They say you learn something new every day, and today I learned something about me. I learned I am “cold, calculating, sad and mad.” Also “lacking in essential humanity”. Oh, and just plain “weird”. Can’t forget that one!
Why am I all of these things, I hear you ask? (OK, not really, but let’s pretend.) Because I don’t want to have children. And according to a certain columnist for the Daily Fail Mail (a newspaper I hate with every fibre of my being), this makes me all of the above, and more.
I read Carol Sarler’s piece on Why bosses are right to distrust women who don’t have children this morning (I know, I should know better to read anything in the Mail, but there was a link on Twitter, I clicked…), and spent the next ten minutes or so ranting angrily to anyone who would listen (sorry, Terry and Rubin) about how women like Carol are the reason we’ll never have true equality with men: because as long as women insist on putting so much time and energy into tearing each other down, calling each other names and being holier-than-thou about every little choice other women make, we’ll always just seem like a bunch of cats fighting in a sack. And we will never, ever be taken seriously.
Here’s the part where I prove my point by tearing Carol Sarler down and being holier-than-thou. But where to start?
How about at the very beginning:
“Much as I like to trumpet the importance of a woman’s right to choose all things at all times, [says Carol] there’s one choice I simply cannot understand: the choice of an otherwise sane and healthy woman not to have children…if she says she hasn’t a shred of maternal feeling in her, moreover, if she says she would prefer to concentrate on her career and that a child would only get in the way of it, then my head might acknowledge her right to do so. But my heart whispers: ‘Lady, you’re weird.”
It’s interesting, this, because when I hear another woman say she’d like to have children, I think… well, nothing, really. Partly because it’s none of my business, but also because I learned something a long time ago that I think is a basic truth. It’s this: we are not all the same. Women are not all the same. Men are not all the same. We want different things, like different things, are good and bad at different things. Different. It’s what makes us spechul. And as far as I’m concerned, as long as people aren’t actually hurting anyone else with their choices, I don’t really care how they choose to live their lives. (Unless they choose to do it to the accompaniment of music from tinny speakers. Then they can all go to hell.)
Me not having children doesn’t hurt anyone.
From the way some people choose to react, though, you’d really think it did. Being child free is one of the last great taboos (Well, that and being ginger, obviously. I win at taboos!) and there’s a surprisingly large number of people out there who’ve failed to grasp that basic truth I mentioned above, and who feel that unless everyone else in the world chooses to live their lives in exactly the same way they do, then they must be “mad”, and it’s probably a good idea to call them names. Because being derogatory about people who aren’t harming anyone ISN’T mad or “weird” in any way, you see. It’s important that we’re clear about this.
Lots of people do this. I’ve actually lost count of the number of times people have called me “unnatural”, “weird” or any other variety of unpleasant names, just because they’ve discovered that I don’t want to have children. (And trust me, such is the strength of feeling about this subject that I don’t generally offer that information up unless pushed.) I’ve been told repeatedly that I WILL change my mind. Well, I’m not going to deny that that could happen – of course it could – but so far the signs aren’t encouraging, and quite apart from anything else, the sheer rudeness and presumptuousness of the statement takes my breath away. When will I be considered old enough to know my own mind, I wonder? Why do people who’ve only just met me think they know me better than I know myself? Why is such a very personal choice even up for debate? If someone tells me they’ve decided to have a child, I’m not going to say, “Ooh, are you quite sure about that? I’m pretty sure you’ll change your mind!” Because a) it’s none of my business what other people do with their lives and b) it’s none of my business. Really.
My reproductive intentions, though, ARE considered to be everyone else’s business. (And by “my” I mean “women in general”). So, really, I shouldn’t be surprised by Carol Sarler’s hatred for the child-free: it’s symptomatic of a society which likes to control women by persuading them they are “mad” or “bad” if they fail to conform to the “norm”, whether they want to or not.
