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Some radical feminist believe that mothers are privileged. While I do believe motherhood is expected of women and there is a bit of status in it, I don't see how they are privileged (especially in the USA without a lot of the government protections or programs).

There doesn't seem to be any systemic privilege's given to mothers over childfree women. People looking down on childfree women is not systemic discrimination or oppression.

And my focus is on western countries specifically the USA.

Some radical feminist believe that mothers are privileged. While I do believe motherhood is expected of women and there is a bit of status in it, I don't see how they are privileged (especially in the USA without a lot of the government protections or programs). There doesn't seem to be any systemic privilege's given to mothers over childfree women. People looking down on childfree women is not systemic discrimination or oppression. And my focus is on western countries specifically the USA.

153 comments

I'm childfree and I don't think mothers are privileged. Some American (mostly) childfree people (not specifically feminists) think that maternity leave is a privilege ffs.

I have a friend who complained she didn't get pet leave when she got a new puppy as she felt it was comparable to maternity leave. I asked her if her vulva was split by 3 inches and did she have severe burning sensation when she peed? I was astounded she didn't understand that women need recovery from childbirth, not to mention the all-consuming thing of breastfeeding.

Privileged?

No. Motherhood makes us particularly vulnerable. Men use children/reproduction to manipulate, abuse, and ultimately, oppress women, especially mothers. And it's very easy to demonstrate that motherhood isn't a privileged position -- if it were, they wouldn't be so damned interested in forcing so many of us into it via laws governing our reproductive systems.

But this is also one of those issues that people use to divide us. Mothers, childless, child-free -- we're all oppressed. We -- women -- are not one another's enemy here.

[–] SparklingFem 39 points Edited

I'm a SAHM, and while I'm financially privileged*, I am also essentially trapped. Thankfully I'm married to someone I want to stay married to, but I would be fucked if I wanted/needed to leave. I have an 8-year gap in my resume; I would be plunging myself and my child into a life of poverty if I left because the cost of living is so high. This was something I was aware when we decided for me to quit my job, but it's scary if I dwell on it.

ETA: And I doubt a single mother felt privileged when schools shut down, and they had the burden of figuring out childcare and schooling, often while working full-time jobs. COVID shutdowns was a huge, huge hit for mothers in the workplace and had little affect on men.

THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON GENDER EQUALITY

*We are not rich and make hella sacrifices to make it work, but I do think we are privileged in even being able to make it work because many families cannot.

ETA: And I doubt a single mother felt privileged when schools shut down, and they had the burden of figuring out childcare and schooling, often while working full-time jobs. COVID shutdowns was a huge, huge hit for mothers in the workplace and had little affect on men.

Thank you for pointing this out. I saw lots of self-described ""feminist"" women call mothers selfish and lazy for wanting schools and daycares to open back up. As if we only wanted to ship the kids away so we could binge Netflix all day or whatever. So many women lost their jobs because they literally had no child care options. And at least one woman got ARRESTED for leaving her kids home alone because she needed to work to pay rent and no daycares near her had opened up yet.

Even though I have the privilege of working from home, I still have to do lots of work off the clock because I'll fall behind because the baby is making noise or needs attention. It's so stressful and exhausting to have to work with a toddler running around in a tiny apartment

calling mothers selfish and lazy for wanting schools and daycares to open back up

I got so pissed about this. So many of us are the primary or sole earners in our homes, and then we got called shitty moms for not also being able to homeschool our kids. If I lost my two jobs, how was I going to feed, clothe, and house my children? And of course, the fathers never got any criticism, because the blame always falls to women.

Yes, that just baffled me. I get the impression some people believe they can just call themselves anything and that makes it so. But these people calling themselves "feminist", then cheering as women lose their jobs and become dependent on men - those are not feminists.

This is incredibly stressful to read. Are you planning on getting back into the workforce soon?

I homeschool my son (and love doing it), so full-time employment isn't in the books at the moment, but I am a reading specialist (dyslexia tutor), so I'm trying to build up my clients. It's surprising how unwilling some parents are to pay for quality tutoring for something so important, and it's been slow-going. I have to fight with myself not to lower my fees just to get more students, but I try to remind myself that I know my worth.

[–] thesnorkmaiden -3 points Edited

Ha! Good luck with that. It's next to impossible to get a job after a gap like that.

Edit: Oops - laughing at my downvotes. Sorry not to censor my cynicism! I didn't mean to be snarky to the commenter, just snarky to society in general.

Came here to say this, then saw you beat me to it.

