Feminism, Fawning Bimbos, and True Love in ‘Before Midnight’

SONY-BDOS-01_Onesheet4.16.13_Layout 1No matter how feminist he may be, a man still loves a fawning bimbo.

Or at least that’s what Celine claims in Before Midnight, the third installment in  the Richard Linklater-directed series starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which follows Celine and Jesse’s epic romance. That romance began in 1995’s Before Sunrise, when Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) are 20-somethings who meet on a train and decide to spend the night together wandering Vienna. They don’t exchange contact information, but agree to meet six months later.

In  2004’s Before Sunset, set nine years later, we catch up with them in Paris. Jesse is now a successful writer, and Celine works as an environmental activist. They never met as promised, though Jesse uses their night in Vienna as the plot for his bestselling novel. His book tour takes him to Paris, and that is how Celine finds him. They spend the film reconnecting, but there is a big obstacle – Jesse is married with a child. Unhappily married, but still. Nonetheless, as the film ends, they may get together.
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Does Feminism Overlook Motherhood for Abortion Rights?

While mainstream media often try to pit feminism against motherhood (our stance: that’s bullshit), there’s no doubt that conflict exists for working mothers. Guest blogger Guinevere A. Murphy, Ph.D. reveals how returning to her high-level career in science after giving birth to a child made her question, then value, feminism.

The beeping machines and the loud voices in the crowded delivery room fell silent in the instant I saw the tiny, crying baby. My baby. A long minute later, they placed the wet, pink, perfect little human in my arms. A warmth and light effused my being, and without even a slight hint of cliché, I thought wonderingly, “This is the best moment of my life,” with an absolute certainty and fervor beyond anything I’d ever experienced.

Everything changed in that moment. I had to separate my life into pre-Evie and post-Evie epochs, like B.C. and A.D. The overwhelming love I felt for my baby gave me a clarity and sense of purpose I hadn’t realized was missing before.

I came to realize after Evie’s birth that my devotion to my career in science had become in large part an act, one that I put on, among other factors, because of my whole-hearted belief in what is popularly attributed to a feminist ideal of the high-achieving career woman, but I’ve since come to realize originates more from an out-of-control, greed-dominated corporate culture. Marissa Mayer famously went back to work after just a “few weeks,” and worked from home while still healing from delivery. Her decision to do this largely contributes to the idea of motherhood as merely a minor bump in the road of one’s career trajectory.

I went back to the office at six weeks. It’s not hyperbole to say that my every instinct cried out against walking out the door most mornings, and nights I mourned if I was home even five minutes late, for the precious hour we had together before bedtime. My experience illustrates why feminism is still needed in the U.S., one of four countries in the world without mandated paid maternity leave. This angle wasn’t lost on me at the time, but above all, I felt a furious, overwhelming sense of betrayal, by the feminist movement.  [Read more...]

Abortion Rights vs. Infertility: The New Mommy War?

So Christina Locke is finding it difficult to support her abortion-having friends because she wants another child, as she blogs for The New York Times:

My choice was either to be true to myself and my politics supporting women, or give in to my emotions as my friends described their choice. More than anything, I wanted another baby. I wanted what they had, and didn’t want.

The following month, I was pregnant.

Then I wasn’t. Just like that. Because that really is how it happens sometimes. Women can go from feeling exuberant and full to empty and exhausted in a matter of days. My doctor called it a “lost pregnancy” rather than miscarriage, and that helped. That felt less threatening.

I was sad and disappointed; both of those friends comforted and reassured me, as women always do.

We tacitly ignored any irony.

Part of me still wants to avoid the truth that my friends are mothers who sometimes have abortions. Do I support them or not? Can I live with myself if I don’t?

As with so many aspects of parenting, we make decisions now and are haunted by them for the rest of our lives. I am a woman who supports abortion rights. Before having children, I would have said that reflexively. As a mother, I no longer can.

