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What a fantastic article! You are a strong woman and I was so moved by your writing.
Oh, please. I see no evidence of actual mistreatment, discrimination, or even true disdain -- and plenty of imagined slights that seem to have originated in the writer's head."Though most of my classmates were private about their disdain for my situation..." Perhaps your classmates weren't being "private" about their disdain. Perhaps they were acting like most 18- to 21-year-olds and far more worried about their own belly buttons than yours. "... others fought my estrogen-fueled fire with fire." And the example of this? A letter to the editor about population explosion. Because no liberal college kid ever worried about overpopulation before they laid eyes on a pregnant woman.I don't doubt you were a rarity. I don't doubt your health coverage was inadequate (that, by the way, is why you read your policy before you sign up, even if you're 18). But you haven't convinced me that anyone on your campus had any issues with your pregnancy except you.
Oh, I don't know, Tricia--there was that instance of the tour moving, the guy on the plane... I don't think Kory was talking about discrimination necessarily, but the sort of feeling that We Don't Approve.Two of my sisters were young mothers, and I think that's one of the reasons, actually, that I could be part of Brain, Child. My own mother, my sisters, and I all had such different experiences of motherhood.One of the things that I found really interesting about this essay is the idea of feminism and how it might change over a person's life. Kory, Tricia, Anon, lurkers--you have anything to say about that?
Yes, I have something to say. Unless someone has walked in those shoes (and I have), they will never know that there are many disapproving, rude, and ignorant people in this world.
The guy on the plane was way out of line. Who knows why the tour moved. When we're feeling vulnerable we're inclined to see disdain and disapproval in far more places than it may actually be. When we're young and looking for something to push and rebel against, we tend to find that, too. But, sure, I'm willing to put that aside, Jennifer, as you suggested.Kory didn't experience the kind of support from the feminists at her college that she needed and expected. And that's because feminism as defined and practiced by many doesn't include support for parenthood. That's wrong. And, too often, support for a woman's right to choose doesn't include true support for choosing parenthood. That's also wrong. Maybe Kory's classmates, who were raw young adults at the same time she was a raw young adult, have learned a more nuanced approach to feminism. Maybe she could explore that with them.
Tricia (and any others with similar feelings), I hear what you're saying. It probably wasn't truly discrimination in the legal sense (I'm not a lawyer, so I can't say). The only thing the school did that was actionable was choose health care coverage that did not provide the state-mandated maternal and prenatal coverage, and then require that I carry that coverage. Their suggestion that I take a leave of absence were probably just because I raised a ruckus. The rest? Well, it was what it was. I don't dispute that other pregnant women have been treated much worse than I have. It is not lost on me that the setting of this essay is one of privilege. The thing that was the impetus for the essay was the administration's response. I've heard from other women who have been given the same (or, sadly, much worse) treatment at other colleges, so I don't think it's all in my head. I think the fact that this happened at a women's college made it seem all the most ludicrous. The social reaction--well, it was less irritating and more funny. I did spend a lot of my senior year enjoying the irony of it all.So I obviously disagree with you, but I hear and appreciate your view. Other women have had it much worse. Jennifer, my own feminism has changed. I think it has broadened in that it now focuses on greater issues that do not affect me, but affect women in general (that's a function of growing up and realizing the sun does not rise and set on you, I suppose). I see so many things as "feminist issues" now because they affect women adversely: war, work, poverty, health care, child care, infant mortality. And I'm much less likely to assume that someone is not a feminist based on the externals. I know some pretty kickin' feminists that my 20-year-old self would never have spoken to--because, um, these feminists are men. Helloooooo, my own private sexism!Maybe this mellowing isn't because of any great personal growth but is just a result of years of baby-induced sleep deprivation. ;-)
AH, Tricia, we cross-posted. So I didn't see you second note until now. I have talked a bit with some of my classmates since leaving. And I think all of our ideas of what feminism are have become more nuanced. I agree with you that many women who espouse feminist beliefs don't necessarily support parenthood--or, at the very least, those who do are marginalized as not being "real feminists." It's a complicated issue. Anyone else have other experiences to the contrary? Give me some hope over here. ;-)
Kory, I think we do agree at the core, even if I did come out swinging -- needleessly.
