Saturday, February 27, 2010

Is Virginia any better as a feminist mother?

Back in 2002, Australian journalist Virginia Haussegger wrote a newspaper column titled "The sins of our feminist mothers". It begins with the following description of her feminist upbringing:

As we worked our way through high school and university in the '70s and early '80s, girls like me listened to our mothers, our trailblazing feminist teachers, and the outspoken women who demanded a better deal for all women. They paved the way for us to have rich careers.

They anointed us and encouraged us to take it all. We had the right to be editors, paediatricians, engineers, premiers, executive producers, High Court judges, CEOs etc. We were brought up to believe that the world was ours. We could be and do whatever we pleased.

Feminism's hard-fought battles had borne fruit. And it was ours for the taking.

Or so we thought - until the lie of super "you-can-have-it-all" feminism hits home, in a very personal and emotional way.

The idea was to be autonomous, hence the slogan of "doing and being whatever we pleased". However, since it was careers which made women independent, women were to aim not at doing whatever they pleased but at a powerful professional career.

And Virginia Haussegger succeeded at this. She became a high profile news and current affairs journalist on Australian TV. But at a cost. She had a loving marriage but when she worked in a different city to her husband the relationship foundered. After her divorce she embarked on a series of casual encounters with men. By the time she met her second husband in her mid-30s, her fallopian tubes had been damaged beyond repair by chlamydia. She had lost the chance to have children of her own.

She wished that she had received a different message from her feminist role models:

The point is that while encouraging women in the '70s and '80s to reach for the sky, none of our purple-clad, feminist mothers thought to tell us the truth about the biological clock. Our biological clock. The one that would eventually reach exploding point inside us ...

And none of our mothers thought to warn us that we would need to stop, take time out and learn to nurture our partnerships and relationships. Or if they did, we were running too fast to hear it.

For those of us that did marry, marriage was perhaps akin to an accessory. And in our high-disposable-income lives, accessories pass their use-by date, and are thoughtlessly tossed aside.

Frankly, the dominant message was to not let our man, or any man for that matter, get in the way of career and our own personal progress.

Autonomy and careers were what mattered. Men were "accessories" to be tossed aside if they got in the way of a woman's "personal progress".

But, in the long run, it didn't seem worth it. A career and a single girl lifestyle made for a comfortable but alienating existence:

The end result: here we are, supposedly "having it all" as we edge 40; excellent education; good qualifications; great jobs; fast-moving careers; good incomes; and many of us own the trendy little inner-city pad we live in. It's a nice caffe-latte kind of life, really.

But the truth is - for me at least - the career is no longer a challenge, the lifestyle trappings are joyless (the latest Collette Dinnigan frock looks pretty silly on a near-40-year-old), and the point of it all seems, well, pointless.

I am childless and I am angry. Angry that I was so foolish to take the word of my feminist mothers as gospel. Angry that I was daft enough to believe female fulfilment came with a leather briefcase.

It was wrong. It was crap.

And now Virginia Haussegger herself is playing the role of a feminist mother, being the guest speaker and "chief feminist flag waver" at an event at the Australian National University. And what advice did she give the young women?

The same advice that she called "crap" back in 2002. She thought it great that the young women had a strong sense of entitlement; she highlighted professional success as what mattered; and she spoke at length of women being held back from achieving career success and pay parity.

Think about this. In 2010 she is telling young women that they will be oppressed by their lack of career and pay opportunities. In 2002, it was a very different story. She admitted then that she and her friends had not been held back at all in their careers and income. They had great jobs, high incomes and a glamorous, comfortable lifestyle. But she had learned that career and money weren't enough for fulfilment. She should not have treated men and relationships as secondary, as mere "accessories".

So why not tell the next generation of women this? Why not spare them from making the same mistake? Why not let them know that they can be oppressed not so much by discrimination but by failing to take the time to nurture relationships? That career and money alone can seem pointless?

Worst of all, why discuss motherhood in such negative terms, as a "breeding creed" that might upset a woman's "career and income ambitions"?

Virginia, aren't you repeating the sins of your own feminist mothers?

29 comments:

  1. The longer people spend in an unfulfilling relationship, or with an idea that doesn't pan out, the more reluctant they become to admit they were wrong.
    This is how domestic abusers (of the female and male variety), along with wrongheaded gender feminism keeps being perpetuated.
    They're too egotistical to admit they made a mistake, is all.

