Man recreates Beyoncé pregnancy photos to celebrate white male bodies

Matthew Dean Stewart Photography

Actor Ben Yahr is on a mission: He wants white male bodies to be valued in our society just as much as the pregnant bodies of women of colour. So he decided to recreate Beyoncé’s now-famous pregnancy announcement photos, appropriating the symbols of motherhood and female fertility, but with his regular, un-pregnant white dude body in place of hers.

In Buzzfeed, he writes:

“We live in a world where we’re taught that only people of certain shapes are praise-worthy. And I’ve made it my mission to break that mold.”

Thank goodness a man is bravely breaking molds by announcing that he is praiseworthy, despite having a totally unremarkable, regular-shaped, white male body.

It’s actually really surprising that men don’t do naked “empowerment” photoshoots more often. Sharing images of themselves seductively reclined on a chaise lounge, dressed in lacey lingerie, pouting their lips would really show the world men are, as Yahr put it, “strong and worthy of applause.”

Oh, wait a second… MEN DON’T NEED TO DO ANY OF THAT BULLSHIT TO BE VALUED. How could I forget?! White men are already praised in our society regardless of what their bodies are shaped like; and they don’t have to strip down in order to feel or be perceived as “strong.” In fact, I’m pretty sure that whole “empowerment through being a sexual object” thing is just a lie patriarchy tells women…

In our image-based culture, sexualized and objectified flesh is overwhelmingly female. If society was actually “celebratory,” as Yahr puts it, of the people whose bodies are on display, wouldn’t women be in a better position of power? Why aren’t more women holding government offices? Why does the U.S. have such a shamefully high (and rising) maternal mortality rate?

Ben’s little performance is extremely insulting for a number of reasons, not least of which is his appropriation of symbols of maternity.

In the photoset, Beyoncé poses with a with a crown of flowers and a saint-like halo while cupping her right breast, invoking religious symbolism of Mary, Mother of God. Yahr imitates Beyoncé’s exact pose and costuming, which highlights the juxtaposition of his maleness. As if being made in the image of the male God is not enough, it seems he must lay claim to the position of the Mother, as well.

Yahr’s actions aren’t really surprising, considering that since the dawn of civilization men have tried to take credit for the awesome power of pregnancy and birth. For example, in the Bible, Eve is said to have come from Adam’s body — made from one of his ribs — rather than from a woman’s uterus.

In another photo, Beyoncé is styled in order to represent classic depictions of Eve in the Garden of Eden, with long flowing hair covering one of her breasts. She is naked, save for a flowering vine curling up her leg. Another level is added to the first-woman symbolism via the bust of Nefertiti in the corner, reminding us that, despite the Eurocentric depictions of Adam and Eve which imply some original primacy of whiteness, the origin of humanity was actually in Africa.

But Ben bravely takes the Eve imagery and puts it right back in the land of originary whiteness, coopting the symbolic pregnant woman, just as Adam does in the Bible with his originary rib.

Yahr claims to be a crusader for “body positivity.” But if he really wants to promote body positivity, he should stop trying to gain applause for his body, and instead fight for those whose bodies are actually faced with an onslaught of negativity — for example, pregnant women of colour, who are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications in the U.S. than their white counterparts.

Legislative assaults on women’s reproductive health care continue relentlessly in the U.S. and show no signs of slowing under President Trump. His recent “global gag rule” on abortion will no doubt cause more deaths from unsafe abortion, particularly for women of colour. Arkansas just passed a law that would allow a woman’s rapist to force her to carry and give birth to the baby against her will. Incarcerated women are being denied abortions and forced to give birth in their jail cells. Purvi Patel’s long incarceration for her miscarriage revealed a disturbing pattern in state laws that criminalize pregnant women for engaging in actions which are thought to threaten the fetus. The arrest and forced intervention on pregnant women in the U.S. has also been shown to disproportionately target women of colour.

The bodies of women (particularly women of colour) are under attack, and “celebrating” white male bodies won’t do a thing to change that.

So please, Ben — spare us your insulting and appropriative performances and start working for real bodily positivity. We could actually use it.

Susan Cox
Susan Cox

Susan Cox is a feminist writer and academic living in the United States. She teaches in Philosophy.

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  • Just Passing Through


  • Just Passing Through

    Right, we haven’t celebrated white maleness quite enough have we? I’m glad he is bringing our attention back to the beleaguered white male because for a minute there, we were starting to give others a little bit of consideration. Whew! Glad he stopped us in our tracks. What were thinking not thinking about white men for a change?!

  • Meghan Murphy

    I can’t figure out why the fuck anyone cares about strangers’ pregnancies anyway?? It’s so weird. Celebrity culture is SO weird.

  • Cassandra

    What a complete and total tool. Men are fucking dicks.

  • fxduffy

    In the spirit of Nietzsche, men strive to give birth to themselves. This is achieved by transcending the material world, by situating the male creative self above women. To be a male subject, to be a male, an object is requisite. So, men act and women are acted upon. Men are above nature; women are nature.

    The artist paints the female model in his studio with his pointed instrument; the photographer shoots women and nature with his camera; the movie director demands females act as screens for his cinematic display; the writer, inspired by his female muse or medium, pens or penises his self-serving reality. (then there is the pornographer–enough said)

    The erotisized male mind replaces the mother’s womb as the source of life. It is also the sexing act that creates life. It is this unilateral display of power, this turn-on, is what’s central to men’s view of themselves as creators of life, art, and self. Apart from and above the natural world, of course.

    • Morag999

      I love this comment. You got it. All that male garbage about transcendence … it’s a form of death-worship.

  • Persephone Jones

    Also pregnant black women are murdered at 7x and 11x (ages 25 to 30) the rate of white pregnant women. Matricide is very high in Black America.

  • Wembly

    Can someone shove a watermelom up his arse so he can complete the experience. Birth that!

  • Meghan Murphy

    To be clear, I’m not opposed to pregnancy photos… I’m just weirded out by the reactions of people to the pregnancies of strangers/celebrities. It seems over the top to me…

  • Meghan Murphy

    omg BYE.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I care… I mean, I’ve been critical of drag for that reason…

  • Meghan Murphy

    Yes the whole tabloid baby bump watch thing is SO puke.

  • Susan Cox

    Yes, I love that. That was actually female writer who quipped that a few years ago.

  • Susan Cox

    It’s not subversive for men to appropriate motherhood. Like I say in the article, it’s as ancient as the Bible.

    Also, no, the man is NOT “the mother just as much as the father.” The man doesn’t make the baby in their uterus, carry, and give birth to it, then feed it from their body. It’s so insulting to erase all the labor that only the mother does in producing life.

  • Alienigena

    “i’m sure i’m missing one of the oppressed minorities here–mea culpa abcd…lmnop).”

    Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Polygamous/polyamorous, Kink

    Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender
    Two Q’s to cover both bases (queer and questioning)
    I for Intersex, people with two sets of genitalia or various chromosomal differences
    P for Pansexual
    2S for Two-Spirit
    A for Asexual
    A for Allies

    Any more combinations? It is hard, if not impossible, to keep up.

  • FierceMild

    I think child-free by choice women are a formidable force. My daughter has a few such “aunties” and it’s something I want her to see as an option. No one should have to raise a child unless they choose to.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I have trouble understanding why any women would choose to have a child, tbh.

      • foamreality

        Women are often demonised as stupid and thoughtless for having kids. As if there is no way they could reasonably decide for themselves they actually want them. There maybe a generation thing here, but I get a bit annoyed by comments from feminists saying they don’t understadn why women would want kids. Lots of women feel they don’t deserve kids, because of the society they brought them in: poverty, patriarchy etc, no matter how much love and joy they share with their kids, or how hard they try, they can be left to feel stupid for it. I think any femnist need to make more of an effort to understand why women DO want kids. Because a huge amount of them do. Children are not a disease and women who have them shouldn’t be considered troublesome women. One of the reasons women don’t leave abusive men who father their children is because society think a woman bringing up a kid on her own has lost the plot. They can’t (or refuse) to understand a woman making such a socially unacceptable choice..

