Saturday, August 14, 2010

O Rose thou art sick

I’ve been following the story of the election in Australia a little bit. You know--Julia Gillard. Childless. Modern. Boyfriend.

Lightly following. Noting with some interest. Nothing more.

(This isn’t about her policies. I don’t know much about her policies.)

A friend’s blog ran a little blurb—small article noting that Gillard was being attacked for her fitness for office due to childlessness. I expressed surprise someone would attack her on that basis. Someone else agreed. It’s how those conversations go.

But then someone else said:

“See, here's the thing. I'm prejudiced against any public official who is deliberately childless. The concern about "living in sin" part is completely alien to me, but I completely understand the reticence at handing over policy decisions to somebody who has chosen to avoid raising children, either biological or adoptive.

It speaks of selfishness and suggests a lack of connection with the greater society. Unfair? Yup. It's a prejudice; obviously it doesn't hold for everyone. But I'm also going to say that as a heuristic, it's reasonable ... and as a negative emotional reaction, I have it quite quite strongly.”

I was a little surprised by the intensity of my own reaction. On the Interwebs, I’ll argue about films. I’ll argue about books. I’ll even have the occasional discussion about politics. But I’ve been out here a long time online, and a troll rarely gets to me. Rarely hooks me in the gut.

I thought about many things. Shoes and ships and sealing wax. Cabbages and kings. I even cried.

It doesn’t seem very worthwhile for me to discuss the arguments against this point of view rationally.

I wonder if it’s even possible, actually, to discuss it rationally. I think many of my friends who intellectually would agree with me, actually agree with him. Hold that heuristic too.

A cross to bear, so perhaps I should just bear it?

During my disaster pregnancy, a (younger) friend who had her children at 23 said to me with a tone of smugness: “now you’re finally going to be an adult.”

She never mentioned it again later. Threshold fail.


  1. A random acquaintance at the dog park, told that I didn't have children (or grandchildren for that matter - I'm old enough) - this was in the context of Christmas I think - blurted out how selfish I was. I almost hit him. I don't know if I've ever told you but I had health issues that precluded fertility, even if I'd been in a stable relationship and hadn't had to look after my mother during the years I might have been considering adoption. All of those things contributed to a state of childlessness that I accept but sometimes regret, and I recognize the pain in others. People can be so unbelievably thoughtless.

  2. Unbelievable. I really don't understand why this particular topic makes people feel welcome to judge.

  3. Putting someone down because of childlessness seems a little like condemning Communion as cannibalism. The idea that one's primary contribution to society comes through physically having children carries the same literalistic flavor as any kind of pseudo-rational fundamentalism - that only a literal (read physical) contribution (such as having children) is valid. People do it all the time. I still call it a failure of the imagination to be able to condemn another human on much of any basis at all, let alone childlessness. I can understand it, certainly, as a political argument, but I don't like it, and I wonder sometimes how people can make such statements in light of how hurtful they obviously are. Okay, maybe the Communion thing is a stretch or twist, but darn it, the whole thing got my dander up. Then again, I probably wouldn't make it as a public servant, either.

  4. It's unfathomable to me (criticizing a person because they have no kids). Kind of like getting annoyed at someone for wearing the wrong clour shirt. I'm being a bit flip, but as I say, I don't get it. But - I've been watching the election coverage here a bit, and I haven't heard this mentioned in any media I've seen.... I've only been back (in Australia) for two weeks though....

  5. It would be good if it had been overreported here. :) Apparently it is a retread of something someone named Bill Heffernan had said about her in 2007, and has been raised again for this election. (Since I don't know much about Autralian politics, I have to hope that name & context make sense.)

  6. I asked my parents and they said it had come up earlier on, and people kind of had a go at it and got it out of the way, and now noone much mentions it. I'm a bit out of the loop though as I say, just watch the nightly news, and read a bit of newspaper. I'm still re-learning my way back into what's going on - been away too long!

  7. Well that's good, I'm at least glad to know it isn't really a large election issue.