C-Section as a Narcissistic Injury

Great minds, people. One of my favorite bloggers writes about a C-section as a narcissistic injury:

Why are some women devastated by a C-section? Why are VBACs [vaginal births after Cesarean] portrayed as “healing”? Perhaps it is because those women experience C-sections as a narcissistic injury. Narcissistic injury is a term from psychoanalysis. A narcissist is a person who suffers a deep sense of inferiority and masks it by projecting an air of grandiosity and excessive self regard. A narcissistic injury occurs when reality threatens the narcissist’s carefully constructed facade of perfection. . . In other words, for VBAC, homebirth and some NCB advocates, not having an uncomplicated vaginal birth is viewed as an imperfection.

Brava, Dr. Amy! Now, this is a brilliant OB-GYN I would not mind consulting.

This wouldn’t be a problem, of course (who cares if a bunch of narcissists want to torture themselves with home-births, or what not?), if it weren’t for the sad reality that there will be kids saddled with narcissistic mothers for life. And that is a very heavy  burden.

Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, A Review, Part III

Why is it, then, that women accept the burden of this unrealistic image of a perfect mother who sacrifices her career, hobbies, sex life, body and 100% of her time to motherhood?

For nearly three decades, a subterranean ideological war has been fought for a wholesale return to nature. We cannot yet assess its consequences for women. . . The advocates of this philosophy have an extraordinary weapon on their side: a mother’s guilt.

Women are guilt-tripped endlessly into feeling like there is something wrong with them if they don’t welcome the idea of diluting themselves completely in their children. So what do you expect to happen as a result?

If women are subjected to the relentless message that a mother must give her child everything—milk, time, energy—or pay for it later, inevitably more and more of them will give in.

Also, more and more of us will choose not to have children altogether if the only way to have them involves castrating our existence and reducing it to endless clucking around the poor children who eventually get so fed up with your annoying sacrifices that they leave home as soon as they can and only call you on Mother’s Day to expiate their own guilt.

Of course, if women could legitimately and without constantly being vilified for their choices select the method of childbirth that they prefer and that simplifies their life, breastfeed or not based on what suits their fancy, rely on daycare and babysitters without feeling guilty, and let the children be without feeling the need to schedule their every breath, more successful, accomplished and brilliant women would be interested in motherhood. And this would be a great thing because, contrary to what naturalists believe, breastfeeding has zero effect on a child’s IQ. Mother’s IQ is what matters. (I’m guessing father’s IQ, as well, but I haven’t seen any studies. Probably because people are still not managing to see the father’s participation in the creation of a child as something even worth studying.)

One of the reasons I like Badinter is that she does not take the easy road that so many feminists of the previous generation love to take in order to explain every problem that women face. Badinter does not blame men for every obstacle that women encounter in our path towards liberation. She states specifically in The Conflict that sexist men (who obviously do exist) had absolutely nothing to do with making this sad situation possible. A small but a very vocal number of women who didn’t make it professionally and financially have taken up the banner of the perfect motherhood and are now guilt-tripping women who haven’t failed in these arenas into feeling as lesser human beings precisely because we have not limited our entire existence to childbirth.

Do read the book, my friends. Read it and leave reviews on Amazon because, at this point, the only review that’s there has the following pearl of wisdom to share:

This is a feminist book, but it’s not of the rabid, aggressive sort. It’s more of an inside look into women’s lives and what they believe and value.

As one of those rabid, aggressive feminists, I find Elisabeth Badinter’s perspective on motherhood as an ideological construct to be very refreshing.

We, the successful, intelligent, professional women should reclaim our right to be mothers (only if that’s what we wish, of course) on our terms. We have allowed the naturalists to guilt-trip us into practices that harm mothers, fathers, and children. We need to start pushing back now. We need to stop letting the failures that constitute the naturalist movement to dictate their idiotic ideas to us and make us feel like we are the ones with a problem.

I suggest we start the anti-naturalist movement. Let’s celebrate the advances of our civilization that allow us to choose whether, when and how we want to become parents and that simplify parenthood for us. To hell with instincts! Long live intelligence!

Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, A Review, Part II

So what are the tenets of the naturalist approach to motherhood?