        • Meghan Murphy

          Just because I can’t personally relate to the desire for children doesn’t mean I don’t believe some women legitimately like or want kids. To me, having kids seems like a giant pain in the ass (and other places, really). It’s a total time suck. I also don’t *like* most kids. Many other human beings in this world genuinely *do* like kids. That’s fine. I just don’t get it. I also don’t get people who don’t like dogs, because dogs are the greatest part of life.

          In any case, the reality is that women are socialized to have and want kids, so lots of women DO have kids without even thinking about whether or not they really want them, because they are *supposed* to want them and be fulfilled by motherhood. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pushing back against the idea that women should have kids, should want to have kids, or should be fulfilled by motherhood.

        • Cassandra

          “One of the reasons women don’t leave abusive men who father their children is because society think a woman bringing up a kid on her own has lost the plot. They can’t (or refuse) to understand a woman making such a socially unacceptable choice..”

          Read what you wrote and see if you can spot the irony.

    • lk

      I don’t think anything is free from feminist analysis including how we treat childbirth, child rearing, the decision to have or not have children and etc.

      As with conversations about sex, I think its important that we think about more than just biology. Much of society expects and demands that women have children (think of all the governments that decry the use of birth control and abortion), we are encouraged from the time that we are small to feel as though our main purpose in life is to have children, that our lives will be incomplete or that we have failed as women if we do not give birth to children. (I’m not saying that there isnt a biological drive or urge to procreate, but I think we also need to consider how much society basically tells women that they want children).

      In many cultures, nobody seems to bat an eye if a man doesn’t become a father or doesn’t want to be around children.

      “I think child-free by choice women are a formidable force.”
      Absolutely!! Not only because they remind us that women can be fulfilled without biological children, but b/c they can be an important source of help and support to women with children and may be interested in caring for children who may otherwise through becoming foster parents, adoptive parents or just fighting for the rights of children to have access to food, clothing, housing and so on.

      Years ago, I remember reading an interview with Oprah and she talked about she felt that not having children allowed her to help many more people. (which isnt to say that people with children can’t help lots of people, but we all know that parenting is time-consuming).

  • FierceMild

    You are on fire with right-ness today!

    • Zuzanna Smith

      Thank you! From you that is a big compliment!

  • Meghan Murphy

    She also appears to be the only celebrity we aren’t allowed to be critical of… Which is frustrating, because she’s still part of the celebrity culture/patriarchal-capitalist-neoliberal machine. I appreciate what she’s doing in many ways and she is amazingly talented, but, like, it seems as though feminists/progressives are allowed and even encouraged to be critical of every other pop start/celebrity *except* Beyonce…

    • Mira

      Ehh, I’m skeptical. A lot of white liberal feminists, and so called progressives don’t come for every celeb. Like, what about Lena Dunham and how she’s so effing problematic?

      Life is not easy for the biggest Black pop star in America.

      Look at what happened when Beyonce came out with Formation. White America lost it, and thought she was being so “un-American” and anti police. LOL.

      Beyonce is not immune to criticism, so I don’t agree with this line of thinking. Lol, look at what recently happened at the Grammy’s. Also, what happened to Rihanna, and other black artists who were shunned. Beyonce is a woman, but she is also black, and she may be super famous, but there was hard work behind that.

      The only ones who would have a problem with someone CRITICALLY criticizing her, would be her biggest and die hard fans.

      Another well written article by Susan, however. I loved it. <3

      • Meghan Murphy

        Are you serious? Lena Dunman is shat on by the entire internet every time she does anything. Hating Lena Dunham and, like, Amy Schumer, is #twitterfeminism’s most favorite passtime…

        Yes, the American right was pissed at Formation, but not feminists and progressives… Feminists and progressives unequivocally loved it. (And, fair enough, it was pretty amazing.)

        And yes, the white rich apparently racist dudes who run the Grammys dissed Beyonce yet again, and progressives/feminists freaked out (for good reason — it was totally ridiculous that Lemonade didn’t win album of the year).

        You’re missing my point. My point is not that she doesn’t work hard (of COURSE she works crazy hard), that she doesn’t face criticism or challenges. What I said was that “feminists/progressives are allowed and even encouraged to be critical of every other pop star/celebrity *except* Beyonce… ”

        What is interesting to me — and the point I was making — is that people who are anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchy, and (one would think?) anti-celebrity culture are not allowed to criticize anything connected to Beyonce, including wealth, pop culture, objectification, etc.

        I’m not saying we should to go after Beyonce as an individual. But even criticizing the industries, culture, and systems that surround her is unacceptable. I was, for example, accused of tearing her down, for this post, which absolutely does nothing of the sort:

        Anyway, hope that clarifies my argument.

  • Meghan Murphy

    So weird, right?

  • lk

    “My goal with these photos was to channel Beyoncé and encourage everyone to embrace their bodies and feel sexy and strong and worthy of applause.”

    How does posing naked make one feel strong? Why do I need to feel sexy? Why does my body need applause?

    “only people of certain shapes are praise-worthy”

    Why do I need to be praised for my shape?

    “The bodies of women (particularly women of colour) are under attack, and “celebrating” white male bodies won’t do a thing to change that.”

    A lot of the body positivity movement just seems focused on reminding women that they are sexy no matter what and distracts us from real issues that impact female bodies (like rape, abuse, abortion, harassment and etc). It also just really focuses again on how a woman’s body looks and not on her character, her actions, her personality.

  • lk

    I’m waiting for someone to comment on how empowering this photo is (what political or social power this gives to Beyonce or the dancers I have no clue!) or to say something about supporting women’s choices….

  • Anthocerotopsida

    My guess is that the doctors (or whoever, I never had a kid so I don’t know how these things work) can’t tell if a fetus is intersex. They would just guess male or female based on what shows up in the sonogram.*

    Now I want fanciful swirly-cake.

    * If I wasn’t clear, a “gender reveal party” happens during pregnancy, not after birth.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Oookay, I think you’ve finally worn out your welcome here, friend. Would you like to see yourself out or shall I escort you out and lock the door?

  • Rachael

    You’ve missed the subtleties, I think. To be ironic, it’s not that black and white.

  • Rachael


  • Rachael

    It’s just depressing that women fall for this shit.

    • Just Passing Through

      It really is. I responded to this thinking it was related to another comment sorry. But yes indeed depressing as hell.

  • Rachael

    Why is it not surprising?
    How is she celebrating herself?
    How is being proud of your body part of feminism?
    How do we not see these images too often?
    Who is policing “our” feminism?
    So many questions!

  • Rachael

    Absolutely. I think her branding and packaging of feminism as a concept is utterly dangerous. She’s not just upholding patriarchal norms, she’s also taking something which fights those norms and is twisting it to comply with them: thus we have a whole generation of women who think getting naked “for the boys” is liberating and will somehow help.

    She’s not the only one, but as you say, she’s in a uniquely influential position.

  • Rachael

    Do they get another one if they decide to become trans?

  • Exactly correct. It’s also important to note that the patriarchal familial structure is the breeding ground for sexual abuse of girls by their fathers. Additionally, these formulative sexual experiences often work to provide young girls with a perverse model for the type of behavior and treatment they should expect to receive from men, making them ideologically vulnerable to sexual assault from “boyfriends/husbands” as well as bosses and other males in society. And whether sexual abuse by a father functions as the formulative experience that leads a woman to think that the violence is to be expected and accepted by other men or not, we live in a patriarchal world where this form of degradation can transpire in any context where a man and woman are present. Feminists like Catharine MacKinnon have drawn attention to this type of reality in works like Only Words. In this text, she writes:

    “Imagine that for hundreds of years your most formative traumas, your daily suffering and pain, the abuse you live through, the terror you live with, are unspeakable-not the basis of literature. You grow up with your father holding you down and covering your mouth so
    another man can make a horrible searing pain between your legs. When you are older, your husband ties you to the bed and drips hot wax on your nipples and brings in other men to watch and makes you smile through it. Your doctor will not give you drugs he has addicted you to unless you suck his penis” (3).

