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How an article by a young Catholic mother provoked feminist fury

A young writer explains on Mother’s Day in the US why she became a mother at 25. Harmless enough you might think? On the contrary, it aroused feminist fury on social media. A nerve had been touched. It’s worth asking, why?

In her opinion piece for The New York Times, titled, ‘I Became a Mother at 25 and I’m Not Sorry I Didn’t Wait’, Elizabeth Bruenig set out why she became a mother at a relatively young age by today’s standards, and also offered a measured reflection on why many women leave it until late to have a child.

Bruenig thinks one of the reasons lots of American women wait until they are well in their 30s, or even older, to have children, is that the US lags behind many other countries in ‘supporting career women who are mothers’. She cites money concerns, the cost of childcare, housing, student debt and climate change as the reasons many couples defer having a family until they establish themselves financially and professionally.

That kind of reasoning would normally appeal to feminists.

Bruenig says the decision that she and her husband took to become parents of two children in their 20s in their social milieu in Washington DC went against the norm. She does not talk herself up or anyone else down or even give specific reasons why she does not regret her choice, despite the title of the piece.

The only really startling thing about this inoffensive article is the storm it created. Twitter in particular has been fizzing with feminist fury. Not surprisingly, the fury is not so much about the article as about Bruenig herself. She is a practising Catholic and by becoming a young(ish) mother with a career as a writer in front of her, has implicitly broken the social pact feminists want to impose on women, which seems to say that your 20s should be devoted purely to your career and to closing the gender gap with men.

It also says a lot about feminists whose tweets might better be described as shrieks and squawks, perhaps ‘a symbol of some unknown part of themselves,’ as one commentator put it.

Among those attacking Bruenig, was feminist writer and activist, Amanda Marcotte, who somehow managed to accused Bruenig of ‘pandering to the fantasies of pathetic men’ in her article.

Marcotte, who is now 43, says she made a decision at 15 not to be a mother. There have been many articles from women like Marcotte about choosing childlessness. Why would she, and others like her, be offended by a Mothers’ Day piece focused on why a couple’s decision to start a family is a difficult one in today’s America? Why does she say that a piece about motherhood on Mothers’ Day, ‘doesn’t respect women’?  Elsewhere, Marcotte has written that the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage is designed to ‘produce as many tithing Catholics as possible’. A statement like that certainly does not show ‘respect’. On the contrary, it seems to display a level of prejudice that might explain the reaction to Bruenig’s piece.

Feminist writer and columnist, Jill Filipaniç, also bypasses the content and context of Bruenig’s column to plead for ‘more essays and op-eds on women regretting having kids’.

Feminist author, Jude Ellison Sady Doyle, objects to motherhood being discussed by ‘an affluent, white, married, straight, Christian mother in a monogamous relationship’. These are all ‘triggering’ words for her. Why?

One might wonder if Doyle even read Bruenig’s article? Bruenig lived in a small, rented, ‘mouldy’ apartment as a young mother and received state support to help pay her first child’s kindergarten fees in central Washington.

She even tweets in response to Bruenig, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing this woman it was a tremendous personal achievement to be repeatedly knocked up by an Internet troll she met in high school.”

The vitriolic reaction to Bruenig’s piece confirms they want a radical re-set for motherhood and family in America. They want to make it somehow off-limits to be a Christian, professional woman who is content to marry and have children in her 20s.

But then, Bruenig did say she was being counter-cultural. The reaction proved it by unmasking the face and the fury of a certain strand of radical 21st century feminism.


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