Tricia, no worries at all. Cf. "push back," "hell on roller skates," o.p. cit. ;-)
Oops, hit enter and posted prematurely.I don't have any examples, Kory, either way. Just abstract notions that, as I think you agree, any true feminism is going to acknowledge the very feminine trait of baby-making.But, here's a little explanation of why I snarled a bit at the beginning: If we're looking for -- and finding -- trouble at every corner, we're not going to have the energy or the credibility to fight the big battles.
Oh, and there I go, missing your comment and perpetuating things...
I'm trying to find the book Mother Tongue: An Anthology, but haven't been successful. Can you tell me how to find it?
Kory-Although you tried hard not to reveal your college, a few hints (graduation speaker, Gloria Steinem quote) lead me to believe that we went to the same school. I applaud your strength.
Kory,We were good friends at said College. I left the year before your experience. I didn't realize it was so hard. I knew a little of your tale from when I stopped by to meet the baby.I'm horrified to hear how the school handled the health care issues raised by your pregnancy. They have recently risen to the challenge of meeting the needs of transgendered students, you would think they could handle a little old-fashioned reproduction. Where I live most moms first give birth at 35+ (not kidding) and I get some very surprised responses when I admit to having had my first at 27!E-mail me if you get a chance, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kory--Did we go to the same women's college?!If we did--I graduated a couple decades ago and it hasn't changed in this unfortunate regard.I was such a bad, bad feminist, too ...I had my kid (unplanned) just a couple years after graduating from that place at age 21. I committed my own retrograde, down-with-the-patriarchy atrocity when I was in grad school at another institution where pregnant women got the disapproving disgusted stare 'n' glare. But at least THEY had pregnancy coverage in their student insurance plan!By the way, in response to an earlier comment, lack of ready access to affordable prenatal care and labor and delivery services IS discrimination.The kid of my atrocity-pregnancy has grown up into a kickass young woman bent on making the world better. I look upon her as one of my greatest personal contributions to the cause of women.
Thank you for sharing your story from this time in your life.This article gave me an opportunity to reflect upon my somewhat distant time as an undergraduate at a liberal arts college. My friends and I just knew that we were radical feminists. We knew that we could conquer the world and at some point have children. We were determined that it would be different for us. We were going to lead fabulous lives and be incredible mothers. No compromises would be required.Oh, how immature and limited we were. I'm afraid we would have rejected a pregnant student and considered her as a)irresponsible and b)backward/lower class, and c)oppressed. We would have felt superior to her and would not have considered ourselves judgemental if we educated her about her options. We would have never accepted the enthusiasm of your professor/advisor and would have seen the pregnancy as a failure. We would have never wanted anyone to know that we were actually uncomfortable with the mystery of a pregnancy and we were scared that one of our own would be a mother since we knew that we were completely incapable of such a feat.Although I am not surprised by the reactions of your classmates, I do want to tell you that I am sorry that their cruel attitudes demeaned your pregnancy and your child's birth. From my own college years, I know girls at my college had similar reactions. Many girls, fearing such negativity, left our school in shame while others experienced abortions without the support of their closest friends.Now that we are truly grown-up and middle aged, we have all changed our perceptions. We, those radical feminists, are now professionals with advanced degrees and Mothers. However, in our hearts, we are Mothers first. We wish that our workplaces championed Motherhood. We wish that we could wear this badge proudly and not feel like we have to have a secret identity. We wish that being a Mother would not limit our promotions and job approval ratings. We wish that we could stop working twice as hard as are male collegues who are praised for attending one lousy soccer game.If we only knew then what we know now. We would have know that juggling our lives is impossible. We would have known that the expections we had for ourselves and our families had for us are impossible to achieve. We would have known that feminism is not limited to fancy degrees and jobs and that our happiness is not defined by what tax bracket we have reached.Thank you for giving me space to think about these things.
