this side of pro-choice

***Trigger warning: The following post covers the topic of abortion.

Please be aware of this while reading and sharing.***

** It also comes with some book spoilers too.** 

I am part of a book club. Really, who isn't these days?

We are a bunch of women from all walks of life that meet once every 6-8 weeks and drink wine and eat chocolate and cheese and yes, we even discuss books!

This past week was Book Club Week and I was especially looking forward to it, because, 1) I really needed a night out and said wine and chocolate and 2) I actually finished this month's book choice a whole week ahead of time.

The book was Caitlin Moran's half autobiography, half feminist manifesto, "How to be a Woman". And if you haven't read it already, then I highly recommend you get yourself in the queue for the e-book from your local library ASAP! (See what I did there? Talking like a Brit. QUEUE!)

I am not going to lie, I really LOVED this book. It has already inspired this post a few weeks ago and after the many discussions had at book club last week, I can't help but write even more.

Once we had all settled in with our wine and chocolate and a hand-full of mini Licorice Allsorts (SCORE!!), it was time to get the formal discussion part of the night underway. I wasn't surprised that the first question, "Do you consider yourself a feminist?", caused some in the room to hesitate with an answer. I think the definition of feminism (we had the 39-page Wikipedia print out) has undergone so many waves and permutations that most women are confused by its meaning and as such find it hard identifying with it as part of who they are. This was a good a place as any to get the discussion going and go it did!

And while the topic of feminism and it's definition generated a lot of good idea sharing and clarification for some, the one chapter that got the most air time and perhaps evoked the most emotion in all of us, was Caitlin's very candid, brutally honest chapter on abortion.

I had to read this chapter twice to really absorb it and to understand what she was trying to say in it. It is a touchy subject, no matter how you frame it and Caitlin forced me to reexamine my views on the subject from all angles. All I could think of afterwards was how much respect I had for this woman. Caitlin writes that in the few minutes after she learns of the pregnancy, the minutes that pass in which she imagines this baby, this boy's whole life, she says:

"I can't have you," I tell him sadly. "The world will fall in if I have you."

She goes on to describe her abortion in detail and also how easy this decision was for her to make. Some in my group saw this as narcissistic and selfish, and I would suspect they thought it very unmotherly of her. Everyone around the room claimed to be pro-choice, but a lot of them had a very hard time with the way that she described her unborn child, the abortion itself, and the speed with which Caitlin made her choice to have one.

But I got it.

And when I was reading this chapter all I could think about was two years ago, when B and I were discussing whether or not to have another child (also known as me insisting that I "had a feeling that I wasn't done" and him telling me that he didn't have it in him again), HE got it too. Way before I did.

..........

I believe that as mothers, we are programmed (and to varying extents, expected) to give and give and give. We have a child and all of a sudden the weight of the world is literally on our shoulders and God forbid you have an unmotherly thought in your mind or do something that does not fully acknowledge you as the self-sacrificing martyr that you somehow have now become. Sometimes we lose sight of how much of ourselves we are constantly giving. That for some it gets to the point that we are no longer happy, no longer fulfilled, feeling resentment, suffering in silence from anxiety and depression and just going through the motions of our lives. Why do we do this to ourselves? There is no prize for who sacrificed the most, who is the most giving, who loses themselves the most in this gig.

So why on earth would we ever tell a woman that all zygotes conceived must be born, or that she should not have that choice, especially if it indeed does mean that her world will fall in?

One of the mamas in our club said that the reason she wanted to have three children was because she wanted that sense of happy chaos in her family and not just the easiness of two kids. I understood what she meant, but her comments gave me pause and got me thinking more about this.

Who decides what level of chaos is "happy" for any family?

For some that may be three children, for others it is one child, for others still it may be 5 or 6, or if you are the Duggars it is 20+. Whatever your number is, what is important is that YOU know what that threshold is, that you know your capacity for love, for giving, for, as Caitlin so aptly puts it, "...being life support to someone who weeps for me and rages against me..." Because when it comes down to it, no matter how much we are told that it is, that capacity is NOT without its limits and without sacrificing something in return.

