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"Why won't feminists admit the pleasure of infants?"
August 26, 2009 2:47 PM   Subscribe

My Baby Is Like a Narcotic. Reflections on the "opium den" of new parenthood by New York University professor, author and journalist Katie Roiphe.
posted by Stonewall Jackson (108 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also: a defense of the piece, and a criticism.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 2:51 PM on August 26, 2009


Y'know, it's possible to love babies and not actually want one for yourself/deny the pleasure (ew?) of them.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:03 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


My Baby Is Like a Narcotic

Why won't feminists admit the pleasure of infants?


I can't speak for feminists, but I've always found smoking infants to be the perfect high, because when you get the munchies afterwards, well... let's just say that smoked infants are also delicious!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:03 PM on August 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


Finally, a reason to outlaw babies.
posted by dortmunder at 3:04 PM on August 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Best essay ever on any topic in any era. Thank-god someone finally put to words the sweet, sweet magic of babies.
posted by docpops at 3:05 PM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Christ, Gen X seems to think they invented goddamn babies. Can we all move on?
posted by GuyZero at 3:09 PM on August 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


Also put to words: why new moms are so frustrating to interact with. It's sort of like listening to someone describe their acid trip. Every single conversation. (Really, moms- you had to be there.)
posted by small_ruminant at 3:11 PM on August 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


This made me want children less.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:12 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


How will she follow up "Aren't Babies Wonderful?" I would like to read her piece about how cute she thinks her cat is and how foolish you are to not want a cat.

I have a baby sleeping about 20 feet away from me. She's the most incredible thing that ever happened to me. But I can't imagine writing an essay about how much I love my infant daughter. No one cares except me and my family.

Here's the worst part about that narcissistic essay: feminists are absolutely right about the drudgery of new parenthood. It sucks a lot of the time (and despite my best efforts to share, it's worse for my wife). You should know what you're in for, instead of having some navel-gazer on the Internet tell you that that a baby is more magical than a unicorn. I expect this woman pays people to help her and never wakes up in a sweat wondering how she's going to pay for upcoming child-related expenses.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:13 PM on August 26, 2009 [28 favorites]


Dr. everichon prescribes tapering off with the aid of morphine, followed by everyone turning gay and retreating to utopian pirate islands. Where there is still more morphine! Arrrr!

The reasons Dr. everichon is not a parent are many and varied.
posted by everichon at 3:14 PM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sure unicorn foals are drudgery in their own way.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:15 PM on August 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


This made me want children about as much as I want a frontal lobotomy.
posted by d13t_p3ps1 at 3:16 PM on August 26, 2009


My girlfriend goes back and forth on the whole babies issue, but one of the things that turns her off the idea is the seemingly-drugged haze (so well described here by Roiphe) many of her friends have descended into after having a kid. One of them even grasped her by the arm and said "You have to do it, it makes you so happy!" when she expressed her ambivalence, which...creeped her out.
posted by you just lost the game at 3:17 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This essay is much more interesting if you imagine that it's been written by a woman who has cut her baby out of the womb of some poor stranger in a Motel 7 outside of Jersey.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:18 PM on August 26, 2009 [35 favorites]


Why won't feminists admit they took my sandwich? I'm sure it was them.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:18 PM on August 26, 2009 [17 favorites]


Katie, you're like a neurotic.
posted by grounded at 3:19 PM on August 26, 2009


Also: my baby stories will kill your baby stories every time. Homebirths. Midwives. Cloth diapers that I took in a bucket in an apartment elevator to the basement to wash daily. Diving the baby's health from their bowel movements like some Delphic Oracle. I made money on the stock market reading diapers. Motherfucking homemade organic babyfood. And me wearing a completely inappropriate KMFDM t-shirt in every photo with my first newborn kid (all you see when you look at the photos is me and this. Sheesh. I wore it because I didn't care about it getting pooped or bled on).

Anyway, yeah, babies do that to you but that's because anyone else would just drown them in the nearest river. It's purely an evolutionary adaptation to deal with the fact that babies are a lot of work.
posted by GuyZero at 3:19 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, to paraphrase The Simpsons:

"Baby humans may seem like a cute idea...but they grow up!"
posted by you just lost the game at 3:20 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why won't feminists admit they took my sandwich? I'm sure it was them.

Did your Bologna have a first name?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:20 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Michael Lewis (of Liar's Poker fame) recently wrote about new parenthood from the father's point of view, and discussed his book and parenthood experience with Charlie Rose here. Somewhat different drug experience.
posted by Auden at 3:20 PM on August 26, 2009


Another critique of the article, from Shapely Prose.

"Katie Roiphe’s essay on how much she loves her newborn is accompanied, naturally, by the subtitle: Why won’t feminists admit the pleasure of infants? Come on, feminists! Why do you hate tiny babies?"
posted by peep at 3:21 PM on August 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I await the placement of the kid on her Facebook page.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:24 PM on August 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yes, curse those feminists who apparently seek to deny her ... maternity leave ... wait a minute.

Quick google: "U.S. employers should adapt to the realities of the marketplace and reform their pregnancy-leave policies, according to national feminist leader Betty Friedan." 10 zillion other similar results.

As is usual with Katie Roiphe, I am left wondering what on earth she is talking about and who she thinks she is arguing with.
posted by kyrademon at 3:24 PM on August 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


I can't speak for feminists, but I've always found smoking infants to be the perfect high

IRFH, please share your secret for keeping them lit - mine always go out by the second toke! It's very frustrating.

