Have women been tricked into giving up real power for “empowerment” through childbirth and breastfeeding?


Imagine for a moment that you were a men’s rights activist (MRA). You know the men I mean, the ones who are whining about Femi-Nazis and how white men such as themselves are victims of discrimination.

Imagine that you felt profoundly threatened by women who were smart, talented and powerful. How might you convince them to cede their power to you?

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]What’s the difference between convincing women to compete over who has the whitest laundry and convincing women to compete over who has the most elaborate or the most outrageous breastfeeding photo shoot?[/pullquote]

I know! You could trick them into give up real power by replacing it with faux “empowerment” through childbirth and breastfeeding, the very things that left women powerless for all of human history. And you could call it “natural parenting.”

You don’t have to imagine it; that’s what’s been happening to women for the past few decades. Within the natural parenting movement the word empowerment is promiscuously applied to reproductive functions. Women claim to be empowered by unmedicated birth or by birth at home; women claim to be empowered by extended breastfeeding, tandem breastfeeding, breastfeeding photo shoots and breastfeeding stunts. I’ve been pondering for years how women can be empowered by bodily functions and then I realized that such “empowerment” is a way to convince women to stop reaching for real legal, political and economic empowerment.

The entire industry of natural parenting is dedicated to convincing women to relinquish real power in exchange for the faux “empowerment” of emulating their foremothers who were little more than chattel.

Betty Friedan wrote about the feminine mystique. A Wikipedia synopsis explains some of her central claims:

Friedan shows that advertisers tried to encourage housewives to think of themselves as professionals who needed many specialized products in order to do their jobs, while discouraging housewives from having actual careers, since that would mean they would not spend as much time and effort on housework and therefore would not buy as many household products, cutting into advertisers’ profits.


Friedan interviews several full-time housewives, finding that although they are not fulfilled by their housework, they are all extremely busy with it. She postulates that these women unconsciously stretch their home duties to fill the time available, because the feminine mystique has taught women that this is their role, and if they ever complete their tasks they will become unneeded.

Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique launched the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, which dramatically increased the power of women.

The philosophies of natural parenting — natural childbirth, breastfeeding and attachment parenting — have replaced the stifling feminine mystique with the equally stifling vaginal mystique and breast mystique. Now instead of competing with each other over who has the whitest laundry and thereby ceding the wider world to men, natural parenting has women competing with each other over who had the longest unmedicated labor and who breastfed the longest … thereby ceding the wider world to men.

It’s a brilliant sleight of hand when you think about it. Don’t try to steal power back from women; manipulate them so they’ll give up power voluntarily. It’s not an accident that women are being encouraged to find their empowerment in forgoing epidurals and breastfeeding three year olds. Women who feel empowered by using their reproductive organs aren’t likely to challenge anyone for real power.

If anything, the vaginal mystique and the breast mystique are even more restrictive than the feminine mystique of the 1950’s. At least back then, women owned their own bodies. The 1950’s emphasis was on the perfect home; the contemporary emphasis is on women enduring severe pain in childbirth, ceding their breasts to their children for years at a time, and ignoring their own needs for fulfillment outside of motherhood.

It’s a neat trick, but we don’t need to fall for it. As someone who had “natural” births, breastfed four children, and gave up medical practice to stay home with them, I know how fulfilling childbearing and childrearing can be for some women in some situations. But fulfillment and empowerment are two very different things. Women are not empowered by unmedicated birth and extended breastfeeding; they are disempowered … and that’s the point.

175 Responses to “Have women been tricked into giving up real power for “empowerment” through childbirth and breastfeeding?”

  1. D/
    April 13, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

    OT (but perhaps empowering for LCs questioning the party line):

    ‘Watch Your Language’ was still warm from the presses when I decided it just didn’t sit well with me so I’ve never been one of those risks-of-formula people. Glad to see permission for some introspection.


    • lawyer jane
      April 14, 2016 at 9:23 am #

      Ugggh I found that infuriating! Much of what she says I agree with, but I am still extremely irritated by public health advocates who fail to recognize the labor and physical burden imposed on women by breastfeeding. You simply can’t talk about the minimal, population-based benefits of breastfeeding honestly without also taking into account the costs to the mother. I kind of just can’t stand to see people who are otherwise so clearly intelligent, educated people who ignore this.

      • D/
        April 14, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

        I completely understand your frustration. Honestly, though, the new formula-risk attitude that’s leaving babies under- (or even un-)fed to the degree I’m dealing with lately leaves me very little room to even consider other issues of benefits, risks, and costs.

        Among LCs, acknowledging even a possibility of less than currently claimed population-based benefits or publicly challenging any of “our” standard of (pseudo-science) care or rhetoric amounts to heresy. It’s as likely as not to lead to behind-the-scene rallies for reporting IBCLCs to our certifying body and quite effectively silences these types of conversations. I’m glad to see someone unlikely to be ignored or bullied at least crack open the door on (even part of ) this.

  2. Megan
    April 13, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

    Totally OT but made my day:


  3. D/
    April 13, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    Today was my quarterly or so presentation for our new nurse residents on providing breastfeeding support in the hospital. Mostly general stuff … how to assess feeding adequacy, how to physically help mothers with breastfeeding, what to do if feedings aren’t adequate, etc.

    I’ve been using the same recycled powerpoint for a couple years now, and decided to finally update it a bit last night since I ignore significant portions of it anyway. Interestingly, one specific edit was deleting an “Empower mothers” bullet point and adding “Ask mothers good questions … then listen.”

  4. Roadstergal
    April 13, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    Only slightly OT.

  5. Who?
    April 13, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

    My overlong anecdata:

    When I started work in 1986, my intake was the first one in the very traditional law firm I went to to have half and half men and women in the group. In previous years they had one or two women, tops.

    The (very few) women solicitors already there were mostly in property, maybe commercial areas, no litigators.

    Because it was a big and prestigious firm that had its pick of graduates, we were all, male and female, bright, hardworking and, how shall I put this, comely. They don’t hire the plain folks.

    This pattern proceeded apace, and fast forward to (say) 2004ish, and the balance had flipped-most of the comely folk chosen for those most sought after jobs were women. Most law graduates were women. But here’s where it gets interesting-even in 2004, 20 years after the revolution took hold, how many female partners were there? Perhaps 10%. Those gangly boys we started with had the big offices, the women were not in evidence. Go down a rung, certainly, there were women all over the place, much closer to the 50% mark, tipping over at times. And many women litigators. Turns out a hairy chest isn’t a prerequisite to winning cases in court.

    And people were asking why. As someone who had wafted in and out of the profession, worked part time for years, and observed who was who in the zoo, I had a different perspective from the longterm insiders. Women perceived they had a choice. No one expected them to make partner, so they were free to decide to go and work for legal aid, or for the government, or the small firm near home. Or stay where they were if they wanted to. Damagingly, their male peers were aware of this, and the underlying narrative was that the women were not serious people, could bail anytime (and did, remember Mary? so promising…) therefore were not to be trusted when it was all about putting body and soul on the line, as partnership requires. This, on top of the lack of expectation, was doing them in. Don’t misunderstand me, many men got booted for these big jobs for the same kind of reasons, but way more men got through than women.

    Here’s the kicker-the initial intake has flipped back to mostly men, around 75%. There are loads of unemployed lawyers around here, they can recruit women if they want to anytime, since most graduates are women, they don’t need to give them those coveted first tier spots.

    People with a sniff of the money and power won’t give it up lightly.

