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The taboo of the childless feminist

Like most twenty-somethings these days, I’m something of a podcast addict, which is why, recently, I listened to the podcast ‘The State of Us’ with journalist and influencer Rosemary McCabe, in an episode called “Baby Fever”.

I should start by noting that I follow Rosemary on Instagram. She’s very likeable, candid and honest about her relationships – the good, bad and the ugly, and she has the bravery to talk in public about issues that many people face, but few would dare to openly discuss. She talks about being ghosted on tinder, and reveals, often to her own shame, how much she spends on eating out every week. She is a loud and proud feminist, chatting often into her stories about sex positive pornography, rape culture, sex toys and her new painting she bought depicting lots of different vaginas, because she believes that there is far too much shame around the female body.

To tell the truth, Rosemary is my guilty pleasure. She’s very different from my usual follow on Instagram. I am, after all, more of an Allie Beth Stuckey / wearebeloved.ie / Lillian Fallon kind of girl.

Rosemary identifies as everything that I am not, but I like hearing what she has to say, and besides, listening to the views of others is always worthwhile. In general, I think, it’s good to listen to what people with very different experiences and views of the world have to say and then making up your own mind. And besides, she gives excellent recommendations for brunch in Dublin.

Rosemary MacCabe, author and blogger

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Anyway, digression over, and back to the topic at hand.

Rosemary’s appearance was to discuss an article that she wrote for Medium that received a lot of attention. It’s called ‘The Taboo of the Childless 30 Something’, and if you have the time, you should absolutely read it. In it, she talks openly about how she always knew she didn’t want kids until, one day, she did, shortly after her long term relationship ended, leaving her single. She admits being shocked to discover during an exposé for work on testing your fertility, that her ovarian reserve was low. If she wanted a child, she discovered, she’d have to get a move on.

Reading it, my heart breaks for her.

She has discovered what all we women eventually do, our ticking biological clock. Perhaps, as she fears, she really has left it too late and will never get to experience motherhood. She outlines how during our female lifetimes, we have certain times for doing certain things, early 20’s for going to college, late 20’s for starting a career, travelling, falling in and out of love, early 30’s for brunch, friends, friends engagement parties, career stability and bam – suddenly you’ve missed out.

The train has left, that ship has sailed. You have options of course; You can pay extortionate amounts for IVF with a depressing 29.5% success rate; you can pay a lady from India to carry your child in surrogacy, and pay someone else in Sweden for their highly sought after genetic material.

Former Miss World Rosanna Davison recently went on the late late show to talk about her experience with surrogacy. I didn’t watch it because I don’t watch the Late Late show, but you can probably guess  what she said. What a wonderful experience and how happy she was to have her baby. But with all respect to her, Rosanna is not the average woman. She is 35 years old, a former Miss World and married to the son of a multimillionaire. No cash flow problems there. All women don’t have that kind of option, and besides, if we did, not all of us might be comfortable availing of it – of renting a womb from somebody else.

Back to Rosemary. Close to the end of the podcast she jokes that she should have had a baby when she was 19, when she was in the best of health physically, and at peak fertility, she had loads of energy to be running around after kids, and she adds, while laughing, her parents would have helped her out loads. Had she done so, her baby or babies would be close to 16 today and she could get on with living her life, travelling the world, going out to brunch and of course, fighting the patriarchy.

You can’t argue with anything that she has said thus far. There is a time for doing everything, motherhood and babies are pushed further and further down the road for fear of it not being the right time, or man, or savings or economy, or political period, and good, feminist, funny, men are hard to find.

However, and this is where I venture into territory that might get me blocked from her Instagram, it is frustrating that Rosemary continues to preach about feminism, as if somehow modern feminism is the solution and not part of the problem. As if so many women have not had their lives ruined, and damaged, by some of these toxic ideas.

Men ghosting her, or anyone else, on tinder; Men not speaking to her, or anyone else, after a booty call – these are problems that will not be solved by feminism. Our society treating fertility as a disease, and motherhood as a chore, will not be solved with a topless march and a microphone. Some of us want to be mothers. It’s the most natural thing in the world. It doesn’t make us bad women.

At some point, as women, we have to call this bullshit out. Feminism doesn’t only solve problems; far too often it actually creates them. Almost every woman, just like Rosemary, has a ticking biological clock and it will tick regardless of your financial situation, your relationship or your political beliefs. Women who are feminist, regardless of how much they criticise and blame men for their problems, still want to be held and loved and yes, bought brunch by a man.

These desires are natural, they are carved into us, like a river into a mountainside, by thousands of years of evolution. You can’t use an ideology to overcome them. A feminism that tries to change, rather than celebrate, the very nature of womanhood is a feminism that will damage, not elevate, womankind.

Rosemary, for her part, is now writing a book detailing all her relationships with men, leading to her eventual self discovery. I look forward to reading it, and I wish her nothing but the very best, but hers is not a path I have any desire to follow.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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