On the other hand, Roiphe's strawman - baby-hating feminists - went up with no trouble at all.
posted by rtha at 3:25 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Baby oil, rtha. Lots and lots of baby oil.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:27 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]




As is usual with Katie Roiphe, I am left wondering what on earth she is talking about and who she thinks she is arguing with.

Dude, she's high. Cut her a break.
posted by dortmunder at 3:30 PM on August 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


My baby is not like a narcotic. He's more like a cheap dose of acid that's been cut with whatever they cut it with that gives you that unpleasant clenched-jaw-and-twitchy-eyelid effect.

I do hope she writes a followup essay after the hormones wear off, but before the kid lets her sleep through the night. I suspect it will have a slightly different thesis.
posted by ook at 3:32 PM on August 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'll tell you why I react negatively to Roiphe's piece: it isn't because I don't think babies can be pleasurable. It's because I don't like Katie Roiphe proclaiming (as usual) to know what ALL FEMINISTS think, and that what they think is wrong. The very subheading (as referred to in the title of this post) is inflammatory: "Why won't feminists admit the pleasure of infants?"

First of all, there is no monolithic group called "feminists" who all speak with one voice. Second, most feminists aren't denying that babies can be wonderful or that parents can fall in love with their babies. They just want to point out that it's not all unicorns and rainbows--and a lot of the time, societal structures--like lack of proper maternity benefits, affordable child care, unrealistic expectations for mothers--are to blame for this. There's a difference between pointing out how society doesn't really support mothers very well and "denying the pleasure of infants," FFS.

Finally, make sure you (re)read Roiphe's previously linked piece about how she doesn't understand why women hide behind their children on Facebook. It's just fucking rich with irony now:

"...throughout the entire dinner party, from olives to chocolate mousse, she talks about nothing but her kids. You waited, and because you love this woman, you want her to talk about…what?…a book? A movie? A news story? ...You notice at another, livelier corner of the table that the men are not talking about models of strollers. ... You turn back to the conversation and the woman is talking about what she packs for lunch for her child. Are we all sometimes that woman? A little kid talk is fine, of course, but wasn’t there a time when we were interested, also, in something else?"

ETA: Joe Beese beat me to it!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


And then at about the age of two, the baby decides to go cold turkey on you, the oxytocin shuts off and you realize that the feminists were right.
posted by nax at 3:34 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know that feminists have been denying the pleasures of babies ("Pleasure yourself...with Babies. Get yours at Babies-4-You today") so much as it not being a law of the universe that all, or even a majority, of women are addicted to their babies. Postpartum depression, physical recovery required from giving birth, sleep deprivation to the point that every conversation with your partner becomes OH GOD WE MUST FIGHT NOW, the free subscription to Guilt Magazine that many people can't get rid of -- these are experiences that can easily overwhelm any joy you might feel. Warning people that babies aren't going to produce diapers full of rainbows and fine Colombian blow isn't a bad thing.
posted by sgranade at 3:36 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Finally, make sure you (re)read Roiphe's previously linked piece about how she doesn't understand why women hide behind their children on Facebook. It's just fucking rich with irony now

Holy shit...she wrote that essay?

*temporarily speechless*

I'd say I want some of the good shit she's on, except...you know....
posted by you just lost the game at 3:37 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a pretty weird article. First the standard "I love my baby", then talking about how her favorite female authors had no children, one child, or two at the most - which is a self-selecting sample, really - to the meat of her point in the fourth to last paragraph:
One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a "vocation." The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.
Feminists have emphasized this because sexists have maintained that motherhood isn't work; that you should be floating on a pink sparkling cloud, vacuuming the floors in your heels with a baby on your hip as you sing a lovely song. This doesn't at all mean feminists "deny" the pleasure of motherhood. What an absurd argument to make.

To be honest, articles where new parents talk about how awesome it is to have kids don't really bug me, but her argument that the feminist position of motherhood being work is a form of "dishonesty" is just odd.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:38 PM on August 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Love the criticism of it - so many lovely points. Did love this comment on the site too, so much, I emailed it to myself this morning:

Roiphe is straw feminist basher #1
By: redbecca | Wed, 08/26/2009 - 01:03

The problem isn't Roiphe's baby-love, it's her use of her experience to bash feminism. The best comments expressing the problem with the original article appear on Kate Harding's "Shapely Prose," which is how I came to read this article and the defense here. The irony of Katie Roiphe writing an article attacking feminism while on maternity leave is just too much for me. If it weren't for feminism there wouldn't be such a thing as maternity leave. However, that's Roiphe's usual stunt - she also blamed feminists for ruining sex back in the 90s just because she assumed she wasn't raped on a date, no one else was either. As some posters also pointed out, before she had her own kid, she was bored and contemptuous of other parents who were proud of theirs. The poster on her original article that called her narcissistic was on target.

What's so galling is that Roiphe's experience has been enabled by feminism.

Roiphe has a PhD from Princeton - something for which she can thank feminism. And she is a professor in NYU's journalism school. Currently, about 40% of the journalism faculty nation-wide is female, which is much better than the 28% less than 20 years ago - maybe feminism is responsible for that change?. And yes, unlike Edith Wharton, or women writers of the past, she can go on maternity leave (although of course, wealthy women writers might have had nannies, which I'm sure Roiphe will never, never do). Finally, it's simply not true that feminists haven't talked about motherhood in glowing terms - I still recall debating Sara Ruddick's "Maternal Thinking" in a graduate school philosophy class many years ago.

but oh right, - DAMN those feminists! If it hadn't been for them, Roiphe could have started having babies sooner instead of gettin all educated and then landing a job at a prestigious university.