    Choice has cut in many unintended ways. Just as childcare shouldn’t be seen as a ‘womens’ issue, choice in the workplace, parttime work etc needs to be made acceptable, not only legal.

    • namaste863
      April 13, 2016 at 7:21 pm #

      I was reading an interview with Marcia Clark, formerly of the Los Angeles District Attourney’s office on the reality of being a female litigator. Granted, criminal law may be a different ballgame, but she described herself as being in a double-bind. If she behaved in court as her make colleagues, she was seen by the jury as a cold, aggressive bitch. If she behaved in a more “Feminine” way, she was a cream puff who didn’t have what it took to get a conviction. Id be interested to hear your perspective.

      • Who?
        April 13, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

        It’s interesting, and I’m sure she’s right.

        Here, our system is that solicitors don’t ‘appear’ ie get on their hind legs and speak, in court. Barristers take that role. I’d be interested to know whether there are certain ‘specialities’ for male v female barristers, where there is a jury involved.

        Most commercial matters, and some criminal, don’t have a jury, so that might balance it out.

        A female prosecutor of a male accused of violence against a woman might be thought, by some jurors, to have an axe to grind. On the other hand, a female defender might make the jury think that he couldn’t be guilty, since no woman would support him if he was? I’m sure those conversations happen a lot when strategising how to get a prosecution or client over the line.

        In my (former) world, the women tended to get into the big cases and run
        them ‘behind the scenes’, getting involved in strategy, planning and
        sometimes negotiations while, if it went to court, the more senior men were
        present. I’d always assumed that was a power play, a row of heavy
        hitting guys pulling $1m plus a year each having nowhere more important to be looking more intimidating to the other side, and impressive to the judge, than a group of 30+ women, but I could be wrong.

      • guest
        April 14, 2016 at 12:14 am #

        Oh, it’s the same thing teaching higher ed. You can’t be strict with students without being gutting as a bitch on evaluations, but if you go easy on them, then you’re perceived as less intelligent than your male colleagues.

  6. Nick Sanders
    April 13, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

    Not that I disagree about the falseness of “empowerment” or it’s utility for keeping women down, but the MRA movement is nowhere near clever enough to pull it off, and further, they don’t want women to even believe they have power, whether it’s real or not. They certainly advocate patriarchy, and advance it’s aims, but they are “useful idiots” not masterminds.

    • CSN0116
      April 13, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

      Women are the masterminds behind keeping women down (in the sense we discuss here). After all, they’re the only ones clever enough to perpetrate it 😉 😛

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        April 14, 2016 at 3:56 am #

        Men can afford to be subtler about it and be perceived, even to themselves, as being more enlightened because they know that they can count on women to keep women in their place. Same with minorities, etc. Some people will take the benefits of being the “good” one and be willing to oppress their own “sort” in order to get the benefits that the white men offer them. Which, in the end, becomes an argument that white men use to continue oppression: “Hey, it’s not US demanding that women stay home, it’s other women. We’d be perfectly happy to let you bottle feed if you want.”

        • AirPlant
          April 14, 2016 at 9:26 am #

          “I didn’t care but my wife was adamant about changing her name. What do you do?”
          “It isn’t that I think women belong in the house, I just think kids need a parent at home with them and my wife just really felt she was better suited to be a stay at home parent”
          “women really wear makeup for other women, I prefer a natural look”

          • The Computer Ate My Nym
            April 14, 2016 at 9:54 am #

            Yep. Things just kind of accidentally fall out in the way they want. Not their fault at all.

          • AirPlant
            April 14, 2016 at 10:05 am #

            Fun fact: same dude whose wife “just really wanted to change her name” lost his damn mind when I kept my name upon marriage. Funny thing, that…

          • demodocus
            April 14, 2016 at 11:11 am #

            Oh, the rude things he’d think/say about my Demo wanting to take *my* name when we got married.

          • AirPlant
            April 14, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

            My darling Mr. Plant did actually take my name. As a sociological experiment it has been very interesting to watch. The strangest people take umbrage.

          • Roadstergal
            April 14, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

            Tangent – I actually did change ‘my name’ when I got married, but my take was that it wasn’t ‘my name’ to start with, it was my dad’s. At least I got to choose my current last name (and it’s a rather brilliant one, IMO), and I keep the first and three middle names I was actually given just for me. :p

          • Nick Sanders
            April 14, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

            Three middle names? Damn, it must have taken forever to yell at you when you were in trouble.

          • Roadstergal
            April 14, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

            I _knew_ I was in trouble when they busted out with the whole thing.

    • Sean Jungian
      April 13, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

      Yet they also believe that women have *all* the power, and that we are indeed living in a matriarchy.

      And that women control them with the power of our vaginas. And that we hate sex, except that we’re also sluts who will ride the “c*ck carousel”.

      I agree, though, that an MRA/MGTOW/Redpiller/PUA would have neither the wits nor the energy to do something like this. They are way too lazy to do anything except rant about women online.

      • AirPlant
        April 13, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

        They can’t even figure out how to throw a convention in the real, three dimensional world. I feel like in an ultimate showdown the lactivist army would kick their collective asses back to their Mom’s basement.

      • Gatita
        April 13, 2016 at 9:02 pm #

        my favorite game is to act like i can't understand something very simple when a man is explaining it to me to see how dumb he thinks i am— ktkins (@voldemortsbicep) April 12, 2016

        • Sean Jungian
          April 13, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

          Laughed. So. Hard.

        • MI Dawn
          April 14, 2016 at 9:19 am #

          Very well played. Kudos to ktkins.

        • Roadstergal
          April 14, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

          Ha, that was an episode of Garfunkel and Oates – they both decided to see how long they could go without saying anything around their new boyfriends. Brilliant episode.

          I don’t have a screen cap, but a post I saw on FB a few weeks ago – “I like to refer to it as ‘man explaining’ at a party and see how long it takes an irritated man to correct me.”

        • Nick Sanders
          April 14, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

          Well, this is probably the best thing I’ll see all day.

    • LibrarianSarah
      April 13, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

      Yup that was the first thing I thought about when I read this article. MRA’s are whiny idiots that couldn’t manipulate their way out of a paperbag. Maybe the upper echelons of the christian fundamentalist/social conservative movement could pull this off but not MRA’s. We are talking about people who constantly call all women “bitches” “sluts” and “cunts” while simultaneously complaining that women won’t sleep with them even thought they are “nice guys.” Not the brightest crayons in the box.

    • MissKate
      April 13, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

      True. This is the sort of insidious manipulation which could only be perpetuated by women upon other women. Which makes it all the more horrific, really.

  7. BeatriceC
    April 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    OT rant: Teenagers!!!!! Ugh. When do they develop common sense? I have an extra line on my cell phone account, attached to a crappy Galaxy S3, that I loan out to at-risk teens in need of a phone for whatever reason. I make it clear that it’s a crappy phone, I’m obligated to pay for the line through November whether or not it’s in use, so it’s not a big deal for me to loan it out. The kinds of situations these kids are in means there’s a high risk of the phone getting stolen or broken. I’m perfectly fine with that risk. Like I said, I’m paying for the line regardless, and it’s a really crappy phone, so no big deal. I just need to know if it gets lost or stolen so I can suspend the line (though still pay for it, I just don’t need my bill run up with international calls, pay-for-text/call services, etc.) Apparently the phone got stolen last week and nobody told me until just a few minutes ago. Ugh.

    • demodocus
      April 13, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

      sigh. at least you got told before they were 30 somethings.