    The potential perversity of the father/daughter dynamic is further exemplified when we consider the etymological underpinnings of the word “rape.” As noted by Susan Brownmiller in her important book “Against Our Will: Men, Women, And Rape,” there was historical period during which “rape meant simply and conclusively the theft of a father’s daughter’s virginity, a specialized crime that damaged valuable goods before they could reach the matrimonial market…” (376). I think many “fathers” operate according to this ancient ideology in our “modern” world, meaning that they view their daughters as a piece of sexualized property and systematically train them to practice “abstinence” because doing so makes them more “valuable” in the eyes of “men” who might eventually want to marry them. In this schema, the girl is taught to see herself as a heterosexualized object who must sexually conform to the standards of men who ultimately only see women in terms of “sex,” whether the interpretation result in classification as “virgin,” “whore,” or some ambiguous sphere which is the source of frustration for males who abhor the idea of female sexuality being complex or complicated (especially if the complexity renders the female body inaccessible to them). Anyway, in addition to functioning as a site in which the father sexually abuses the daughter, the familial sphere can operate as the sphere through which fathers impart patriarchal values regarding female sexuality to their daughters.

    Moving forward. One of my favorite literary pieces regarding the complexity and decidedly negative impact that a daughter’s relationship with her father can have is Sylvia Plath’s brilliant poem “Daddy.” In it, the speaker talks about never being able to talk to her father (I never could talk to you. The tongue stuck in my jaw.) and also asserts that she was afraid of him (I have always been scared of you). To underscore the element of fear indigenous to the father/daughter relationship, the speaker politicizes their system of relations by stating:

    Every woman adores a Fascist,
    The boot in the face, the brute
    Brute heart of a brute like you.

    She goes on to assert that she married a man she viewed as a replica of her father. This is a really excellent poem for individuals who are looking to move beyond the conventional, conservative rhetoric regarding the integral, inalienable role that fathers play in helping their daughters develop “self-esteem” or operate effectively in the world.

    Thanks again for bringing up the “Daddy” dynamic and how it harms women. This is just one of many reasons that I advocate separate spaces for women while also asserting that the traditional family model needs to be abolished and abhorred. As noted by Gloria Steinem, “the patriarchal family is the basis and training ground for any authoritarianism” (340). She then makes the specific import that this reality has on women plain by noting that the family can be a site of “resistance to any self-determination for women” (Outrageous Acts And Everyday Rebellions, 341). Marilyn Frye furthers discourse regarding the role that the familial sphere plays in abrading female subjectivity upon noting that “Hence, heterosexuality, marriage and motherhood, which are the institutions which most obviously and individually maintain female accessibility to males, form the core triad of antifeminist ideology” (Some Reflections on Separatism and Power). Typically, identifying as a heterosexual is a precursor to the replication of the prototypically patriarchal familial structure, and these institutions (marriage and motherhood) are antifeminist because they render the female body a site of sexual and reproductive exploitation.

  • I just came across an important point in Female Erasure which I thought I’d share given the context of fathers displacing the subjectivity of their female daughters. Here is the quote:

    “Female erasure is the female photographer who recently took a lighthearted family photo wherein the mother and the daughter posed with duct tape over their mouths while the father and the son gave satisfied smiles at the camera while holding a sign that said “peace on earth.” -Female Erasure, Ruth Barrett

    Sometimes certain passages catch my attention as uniquely effective in demonstrating the depth of patriarchy’s ugliness. I read this passage as proof of how the “family” sphere can function as the realm through which women are silenced, with this silencing operating under the rhetorically deceptive term “peace” and thereby implying that a speaking woman constitutes a site of (unwanted/problematic) war. Also note the role that this image plays in eliding the reality that male violence, not female speech, is the lived reality that precludes us from existing in a state of peace.

    One wonders about the ideological slant of the female photographer.

  • Mandy

    (the fact that women care more about being beautiful than avoiding pain and suffering is horrifying on its own in my opinion)

    I feel like this could lead to a whole other tangent article about the beauty cult and the expectations on pregnant women to look good/fuckable even when literal going to the hospital to give birth.

    It’s ridiculous how many articles and personal stories I’ve heard of moms to be discussing how they were getting waxed/shaving before birth to look better “down there” or who have photos of them applying makeup in stirrups between contractions because the birth is being documented and oh noes people might see how I naturally look while pushing a new human out of my vagina. It’s depressing af.

    And that’s not even getting into the celebrity led trend of coercion on mothers to immediately jump back to their pre baby body post birth

  • Meghan Murphy

    Totally. Like, oh! You’re a boring hetero and you want special attention?? Heeeeere’s queer! The convenient way for heteros to pretend to be marginalized because once you had a threesome.

  • Meghan Murphy

    But every time I’m around them I get a cold?

  • lk

    How can appearance be a shorthand for character?

    What someone looks like tells you nothing about their character…

    • Independent Radical

      Unfortunately people who don’t look the way society wants get treated like shit, which then influences their character. Studies show that people considered more physically attractive are nicer, but that’s probably because people treated better by those around them are nicer and people treated badly end up resenting those around them. Self-fulfiling prophecies basically.

      This happens to other groups that face discrimination (e.g. gays), so I suspect is happens to those deemed unattractive, but psychologists don’t appear to be considering that possibility. That’s why we need political movements that hold the scientific community accountable for their claims (without simplistically dismissing science as liberals do).

  • Julio

    Children aren’t nuts though.

    • FierceMild

      While that is debatable on a case by case basis, the grammatical structure and diction is suitable in both situations and is by no means pejorative.

    • Tired feminist

      Adult white guys, in the other hand…

  • will

    Hi there. You seem to have stumbled into a feminist space, where we discuss feminism. You should check it out.

    Here’s a piece by a feminist about “equality”

    And here’s the whole speech about feminism in a global context from 2012

    • FierceMild

      You’re an absolute gem, will.

  • Zuzanna Smith

    What are the women standing on their heads with their oiled bottoms in thongs celebrating?

    • FierceMild

      You can’t even see their heads! They’re upside down and headless presenting oiled hindquarters to the male public and she wants to argue that that’s great for women of colour somehow!?!?!?!?!??!??????!!!

      WTF! I think we’ve all had it up to here with being sex toys for men. FFS, we can’t even eat an icecream cone in public without some sod wanking off to it, but Jesus Randolph Christ forbid anybody should ever criticize Bey.

  • Zuzanna Smith

    Another dude coming here to police women, piss off.

  • FierceMild

    Sounds like your little one is still very little. I hope you get some time to rest and some time to yourself (yes, I’m fully aware that that isn’t going to happen).

  • Alienigena

    Yes to everything you said. And how does being represented as an interchangeable torso and legs empower women or affirm their individuality? We don’t see these women’s faces or know anything about them. They are truly objectified – in the sense of being objects. How can you be proud of your body when it is just a stand-in for the body of every woman, of a certain level of attractiveness? I don’t think the image has anything to do with body positivity.

    • Cassandra

      This “one of many objects” theme is something I’ve always felt in regard to men. Truly they have no discretion and we’re like interchangeable auto parts. I never could stand that feeling, hence why I was always miserable in any relationship.

  • Meghan Murphy

    They are so snotty 🙁

  • FierceMild

    I was just reading this today on the topic of educating. I think you might enjoy it:

    • Thanks for sending that link. I enjoyed this post immensely. Accessible yet information-rich and original. The writer makes many important points, including her reference to the relief a woman might experience in women-only spaces where one’s feelings are oftentimes already understood and therefore don’t necessarily require an explanation.

      I agree with her primary points, which appear to be that 1. part of our oppression is that we are not heard and 2. to overcome this oppression, we need to speak about the reality of ongoing subjugation and dehumanization.