Right on, redbecca.
posted by agregoli at 3:54 PM on August 26, 2009 [20 favorites]


Christ, Gen X seems to think they invented goddamn babies. Can we all move on?

Heaven forbid anyone ever have anything approaching a tenth of the rampant narcissism of boomers. Who gave anyone else the right to be all ME ME ME?
posted by rodgerd at 3:56 PM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, babies are OK, but I bet actually being on opium is a lot more fun. I did enjoy her description of how time seems to magically disappear around a baby. For the first few months when people asked me what I did all day sometimes I just wouldn't know. If I managed to eat a proper lunch that was pretty good. And if I cooked dinner....hoo, boy! That was a banner day right there!

But seriously, for all those of you unsure about babies...they tend to turn out in accordance with your general attitude towards life. If you're a generally easy-going, sociable individual who doesn't take things too seriously, chances are a baby won't be so very bad. The drug phase only lasts for the first little while.
posted by Go Banana at 3:58 PM on August 26, 2009


(Also, new baby smell may be the best smell in the whole universe)
posted by rodgerd at 4:00 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


As is usual with Katie Roiphe, I am left wondering what on earth she is talking about and who she thinks she is arguing with.

kyrademon, you beat me to it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:00 PM on August 26, 2009


"Hi, my name is Katie Roiphe, and I'm a famous famous author who signs books. But I have an awesome baby, and my baby is more awesome than any of you people. Why don't you just admit it? My baby is awesome. Anyway, move it, feminist. I got a taxi to catch."
posted by katillathehun at 4:01 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fuck I used to have a friend once. She was real cool, we hung out all the time, sneering at the suburban dorks that would come in with their corporate badges still swinging from their hips. Going to cool restaurants after midnight. Then she had a baby. Now it is baby this, baby that. I can't even call her without her mentioning her baby, or how she's been up three nights in a row because of her baby, strung out and delirious. She's so crippled by it, we went out the other day and it took us like two hours to get lunch. She spent at least 30 minutes getting ready spent another minutes getting a little bit of the baby ready, you know just keep it simple she said. Then we get to the restaurant and she immediately darts for the bathroom (with the baby). Spends at least 15 minutes in there, comes out looking disheveled and like Lindsay Lohan around 3 in the morning. Then she spends the entire time talking about the baby. How she runs all over town for it. Hangs out with fellow junkies and even named the damn thing. I told her I'd help her get rid of it. She didn't care, didn't listen. She thought I was the crazy one. Oh she can't see Dirty Projectors (why? "the baby") or get sushi after 8 ("the baby"). The baby is her life, I feel like I don't know her anymore. And she keeps wanting to get me to try it. Hold it she says, and I'll understand and want one too. Fuck no, keep that shit away from me.
posted by geoff. at 4:05 PM on August 26, 2009 [17 favorites]


Fuck I used to have a friend once... And she keeps wanting to get me to try it. Hold it she says, and I'll understand and want one too. Fuck no, keep that shit away from me.

Dude, my wife is totally the same way.
posted by GuyZero at 4:08 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can't speak for feminists, but I've always found smoking infants to be the perfect high, because when you get the munchies afterwards, well... let's just say that smoked infants are also delicious!

Yeah but the bioavailability is higher with other methods.
posted by scalefree at 4:12 PM on August 26, 2009


Why won't feminists admit the pleasure of infants?

Why won't people stop generalizing about groups they disagree with? Christ on a stick.
posted by scratch at 4:14 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sure, newborns are a nice high. But things progress along until one day you're mainlining pure teenager, and then it's all over for you.
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 4:15 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also: Straw Feminist Weekly: The baby-hater
posted by psyche7 at 4:15 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


babies: I wish I knew how to quit you
posted by doobiedoo at 4:19 PM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I wish Katie Roiphe a four-way gay marriage to Naomi Wolf, Elizabeth Wurtzel, and Sandra Tsing Loh. To me, they all represent a particular genre of post-feminist writing, one which makes deeply flawed conclusions based on wildly overgeneralized personal experiences, employs an extensive cast of straw men (and women), and makes broad claims about The Way We Live Now without even the most facile attempt to think beyond the writers' own privilege and self-absorption.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:29 PM on August 26, 2009 [24 favorites]


I had the baby-high with my daughter, but I'm pretty sure it was all due to the oxytocin dump from breastfeeding.

I still miss it - all my troubles would just melt away in a peaceful feeling of well-being. She's 6 though, and there's a lot of pressure out there not to nurse your first-grader.
posted by jeoc at 4:33 PM on August 26, 2009


Heaven forbid anyone ever have anything approaching a tenth of the rampant narcissism of boomers. I wish I could favorite this 10 more times!
posted by jeoc at 4:34 PM on August 26, 2009


I dunno about babies being like drugs. A lot of the time you are suppressing the urge to strangle them.

Keeping the little buggers alive is all-consuming though - time and brain. And if you stuff that up they often put you in jail.