  8. CSN0116
    April 13, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

    I feel as if there is a vicious circle going on here:

    1. “Proper” mothering has been made so ridiculously time consuming that one must exit the work force in order to execute it.

    2. Exiting the work force makes women who often worked hard to get there; enjoyed being there; and likely wish they could co-exist as both mom and employee – inflate the duties of motherhood to maintain the relevance they once had.

    3. Which leads to a repeat in #1.

    In a sense, it was the liberation of women that has de facto created a culture of women who are perfectly content to culturally and ideologically enslave their fellow woman. Women must achieve and succeed 😉

    • Sean Jungian
      April 13, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

      I like your reasoning here.

    • SF Mom & Psychologist
      April 14, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

      I totally agree! I used to say that AP should stand for Achievement Parenting (not Attachment Parenting). In the SF Bay Area, I see so many educated, successful women turning parenting into another venue for their own sense of high achievement and accomplishment.

  9. BeatriceC
    April 13, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    Here’s what I don’t get. What history classes are these women taking in order to believe that historically children go all this one-on-one mommy time? Until very recently, the workload of running a house, even in a city, was brutal. Children were cared for by the older generation or older children while mom did all the backbreaking labor required to keep the house going. There has never been a time in history where parents had all kinds of time to be this active in their children’s lives.

    • Valerie
      April 13, 2016 at 2:47 pm #

      The noble savages had all the time in the world to spend on each child because food was always plentiful (they just plucked the ripest fruit off of the trees) and they used breastfeeding to naturally space their children 4 years apart.

    • guest
      April 13, 2016 at 2:47 pm #

      Well, they’re probably taking the kind of history classes that don’t focus on the family very much, i.e., most of them. It’s about great men, and the occasional woman, who went out and Did Things.

    • AirPlant
      April 13, 2016 at 3:55 pm #

      When women talk about nursing holidays where you pretty much lie topless in bed for a week to boost your supply I can’t help but feel like literally nothing is more unnatural in the context of our species. I just don’t see a hunter gatherer society letting a potentially productive member just chill doing nothing for a week+ just for a baby who may or may not live to adulthood.

      • Sean Jungian
        April 13, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

        That is a THING? With, like, a name and everything?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          April 13, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

          Maybe I just don’t understand, but lying in bed topless for a week breastfeeding the whole time doesn’t sound like my idea of a “holiday”

          • Sean Jungian
            April 13, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

            Just makes me think of the “Milk Mothers” in “Mad Max: Fury Road” and then of course I giggle to myself.

          • Mariana
            April 14, 2016 at 11:01 pm #

            Well… Minus the baby and plus one husband… Could be fun!

        • Charybdis
          April 13, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

          Yep, it is a real thing. Commonly “prescribed” for low supply, establishing supply and nursing strikes. Take a week/long weekend off from work, tell everybody that you aren’t to be disturbed and then go topless/braless the entire time. Nurse on demand, keep offering the boob for ANY reason at all. For a nursing strike, stop giving your older baby/toddler any extraneous food/liquid and encourage (demand?) All Boobie All The Time until your supply increases or the kid gets back on the boob to your satisfaction.

          • demodocus
            April 13, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

            sounds like someone’s fantasy, but it’s not mine.

          • Sean Jungian
            April 13, 2016 at 5:35 pm #

            It sounds awful to me. Like the “rest cure” they used to force prescribe for women.

          • Charybdis
            April 13, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

            Oh, I agree with you. It’s a lot of self-serving, martyristic hogwash. I value my body and my time way more than that.

          • AirPlant
            April 13, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

            It just sounds so very very boring to me. Like there is only so much internet to read before you go mad.

          • Sean Jungian
            April 13, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

            Immediately made me think of this

          • attitude devant
            April 13, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

            That story has always made my hair stand on end. So effing scary!

          • Gatita
            April 13, 2016 at 9:19 pm #

            Perfect reference is perfect.

          • crazy grad mama
            April 13, 2016 at 10:08 pm #

            I re-read that recently and I’m pretty sure it IS about postpartum depression. She refers to “the baby” several times.

          • Sean Jungian
            April 13, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

            It’s been MANY many years since I read it, but that seems likely. I know it was part of a treatment for “hysteria” at the very least, which may have covered what we now know as PPD. I think they made a movie of it recently?

          • Charybdis
            April 14, 2016 at 10:22 am #

            Is this the one where the nice lady ends up crawling around the room wearing a thin strip in the yellow wallpaper?

          • Sean Jungian
            April 14, 2016 at 10:32 am #

            IIRC yes, she has to spend a summer in a room with yellow wallpaper and it drives her insane. She begins to see shapes moving behind the pattern and eventually feels she has to “save” the woman crawling behind the wallpaper. I think she rips down all the paper? She barricades herself in the room and I think her husband breaks in, somehow passes out and she just keeps crawling around the room sliding herself along the walls. It’s so eerie and obviously made a huge impression on me when I read it. I think it’s freely available on the Guttenberg project or Kindle.

          • Charybdis
            April 13, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

            You can’t do that!!!!! You must stare lovingly, glassily and creepily into the eyes of your baby. Without blinking. Seriously, who wants to lose a staring contest to a baby?

          • Allie
            April 13, 2016 at 11:16 pm #


          • Sarah
            April 14, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

            I dunno…

          • Roadstergal
            April 13, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

            Sleep training = abuse. Tit training = kudos!

          • MissKate
            April 13, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

            Jesus H Christ. When you’re wealthy and privileged enough to enjoy that much free time and you waste it on a “nursing holiday”… That’s when you know the Lactivist Brainwash Brigade has won. Hook, line and sinker, baby. How incredibly depressing 🙁

          • AnnaPDE
            April 14, 2016 at 12:40 am #

            I just don’t see how that would work when the baby isn’t constantly hungry. My little guy decided a few weeks ago that he can actually be full and not want to feed, so instead of his former “boob? Anytime!” enthusiasm he now squirms, turns away and cries if he’s offered a breast without having asked for it. The Korean Robot Kid (aka Spectra pump) is a much more reliable helper with supply.

        • crazy grad mama
          April 13, 2016 at 10:07 pm #

          Yes. This was the advice I found when I searched for advice on resolving a clogged duct. Kid was a year old. I doubled over laughing at the advice to lie in bed with him and nurse.

      • Sean Jungian
        April 13, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

        “I just don’t see a hunter gatherer society letting a potentially productive member just chill doing nothing for a week+ just for a baby who may or may not live to adulthood.”

        Well, when you #knowbetterdobetter

      • Sarah
        April 14, 2016 at 2:33 am #

        I suppose they wouldn’t be especially productive in the first few weeks post partum, so they might as well feed the kid since they’re not much use for anything else. Less so later on, of course.

        • AirPlant
          April 14, 2016 at 9:22 am #

          Maybe? I am not an anthropologist so I have no way of knowing beyond my furtive middle school readings of Clan of the Cave Bear, but for a nomadic tribe at the very least the woman would be expected to be up and walking I would think. Even as recently as my great grandparents I have family stories about people giving birth and tilling the fields the next day because baby or no, crops need to be tended.
          It is probably some middle ground depending on the group and the people involved.

          • Sarah
            April 14, 2016 at 2:06 pm #

            Me neither. The reality is though that a lot of women simply wouldn’t be able to do that, expectations or not (although presumably in a hunter gatherer situation, a lot of the women experiencing difficult births would die, so perhaps a higher percentage of new mothers had had easier births than now). So the question would be, when they clearly weren’t going to be able to manage any other productive labour, would they be left to nurse the baby since there was nothing else they could do. I suppose middle ground yes. Plus of course not all pre-medical or indeed hunter gatherer societies are the same.It would make a huge difference whether you existed in a resource marginal environment or not.

