When I think about the idea of celebrating children, I come back to the same question again and again: Why shouldn't an intentional choice be celebrated? When feminists talk about reproductive justice, it's often within the context of not just the ability to, say, have an abortion, but to raise a child the way you see fit, or to give birth on your own terms. The very notion that we should be in charge of our own bodies—that if possible, we shouldn't just wait for things to happen to us—is central to a conversation about rights, health, and justice. Don't you think intentionally opting out is worth a few streamers and noisemakers too?
In my opinion, the strangest persistent belief about childfree women is that we're selfish. From the jump, this is problematic as this logic negates the experiences of infertile women, women ambivalent about motherhood and parenting, and women who would—for any number of reasons and because of any combination of circumstances—perhaps like to be mothers but have opted out nonetheless. It's also a pretty big slap in the face to queer women, who may not face the same social pressures to procreate but may still be held to the same weirdo standard when they don't have children.
Four days after the Wall Street Journal published Amy Chua's essay, "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," it continues to spark controversy. The piece itself has garnered more than 3,500 comments on WSJ's website and bloggers from Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man to Maureen O'Connor of Gawker and Danielle Belton of The Black Snob have taken Chua to task for claiming that Chinese mothers raise highly successful children by berating their young, withholding affection from them, or denying them meals and sleep until the little ones manage to meet mom's expectations in academia, music, and beyond.
My personal reaction to the piece is mixed. I absolutely agree with Chua that parents should have high expectations for children, shouldn't praise kids for mediocre work or prioritize athletics over academics. That said, I also agree with Chua's detractors at the previously mentioned blogs who say that the tactics the Yale Law School professor uses on her children may lead them to suffer severe emotional distress down the line, if not currently. But rather than debate the pros and cons of Chua's childrearing strategies, I'd like to examine a major stereotype running through her piece: Mothers of color are cruel.
Do a quick search on the Internet and you'll see that there are lots more people waiting to adopt a healthy newborn these days than there are babies out there ready to be adopted. Gone are the (ahem) "good old days" when a pregnant woman finding herself in less than optimal circumstances could be shamed, coerced or forced to give up her baby as a matter of socially accepted course (for more on THAT history, check out Ann Fessler's The Girls Who Went Away). Access to safe, legal abortion (while awesome when it occurs) has done a real number on the adoption industry.