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Review: Why Have Kids, by Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti doesn’t understand mothers. Having finished her book, Why Have Kids, there is no way for me to cover all of the points that made me scream. The book was propaganda. I couldn’t decide at first whether she’s an idiot who can’t tie an argument together or a very smart woman who knows that few will hold her to the standards I do. It’s not an insightful book weaving together nuggets of truth so that we might see the light. Instead it’s 167 pages of unconnected, often contradictory opinions which don’t match up with actual research. She takes how women actually feel about their day to day lives and twist it into the meaning she wants us to see. But anyone who can think for herself can see the transparency in it all.

I present here, one of the most rantworthy passages in the  whole experience, “And if we do believe the hype, that full-time motherhood really is the hardest job in the world, why isn’t it paid? If it’s the most rewarding, then why do so many of us have other people care for our children? And if parenting is the most important job in the world, why on earth aren’t more men lining up to quit their frivolous-by-comparison day jobs in order to work for the worlds most important (and littlest) employers?”

The answer, Jessica, is patriarchy. You know, that thing you fight everyday. In fact it’s not only patriarchy but feminist-reinforced patriarchy. This statement in this little book of propaganda is the perfect example of how some feminists have actually abandoned feminism to become female patriarchs. They’ve decided “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” and now they themselves participate in the devaluing of domestic work, whether it’s by a worker or a parent. It can’t possibly be that hard or that important otherwise men would want to do it too! This, by a feminist! The very person who is supposed to be convincing us that women matter is instead telling us that no, women only matter if they do what men do.

Jessica Valenti, author of five feminist books, co-founder of and frequent columnist in the Guardian makes her living as a philosopher and writer of feminist issues. She is the proto-typical, modern day neoliberal feminist. If you go by her book Why Have Kids, which she wrote while pregnant, you would have to believe that she thinks women belong climbing some corporate ladder or pursuing some career in order to advance the work of feminists everywhere. She quotes, without criticism, writer Linda Hirshman, “A woman who decides staying home with her children matters more than the fate of other women ought to be prepared to defend that position…” But what good comes from a woman at work who just wants to be raising her children, especially when child development experts keep finding that a close relation at home is beneficial to children. Happy children become mentally sound adults, which should be at the top of the list for feminists.

In the end, it turns out, Jessica Valenti and her kind of feminism, denies completely that childhood matters. They don’t want to hear about the studies on child development that show that the happiest, most secure adults come from a loving warm home, where the parents were physically and emotionally present and parented in an authoritative rather than authoritarian way. This is basically settled science in the psychology world, whether feminists like it or not. Jessica definitely does not. She unapologetically cites research she likes and then derides research she doesn’t. She doesn’t explain it away, merely scorns it for existing as a blight on the feminist agenda.

Look, I’m a feminist (one who advocates social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men) but it’s not helpful to ignore truth however inconvenient you think it may be. Childhood matters to the adult one will become; many childhoods matter to the society we will see in the next decades. The majority of mothers care more for their own children than the ideology of feminism, this is biology. If feminists spent more time on children’s issues, we could have a stronger, more secure base of feminists when those kids grew up. Time and time again I see feminists focusing on adults, trying to manipulate them into doing things their way, but as MacDonald’s learned a long time ago, start when they’re children and you’ll have them for life.


Featured image courtesy of kismihok