It’s a topic I’ve addressed before, on my own trip through infertility hell, and on that score I have mentioned that my wanting of a child (and deeper understanding of all the complications involved therein) has made me a stronger supporter of abortion rights, especially in the currently insane political climate that says an embryo is a person, and makes fully terminating even a “lost pregnancy” an ordeal through needless bureaucracy. But as I move into the adoption world, having failed spectacularly at pregnancy, I find the judgment surrounding abortion even more difficult to take, and the piece above is a perfect example.

Here’s another: My husband and I met with an agency last summer. We were sitting in a small office where the well-meaning woman talked about how lots of chicks my age (I hadn’t told her how old I was) had “put off having children” while they “worked on their careers” and were now coming forward looking for babies to adopt. So already I was some selfish bitch too focused on work to breed, and not someone with lifelong reproductive issues who’d been trying to have children since age 27.

Then I asked about the average time on their waiting list (we knew it could be years) and she mentioned how it had changed over the years since she started her agency. “Abortion now exists,” she said. “There are a lot more support systems for women who get pregnant. Families are more supportive now.”

I think I was supposed to feel sad about that, and think about how much better life would be for me and everyone else seeking to adopt if abortion hadn’t existed and families weren’t more supportive. Would there be more adoptable babies for me out there if desperate, poor, frustrated and scared women were forced to bear children against their will and then give them up? Maybe. Sure. Let’s grant that the pool of available kids would be bigger if every woman who didn’t want a baby had to give birth when she got knocked up, as was the case once upon a time.

Let’s grant I might have a shorter wait for a child if women were coerced to surrender babies for adoption if those women were young or unmarried or their families disapproved, as was the case once upon a time.

Let’s grant that if Roe v. Wade had gone the other way, things might be easier for me.

And then let’s wrap our heads around this, which Christina Locke seems unable to do: Sometimes it’s not all about me.

My desire for a child isn’t about those other women. My desire for a child does not convey upon them any obligation whatsoever. And their desire not to have a child isn’t about me. How dare I ask them to endure misery so that I can have happiness? How dare I take advantage of their poverty, desperation, frustration, fear? Am I inherently better than them? Do I have any right to expect anyone else’s downfall, just so I can benefit?

No. I don’t. I don’t have any right to ask anything of anyone. Their lives are theirs.

If a child comes to me, it will be because that child needs a home. Not because some other woman was obligated to give that child to me. Abortion rights should make no difference in that calculation whatsoever.

Having It All Means Asking for It

jobinterviewThe media is obsessed with examining the pursuit of women trying to “have it all,” almost always blaming feminism. But I just experienced what that ideal really means, at least to me.

I had a phone interview with a prospective employer. She was impressed by my credentials, I was attracted to the job. We discussed pay, logistics, etc. and then I didn’t hesitate to mention my son, who is now two. “Finding a job that values its employees’ commitment to their own lives, particularly their children, is paramount in my decision,” I told her. “I don’t want to apologize for sick days, or pretend that I’m not a mother.”

I waited.

Her response: “I feel you. When I first started working I was one of the first faculty hired and no one was having babies, certainly not talking about wanting them. Things have changed so much, at least around here, that I now stock kids’ toys in my desk’s bottom drawer in case someone needs to bring her child to work.”

I got the job. I was hired because I am qualified and enthusiastic. I took the job because I will be valued for those skills and not devalued for being a mother. I feel so much better knowing this going in rather than wading in the waters to figure out the climate of my new workplace.

My scenario exists in the slightly more flexible world of academia. I am taking a part-time teaching job at a local college while I continue to work on books and articles at home, while raising—and prioritizing—my child. But my experience is something all working mothers (and that’s each and every one of us) should think about. We need to put our wants and desires above those prescribed for us by everyone else.

The only reason we have the FMLA, flex-time, job sharing, or any semblance of prioritizing women and mothers in the workplace is because some of those very mothers demanded it. Women like my new boss benefitted from it and now she’s in a position to make sure others can as well. We still have a long way to go before women are forced to feel torn between career and motherhood, but we’re not going to get there unless we keep talking. Feminism has given us this opportunity; the lesson is that having it all is possible if you speak up for what you want to have.

