Friday, December 26, 2008

Rickie Solinger: Beggars and Choosers

This is the longest short book I've read in awhile. I think I've lost the ability to process "big ideas" gracefully- really, Solinger packs so many ideas in here that a few pages left my head swimming. The main "big idea" is that the struggle for women's rights has been lost in the shift towards a consumer mentality, and we now ascribe "choice" towards reproductive issues, which allows society to deem some women better choice-makers than others. This is a bad shift, Solinger argues, as young women, poor women, women of color, etc, are deemed unfit mothers, and icons like the "Backalley Butcher" and the "Welfare Queen" are used in lieu of real facts about motherhood and rights. Moving forward, Solinger argues, we need to get back to speaking about and arguing for rights, and full citizenship for all women, not just the ones who pass a financial test.

As someone who has always been outspoken about NOT wanting to be a mother, this book really points out how that "choice" is only mine to make because I am white, economically privileged and educated. Solinger describes forced adoptions for young women in the 60s and 70s and how feminists denied any links between forced adoptions and the abortion rights/reproductive rights movements. Birthmothers demanded to be acknowledged as women with rights that were being denied, and feminists refused to ally themselves with these women, refusing to claim motherhood as a feminist issue. I admit that I, too, have refused to see having children as a feminist issue, and my outspoken childless state, is a feminist issue that I need to deal with.

I wish Solinger had written this book now, as her book ends just as the Clinton years started: I don't have the brain power (or the resources) to analyze what "choice" looks like now in the current picture of welfare/adoption/abstinence education, but I know it's grim. How can we (royally) preach that adoption is a "win/win", while denying that the birthmother exists? How can we argue against welfare, and force poor mothers out of the home and into work, while looking down on women who don't spend enough time providing their children enough resources (ie: proper enrichment in the home, "good" daycare/preschool, etc.) How can we teach abstinence and avoid mentioning sex, and then frown on the "teenage mother" or the "single mother" and then cut welfare benefits? I don't know the hows, I just know we do, without the facts to back it up.


Anonymous said...

can i borrow this book? DB (give it to THB and I'll get it)