Feminists are sissies?

Calah Alexander, a young American Catholic convert who writes the provocatively titled Barefoot and Pregnant blog seems to have caused something of a minor brouhaha with her most recent post. She is currently 4 months pregnant, found herself in need of a maternity bra, so went out shopping wearing a t-shirt bearing the ‘offensive’ slogan stating that Birth Control is for Sissies and then had the audacity to write about the reactions she rerceived.

Though not partial to slogan t-shirts on anyone over the age of 5, I have to admire her chutzpah and bravery, having some sympathy with the sentiment expressed. As Calah is well aware from her post, wearing any kind of ideological slogan on clothing does invite a response, particularly when it is as obviously counter-cultural as denouncing birth control; combined with the physical manifestation of her belief, i.e. her emerging bump, the image and statement was especially potent.

The post was quite lighthearted in tone,(though Calah pulls no punches in terms of choice of phrase, I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of her), she describes the relief and transformation in discovering the effects of a well-fitting bra, the trials and tribulations of shoe-shopping and buying ice-cream with the kids, but she also describes the reaction she received from others whilst out shopping wearing said shirt, which tended from the incredulous to the downright hostile,  and ending on a humorous note, when she bumped into another mother, who recognised her from Church.

All in all, a quirky and touching blogpost from a typical American Catholic mom, sharing some of her life with us. Nothing to get offended about surely?

WRONG. As @kathleengreenwood pointed out, it spawned an entire 7 page hate-fest on a forum full of self-professed snarky mothers. The blogpost spawned comments such as “what a f*cking b*tch”, “I want to slap her across the face”, “I hate people like her, I’ll take my pill…you f*cking b*tch”. Yeah, kudos to the sisterhood! They then congratulated themselves on how morally superior they were to this ignorant fundie, encouraged and incited others to leave comments pointing out the error of her ways, and then became downright obsessive, trawling through her blog to see what other thought crimes may have been committed to the blogosphere, venting their vitriolic spleen and bile.

It seems Calah has previous form. On one occasion her little boy got rushed to hospital with severe anaphylactic shock requiring them to pay $280 for an epi-pen. They didn’t have the money, so took it out of the children’s’ Christmas present fund, thinking that a life was more important than presents and that their kids would be well catered for by the extended family. She made the heinous statement that it seemed mightily unfair that under the vagaries of the US healthcare system she had to pay a substantial amount for something that was absolutely necessary in terms of saving her son’s life, the state would not assist, however they will provide contraception and birth control free of charge, something that she feels is unnecessary, as if you don’t wish to get pregnant there’s a simple answer. She has a point, one might not agree, but it does not necessitate the level of hatred. Every detail of her life was poured over in an attempt to prove what an awful person she really is and discredit her point of view. She is obviously a liar who puts herself before her children, as evidenced by the fact that she went to a relatively upmarket department store. Her finances and entire lifestyle were subject to scrutiny.

“Her house seems nice are they really running so short they can’t buy gifts and meds? Shouldn’t they have been budgeted out or don’t they have emergency funds for sh*t happens”.

“That confused me too. I feel like it was her way of getting pity. ‘Our poor children didn’t get Christmas gifts BUT at least they have their brother’ !!! I also find it odd that they couldn’t scrounge up a little extra cash to get one or two gifts for each child  yet she now is buying decent bras and dress shoes for the kids at the mall”.

The thread reads like it’s been taken over by the below-the-line comments on the Daily Mail. How very tolerant. How very inclusive. How very pro-choice! The ernest feminists seem to have utterly missed the point. It. was. a joke. I thought that the t-shirt was rather good. It didn’t even need to be a Catholic or ideological statement, it could just have been highly ironic or self-deprecating. Ah, I forgot, I’m dealing with Americans here. One commenter noted that she would have refused to serve a woman who was wearing such a t-shirt and, she pouted, she would have been backed up by her boss. Gotta love those all-American land of the free and home of the brave values on display there. The most ludicrous comment was that the t-shirt was deliberately ‘homophobic’ with its mention of the word sissy.

Needless to say it all rather resonated. This forum made clear that they were not prepared to tolerate this woman, they hated her and all they believed that she stood for. I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not she would have elicited that reaction had she not been a Catholic?

