Defending motherhood from straw men (or women)

This caught my eye of National Review‘s blog, The Corner:

Momma Mia!: The Case of Candace Parker [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

A married 22-year-old is subject to scorn for embracing motherhood.

The link is to a column by Colleen Carroll Campbell, described as “an author, television and radio host and St. Louis-based fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.”  Campbell writes about 22-year-old Women’s National Basketball Association star and Olympic gold medalist Candace Parker, a player for the Los Angeles Sparks and wife of Sacramento Kings forward Shelden Williams who recently announced that she was pregnant.  According to Campbell:

Parker’s pregnancy was not greeted with the same approval and tolerance that many of today’s child-bearing sexagenarians and single mothers by choice enjoy when they form their families. Instead, Parker was blasted by fans and pundits for becoming a mother at age 22. Critics bemoaned her selfishness in putting maternal ambitions ahead of her team’s 2009 season prospects. Others lamented her foolishness for starting a family when she should be living a strings-free existence oriented around her glamorous career.

Not long ago, a 22-year-old woman was considered plenty old enough to marry and bear children. But in today’s era of prolonged adolescence and commitment phobia, high-achieving women like Parker often face ridicule and scorn for defying the feminist conventional wisdom that marriage and motherhood are second-rate pursuits best delayed until middle age. Young mothers frequently are accused of forfeiting a hard-won feminist privilege: the right to spend their 20s single-mindedly pursuing sexual license, success and self-fulfillment without the hassles of a husband and children.

There’s only one problem with this analysis: it doesn’t seem to have any basis in fact.  So far, I haven’t been able to find a single “pundit” who “blasted” Parker for her decision to become a mother.  This blogpost by Huffington Post contributor and attorney Paula Duffy — linked by Ed Morissey in a post about Campbell’s article —  criticizes the double standard in atittudes toward fathers- and mothers-to-be.  Specifically, Duffy takes Sparks owner Kathy Goodman to task for her unenthusiastic response to the news of Parker’s pregnancy (the Los Angeles Times quoted Goodman as saying, “My first reaction was to just shake my head. We’re inured to this by now so I guess I thought. ‘Oh, yeah, she’s having a baby. Yeah, of course”).  But neither Duffy nor Morissey nor Campbell mention the second half of Goodman’s quote: “Then Carla [Goodman's partner] and I sent her a text message. It’s hard for me to think of anything bad about having a child.”   Nor does anyone mention WNBA commissioner Donna Orender’s statement that “Candace can be a very usable symbol of how you can have a family and a career.”  Or supply links to all those supposedly ferocious attacks on Parker, even by rank-and-file Internet fans.   (The only press coverage I have found has been positive.)   Nor are there any citations to back up the blanket assertion that feminists have accused young mothers in general of betraying women’s rights.

I don’t doubt that some feminists, particularly older-generation ones, harbor a suspicious and condescending attitude toward young motherhood as some vestige of the 1950s.  But the only feminist arguments I’ve seen made about this story (by Duffy, for instance) have been in Parker’s support, arguing that her pregnancy should not be an issue any more than a male athlete’s impending fatherhood.  (Of course, it’s not quite the same due to physical differences.)

There are plenty of good reasons to criticize the feminist establishment.  In this case, though, feminists really are getting a bum rap.

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1 Comment

Filed under antifeminism, feminism, motherhood, women's sports

One response to “Defending motherhood from straw men (or women)

  1. Next time I’m accusing you of being totally unfair to feminists, you can remind me of this post. :-)

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