          • MaineJen
            April 14, 2016 at 3:08 pm #

            “…furtive middle school readings of Clan of the Cave Bear…” *snort* Is there any other way of finding that book series? It’s quite…enlightening for a naive pre teen 🙂

    • Gatita
      April 13, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

      I’m rereading the Little House series and I have no fracking idea how Ma was able to BF her babies at all. She worked all the goddamned day and night and so did Laura, especially after Mary went blind and Laura had to take on twice as much work.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        April 14, 2016 at 4:00 am #

        Notice that in the Little House books children are taught very young that they have to sit down and shut up. “Children should be seen not heard” and all that. Grace is called “spoiled” for doing things like asking to go to town with Laura and Pa and crying a little when she was told no. Also notice that all the kids except Mary died of complications of diabetes. They lived a hard life, breast feeding, organic food, and plenty of exercise or no.

      • Old Lady
        April 14, 2016 at 11:44 am #

        I’m betting they supplemented from an early age. I think I remember at one point they get a cow and the milk was for the baby Carrie? Although I don’t know if she was an infant or a toddler at the time.

        • Gatita
          April 14, 2016 at 11:48 am #

          She was a toddler. But before that they were still in Wisconsin and had cows so yeah, I bet you’re right.

    • Sue
      April 14, 2016 at 3:53 am #

      Great point, Beatrice.

      This one-on-one parenting has definitely not been around for all of humanity. Even in the last generation, when there were larger families and less labor-saving devices, older kids looked after younger ones, and kids often roamed during the day and returned for meals (if they weren’t doing chores).

  10. Lurkerette
    April 13, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    I’m in my mid-thirties and many of my highly accomplished female friends are dropping out of the workforce to rear their children, a choice I support as I hope they also support my decision to continue working. But I have noticed a tendency to inflate the importance of minute parenting decisions (breastfeeding, babywearing, etc) to Olympian levels, and I sometimes get the sense that it’s done, perhaps unintentionally, to justify the decision to stay home. It’s as if one can’t possibly balance motherhood and a career because when women seek to balance it, the bar for competent motherhood becomes just that much higher.

    E.g: Feeding the baby? Must be breastfed. Breastfeeding the baby? Must be exclusive of any supplementation. Baby gets only breastmilk? Ah, but pumping and bottling is inferior to getting it from the tap. Baby gets only boob? Must be on demand. On demand? Must nurse until college admission to Yale (sorry Amy! 😉 is secured. No time for a career in there!

    And in my recent (1 week postpartum!) experience, it was unbelievably empowering to have discussed pain relief options with my midwife and the anesthesiologist, and to have received after those discussions a perfect, very light epidural that allowed me to push without agony.

    • attitude devant
      April 13, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

      Bingo! All the studies on working vs. stay-at-home show that the actual difference in time spent directly with the child is not that great between the two groups. In the context of how a particular family works they may be plenty of reasons that having one parent at home is beneficial, but the elevation of mommy-ing to the lofty heights advocated by many obviously comes from someplace other than reality.

      • guest
        April 14, 2016 at 12:20 am #

        Plus we had articles circulating a few years ago about how what matters is that your child gets quality time with parents, rather than quantity. I can’t find it now, but I think the study suggested that quantity was detrimental after a certain point – probably because kids need independence, too.

      • Sue
        April 14, 2016 at 3:58 am #

        My mother was a stay-at-home parent before I started school, but she didn’t spend all her time playing with me and my sister. To make ends meet, and with no alternative child care, she did home-sewing, sweatshop-style, for minimal wage. As well as cooking and housework.

    • Erin
      April 13, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

      I’m such a “shit” stay at home mum. Not only did I stop breastfeeding at 3 months, stop babywearing after he shoplifted some toy (that’s what happens when you stop breastfeeding, they become baby criminals who shove plastic toys down into your babywearing wrap for you discover on unwrapping them at home) and I’m studying for another degree when I should be staring blissfully into his eyes. Oh and I had a c-section.

      I don’t think its just the Sahms though. Even though I’m too busy stressing about raising my own child to care what others are doing, I’ve had so many working mums criticise my choices. Apparently my husband will get a career woman and leave me, I must be lazy because what can I possibly do all day, my brain cells must be dying etc. It doesn’t matter that I’m contemplating a career change, getting another degree, starting volunteer work and learning another language (slowly).

      • CSN0116
        April 13, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

        I think we’re in a very unique time in history. Women are being pulled in so many different directions due to very modern liberations.

        A scene from “Mona Lisa Smile” sums up this conundrum quite well. It was Julia Roberts (professor) speaking to a gifted student who announced her choice to marry and have a family over pursuing her education.

        Student: This must seem terrible to you.

        Professor: I didn’t say that.

        Student: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don’t. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You’re the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.

        Professor: [hugs Joan] Congratulations. Be happy.

        IMO, true female liberation is having the CHOICE to do WHATEVER the fuck you want regarding family, children, home, and career – and NOT taking shit for your decision, whatever it might be.

        We have a long way to go…

        • Sean Jungian
          April 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

          Wait, tell me more about this center hall colonial, maybe I was too hasty…

        • AirPlant
          April 13, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

          Honestly, I really hated what they did with that character. They built her up in the first two acts as an intelligent, driven woman who didn’t know how to question the expectations set forward for her. The just get her to the point where she is all “I matter to and I can fulfill all of my dreams” and then suddenly they just backpedal at the last second. If there had been some lead up that would be one thing, but it came out of nowhere and I thought it detracted from the power of the speech.
          I actually wish that they had given that plot to Ginnifer Goodwin’s character (the one whose only plot was that she had to get over her overwhelming ugliness to get the guy). Since her arc seemed to be about finding and loving herself I think they could have worked in something about being true to what you really want and I think that would have been a much more resonant message.

          • CSN0116
            April 13, 2016 at 10:56 pm #

            I agree. I always wondered if that move with her character was intentional – and meant to leave viewers annoyed but long-term contemplating the fact that a girl *that* poised for success *could* choose differently (and has every right to) – or if it was just poor writing :/

          • AirPlant
            April 14, 2016 at 9:15 am #

            My personal theory is that it was changed at the last minute. Like maybe preview audiences reacted unfavorably to the character and the message of the film so the producers rewrote the end of Julia Stiles’s arc, gave her the nice speech and a bit of flattery in the conservative direction.

      • Sean Jungian
        April 13, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

        You know, I am old enough that I can remember, as a career woman in my 20s, hearing SAHMs criticized by my coworkers (also moms).

        This is part of the backlash against that – of course that was wrong to do!

        But I have to say – who the heck do you hang out with? They sound like crappy people. If they’re family, they’re assholes, and if they’re friends? They’re not friends.

        • Erin
          April 13, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

          They were mostly my ex colleagues although I’ve heard similar from a few of the mothers who attend some of the groups I take my son to when they discover that I don’t work part time.

          • Sean Jungian
            April 13, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

            Wow. That’s so offensive.

