In accepting a Golden Globe award Sunday, actress Michelle Williams credited abortion and contraception for her professional success: “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose, to choose when to have my children, and with whom.”
Williams is the lead actress in the forthcoming Amazon drama “This Is Jane,” an apparent celebration of women who illegally aborted babies in the 1960s. She is reportedly currently pregnant with fiance Thomas Kail, and has a 14-year-old daughter with the deceased Heath Ledger.
“I’m also grateful to have lived in a moment in our society where choice exists, because as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice,” Williams said. “I’ve tried my very best to live a life of my own making, not just a series of events that happened to me, but one that I could stand back and look at and recognize my handwriting all over, sometimes messy and scrawling, sometimes careful and precise, but one that I carved with my own hand.”
Williams is extremely confused, but before we talk about that, let’s acknowledge that she is right about one observation: Family and career obviously compete, and obviously more so for women, simply due to our biology. We grow the babies inside ourselves, which is a lot of hard work, and those babies will not be happy and healthy if we do not dedicate lots of attention to their care for a really long time after birth.
Women have a much stronger biological imperative to nurture children than men do (men’s biological imperatives push them in other also-needed directions), and the world needs us to have this imperative. Without strong mothering, our societies will grow increasingly off balance and antisocial. Williams seemed to acknowledge this in her brief speech.
“I felt supported and able to balance our lives, knowing as all mothers know that the scales must and will tip towards our children,” Williams said, acknowledging this female universal, but then pivoted: “Now, I know my choices might look different than yours. But thank god, or whomever you pray to, that we live in a country founded on the principle that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours.”
— NBC Entertainment (@nbc) January 6, 2020
Now for what Williams got very, very wrong. Chiefly, it’s the underlying idea that human lives are a worthy trade-off for career achievement. If someone put a gun to a child’s head on the Golden Globes stage and said to Williams, “You can have your award, but the price is this child’s life,” hopefully she would have said “F— that award, save the child.” But here she is on a global stage, not only admitting that she has already done essentially the same thing to an even smaller human, but also encouraging other girls and women to do likewise — to repeated Hollywood applause.
I can think of few stronger expressions of moral corruption than “This child must die so I can live as I please.” Yet this is the tradeoff we are constantly told epitomizes women’s empowerment. Bunk. What does it profit a woman to gain a major industry award if the price is the life of an innocent child? What kind of “success” is it to rise at the cost of other people’s existence? What kind of society encourages people to think and live this way? A sick, self-cannibalizing one.
While abortion is the most violent expression of this social norm, it encompasses contraception and other sometimes weird outgrowths such as company benefits that include egg freezing for childbearing-age female employees. The last one very clearly announces that the price of entering today’s job market, at least for some employers, is one’s capacity to build a family (egg freezing has a 2-12 percent chance of resulting in a live baby, and almost 100 percent chance of resulting in dead ones).
Contraception is indicted because all the most-used and most-effective female devices on the market also function as abortifacients. Whether we know it or not, killing our offspring in order to notch more points on our resumes is now the American way of life. Williams made that clear by also implying that babies just arrive in women’s wombs randomly, when the truth is that outside the rare cases of rape, women made choices that put the baby there — namely, sex. What she is therefore advocating as women’s empowerment is the patronizing idea that women should not consider ourselves responsible for our choices. Bunk.
Conservatives have to do a lot more to counter this mentality. Currently, our so-called representatives usually prefer to enable the “make kids pay for adult desires” attitude in different ways, such as attaching new moms more strongly to the workforce than to their babies through government paid leave. This is the exact opposite of the message American women and families need to hear.
What women both need and deserve to hear is that their biological capacity for creating and nurturing human beings is a gift that Americans honor, praise, and support. Historically, societies have acknowledged women’s biological gifts, compensating them through respect, deference, gratitude, and community support (such as bringing meals when a baby arrives) for their hard and socially beneficial family work. They also honored women’s and children’s needs by requiring the men who made babies with them to support those babies long-term through marriage.
Now, however, thanks to feminism and other social changes, that respect and legal protection for raising good citizens has evaporated. Marriage is a legally much weakened institution. Women are also now judged like men, on what seems to be the only social scale left: economic productivity, as measured by notoriety and income.
But what is the point of an economy, anyway? Is it a giant masturbation machine that exists to fulfill selfish adult desires? Or is the point of an economy to serve and sustain a healthy society? Does not a healthy society protect and support children through tying parents to them and each other, rather than encouraging parents to prevent, abandon, and brutalize their own offspring?
Our rich and creative society has the capacity to promote real women’s empowerment, the kind that can coexist with and support children rather than kill them or suffocate their maternal bond. This would include freeing up jobs from a century of employment regulations and lawsuit traps that make them rigid and inflexible, just the opposite of what mothers want and need. It would include investing in family-sustaining industries and promoting a family wage so mothers can work by choice instead of necessity. It would include noticing that men have fallen dangerously behind women in education and economic achievement, and realizing this is a crisis for both sexes, since we’re interdependent. It would include tightening divorce laws.
Instead, however, we are constantly given Potemkin ideas, government programs, and behaviors, from both sides of the partisan divide, that claim to help women and children while actually decimating us. But if “success” is determined by how many children I kill on my way there, it is no success at all, no matter how many people pushed and applauded it. It is a tragedy for those children, for me, and for my whole society.