Even so, I had to question just what planet Carol actually inhabits when I read this bit:
“Besides which, in my experiences both as a colleague and an employer, I have found that mothers almost always bring something extra to the job, to the benefit of all.
It’s not the mothers, for a start, who are going to turn up late and hungover after a night on the razz; they’ll have been up, dressed and alert for hours, having cooked a family breakfast and delivered their children to school. On time. “
Wow. Way to completely generalise as a way of getting attention, Carol! Bravo! And of course, she’s right: all mothers are exactly the same. And all non-mothers are exactly the same. I must’ve somehow missed the memo telling me that because I don’t have a child, I’m supposed to be “on the razz” every night. If I’d only known that, I wouldn’t have dutifully turned up at work every day ON TIME, and stayed late most days – often because my colleagues who had children had to leave early to pick them up from school/take them to an activity/wanted to spend time with them.
I’m not going to be so stupid as to suggest that ALL mothers are like this: of course not. BUT. When I worked in an office, I was frequently asked to come in early, stay late, work weekends, change my holidays or take on extra duties, all to accommodate colleagues who insisted that their children came first. I should emphasise that I don’t blame them for that. If I had children, I’d be exactly the same. In fact, even without children, I am exactly the same: my family comes first. Always.
Again, though, I seem to have missed a memo somewhere, because according to Carol Sarler all women are EITHER wonderful, warm-hearted mothers OR cold, calculating career-women. There is no middle ground, which confuses me, because I’m neither a mother or a career woman. I work because I need the money. I’d rather not have to work, to be honest. But I don’t want children either, so I don’t seem to fit into Carol’s neat stereotypes at all. I somehow don’t think I’m the only one.
“It’s not the mothers, usually, who run the office bitch-fest.”
And it’s not the non-mothers who write nasty, bitchy articles, calling other women hugely offensive names just because they’ve made a personal choice that affects no-one but them, is it? Oh, kettle, you’re looking very black today!
“You cannot be a mother without knowing something about selflessness, compassion, generosity, commitment, fierce loyalty and plain hard work.”
I know, and Mother Teresa was just a hold, hard, calculating bitch, wasn’t she? That weirdo better not be getting a sainthood, because, after all, she wasn’t a mother: what would she know about selflessness or compassion? Also, Gandhi? Used to rock up to work drunk every morning, FACT.
And being a mother may well teach you all about selflessness, etc, but it apparently doesn’t preclude you from being judgemental, narrow-minded, prejudiced or the kind of person who’ll bad-mouth others just because they’re not exactly the same as you. Which is a shame.
Seriously, though. I mean, SERIOUSLY. I’m not denying that mothers are great. Sure they are. But are we REALLY so narrow-minded as to believe that they, and they alone, are capable of selflessness or compassion? That only mothers know what it’s like to work hard or be loyal? REALLY?
And what about the men in all of this? They’re not mothers, so we have to assume they’re also cold, calculating weirdos. Being a father just doesn’t count. After all, you never hear a man being asked how he intends to “juggle” fatherhood and career, do you? And you never see a child-free man being lambasted for his choice, told he WILL change his mind, or being called “unnatural”, do you?
No, because it’s only women who are made to feel like failures, no matter what decision they make in life. It’s only women who get to be ALWAYS WRONG, no matter how hard they try to get it right. And it’s only women who take such unadulterated pleasure in bitching about each other. The Sisterhood: ur doin it rong.
The last word* goes to our old friend Carol, who has single-handedly just set the feminist movement back about 50 years:
“So three cheers for the employers who are catching on, the ones who don’t want to people their workforces with the cold, the calculating, the sad and the mad. The only question is: what took you so long? “
Indeed. Three cheers for ignorance, prejudice, bullying and discrimination! There’s no need to give them a warm welcome back to the workplace, though, Carol: thanks to women like you, they never actually left.
(*Whoops, no, it looks like the last word went to me!)
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