Once again, young women are being urged to procreate hot on the heels of the Relationships Australia survey that claims three-quarters of generation X (aged 30-39) and Y (18-29) women plan to have children, but only 16 per cent are thinking about having them now. Is it me or does this same moral panic about fertility creep up about every six months? I wrote a bit of a manifesto back in January of this year.
Is it any coincidence that a survey like this, essentially asking women to give up their career aspirations and dreams of a few good years of independence to throw it all in just to have babies at 22?
I think not.
As we approach the mother of all rallys in Canberra this week (yeah, homebirthing!) and all of this current fuss about popping out children, I've been thinking about where feminism fits in the puzzle.
In spite of hard-won changes to Australian women’s legal and political status over the last 30 years, anxieties about pregnancy and motherhood clearly continue to brew in popular culture. Ways of combining motherhood with other feminist aspirations are rarely discussed in the current Australian political climate but become particularly visible when it comes to actually having babies and the way that you have them. Sure, this stupid Relationships Australia survey can somewhat irresponsibly encourage younger women to have babies in theory but in reality, WHERE IS ALL OF THE NECESSARY INFRASTRUCTURE TO SUPPORT MOTHERS?! I mean come on, Australia is still lost in the woods when it comes to paid maternity leave, the maternity system itself is barely surviving and it is now almost impossible to get you kid into childcare within spitting distance of your house. So, I ask you, Relationship Australia, how do you expect young women to be mothers if we continue to live in a culture where motherhood is not valued? What makes me even more insane with rage is that instead of blaming the bloody government for not fulfilling it's obligation to support women as mothers, women often end up blaming 'feminism' (like she was a person) for failing to live up to it's promise that it's easy to 'have it all'. I tend to think that all of this moral panic about fertility may point to a ‘backlash’ against feminism(s) both by the Australian government and women themselves. The government absolves itself by telling women that they are getting to independent and they should be 'good' women and stay at home and have more babies and women complain to each other that climbing the corporate ladder is impossible with 2 kids and a lazy husband.