      What I question is her allowing the response from the sexist man who purported the prototypical, patriarchal idea that anything a woman says is questionable. (Interestingly, his response was listed first, which I also find problematic because it seems to almost reinforce the phallic practice of privileging male voices over female voices. In terms of the spatial significance of responses, he is literally “on top.”) I don’t know how allowing him to be so openly arrogant and dismissive of a feminist perspective that is grounded in reality and empirical evidence was effective. I think it would be more effective for the blog to be a woman-only space in which women don’t have to worry about the presence of misogynist ideas attacking their humanity and precluding them from engaging in dynamic dialogue with other women. Of course, she is free to run her blog however she pleases and my irritation with this aspect of the discourse does not detract from the importance and efficacy of her ideas.

      But I want to carry my point further. Many feminists have pointed out that a male presence in a consciousness-raising group designed to discuss women’s issues (or any other meeting geared towards advancing female freedoms) can have a wide range of unwanted outcomes. For example, Gloria Steinem notes:

      “Small all-women discussion groups that followed the lectures were even more honest, just as consciousness-raising or networking groups were (and still are, as reported here in an essay on “Networking”) the basic cells of any deep and long-term change. We discovered that the ideal proportion for a big public audience was about two-thirds women and one-third men. When matched by men in even numbers, women restrained their response and looked to see how the men were reacting, but in clear majorities, they eventually forgot about any male presence at all and responded as women do when we are on our own. That gave many women a rare chance to speak honestly, and gave some men an even more rare chance to hear them” (9, Outrageous Acts And Everyday Rebellions).

      As made plain here, the male presence recreates the heteronormative schema in which women are dependent on male approval and thus do not feel free to articulate any ideas which might disrupt the system of phallic power. I would elaborate on Steinem’s astute assessments by arguing that the ideal ratio for discussions is not one in which there are more women than men, but one in which there are no men at all. However, I understand that the impositions of compulsory heterosexuality ensure that women are continually tied to the individuals who are most likely to be their oppressors while naturalizing this political schema so that the ideology of separatism that I (and some other radical feminists) advocate appears absurd or untenable.

      Please share your thoughts.

  • FierceMild

    I think you’ve voiced the central conundrum. I think part of the answer is to speak the truth with simplicity and compassion but without compromise. Ms. Murphy is very good at that.

  • FierceMild

    You show such empathy. Bet you’d be a great dad.

    (That was sarcasm.)

  • Tired feminist

    So by our own standards you’re hideous?

  • Tired feminist

    Feminists won’t “shut up” about ANYTHING.

    Get a life.

    Also, no one cares about your racial anxiety.

  • foamreality

    ‘Arkansas just passed a law that would allow a woman’s rapist to force her to carry and give birth to the baby against her will.’

    ‘Incarcerated women are being denied abortions and forced to give birth in their jail cells’

    What the fuck is wrong with Americans? I am unaware of any laws in the western world so backward and medieval as these. But what bothers me most is that this has been introduced just recently! . No wonder the womens march in DC last month was the biggest in US history. It creeps me out enough that the US still has the death penalty

    • FierceMild

      I’d love to think it was just the US, but the mass groupings in Germany were actually perfectly legal. Gomeshi walked in Canada, and Europe harbors Roman Polanski.

  • foamreality

    Sorry, are you saying giving birth – something only women can do – is the great game of patriarchy gender stereotyping? I mean I could list like a gazillion different gender roles patriarchy wrongly assigns to women. But recognising only women have the capacity to give birth is (until apparently just recently) the only one I am sure they got right. This guy , a moron, could have done any number of subversive acts to expose the problem of assigning opressive gender roles to both men and women. The ONLY one he couldnt do was pretend females are biologically just male. Black people and white people are equal in their humanity. You (I hope) wouldn’t expect white people to just call themselves black and say its ok because its subversive. Denying our biological differences is not a reflection of how much we value each other. We do that by valuing each other in spite of them.

  • foamreality

    no. you cant. Ain’t women great?

  • Cassandra

    You get an F in trolling.

  • Cassandra

    I have no idea what you just said, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either.

  • Cassandra

    “Child-free” is a much better option than the offensive “Child-less,” Julio. If you have a better alternative to describe those who have opted out of having children, please do share.

    • Julio

      I detest “childless” as well, *cassandra*. Ps i don’t know the special bourgeois word for ppl who don’t get to have and hate children

  • Cassandra

    Are you for real?

    • foamreality


      ‘Do me a favour – have your kids, and enjoy them all you like, but please try to keep them from bothering me.’

      You cant be feminist and expect women to stay away from you because they have kids. I like and respect a lot of what Bindel says and thinks about lesbianism and feminism and trans people. But what, really , is a woman with kids to do when she meets her?

      • Meghan Murphy

        I think you are taking her a little too seriously if you think she literally expects all women with kids to stay away from her… Bindel has a very good sense of humour. Also, like, honestly — I don’t want to be around kids. It’s not like I expect my friends with kids to keep them away from me (and some of them are totally fine, actually…), but why do I have to like or want to be around kids to be a feminist??? Does anyone expect dudes to want to be around kids?

  • Cassandra

    Wow!! Seriously? You learn something new every day!

  • Cassandra

    I know that if I’d have ever gone through a pregnancy I’d have been in a fight every day. It’s *unbelievable* how entitled people feel to ask incredibly personal questions of pregnant women and touch their stomachs!! I’d be like “Fuck Off!” 50 times a day. And then whoever the asshole was would say “I feel sorry for your baby!” and think they were totes clever.

  • Tired feminist

    Also, it’s not true that everyone is beautiful. One of the things that characterize beauty (not only in people) is rarity. If beauty were common, it would not be perceived as such.

    We must, like you and others said, drop the idea that women NEED to be beautiful.

    • skilletblonde

      It’s also important to note that beauty is not a fact, it’s an opinion. And why do we permit certain people to decide for us what is beautiful? Why is their definition valid and ours is not?

      A look at the Miss Universe Contest is a primary example. It would be interesting if contestants from countries that are not European- sent women that actually looked like their citizens. We could then marvel at the actual beauty and diversity of the human race. Instead, what you get are women from these countries that look like Europeans. Many have plastic surgery to fit that standard. So, you will have a Miss Mexico that looks nothing like a Mexican.

      There is one standard of beauty. And we all know what it is. Those that do not fit it’s narrow definition are considered unattractive. That’s most of the world.Though it’s merely an opinion, it is ,strongly propagated by power. To remind us of that power, women are hounded non-stop by cosmetic companies, plastic surgeons, diet companies, fitness subscriptions,etc. We are all encouraged to be the same woman. However, we must not let mere mortals and corporate power dictate to us what is beautiful. We can think for ourselves. That’s the power we have.

  • Independent Radical

    I know you’re being sarcastic, but I am in fact very supportive of technologies that could provide an alternative to childbirth and pregnancy (however women feel about raising kids, most will admit that the experience of giving birth to them was horribly painful). I support the kind of open mindedness that leads to beneficial technological innovations. People (unfortunately mostly white men, but at least that’s something) really are working on and advocating for ectogenesis technology. Why don’t you call those people idiots to their faces.

    • foamreality

      I am sorry, yes its painful to give birth but that does not mean women don’t want to give birth. Or that they are automatically somehow oppressed for doing so (though many will be forced to and so are, of course). By all means if you prefer to have some ectogenesis technology do it, go ahead. Or have a caesarian or take vast quantities of drugs or, f**k it, have an abortion. I don’t care. But honestly its safe to say, birth isnt just like rape and domestic violence, women don’t need to be woken up to how horrifying it is, and it isnt always suffering inflicted by men (not maliciously at least) . I mean making women feel guilty and ‘unwoke’ for wanting to give birth and drive their own biological expereinces of having and raising children isnt in the same league as woman who enjoy ‘choosing’ BDSM or men who rape. Some women’s choices really are ok. And its perfectly sane giving birth. Its difficult . As it is with raising the child. Its difficult to get a degree too. Or a good job. Or to fight the patriarchy. We don’t say women are making the wrong choices to want those? Why not? Patriarchy created capitalism. It sees the career and value of ones labour in the work place as above all other human relations, needs and desires.