      • Fleur
        April 14, 2016 at 7:55 am #

        Yes, that’s true – I had a major row with a close friend a couple of years ago because of comments she made about stay at home mums. Apparently their kids will grow up thick because sahms don’t have any intelligent conversation because they don’t go to work. I’m not actually a stay at home mum myself (it was never an option because I’m a single parent and need the money) but I was raised by one, and she talked to me about books, languages, art and all the other stuff she was interested in. Also, I work in a law office which isn’t exactly going to provide much inspiration for conversations with a small child in a couple of years time (“so, darling, the Jackson reforms are going to have a major effect on costs management in civil litigation. And eat your broccoli”). My friend is actually a very open-minded person most of the time. She’s just absorbed so much “stay at home mums are vegetables” rhetoric in certain circles that she didn’t think twice about parroting it.

        • Erin
          April 14, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

          That’s what annoyed me because without intending to be bitchy, its mostly come from women in jobs I suspect I’d find boring. We go to the Botanical gardens a lot, the library, museums etc plus I have a masters degree in Eng Lit and a house which is held up by books.

          If I was back at work, my conversation might not be half as interesting.

    • Who?
      April 13, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

      Congratulations on the baby! Hope you are both getting some sleep.

      What you describe is, in my experience, people who have always hit their kpis, met their targets, measured what they were managing, trying-perhaps out of habit, perhaps because they have no other frame of reference-to treat their family care like their jobs. At least as often as justification, and often alongside it, I think it’s about having no other way of managing a project.

      Unfortunately, as others have pointed out, as far as children are concerned there is no guaranteed set of inputs to achieve a given output.

      Some of those women will loosen up; some will go back to work for a break; some will have no financial choice but to go back to work. Life goes on a long time.

      The best any of us can do is what’s best at the time according to our values, and don’t compare!!

  11. indigosky
    April 13, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    I am someone who is incredibly competitive. I have turned miniature golf into a contact sport (long story). I have been known to cry when I am close to winning a board game and then lose. Yet I feel no need to compete with other mothers. Thank goodness for small favors.

    I loved formula feeding, I liked Ferberizing (well, after the two days it took #1 and the three days it took #2), I loved my stroller and going back to work. I was so happy that my kids were born very quickly, I actually am the weirdo who wishes there was still twilight sleep as an option. The competitive women seemed shocked when I don’t even remember the details of my births, and that I am so casual about never breastfeeding. My choices made me feel empowered, that I could be a mom and a person with their own identity. Formula and sleeping apart did that for me.

    And with my genetics, all the attachment parenting and breastfeeding in the world could not save them for mine and my husband’s weirdo genes. Sorry kiddos, you’re officially freaks of nature like your folks. Now go get your steampunk cosplay outfit out to go to Disneyland.

    • BeatriceC
      April 13, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

      I’ve been known to yell at figure skaters on tv. I can totally believe turning miniature golf into a contact sport.

      • Charybdis
        April 13, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

        Can I come watch the next Winter Olympics with you? It would be fun and I’d learn so much…

        • BeatriceC
          April 13, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

          Sure you can! But I only know anything about figure skating. The rest of the sports I’m pretty clueless about.

          • Charybdis
            April 13, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

            I love all the ice sports: skating (single and pairs), ice dancing, hockey, curling, etc. DH doesn’t like to watch sports that have a judging element to them because it introduces bias. Give him a timed event any day.

            So, why did they stop with the compulsory figures? I mean, it is called “figure skating”. Was it because the new (at the time) athletic darlings weren’t too good with the precision of the compulsory figures and were not placing high enough, even with their triples (again, that was the high limit then. No one had heard of a quad).

          • BeatriceC
            April 13, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

            Oh, I like the other sports, I just don’t know much about them.

            Compulsory figures were essentially replaced with the short program. There was a bit of a progression from having them be the most important part of the competition to being dropped entirely. Originally they were worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% of the total score. They were far more prone to score fixing*, and counted for an inordinately high proportion of the final score. First they just adjusted the weights to count them for less, but that didn’t get rid of the massive judging issues. The sport eventually, as you noticed, got more athletic, so the figures themselves became less and less relevant. There’s also the fact that sports and sporting events don’t happen in a vacuum. It takes a whole lot of money to put those things on. Competitors themselves can only cover so much of the expenses. The rest has to be recouped somehow. They need to sell tickets to spectators. Spectators really don’t want to watch skaters etching figures in the ice. It’s really, really boring. Television broadcasters can’t sell add time to cover the expense, since nobody wants to watch it. So that also contributed to figures being eliminated.

            However, just because they don’t compete with figures anymore, doesn’t mean that skaters don’t learn them. They don’t learn them quite the way that past generations did, but they’re still part of the educational foundation of the sport. In the lower levels, tests are passed or failed on those etchings. A 3-turn better etch a decent looking “3” in the ice or that kid is going home disappointed. It’s the same for a lot of the basic skills. But once you get past basics, they don’t look at them much.

            *There’s less observer oversight in judging figures. Judges would literally get on their hands and knees with a ruler to see just how close to the perfect lines the etchings really were. Spectators can’t see that closely, so it was easy for judges to say “oh, well this etching is 3mm off and that one is only 1mm off”, and dare anybody to prove them wrong. This led to judges making back room deals with each other to fix the competitions. It was a sort of “I’ll score your skater this way if you score my skater, who doesn’t really have a chance in hell high enough to get her on the podium.” Judging scandals didn’t go away with the elimination of figures, however. Under the old 6.0 system scandals were still frequent, cumulating in the massive pairs scandal in the 2002 Olympics which led to dumping that system entirely and instituting the score-for-skill point system we have now. Lower levels still use the 6.0 system, however.

          • Charybdis
            April 14, 2016 at 10:34 am #

            Thank you so much! That helps a lot. I remember Katarina Witt doing the compulsory figures (I’m old) and the days when Rosalynn Sumners won her medal with nary a triple jump. ( I said I was old). I remember vaguely the talking heads discussing why they were phasing out the compulsory figures, but after they were gone, nobody talked about them any more.

            I kind of miss them, as I am a firm believer in mastering the basics and one should have to demonstrate proficiency in the basics (this is why I don’t let DS use a calculator for math yet, unless specifically requested by the teacher), but I can see how things evolved.

          • BeatriceC
            April 14, 2016 at 11:17 am #

            The basics are still there, but they are called something different. There’s two major instructional programs in th US. USFSA has its Basic Skills program and the ISI has WeSkate. Both programs are structured in a similar manner. There’s multiple beginning levels, each of which has a test that needs to be passed, then multiple intermediate levels, again with tests that need to be passed. The skater most perform each element on its own without music, and then do a program that links the elements. Then the skater moves to “competition” levels run by USFSA. That starts with pre-preliminary and goes all the way to seniors, which is what you see in the Olympics. To get to any of those levels, the skater must pass the “moves in the field” test, which is what has replaced figures, before taking the free skate test, which is a program. MITF focuses on technique and free skate focused on the elements being connected in an artistically appealing program.

            So that’s the really long way of saying that the fundamentals are still there, it just looks different than it used to.

    • Erin
      April 13, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

      My husband knew I was Miss Right when I cheated in a chess game rather than be beaten. Exactly how he figured that made me a suitable Mother for his children I’ve no idea.

  12. Prudent Planner
    April 13, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    I have become a more vocal feminist lately. I have learned that when discussing empowerment, it is vital to ask “empowered to do what?”

    • AirPlant
      April 13, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

      I feel like since we, as a society have classified feminism largely as a good thing (which it is) we have started trying to say that the converse is true. Like anything that gives a woman good feelings has to be feminist and that is such a weird logical path. Are we so bad at seeing the grey that we can’t just classify something as an end in itself, irrelevant to feminism and move on? Like I picked out a cute blouse and a pair of severely practical shoes this morning. While I am grateful for the work of my foremothers to let me wear flats, Gloria Steinem was unfortunately not factored into that decision. Do I have to revoke my feminist card now?