First of all, the naturalist movement returns to the eminently stupid notion of “maternal instinct.” A mother has some sort of a natural bond with a child that appears from nowhere and that is inaccessible to a father. Fathers are dispensable and interchangeable, according to this philosophy, because their only role is to support and “protect” women. At no point should they insist on having access to or a say in their own children’s care.

Naturalists believe that motherhood should be completely sacrificial in nature. There should be no relief from the pain of childbirth, no respite from the burdens of breastfeeding, no break from childcare:

Accounts by childless women and the many surveys of them that are now available are striking for their faithful endorsement of the model of the perfect mother. Even these women believe that a good mother takes constant care of her children round the clock and cannot pursue personal fulfillment at the same time.

Is it any wonder that many women are choosing to opt out of motherhood altogether? I mean, if you have anything at all that is even remotely fun going on in your life, why on Earth would you give all that up to dedicate yourself 100% to childcare? If you can’t use formula, daycare facilities, nannies, or any means that would make childcare easier for fear of feeling like a bad mother, then who needs the entire thing at all? Women are human and we are guided by self-interest. If we can’t be allowed to experience motherhood as a fun experience that enriches our lives and, instead, have to see it as a constant self-sacrifice, can we be blamed for giving up on it altogether? As Badinter puts it:

The lighter the burden on the mother and the greater the respect given to her choices as a woman, the more likely she is to want the whole experience of child raising, and even to repeat it. Supporting part-time motherhood is the key to increased fertility. Conversely, insisting that the mother sacrifice the woman seems to delay her decision to have a child and possibly discourages her from having one at all.

When I read Badinter, it is like she is speaking to me personally because this is really how I feel. I totally dig my life, people. It is a life I created for myself with a lot of effort and care. No aspect of it just happened. Rather, it was planned in painstaking detail by me. When I was younger, I’d imagined a series of vignettes from my future life where I knew exactly how I wanted to feel, what I wanted to wear, and where I wanted to be in the future. Now I’m acting out those vignettes because I managed to create the life of my dreams. The idea that I need to sacrifice all that for the drudgery of what motherhood should be like according to the fanatics of naturalism is appalling.

[To be continued. . .]

Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, A Review, Part I

Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women made me feel really sad. It’s a shame that one of the world’s leading feminist philosophers should waste her time on explaining things that are so painfully obvious to everybody who has at least some brain activity. For instance, Badinter demonstrates to the truly unintelligent among us that women who choose not to have children are neither sick nor miserable. She proves that people who choose not to have children are happy and fulfilled and that the excessive attention towards the reasons behind their choice distracts us from more important concerns:

We do not ask questions about the legitimacy of the wish to have children, although we are all aware of the devastation caused by irresponsible mothers. How many children are brought into the world to play roles of compensation or distraction? How many children are abused, neglected, or abandoned? This subject remains unexplored. Society seems more concerned with women who try to assess their responsibilities rigorously than with those who take them on with little reflection.

Badinter’s words are so eminently reasonable that I wonder how anybody can find it in themselves to disagree.

Badinter is a French feminist and, as we all know, Europe is undergoing a demographic crisis at the moment. In Germany, for example, about 1/3 of all women decide not to have children at all. Without in any way condemning that choice, Badinter analyzes the cultural and ideological environment that makes child-bearing unattractive to the growing number of women.

After the great feminist revolution of the 1960-1970, many women discovered that professional and intellectual fulfillment to which feminism gave them access is not without its costs. Fighting for success in a capitalist economy is hard. It is also an ongoing struggle that you never win definitively. The perfect sales this month don’t help you if you fail to produce any in the coming months. Several publications in one year don’t mean you can relax and publish nothing in the future. For many women, the environment of intellectual growth and professional fulfillment is the only one we can survive in.

For some, however, it proved to be too hard. So what do you do when you realize that you haven’t managed to achieve fulfillment through practicing your profession, bettering yourself intellectually, and making money? The answer is simple: you declare that none of these things are worth anything because a woman’s real value lies in her physicality. This was how the “naturalist” movement was born. This movement proposed that a woman’s only goal in life is to be a mother and created a set of pretty unrealistic expectations of what one needed to do in order to pass for a “good” mother.

[To be continued. . .]