  • Independent Radical

    In my experience the body positivity movement is pro-beauty practices, apart from weight loss, because that might actually make women physically stronger and healthier and liberals hate that. I don’t think modifying bodies is inherently bad. The problem is that women are encouraged to modify their bodies for the sake of prettiness and “self expression” at the expense of health, safety and functionality.

    I understand that many women lose weight for appearance related reasons, but the body positively crowd assumes that this is the case for all women who make that decision and are very judgemental of it, but totally accepting of far more extreme beauty practices (like boobs jobs).

    Women are supposed to love their altered-for-the-sake-of-looking-pretty bodies and criticising these practices is viewed by the body positivity crowd as an attack on these “beautiful” (physically weakened and messed up) bodies. I’m not advocating discrimination against anyone with artificial body parts (e.g. bionic limbs), but I think we need to draw a very clear distinction between modifying the body for legitimate health and function related reasons and modifying it because it doesn’t fit arbitrary aesthetic standards (which are subjective and therefor set by society).

  • Exactly. What I see based on my readings and personal experiences is that any attempt by the radical feminist movement to create non-sexualized images and ideologies regarding what a woman is or can be are greeted with the necrotic hostility of the patriarchy. When our second wave movement sisters began to openly and honestly contend with the “woman=sex” ideology promoted by patriarchal projects like pornography, androcentric authorities responded with the production of the misnomer “Sexual Revolution,” which was ultimately a sexual devolution where women were taught to believe that making their bodies increasingly accessible to men on their terms was somehow “empowering.”

    The necrotic pattern of men negating female subjectivity such that any independently devised, organic, life-giving form of sexuality was displaced with female submission and subjection to violence is replicated within the body positive movement. The pattern is that when women attempt to resist negative definitions imposed upon them by the patriarchy and reconstruct themselves on their own terms, androcentric forces step in and reverse the process in a manner that induces literal or metaphorical death. As you noted, the “body positive” movement is in large part obsessed with saying that female bodies should be affirmed as “sexy/beautiful.” I would argue that this is the result of what many feminists have called “the male in the head,” a process in which women internalize phallic ideologies regarding what a woman should be. The internalized ideology is metabolized by the fact that phallic cultures continually make the “woman=sex, woman’s body=sex” concept prevalent by surrounding us with images that reinforce the idea.

    I think the problem with this is clear. The problem is that the feminist attempt to construct a body positive ideology in which female bodies are not “bad” is met with the phallus’s attempt to assert that, if these bodies are not “bad,” they are only “good” when they are “sexy/beautiful.” Ideas such as how a female body might be “good” or “valued” because of something non-sexual that it could “do” (such as lead other women in a yoga practice that brought down blood pressure and optimized respiratory function) is not a part of the dominant discourse.

    While we are in this vein, I must say that the devastation I feel when understanding and exploring the necrotic phallus is always mediated by the joy I experience when coming across a radical feminist writer who deconstructs and resists this culture of death. This morning I finished Lierre Keith’s brilliant essay “The Girls And The Grasses.” She does an excellent job of exploring how the patriarchy makes the female body a problem and ultimately exacts a necrotic project that involves killing women and deriving perverse pleasure from the process and its product: death. Keith’s analysis reads thus:

    “Patriarchy is the ruling religion of the planet. It comes in variations-some old, some new, some ecclesiastical, some secular. But at bottom, they are all necrophilic. Erich Fromm describes necrophilia as “the passion to transform that which is alive into something un-alive; to destroy for the sake of destruction; the exclusive interest in all that is purely mechanical.” In this religion, the worst sin is being alive, and the carriers of that sin are female. Under patriarchy, the female body is loathsome; its life-giving fat cells vilified; its generative organs despised. Its natural condition is always ridiculed: normal feet must be turned into four-inch stubs; rib cages must be crushed into collapse; breasts are varyingly too big or too small or excised entirely. That this inflicts pain-if not constant agony-is not peripheral to these practices. It’s central. When she suffers, she is made obedient” (289, 290).

    In discussing another element of the phallus, Keith notes that “Every time the Fashion Masters make heels higher and clothes smaller, he smiles” (290).

    Somehow all of this necrosis and its ultimate objective (an autocratic rule by the phallus over women through a form of objectification that involves violence and induces pain) keeps getting branded as body positivity.

    This is neither here nor there, but one question that continually comes to my mind when the issue of body positivity arises is “Why should I be proud of my body?” After all, shouldn’t one be proud of things that are of one’s making? Did I make my body? I wish these types of questions would become more integral to feminist discourse. I can only view body positivity as logical or valuable in a context where I myself do something positive with my corporeal form. I personally do not interpret the act of making my body “beautiful” as “good.”

    Thanks so much for your response. I appreciate your insights.

  • Thanks for this response. Thus far, my answer to the question regarding how to open the eyes of other women is: consciousness-raising. I personally believe in respecting the individuality and autonomy of every woman, and I think that providing women with information that they can use their own minds to examine functions as a form of enlightenment that is interactive and communal while simultaneously respecting the other person’s subjectivity. In a consciousness-raising situation (which I define as any scenario in which a woman shares information about the phallus and/or feminism through speech, written materials, audiovisual products, etc.), I can simply provide the other individual with information and allow her to go through the cognitive process of determining what patriarchy is, how it may be impacting her, and what type of personal or political changes she may want to make to avoid, abrade, or abolish it.

    One question you posed stands out: “How do I bring this to my sister and niece whose lives revolve around the men in their lives?” Again, I see the answer as consciousness-raising. When women are continually surrounded by men (most of whom promote patriarchal ideologies and impose them on women), it is very difficult to acknowledge and examine the fact that the androcentric ideologies are a necrotic force which induces all types of death (cognitive and corporeal being just two). Yet in a consciousness-raising community comprised of women, a woman who is attempting to displace phallic power does not have to grapple with the immediate fear of the male presence imposing its androcentric impositions upon her. Catharine MacKinnon draws attention to this reality upon noting:

    “The fact that men were not physically present was usually considered
    necessary to the process. Although the ways of seeing that women
    have learned in relation to men were very much present or there would
    be little to discuss, men’s temporary concrete absence helped women
    feel more free of the immediate imperative to compete for male
    attention and approval, to be passive or get intimidated, or to support
    men’s version of reality. It made speech possible. With these
    constraints at some remove, women often found that the group
    confirmed awarenesses they had hidden, including from themselves.
    Subjects like sexuality, family, body, money, and power could be
    discussed more openly. The pain of women’s roles and women’s stake
    in them could be confronted critically, without the need every minute
    to reassure men that these changes were not threatening to them or to
    defend women’s breaking of roles as desirable. The all-woman context
    valued women to each other as sources of insight, advice, information,
    stimulation, and problems” (86, 87).

    As a radical feminist, I am definitely receptive to information from other women regarding which methodologies can engender female liberation. So I’m not suggesting that consciousness-raising is the only or single most effective modality. Yet my research thus far seems to indicate that this may in fact be the case, and for many reasons. One of them is that consciousness-raising can create the perfect climate in which women reorient their communal and individual identities so that they don’t revolve around men. The consciousness-raising community is itself frequently all female, and women can gain information and resources that enable them to create a sense of self that is not contingent upon male definitions and approval. This aspect of consciousness-raising (the ability to help a person develop a healthy relationship to self and others) seems immensely important to me. Indeed, much philosophical discourse (whether derived from a feminist perspective or not) indicates that the most pressing issues for a human pertain to problems of self (existentialism, etc.) and problems of how the self operates in community (social contract theory, etc.).

    (I also acknowledge that the human relationship to the environment is immensely important, but this might not be perceived as an immediate, pressing issue for a woman who comes to a gathering or circle in order to escape the horrors of domestic violence, rape, and other forms of abuse from a man or several men.)