      • Roadstergal
        April 13, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

        “Like anything that gives a woman good feelings has to be feminist and that is such a weird logical path. ”

        And often the next step, which is the alternate choice to the one that gave that women good feelings is un-feminist. I’ve mentioned it before, but when my lactivist friend called the notion of a woman both being a mom and having a career ‘anti-feminist,’ I realized there was some serious rabbit-hole going on.

        • AirPlant
          April 13, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

          Just so weird! We are all so different, it makes sense that we would find joy in different ways. I find joy in cooking meals for my family and friends and in my various needlecraft hobbies. That is not exactly a bold feminist step forward, but also it doesn’t have to be. Something doesn’t have to be a great feminist endeavor in order to be worth my time.

          • Roadstergal
            April 13, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

            As mentioned below, feminism means you’re free to make choices – I’m free to buy dinner instead of making it to give myself more time to do what I enjoy, someone else is free to make dinner from scratch because that’s what _they_ enjoy, a SAHM is free to choose that, a career woman is free to choose her career… what matters is breaking down the barriers to these choices overall, which benefits everyone.

            After all, it’s empowering to choose to be a SAHM, not to be forced into it.

          • FormerPhysicist
            April 13, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

            Eh, I don’t find it empowering. I’m a SAHM because it’s the best option right now. It’s best for my family, but it’s sacrifice for me. But if I went back to work right now, the family sacrifice would be greater than my current individual sacrifice. (Think of multivariable maximization problems.) Feminism doesn’t mean that the choices don’t rather suck.

          • April 13, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

            Feminism is about trying to make the choices suck less, though. I don’t know your personal situation, but I do know that there’s a lot of overarching societal factors that make it more likely that women like you, who don’t want to stay home, find themselves effectively forced to. Feminists want to change those factors.

          • Roadstergal
            April 13, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

            Exactly this. Although it’s changing, there’s still a lot of “My husband makes more, so I’m the one to stay at home.” Equal pay for equal work would make it a little less of a default for the woman to be the SAH parent on monetary/career grounds.

    • Glittercrush
      April 13, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

      I was just thinking this. So what does enduring pain through out labor empower a woman to do? Does this practicing with “safe” pain mean she will be better trained to stay concious through the pain of being mauled by a bear? Or losing a limb in a horrific car accident? And what would be the point of that anyway? Stay awake through the pain so you can slap the bear and make it stop? Or tell the first responders where to place the tourniquet? I understand getting a rush of “I cant beleive I just did that!” But there are many ways women can get that rush. Passing the bar exam after law school, completing a marathon, or baking a souffle without it collapsing are only a few examples out of millions. If natural childbirth is how a woman chooses to get that rush, that is her choice. But moralizing it and telling me I am lesser because that isnt how I get my rush is Grade A Bullsh*t.

      • demodocus
        April 13, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

        passing the bar is empowering, at least somewhat. The rest? It’ll take the bear 0.4 seconds longer to catch me?

        • Roadstergal
          April 13, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

          I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun the other guy… that being said, I don’t know how experiencing avoidable pain helps with that…

          • demodocus
            April 13, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

            Being able to run a marathon probably would with the bear and a slower bear snack.

        • Glittercrush
          April 13, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

          Well, I would feel empowered after a marathon sinply because it would be the realization of months of training. I am a couch potato. But you are correct. True empowerment is far more specific. I guess I was just getting at that feeling of accomplishment. It is really easy to confuse those two things superficially.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            April 13, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

            Running and completing a marathon is something YOU do.

            Having a baby vaginally is more like falling down a steep hill (think of me skiing the black diamonds). Because of gravity, you aren’t going to stop until you hit the bottom. You could avoid the pain of falling by taking skis, riding a bike, or taking the cable car. I will pull out a sheet of cardboard and box slide. But these are all “interventions.”

            Or you could find ways to make bouncing down the hill more bearable, without interventions.

            “Turn horizontal and roll (like when kids roll down hills). That will hurt less, as long as you avoid the rocks.”
            “Tuck your head and do a forward roll.”

            In both approaches, you might be really dizzy by the end, but hey, you made it!

          • Roadstergal
            April 13, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

            That’s an excellent metaphor. There’s a drop-off, so you don’t know what the hill looks like until you’re going down it. Some women get lucky and have a really gentle hill, but most women have a pretty bumpy, painful, steep hill, and some even have moguls, trees, and hidden trenches.

          • BeatriceC
            April 13, 2016 at 2:58 pm #

            I fell off a mountain when I was 17. Literally. It didn’t make me feel at all empowered. Actually, I don’t remember most of it. It hurt. A lot. Then I lost consciousness. I’m told the rescue effort was pretty neat to watch (medics and stretcher dropped in and then pulled out by tether line with a helicopter). I would have been much wiser to have not said “Meh, it’s only a 30 foot climb, and not that steep, I can do that without gear!” There’s a reason we have climbing gear; to keep us safe. Giving birth in a hospital is like making sure to climb with the proper gear. Sure you can possibly make it (my friends made it without incident), but it can also go very, very bad (I slipped near the top).

          • demodocus
            April 13, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

            falling down the hill is what usually happens when i run

        • Charybdis
          April 13, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

          You know, you don’t have to outrun the bear. You just have to outrun at least one person who is with you….

          • demodocus
            April 13, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

            that’s usually my husband, who i kind of like, too.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        April 13, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

        OK, from a guy perspective, what I see with this stuff is it basically is like the “tough guy” syndrome among men. It’s Rocky getting the shit beat out of him and surviving. It’s Arnold having a spike through his hand and toughing it out. It’s John McClean walking through broken glass in barefeet.

        These guys are all heroes, because they can survive the pain.

        So to be like a manly man, you have to be able to survive the pain.

        Now, personally, I find the “tough guy” bullshit to be really annoying (got into a pissing match one time where I called a guy an asshole. He was like, “What if I come and kick your ass?” I’m like, “You probably could, but don’t see how it would change my opinion that you are an asshole”). Probably because I am a wimp.

        • Roadstergal
          April 13, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

          I’m an atheist who was raised Quaker – my dad would tell a story of a dude who was arguing with a Quaker about violence being an unproductive path. Quaker beats the shit out of the guy. “Now do you agree with me?”



          • BeatriceC
            April 13, 2016 at 2:06 pm #

            I’m generally a non-violent person, but I concede that on occasion violence is unavoidable. I’m not at all mad at my eldest son for the current situation he’s in. He used violence, and beat the shit out of somebody, but he did it *in defense of another*. His girlfriend and another female friend were cornered in a bathroom by three gang members out to do them serious harm. My son took on all three of them and won in order to protect the girls, who were unable to defend themselves. I’m okay with that (and eternally grateful for the MMA training he had before his spine got too bad to continue).

          • Charybdis
            April 14, 2016 at 10:44 am #

            We’ve had the same conversation with DS regarding his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling training. He is NEVER to start something and if someone else tries to start something physical with him, to NOT get involved unless there is no other choice or if he is stopping someone from harming another (like your son). We’ve told him that if he is backed into a corner (literally and/or figuratively), then he can defend himself or another person. Wrap them up in an x-choke, arm bar, leg bar, rear naked choke, wrist or ankle lock or a guillotine and either start yelling for an adult / authority figure or send someone to get one. Hang on until the adult/authority figure gets there, then release.