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  2. I'm inclined to agree with P Ray. Either she can continue saying she made a mistake and feel sorry for herself, or push the "agenda" forward and say that basically she did nothing at all wrong.

    I saw her in the past talking on the box about her history. She didn't seem very comfortable admitting she’d made errors. Gutsy I suppose to come forward in the first place. Hanging your hat on pay parity though? Please.

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  3. Hanging your hat on pay parity though? Please.

    My thoughts exactly, Jesse. When you factor in issues like experience, qualifications, hours worked and the remoteness or danger of the work, the pay discrepancy is usually in the order of a few percent.

    These young women are going to face much more significant issues in their future lives.

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  4. Re: P Ray

    Then there is sometimes also the tendency to try to drag others to the same low level person is. Feminism destroyed Virginia's life and she is unhappy. Others are happy and they have good life prospects. Virginia can't lift herself up, so she can try to "lift herself up" by dragging others down.

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  5. Virginia H appears to be merely the latest in a string of nihilistic PR geniuses embraced by Australia's right-liberals over the last five decades (the late Frank Knopfelmacher and the late "Diamond Jim" McClelland were the most spectacular instances) who are regarded as serious conservative thinkers merely because, on one particular issue, they are or were marginally less insane than the leftist Australian mainstream.

    What these nihilists all have in common - apart from their village-atheism - is the fact that even when they have ostensibly abandoned their totalitarian politics, they haven't at all abandoned their totalitarian mindset. (Somewhere Cardinal Newman has an epigram to the effect that politics change, but temperaments don't.) This explains their total lack of any decent humility.

    Clearly Virginia H regards herself as continuing to have the same enemies she always had. Namely, us.

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  6. Valkea said:

    "Virginia can't lift herself up, so she can try to "lift herself up" by dragging others down."

    I think that might be a bit harsh. I come from the same city as Virginia so I see her on the box frequently and she does genuinely appear to be a genuinelly decent person. Although one who is a bit pissed off by "circumstances" and with the usual lefty niavete.

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  7. P Ray wrote,

    "The longer people spend in an unfulfilling relationship, or with an idea that doesn't pan out, the more reluctant they become to admit they were wrong."

    OK, but why preach it? A person who is embarrassed about having been wrong on something or another usually just tries to avoid the topic. After all, if remembering/discussing the topic causes embarrassment and embarrassment is pain, why bring it up? Most people, I think, avoid talking about painful subjects.

    But not Virginia. I think something else is going on here.

    Valkea suggested that,

    "Virginia can't lift herself up, so she can try to "lift herself up" by dragging others down."

    I agree that this sounds harsh, but I don't necessarily see why it's false. I don't see why the truth would be any less nasty than the reality it describes.

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  8. Maybe it's a lot easier to demand benefits for the "disadvantage" of being the kind of woman that is unsuitable for relationships if there are many of them.
    I haven't finished thinking about this idea, but the perception is, if enough women come forward with the idea that men are hopeless, somehow the idea that a relationship is based around mutual respect and understanding, can be quashed.
    Personally though, I feel that quite a lot of people, especially those that get involved in higher education (I'm a graduate myself), those that work with the arts (especially Psychology) -- many of them have personality traits that qualify them as having borderline- or narcisstic personality disorders.
    The drama that is experienced is simply a demand that the world entertain them, and that consequences are for "lesser" people.

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  9. P Ray said:

    "if enough women come forward with the idea that men are hopeless, somehow the idea that a relationship is based around mutual respect and understanding, can be quashed."

    Agreed.

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  10. So what does that leave us with? Relatioships to keep women happy. If a woman isn't happy then a guy must be to blame.

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  11. I think the whole thing is sad, and counter-productive.

    Rather than blaming the glass ceiling, which obviously never stopped her, anything else for that matter, she should be telling the young women to be careful what they wish for.

    Too many years of easy social security has left people unaware that nothing comes without a cost.

    For women, if they don't work out what they want while relatively young, then it's a real possibility they will walk Virginia's path.

    She could have stood up and said, yes, I am a successful woman. Yes, I have a great career, loving husband. I've done just about everything.

    But....

    The one thing I can't do is turn back the biological clock.

    By all means, ladies, go forth, conquer your world, but be aware of the timeframe. You may not want children now, but you may also be unable to have them later.

    You can have children and a career, but you may not be able to have a career and children.

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  12. So what does she want? More pay for childless women?

