The other day, I was thinking about pronatalism (prompted by a blogging friend), and got rereading some posts about pronatalism* in action. Just as I believe that feminism helps men as well as women, I believe pronatalism hurts all women in some ways, especially overly active and hostile pronatalism. It both denigrates those of us who don’t procreate or raise children as being of less value in society, and creates a division between parents and non-parents (and in particular, mothers and non-mothers) that hurts, rather than benefits, all our communities.
But pronatalism hurts all women in other ways. Society’s attitudes towards menopause and women post-menopause is a classic example of pronatalism in action. When biologically there is no chance of having women, "society" decides that women have no worth. Sure, there are some esteemed outliers who have led countries during and after menopause (in recent years, Helen Clark, Julia Gillard, and most notably, Angela Merkel), and other high-achieving women who are the exceptions to this rule (despite the pronatalism they have to battle to be accepted and recognised equally in their roles). But in general, women post-menopause often say that they feel invisible. (I had originally written that they are “described as being invisible” but that would be untrue, as they/we are frequently ignored from the conversation entirely.) They are rarely considered to be desirable. (I’ve written before about my discomfort of the word crone which is often used to describe post-menopausal women.) Whereas older men might be valued for their wisdom and experience, or described as “distinguished,” women tend to be ignored in this way, treated more as if their knowledge and experience is no longer relevant (in any field - parenting/politics/business/science/sport/arts etc), and considered to be in aged decrepitude rather than the ”crowning wisdom” of their age. It’s such an incredible waste of millions of lifetimes of experience and hard-won understanding, compassion, and wisdom. And I blame pronatalism for that.
We need to consider that the world is diverse, and that women (and men) do not fit into one pattern of life, behaviour, or role. It hurts** all of us when we do that.
* pronatalism = the promotion of childbearing and parenthood as desirable for society, meaning parents are deemed to have more value than non-parents
**This reminds me that there’s a recent podcast discussing Why
Does Dismantling Pronatalism Even Matter?, featuring Jody Day, and although
I have yet to listen to it, I suspect it might support my views. I think I need
to go listen to it now!
Note: My series of posts on a No Kidding menopause can be found here.