Feb 3, 2013
Jul 22, 2012
So what if it is indeed true? What if the IVF rates, with purchased eggs (euphemistically called ‘donated,’ but only very rarely does an older woman have a younger woman ready to ‘donate’ eggs for her) are just as good as the pregnancy rates for young women? What if we just stop arguing the data, and say ‘so what?’ Is it a good thing that young and healthy women who want education and good careers cannot in any way, not in time nor in money nor in energy, afford children? Is it a good thing for children to become a mid-life project? Is it a good thing to conquer the biological clock for reproduction if the rest of the biological clock – the one for diabetes, stroke, dementia – keeps ticking? We’ve had older men fathering children, often second-sets of them, as lovely late-life projects. But those men usually had young wives to mother the kids, care for them through the aging and death of the father. These delayed-childbearing women are less likely to have young partners to pick up the reins. What are we wishing on our children? And what are the costs for all of the women involved, the ones who delay, the ones who sell eggs, the ones who succeed in late-life baby-making and the ones who don’t?
To learn about the conference, click here.
To read my contribution to the conference, click here.
Apr 3, 2012
I rescued Passover – my hagaddah is something I’ve developed with family and friends over many years, reflective of our multinational, multiethnic identities, celebrating a human desire to be free of oppression. And Surrogacy, as practiced in Israel, as practiced in India, cannot be understood as anything but a form of oppression. Not to my thinking, anyway.
Maybe I’ll write more, maybe I’ll just go back to heavy sighing. I’ll decide after Passover.
Feb 29, 2012
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Jan 26, 2012
Nov 13, 2011
click here to read the talk
Click here to read the article
Mar 8, 2011
Feb 17, 2011
(See below for link to article)
I wrote this article first as a talk – and probably it ‘reads’ better as a talk – for a conference called “Feminism and Breastfeeding.” It feels to me like we’ve been trying to put those two things together for a long time, without great success.
The standard American version of feminism argues that women can do everything, just everything, no limits. Which means women can be all that men are: engineers and firefighters and physicians and soldiers and Supreme Court Justices and airplane pilots and Presidents. All of it. Yes we can.
If that’s the feminism that you are pursuing, then almost inevitably anything that is ‘unique’ to women seems like a barrier we have to overcome. Yes, even with our big breasts and smaller shoulders, we can be firefighters! Yes, even with our menstrual hormones we can be airplane pilots! Yes, even with our emotional depth and our empathic qualities we can be oncologists! Whatever – nothing about our female bodies will interfere with our real achievements.
That is, of course, overstating to the point of being silly, but I do think that’s the basic argument of American feminism: women can be just like men. It doesn’t give us a lot of space for the things that women’s bodies can do that men’s cannot – like being pregnant, giving birth and breastfeeding.
There are other feminisms, other places to stand when talking about a better world for women. It is possible to actively value women’s potential, the bodily capacity to create and nurture the next generation. But it’s hard to do that and not fall into the anti-feminist trap, the argument that women ought to be doing the nurturing and leave the rest of the world to men.
That’s the tricky place I’ve been standing all these years: trying to value what women do as women, trying to make space for men to be more like women, more nurturing, more care-giving, doing more of the mothering of their children and the children of the world. But it’s not an easy argument to be making in a society that basically views the care of young children as unskilled labor.
And so we end up with a fraught relationship with our ability to breastfeed our babies: if we celebrate it, we tend to fall off into the anti-feminist side, asking women to spend their time being traditional mothers. But there is something there to celebrate – it’s really quite a lovely and interesting system for baby feeding. A recent article by Hannah Rosin in the Atlantic, (April 09) “The Case Against Breastfeeding,” revisited the issue. She did a hard backlash against all the ‘breast is best’ propaganda, and some of her points are well worth thinking about. But – and I found this charming – she ended her article by saying she would continue to nurse her baby basically just because it’s a lovely thing to do.
In this talk, I found myself arguing with all these people who – like me – want to encourage breastfeeding, but are pissing off the Hannah Rosins of the world. The arguments they keep pushing are all about how good it is for babies, how healthy, prevents this and that, healthy for mothers, yadayadayada. Not markedly persuasive – there are lots of healthy things we’re not doing, and this is short sighted anyway. They could, as I point out, create a technologically superior milk than we’ve got now, and then what?
