Day 24: Books, Feminism and Princesses, Oh My

Edited to Add: Obviously I don’t blame men, but wonder about the societal norms and pressure put on young men to party, have fun and settle down much, much later (late twenties/early thirties). I asked my husband tonight why he wanted to wait so long before we had kids and he said, “Because I thought that was the way things were supposed be done.” I also asked if he regretted not starting earlier and he said yes.

Both my kids are sick, and I haven’t slept in about 48 hours which probably explains why I am willing to tackle such weighty topics. Blaaaame the sleep sleep sleep deprivation.

Peggy Orenstein wrote a fantastic memoir about her experience dealing with infertility called “Waiting for Daisy”. It was the only good read I found out there that spoke to me when I was enduring the crappy turbulence of IVF. (I did NOT enjoy “A Few Good Eggs” and Melissa Ford’s book “Navigating the Land of IF”  had not come out yet.)

She just published a new book called “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” that I am eager to read for a few reasons. I have an aversion to the whole Disney princess thing, mostly because I’m afraid the movies have one main underlying message to women: being beautiful is all that matters. Yet my daughter is drawn to all things girly and pink and she calls herself a princess. (I have never even uttered that word ALOUD since she has been born.) I have been trying to channel these urges into books like Madeline and even Fancy Nancy. Anything but Sleeping Beauty. I’d like to try to raise her to be a strong, assertive, responsible and kind woman, not a princess. Obviously feminism plays into these goals.

I consider myself a feminist. I worked many years in a demanding job, and I certainly believe in equal pay for equal work. Yet the truth is our best years of fertility are in our 20s. This is why Runny Yolk’s essay caught my eye: she blames feminism as she struggles with her own infertility. It’s a compelling read.

You know what? I blame MEN. Why are all guys such commitment-phobic, fancy-free, don’t-tie-me-down JERKS in their 20s? Or, ahem, the ones, you know, I met during that time. Even Darcy, my husband, that paragon of men, put off our own family-building for four years until he was ready.

I think a re-education of men is called for. Let’s stop targeting women with these scare-tastic campaigns about their eggs. The truth is mens’ sperm have more problems as they grow older, too. Who knows this? Not very many men.

What does this have to do with Peggy Orenstein’s book? (And boy, did this end up being a RANT!) Maybe the answer is to encourage my adorable little son to realize that his peak fertility years are in his 20s, and he shouldn’t be a jerk to women, and maybe even he should start searching for “the one” in his early twenties. Maybe he’ll tell his friends and then my daughter will meet a wonderful man in her twenties. I’m also going to try to teach him to value more than physical appearance when it comes to choosing his mate.

Imagining my son as a thoughtful, caring husband to a wonderful woman makes me happy. Am I making a nuanced situation too simplistic? Talk to me…


Filed under Discovering joy, ICLW, Infertility

13 responses to “Day 24: Books, Feminism and Princesses, Oh My

  1. If I had any idea that I would end up being a single woman pregnant with donor sperm at the age of 39, I would have completely changed my thoughts on dating when I was in my 20s. But I’m not sure it would have helped – like you said, it wouldn’t have mattered if I was ready to start a family when I was 29, none of the men I knew would have wanted to! I think you might be on to something!

    -ICLW #42

  2. Ha! Awesome idea–let’s blame the men. And I’m totally into the princess fantasy… I’ve always wanted girls because of that. However, now I’ll take anything :p

  3. erika

    Great post. I am sharing your thoughts in many ways. This is a huge problem, and something will have to be done about it very soon, otherwise we (modernized cultures) will simply extinct. Modern lifestyle and modern thinking is hurting us in more ways than we would think. Unfortunately, delaying childbirth is not only becoming more and more socially accepted, but more like expected (I am just thinking about my grad school years and the beginning of my ‘adult life’, which pretty much covered my 20’s and early 30’s; gosh! my supervisors could never happy when somebody announced a pregnancy, jerks!). Young women are under some incredible pressure these days, and some of that is just not worth it (looks, career, social status, independence, etc. ). Too bad, that we can only recognize that looking back on it.
    I am in my mid 30’s, going through IVFs. In many ways, TTC in my mid-late 30’s was not ‘my choice’. I always wanted to start a family earlier. Yes, I choose to pursue a higher degree, but that would not be an obsticle if I could find the right partner in the mean time.
    Recently, I was in the middle of my IVF cycle, when I became part of a conversation between my younger sister and her best childhood friend. We were growing up together, and both girls got married at 20, gave birth right away. Their debate was whether or not they made the right choice, and compared their situation to mine. Both of them have children in their teens now, growing independent, but both of them are back to school pursuing a higher degree, as well. The conversation was interesting and thought-provoking, but one of them also mentioned she thought career was #1 priority for me up until lately. And that hurt. Because it was not true. And it was coming from my sister.

