The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Under pressure - the flipside

In my post Under pressure I wrote about the pressures I face to have a child, asap. That pressure hasn't really lifted.*

But anyway this post is not about that. This post is about the flipside of the pressure I face to have children. It's about the judgement many women face when they do get pregnant and some people judge it to be a Bad Thing.**

Cactus Kate has blogged in defence of Keisha Castle-Hughes who has announced she is pregnant and has been attacked from various quarters for daring to get with child. Notable with her criticism, in the article linked to above, is National MP Paula Bennett, who goes around the country telling teens not to get pregnant.

I have also been thinking about what happened around the tragic deaths of the Kahui twins. There were many comments swirling around calling for restrictions on beneficiaries fertility (to put it nicely), not to mention thinly veiled claims that Maori are genetically programmed to abuse their children.

I wonder if there isn't a race element to some of this. I note that in both of the above cases I mention the women are not white.

What also bugs me is the ownership this shows. Ownership of women's bodies by Other People (including other women). I've noticed that there are many situations in which women are judged as Wrong for getting pregnant, including:

  • when under an arbitrary age (I can't work out what the current moral number is - 20?)
  • when over an arbitrary age (40?)
  • when they already have Too Many kids (again, no specific number identified, and there does appear to be a racial aspect to this too imho)
  • when they are single
  • when they are not married
  • when they are lesbian, whether they are in a relationship or not
  • when they are intending to be a working mum (or this is assumed)
  • when they are poor
  • when they are a beneficiary
  • when there is a chance the child could have a genetic disease
She's pregnant, let's get over it and get on with supporting her. Yes it will be hard, becoming a parent is always hard and there are often other factors operating in a person's life that make impending parenthood harder for that individual or family. Rather than lamenting the pregnancy itself, how about focusing on making it a positive experience and thus helping the parent(s) to feel supported and loved?

Update, same day 8.49pm: And gosh, I'm stunned, there are commenters judging Castle-Hughes at Kiwiblog within hours of the announcement! Who would ever have thought?

Update, Oct 10th 4.02pm: Maia has also posted on this over at Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty, writing about the element of "choice" and the impact the capitalist structure of our society has on it.

*In particular I have a friend who every time we interact raises it. She always asks "if" I am going to have children, almost as if we haven't had this conversation before (many many times). Although I like her very much I dread those words coming out of her mouth, but they do every time we are together, if not to me directly then to my partner. I haven't yet found a polite way to say "actually this is not really any of your business", and I'm worried that I'll find an impolite way instead...
**I'm struck by the impression that many of those who make these pronouncements are also people who would similarly judge harshly if a woman chose an abortion instead.


stef said...

I know people that have had babies as teenagers that have gone on to bigger and better things. I also know who didn't have babies and went on to screw up their lives.

The point is that having a child isn't what screwed up their life, it's the individual idiocy that did it.

I especially like the bit where they called her a slut. I'm 10 years older than her and have yet to have any relationship last more than 2 years!

Kaethe said...

Next time someone asks anything you consider personal, which decisions about having children certainly are, ask "Why do you want to know?" You may ask it in a very polite fashion. The answer will either be interesting, or humbling for the friend who never before considered that just because she is curious is no reason for you to share.

Span said...

I think of myself as a teen and know that I would not have been ready to cope with a child, but then maybe I would have risen to the occasion? Maybe 9 months of pregnancy, a supportive family, and living in a society that didn't judge me would have resulted in Span as happy and capable teen mum? We'll never know.

kaethe - thanks for your suggestion, I think I shall take that up! I can think of many occasions where I have been incredibly curious to know something personal about someone else, sometimes I have crossed the line and asked, but more and more frequently now I am curbing my curiosity, partly as a result of the imposition many are putting on me about my breeding intentions.

Heine said...

Sounds like she is in a secure, safe family environment and is more than capable to bring up the child financially. She will do better than many other mothers twice her ago.

Most of it isn't really anybodys business what she does with her life, I think because she is somewhat famous, people feel like they can call her those nasty names.