Discover more from Other Feminisms
A Trio of Recommended Readings
On fertility, fidgetiness, and fixing
Tonight, the baby and I are at DC’s Catholic Information Center as part of a panel on Mary Harrington’s Feminism Against Progress. I’m on the road for work, and when I return, my husband’s production of Twelfth Night is in final rehearsals, so here’s a round up of thought-provoking reading I’ve enjoyed.
As an entr’acte, this tweet (embedding still broken by Twitter) does pretty well as a mission statement for Other Feminisms:
fyi you can’t get out of having duties to other people’s children by not having children, you have to have never been a child yourself
I made the case at greater length recently in National Review: child benefits are universal benefits—everyone begins their life in the total dependence of infancy.
The New Yorker has a big feature on “The Future of Fertility,” with efforts to get ovarian cells to release eggs outside the body, to turn skin cells into egg cells, to put off menopause indefinitely.
Women are almost always the sticking point here, and a lot of the “fixes” start from the assumption that there is no time to spare for children—reproduction needs to need less of our time, attention, and body to be practical. As Dina Radenkovic, the CEO of Gameto put it:
“We’re really hopeful of allowing women to go through I.V.F. with much fewer side effects, less clinical time, and a lower cost—something that you could do in, like, egg-freezing kiosks. I see it almost like an extension of the beauty studio, where being proactive about your reproduction and longevity just seems like an act of self-care.”
Instead of figuring out how to have room for women and babies to have the spaciousness we need to grow and love each other, the fix is paring off parts of the natural process. There’s money for outsourcing, but not deference for natural relation.
There was an interesting contrasting quote a little further down. Emily Witt, the New Yorker reporter spoke to several people hoping reproductive technology breakthroughs could allow them to have children. One woman, a 49 year old lawyer was still hoping to have children of her own (rather than donor embryos), which would eventually be borne by a surrogate.
When I asked why it was important to her to pass on her genes, she told me that after her parents died she wanted to have something of them to love in the world.
During a virtual parent-teacher conference, we were told he was having trouble sitting at his desk, so he was being sent out for walks with a paraprofessional. I worried as I watched my previously happy, energetic little boy withdraw into himself.
We pulled him from the public school when his kindergarten year was over and enrolled him at a nearby parochial school for first grade. In second grade, we decided to homeschool him. I quickly realized that he both loved to learn and to move. He completed worksheets on the floor, read upside down on the couch, and asked to run outside to jump rope before starting a math lesson. I had gone to public school from kindergarten to 12th grade, and this was strange to me. Learning, as I understood it, happened at a desk. But once I got over my preconceived notions of what learning should look like, I was delighted to watch him blossom both academically and emotionally.
Her focus is particularly on boys, and how a standardized, orderly school experience may not work for them (a topic we’ve discussed here before). But, especially in juxtaposition with the fertility article above, it makes me think about all the ways we squeeze people too tightly, and then look for any fix that doesn’t ask us to release the pressure.
Finally, speaking of the spaciousness we need, I loved this reflection from Melanie Bettinelli.
Last night I was watching a video conversation between poet Dana Gioia and artist Makoto Fujimura about art and trauma. Makoto Fujimura says that art is the answer to the greatest of life’s questions: Why live? And finding beauty, making beauty, is the answer to trauma.
He talked about kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken things and filling in the broken areas with gold, making the broken things more precious than before they were broken. And how before the mending happens, contemplation happens, you behold the fragments, pay attention, see them. Beholding precedes repair and healing. And the broken places are made into the most beautiful. Art allows us to consider things that would be intolerable without the consolations of beauty.
And I thought of my friend whose life has exploded in her face—parents dead, marriage broken, children in crisis—making jewelry, making necklaces named after wronged women. Art allows us to contemplate our woundedness and to make the broken places beautiful. Artemesia Gentileschi painting pictures of wronged women fighting back against their oppressors was how she dealt with the trauma of abuse.
My day job is about facilitating cross-partisan debate, and I moderated a particularly challenging one last week. And Melanie is absolutely right about beginning with beholding. A lot of my work is simply getting the two participants to make sure they see and hear each other. Even if your goal is to DESTROY your opponent, you have to know where they are. You can’t win a debate by attacking your imagined enemy; you can’t convert them without seeing them.