This is pure divide and conquer, and we have to stop falling for it.

People looking down on childfree women is not systemic discrimination or oppression.

I mean, it kind of is: it's sexism, which all women suffer from. It's the backlash for not playing the role that society wants you to play. It's like how GNC women face harassment and discrimination for being GNC, but that doesn't make gender conforming women the privileged class.

It’s also still discrimination if it’s not “systemic”. Being treated like you don’t know what you’re talking about (because all women want babies! Pats head), or that you actually lack the ability to love or care about others, is very real.

Not to mention having your health needs neglected and even having your own life put on the life by doctors who would rather dither and rub their hands than perform a lifesaving procedure or one that may ensure your perpetual comfort, rather than excruciating pain. The medical establishment still treats women as baby factories. If something that you need may prevent you from having a functional uterus that can produce a man’s children, you will NOT have any say in the matter unless you are extraordinarily lucky.

Childfree women aren’t hampered in that their motherhood is not respected, obs seeing as they are not mothers, but they are mistreated anyway because they aren’t.

Basically whether you’re a mother or not, the patriarchy will find either one a reason to shit on you. And both of those discriminations are valid.

[–] SecondSkin 7 points Edited

Mothers experience this also though.

Mothers get refused hysterectomy’s because doctors insist we might want another child. Or they say we’ve put up with it this long we might as well wait until menopause. Doctors will refuse to give a mother a hysterectomy because it’s common for women whose children die to want to have another child, a doctor will actually decide to withhold a life saving medical procedure because of the unlikely death of our child…..

We are equally patted on the head and told we’ll regret it if we don’t give the child a sibling or if we don’t give him a son. Criticised for not being maternal enough to have more, belittled as not maternal enough if we aren’t completely fulfilled by motherhood alone, told we are selfish for not having more. Or selfish and lazy and consuming more than we deserve if we do have more. The never end pressure and condescension childfree women get doesn’t magically end when we become a mother, it is relentless even once we have children.

To be fair, a hysterectomy is a big deal that has negative effects on your whole body, for life, which is why it is used as a last resort. Not the same as tying tubes.

Exactly this. It's the double bind of oppression. Damned if you comply, damned if you don't.

This is the thing I always avoid saying to younger women because I don't want to break their spirit: you can't win.

However, that's also the reason why women should just do what they want.

[–] ElectricBlue 30 points Edited

I disagree that mothers are privileged, but I think this might boil down to the radfems you're referring to misusing the word privilege?

Being childfree is hugely stigmatised, in my experience. I am constantly asked when I'm going to settle down, as if my career, house, income, and social life are meaningless because I am not married with children. I get people pointing and laughing when I go to a restaurant on my own (I've had teens film me eating on my own, like "Hey look at this saddo.") People are always leaning over to me and asking if I'm ok, like I must be really sad and pathetic for going out without a man. On holiday solo, I am always stared at and questioned and people will fervently assume I have no friends and am very sad. People assume there is something wrong with me that prevents me from getting married (secret psychopath or bad in bed or something like that). I am always told I'll change my mind, and people try to force me into matches with their horrible male friends. Countless times I've been in a room with other women who completely blank me when they realise I've got no children, and they have a jolly old conversation between themselves about motherhood stuff.

The pity, the condescention, the inability to have my opinions respected, is all dreadful. Women are not seen as important or valuable or happy or right-thinking unless they are focussed on men and their children. And yes, in that regard, I believe mothers are treated so much better than childfree women.

But. It's not oppression.

There aren't legal, financial or career downsides to being childfree. You might be socially othered and treated badly, but you will not suffer a hit to your career, you will not lose out on income, you will not be put through the hellscape of maternity healthcare, you will not risk single-handedly doing all the childcare if your partner turns out to be useless. In empirically measurable ways, being childfree does not harm you in the same ways that becoming a mother does.

I hate hate hate hate hate how childfree women are looked down on and othered, and yes that has huge social ramifications, but that's stigma, not oppression. Mothers are much more socially accepted and viewed as happy and valuable, but that's not privilege - they cannot weild that power in any political or financial way.

To whomever downvoted this quite literally five seconds after it was posted: do you want to maybe read things before forming a knee-jerk reaction?

You realize that for all mothers, we lived childfree before we had them. Some us have lived longer as childfree adults than mothers w/ children, so we have reference for how the world treated us before children and after. My value in the workplace plummeted when I had children, and never recovered.

Mothers, by definition, are not focused on men. They are focused on children, and no, I don't think they are, as a rule, seen as valuable or important. If that were the case, we'd have paid maternity leave, paid childcare, higher pay for working moms, etc.

btw, didn't downvote you.

