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Ever have one of those "ah-ha" moments that are so enlightening, you worry about the fact that it took you so long to get there?

I never thought much about why women were an underprivileged class of humans for such a long time. I mean if you asked me, I probably could have thought up something... less physical strength made us seem less important? Less testosterone meant we weren't motivated to compete for equality until we were really pissed off? Luck of the draw?

Fuck people... baby-having! Nothing eats up a year of your life like it... first there's baby-growing, which can cause sickness and definitely causes some physical difficulties those last 2-3 months. Then there's baby-having, which takes a good two months to recover from. Then there's baby-nursing, where you're tied to the kid for months or years. No one was looking out for women's rights because we were really busy.

In 2010, I'm did my baby-growing with the help of maternity stores and online support groups. My baby-having was aided by a hospital, dissolvable stitches and 800mg ibuprofen tablets. My baby-nursing has been easier because I have a breastpump and freezer storage bags, not to mention formula for if I really wanted an out. But even with all that, my 2010 has been eaten alive by baby in ways that no man's life ever can be. I seriously needed that six weeks off from work to recover and heal from the birth, and mine was easy and uncomplicated. There's been no travel since the baby, no nights away. And for that matter no travel during May or June either... I was too pregnant, had to stay close to home and medical care.

Can you imagine what my 20s & 30s would be like if I did this every year?

I remember celebrating the new year in 2000, talking to my family about the most important things that had happened in the last millenium, especially inventions. I mean, just in the last 100 years we'd invented airplanes, silicon transistors, microcomputers, so we were talking about what made the most difference. My mom said the most important invention ever was birth control. Since I love computers I was surprised at her answer. But you know what? She was totally right.

Until recently, most women were busy contributing to society by having babies... and it was almost impossible to do much else. Technology, tolerance, and The Good Fight have all helped us get a little more involved. But I'm suddenly very aware of the fact that baby having was a show-stopper back in the day. I think of famous accomplished women from history classes... Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Jane Addams, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller. What'd they all have in common? NO BABY HAVING. Back in the day, that was the only way to get shit done!

Baby-having is rewarding. It's a miracle. It's a blessing that only women get, and I'm thankful for it. But another real miracle is that over the past 50 years or so, we've gotten opportunities to do other things as well. Talk about a huge cultural shift! I'm actually amazed we've come this far.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 1st, 2010 02:27 am (UTC)
It's so true. Women rock for accomplishing so much in the very short time birth control has been readily available.
Oct. 1st, 2010 04:13 am (UTC)
word. I thank god for the pill everyday. I like babies well enough, (yours is way too cute:) but I am still so completely overjoyed that I have the choice to have one when/if I want one.-Ms. A
Oct. 1st, 2010 07:55 am (UTC)
I'm reminded of this post from today on geekfeminism: http://geekfeminism.org/2010/09/30/50-years-of-cyborgs-i-have-not-the-words/ :)
Oct. 1st, 2010 10:34 am (UTC)
I don't think baby-having is quite sufficient to explain the position of women in society. Because part of the problem is that baby-having and baby-caring are just not viewed as "important" by men, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE - they are dreadfully important. Also important - all the other stuff women "traditionally" did whilst baby-caring, vis keeping the home nice, doing laundry, preparing food, making clothes... all VERY IMPORTANT.

I think we have come a long way, unfortunately we mostly seem to have come a long way in "allowing women to do men's things" and just about nowhere in "respecting women for doing women's things" :-( :-( [personally I like doing "men's things" like working in IT and not having babies and stuff like that; I'm definately happy about our progress so far, but I think it could go further].
Oct. 1st, 2010 11:16 am (UTC)
I see your point, but things tend to be valuable to us when they're more rare. Not everyone has experience as an engineer, US senator, business owner, etc. But everyone has a house. And for every baby born, there's been someone to take care of it, so lots of people have taken care of babies. Housekeeping and child-raising may be important and even difficult jobs, but they're not unique, and not all that mentally challenging.
Oct. 1st, 2010 11:36 am (UTC)
That's true but for most of history women and men of equivalent social class would have been doing work (paid or otherwise) requiring similar levels of skill + training and requiring similar levels of uniqueness. Is it harder to train to chop wood than it is to spin? Is it harder to train to lead an army than to keep the estate/country running so there's something worth fighting for?

The trend for men to have occupations that are more skilled and need more training than women at the *same social level* is I think rather more recent than the trend for men to assert that they are more important and should be In Charge.
Oct. 2nd, 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
The point of this whole post though is that I spent years looking at these subtle differences in value and perception, missing the big obvious physical effects that childbirth and nursing have on a woman's life. I now think that has more to do with us losing power than just men being more assertive or society undervaluing motherhood.
Oct. 1st, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
Also because men who didn't do any of the baby-having and home related things, didn't see them actually being done, it was just that woman in the kitchen making some splashing noises all day.
Oct. 1st, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
Yes. I've been thinking about making a post like this. I can't believe so many women have children these days. It's freakin' HARD! And I can't believe women in the past had so many children!

I had a relatively easy pregnancy and labour, but motherhood still tries my patience like nothing else. I've always been a feminist, but now I really know what it's like to be on call 24/7 yet 'not working'.
Oct. 1st, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
This is very interesting to me. I don't disagree with you, in fact this may be the exception to prove the rule, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton had a whole passel of kids. She had such a tribe that her BFF Susan B Anthony used to be super duper annoyed with her, writing her letters chastising her for getting knocked up. I think she had like 7+ kids? OTOH, Stanton was a well to do woman.
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