As for those complaining about friends etc who have seemed to disappear post-baby - maybe they aren't getting enough support from their partners or family and have no choice but to be totally focused on their baby? And aren't you glad your Mum made those kind of sacrifices so you could grow up and play on the internets?
posted by gomichild at 4:40 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


What a lightweight, all strung out and tweaked over a single newborn? If she really wants to seel the She should come back and write something after she's had twins.

The above is just snark, as I don't actually have twins myself...but we do have two kids about 3 years apart, and I know folks with twins, so I know something of which I speak. Yeah, hormones + sleep deprivation + massive, life changing new responsibilities = shift in world view. Life can be funny that way.
posted by mosk at 4:43 PM on August 26, 2009


Babies just don't do it for me.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:45 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


And aren't you glad your Mum made those kind of sacrifices so you could grow up and play on the internets?

I was raised by wolves baby pushers. Momma sold me when I was two so she could buy a backalley newborn.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:46 PM on August 26, 2009


"Like my own personal brand of heroine."
posted by weston at 4:47 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


jeoc: I had the baby-high with my daughter, but I'm pretty sure it was all due to the oxytocin dump from breastfeeding.

For real. That shit is good. The first 2 minutes of each breastfeeding session was the only thing remotely resembling "opium den" quality during those first weeks. I would describe my maternity leave as having more of a crack-house atmosphere.
posted by peep at 4:48 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Where did your day go?

Since we just had a child, apparently right around the time this writer did, I will say that this sentence rang true for me.

Since you are completely out of the work/play rhythm and basically on your babies schedule, you do seem to lose hours a day.
Maybe it's just because you don't look at the clock as much, or have scheduled meetings or whatever, but "It's already x o'clock?" is a commonly heard phrase in my house these days.
posted by madajb at 4:57 PM on August 26, 2009


Babies are cute and lovely, and I'm glad she likes hers and isn't tempted to drown it or abandon it or put it up for adoption.
posted by anniecat at 5:01 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Since you are completely out of the work/play rhythm and basically on your babies schedule, you do seem to lose hours a day.

This happens to me when I play my Lost DVDs after work. Before I know it, it's 2am.
posted by anniecat at 5:03 PM on August 26, 2009


Babies are a narcotic that you should bogart. Which is to say that I like my essays, books and movies about babies like I like my essays, books and movies about drugs: Non-existent.

(Love babies. Hate other people talking endlessly about their babies.)
posted by DU at 5:15 PM on August 26, 2009


"This is my baby. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My baby is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I master my life. My baby, without me, is useless. Without my baby, I am useless. I must raise my baby true. I must parent better than any parent who is trying to outparent me. I must outparent her before she outparents me."
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 5:20 PM on August 26, 2009 [14 favorites]


as a lolbreeders enthusiast, I quite enjoyed this lolbreeders article. thank you.
posted by ElmerFishpaw at 5:20 PM on August 26, 2009


There are a lot of people who think because they experience something, everyone else secretly does, and if they don't, they're lying.

Jesus fucking Christ how I hated being a mom the first six weeks of our daughter's life.
I didn't know my ass from my elbow or the first thing about how to take care of her other than 'feed her' 'hold her' 'see if her diaper needs changing', and I'd had abdominal surgery and was stuck in a house, alone, with a crying infant during heat wave after heat wave.

It's a year later and she's gorgeous and thriving and wonderful to be around---but at six weeks?

Not so much.

And she was by all accounts a pretty easy baby.

And frankly, it's a lot harder to "admit" that. Crowing about your warm glow of motherhood puts you frankly in the good kids club. Those of us who had a lets. just. say. different. experience don't get to bask in our own wonderfulness.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:25 PM on August 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


I pray her child's teenage friends discover this essay thirteen years from now.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:25 PM on August 26, 2009


stfu, parents.
posted by mullingitover at 5:33 PM on August 26, 2009


_My_ baby is like a narcoleptic.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 5:39 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow... this is a megaton of vitriolic baby-hate. To each their own I suppose...

Sure, some of you won't ever have babies, but realistically many of you will change your attitudes towards babies and will. And sooner or later your kid will turn 7 or 8 years old... and they'll be playing in mom and dad's closet and they'll brush off that old internet connection... They'll ask you about it, and be all kinds of amazed that people actually typed and looked at a screen in one place... and then they'll be like wow! what did you do with your time... and you'll be all "I used it for research and looked at interesting things on Metafilter." And they'll be all "What's metafilter?" and you'll be all "It showcased the best of the web such things as keyboard cat and bad News Articles." And then they'll be all "What did you do with them?" And you'll be all "Well, we made comments about how everything stunk and how we'd rather have a frontal lobotomy than to have a kid like you..."

Man I tell ya, if you think you had it bad when your parents just stuck pills down your throat without any seeming justification... nothing like having a paper trail of the social torture that you are about to cause your own child... ah... just think... fifteen years from now - when Metafilter turns 25, you'll be able to share the knowledge of how much things didn't turn out like you planned - with the big thing, your child, you didn't plan on... Its enough irony that you wouldn't even need to work "plate of beans" into that conversation...