  • You’re welcome and I’m happy that we can discuss this. Your question “What went on in those little girl’s heads when they were trussed up like that?” caused me to recognize the confluence between the girls in the photo having their mouths taped shut and the bondage that takes place in pornography. Catharine MacKinnon’s important book Only Words explains the role of bondage in pornography when she details the type of subjugating scenarios many women are subjected to: “When you are older, your husband ties you to the bed and drips hot wax on your nipples and brings in other men to watch and makes you smile through it” (3). She goes on to note that “the camera is invented and pictures are made of you while these things are being done. You hear the camera clicking or whirring as you are being hurt, keeping time to the rhythm of your pain. You always know that the pictures are out there somewhere, sold or traded or shown around or just kept in a drawer” (3,4).

    In my mind, the photo of the girls having their mouths covered with tape replicates the primary principles of pornography, which include silencing women and openly displaying this silence to others as a sign that phallic power is operative and acceptable. And just as pornographic pictures are always “out there” as a semiotic reference to the subordination of women by men, the photo of the woman and girls being trussed up is still available as ocular evidence that phallic power is active and alive.

    Like you, I wonder what went on in the heads of those little girls. I suspect that they might have come to understand that their subordination through silencing is normative or a form of “protection” in which they accept being “owned” and abraded by the male presence as a price they have to pay for the economic or emotional resources offered by their “father.” What is deeply troubling about this is that, as I’ve noted at various points, the process through which a woman comes to lose subjectivity and process her personhood in context of subordination to a man takes place in the “family” setting. This is just one of many reasons that the andocratic “familial” unit must be abolished if radical feminist values such as individual autonomy and cooperation over competition can be realized.

  • Meghan Murphy

    “Pride”?? 1) Did I express “pride” or did I simply make a statement about my feelings? 2) I think it’s totally ok and feminist to feel ‘pride,’ actually, in bucking patriarchal norms by *not* getting married and having children…

  • Meghan Murphy

    I really did feel like having a puppy was a bit like having a baby. I realize many mothers will feel insulted by that statement, but I didn’t sleep well for about a year and took her everywhere with me . Puppies need a lot of care and attention and can’t fend for themselves… (Please note that I said *a bit*, not *TOTALLY THE SAME* everyone.)

  • Thanks for this response. You’re definitely right here. Her point with placing primacy on his response was to demonstrate that women’s claims about their oppression are frequently dismissed by men. Including his comment provided everyone with empirical evidence for this claim. But including the comment also worked to legitimate my own claims regarding how disturbing and oppressive the male presence can be. In discussing what often happens when men are present, Patricia McFadden notes that “Men also tend to take over discourses and to steer them in particular directions, often adopting a defensive attitude towards women’s radical consciousness and consequently damping down women’s sense of entitlement to their rights” (313). I think this is exactly what happened on her blog.

    I am so happy the topic of separatism keeps coming up because I’m reading the anthology Female Erasure right now and thinking critically about the issue. This anthology contains a wide range of essays that offer unique perspectives on why separatism is practical and advantageous. One article on this topic I found particularly insightful was Patricia McFadden’s “Why Women’s Spaces Are Critical To Feminist Autonomy.” One important idea she shared is that the reason allowing men in women’s spaces is so problematic is that it reinforces the “deep-seated patriarchal assumption that women’s mobility requires male approval” (309). I agree completely, and this is a problem patriarchy created intentionally. Stated plainly, patriarchy is about creating and enforcing ideological systems which ensure that, as oppressed beings, women cannot survive without the very individuals who are continually actualizing the oppression: men. The creation of separate space enables women to understand that this socially constructed reality is in place while simultaneously giving them the freedom to strategize against it. But allowing men in these separate spaces revivifies the necrotic/imperial/phallic project by reorienting the system of relations so attention is directed away from women and towards what the male might find offensive or oppressive.

    You’re right in asserting that separatism seems impractical, especially in a situation in which women will have to give up their sons. Here it is important to state that there are many forms and brands of separatism. For example, a divorce from an abusive husband is a form of separatism. As noted by Marilyn Frye, “The theme of separation, in its multitude variations, is there in everything from divorce to exclusive lesbian separatist communities, from shelters for battered women to witch covens, from women’s studies programs to women’s bars, from expansion of daycare to abortion on demand” (“Some Reflections on Separatism and Power”).

    Also, I think it’s important to note Kathy Scarbrough’s assertion that “Separatism is a strategy, not the desired outcome” (34, “The Difference Between Sex And Gender And Why It Matters”). The strategy of separatism is necessary according to Scarbrough because “We simply cannot organize against male power with men in the room” (34). Apparently, Scarbrough believes that women will be able to strategize in a male-free environment for the ultimate goal of creating a society in which women and men can operate together without the burden devised by phallic power. This burden is gender, otherwise known as defining people by their sex. In essence, she advocates women working together to build a power base so that the foundation of phallic power is troubled and abraded. Once this happens, she seems to assert, the relations between men and women will become more equal, thereby making integration tenable. This strategy is referred to as “Separate to Integrate.” I recite her ideas here to demonstrate that separatism is oftentimes a strategic process rather than a final goal.

    I want to go back to your assertion regarding separatism seeming impractical for women who have sons. In addition to being problematic for women with sons, separatism is an issue for any woman who sincerely believes that the male presence is somehow necessary or important. Patricia McFadden responds thus:

    “My retort is that those women who like men so much that they cannot spend any time during the day or night without male presence can set up what are called “mixed” organisations, which have a right to exist as all other civil society structures do which enhance human desires and interests in the common good; but not as part of the Women’s Movement” (311).

    I agree with McFadden’s solution. And the underlying question that really irritates me (therefore leading me to think it is important to examine is): Why is there ongoing pressure, whether from men or women, to ensure that men always have access to women’s space? I think I have to conclude that Marilyn Frye’s principle of the Patriarchal Imperative is in operation here. This Imperative insists that men always have access to women’s bodies, and this is what the people who argue against separate space seem to be after.

    Please share your thoughts.

    • Cassandra

      “And the underlying question that really irritates me (therefore leading me to think it is important to examine is): Why is there ongoing pressure, whether from men or women, to ensure that men always have access to women’s space? I think I have to conclude that Marilyn Frye’s principle of the Patriarchal Imperative is in operation here. This Imperative insists that men always have access to women’s bodies, and this is what the people who argue against separate space seem to be after.”

      You are correct.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Oh man, they haaaaate Lena Dunham. Like, more than almost anyone. (Sorry if I came off defensive, by the way! Just wanted to be clear about who I was talking about. I suppose I just find it odd when progressives selectively embrace celebrity culture uncritically…)

  • Meghan Murphy

    I think there are totally legit criticisms of LD, but it’s SO over the top that I can’t help but feel there’s some misogyny in there… Especially since she is so NOT what Americans are used to seeing on TV, in terms of appropriate womanhood, objectified female bodies, etc.

  • Right. I am so glad that we are giving these things a name and dissecting them so we can understand how phallic power works. I really appreciate your use of the phrase “My First Bondage” because this underscores the ritualistic import of phallic power. There are all types of initiations and reinforcing behaviors that work to shape female psyches and solidify their identity in femininity. As Lierre Keith points out in “The Girls And The Grasses,” “female socialization is a process of psychologically constraining and breaking girls-otherwise known as “grooming”-to create a class of compliant victims” (291). This socialization process helps us understand what femininity is all about, which is “just the traumatized psyche displaying acquiescence. It its essence, it is ritualized submission” (291). This is exactly what we see in the photo.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Are you serious? I explicitly said I understand that it is not the same. Like, there is a mild comparison. I also was being lighthearted. Also, I am not stupid, which surely you know, and have always supported mothers, and things like universal daycare, support for single moms, etc. I have also spoken out against the fucking bullshit mothers are put through in society, the way they are attacked, not supported, etc.