Thank you for sharing this story from this time in your life.This story made me pause and reflect upon my own experience as a undergraduate at a liberal arts college. My friends and I viewed ourselves as radical feminists. We were going to conquer the world. We would have fabulous lives. We would have important jobs, we would travel, and just maybe we would fall in love and have babies. We would do it ALL. The path was clear and had been blazed for us. Our families, and mainly our mothers, expected us to achieve it "All".With these goals in mind, we would have viewed a pregnant classmate as a failure. We would have felt superior to her and displayed that attitude. We would have seen her as irresponsible, perhaps lower class, and oppressed. We would have not viewed ourselves as judgemental when we took time from our own hectic schedules to educate her about her options. We never would have expressed our own questions, concerns, and reservations about being pregnant. We never would have admitted that we were frightened of being mother when we knew we were barely out of childhood.It's obvoius this mentality prevailed at your school as well and I am sorry that was the case. At my school, I now know of girls who left the school in shame to have their children. I also know girls who experienced abortions during school breaks without the support of their closest friends.How limited and immature we were and how much we have changed. The women I know now are professionals with advanced degrees and Mothers--but mothers always first. We wish that our workplaces would champion motherhood as us working mothers know that we are better employees than ever before. We wish that we could wear our motherhood badge proudly instead of maintaining this secret identity. We wish that motherhood did not derail promotions and job recognitions. We wish that motherhood would not result in us working twice as hard as our male collegues who receive praise for attending one lousy soccer game. We wish that working mothers would not have to feel conflicted when our children become ill.We know now that feminism and our happines are not limited to fancy degrees and "important" jobs and posh lifestyles. We know now the grittiness of being professional women and mothers. We know now that this balance we try to maintain is an impossible juggling act. Our expectations were never attainable so we feel guilt that we cannot achieve our long-held goals and the goals are families held for us.This article only reminded me that we Mothers truly need to unite over what we know to be important. We cannot continue to degrade one another for choices different from ours, from lifestyles other than ours, from parenting techniques other than ours. These divisions serve no purpose other than to continue the oppression we encounter on a daily basis.Thank you again for giving me the space to consider these issues.
Thanks for this great article! I too went to a women's college and I also have a sister who had a baby at nineteen, so I can totally relate. I'm one of the most rabidly pro-choice people I know, and I think it's high time that we recognize that there's definitely some judgement on our side as well.
I enjoyed this article quite a bit. I'm in graduate school and am married and pregnant with my first baby. Even though in the "real world," lots of women my age are having babies, in the ivory tower I get a lot of strange looks and questioning glances. Although I am lucky enough to have good health coverage, I only get 2 weeks of paid maternity leave from my job as a teacher at my school. My advisers are supportive but express concern about my ability to balance it all -- and with so few examples of women who have done it, I wonder if I can, too. I'm surrounded by feminist activist women's studies etc people, but when it comes to dealing with an actual woman having a real baby, people (in academia) clam up. (I think your adviser was right, by the way, about grad school!)
I have a feeling we went to the same women's college (the graduation speaker might also be the chairwoman of the board?). It sounds like they were there usual bureaucratic, difficult selves. I was a "model" student and sometimes felt like strangling the financial aid people.But here's another thought: health insurance for pregnancy and child birth is expensive and the premiums paid by students are underwritten by the college. So including it in the coverage would mean less money for other things (all of which would also benefit women) and the insurance benefit would be rarely used, given the population. Should they have had a contingency plan? Yes. Should they make policy over one person's condition? No.