But the statement on the t-shirt and its reaction does bear a little analysis. Why is it so hateful? Taken on face value it is a statement that proclaims that pregnancy and motherhood is difficult, not for sissies, not for the feint-hearted, but the truly heroic. Which is precisely why it upset the feminists with their “we are the strong tough fearless Amazonian pioneering women” self-vision quite so much. It implies that anyone who deliberately avoids motherhood is somehow a weaker specimen. And therein lies the paradox and antagonism at the heart of modern feminism. On the one hand it strives to be the Xena warrior princess, fearless, brave and bold goddess, stronger, bigger, bolder and better than men, yet on the other, in order to survive it also has to tap into the vying narrative of victimhood. Hence lots of outraged comments along the lines of how people would have to take hormonal birth control, otherwise their uterus would fall out, and obviously Calah, with her outrageous ideas that women can actually refuse to have sex if they don’t want to get pregnant, is slut-shaming and blaming, wishing to impose Victorian morality and blame on women. Either as women we are strong and in control, or we are not? Or is it that we want to be, but are still oppressed by the patriarchy and so have no choice other than to have sex, so must protect ourselves any way we can?

I can’t help but hearken back to that statement by Mary Wollstonecraft who saw abortion as being a consequence of women becoming weaker than they would otherwise be, if they had not been subject to sexual objectification.

“Women becoming, consequently, weaker, in mind and body, than they ought to be, were one of the grand ends of their being taken into account, that of bearing and nursing children, have not sufficient strength to discharge the first duty of a mother; and sacrificing to lasciviousness the parental affection, that ennobles instinct, either destroy the embryo in the womb, or cast it off when born. Nature in everything demands respect, and those who violate her laws seldom do so with impunity”.

Pregnancy and childbirth are at the very core of femininity which is why feminists fight so hard for what they believe is control over their own bodies. The paradox being that this physical control admits, encourages and coerces female subordination. Female fertility is a problem, something that must be repressed and overcome, the body must be stopped from carrying out its natural functions of monthly ovulation and potential to bear children. A society that continues to view women’s fertility as a problem to be solved, is a society that does not value women and places unfair expectations upon them. Whilst society continues to view female fertility and childbirth as a problem, then women will never achieve true equality. Empowerment is an illusion in that a woman is only ever empowered if she can be 100% sure that her contraception will work and is entirely happy with the notion of aborting an unwanted unborn child in case it doesn’t. Are any feminists truly happy that most women chose to abort because they feel that they have no other economic or social choice? After all we are always being told that women don’t stroll into the abortion clinic as if it were Starbucks?

Bibi Lynch tragically and bitterly captured the essence of  how it can feel to be a childless woman in the Guardian last week.

“You won’t heal – because this is deep in you. What you’re supposed to do. What’s inside us to do. What we’re born to do. And you didn’t do it.”

Motherhood is without a doubt the most joyful and rewarding experiences there is. That does not mean that it is easy. Pregnancy is often a struggle, multiple young children at times demanding and stressful, even if one does stay at home. It may not be the same type of stress as the demands of a career, but it is nonetheless challenging at times. Responding to the catty comments of Hilary Rosen that she was somehow a lesser or inferior species due to not having worked, but instead been a stay-at-home mum or to use the now un-PC term, housewife, Romney said that just because they had not financially struggled, her life as mother of five children, has not been without its fair share of struggle, including fights against cancer.

Being prepared to endure pregnancy and childbirth, being prepared to die to self for the needs of others, is a sign of great strength, not weakness or oppression. Child-rearing entails a great deal of sacrifice, physically and emotionally.

Not using birth control is a sign of strength, it is a sign of responsibility and being prepared to accept and endure the consequences of having sex. It is not a fatalistic mentality, but a working with the feminine rhythms of your body, not attempting to counteract them. It is an exercise in self-control and potentially standing up to a partner keen to get amorous.

Why did Calah Alexander attract so much hate? Because she dared to go against and question a feminist mantra and by doing so demonstrated that she is stronger than others who (for perfectly legitimate reasons) have decided not to have more children. Anyone who cannot cope with a humorous slogan on a t-shirt that has a grain of truth and challenges a deeply cherished orthodoxy and is so moved to incite and spew tirades of loathing and spite, is not as tolerant and pro freedom of choice as they would claim. Anyone who feels so defensive as to chuck indiscriminate hatred and wish violence upon a total stranger because they disagree with a point of view is a bigot. Why have they reacted so strongly? Because they feel ‘judged’.

All of which proves that Calah was right all along. They really are sissies.

34 thoughts on “Feminists are sissies?

  1. Well said! Thanks for taking the time to put this out there. I’m another follower of Calah’s who is so glad to have found your blog. Looking forward to reading more.

  2. I will make it an even four from Calah’s blog. I absolutely loved your post. So well written and articulated. I do not begrudge anyone using birth control, I have on occasion used it myself. The main point I have against the feminist movement as a whole is how very intolerant they are of those of us who do choose to make our career our home and family. If they are so pro-choice why do I and others like me receive such disdain for choosing to stay at home?