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  13. To be fair to Ms Haussegger she does say in her speech when talking about the seeming invulnerability of young women:

    "Well, that's how it may look now when you're in your late teens and 20s. But as any older woman knows, the reality crash is yet to come. It will come hurtling down the moment they get wind of the ''breeding creed'' – that pressure, or desire to have children – and somehow fit it in with their career and income ambitions."

    Breeding creed huh? Wow, sorry about that. Islamic women can manage to have babies, maybe I should hook up with one of those. Its true they don't dress stylishly when reading the news but they do have that down.

    I mean really, when did Western Civilisation become so shallow and purposeless?

    Virginia Haussegger, is a news reader for regional ABC TV (I think also an author of kids books). That's it. She's not curing cancer or writing the great American novel. Is it really so much of an inconvenience for her and her career and income ambitions to sit down and think a bit about her future life and childbirth prospects before she's in her 30's? Either way if she's so hot to trot to be a Mum why doesn't she adopt?

    Guys also get a spray in her speech because women are still expected to take charge of domestic duties. All that is small beer which can be negotiated. In my opinion, these gals have got to get over pointing the finger at guys.

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  14. Jesse_7 said...Virginia Haussegger, is a news reader for regional ABC TV (I think also an author of kids books). That's it.

    Thats it indeed.

    So the question is why anyone, male or female should take her as a role model? Role for what? Reading what someone else has written in your mother language? What has she done with all that up lifting liberation, apart from reading the news?

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  15. P Ray said:

    "Maybe it's a lot easier to demand benefits for the "disadvantage" of being the kind of woman that is unsuitable for relationships...".
    "...those that work with the arts (especially Psychology) -- many of them have personality traits that qualify them as having borderline- or narcisstic personality disorders. The drama that is experienced is simply a demand that the world entertain them, and that consequences are for "lesser" people."

    Unsure what P Ray is getting at: sounds like he may have a chip off the old block though, where graduates are concerned - especially those in psych. - never knew that psych. was part of the "arts" - most self-respecting psychs are at pains to tell you they practice "science" (and can even "diagnose" like medicos)!!!

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  16. "I never knew that psych. was part of the "arts" - most self-respecting psychs are at pains to tell you they practice "science""

    They'd certainly like to be seen as a science, but then so does everyone because science actually works. They certainly do pursue scientific empirical research; however, the vast inconsistencies within psychological understanding, fuzzy and grey definitions and difficulties in isolating and proving theories of human behavior mean that it certainly falls within the Arts category despite its scientific elements. I believe if you enroll in most Universities you can take Psychology as part of an Arts or Science degree.

    It could be though that I'm taking this contrary position because I love my mother excessively and am holding a cigar... Or perhaps not.

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  17. never knew that psych. was part of the "arts" - most self-respecting psychs are at pains to tell you they practice "science"

    Bah, if "psych" people had any self respect they wouldn't be in "psych" in the first place. Psychology is not a science, it is an intellectual fraud that charlatans perpetrate on weaklings.

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  18. I'm speaking from the point of view of actually having been in psychology lectures where the undergraduates were told that only men are to be blamed for the violence in the world, and only men commit domestic violence.
    I shut that nonsense down by asking him who was to blame in a relationship gone bad between lesbians, and whether he had read the book "When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence" by Patricia Pearson. The women in the class were aghast at my actions, and their look of amazement, that there was actually a different perspective to domestic violence, was most satisfying.
    Mind you, that professor was doing his Ph.D research on domestic violence being a male-only thing... so he had a vested interest in keeping the misandric lecture going.
    Good thing I was never in any danger of being marked by him for anything...

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  19. "Psychology is not a science, it is an intellectual fraud that charlatans perpetrate on weaklings."

    And the confused. I think if you looked at the benefits or psych a lot of it would come down to; Feeling that you're not isolated, having someone to talk to, having a coherent world view, feeling that what you do matters. In other words being part of a community. Oh what a shocker!

    We kill community and then make it a paid service to break down people's sense of isolation.

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  20. "Mind you, that professor was doing his Ph.D research on domestic violence being a male-only thing"

    I guess the male only view of violence in a lesbian relationship is this. The woman internalised violent male behaviour into her own behaviour, so it wasn't the really her lashing out but some other guy. Alternatively she was acting out in frustration because she was once the recipient of male violence or rejection. Or in other words she acted like a man, therefore it's men's fault.