For more on motherhood and feminism, visit Sexy Feminist’s sister site, feministmommy.com

Ruminations from the Frontlines of Infertility: How Paul Ryan’s Anti-Choice Policies Could Outlaw Some Couples’ Quests to Conceive

It may take a while, the doctors cautioned us, when we looked for help having a baby.

I’d figured that, to be honest. It had taken me a while to want a baby, after all.

My husband and I got married when he was 26 and I was 22. Both writers and designers, we wanted to establish our own place in the world, create the outlines of a relatively stable life, before adding any other people to it. We got jobs and settled in Chicago, bought a vintage condo, and started stripping woodwork.

Most parents of my acquaintance at that point weren’t exactly walking advertisements for joining the life. They complained about their kids, or admitted they’d had them too young, or had too many. They talked about how they had no money, no time, no fun of their own. It wasn’t an effective sales pitch. My husband and I were happy together, working hard, and young.

Shortly after I turned 28, I felt sad when finding out a college friend was pregnant, instead of sighing in relief that it wasn’t me. About a year after that I noticed that I was wanting to snatch babies in stores and cuddle them with great force. We got to know parents who took visible joy in their children, children who became part of our lives as well. My husband and I started talking. Stupider people than us had had kids. We knew lots of people who could hardly walk and breathe at the same time, and they’d reproduced successfully. How hard could it be?

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That Time Cover and the Threat of Fear-Based Headlines

We’ve all seen the now-infamous Time cover of the model-pretty mom breastfeeding her 3-year-old son, looking at the camera as if to say, “what of it, bitch?” Her conviction is actually kind of awesome (my philosophy on mothering is similar to the one I hold for feminism: There is no such thing as “the right way” and every woman reserves the right to make her own decisions for her relationships, career, body and family.) I take no offense to the image of a woman breastfeeding, even if her child is standing on a chair. And the article, its sidebars and even the supporting online content Time produced on the subject, attachment parenting, are great reads. They offer a well-balanced look at this social phenomenon that is certainly worth an expose in the nation’s leading newsweekly. It’s the words next to her that are offensive: “Are You Mom Enough?” the cover screams, presumably, at any woman who’s had a baby or is contemplating having one.

It’s provocative, it got everyone talking and sales and downloads of the issue broke records. Magazines are in the business of selling issues, so, job: done. I get it, I’ve often been tasked with writing headlines to do just that very thing. But this one teeters on an ethical tightrope. Tabloids and tabloid-y news media often prey on women’s insecurities to sell their content. But when the offending hook comes from a source that identifies as a serious, journalistic enterprise, there’s real harm being done. [Read more...]

Feminism vs. Motherhood

It probably goes without saying that I believe feminism and motherhood are not mutually exclusive. But feminism continues to be targeted as the cause of parenting woes rather than the solution to them. Labored rant to come on the new Sexy Feminist sister blog, FeministMommy.com. Stay tuned for launch this month.

I am impressed, however, by the balance and sound arguments in the New York Times‘s latest Room for Debate round table, “Feminism vs. Motherhood.” There’s an attachment parenting advocate who defends being feminist while breastfeeding and co-sleeping; an unapologetic workaholic mom who believes being the best that she can be is the best thing she can do for her children; a grandma who reminds us we need stop judging each other—a mom of a special-needs child echoes that sentiment; that lady who thinks French moms are the creme de la creme; and a mothering traditionalist (think: 1950s housewifery) who blames feminism for pretty much everything wrong with society and its children.

The latter argument is a given in this debate, and though hers is not alone in attacking feminism for causing women to devalue marriage and family, in this debate it’s hardly the loudest. Mostly because for perhaps the first time I’ve clicked on an article with a headline like “femimism vs. motherhood,” (and there seems to be a new one every day), I see  a wealth of perspectives. Though each essay was written and published independently, the series reads like a conversation. It gives me hope that we can have civil, educated, open-minded debates with other women on this topic. Because the one thing we all have in common—whether we sling our babies with us everywhere or formula-feed while working 60 hours a week—is that we all struggle with balancing the demands and importance of raising our children while maintaining our identities as individuals.

Doing both is perhaps the hardest thing about parenting and I believe the most important.

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