I left this chapter with a new understanding of what pro-choice means to me. It is not just about choosing to have an abortion or not, it is about choosing a life that is versus a life that may be. I have a deep respect for Caitlin and all other women like her, who are strong enough to make a choice that says, "THIS. This is all the family that I WANT, all that I NEED and I simply can not do more than this."  Her words and her story and her ease with which she made her decision, a decision based on her threshold for keeping her world together, keeping herself whole and sane, and made with no guilt or shame, made it very clear to me that so many of our choices in life (and especially in motherhood) are not made like that.

Last week Annie at Phd in Parenting took a closer look at the issue of choice and why it is seen as stalling feminism these days. The one line in her post that struck me the most was when she said,

"Shame is a barrier to social change, in feminism and in many other spaces."

And this is what was bothering me that night at book club. I was in the minority in my feelings about Caitlin's chapter and opinions on abortion and I couldn't understand why. Then I read Annie's post and it hit me, the other women in the room did not feel that Caitlin showed enough shame or guilt about her decision. That she was too flippant about it. That is was callous of her to describe this child and imagine his life, knowing full well that he was never to be born. The problem was that everyone was thinking about the potential child in this situation and not the ACTUAL WOMAN LIVING HER LIFE RIGHT NOW, who showed no shame in her decision and made it with a certainty that made a lot of people uncomfortable.

And then, two more very important questions and issues arose for me that night that I am realizing are quite complex and quite possibly rooted in some deep, deep patriarchy.

Why do we always question (and judge) the motives of a woman's decisions when it comes to her body and those she brings forth from it?

AND

Why are decisions made out of love (and knowledge) of ourselves as women and mothers almost always seen as inherently selfish?

I would love to hear what you have to say on this.

Natasha~

 

 

 

this side of pro-choice

***Trigger warning: The following post covers the topic of abortion.

Please be aware of this while reading and sharing.***

** It also comes with some book spoilers too.** 

I am part of a book club. Really, who isn't these days?

We are a bunch of women from all walks of life that meet once every 6-8 weeks and drink wine and eat chocolate and cheese and yes, we even discuss books!

This past week was Book Club Week and I was especially looking forward to it, because, 1) I really needed a night out and said wine and chocolate and 2) I actually finished this month's book choice a whole week ahead of time.

The book was Caitlin Moran's half autobiography, half feminist manifesto, "How to be a Woman". And if you haven't read it already, then I highly recommend you get yourself in the queue for the e-book from your local library ASAP! (See what I did there? Talking like a Brit. QUEUE!)

I am not going to lie, I really LOVED this book. It has already inspired this post a few weeks ago and after the many discussions had at book club last week, I can't help but write even more.

Once we had all settled in with our wine and chocolate and a hand-full of mini Licorice Allsorts (SCORE!!), it was time to get the formal discussion part of the night underway. I wasn't surprised that the first question, "Do you consider yourself a feminist?", caused some in the room to hesitate with an answer. I think the definition of feminism (we had the 39-page Wikipedia print out) has undergone so many waves and permutations that most women are confused by its meaning and as such find it hard identifying with it as part of who they are. This was a good a place as any to get the discussion going and go it did!

And while the topic of feminism and it's definition generated a lot of good idea sharing and clarification for some, the one chapter that got the most air time and perhaps evoked the most emotion in all of us, was Caitlin's very candid, brutally honest chapter on abortion.

I had to read this chapter twice to really absorb it and to understand what she was trying to say in it. It is a touchy subject, no matter how you frame it and Caitlin forced me to reexamine my views on the subject from all angles. All I could think of afterwards was how much respect I had for this woman. Caitlin writes that in the few minutes after she learns of the pregnancy, the minutes that pass in which she imagines this baby, this boy's whole life, she says:

"I can't have you," I tell him sadly. "The world will fall in if I have you."

She goes on to describe her abortion in detail and also how easy this decision was for her to make. Some in my group saw this as narcissistic and selfish, and I would suspect they thought it very unmotherly of her. Everyone around the room claimed to be pro-choice, but a lot of them had a very hard time with the way that she described her unborn child, the abortion itself, and the speed with which Caitlin made her choice to have one.

But I got it.