Everything you list about stigma is true, absolutely, but there’s an equal flip side mothers face; we are boring and baby brained, we aren’t taken seriously because all we do is have play dates and bake cookies, we get stared at and photographed and sneered at in public because our babies cry or because we breastfeed or because we formula feed. Our bodies become public property the minute we are pregnant and there’s constant judgement about everything we do wrong; what we eat, what we don’t eat, what exercise we do/don’t do, we gain too much weight/too little weight, we are stupid to think we can have a natural birth, we are selfish for opting for a c section. And so on forever after. There’s lots of public disgust of women’s biology, including from other women, so post partum bleeding and blot clots, waters breaking, breast milk etc, are another layer mothers are shamed for.

All women get sneered at whether we have children or not. We are all oppressed by our female biology, and using that female biology adds another layer of vulnerability. Everything all women do is always wrong, anyone claiming either choice (is as much as they are choices) are privilege are fundamentally misunderstanding what radical feminism is.

I never said anything contrary to this, I know and agree with all of that: I was listing what is used against childfree women to illustrate my point that it is stigma, not oppression.

[–] SecondSkin 9 points Edited

I’m agreeing with you also, agreeing there’s a general misunderstanding of these terms. I was just saying the same way being child free is stigmatised, being a mother is too. There’s just never ending resentment going around for all women, from women too, because female socialisation conditions us all to judge ourselves this way, so we project it to other women too. Everything women do is always wrong, it’s exhausting.

I hit send too soon and was going to say that stigma of childfree women is true to a point...I didn't have children until I was in my mid-30s and I hadn't hit any stigma for my no-kids lifestyle...but sometimes I think that is due to having sexual value due to youth...it'd be interesting to see how I'd be treated as a childfree woman in my 50s vs. 20s.

[–] Lavendersky 1 points Edited

There aren't legal, financial or career downsides to being childfree.

If I had kids as a low income adult in a red state, I'd have Medicaid. As a childfree poor adult, I have no health insurance. Parents are also taxed comparatively less.

And yes, 100% agree with the blank stares by mothers. I've been treated like less of an adult, like a child, like a loser when women found out I was childfree. My opinions matter less. My schedule matters less. And my chronic illness is just worthless because I "don't know fatigue until I'm a mother." Right, lol.

Yeah, downvote me for pointing out facts lol. I'd love to hear why moms think their sons will be different from men of the past 10,000 years. Won't get a coherent answer to that either.

I will say that it’s true that the childfree and impoverished are almost completely ignored by the state. Many childfree women have anecdotes about state agency employees hinting at them to have a baby to have a successful application; but that’s only happened to me once. Still, it should never have happened at all.

Outside of food stamps (for which the too high income threshold for singles without kids is ridiculously low in some places- in my old state it was slightly over $10k a year iirc,) almost all state aid in my old state focused on parents with children. If you didn’t have kids, then they didn’t care if you starved or became homeless.

And it really felt like they were telling you that you just didn’t matter. Your life had no value.

Thank you for this. I wish everyone could read your comment. I don't know why more women don't talk about this. I guess because most people who have time to comment on Ovarit tend to be middle class and don't know what reality is like for impoverished women. I do wish they'd listen when we speak, though, and stop insisting that we are lying or misrepresenting our words when we point to our reality.

I wonder if you'd consider writing a post about this. No pressure but if you felt like it, it'd be nice for middle class moms to read something counter to what they insist is universal.

[+] [Deleted] 4 points

Motherhood is expected of women. So is self-sacrifice, erasure, and these days, “doing it all” (ie pleasing our man, raising our kids, being at the top of our career and still finding time to volunteer and help out in the community without drinking ourselves into an early grave!)

Mothers have fulfilled a function of being female, and an expectation of womanhood. We are still exhausted, overlooked, stripped of self and overextended. If it’s a choice (sometimes it truly is not), it’s still a difficult undertaking. I think that any “looking down on” women without kids comes from the notion that while mothers, and especially working mothers, have their days full and frantic, there can’t possibly be anything of importance occupying a childfree woman’s time.

These women, living almost like men in one chief significant regard, are resented, because people assume that their emotional and material resources are up for grabs. The grace that is seemingly granted to mothers comes from and along with the understanding that “all those rascals must be keeping you busy” whereas “childless Aunt Julie might as well make two dishes for the potluck, what the hell else would she be doing?”