  3. Great write-up! I recently wrote a post on my blog about “Why I’m a Catholic Against Contraception”- my own mother and sisters ate. me. for. lunch. They said things to me that I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy. Called me a narrow-minded judgemental b**ch. My sister said she would rather go to Hell than be in Heaven with people like me. My mother stooped so low as to tell me that my recent miscarriage was my fault- because I took doctor-prescribed medication for strep throat and bronchitis while I was pregnant. Needless to say, our relationship is over. I can only pray that someday their eyes will be opened.

  4. “On the one hand it strives to be the Xena warrior princess, fearless, brave and bold goddess, stronger, bigger, bolder and better than men, yet on the other, in order to survive it also has to tap into the vying narrative of victimhood.”

    This is why I have been anti-feminist for so long (if I was ever pro). I hate the ‘better than men’ attitude – how is that equality? I also don’t like the ‘women are strong/women are victims’ paradox which feminists use as and when suits.

  5. Feminism doesn’t say that women are or should be treated better than men. It says that the social framework which subjugates women requires them to essentially become men in order to achieve the right to self-determine, and that change is required from both men and women to reconstruct a more equitable framework that will enable more equality.

    Also, I am not sure I understand why being strong but also being victimized are mutually exclusive roles for women. Femininity and social hierarchies are extremely complex and full of these dichotomies.

    1. Don’t women conform to this social framework by doing just that & becoming like men?

      Do you think men would seriously take a pill that would inhibit their natural fertility? Probably the same proportion of men who have vasectomies…

      If you are strong, then you refuse to conform to society’s restrictions & break the mould, which increasingly seems to be that women *must* do both, have a career and kids, if they are to be taken seriously as evidenced by Rosen’s remarks.

      1. I don’t see how I am becoming “just like men” by being a feminist. I am as girly as can be, and I am also strong and educated. God made me a woman with a brain and, oh, yeah, the power to use it.

  6. I really hope you’re joking. Feminism is not about preventing all babies or all pregnancies. Its about supporting the choices of women whether or not they decide to have 1 baby, 10 babies or no babies.

    I take extreme umbrage to the implication that I, as a feminist am a “sissy” because I support choices for women. I just spent 3 hours busting my butt in my garden. I’m 25 weeks pregnant, asthmatic and fat. Feminists have babies too.

    Moreover, yes, motherhood is hard, thankless work, but you know what? Women can be a hero in other ways, the way this is written, if you’re not a mother, it implies that you’re not all the woman you could be. Way to write off women with fertility problems who can never have children.

    1. No this post does not disparage women who cannot have children. Women can be heroes in a multitude of ways.

      I also support choices for women. What I don’t support is a bunch of hate spewed at a woman who made different choices.

      Anyone who takes an amusing t-shirt slogan as a personal slight and unleashes a torrent of misogynistic abuse at another woman for expressing her constitutional right and feels “judged” is a sissy.

      I have no doubt that you may well have formed a judgement upon me. That’s entirely your perogative. I’m not going to get snippy or abusive as a result. Humans do judge each other. That’s natural. Why does it have to be a source of offence?

      1. “I’m not going to get snippy or abusive as a result.”
        Too late for that honey.

        If you’re implying that I am snippy and abusive… that’s funny. I was very restrained in my response.

        Its a judgmental blanket statement. Period. That’s like me running around saying “Any woman who does not breast feed is a horrible mother” or
        “Women who breast feed are gross”.

        It makes a blanket statement that is patently false, that’s what I take offense to, not the fact that she’s making a “bold” “brash” statement. If her shirt said “I’m super woman! but my kids call me mama!” I’d chuckle.

      2. Lol, I wasn’t calling you snippy & defensive, unless you specifically feel that applies.

        More that whole thread which was unedifying and did a lot more damage to the reputation of women than Calah’s t-shirt.

        Would you get men bitching in a similar way on a forum for guys. Let me think…

  7. I think she attracted hate because her tshirt insulted people.

    All people hate being insulted–feminists, “fundies,” and everyone in between.

    I’m sure there was a nicer way to convey her message–if she indeed believes that those who use BC are sissies.

    1. Her t-shirt was a joke. An in-your-face one admittedly, but no worse than saying “diet coke is for wimps”.

      The problem as I see it, is that it touches upon the issue of personal choice in a very sensitive and emotive topic.