Yeah, as a parent of a newborn, the article is shit. And yeah, even though her writing is better than mine, it is still unbelievably crappy and doesn't deserve print nor digital media coverage. I'm embarrassed that that constitutes journalism, but I'm also embarrassed that some peeps think that the nastiness they are exuding seems not only justified but comment worthy...
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:43 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


NB this is obviously before fractional distillation into sugar and spice, puppy dog's tails and all things nice
posted by doobiedoo at 5:45 PM on August 26, 2009


Having recently become a new father at the age of 50 I can say that you too should get a zombifying brain leech who sucks your head dry of all meaningful conversation. He's so cute. And sometimes he pokes his fingers in his nose and that's so cute too. (I'm only saying this because my son is going to be president and cure cancer.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:21 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


heh...I feel like this about my dog....really.... it's an addiction....
posted by HuronBob at 6:21 PM on August 26, 2009


Visions dance through my head...of 18th century wet nurses doped on laudanum and overlying their little charges.
posted by bad grammar at 6:30 PM on August 26, 2009



Wow... this is a megaton of vitriolic baby-hate.


Metafilter, why do you hate America? I mean, babies?

Pro Tip: take the trouble to actually read the comments. S/he said "This made me want children about as much as I want a frontal lobotomy" not "I hate and loathe children."

Among others.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:39 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait till she's a grandma. That's when it gets REALLY good.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:51 PM on August 26, 2009


they're taking her children away
because they said she was not a good mother

since she lost her daughter it's her eyes that fill with water
and me? i am much happier this way.

posted by porn in the woods at 6:55 PM on August 26, 2009


What's so galling is that Roiphe's experience has been enabled by feminism.

Not to mention that her mom is Anne Roiphe.

Sure, some of you won't ever have babies, but realistically many of you will change your attitudes towards babies and will.

I'm sure you had fun writing that little condescending little sarcastic screed, but I'd like to bring to your attention that the vitriol isn't directed toward babies, it's directed toward Katie Roiphe's article. She's 40.
posted by desuetude at 7:05 PM on August 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I genuinely think it's wonderful that Katie Roiphe enjoys her baby. I'm really happy to hear it.

Here, sitting in the garden, looking at the eyelashes, would you trade the baby for the possibility of writing The House of Mirth? You would not.

Yes, yes I would. I really, really would. I would trade that baby in a heartbeat. I would investigate whatever means exist for trading a baby for a novel--even if it be lurking in an abandoned junkyard at dusk with my potential fetus in a paper bag, awaiting the arrival of the dark lord Beelzebub himself--and I would engage in that means, in order to trade the possibility of a baby for the possibility of writing The House of Mirth.

And I haven't even READ The House of Mirth.
posted by lemuria at 7:32 PM on August 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


As is usual with Katie Roiphe, I am left wondering what on earth she is talking about and who she thinks she is arguing with.

Her mom.

She is always arguing with her mom. Who herself focused on parenting to the exclusion of paid work when Katie was a kid, but that doesn't even matter to Katie because her mom is a famous feminist so she has to be a famous anti-feminist.

And, yeah, the nerve that shit takes is incredible. 'HEY PEOPLE WHO WORKED TO GET ME EQUAL PAY, MATERNITY LEAVE, AND THE RIGHT, AS A DIVORCED WOMAN, TO HAVE A MORTGAGE AND CREDIT CARDS AND WHAT NOT! YOU SUCK BECAUSE YOU DON'T THINK MY BABY IS AWESOME! THAT'S RIGHT, I SAID IT BECAUSE I'M EDGY AS FUCK!'

I'm sure her baby is awesome. Shame that awesome kid has to have such a jerk for a mother.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:38 PM on August 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


Alice Munro had three daughters, and this Kathy Ralph person is unfit to lick her boots.
posted by rdc at 7:40 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wish Katie Roiphe a four-way gay marriage to Naomi Wolf, Elizabeth Wurtzel, and Sandra Tsing Loh. To me, they all represent a particular genre of post-feminist writing, one which makes deeply flawed conclusions based on wildly overgeneralized personal experiences, employs an extensive cast of straw men (and women), and makes broad claims about The Way We Live Now without even the most facile attempt to think beyond the writers' own privilege and self-absorption.

To be fair, a lot of dude writers beat them to that....women are just now playing catch up in the whole game of "My theory about how my tiny fragment of existence explains THE TOTALITY OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, let me show you it."
posted by emjaybee at 7:47 PM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


The main thought I keep in my head about babies is that they turn into teenagers.

FUCK THAT.
posted by autodidact at 8:34 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Our youngest turns five months old in a couple of days, and all I can say is that women are kind of a write-off for the first year or so, as well they should be, given the exhaustion, physical changes, hormonal changes. Which means they should probably refrain from writing essays.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:00 PM on August 26, 2009


Clearly her kid doesn't have colic like my son did. That wasn't an opium high, that was a 6-week long bad trip.
posted by The Gooch at 9:27 PM on August 26, 2009


Yeah, babies are OK, but I bet actually being on opium is a lot more fun.

I've had both and I can definitely attest to this.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:20 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm also embarrassed that some peeps think that the nastiness they are exuding seems not only justified but comment worthy...

Sorry, you're right. I shouldn't hit post on the third drink.

My comment was more vitriolic than necessary.

But I do find an awful lot of glowing awesome motherhood stories to be hard to take and potentially damaging. Postpartum depression is a real problem, and a lot of it has to do with the hormone crash coupled with modern social isolation and then topped with some of the things I described.

It genuinely concerns me that how hard and isolating that time can be isn't talked about openly as much as it should be, and how frankly unpleasant being around someone utterly new to the planet with no coping skills can be. Perhaps that has something to do with my family and growing up with a bunch of Irish Catholics who were all babies! babies! babies!