    Please give me a little credit and don’t look for fights that are not there.

    • Mar Iguana

      “Are you serious?”


      • Meghan Murphy

        Ok. So you’re just going to continue on misinterpreting my political ideology (which I would think you would be quite familiar with by now) because you prefer to be angry? Thanks for the respect, sis.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Oh MAN the shit people who criticized that horrible video got! I mean, come on. Rihanna is not even like a political person. People who were her fans read shit into it that wasn’t there and most progressives and liberal feminists justified/excused violence against women because they thought, like you say, it would make them seem cool.

  • Cassandra


  • lk

    I don’t think pregnancy/childbirth are comparable to rape or domestic violence.

    I do think your posts here make some valid points particularly about how pregnancy and childbirth are romanticized. I think its easy to forget that pregnancy and childbirth are painful, bloody emotionally/physically exhausting and potentially dangerous endeavors.

    I think pregnancy & childbirth are treated a lot like sex-i.e. it is something that is natural, something women desire and somehow above criticism.

    Nope, I think we should be free to critically analyze pregnancy and childbirth.

    • Independent Radical

      I think pregnancy and childbirth are similar to rape and domestic violence in two ways. 1) They are horrifically painful. 2) They are caused by men (and not an unavoidable result of being female).

      Obviously they are different in other ways, the main one being that for pregnancy and childbirth are necessary for human reproduction, but the fact that no technological alternative for something so painful and dangerous to women (and only women) is a misogynistic state of affairs on its own (men regularly invent technological alternatives for the painful, degrading work they don’t want to do). At least some people are working on it now, but even trans-humanists hardly talk about it and don’t see it as essential the way that they see other life-saving technological advances (e.g. anti-aging medicine) as essential.

      It’s the broader circumstance that’s the problem, not the individual decisions of women to have biological children, though the glamorisation of it by feminists makes no sense. How can women experiencing pain and danger (to the point where disadvantaged women all over the world have a high risk of dying from it) be a good thing? Don’t we want a world without that? Whatever the cause of or justification for the pain is?

      • lk

        “the fact that no technological alternative for something so painful and dangerous to women (and only women) is a misogynistic state of affairs on its own (men regularly invent technological alternatives for the painful, degrading work they don’t want to do).”

        I don’t know how much we can count on science to help women with this. It seems like most of the science around childbirth has been about helping women have children (ivf, freezing sperm, donating eggs, surrogacy, etc).

        “It’s the broader circumstance that’s the problem, not the individual decisions of women to have biological children, though the glamorisation of it by feminists makes no sense.”

        I really wonder how many women would want children if society wasn’t constantly telling us that having children is the most important/fulfilling thing a woman can do. I think feminist glamorize it out of a desire to acknowledge something that only the female body can do…In a world where men are put on a pedestal for everything (and people are saying things like “men can get pregnant too!), I guess pregnancy is sort of something that only belongs to women. That being said, there is a lot of glamorization around pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing…I think it’s always kind of presented like a fairy tale…and I think feminist should absolutely be critical of that.

  • foamreality

    ‘many parents are overindulgent and expect the sea to part and trumpets
    to play in terms of their children and in accomodating their children-y
    schedule. ‘

    Parents or mothers? Many or some? You don’t have to like kids, but you have to repect women and kids whether you like them or not. Including on planes. Its called being a normal human being. And above all iyts called feminism, since we all know women are the ones who do all the work in bringing up kids. You say real feminist support mothers, yes they do, but Bindel and a few other comments I saw on here make it clear that a) we should tell women not to have kids and b) its ok to be proud not to understand why mothers have kids and c) having kids shouldnt be romantisised – now I wholeheartedly agree with c) but a) and b) are both unempathetic, thoughtless and not helpful for any women.

    • Cassandra

      “You don’t have to like kids, but you have to repect women and kids whether you like them or not. Including on planes. Its called being a normal human being.”

      Normal human beings are irritated by loud and unruly children on planes. Saying that you don’t like loud kids on planes or elsewhere is not disrespectful. If I yelled at a woman to control her children or something like that it would be disrespectful.

      Not sure why it’s not okay to be proud to not understand why people have kids, but I don’t think anybody here is saying that they’re “proud” about it.

      I also don’t think anybody here is telling women to not have kids.

      • foamreality

        ‘They seem to believe they have bred in order to do good for the rest of humanity, rather than making a very selfish choice.’ – Julie Bindel

        She isnt saying women shouldnt have children. But its pretty judgemental and cruel to talk about women like that. Read the sexist hatred below the line in her article – mostly men supporting her. Men making sexist comments about ‘Scrummy Mummies’ etc. So whether she meant it or not. Thats how it has been read. And its how I read it to. Its pretty unambiguously cruel statement. I like Bindel normally, but this one is indefensible in my view. Then again I have kids, so please tell me again what a moron i am.

  • foamreality

    I don’t think you understand my point. All those comments you listed are surely a massive problem . But women telling women not to have kids or implying its the solution can be added to that list . It makes mothers feel guilty and stupid and unworthy of motherhood , even more so than the other comments. But not having kids isnt the solution to addressing idotic comments and demands others make on women who do want them. Understanding why some women DO want them would. You dont need to explain to me the reasons not to have kids. I could write a book on why you shouldnt. You don’t need to explain to me that patriarchal culture should stop romanticizing having children either. I understand why people don’t want kids. I certainly don’t want any more. What I take issue with is why feminists who don’t have them can’t show similar empathy and understanding to those that do – I mean, if you are a feminist, wouldn’t it be a really really good idea to find out if and or why some women really do? Okay, yes I was probably reading to much into it, and taking it too personally, but its because i feel like I have to defend having kids to everyone on the planet all the bloody time: govnt, men, my boss, environmentalists, young hipsters, julie bindel, liberal feminists, radical feminists and even, as you point out, other mothers! For me it isnt a relief to hear my kids are seen as inconvenient hideous snot bags. Its a tired trope that tells the same old story -women should work harder and control their urges, in silence.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Oh, I apologize if I misread your comments… I think it’s safe to say we’re all ‘bitter’ women (let’s just say righteously angry?) around here… How could we not be? No hard feelings xx

  • Meghan Murphy

    I don’t hate women with kids, Julie doesn’t hate women with kids, and I don’t empathize with anyone who hates women with kids.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I see what you’re saying — I mean, mothers are picked on constantly, but as a person who has chosen not to have kids, I have, for most of my life, had to argue with people who simply don’t *believe* I don’t secretly want them. Women who have kids or have a desire to have kids often seem to assume all women do, and that when we say we don’t, they think we are just suppressing or denying a biological urge. I have often been told that, for example, I would want kids if I had more money, or was in a stable, healthy relationship with a man. It is always assumed my ‘ovaries are aching’ when I’m around babies (nope!) and I have often felt pressure to play along with this. In any case, clearly the anti-woman pendulum swings both ways….

    • foamreality

      Yep. Telling women they are suppressing or denying a biological urge fucks me right off too.

