Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Poor Decisions Glamourized

The letter to the editor below was my response to a 'real stories' editorial featured in the October 2007 issue of Glamour magazine.

Dear Editor;

After reading “Student moms, pushed off campus” I could not help but wonder if this editorial missed a prime opportunity to provide a valuable lesson to teens and young adults on the consequences of their decisions. School is not limited to the education provided inside the classroom; the most valuable lessons, especially those around complex decision making, are learned outside the walls of a classroom. Young mothers across the country and the world, including your editorialized Elizabeth Audley, learn the hard way all the difficulties associated with choosing to have a child before you are financially, emotionally and socially ready.

The feminist movement has given women greater equality through increasing our access to a wide variety family planning options, not through supporting and promoting a woman’s right to make bad choices. While it is unfair that the birth father in the editorial and in far too many other stories suffer little repercussion in their role, women must take control of their bodies knowing they are the ones whose lives are most changed by pregnancy. Ms. Audley had many opportunities to make a decision to preserve her access to the on-campus housing covered by her financial aid package; she could have abstained from sex, used protection, exercised her right to an abortion or chosen adoption. All of these options would have maintained her access to on-campus housing and preserved her full financial aid package. Life teaches us that every decision we make comes with associated pros and cons. A con of Ms. Audley’s decision to have a child before finishing school was a loss of access to on-campus housing; it is not the responsibility of a college or university to add housing or change policies in support of her decision to have a child.

Ms. Audley is lucky that the only thing she gained through her decisions was an unplanned pregnancy and lost is part of her financial aid. With the rise of sexually transmitted diseases in college aged students, including HIV, a responsible editorial would remind readers that she could have gained an STD and lost her life instead.

Explosive Bombchelle


husband said...

As someone who is definitely left of center, I still have to agree with you on this one Chelle. I think a lot of young men and women don't think, or aren't exposed to, the reprecussions of having a child in their teens. When I was in middle school we were housed in the high school (long story, middle school burned down) and I remember that there were well over a dozen girls who had children who went to "day care" in the high school; and so many of their friends thought it was "so cool". Wha?!?!

Anonymous said...

Clearly you have noclue about the feminist movement that was not created soley for reproductive control but rather to bring awareness to social constructions that dictate our desicions to have intimate relationshhips, sexual experiences, and yes to have children. But who are you to judge the what, when , how, and why not's of the condition that women find themselves. A true feminist would not judge but recognize a need a work towards a solution. In this case, for this mother to have any form of a sucsessful INDEPENDENT life for her and her children an education is a must and one should not only be provided to any American who seeks one, but with systems of support should be provided to those with special needs. It is her right to place demands on her University and it is very ignorant of you comment when you have not walked a mile in her shoes....

Explosive Bombchelle said...

For someone who is so bold as to insinuate that I know nothing of the feminist movement and am not a true feminist, clearly you do not recognize that feminist studies and theory include a variety of subtypes to categorize different thoughts and beliefs.

I do not advocate special treatment for women or any affirmative action like policy for women. I believe that everyone, men and women, should have ownership of their own bodies. I believe in abortion and birth control but I do not believe it is the government’s responsibility to pay for it. I disagree with policies that portray and assume women are victims, unable to think, perform or take care of themselves without the intervention of patriarchal institutions. I embrace individual self-reliance, free will and liberty as important cornerstones to freedom and success. So within my ideological beliefs, a true feminist would not support any program that further perpetuates women’s dependence on handouts from men or the government. My beliefs can be classified within a number of schools of thought including Individualist Feminism (aka Libertarian Feminism), Equality Feminism, and Equity Feminism. I am by no means a Socialist Feminist, Marxist Feminist or aligned with any school of thought aligned with reverse sexism.