And when I was reading this chapter all I could think about was two years ago, when B and I were discussing whether or not to have another child (also known as me insisting that I "had a feeling that I wasn't done" and him telling me that he didn't have it in him again), HE got it too. Way before I did.

..........

I believe that as mothers, we are programmed (and to varying extents, expected) to give and give and give. We have a child and all of a sudden the weight of the world is literally on our shoulders and God forbid you have an unmotherly thought in your mind or do something that does not fully acknowledge you as the self-sacrificing martyr that you somehow have now become. Sometimes we lose sight of how much of ourselves we are constantly giving. That for some it gets to the point that we are no longer happy, no longer fulfilled, feeling resentment, suffering in silence from anxiety and depression and just going through the motions of our lives. Why do we do this to ourselves? There is no prize for who sacrificed the most, who is the most giving, who loses themselves the most in this gig.

So why on earth would we ever tell a woman that all zygotes conceived must be born, or that she should not have that choice, especially if it indeed does mean that her world will fall in?

One of the mamas in our club said that the reason she wanted to have three children was because she wanted that sense of happy chaos in her family and not just the easiness of two kids. I understood what she meant, but her comments gave me pause and got me thinking more about this.

Who decides what level of chaos is "happy" for any family?

For some that may be three children, for others it is one child, for others still it may be 5 or 6, or if you are the Duggars it is 20+. Whatever your number is, what is important is that YOU know what that threshold is, that you know your capacity for love, for giving, for, as Caitlin so aptly puts it, "...being life support to someone who weeps for me and rages against me..." Because when it comes down to it, no matter how much we are told that it is, that capacity is NOT without its limits and without sacrificing something in return.

I left this chapter with a new understanding of what pro-choice means to me. It is not just about choosing to have an abortion or not, it is about choosing a life that is versus a life that may be. I have a deep respect for Caitlin and all other women like her, who are strong enough to make a choice that says, "THIS. This is all the family that I WANT, all that I NEED and I simply can not do more than this."  Her words and her story and her ease with which she made her decision, a decision based on her threshold for keeping her world together, keeping herself whole and sane, and made with no guilt or shame, made it very clear to me that so many of our choices in life (and especially in motherhood) are not made like that.

Last week Annie at Phd in Parenting took a closer look at the issue of choice and why it is seen as stalling feminism these days. The one line in her post that struck me the most was when she said,

"Shame is a barrier to social change, in feminism and in many other spaces."

And this is what was bothering me that night at book club. I was in the minority in my feelings about Caitlin's chapter and opinions on abortion and I couldn't understand why. Then I read Annie's post and it hit me, the other women in the room did not feel that Caitlin showed enough shame or guilt about her decision. That she was too flippant about it. That is was callous of her to describe this child and imagine his life, knowing full well that he was never to be born. The problem was that everyone was thinking about the potential child in this situation and not the ACTUAL WOMAN LIVING HER LIFE RIGHT NOW, who showed no shame in her decision and made it with a certainty that made a lot of people uncomfortable.

And then, two more very important questions and issues arose for me that night that I am realizing are quite complex and quite possibly rooted in some deep, deep patriarchy.

Why do we always question (and judge) the motives of a woman's decisions when it comes to her body and those she brings forth from it?

AND

Why are decisions made out of love (and knowledge) of ourselves as women and mothers almost always seen as inherently selfish?

I would love to hear what you have to say on this.

Natasha~

 

 

 

vagina.... CHECK.

I am halfway through reading "How to be a Woman." by Caitlin Moran for my next book club get-together (aka, evening of wine and no kids or husbands).

Required Beach Reading!

Now, a) I am not in the habit of writing about a book before I have even finished it, and b) I do NOT like being told how to be or do anything, most of all anything at all about how to be a woman, but I have identified with so much of this book already, that I really have to write down some of my thoughts before I forget everything.

Add to that the things I am learning about and for myself in my counselling sessions and it is adding up to a lot of things jumbling around in my head and well, if you know me at all, you know that I have to PURGE it all out here, to clear some space up there.

First of all and for Caitlin, I must say this:

I AM A STRIDENT FEMINIST! (And I am wearing proper, cover all my bits underwear.)

