Stories of miscarriage shock are becoming more common. Not the surprise of miscarrying—that remains—but a woman’s realization that she cares about the “clump of cells” she carried. As Alexandra Kimball’s recent essay in Canada’s Globe and Mail reveals, a modern woman is surprised to discover that, according to feminism, the difference between the death of a child and of an aborted fetus is simply the mother’s intent to continue the pregnancy.
It is easy to say that her essay—“Unpregnant”—is yet another example of the re-definition of reality that Stella Morabito has described frequently and well. (In fact, an #OhStella hashtag is surfacing.) But the essential pretense of abortion, that a fetus has no humanity, has been an established understanding for some time. We are no longer redefining reality. That happened years ago. Now young women are rediscovering truth as we have our own children. We are putting the redefined reality to the test and finding it wanting. Kimball did so:
I had looked forward to a feminist motherhood: a toy chest stuffed with gender-neutral toys; picture books about girl pigs who played baseball and boy penguins who raised chicks. I imagined a community of feminists who took turns babysitting while the others worked on their paintings or books. [That would have been a disappointing shock.]
Now, in my empty house, I wandered around our living room and looked at my bookshelves, the rows of Cixous and Butler and de Beauvoir, and realized that feminism had nothing to say to me. Here, lined up left to right, was sexual assault, abortion, childbirth, body image: but nothing about miscarriage. …
The more I considered it, the more I became convinced that the silence around miscarriage was connected to feminism’s work around abortion. How could I grieve a thing that didn’t exist? If a fetus is not meaningfully alive, if it is just a collection of cells – the cornerstone claim of the pro-choice movement – what does it mean to miscarry one? Admitting my grief meant seeing myself as a bereft mother, and my fetus as a dead child – which meant adopting exactly the language that the anti-choice movement uses to claim abortion is murder.…
After my miscarriage, when I thought about my abortion, it was with almost-envy for my younger self. I hadn’t fully appreciated how feminism had allowed me to process and eventually come to terms with that event. I had a language through which to express my feelings; I had other women’s stories to help me anticipate the abortion procedure and to realize what would come after. But in the months that followed my miscarriage, I had none of these things, and my sense of betrayal – in that primal, religious sense – was keen. Having a miscarriage was maybe the first thing I had gone through not as a feminist. I felt not just invisible to the ideology I’d grown up with, I felt forsaken.
Kimball says there was no question in her mind that the entity in her previous abortion had been a fetus while this miscarriage involved a daughter. There was no question because there could not be. She understands that, in a choice regime, woman defines all. Kimball just hasn’t taken responsibility for these god-like powers yet. There is far too much humbling horror on the other side of that realization. Best avoid it.
Silence Your Emotions, Women
These women are often angry. Justifiably so. Notice that these stories are much longer than the standard article. It takes more words to talk around the truth. Also, I suspect, because editors are unwilling to edit stories that are so raw, which makes Kimball’s complaint about a conspiracy of silence odd. Where is the sphere of silence and secrecy when national and international publications accept 10,000-word pieces on these topics?
The silence is in women’s emotional lives. What feminism insists we hide is not facts or bodily functions. Those we can flaunt—are encouraged to flaunt. We can talk about women stuff all we want. We just aren’t allowed to feel anything about it.
That is the reason the essential pretense is so essential. Who has feelings about a clump of cells? The feminist comfort Kimball spoke of regarding her abortion did not tell her how she would feel about the procedure, but that she did not need to feel anything about it. Pregnancy is just a biological function. There is no need to bring emotion into it. That’s the patriarchy and social conditioning talking. Just dismiss those feelings.
But then, one day, our desires change and the feelings don’t dismiss so easily. Occasionally, those undismissable feelings are not just about the baby.
Feminists Learn Too Late We Need Men
She has another insight I suspect will get little commentary:
When the hospital discharged me a few days later, my husband took me back to the house. He braced my elbow as I walked up the stairs. But when we reached the bedroom, I discovered a mess. There were clothes strewn everywhere and a bunch of file folders in the tangled sheets. ‘Don’t you know everything I’ve been through?’ I cried, as he scurried to make the bed. ‘It’s all I know,’ he said bitterly. He left the room, and I got into my made bed and onto the Internet. I’d never considered that before: how grief turns us into assholes….The only thing I could say is that I lost myself trying to find my baby. I’d looked for her in my feminist books and on the Internet and on TV shows. I had been prepared for that. I’d been willing to make that sacrifice. But I’d forgotten that Jeremy was tied to me. If I went under, searching for my baby, he went under, too.
One does not need to have feminism as her religion to have absorbed many of the ideas Kimball names, all focused on what a woman should need, what a woman should feel—or not. She had forgotten her husband is tied to her, that they are in life together. This forgotten truth will be common among the women our sons will marry—or, perhaps if we are being really, really honest, the women our husbands married.
I’ve been that woman; not in the context of miscarriage, but other things. I know so many of these women. Husbands are an afterthought, if women think of them at all beyond demanding sperm and childcare.
The more one inspects feminist assumptions, the more one sees paths to isolation and loneliness. In modern feminism, we are all forsaken.