Knocked up, knocked down
Look down- do you have a uterus?
Yes? Good luck with that, because no matter what choice you make concerning that particular piece of bodily real estate, you will be criticised, harangued and nagged by the media, the medical profession and friends. Whatever you choose to do with it, or the fates lump you with in terms of partners and fertility, you’re going to have to justify your decision with greater rigour and intellectual vim than if you were contemplating voting for the Democrats.
Dissenting opinions are fine and dandy, but when it comes to this particular topic, its not that everyone has something to say, they think they have every right to say it loudly and bang on about it in several thousand word essays.
And this particular curiosity has only become more apparent in the past week or so as a scuffle has broken out online with the digital commentariat busying spilling their lattes onto their keyboards in their haste to join in the fray.
It started with Cameron Diaz, who in an interview with Cosmo, eschewed the “All I want is a dog and husband to make me perfectly happy” line and unashamedly admitted that she is not sold on the idea of joining the ranks of Mum-dom. Sacrilege! To openly, confidently assert that she’s not sure about whether she wants kids was tantamount to dancing naked on the grave of Mother Teresa.
But, Cam went further, suggesting that to even utter such thoughts was taboo, adding, “I think women are afraid to say that they don’t want children because they’re going to get shunned”.
In a time when a baby or six, (preferably one from each continent and named after New York suburbs- “Here Bronx! Brooklyn! Little Upper East Side!”) are the accessory du jour and hipper than the latest Marc Jacobs bag, it takes some guts for a woman to admit that getting knocked up is not on her to-do list.
Then from across the Atlantic, British journo and Guardian scribe Polly Vernon got stuck into the melee, defending the actress and agreeing that women who openly admit their lack of interest in having kids are seen as unnatural and transgressive. Vernon has some personal experience of this particular spat, after having penned a highly contentious article earlier this year outlining why she had made the choice to not have children.
In a follow-up piece published this week, Vernon writes that the reaction to her initial piece was “terrifying. Emails and letters arrived, condemning me, expressing disgust. I was denounced as bitter, selfish, un-sisterly, unnatural, evil. I’m now routinely referred to as “baby-hating journalist Polly Vernon”“.
For Vernon, we live in a time “when popular culture fetishises parenthood in general and motherhood in particular.”
Motherhood isn’t every girl’s cup of tea but to admit as much, you might as well suggest you spend your Saturday night’s torturing kittens. To not want children and to publicly acknowledge this position is to invoke bewilderment, anger and downright disbelief.
The lesson is, bring up issues around reproductive choice and watch the mayhem ensue because every man and woman armed with nothing more threatening than a keyboard thinks they have every right to get stuck into the fray.
But let’s say you do fancy getting sprigged up, and voila, welcome to an even messier, bigger fertility fracas.
Say you traipse across the vodka-stained terrain of finding Mr- You’ll-Do- To- Get- a- Mortgage- and- Get- Knocked- Up- With; say you find a way to momentarily quell notions of a career and any semblance of burning ambition; say you stop guzzling wine and eating soft cheese and decide you are willing to sing ‘The wheels on the bus’ 6,568 times you will still be getting it wrong according to various concerned quarters who will happily explain your shortcomings at length.
Firstly, chances are you will have left it too late. 25 or older? Sorry dearest, you’ve missed the most fecund window because you were too busy pretending to read University texts and getting a foothold in the professional world. Research published last week by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK so very politely points out to young women they’re busy wasting their most fertile years in the errant pursuit of other pesky pastimes like a career or education.
And when you think you’ve heard enough from celebrities, doctors and journalists, there are the environmentalists to contend with. Forget V8 guzzlers as the prime suspect in depleting the ozone layer- the carbon footprint of babies is what we should be truly concerned about.
In the UK an environmental lobby group has set up the “Stop at two” pledge to try and save the planet, one less sprog at a time. “Every additional human being is increasing the burden on this planet which is becoming increasingly intolerable” says Jonathon Porrit, head of the British government’s Sustainable Development Commission, “I think we will work our way towards a position that says having more than two children is irresponsible.”
Even your very desire to have a child will be called into question, with there being plenty of thinking that children are little more than a selfish piece of lifestyle accoutrement.
This argument goes, there are billions of children in the world, many of whom who have not been whisked out of poverty by Brangelina or Madonna, and to wantonly add to that number is pure self-indulgence.
A very good friend of mine with no plans to even come within a spermatozoa’s length of having a child, resents that he will have to, by way of taxes and the occasional birthday present, pay for his friends’ children. He sees children as a choice, something you consider acquiring like a house by the beach or the entire first series of the West Wing on DVD.
He does not see my willingness or that of his coterie of female friends of relative fecundity as something generous or giving, but a selfish, wilful want, like demanding a new pair of heels. Why, he argues, should he fork out to pay for our reproductive whims?
Ladies, you’re damned if you do get up the duff and you’ll be demonised if you don’t.
So, I propose this- give up. Stop defending whatever reproductive bandwagon you’re on, and stop explaining why you’ve decided to get knocked up or not. Revel in the fact that you have a choice about what is right for you and that you have access to a whole heap of pretty impressive medical science to help you get there.
But dear god, please don’t tell try and tell me about it.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…