomed the milk that you were able to provide. .
The truth, of course, is that we are our animal selves: we breathe, we bleed, we excrete, we sweat, we procreate, we age, we die and yes — if we’re a female with child, our breasts provide milk, just as our wombs embraced and nurtured those same children. Thank God for all of that.
You say ‘if we lived in a society in which the female body was the norm’….but in fact we do live in a society in which the female body is the norm. How could it not be? 51% of the population has one. Everyone’s wife, mother, sister, aunt, and grandmother: women’s bodies each and all. And as a visual icon or sexual symbol, the female body is everywhere…from art, to advertising, from Pan-Hellenic myth to Playboy. It stirs the blood of 3.5B men perpetually. It always has.
You tell us women don’t have the power to refuse unprotected sex. Yes they do. They simply have to use it. ‘No’ is a powerful word. ‘Hell No’ more powerful still. And long before the question of sex even occurs, the female has the power to refuse an advance, to turn away from a proposition, to prevent a relationship which leads even to the possibility of sex. But if in the face of such adamant and unyielding refusal, the more physically powerful man uses force & threat — then that is rape, and the Justice System again gives women the power to pursue criminal remedy.
You ask for an infrastructure to “support the giving of life (whatever that means) & raising of young children” — but we already have one. It stretches from hospital nurseries to preschool to public school to parks and playgrounds. I suspect however that what you’re looking for is not the infrastructure which already exists but rather an infrastructure which is cost-free (which, of course, is an entirely different question). No free lunches here.
In the end, of course, we agree: “there’s simply no other experience like carrying a living child to term, trying to breastfeed, and nurturing them through various stages of development.” There isn’t. There can’t be. To be a child, brought into the world…and to then be the mother to bring your own child into the world… is to anchor yourself in time, to tie yourself, your blood to blood, forever.
“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?” (Kundera) You chose motherhood; I chose fatherhood.
Forget those who haven’t a clue. Full of sound & fury, they signify nothing.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
10 months ago

Thank you. This resonates w/ me personally as well as intellectually. As a radical feminist who was also unusually left-wing-analytical compared to most women I’ve known–I was initially appalled at my loss of identity as I attached my nipple to a cattle pump. Beyond that, I’ve been frustrated for years w/ various online gender critical feminist communities wherein members pounce if you suggest that the contemporary “pro-choice” formulation of life not beginning as conception might be accepting patriarchal definitions of humanhood. If one takes feminist epistemology seriously–I do, or did, when I had time to follow such stuff–the entire enlightenment-present notion of self-hood in life and law is based on the male embodied experience, and thus arguments regarding reproductive choice typically follow that construction. You can’t even get four words out before most fellow feminists (and these are the usually more critical thinking kind–Nordic model, anti-pornography, gender critical–) accuse you of being some right-wing infiltrator. While women should still retain reproductive rights (w/ the usual caveats of not aborting healthy 28-week olds, which I don’t think anyone does anyway), we only reinforce patriarchal norms by defining human-hood, and conception and life, by traditional norms of male bodily autonomy.

If we lived in a society in which the female body was the norm, we wouldn’t have so many unwanted pregnancies in the first place (because women would have enough power to not agree to unprotected sex; rape would be less frequent; and schildbirth and childrearing wouldn’t entail the colossal pressure and poverty-maker it is today or have any residue of shame for unmarried women). Concomitant w/ this hypothetical, we’d have entire infrastructures to support the giving of life & raising of young children. The conversation would be vastly different, based on a redefinition of the individual involving the celebration of the female body’s prowess you’ve described in your article. But these days you can’t even begin to initiate that conversation–and online feminist fora are the wrong place to do it anyway (better to have gone through editorial review and have the backing of a major journal and maybe a full book behind you). I’m just perpetually disappointed that one can’t even venture the discussion, though related to Adrienne Rich’s masterful poetry, I think it’s the profound experience of motherhood, more than feminist epistemological analyses, that opens women to reconceptualize Western notions of individual autonomy. Childless feminists often get defensive about this (see Bindel’s unfortunate essay several months back), but I don’t care how much you read or sacrifice for greater causes–while very engaged adoptive parents and fathers appreciate much more about parenting than those who’ve never had children, there’s simply no other experience like carrying a living child to term, trying to breastfeed, and nurturing them through various stages of development.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
10 months ago

I view supporting the right of mothers to breastfeed wherever it suits them as entirely of a piece with keeping trannies out of female-only spaces.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
10 months ago

I view supporting the right of mothers to breastfeed wherever it suits them as entirely of a piece with keeping trannies out of female-only spaces.

Brendan O'Leary
BO
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago

I was all in favour of breastfeeding because bottle-feeding meant I had to get up in the night and take my turn.
My kids turned out alright, I think.They buy their round when we go to the pub, anyway.

Brendan O'Leary
BO
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago

I was all in favour of breastfeeding because bottle-feeding meant I had to get up in the night and take my turn.
My kids turned out alright, I think.They buy their round when we go to the pub, anyway.

Miriam Cotton
MC
Miriam Cotton
10 months ago

Excellent article and long, long overdue. I don’t want to blame feminism but so long as all things biologically female-related were recoiled from by feminism, the movement has only further deingrated the social, political and economic status of femaleness – of motherhood especially. Biology IS destiny but that destiny can vary. There is a spectrum of femaleness that no man, however he ‘identifies’ can ever be a part of. Femaleness needs to be raised up to the status it deserves.

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago
Reply to  Miriam Cotton

Feminism specifically stated that biology was irrelevant/a patriarchal myth/a social construct.
But one half of the population is brilliant at not taking responsibility, so this will never be analysed by most feminists (honourable exceptions include Zoe Strimpel, Mary Harrington and Helen Joyce).

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
10 months ago