To start with, this argument completely ignores the rights of the child. According to articles 7–9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children have the right to know and have a connection to their parents. Exceptions are provided for situations where ‘separation is necessary for the best interests of the child’, but a man’s desire to avoid child support payments doesn’t qualify. Even in cases when separation is warranted, it is rarely permanent in nature, leaving the door open for personal growth and renewed connection.
But the main problem with Deveny’s argument is that it buys into the neoliberal narrative of individual choice by completely ignoring the broader structural issues that fundamentally constrain women’s choices. The reality is that too many pregnant women already face a stark decision to undergo a medical termination or to risk a life of increased poverty and structural discrimination. While some women will opt to have an abortion (which, by the way, is still a criminal offence in much of Australia), termination should not be the only available option for women to avoid systematic disadvantage.
Just as we should fight for the rights of those women who want access to safe, accessible and affordable abortion, we should also be fighting for the rights of women who instead choose to carry their pregnancies to term. If not, we are punishing women for not having an abortion when a man wanted them to, and that reeks of the kind of coercive control that has no place in the feminist movement.
Archive for the ‘fatherhood’ Category
This article by Catherine Deveny on the ABC called “Financial abortion: Should men be able to ‘opt out’ of parenthood?” is infuriatingly limited.
I have recently come to the conclusion that, as a feminist, I support men being able to opt out of fatherhood early in a pregnancy via what is known as a financial abortion.
I believe a woman should not be forced to become a mother any more than a man should be forced to become a father. If a man has not said, “I want to have a child with you now-ish”, it is fair to assume he doesn’t, and therefore should be able to legally withdraw from becoming a parent.
It would also be less traumatic for children, and more empowering for women.
A financial abortion (also known as a paper abortion or a statutory abort) would essentially enable men to cut all financial and emotional ties with a child in the early stages of pregnancy.
Men can ‘opt out’ already. Don’t have sex with women, get a vasectomy, take lots and lots of responsibility for contraception. Oh.. you mean not that kind of “control over reproductive choices”.
Men can have more control than they do currently over whether parenthood happens (see my paragraph above), but just like women they don’t have full control over conception. Pregnancy is not something you can ‘make happen’.. you can provide circumstances that will facilitate pregnancy or which won’t… but conception is a biological action that happens outside of women’s and men’s control. We all need to carry responsibility for that.
It is not something one can ‘opt out of’ if you, like me, happen to enjoy the act of putting sperm near eggs inside women’s bodies.
What certain men are seeking to ‘opt out of’ is not whether parenthood can occur, it is the responsibility of parenthood. How very user choice, what part of reality might possibly be missing from this?
The parent with the ability to decide to carry a pregnancy to term (or not) is the one whose body has a foetus inside it. If we lived in another reality where men could choose to carry a foetus in their body to term then they could opt out of doing so.. and I am sure many women would be content to concede that right to men.
And of course on the wider issue of opting out, as someone said on my Facebook page, is this…
“In practice men do have this choice: courts won’t demand men conform to care and contact agreements & DHSCS has a poor record of enforcing compliance with child support assessments/ agreements. Women’s access to abortion remains practically constrained and single mothers a group at high risk of poverty – these remain the bigger issues than further expanding masculine financial & paternal discretion.”
A while ago an American writer friend, Jeremy Adam Smith and I were talking about the shaming of sexting and how misrepresented the practice was in the media. He told me I should write an article about my mothers’ group sexting.. and eventually I did. (It was this article). He also decided to finally tackle the topic himself and wrote two articles on it, one, with his partner.
Of course there are buckets of mindless, consequence-free violence available to our children, in the form of video games where the only real goal is to do as much shooting, punching or murdering as possible. If slaughter is not for you, you might like to build walls in Minecraft, or collect benign, animated creatures in Pokemon Go. But what about play that provides a sophisticated metaphor for the real world, in all its complicated harshness?
I watch my son, and now also my daughter, playing D&D with their dad. My daughter, AKA Sarah Grindbone, nearly loses her life. My son, AKA Sword Slasher, has to decide whether to risk his own life to save her. It’s agonising, because this isn’t like video games, where you instantly “respawn” if you die, without weight or consequence. In D&D, if you die, you die.
It’s a game that’s set in a dark, scary place. It’s not peaceful or cute, but it is creative. It takes teamwork, imagination, and concentration. It’s a place of nuance. And yes, there are devils lurking. A lot like real life.
A lovely, layered article by my friend, Monica Dux in The Age, “Stranger Things lures a new generation into a nuanced world of Dungeons and Dragons”.
Last year, my previous employer threw a very thoughtful, generous appreciation dinner for our creative leadership team. The dinner was scheduled for 6:30pm on a weeknight. I’m a single mom living in downtown Boston, which meant that I’d have to arrange for a sitter from about 6pm-midnight at $20/hour. Add in some Tasty Burger for my son and the sitter, her tip and Uber home, and this appreciation dinner was going to end up costing me about $200.
So when I received the invite, I couldn’t just check my calendar and accept or decline: I had to have an internal debate with myself about the pros and cons of going and what this dinner would cost me.
Was this dinner worth $200?
I relate to this so much from my days as a single mother. Dawn Bavasso’s “Expense policies are a woman’s problem” in the Medium.
Writing and children, particularly the toddler variety, are often seen as a bad combination, and in many ways this is true. There is the sleep deprivation, the lack of space, and the ‘million other things’ to do. But for the writer – be it of fiction, poetry or journalism, or in my case, all three – there are unexpected revelations. Your perspective changes – and while at first it may seem much has receded into the unreachable distance – there are, if you remain open to them, new stories and depths of understanding and empathy to tap into. My most recent essay in The Monthly, The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Julia the Gorilla, would never have been written if not for the excursions I took to the Melbourne Zoo with my boys. The essay was such an effortless pleasure to write, the story so extraordinary that Longform.org picked it up and it is now being translated into Spanish for the Mexican publication, Letras Libres.
It is as though my height has been altered, and from this different eye-level, I can see underneath things, stories previously hidden, tucked tight into shells.
On writing as a mother by Anna Krien in Writing Queensland.