I want to explain why I am so passionate about feminism and activism, and in particular feminist activism. This post will touch on two things that cause controversy both amongst feminist circles and the not-so-feminist: parenting and spirituality. First let me say that I in no way want to ruffle anyone’s feathers–my explanations for my choices and my feelings are just that: mine. I am in no way passing judgement on those who do not feel the way I do or make the same choices I make. This is about me, not you. I am fully pro-choice, so feel free to make your own. Please respect mine.
A considerable number of the people I knew from childhood and high school are now married and/or parents. This is not unusual, I am 25, the same age my mother was when she had me. The prospect of having children, however, completely terrifies me. I have no doubt that my partner and I would be excellent parents if we chose to procreate. Thankfully we are currently on the same page and do not foresee children in our future.
There are a great number of reasons–material, physical, and philosophical–we have decided children are not for us.
Let’s start with the material: If we can barely afford to feed ourselves, how would we ever be able to provide for a child what it deserves? Diapers, clothes, shoes, school and food for another person for at least the next 18 years are waaaaay out of our budget.
Physical: All of the women in my family suffer from terrible morning sickness throughout their pregnancies. I once calculated that over the course of her eight full-term pregnancies my grandmother would have spent more than two years doing NOTHING but vomiting. No, thank you. Also, weight gain, hypertension, gestational diabetes, stretch marks, incontinence, hormonal insanity and super-sensitivity to smell culminating in my vagina being ripped apart by a baby? Again, no, thank you. Nothing about not sleeping, constantly worrying, and wondering if we’re doing anything right sounds like fun for us.
Philosophical: This is the big one. For me, the world is too fucked up to bring a life into it, let alone a life that I would be responsible for. From sexism to racism to ableism to environmental degradation to militarization, etc. there are way too many things that I feel would need to change before I would be satisfied that the world my child would be delivered into would be one s/he could enjoy. My partner and I also do not in any way feel responsible enough to be parents and know that we are too selfish to dedicate our lives to a baby. (And there are far too many children in the world who are already in need of loving parents so if we did decide parenting is something we wanted to do, we would most likely adopt.)
“Wait until you turn 26!” I keep being told. “You’ll change your mind,” I hear. “One day you’ll wake up and not be able to think of anything but having a baby,” I am warned.
I do not believe in biological reductionism. I have never really *wanted* to have a child. Ever. And while I am completely open to the idea that that might change, I completely resent other people telling me how my mind and body will interact in the future. Especially the implication that as a woman my logic/reasoning will not be able to overcome whatever emotional/hormonal urge I may develop to reproduce bothers me. I have been told that once the “biological clock” starts ticking women feel they have no purpose unless they have a baby. This is the argument I hate most. This argument is also a slap in the face to women who want to reproduce and cannot.
Some people should reproduce and be parents and some… many, should not. Watch Animal Planet if you need any proof that maternal instincts are not universal. I have good maternal instincts but they are generally directed to wanting to cuddle with cute babies, human or animal (and then give them back to their parents). My instincts to care for people or animals who are smaller, younger and/or weaker than I am are expressed differently. I do know that I need to be careful that my need to help others does not manifest itself in ageist or ableist ways.
My life has purpose, without children. My purpose in life is to change the world. I have known this for a long time and have been working to fulfill that purpose for at least the past 10 years. To those who say I am young and idealistic, I say “Thank you.” I hope I will never lose my conviction that I am capable of anything I set my mind to. (Thanks Mom and Dad!) Certainly having a partner who supports me in every campaign I undertake and friends who gladly join me on my soapboxes bolsters my belief that change is possible.
Change is possible. This is the biggest lesson of strategic nonviolent conflict. To engage in SNVA one imperatively must believe this. Therefore, the purpose of my life is to use strategic nonviolent action to advance equality and social justice.
Obviously I am splitting hairs in distinguishing the purpose of life and the meaning of life but keep reading.
Many people, my family included, turn to religion or spirituality for comfort when life is difficult, and to answers when questions about the meaning of life arise. I, instead, turn to feminism and activism. I know many, many feminists who are also spiritual beings. I am not one of them. I am an atheist. As much as I have tried to be spiritual to “fit in” with feminist groups to which I have belonged, I am not inherently spiritual. I am intellectually interested in the paranormal–ghosts, spirits, astrology, witchcraft, etc.–but I do not feel or believe any of it. I believe in humanity. I believe everything, good or bad in this world, is the result of human actions and that every individual has a responsibility not only to this species but to the entire planet to do what is right and just. I feel very strong, real connections with people, but not any omnipotent entity.
I believe the only afterlife we attain is in the memories of those whose lives we have touched; so if you want a long afterlife, change the world. Make history. Cleopatra and Napoleon live on after death because they are remembered. If you want a glorious afterlife, change the world for the better. Hell for me would be being remembered long after death for damaging the world. It is only fitting then, that in my need for an afterlife, I am trying to make history by working for gender equality.
For me the meaning of life is to help those around me as much as I am able. Working for justice and equality give my life meaning. I consider myself incredibly lucky; I think part of the reason for my optimistic worldview is the satisfaction I feel when I make an impact on someone’s life. To anyone wondering, “What’s the point?” or thinking about suicide I highly recommend volunteering your time to help those less fortunate than you. Also, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK to talk to someone who can help.
I know this has been a long post but I wanted to give anyone wondering some insight as to why I am so passionate about gender equality and activism: they give my life purpose and meaning.