It has taken me a long lifetime to say those words and be proud of that fact. Feminist is one of those words that almost has the status as the other F-word these days. For some people, it is a whispered thing, or it is denied altogether (Hello Taylor Swift--I am talking to you!). In her book, Caitlin has a quick test that you can administer to see if you too are a feminist and all you have to do is answer the following questions.

1. Do you have a vagina?

2. Do you want to be in charge of it?

If you answered yes to these questions, you guessed it, YOU are a feminist!

Personally, my evolution as a feminist happened rather organically. I have not read the "required reading" book list for "Capital F " feminism. No Virginia Woolf, no Simone De Beauvoir, no Germaine Greer. I HAVE read one of Elizabeth Badinter's books (The Conflict) and was decidedly put off by it and her.

I don't feel like I identify with any particular WAVE of feminism, and while I do like waves and the ocean, I think that this kind of rhetoric and need to qualify what kind of feminist one is, is somewhat backwards in its thinking. I am a feminist for the reasons stated above. Vagina. CHECK. In charge of it. CHECK.

It is through motherhood that I have truly uncovered the feminist part of myself. She was always there peaking out from behind my business suits and at big meetings and in relationships, but never seemed to be quite brave enough to reveal herself fully. You may find this ironic given that at that point in my life, I was doing all the "right" feminist-y things; having a career, climbing the corporate ladder, providing for myself and not relying on a man for anything. No, it wasn't until I held my first child in my arms that I truly understood two things. My power as a woman and my great responsibility to my child(ren).

And with those two realizations in mind, I forged ahead. I started a business, I started to write, I started to advocate for women (and children) and each and every day I learned so much. About myself, about my child, about the world around us and what I wanted in it for his (and then his sister's) future.

It's a big list, but here are some of the highlights...

I want a world in which colours are colours. Everyone has a favourite one and it can be whatever you choose.

I want a world in which words like "throwing like a girl" means having a damn scary curve ball!

I want a world where I don't have to teach my daughter the rules of "how not to get raped".

I want a world where my son has the choice to be the stay-at-home parent and no one thinks any less of him for it.

And most of all I want a world where we can all look at each other and instead of seeing the differences and judging them immediately, we look towards ourselves first and discover what it is in us that is out of order for us to think that different or 'not what I would do' somehow equals wrong.

My friend Alex wrote a post this week about this phenomenon in the mommy world. And while yes, like her, I too want to wave the white flag and say "Enough is enough!" on this front, I also wanted to add something.

I think that a mother (and possibly a father's) greatest fear in raising our next generation is that somehow we are going to royally fuck up our children. It is why we sweat ALL the stuff so much as parents, BIG and small. I mean, look at us! We are all kind of messed up ourselves and the things we are fighting about are DIAPERS! Really folks??!

The thing is, that no matter how much you vow to do things differently for your kids, part of them is gonna end up a bit messed up. You know, that part that is HUMAN. All we can do is try really hard to teach them empathy and respect for their fellow messed up human beings. And the best way to teach this is to model that behaviour for them.

Kids grow up and as they get older, they also get smarter. They see what we do and they emulate us. And NOTHING is a better wake up call to how we behave towards others than seeing the same kind of behaviour in our children. Do you laugh or make fun of overweight people? Do you say things like "OMG, that is SOOO gay!"? Do you tell people to "man up" or "stop acting like a little girl"? Do you not listen to a person (no matter who) asking you to stop tickling/poking/touching them? Because kids see this, and if they see that you think these kinds of behaviours are OK, then they will think they are OK too.

So, what else do I want in this world for my children? I want grown-ups willing to admit that they need to change THEIR behaviours, to understand their role in the culture that we have around us and around our kids and BE BETTER HUMANS.

My goal (and my homework this week) is to catch myself when I am feeling judge-y or feeling judged and find out why I am feeling this way. What is it about myself that I need to reconcile to calm the waves of my righteousness or my indignation? What am I feeling insecure about and how can I change this behaviour?

I want to be a better human for my kids and for my world. That is what being a feminist means to me. Treating all humanity as equal and deserving of love, respect and a voice that is heard.

Now who wants to join me and my 'strident-feminist-and-human-who-is-somewhat-messed-up' self in this brave new world?

 

Natasha~