Growing up under 70s feminism

This article in the UK’s Mail Online is two years old, but a fascinating read. It’s a personal account by Rebecca Walker — daughter of poet, writer, and radical feminist Alice Walker — about what it’s like to grow up believing that men and motherhood are a woman’s chief enemies:

My mother’s feminist principles coloured every aspect of my life. As a little girl, I wasn’t even allowed to play with dolls or stuffed toys in case they brought out a maternal instinct. It was drummed into me that being a mother, raising children and running a home were a form of slavery… I love my mother very much, but I haven’t seen her or spoken to her since I became pregnant. She has never seen my son  –  her only grandchild. My crime? Daring to question her ideology.

Walker goes on to recount her experience of growing up as the daughter of two divorced parents from diverse backgrounds. A more detailed account of her life can be found in her book, Black, White and Jewish published in 2002.

She then wrote Baby Love, where she describes her fears of pregnancy and motherhood, and subsequent joy in her son and family life. (Along the way, she also decides that a heterosexual partnership is the best way to raise a child.)

While not pro-life per se, Walker betrays the lie that abortion does no harm:

Although I was on the Pill  –  something I had arranged at 13, visiting the doctor with my best friend  –  I fell pregnant at 14. I organised an abortion myself. Now I shudder at the memory. I was only a little girl. I don’t remember my mother being shocked or upset. She tried to be supportive, accompanying me with her boyfriend.

Although I believe that an abortion was the right decision for me then, the aftermath haunted me for decades. It ate away at my self-confidence and, until I had Tenzin, I was terrified that I’d never be able to have a baby because of what I had done to the child I had destroyed. For feminists to say that abortion carries no consequences is simply wrong.

Unless they’ve recently reconciled, Walker and her famous mother are no longer on speaking terms. This article and the books are a daughter’s perspective and there are always two sides to a story. Alice Walker fans are surely not happy with Rebecca’s public tattling.

Still, the most powerful part of Rebecca Walker’s story is her call for an accurate assessment of 70’s era feminism and the warning she offers to other women:

…I meet women in their 40s who are devastated because they spent two decades working on a PhD or becoming a partner in a law firm, and they missed out on having a family. Thanks to the feminist movement, they discounted their biological clocks. They’ve missed the opportunity and they’re bereft.
Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

But far from taking responsibility for any of this, the leaders of the women’s movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them  –  as I have learned to my cost. I don’t want to hurt my mother, but I cannot stay silent. I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.

(Hat tip: Abby S.)


Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in "Catholic Digest," "Faith & Family," "National Catholic Register," "Our Sunday Visitor," "Urbanite," "Baltimore Eats," and Zo

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