            We will support him and have his back in that type of case and won’t be angry with him. He cannot, however, push people around or be a bully with his knowledge. In fact, the school where he trains will discipline the kid if he is using his skills for shits and giggles.

      • Sean Jungian
        April 13, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

        Well, there’s definitely the sanctimony aspect. I think for many women, at least in part, the badge of honor for suffering through the pain of labor without alleviation is a concrete example they can hold up for all others to see HOW MUCH they love their children.

        I’ve been thinking, and I wonder if social media has made presentation of ourselves to others even more important that it has always been before. When Dr. Amy calls NCB “performance art” I think she’s dead on. Its a way of performing selfless motherhood, a way that can be communicated easily. It definitely has a payoff.

        When my son was little, there were times I would take him to the park, say, or somewhere else public, and I would be just itching for someone to give him trouble – a bullying kid, a rude mean parent, anyone so I could have the satisfaction of basically TAKING THEM OUT defending my child. I would be spoiling for a fight. And why? To prove something to whom? I guess to the world at large? I already knew how fiercely I loved him, but I longed for the opportunity to really show it once and for all. That opportunity, honestly, NEVER came.

        It’s like I was telling my son once when he said, “I wish I was brave. I wish I could be a hero.” A desire we all, as human beings, experience at one time or another. But I told him – and I keep telling him – that being brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. And that we would all love to save the day, save a life, yet – if we’re living a peaceful life – those opportunities just don’t come along very often. What makes a real hero is a person who is brave even though they’re afraid, who pushes on anyway. The person who is there for all the million little things we do to connect and reach out to each other day to day. We don’t get big dramatic opportunities to be heroes, all we get are the many many many tiny moments that add up to heroism over time.

      • LaMont
        April 13, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

        Especially weird, since the pain of childbirth isn’t something you *do*, it’s something that happens to you. I 100% understand the interest in knowing what you can endure, but it’s hardly “powerful”. Personally, I was nervous as f*ck when I got my tattoo, but handling the pain wasn’t empowering – it was a minor revelation, a taking of something from “unknown” to “known”. I can endure *that*, apparently. And I would have been less happy if I’d handled it less well, regardless of how reasonable that is. However, based on that experience, I can say the tattoo artist actually has a skill to be proud of; I very much do not. (All this before the whole “if there’s an effective and non-damaging means of avoiding pain, that is very much legitimate anyway” issue!)

      • tariqata
        April 13, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

        As a serious response: for me, I personally felt more in control of the process of birth because I could feel what was happening in my body. I probably wouldn’t call it ’empowering’ – and I’m certainly aware that my sense of ‘control’ was entirely illusory – but despite the pain I felt better knowing and feeling exactly what was going on. However, I would have asked for an epidural if my labour had dragged out, and anyone who uses unmedicated birth as an excuse to express her superiorness over other women should really find a new hobby.

      • guest
        April 13, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

        You have to be awake during a bear mauling so you can tell the bear you want immediate skin-to-skin with your severed arm.

      • Sean Jungian
        April 13, 2016 at 5:04 pm #

        You just have to Trust Bear Mauling.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks
        April 13, 2016 at 6:14 pm #

        And yes, I know, sarcasm, but if the first responder can’t figure out on their ownsome where to place the tourniquet (hint: spurting blood, and lots of it!) then it probably shouldn’t be there in the first place. :p

      • moto_librarian
        April 14, 2016 at 10:19 am #

        I will say that the one (and only) benefit of giving birth without pain medication the first time is that every other type of pain that I have experienced is measured against it. For instance, I had an abscessed tooth last week. It was painful, but nowhere near the scale of childbirth pain. When I was having the root canal and I felt him touch the nerve, again, painful, but I was able to breathe through it while he injected novacaine directly into the root.

        When discussing birth with friends, I very quickly interrupt them when they say something like, “I would never be tough enough to do that.” My reply is that going without pain relief arguably remains one of the dumbest decisions that I ever made.

    • Daleth
      April 13, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

      I have learned that when discussing empowerment, it is vital to ask “empowered to do what?”

      That’s brilliant. So important.

      On a related note, when woo-y friends inevitably respond to the fact I have no interest in giving birth vaginally by asking “Don’t you trust your body,” I like to ask, “Trust it to do what?”

      That helps bring out the absurdity of their beliefs, because the real answer is, “Trust it to do what you want, when you want, how you want, just because you want it and because ideally that’s how bodies behave.” And then all you have to do is point to the fact that you can’t even “trust your body” not to catch a cold, much less not to have any complications whatsoever when attempting a vaginal birth.

  13. Puffin
    April 13, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    I breastfed each of my kids for two years. It wasn’t empowering. For the first year or so, it was completely restraining. Because I refused to use pacifiers at the start (Kid 3 will be getting a pacifier on day 1…) I ended up the only person who could comfort them when upset as infants since they got used to comfort nursing. I couldn’t hand them off for extended periods.

    Even when I was so ill I was unable to walk, my husband had to bring our tiny son into me to nurse because he wouldn’t take a bottle of expressed milk.

    I became a pair of breasts with legs to run to the baby and arms to hold the baby. Who I was ended up completely erased.

    Honestly, I don’t know how women can think of breasfeeding as empowering. It took away my ability to take the best care of myself, to recover when ill, to pursue my own interests. It forced me to be nothing but a mother. Breastfeeding, especially at the start, erased the woman I am and replaced her with a milk dispensing system.

  14. namaste863
    April 13, 2016 at 11:05 am #

    The only possible way I can conceive of this NCB thing as being “Empowering” is that it’s a fringe practice, and there can be a certain satisfaction at flipping the bird at the “Mainstream.” The problem is that in this case, the laws of culture happen to align with the laws of physics. The laws of culture can be ignored. Plenty of people have chosen to reject them. Even the laws of nature can be overcome. As a species, we do it every day. The laws of physics, on the other hand, can’t be ignored or overcome without serious injury and/or death. They can only be taken advantage of.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      April 13, 2016 at 11:18 am #

      Add in the fact that “empowerment is manifested by the ability to choose, and not by the choices that are made.”

      A wise person once said…

      • Roadstergal
        April 13, 2016 at 11:53 am #

        Which is why the BFHI is one of the more disempowering things to come down the pike lately…

    • Kathleen
      April 13, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

      Actually, that is EXACTLY how my NCB friend is like. She probably doesn’t even realize this, or maybe she does and takes pride in it, but she is always talking about how she is ‘doing her research’ and not ‘blindly following the way that everybody does/says is best, including experts.’ I am sure it IS empowering in a way, to go through something as painful as childbirth and live (key word here to live, since she also risked VBAC twice, despite numerous doctors telling her that it was more dangerous for her and the baby so she shopped around until she found one that “listened” to their patients) to tell the tale based on the mistaken belief that it is GOOD pain and anything else is BAD for you or the baby. She is the same way with other things that are ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’ based on whatever she happens to define as ‘natural.’

    • swbarnes2
      April 13, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

      I think a lot of it is class identity “I have the resources (time and money) to do things that other woman can’t manage.” And some of it is some kind of fallacy along the lines of “If I spend time and money and resources on something it must be better than the easy way; e,g. getting vaccines spaced out is better than just doing what the CDC tells you to do. Suffering while breastfeeding or buying a pump and spending hours pumping is better than quick and easy formula. If my baby suffers through a vaccine-preventable disease, there MUST be benefits that vaccinated children don’t get”.

