Sriram Khé, blogging since 2001 ...........
............ And back again since June 2008
Friday, February 13, 2009
Babies r us?
In The Nation, Patricia Williams, who is a law professor at Columbia (and a Harvard law alum), writes:
Nadya Suleman's saga, in other words, has highlighted a deep cognitive dissonance about whether children are "assets" or eternal expenditure, divine joy or devilish curse in a time of dwindling planetary resources. When I first heard of Suleman, my immediate thought was of Andrea and Rusty Yates--married, fundamentalist Christian believers in that ubiquitous story line about going forth and multiplying no matter what. After caring for and home-schooling five very young children with no assistance but prayer, and with accumulating signs of postpartum psychosis, Andrea Yates woke up one morning and drowned all her children with quiet efficiency.
And so the specter of psychotic breakdown haunts me when I think of the Suleman abode: one autistic child, plus 2-year-old twins, plus four other kids ages 3 to 7, plus eight newborns ranging from one to three pounds, plus a grandfather who has gone back to Iraq to earn more money for the family, plus a grandmother furious at the medical professionals who "assisted" her daughter, plus a surreally chipper Nadya, who despite the miserable odds remains enrolled as a graduate student in, of all things, pediatric counseling. This situation is undeniably sheer madness, but the public discussion seems fixated on the question of whether she can "afford" so many kids, as though if she was rich, this would be sane. ...
... Suleman takes heart looking at Angelina Jolie. Suleman and Kuczynski represent disturbing emotional extremes. But that should not excuse the rest of us from examining the oppressive competitive natality that seems to have gripped us--the fantasies of "baby bumps" and breeding, always breeding, yet more of "our kind." Our culture's antifeminist backlash and its unrealistic aspirations have bewitched Kuczynski and Suleman, these two young women who are so addled and so suggestible, so endowed and yet so impoverished. All these years after the age of "liberation," perhaps it is time to revisit the myths we still concoct about childless women's worth.