      That said, I find SOME feminists (like Bindel) telling mothers they should occupy separate areas in restaurants, planes, trains and public spaces doesn’t address that issue, but exasperates it. The comments below the line in her guardian piece demonstrate this: a lot of men were responding positively to what she was saying – *women* with kids suck – they were emboldened to make sexist derogatory comments about ‘scrummy mummies ‘ etc. These men clearly didn’t see any feminist angle in Bindels article, worse they saw it as approval for piling the hate and misogyny on mothers at supermarket (because when we talk about parents at supermarkets, what we really mean is women at the supermarket – its always the women who do that shit). But Ive noticed a much broader political issue around children that is at the heart of all this: Children have been objectified and fictionalised in popular culture. They have been dehumanised. We have been sold a sickening, saccharine fantasy of children and childhood and parenthood (as you point out youself) which makes parents and people who know children feel inadequate and people who don’t know children feel sickened by them. At the same time we are pushing to segregate children to the point that its possible to live as an adult having only the most peripheral contact with them. Children and parents are taught to see other adults as dangerous, inhuman threats. Its all part of the same strategy of driving us ever deeper into tiny bubbles. The ruling patriarchal class are using the same strategies of patriarchal female objectification to separate children from adults (particularly women) into smaller and smaller groups (identities). Most liberals are happy to express outrage at anyone who inteferes with a women’s right to breast feed in public spaces (and rightly so) , but as soon as her baby shits or screams they want the mother to fuck right off out of there with her bundle of selfish choice. Likewise many
      liberal feminists don’t give a fuck about the effects of porn culture on children. They argue its entirely the parents responsibility to keep them away from it. Like mothers can compete with a multi bilion dollar industry , popular culture, lobbying, free market capialism and a multibilion dollar advertising industry that stretches from from internet search engines, onto the billboards of high street , to family TV. I know you get this Meghan. Most feminists do, but I think this issue does gets lost even in these circles, precisely because women are angry at being coerced and shamed if they don’t want children. They are blind sided by a neoliberal narrative that endorses the hatred of breeding. A society in which adults are unable to tolerate kids is no feminist society I want to be a part of. Only women give birth, half will be girls, the other half will be boys born to become misogynists. Children will always and should always be a part of public life. It is ok not to like kids. But only in the same way it is ok not to like women. To tell society that is ok? I dont think so. Not in this climate:

      Think about this: The UK govnt, knowing it would have enough public support, has torn up an agreement to take 3000 children from refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk. Some, as young as 8, we now know have been raped, abused and/or trafficked for sexual exploitation (both girls and boys) . How has this happened? How has the public got to this point? Racism obviously has a huge role in this, but how much lower can we get that abused children are no longer shown compassion by even the most civilised of EU nations? Just when we thought the rise of trump , nationalism, racism and misogyny was the biggest threat to western civilisation, along comes the EU (and the UK) actively welcoming a culture that ignores the rape and abuse of children. I was thinking about the backlash at Trump’s travel ban on muslims. Whilst I’m obviously opposed to his ban, i find it bizarre and deeply cynical that the mainstream liberal press (in the US, EU and UK),so outraged at Trump, enrages liberals with stories like ‘ my Iranian college professor is stuck at JFK airport’ yet ignore the (much) greater evil that EU govnts are blocking and preventing (through acts of parliament and legal chicanery) desperate REFUGEE children who have been subject to some of the worse imaginable crimes against humanity, in dire need of care, compassion and safety, from entering the country. (clever rich muslims fine, poor dirty child muslims not fine) Its just more atomisation of class and cultures , both left and right , of which children have now become victims of identity culture politics. When children become victims, so do mothers, women. I’m not having it. This bullshit should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. Especially by feminists. Bindel made the wrong call on that article.

  • Just Me

    I remember reading something only a few years ago that kind of blew me away. It is such a simple concept and it shamed me with the ease that it blew me away with but it showed me how much of myself is entrenched with social contructs of my own worth . And this simple concept is just this, women don’t exist to be pretty, or give men boners. I know this is probably not earth shattering for most, but as someone who has always tried to be pretty and never felt like I hit the social mark, as someone who has always felt at war with her own body, this simple concept made me feel empowered. And now, when I hear people put certain women down for their looks, like mocking women in politics for their looks or general shaming of women who are not considered attractive, I just echo those words now…telling them, ” this may surprise you but women don’t exist with the purpose to visually please you.women don’t have to even be attractive to exist in public and contribute to society and be valid, equal members of society.”…and other variations. I don’t tell them, “all women are pretty in their own way” or stuff like that because it only reinforced the idea that a woman’s prettiness is important above all else. And I have seen people literally be stumped about what to say to this and others who are clearly starting to think about that. A lot of empowerment for women is about reinforcing that we are beautiful. Being beautiful is great and feels nice. But the standards at so entrenched in inflated ideals. So for me, it’s more empowering to say, you don’t have to be beautiful. You still got amazing stuff to accomplish and things to contribute. Taking away the power to use women’s looks as a means to silence and insult, means women gain more social power. Which is scary to some. Men already get to exist in a world were they don’t have to be hot to be leaders and presidents and captains of industries. I see a lot of people saying stuff like “ivanka for president”, and yes she is clearly intelligent. But I suspect it has a lot to do with how beautiful she is first. And how submissive she is to her own father. Like a woman has to be a super model AND smart AND show some submissiveness to men while men just have to be smart, strong and dominate. I think part of the dislike for Hillary is that she is a no sense woman who doesn’t smile when men say stupid stuff. She doesn’t behave like a good little girl and so people mock her looks. I don’t think people realize Hillary doesn’t give a crap about her looks at her age and what she was trying to accomplish.

  • Liz

    yeah there’s all that, plus who she’s married to. Jay Z’s lyrics are rotten with woman-hating. If your stomach is feeling strong, check out these lyrics from an album released in 1999, by most accounts the same year they started dating:

    this dude has some serious problems…

  • Meghan Murphy

    Yeah, I feel you… I always worked. Before I was legally of age I babysat like crazy, then as soon as I turned 16 I was working in a bakery after school. Both of my parents always worked too, my dad did the night shift at the post office so he could be home during the day while my mom was at work. Eventually, when I was a teenager, they both went back to school (so then we really had no money… Luckily we lived in a co-op/subsidized housing, and I believe they got loans from family etc), but still continued to work even then, as you do in grad school — TAships, RAships, etc.

    Work never felt liberating to me. It’s not like it ever provided me with a comfortable living. I just worked at jobs I hated and still never could pay my bills on time and struggled to buy groceries etc. I love my work now, of course, but I’m extremely lucky to have work that means so much to me. Up until recently, work was just a thing I had to do that made me feel miserable and depressed — it wasn’t empowering or liberating and it didn’t make me feel independent at all — it made me feel trapped in an unproductive cycle I could never escape. Certainly I would have given anything to be able to afford *not* to work. I had to leave the city, go on EI, and eventually take out student loans in order to go back to school to be able to escape that life. Which was a good choice for me, but also means I will be in debt for probably the rest of my life.

    Long story short (not really though ha), now I *do* have a ‘job’ I love, yet my sister, who did choose to have kids (and married a dude from a rich family), consistently behaves as though my life and is infinitely less important than hers, because she is a Mom. I don’t wish to denigrate mothers, but there is a thing in our society that says that women are worthless and unsuccessful if they don’t marry and have children. Women are rewarded socially for having kids (at the same time, they suffer and are picked on and judged by society). Like I said, women do lose either way — whether they have kids or not — but I do believe that women who have kids (I’d say this is probably more common to middle class mothers, rather than poor or working class mothers) are treated as though their lives are of more value than women without kids.

  • foamreality

    I don’t agree with an attitude that I see in my siblings that my life
    experience is somehow worth less than theirs because I did not have

    Me neither, thats horrible.

  • ptittle

    Bitter old women are the most interesting kind, Mar.

    (p.s., have now finished my novel inspired by one of your comments here…about women suddenly disappearing…It’s called It Wasn’t Enough …)

  • Meghan Murphy

    Well, the article was intended to be humourous and exaggerated, and seemed to specifically take aim at middle to upper class parents… The whole paragraph reads:

    “They even interfere with my supermarket shopping. I can’t find a parking space because the only ones free are the numerous “parent and child bays”. What exactly is the cut-off age for using these? My mum says she has “three children”, so presumably next time she visits we can park in one because she is with me? If one does nick such a bay, the ensuing kerfuffle is far more vicious than the justifiable anger displayed by disabled people if an able-bodied driver parks in one of their spaces. Why? Because parents feel so entitled. They seem to believe they have bred in order to do good for the rest of humanity, rather than making a very selfish choice.”

    I honestly do think a lot of yuppie parents behave in incredibly entitled ways, and seem to believe the entire world should revolve around their families and their choice to have children.

  • Just Me

    Life after 40? I was thinking more like life after 60. 40 is young.