    Once we see how we're influenced by the Patriarchy, it really makes sense to see how men are to blame for everything.

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  21. Jesse 7 said...

    The woman internalised violent male behaviour into her own behaviour, so it wasn't the really her lashing out but some other guy. Alternatively she was acting out in frustration because she was once the recipient of male violence or rejection. Or in other words she acted like a man, therefore it's men's fault.

    I have seen this argument put numerous times by feminists. In fact I've had it thrown at me with regard to the aunt who molested me as a kid. Yep. That's right, no man even in the house but it was still some male's fault. Mine, presumably, even though I was only seven at the time.

    Still, at least they didn't call me a liar or a rapist trying to cover up my own crimes as quite a few have(followed immediately by them banning me so I couldn't defend myself).

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  22. Sorry mate,

    The idea that this is "some male's fault" is patently absurd. I don't understand the gender issue well enough to make much more comment but the idea that "women are lily white" no matter what, well I'm shaking my head at it.

    Either women are infantilised and inferior and thereby need special privileges and protection or else they're superior and should be given greater recognition and respect or else they're equal but held back by men. Why don't you try to make up your mind.
    Obviously it wasn't your fault Gwallan. I sincerely hope the appropriate punishment was meted out and served.

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  23. "Either women are infantilised and inferior and thereby need special privileges and protection or else they're superior and should be given greater recognition and respect or else they're equal but held back by men."

    I guess this is what happens when freedom is divorced from responsibility. Since a women cannot respond to the challenges of the world in the same way a man can they "need special privileges and protection", but just because they can't respond in the same way doesn't mean that they should have any less freedom than men in every respect.
    God forbid that we should impose some stodgy morality laden concept of 'responsibility' on anyone and God forbid that we would ever deprive anyone of any kind of freedom, real or imagined.

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  24. Ned Wilobane said:

    "I guess this is what happens when freedom is divorced from responsibility... God forbid that we should impose some stodgy morality laden concept of 'responsibility' on anyone "

    This is a very big issue. Our society is certainly responsibility shy. If anything of any magnitude occurs someone else must be to blame.

    Here's one different example, the news coverage of earthquake and tsunami natural disasters. You can tell the first instinct of the commentators is to find someone to blame, usually government or idustry global warming style. Of course that doesn't wash, these situations ares such where noone is to blame and so only the far lighter critique of "inadequate Government responses" or planning is left.

    People today certainly love freedom. Any talk of responsibility though brings groans. I think it would be a really big shift for our society to properly accept responsibility on lots of issues, not just in the realm of personal behaviour.

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  25. Hi,

    Just to redirect the conversation a little bit. I was at a young Liberal function today and it was quite nice. I was asked if there were any policies of the Liberal party with which I was unhappy with. I replied that I thought immigration was far too high. We had an interesting discussion and a lot of the points we make here were raised. The points were generally agreed with and it seemed clear that this group hadn't been used to that kind of discussion. I think they appreciated the more forthright conservative discussion and also that they were not required to be endlessly apologetic.

    The issue is this, am I perhaps the bad guy on this? Am I not that far away from a skinhead swanning down main street? I think this is an important issue. I'm not going to "weak out" because the country is important and these kinds of issues need to be raised. At the same time, however, I'd rather not feel like a quasi neo nazi. I was at this thing with a girl who was a Liberal voter but much more middle of the line, there were other girls there as well. I generally think they find these kinds of conversations confronting no matter how civilly they are discussed.

    All in all the discussion was well handled but you could definitely feel a "bite" in the air when the subject was raised.

    Thanks.

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  26. Jesse,

    The best you can do in such a circumstance is to raise the issue as calmly and as intelligently as you can and not (in a Liberal Party forum) go in too aggressively.

    As for the girls, I'd be trying to discuss some other issue in a friendly way with them later on - that ought to go some way in dispelling any negative stereotypes.

    Anyway, well done for having a go.

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  27. Thanks mate. Yes it wasn't too bad :).

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  28. IMO - the reason she backed away is simple: The speaking engagements, TV spots, and general inclusion would have ended.

    Most women tend to be more herd-like than men - and that often is a strength for them.

    But, for Virginia, after she realized that so much that was being taught, that she had LIVED was a LIE - if she kept pointing it out - she never would have been invited to speak at the Uni - and she'd have faded from the limelight.

    I think she's still doing what she's doing because were she to do otherwise, she be on the outs and ignored by the MSM and her feminist sisters.

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