Maybe most people are better at talking about it and my perspective is skewed.

But I think it's so much easier and popular and more fun to tell Kate Roiphe's story than stories of isolation or sitting in a room crying because the baby can't latch and the breast pump isn't working and it's 95 degrees and you're naked from the waist up and covered in dog hair and swollen from IV fluids.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:39 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm going to quote Ursula Le Guin, mother of three, here: "The idea that you need an ivory tower to write in, that if you have babies you can't have books, that artists are somehow exempt from the dirty work of life — rubbish. "
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:54 AM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


You give up everything you are and care about.

This line from the article epitomizes every single fear and terror I've ever had about motherhood. It's this absolute abandonment of who you are and who you've fought to be that makes having babies seem like the worst possible thing that could ever happen to me.

Yeah, yeah, "You'll change your mind...It's different when it's yours...blah blah blah." None of those little platitudes changes the fact that at 34, the very thought of being pregnant or being a mother gives me panic attacks. I've never really been able to figure out which would be worse, having a kid and not feeling all those happy goo-goo things that all mothers (at least according to popular media) are supposed to feel, or having a kid and feeling them and completely losing myself.

I've seen a number of my very smart female friends get lost in the baby haze, and maybe one or two went back to being similar to the humans they were after it wore off. But most remain lost, shallow baby-absorbed fragments of the women they used to be. And for me, that's too much of a gamble. Thank heavens I got my tubes tied at 21.
posted by teleri025 at 7:33 AM on August 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


ADMIT THE PLEASURE OF INFANTS!
ADMIT IT!
posted by 235w103 at 7:43 AM on August 27, 2009


Eighty-five comments in and no Children of Earth jokes yet?
posted by homuncula at 7:45 AM on August 27, 2009


As I read this article, I kept picturing it as a slightly more highbrow version of this:

Look at this Baby.

Have a look at this beautiful motherfucking baby. He was last seen being awesome in my huge ass house which is where he is right now being awesome as usual. He is about the most beautiful god damn baby in the whole world and sucks up breastmilk and expensive organic food all the time.

Responds to Bitsy-pookums.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:47 AM on August 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Katie is the new Ayelet.
posted by The Bellman at 8:00 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


From my experience: this happens to some women, with some babies. Not all, and not even the same woman with every baby. My wife was in a bliss coma like this the first time, but not the second. As far as I can tell, it doesn't happen to fathers at all.

Also, this is not really news to parents, and tends to freak out the straights, so it should probably be left on the down low, really.
posted by rusty at 8:11 AM on August 27, 2009


this is a megaton of vitriolic baby-hate. To each their own I suppose...

Sure, some of you won't ever have babies, but realistically many of you will change your attitudes towards babies


I think what you're maybe missing is that much of what you're perceiving as "baby-hate" is coming from people who are parents. Of babies.

It's not the babies we're hating on, it's the my-child-is-the-center-of-the-universe-la-la-la attitude. Which not all parents have. Babies are not mind-controlling pod leeches; it is possible to choose to have a life that does not completely revolve around ickle widdykins. (Well, okay, not for the first few months, but later on.)

I really do think this writer, if she has any self-awareness at all, will be terribly embarrassed by this essay in a few months when she regains control of her emotions.

(And like A Terrible Llama I wish it were more socially acceptable to talk about the childraising experiences which are not all bliss and rainbows. People get so touchy when you admit to the defenestration urges.)
posted by ook at 8:36 AM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


A nice antidote to the Roiphe-induced nausea, for anyone who wants something between BABIES R SO AWESOME OMG and BABIES SUCK OUT UR BRANZ STERILZE ME NOW OMG is Anne Lamotte's Operating Instructions, about her first year with her son Sam. She freely admits to wanting to toss him out the window some days (colic will do that) and being head-over-heels other days. I particularly remember one story about a friend of hers who used to leave her screaming baby in the crib and go sit in the field outside her house, yelling THIS IS NOT A GOOD BABY, MY BABY IS BROKEN! to the heavens before she could go deal with him.

Lamott's book also has the advantage of being written by a feminist single mom, instead of someone who thinks that feminists hate teh babies.
posted by emjaybee at 8:50 AM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am so totally jonesing for a hair-pulling cage match (to the death!) between Katie Roiphe and Ayelet Waldman. Roiphe would emerge ululating and wildly swinging a BabyBjorn over her head, while Waldman would creep toward her wielding a gilded first edition of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. They would kick and bash and gnaw and pommel each other until they each collapsed in a bloody, lifeless heap.

And then finally, silence. Sweet, sweet silence.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:36 AM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really do think this writer, if she has any self-awareness at all, will be terribly embarrassed by this essay in a few months when she regains control of her emotions.

This is Katie Roiphe we're talking about: self-awareness is not included.

Also, she had her first baby several years ago, so one would think she would have some perspective on the whole issue--it's not like she's a dewy-eyed first-time mom in the throes of oxytocin.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:44 AM on August 27, 2009


I find babies confusing and weird and scary and, if I'm honest, a little bit repellent. Children are great. Babies? Practically aliens. So I'm really glad my friends aren#t reproducing yet, as I don't want to seem rude. I just don't know what to do with them or what they're for.
posted by mippy at 10:18 AM on August 27, 2009


NB: I prefer baby-gushers to ChildFree types, mind.
posted by mippy at 10:18 AM on August 27, 2009


The vitriol of the comments here doesn't seem to match the article that I just read. I wonder if you guys aren't over-reacting to the subtitle, which was probably appended by some associate sub-editor at Slate. Her quarrel with feminism is not nearly so stark in the article itself, which is essentially a two-page paean to new mommy bliss--a common human experience which, like first love and the shock of death and other ubiquitous experiences, remains a worthy topic for writers because of, and not despite of, its universality. Only one paragraph critiques feminism directly, and its a pretty mild-mannered critique:

One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a "vocation." The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.

