Posted On: Monday - May 2nd 2022 7:04PM MST
In Topics:   Feminism  Female Stupidity
This is something of a continuation from the Peak Stupidity post On Motherhood - for the individual and for society - Lionel Shriver of a week ago past Saturday. We will feature the 3 close women friends that Mrs. Shriver provided the opinions of near the end of her Guardian article on Motherhood, or the non-participation in same. I'm pretty sure they are all living in London. These names were changed by Mrs. Shriver, and now it's been 17 MORE years, so, I don't think anyone's worried who they are, and it's all academic to all involved.
We hear from purposefully childless woman #1, Gabriella::
At 44, Gabriella is an accomplished journalist who has written two acclaimed non-fiction books on Africa. She is bright, widely travelled, well educated and physically fetching, with a distinctive acerbity and a candour unusual for her British upbringing. She is half Italian on her mother's side.I was going to argue about this mindset piece by piece, but I think I'll just write a couple of things and then discuss the whole problem in a post after woman #3's story.
Gabriella was negative about childbearing from the get-go: "I was someone who loathed the onset of sexual maturity. Menstruation, pregnancy - all these biological processes that you couldn't control, which caught you unawares and seemed designed to embarrass you in public - felt like a baffling, humiliating negation of my existence as a thinking, reasoning adult." By her 20s, her hostility had hardened. "As a young woman I remember being astonished to meet contemporaries who had decided to have children within years of leaving university. It seemed nonsensical. Here we were, just emerged from the tedious constraints of a seemingly endless education, financially independent for the first time, tasting our liberties at last, and the first thing they decided to do was to enter the prison of childrearing, with all its boring routines and dreadful responsibilities. Having children in my 20s would have spelled the end of everything I had spent my life working towards and was about to really enjoy: the ability to spend my money the way I wanted, travel where I wanted, choose my partners, live as I wished."
By her late 30s, however, Gabriella had misgivings. Friends were having children, and she felt left out. Encountering other people's children, she realised "there were great joys to be had from the process" and that "watching something [to non-parents, children are often mistaken for objects] growing and changing each day was also an intellectually intriguing process". Ergo, kids just might be interesting and fun. Yet Gabriella's then-partner was an older man averse to parenthood partially on (sound) medical grounds. At no point did her pining for children become a make-or-break matter in her relationship, from which we can construe that the pining was either mild or theoretical. For the most part, "the issue was ignored, avoided, allowed to slide or used as a bargaining chip when things got difficult." Indeed, when that relationship hit crisis point and her partner did a U-turn on fatherhood, his offer of a family was insufficient to salvage it for Gabriella. Happiness, in this case the romantic variety, trumped motherhood, full stop.
Gabriella is now resigned to the fact that she will not have children. "Could I now cope with the sheer exhaustion of the early sleepless years? Could I accept, as my friends have, that for the first five years I would stop having interesting conversations with adults my own age and settle for the glaze-eyed exchanges I've witnessed as an outsider?"
When I ask what she believes redeems her life in the absence of children, her answers are unhesitating. "Firstly, my work. Not in the sense of ambition and earning power (ha ha), but in the sense that the only imprint I can leave on this earth is my work. My motto, as the years go by, has become that of Voltaire's Candide: 'Il faut cultiver notre jardin.' We need to tend the garden. Do it as well as you can. Writing is my only skill; I apply it to the best of my abilities." Secondly, "I live for friendships and family. I have friendships that have gone on for so long and have been so close that I suppose they constitute a form of marriage."
On her own account, she has no regrets. "Had I had children, I would have written no books, nor would I have been a particularly successful journalist. I certainly wouldn't have gone off to Africa. I'd rather pine for children than die saying to myself, 'I could have been a contender.' I was a contender."
Nevertheless, in the larger social picture, Gabriella concedes, "If people like me don't reproduce, civilisation may be the worse for it. On both my mother's and my father's sides, I come from generations of academics, historians, diplomats - thinkers and doers - and as the years go by I begin to see that, far from being an exception or maverick, I am, in fact, the very obvious carrier of a certain genetic inheritance. I am a typical product of my family; I can see the thread stretching back through the generations. Do I think it's a shame that this genetic inheritance won't continue? Yes, I do. I'm arrogant enough to think that the world will be a poorer place without my genes in it. But the fact is that I don't care enough to do anything about it. There wasn't time to do that and the other things on my list."
When I press her on the implications of a contracting European population, she readily concurs that "many western cities will be largely black/ Hispanic/Asian in 50 years' time. Does that bother me? Well, I vaguely regret the extinction of gene lines that in their various ways played a part in the establishment of western civilisation. But the gene lines coming in from the developing world will have their own strengths, energies and qualities."
Last, and this is the sort of statement that many a childless woman - or man, for that matter - of my generation might honestly make, but that you will rarely read: "I'm an atheist. I'm a solipsist. As far as I'm concerned, while I know intellectually that the world and its inhabitants will continue after my death, it has no real meaning for me. I am terrified of and obsessed with my own extinction, and what happens next is of little interest. I certainly don't feel I owe the future anything, and that includes my genes and my offspring. I feel absolutely no sense of responsibility for the propagation of the human race. There are far too many human beings in the world as it is. I am happy to leave that task to someone else."
Gabriella does have at least one big contradiction here. She tells us that, without having children, "... the only imprint I can leave on this earth is my work." Then, at the end here she says "I certainly don't feel I owe the future anything, ..." There's a whole lot of rationalization Gabrielle made here to make herself feel better about her stupidity in her best childbearing years. She does understand what her own genes mean for a better world, if she'd have used them, but, well since she didn't, she just shrugs her shoulders, "I feel absolutely no sense of responsibility for the propagation of the human race. There are far too many human beings in the world as it is." Yeah, but you just got done saying that the world might not do so well without the European peoples.
Nah, deep inside, Gabriella knows what she did. In the famous words from Animal House. "Hey, you fucked up. You trusted us" (.. writers of the New York Times, that'd be.)
"Gabriella" is no dummy. Like author Lionel Shriver, she thinks deeply about these things. That didn't seem to help anything though. It'd be great if there a few thoughts in the comments about the words of Gabriella and whose fault this kind of story is. We'll write the other 2 shortly, but they'll be plenty of other types of stupidity this week, so don't fret if this is not your favorite flavor.