While I sympathize with the author's experience, I am struck by the degree of accommodation she felt was necessary to make her feel comfortable. Clearly, she was attending a single-sex, residential college. So even before her pregnancy, the author was an outlier that required special circumstances outside of the student profile the college expected. Secondly, let's not forget that we're talking about a high-achieving, elite institution. I'm surprised that she was surprised that folks weren't cheering her on for having a child when she did. Kind of the whole point of choosing such a school is to maximize the returns on that experience/investment before competing interests make demands on time. Perhaps this is not a Upper Middle Class point of view but for somebody for whom this kind of school is not a birthright but a privilege, that has been my experience.And finally, I agree with the previous anonymous. Perhaps the school decided that with limited resources, and a "get admitted and we'll make the money happen for you" their resources were better spent on financial aid for more students, rather that incurring the expensive overhead of women's college = 100% potential incidence of pregnancy and the requisite insurance.
I really enjoy the Authors work on MW. Even as a young socially-liberal male, this article made my blood-pressure rocket just reading it. I feel so empathetic to the response your classmates and administrators displayed. I truly admire you Kory... I think i'll say the same thing to the next pregnant girl i see in school.
...perhaps i should have worded myself better. I feel empathetic to your situation and am appalled and embarrassed for the behavior your classmates and administrators displayed.
Kory,Just wanted to take this opportunity (without reading more than your story plus only several comments here) to honor you for standing up for your own personal humanity. I don't say that as a pro-life person, just as a man who did suffer some painful and angry unappreciative comments from so-called "liberated" women. I can assure you that, like women, we men also want your appreciation and love. We, too, would like to feel liberated from some of the hardships of life we have experienced, especially after we have been married with kids and grandkids, and unemployed at 61. Most of us men do learn, at least by half-way through life, that we are better off with women in our lives, and I mean for many things beyond sex and love. Best wishes to you and yours, and congrats on getting such a good job at m-w.com (I saw your ad there, and "surfed" over here to learn more about you). Al, "namvetpoet", teacher, lawyer, hubby, Dad, and Grampa
kory, i enjoy your merriam-webster videos. oh yeah, i find your article, "alma mater," (rightly) spirited, as well as (generously) entertaining. thx. bentley.
Loved this article! So often those who want to "liberate" you require you to think only like them. In my own years of grad study I often found that some of the most stifling environments were among those who called themselves "liberal."
I hope your husband realizes what a lucky dude he is.
As user of Merriam Webster's online dictionary, I was curious what the woman in the TV box was saying. Curious as to who the engaging editor was, I Googled to the college pregnancy article.Pretty spunky of KS to have run with her instincts and have a baby in school, instead being just like everyone else.The satirical sting would have been a little sharper if the school, dean and pres were named.I enjoyed this piece, except for the last couple of sentences, which take formulaic refugee in the reader's "need" for universal reconciliation.Some of KS's classmates probably have not succeeded in having children after delaying too long. Not everyone can come to terms with the disappointment of not being able to have children.
Interesting article and comments. It made me think back to when I was in college, and how polarizing I was with my political beliefs and how condescending I often was to the views of others. I was one of those who would have seen you on campus and thought, due to my awareness of overpopulation, environmentalism, and feminism, "F-ing breeders!" How unfortunate to have politics of compassion slide into rigid ideology.My mother was an unusual sort. Her mother died in childbirth when she was ten and she became a mother to her four younger siblings. She joined the navy at 18 where she met and married my father, got pregnant at 19, birthed five kids in eight years, adopted two more, started going to college part-time after birthing #3, went to law school after adopting #7. My dad also went through undergraduate and graduate school with a family, getting his doctorate in English after I (#5) was born. They worked hard and skimped to put themselves through. My mom was doing this in the mid-sixties to mid-seventies. I am sure they must have been regarded with no small degree of befuddlement by their peers...
Tricia was right on the first time and should not have backed down so easily.
I do not agree with the last comment by anonymous!- Matthew
Dear Kory,How can a man truly understand what it is like for a woman? John Updike pointed out that a woman, as exemplified by Hester Prynne, must "attempt to integrate her sexuality with societal demands". Perhaps your story serves a good purpose. The tale of your emotionally punishing experience has shown this man, at least, another aspect of what women understand and men rarely do. And for the gentle instruction that your candor provides I am grateful.Thank you, Kory.
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