The systemic notion kind of is that women of a certain age having kids is the default, and anyone without them must be looking for alternative places and causes to sacrifice her time and resources. This isn’t really about mothers and childfree and who is treated better or worse or for what reason, in this mother’s humble opinion: it’s the ingrained expectation for women to give everything to SOMETHING.

I think that any “looking down on” women without kids comes from the notion that while mothers, and especially working mothers, have their days full and frantic, there can’t possibly be anything of importance occupying a childfree woman’s time.

THIIIIIIIS. I once bought a book when I was with my layabout ex about the second shift. The author seemed to think that only mothers had issues with lazy, good for nothing men, because childcare took up so much time. She could never mention second shift without bringing up how it involved raising children, and basically wrote like women without children didn’t have this problem, since raising kids was so time-consuming that that’s only when you really hit the second shift.

Like….

I.

DID.

EVERYTHING.

I had second shift, third shift, and fourth shift. He had what were apparently religious obligations to spend sixteen hours a day amusing himself and engaging in ritualistic whining. The second shift is very real for childfree women.

[–] queen_beastmode 31 points Edited

Definitely not priviledged. Violent assault is one of the leading causes of death during pregnancy, so that says all it needs to say about motherhood and priviledge. Also, take the man out of the equation and you'll see that single mothers and children of single mothers are some of the poorest people in this country.

They're conflating a man's priviledge of having enough income to be able to support a stay at home mom on his salary with her priviledge.

If motherhood was priviledged, we'd have large representation in governing bodies and social institutions making sure that mothers got all the extra support and help they needed from the social pot. We'd see early childhood health initiatives, state subsidized daycares, money going into schools, massive tax breaks for mothers and child rearing, generous government mandated maternity leave, abortion would absolutely be legal, and family court in it's current form would not exits.

Which rad fems think moms are privileged? Serious question.

[–] Intuitive 16 points Edited

If we are only talking about Tumblr feminists then sure, but I doubt if there are any serious academic radical feminists that think so.

Yeah, I don’t know where she’s getting that from.

It's the same OP as the Lisa Michele "mothers=pigs" video discussion. I think she has a bit of an axe to grind.

NO, it is not solely Lisa Michele. Various radfems believe that childfree women are oppressed and mothers are given advantages in society.

The topic comes up in radfem spaces-- in real life and online. Not so much academic text, but regular radfem groups.

Anyone can call themselves a radfem, that doesn't mean that they actually practice radical feminism. If you have specific examples call them out. If you see users disparaging mothers on Ovarit, report them to the mods. Without specifics, this post just reads as a "who's the most oppressed" game that pits mothers against child-free and anti-natalist women.

I am not pitting women against each other. The opposite. I am saying mothers are not privileged, and nor are childfree women.

Ok, but where and who?

Huh. I said radfem spaces. Radfem events with women complaining about how moms are privileged. Complaining about mothers bringing their children. Online it comes up in radfem online spaces. The topic is talked about amongst radfem youtubers. The anti natalist section of radfems say it all the time.

I really doubt an actual radical feminist would consider mothers privileged.

It is said all the time by anti natalist radical feminist.

I get the impression that they mostly say the exact opposite. That becoming a mother is deeply disadvantaging women, so they don't want to do it and advise other women not to do it either (if they are actually having a choice in the matter, that is).

But I imagine that's more a consequence of being an anti-natalist and not radical feminist.

Given the current deal offered to mothers, anti-natalism is the only radical feminism that adds up.

Radical feminism is about the liberation of women. Becoming a mother in our world? That hurts women, restricts them.

Privilege is the ability to force others to do things.

Men deciding to give a woman more attention is not privilege. Hence, mothers do not have privilege, and pretty girls also don't have privilege. The only women who can be said to have privilege are rich women. (Women who are rich themselves. The wives of rich men are not privileged."Privilege" that depends on a man's moods is not real)

Being treated somewhat better because you do what your oppressors want you to do is not privilege. And that's what it comes down to: Childfree women are socially punished because they aren't doing what men want them to do. (But they are preferred to mothers in the workplace, because they can do what the employer wants them to, namely, work all day and night)

I’m childfree, and encourage women to not have kids especially in this day and age. But you can’t control what others do. I was raised primarily by a single mother and I don’t know what kind of family dynamic those that say motherhood is a privilege had but that probably could have something to do with the perspective. Being raised primarily by a working poor single black mother I definitely never viewed it as privilege.

America is anti-women and anti-children. It’s often times a sure fire way to poverty especially for single mothers. I don’t envy it at all.

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