Good grief, folks. She didn't say that feminists hate babies, or hate moms, or hate her. She didn't say that feminists were senseless and inhumane. She certainly didn't say that she invented the idea of babies. She said that as a movement, feminism has emphasized the drudgery of parenting babies in a way that amounts to the "minor dishonesty" of underestimating maternal passion. I don't get the "how dare she!" responses.

But then, I like children, unlike you asshats.

The previous sentence may contain sarcasm.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:42 AM on August 27, 2009


> Eighty-five comments in and no Children of Earth jokes yet?

96 comments in and no "Babies are a hell of a drug"?
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 10:46 AM on August 27, 2009


She said that as a movement, feminism has emphasized the drudgery of parenting babies in a way that amounts to the "minor dishonesty" of underestimating maternal passion. I don't get the "how dare she!" responses.

Because the one does not follow the other. I can love my job with all my heart and soul and still say it's hard, back-breaking, mind-frying work. "Feminism" with a capital F does not deny the pleasure of motherhood; it merely brings up that oh hey this is work, a concept pretty much absent from mainstream America until recently, and brought with it changes to labor laws, such as maternity leave and changes in attitudes with regards to divorce settlements. Speaking for myself, that's the problem I have with the article - not the special snowflake stuff but the ridiculous assessment of feminism.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:50 AM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know about everyone else here, but the part that made me want to give her a time-out was this:
One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a "vocation." The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.
She says this without any acknowledgment of the history of the cultural presentation of motherhood, which neatly avoids talking about the drudgery: that it is the pinnacle of the female experience; that it is all a woman would ever need; that any woman who finds it full of drudgery and exhaustion must have Something Wrong With Her; that it's this awesome thing that only women are capable of, and since it's so special women shouldn't really want anything but a life of caring for children.

And? Since Roiphe is speaking anecdotally - although she seems to think her experience is shared by every woman who ever had a baby - I too will offer an anecdote: I had a colleague who went on maternity leave, and when it was up (at three months) she was thrilled to come back to work. Did she miss her son? She did. But she had missed her work; she missed her adult life. She told me that she was afraid to tell people how happy she was to be back at work, and I did overhear a few co-workers say things to her like "Oh, it's so nice to have you back, but you must miss your baby so much! It's so great to be able to spend all that time with him when you're on leave - coming back must be hard!"

No, she told me. She loved him more than anything, but babies, she said, are kind of boring. And the endless cycle of sleep/cry/eat/poop was also boring.

I'm happy that Roiphe is enjoying her kid and the time she gets with him, but this piece, taken in context with her other work, makes me roll my eyes and feel bad for her mom.

On preview: Also what Marisa said.
posted by rtha at 11:06 AM on August 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I agree with Marisa. One of the major features of the feminist movement in my mind was the trend of not only acknowledging that motherhood was a hell of a lot of work, but that not all women were suited to it. In the era of my grandmother, all she ever heard was how wonderful babies were and how your entire world should revolve around them. Imagine her confusion and pain when she discovered that her baby did not send her over the moon.
The point of the feminist movement was to give women options, to free us from the notions that the only thing that could truly fulfill a woman was to get married and have babies. Where I have issues with writers like Roiphe is that she's confusing what is good for her with what is good for *all* women. Sure, to her it's a freeing and wonderful thing to be only responsible for the baby and to let all her other duties fall away. But to some of us, that idea is repellent. And to blame feminists or to allude that those of us who choose a different path are denying the pleasure of infants is dishonest. It's like saying "OH my god! I love vodka, I love how vodka makes me feel and anyone who doesn't is an idiot and trying to keep me down!!" Intellectually, I'm glad she is hooked on the baby. I think it'll probably result in a very happy child and mother. But in her place, I'd be screaming inside and contemplating an escape route.
posted by teleri025 at 11:11 AM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I find babies confusing and weird and scary and, if I'm honest, a little bit repellent. Children are great. Babies? Practically aliens. So I'm really glad my friends aren't reproducing yet, as I don't want to seem rude. I just don't know what to do with them or what they're for.

I have wondered if this isn't part of the biological process: nature's way of saying "not yet". I find myself a bit horrified that child squalling no longer induces angst but a dopey "aww, little person." I also remember seeing friends disappear from social circles into stable couplehood and thinking "what the fuck is that about?" and now find myself wondering what the hell fun I was having back in the day...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:38 PM on August 27, 2009


Just in general, people need to be aware that their babies, and their experience being parents, is only interesting and spectacular and unique and worthy of endless discussion to them. To the rest of us, it's a great, gaping, eye rolling, grinning-thinly-to-be-polite bore.

"Want to see a picture of my baby?"

"Is it made of alcohol and can I drink it?"

"What? No!"

"Then why the fuck do you think I'd care?"
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:45 PM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


This article was written by and for all those folks who act like they are beatified for pumping one out.
News flash - procreation is and has been a basic process for billions of years.