  15. yentavegan
    April 13, 2016 at 11:02 am #

    I am more than just the person who gave birth without an epidural. I am more than just the person who breastfed until each child self weaned. I am more than just a vessel for birth and breastmilk. However, while I was immersed in those early years of childcare it did define me. At the time I did believe that doing it my way made me special and made more more lovable to my family. Now that 10 plus years have past since the last time I breastfed I have had a hard time redefining myself.

    • Erin
      April 13, 2016 at 11:51 am #

      I have a friend who has spent the last 10 years breastfeeding (her youngest is 3 and still being fed), she works part time as a breastfeeding peer support worker at our local hospital (having given up a teaching job she loved when pregnant with her first and in a moment of weakness confided that she NEEDS to believe the breastfeeding hype because otherwise what has she done.

    • Sean Jungian
      April 13, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

      I also have a friend, and educated woman, highly intelligent, who practiced a very intensive kind of parenting, giving up her career to stay home for 20 years. Her children are grown now, the oldest married and expecting his own first child. Yet my friend has been absolutely unable to define herself, to the point that I believe she actively resents her children for growing up.

  16. Daleth
    April 13, 2016 at 10:03 am #


  17. critter8875
    April 13, 2016 at 10:00 am #

    Kinder Küche Kirche

    • demodocus
      April 13, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

      mmmm, kuche…. mit ice cream…

      • MI Dawn
        April 14, 2016 at 9:05 am #

        No…it’s KIRSCH (aka kirschwasser) mit ice cream…. oh, heck forget the ice cream…

        • demodocus
          April 14, 2016 at 9:11 am #

          Never forget the ice cream!!

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        April 14, 2016 at 9:21 am #

        Marmor Kuchen mit Eis und Himbeer.

        That reminds me. I need to ask small one about her birthday cake. 13 years ago, I was asking myself “Is it today?”

        • demodocus
          April 14, 2016 at 11:15 am #

          i thought it was Eis, but wasn’t sure. 🙂

        • Monkey Professor for a Head
          April 14, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

          She shares a birthday with my husband. He got a homemade chocolate fudge cake (which I’ll probably eat most of!)

  18. guest
    April 13, 2016 at 9:46 am #

    Most MRAs that I’ve encountered are not capable of the subtlety and long-term thinking required to intentionally convince women NCB is so “empowering” so that they don’t need other types of power.

    • AirPlant
      April 13, 2016 at 11:12 am #

      In my small and painful MRA experience they are most likely to rage that women are popping out children with the unworthy and crying for child support when they don’t know who the father is because they are slutty sluts who won’t have sex with them and why don’t men get default custody any more it is soooo unfaaaiiir!

      • guest
        April 13, 2016 at 12:00 pm #


      • Sean Jungian
        April 13, 2016 at 1:41 pm #

        They hold both ideas – and many more that conflict internally – simultaneously. It’s kind of awe-inspiring how they’re able to leapfrog around their cognitive dissonance. They are also thisclose to white supremacism and closer by the minute.

        First, MRAs are not concerned with all women, only young(ish) white, attactive women. It’s an overwhelmingly white “movement”. No other women exist in their worldview – not women of color, not old women, not lesbians, not unattractive women.

        Just one of dozens of examples: they hold the idea that men should be able to opt out of parenthood via “paper abortion”, yet also believe that women are not properly focused on procreating the “white” race and are thus committing “cultural genocide”.

        • ladyloki
          April 13, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

          Ah yes, I have encountered these folks. The ones that asked why I adopted black children instead of white ones. Then when they found out we adopted not due to infertility but by choice, they question why I don’t want to preserve “my” race. As an anthropologist (who somehow ended up working in HR, go figure), race is technically a social construct, skin color and other features are adaptations due to the environment the various peoples of the worlds developed in. Their eyes start to glaze over about 2 minutes into my speech.

        • guest
          April 13, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

          They also foam at the mouth at the idea of a woman choosing an abortion when the bio father isn’t informed and can’t tell her no.

    • Roadstergal
      April 13, 2016 at 11:15 am #

      I could be wrong, but I took Dr T’s point to be that if they were actually good at this, they would be hard-pressed to find a better way to dis-empower women?

      • guest
        April 13, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

        Maybe. Or maybe some other group besides MRAs had a hand in it. They just seem to be pure infantile rage. This sort of thing, if it were intentional, would require a deep understanding of culture and media, and a lot of patience.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          April 13, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

          Or maybe some other group besides MRAs had a hand in it.

          The article doesn’t claim that MRAs had a hand in it. She said, “imagine you were an MRA…what COULD you do?”

          And then laid out what has happened. That’s not a claim that MRAs did it, just that the outcome is consistent with MRA goals.

          • indigosky
            April 13, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

            Well, there were not MRAs back then, not official ones, but I am pretty damn sure that the foreFATHERS of attachment parenting would have fit very nicely into MRA groups today.

          • guest
            April 13, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

            To me it reads as a suggestion that this might be how it happened. Not a statement of certainty, but a proposal that it at least played a role.

          • Sean Jungian
            April 13, 2016 at 6:40 pm #

            In the sense that both MRAs and NCB/EBF grew from a backlash against feminism, I think.

    • Sean Jungian
      April 13, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

      Yet their rhetoric (conflicting as it is) also very much includes the idea that “good” women – pure, virginal, demur, passive – stay home and raise “his” children. They have a very concrete type of free-market capitalism that they apply to this idea, that it is a straight exchange of goods and services.

      They call repeatedly for a “return to patriarchy”, claiming that women are basically animals/children/mentally handicapped and thus need the strong guidance of the patriarch.

      MRAs are some of the first to howl when a woman does not stay home and do as she’s told.

      • Rose Magdalene
        April 14, 2016 at 12:48 am #

        The MRA’s I’ve had the misfortune of coming across all seen to believe that baby making and marriage are evil ploys created by women to separate men from their hard earned money. Because apparently in MRA-land men never want to become fathers and career women don’t exist.

        • Sean Jungian
          April 14, 2016 at 9:38 am #

          Yes, women get knocked up by the “bad boy thug Chads” of the world, then marry “beta orbiters” (also known as “manginas” or feminist men) as walking cash machines raising someone else’s offspring, then immediately divorce them for that sweet, sweet child support while they find the next bad boy.

          Career women are generally mannish Dworkin-esque radfems pulling the strings for our Matriarchal Overladies, or else they are Fatty Spinster Cat Ladies (TM) forever pining over their lack of a man in their lives, regretting that they spent their peak SMP (sexual marketplace) years chasing bad boys and selfishly withholding sex from “nice guys”.

  19. The Computer Ate My Nym
    April 13, 2016 at 9:27 am #

    At least back then, women owned their own bodies.

    Given that in the 1950s in the US abortion and many form of birth control were illegal but marital rape was legal, I find this claim dubious. I wonder if the NCB “empowerment through biological functions” thing isn’t a sort of response to the increasing control that women have over their bodies, at least in principle: If man can’t legally force women to spend all their time and energy reproducing, they have to find more creative ways to ensure that they do so (and therefore don’t gain any real power). Heavily propagandizing the benefits to the offspring of NCB and breast feeding is one way to do it.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      April 13, 2016 at 10:21 am #

      I guess what I meant was that women did not compete with each other over who had the longest unmedicated labor or who breastfed the longest. I should have made that clearer.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        April 13, 2016 at 10:38 am #

        Yeah, they would have thought–and do think–we’re all crazy for that one.

      • critter8875
        April 13, 2016 at 10:59 am #

        In 1940/50s breastfeeding was not the norm.

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