      Far more offensive would have been “bottle feeding is for cissies”. I breast-fed all my 3 babies but that t-shirt would make me MAD. As would “breast feeders are organic yoghurt knitting tofu-eaters”. Actually no, the latter would make me laugh…:-D

      1. Maybe you should just reread what you wrote. “Bottle feeding is for sissies” is offensive but “birth control is for sissies” is not?? wow, so I guess if the statement fits YOUR personal agenda and opinions for whats funny and not offensive, its good enough for anyone? Yeah, that’s totally fair. And diet coke vs. birth control? seriously?
        I think you have not given feminism its due credit. Its a lot more multi-faceted than you portray it and not acknowledging that is doing a disservice to the complexity and difficulty of the female journey. Sometimes having a termination of pregnancy is not only or always about social and economic repercussions. It is a very personal decision, and you shouldn’t assume women go into it believing they have no other choice as far as society is concerned.

  8. So…feminism is NOT about choices? Hmmm…it’s about NOT having babies? Hmmm…funny…I’ve been blessed with a houseful of kids, followed by a wonderful bunch of grandkids…Oh yeah, and I have a college education, worked in a male-dominated field, fought for equal pay, taken time to raise my family, gone back into the workforce and spend time supporting women’s CHOICES. To be a SAHM, or not, to have LOTS of kids or not, for pay equality, for freedom to be all I can be, to be as educated as I choose to be. Who’s the “anti-woman” here? Me, who supports ALL women in their choices, or you, who disparages any woman who does not follow YOUR agenda?
    I am far from a “sissy”. I mean, just because I can work harder, shoot straighter, drive faster than most men…

    1. I don’t disparage women who use birth control, I can well understand why.

      I support women in their life/career choices whatever they are.

      I disparage women who unleash hell on another woman because they disagree with her.

  9. Meh. Wear a t-shirt with a provocative message that insults people, and you will get a reaction. Why would you get mad at “bottle feeding is for cissies”? It’s just a joke, man!

    1. Scrub that, maybe I wouldn’t. It’s intellectually dishonest to get offended on other’s behalf.

      But breast-feeding far more fraught with personal insecurities than family size surely?

  10. Hey! I get what Blondpidge is saying. It was a joke. Never meant for any emotional harm. The problem is…very few people found it “funny”. I’m kinda passive but I do find it disturbing how “ugly” people have been too her. I have seen shirts with weed on them. Some have cartoons having sex. I live in the south so there are plenty of confederate flag shirts. There are shirts about Obama AND Romney that are NOT very nice, that I’ve been seeing lately. Its all called, Freedom of Speech. World peace is just not possible. Just make peace with the crap to don’t agree with and just live your life. This type of topic originated over a hundred years ago and it will go on forever it seems.

    “I support women in their life/career choices whatever they are.”

    “I disparage women who unleash hell on another woman because they disagree with her.”
    I wish EVERYONE on BOTH sides would practice this!!

    Let’s wait and see what happens. Great post! 😉

    1. No one unleashed hell on anyone. Someone posted something controversial on the internet, and someone else disagreed with her. It’s not like they were calling her home or taking it *off* the internet. Frankly, if you cannot handle criticism, you should not be a blogger. Or stick to recipes and fluffy kittens as material.

      1. There’s constructive criticism and there’s a 7 page hate thread, including threats of physical violence and comments about Calah’s house and lifestyle.

        Not the most tolerant…

  11. “Because she dared to go against and question a feminist mantra and by doing so demonstrated that she is stronger than others who (for perfectly legitimate reasons) have decided not to have more children. Anyone who cannot cope with a humorous slogan on a t-shirt that has a grain of truth and challenges a deeply cherished orthodoxy and is so moved to incite and spew tirades of loathing and spite, is not as tolerant and pro freedom of choice as they would claim. ”
    -I dont agree with hateful nature of the reactions to Calah’s message either, but you might want to think about how hypocritical your critique sounds. How did YOU decide that going on birth control is the “mantra” of feminists? And if you’re expecting people to “cope with humor” when you yourself are stating she is “stronger” and speaks the “truth” with her standpoint…well that’s like saying “hey, you are weaker and probably are a sissy, buuuut since its a joke, get over it!”. Looks like you are trading insult for insult instead of making a legitimate point.

  12. Also, you claim the freejinger crowd is “obsessive” about the topic….but aren’t you presenting an article/post about a message board reaction about ANOTHER article/post? Seems like you also made a bit of effort to discuss those you don’t like. it goes both ways.

    1. Wow, 3 angry comments in a row because you disagree? You need to repeatedly hector to tell me how wrong I am?


      Calm down dear, it’s only a t-shirt. 🙂

  13. None of my comments were angry, with all due respect. I guess that was your interpretation of it? I really don’t care much one way or the other.

    1. I see now rereading my comments in clarity that they came across harsh. I think it was a bad day. I really enjoy musings about feminism, society, and people in general and I guess sometimes one loses sight of maintaining decorum. My apologies! You were more composed than me.

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