Chanel Dubofsky says punishing people for having opinions is a way to silence them, and she will not be silenced.
Recently I wrote a piece about how happiness is a complex expectation, especially when it comes to things like weddings and babies. It resulted in a lot of conversation among my friends (and their friends, and their friend’s friends, thanks to The Facebook). In the spirit of transparency, I was pretty terrified about what people I love who had gotten married and/or had babies would think about my apparently cold, dark soul, but ultimately glad that I had been honest.
Last week, the Huffington Post ran a piece by Ester Bloom entitled “Free to Be…Me: Why Do Other People’s Choices Make Us So Cranky?” In short, Bloom ponders the question of why we display such animosity toward marriage and children when other people choose it and it’s contrary to what we as individuals might want. She cites pieces from Salon.com and writers Amy Sohn and Amanda Marcotte, work which “drips with scorn for the alternative.”
What is wrong with us judgers? Why can’t we pull it together and stop having opinions? Well, for one thing, there is no such thing as a neutral choice. The activist, lawyer, and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Dean Spade, challenges us to put our choices into the context of a world that is built on institutions fraught with racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, etc. In some way, all choices are based in one or more of these systems, and play into them. (Not getting married doesn’t mean you don’t play into heterosexism and misogyny, by the way; it means you are possibly opting out of the wedding industrial complex and its innate sexism and capitalism, but not that a relationship between people who aren’t married can’t include these elements as well.) There are no choices that we can make that are removed from the reality of how we have been and are socialized, and there are consequences that impact us when we play into these norms. I’m not going to pretend that doesn’t bother me.
Bloom attacks Marcotte for her statement: “Not to say people are bad people for having children, but…” I’m not 100% on this, since I don’t actually hang out with Amanda Marcotte, but I’m pretty sure she has friends who have children, and doesn’t think they’re horrible people. It’s more complicated than that, just like it’s more complicated than the idea that we’re all just judgy and evil.
There are consequences to having children, both for the parents and for the world at large, and in spite of what might be perceived as a shift in the cultural dialogue around having children and getting married, the dominant paradigm remains that women get married to men and then have babies. The “having it all” argument has been written about almost exclusively in the context of women with children, and the media seems to be fundamentally incapable of discussing anything outside the traditional context of the nuclear family. Those of us who exist outside of those definitions and categories, or who have chosen marriage and/or children and have critique about them, are frustrated and angry and bored, and there are few spaces in which we can express opinions that aren’t popular or considered “normal.”
Punishing someone for “judgement” or telling them that they’re “angry” is a method used to silence people when they say things that diverge from the norm, especially women. If there is anything I’ve learned from feminism and from the Occupy movement, it’s that you don’t wait for approval or permission to say things. You say them, you create the spaces where they can be said, you build a community, and you do not say you’re sorry.
Chanel Dubofsky is a writer in Brooklyn, New York, and the creator and editor of the Marriage Project, an interview series about marriage in imagination and reality. She has published essays in the Forward, Tablet, Gender Focus and The Pursuit of Harpyness, and fiction at Monkey Bicycle, Matchbook and Quick Fiction. She blogs at Diverge (www.idiverge.wordpress.com).