So I’m asking the breastfeeding advocates to try to figure out just what it is that they so value about breastfeeding, to try to figure out what we’re celebrating. And realize that all our arguments, all of what breastfeeding means, occurs in a context, and that if we don’t think about that, if we don’t place ourselves in the right context, we’re not going to be encouraging women to breastfeed. And that’s sad because…… well, it’s a lovely thing to do._______________
Read the article here.
Feb 15, 2011
An unfortunately large part of the media response supportive of Piven that I’ve seen makes a point of mentioning that Frances Fox Piven is 78. Well, as an old white woman myself, I kinda resent the assumption that one look at us and anyone can see that obviously we’re not dangerous. Partly it’s the ‘ageism’ in that, but more it’s the kind of privilege that allows some people to say things like “Do I look like a ______?” shoplifter, terrorist, radical rabble-rouser? Thus reinforcing the idea that some people – young black or Middle Eastern men for example-- do look the type. And just what is the type in question for Beck here?
Piven, a past president of our organization and of ASA, a colleague and a truly remarkable and wonderful scholar and person, may well be a model member of an intelligent minority. Beck has named her among nine people as the ‘intelligent minority’ who are also the nine most dangerous people in the world. I think I would take some comfort from a world in which the most intelligent were also the most dangerous – it would imply more power associated with intelligence than I’ve observed. But be that as it may, I’m having a hard time seeing Piven as one of the nine most dangerous – and thus in some way powerful -- people in the world. If she were, this would be a much nicer world.
Feb 8, 2011
Read the article here
Oct 30, 2010
(See below for link to article)
I wrote this piece at a moment when I really wasn’t allowing myself to be hopeful. Hope was in the air, that ‘yes we can’ feeling was all around – but I just wouldn’t let myself believe it.
But in spite of my doubts, my “Eeyore” tendencies as a friend calls it, I made a party the night of the Democratic Convention’s nomination of Obama. Talk like Eeyore, act like Tigger my friend says – that’ll be my motto. So, Tigger-like, I made a celebratory party.
I called it a ‘Dayenu’ party – Dayenu means ‘It would have been sufficient’ in Hebrew – or so I’m told. I don’t speak any Hebrew. The only part of being Jewish I’ve really hung onto is Passover, the liberation holiday, the celebration of the Exodus, and a holiday that lends itself to endless remaking.
Passover is a home-based holiday, a formal dinner with ritual foods and readings, called a ‘seder.’ I make big celebratory seders every year. And a traditional part of the seder is the singing of “Dayenu.” Each of the steps of the Exodus are recited, with Dayenu sung:
If we had freed ourselves from slavery
And not passed through the sea in safety
If we had passed through the sea in safety
And not learned to survive in the desert
It’s crazy really – what good would the Exodus have done if everybody had drowned? Or wandered endlessly in the desert? But actually it’s not so crazy: the meaning to be taken out of Dayenu is that each step needs to be acknowledged, celebrated for the accomplishment it is.
And that’s what I decided I needed to do about Obama’s nomination. Celebrate it and just enjoy the moment. And if our worst nightmares came true and Sarah Palin ended up being sworn in as President a couple of years later, so be it. There’d be plenty of time to mourn -- and to organize -- then.
So I invited a bunch of people, set up all the laptops we could gather (I don’t own a TV) and opened a bottle of champagne as Obama gave his acceptance speech. I expected to be moved, elated. I was oddly flat. Conventions are so, well, conventional, you know? And not having a TV, I kinda lost the ability to listen to that standardized rhetoric. So sure, celebrate, champagne, hope, yeah maybe we can at that, whatever. I did all the steps of celebration, but pfeh. Stood there surrounded by laptops blaring speeches, feeling nothing.
And then the wives came up on stage after the speech. You’d think I’d be made miserable by that too – the old ‘farmer takes a wife’ style of the thing. But in all the ritual, a magic moment happened for me – Joe Biden hugged Michelle Obama, and – the moment! – Obama hugged Jill Biden. My eyes filled, my throat closed. I remember when a black man was not allowed to touch a white woman on television. Some scene from my childhood about Sammie Davis Jr I think it was, shock and horror, oh no, not happening. And here was a Black man embracing a white woman – and my god, it was the Presidential Nominee hugging the wife of the Vice Presidential nominee. Grab that champagne! Things do change! There is hope! Yes! We can!And we did.