Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Childless articles and their comments

The last few weeks I feel as if I’ve been one step removed from a lot of things, and the last week – suffering from an end-of-winter lurgy – even my brain shut down. But this morning, it returned momentarily, and so I read an article in the Guardian, featuring Jody Day and other UK childless writers and bloggers, and another article written by a writer Bibi Lynch (though I found it on a NZ site), a childless-by-circumstance  woman who listed some ideas of what not to say to childless women.

Yes, I read the comments, and yes, I knew what to expect, but whilst there were some very sympathetic and understanding comments from childless, childfree and parents alike, some still surprised me with their insenstivitiy (perhaps deliberate) and their vitriol, so if you’re not feeling up to it, don’t read them (though I am pleased to say that the comments on the NZ site were marginally kinder than those in the Guardian comments section).

The negative/unhelpful comments could be largely separated into two categories: the “suck it up” category, and the “just adopt” category.

The “suck it up” category are, I feel, those people who don’t have much empathy, who don’t recognise their own privilege, who don’t feel that people should talk about their challenges, only their victories, and who make no effort to understand those challenges or to put themselves in anyone else’s situation. I roll my eyes at them, and feel a certain degree of superiority, knowing that they lack something basic that should be, but isn’t, a core of their humanity.

The “just adopt” category are, perhaps, those people who have never learned how to react to other people’s grief, are uncomfortable with it, and who think that by proffering solutions such as adoption that it will help us, and that if we don’t take up their brilliant ideas (as if we hadn’t thought of them), we shouldn’t complain. I wonder how many of their own friends they’ve previously offended when, for their own comfort, they blindly shut down the hurting and grieving, and I feel for them too, because they don't know how to respond, and don't realise that a simple "I'm sorry" is enough.

Finally, I need to finish with a shout out to both Jody Day and Bibi Lynch, being prepared to put their own opinions and lives out there, knowing in advance what kind of reaction they might receive. Brava, ladies!

10 comments:

  1. Hi Mali, that's funny, I just spent the morning reading the comments under the Guardian article after it popped up on my Facebook feed. I wrote about it too as it piqued my interest. Yes, these spokespeople are brave for putting themselves out there at the risk of scorn. I just can't stop reading comments. By now I'm inured to them; their crassness makes me laugh more than anything, although the smug, unnecessary ones from parents ("I have children and feel immeasurably blessed, I can't imagine a life without them etc etc" - bite me) still make me feel very belligerent. The just adopt crowd remind me of me in my teens and 20s, when I couldn't understand why people wanted their own biological child. In other words, that crowd are immature, unnuanced, facile, insensitive and ignorant.

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  2. Ugh, the "just adopt" comments are always so frustrating. I think they just go through life figuring that if others have problems its their own fault and never think that everyone is dealt a different hand of cards.

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  3. I had just commented on Different Shore's post, thinking also about the comments. Honestly, I think it comes from bursting people's bubble about those who are not parenting. We have to generate these misconceptions as they are both easy answers ("they should just adopt" or "there's something wrong with them" or "they really didn't want this enough") so they can quickly check the box of labeled "solved." The reality of it not being that simple freaks them out.

    This article was beautifully written and bravo to Jody Day!

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  4. It never ceases to amaze me the things people will say behind the anonymity of a computer screen. I'm so thankful that there are trailblazers willing to put their stories out there anyway.

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  5. Yeah I think the people who are brave enough to share their stories despite knowing the horrible comments they will receive are great! I think you sum up the different view points well. I've always thought that the people who comment along the lines of, "what's the big deal?", "get over it!", aren't particularly maternal/paternal themselves and just can't fathom why it could be so important to someone else.

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  6. Perfect synopses of the "suck it up" and "just adopt" brigades, Mali! Couldn't agree more. As far as the "suck it up" brigade in general, it's very hard living in a world where the challenges of parenthood (stemming mostly from abundance and good fortune) are lamented and validated on a daily basis but where the challenges of non parenthood (mostly stemming from loss, grief, trauma and social disenfranchisement) are utterly dismissed.

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  7. Thanks Mali. I found the Guardian comments better than usual and that for each rubbish comment, there were others who jumped in to defend/explain our position. This was not the case when an interview with me was published in the Guardian in 2012. So things are definitely evolving! Jody x

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  8. You are amazing in the way that you can put yourself in other peoples' shoes and try to understand why they say the awful things they do. I hate reading comments on articles because I am really quick to get all ragey, and it causes me a lot of stress. I admire the bravery of putting everything out there and accepting that the a-holes are going to come out of the woodwork, but that the possibility of reaching people who really need to hear the message way outweighs any hurt from troll jerks. Great explanation of the "Suck It Up" and "Just adopt" people.

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  9. It never ceases to amaze me how anyone who has never experienced anything on a subject (I'll say infertility here, as this is what the Guardian article was about) can offer any sort of qualified opinion. Who knew we would be expected to be the guardians of all the children waiting for adoption, eh? You can't fix a torn limb with a sticking plaster - same goes for adoption not being an option to 'cure' someone's infertility. I keep saying this until I'm blue in the face - adoption is all about the needs of the child, not the person wanting to adopt. I get so fed up at the 'just adopt and get over it' brigade!

    I read the comments in the Guardian and also thought there were more sympathetic, reasonable responses this time that counteracted the down right ludicrous, trolling and insensitive usual stuff you see there. I'm over the moon that the Guardian gave a sensible and balanced view of infertility, just like it really is and that Jody and the 2 other people interviewed were able to speak their truth too. Bravo to all concerned!

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  10. As I just commented on a similar post on Different Shores's blog -- I too loved the Guardian article — if not the comments below it. I try to keep myself from reading them, but I always give in to temptation. ;) I keep thinking that somehow, someday, things will change — but I’ve been thinking that for a long time now. I think there has been a small improvement, as more & more of us begin speaking out... but I'm not holding my breath... :p The lack of empathy is astounding sometimes. :( I agree with your analysis!

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