Blocking the aisles in a store? I had a baby. Not doing your work at your job? I had a baby. Blocking the sidewalk with the carriage? I had a baby. Baby screaming in the restaurant and parents just smile - Why that the second coming of Jesus.
Taking forever to pay at the checkout counter? I had a baby.
Wow so babies make assholes think they can be even bigger inconsiderate assholes. Great.

Maybe some baby eating dog packs and trained baby stealing penguins who can sell them on ebay can harsh on thes clueless parents' buzzes.
posted by hooptycritter at 4:07 AM on August 28, 2009


I'm not sure where some of the parents posting earlier get this sense of "the day just disappears, and I look up and it's already x o'clock".

My baby-raising experience has been more like the following.

"What? It's only 2 pm?"

... then, after an eternity of diaper-changing, feeding, playing, cleaning, etc, ...

"What? It's only 2:30 pm? How long until the *#&@* spousal unit comes home?"

I spend a lot of time wondering if it's cruel to put a child to bed at 4 in the afternoon.
posted by math at 5:17 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I think she's trying to get at, somewhat inarticulately and with unnecessary stabs at feminism (which did have a lot of work to do getting women things like rights before it could spend lots of it rhapsodizing about infants) is that, indeed, the biology of mother love is the biology of addiction, in the same way that the biology of romantic love is.

It's pretty much the same chemicals: what happens, so far as neuroscience has worked out, is that oxytocin wires your brain so that when you see baby, you get endogenous opioids and when you please or soothe baby (particularly by breastfeeding), you get even more and when you are calming baby, you are simultaneously turning your own stress system off (one of the things both oxytocin and opioids do) and training the baby to do the same. And then, when you are away from each other: withdrawal. Same deal with romantic partners.

This is why we have the chemistry of addiction, why opioids work in the first place: to connect us to babies and lovers and food and other things that promote survival and reproduction.

What's weird is that because women's voices have been for so long diminished and trivialized and ignored, we really don't have a good language or literature of baby love and it comes out as narcissism. Whereas if someone goes on about romantic love in a well written way, we don't call it narcissistic, we recognize it as literature.

But when you get into "cute"-- which is basically evolution's way of getting us to not strangle babies, but care for them and get opiated by them-- it's trivial and trite and silly and not worthy of literature or consideration. And THAT is sexist!
posted by Maias at 6:55 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Katie Roiphe responds to the controversy.

I'm mildly embarrassed to admit that credit for the interesting brouhaha surrounding my last piece belongs to the inventive subtitle writer, and not to me. (To answer some of the comments: No, I am not responsible for the subtitle, nor did I see it until the piece was on the site, which is in no way unusual.) I am, however, a little surprised that people would be so blinded by a flashy subtitle that they would not be able to read the substance of the piece itself: After all, it is the job of a headline to attract attention, not to present a nuanced or subtle analysis. It seems to me that we read too many millions of eye-catching headlines that do not perfectly distill the essence of the piece to take them quite so much to heart. And if people are not going to read past the headline, it would save writers a great deal of time and trouble to admit that now.

I have on occasion written a provocative or inflammatory piece. In fact, I teach a class on the art of polemic at NYU, which begins with Milton's Satan, whom I greatly admire, but this particular riff I viewed in the category of "quiet personal reflection." The one very tiny paragraph on feminism was not central to the argument. I was thinking about how we had come to talk about childcare as work or a profession. From Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, through Betty Friedan's brilliant The Feminine Mystique, to Naomi Wolf's Misconceptions, feminists have long argued about the arduousness of babies. I don't think this is a particularly controversial or original point: They wrote about the difficulty of child-rearing and they had their reasons. Any political ideology has to collapse the ambiguities and complexities of human experience in order to get things done, and feminism is no different.

To answer some of the other comments: Nowhere in the piece did I tell anyone else how to live. Nowhere did I suggest that my experience of the first days of motherhood was any better, richer, or more interesting than anyone else's. (To me, the addiction metaphor implies a derangement and desperation not entirely to be recommended.) Nowhere in the piece did I attack anyone for having a different viewpoint or experience. (Though frankly one does worry about the fragile commenter: If someone chooses to wear an orange dress are you hurt because of the implied critique of your yellow one?) Nowhere did I say that feminists hate babies. In fact, my own mother was a feminist, and I like to think she liked me.

posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2009


I like to think she liked me.

We all want to think our mothers liked us. Some of us are wrong.
posted by GuyZero at 1:35 PM on September 1, 2009


The one very tiny paragraph on feminism was not central to the argument. I was thinking about how we had come to talk about childcare as work or a profession. From Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, through Betty Friedan's brilliant The Feminine Mystique, to Naomi Wolf's Misconceptions, feminists have long argued about the arduousness of babies. I don't think this is a particularly controversial or original point: They wrote about the difficulty of child-rearing and they had their reasons.

What a bullshit response from Katie Roiphe. When you accuse an entire, diverse group of people of dishonesty, no matter how "minor", expect a shitstorm from that group. And accusing them of dishonesty is exactly what she did, by saying "One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement is to underestimate the the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment." Katie Roiphe has her head up her ass if she is surprised at the reaction. But I doubt her "surprise" is anything but disingenous.

>[Roiphe] I like to think she liked me.

We all want to think our mothers liked us. Some of us are wrong.


ZING!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:16 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


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