    Great topic! would be a perfect subject for a debate for both men&women.
    Thanks for visiting my blog, #190

    • Thanks for this really thoughtful and provocative comment. You’re right, birthrates are plummeting among the educated in every demographic. One culture/religion that seems to be taking a different route: the Mormons, who encourage their adherents to get married and have kids young. The young men in particular are encouraged to marry early, but also go to college and get advanced degrees. The women often go back to school later, and get degrees. I’m not a Mormon and I’m not advocating a return to the traditional model of the SAHM (the roles could be reversed, right?), but they do encourage their sons to find love early?

  4. My step-daughter was really into Disney princesses for years (her mother encouraged it…another reason it’s not easy being a step-mom!). But there’s hope! She’s 7 now and it’s getting to the point where she thinks it’s not cool to like them any more. So hopefully it’s just a phase for your girl, too!

    And I’m with you on the rest of it! I guess we can all start with our sons. Hopefully our daughters will have it easier. 🙂

  5. This idea is fascinating to me. I think you are correct that young people need to understand that peek fertility occurs during ones twenties, and that educating young men about this is being overlooked. Perhaps if more of the young men I came into contact with had been aware of this I would have been married younger. I was certainly up for it, but there weren’t a lot of choices . . .

    I do, however, think that you are simplifying the situation. I am still in my twenties, but I have a blood clotting disorder (MTHFR) and a metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) that have together caused two miscarriages. I have met women, through blogging, who have diminished ovarian reserve in their 20’s. Marrying and starting families younger would certainly decrease some infertility issues, but others would remain. Pregnancy loss, in particular, knows no age. I personally know a woman who is in her early twenties and has lost two pregnancies already.

    I really appreciate you brining this side of the issue to my attention, though. It is very thought provoking, and I hope that when it comes time to teach my own children about reproduction and fertility I will remember to tell them that their best chances of getting pregnant are when they are young. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this subject. 🙂

    Thanks also for stopping by my blog for ICLW. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. You are completely right, of course, and I am so sorry that you are having to go through that. And there are men too who suffer infertility problems at a young age as well. It sucks so much that infertility has stricken so many amazing women and men of all ages. It is a many-headed beast that no one solution can treat. We have to fight it with many swords. I am thinking of you and hoping you can achieve your dream soon.

  6. A fascinating post–thank you! I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means as a feminist to raise a boy, and I’m leaning less toward pushing him to procreate and more toward raising him to value relationships with women. It seems to me that so many young men (those in 20s and even early 30s) see women as disposable or replaceable, and while they may really yearn for a “real” woman to bond with, they don’t always know how to do so. If I can teach my son that women are equal to men, that a lasting relationship with a woman is valuable (if he prefers women, that is…he’s only 13 months, so I’m assuming he’s straight, but one never knows…), and that part of being a strong and good man means being respectful and loving toward women, I think I’ll have done my job.

    As I type this, however, I am aware those sound like very ambitious goals, so perhaps I should just go for one of them? I don’t know.

    The part I don’t necessarily agree with is that people in their 20s are mostly ready to procreate. I wasn’t ready and the men I knew certainly weren’t. Yes, it’s (much) harder to get pregnant as men and women age. We should absolutely, as a culture, talk about that on a regular basis. We should not sell people on any idea otherwise, even though modern medicine is amazing. But after that, I’m not sure that scare tactics are necessary (and I do get that your post is intended in part for humor). And when I think of the boys on Jer.sey Shor.e procreating, I get a little shiver down my spine.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog for ICLW, too. I am really glad to “meet” you and I’m sure I’ll be reading again!

    • Fascinating points. Not everyone IS ready to settle down and get married in their 20s, that’s for sure. The Jersey Shore is an interesting example because I just read that the audience of that show is mostly teen-aged! I like to think that most of them are watching the show and laughing at the idiocy that is The Situation and Snooki, but what if they think that the behavior of those womanizers (I admit I’ve seen the show, and those guys are JERKS!) is acceptable? What do their mothers think when they watch the show?!? I have become an old, pearl-clutching bore, I’m afraid.

      I’m looking forward to getting to know you!

  7. Pingback: Day 26: Infertility is a Many-Headed Beast | Too Many Fish to Fry

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