Overall I see myself as a Realist on the topic of providing childcare to college moms, as referenced in the original letter to the editor. The reality of the matter is if Colleges and Universities are forced to provide daycare services then tuition will go up. If tuition goes up there will be even more women, regardless to pregnancy or motherhood status, who will be unable to afford the cost of higher education and will therefore lose out on all the empowering and liberating benefits that a college degree brings. It is not the right of any woman to demand childcare out of her educational institution. Colleges and Universities are in the business of providing students an education, not babysitting. So rather than provide an expensive option like childcare so a small subset of the population can continue on with college, I believe it to be more important to keep tuition lower which gives a greater number of women the opportunity to earn a degree and therefore financial independence. If we think college and beyond is too expensive now why would we further tax the system with programs aimed at a small subset of the population?

Post-Secondary education is not a right to every person who decides they would like more schooling but a privilege to those who work hard to obtain the grades, garner the funding and have the strength and drive to complete their degree. Even countries that offer free upper level education to their citizens often have ways of limiting the number of individuals who are eligible for a degree. Difficult entrance exams, introductory courses that “weed-out” weaker students or limited choices in degree options are but a few limitations in so called “free” education systems, all which would be ill-received in the United States where education is available even to ignorant people who are unable to parse together grammatically correct, well written sentences.

Anonymous said...

Do you have children? I mean clearly you have money, to have afforded you such an exceptional education that you may now use to quote and list the many feminist theories you feel associated with. But do you have children?

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Completing college and earning a degree does not guarantee riches; expanding your mind is a greater goal than expanding your pocketbook. Many people who attend college thinking it assures a lifetime of personal wealth are all too often disappointed.

And to answer your question, I do not have children. Working my way through college by babysitting and waiting tables at “family friendly” restaurants helped cement my choice to remain childfree and pursue other goals and dreams. We are each personally responsible for making choices that carve our path in life and I am among a growing number of women choosing paths that do not include raising children.

Returning to the original focus issue, whether colleges and universities should be required to provide daycare and/or family housing, my stance remains as is; no. It is the choice of each learning institution to determine what they can include in their budget and policies to continue delivering upon their number one focus; education. If daycare or child-friendly dorms are not in the delivery model for a learning institution then it is up to each student to make a personal choice whether to stay or go elsewhere.

LiberGrrly said...

From the tone of your musings, apparently you are completely neglecting to consider that there might be student parents that aren't unwed teenagers or people who assumed parental status through irresponsible mishaps.

Myself, for example. I was a homeless teenager that worked relentlessly to pull herself off the streets, and had a modestly successful career in the IT industry prior to the dot-com boom, which I left when the bubble burst and my then-husband and I decided to start a family. After enduring an abusive marriage for a few years, I mustered the balls to leave the bastard and tried to re-enter the workforce... Only to find that the stakes had changed, and that even though I had years of experience and a list of marketable skills as long as my forearm, without a degree I was no longer competitive, no matter how hard I was willing to work.

Going back to school as a single parent is unbelievably difficult. It's not just the completely exorbitant costs of child care and lack of family housing, the inadequate financial aid and loans (you try supporting a family on 800 bucks a month)... It's also the attitudes and policies of college administrations and professors that make it so problematic.

Even though I got straight A's on all my coursework and worked my ass off to go Phi Beta Kappa, when my son's school had a holiday that didn't coincide with mine or he was sick, my missed classes were treated the same as some frat boy that skips due to his hangover from that weekend's Beer Pong. A few rare professors allowed me to bring my exceptionally well-mannered and bright six-year-old to classes, and even engaged him in discussion, but most of them gave lame excuses and forced me to miss classes.

By your logic, everyone should be treated equally, with total impartiality, and given no exceptions? The burdens of less-fortunate folks should fall only on themselves, not ever their societies or governments? I can see not wanting to enable the irresponsible to continue making themselves a burden on society, but if you want to reduce the usage of programs like welfare, one great place to start would be making it easier for low-income and single parents to complete their education so that they can have better jobs, and make more money, which results in A) them discontinuing their status as a burden on society, and B) their ability to contribute to a stronger economy by way of having more educated, skilled folks in the labor force.

If nobody was ever given special treatment for special circumstances, where would the disabled be? The fact that we do so much for our citizens in this country is a part of our strength. Do I suggest we go to a completely socialist system of government? Certainly not. But sometimes helping those who need it has benefits for many more than the needy alone. When the downtrodden are uplifted, the entire society is elevated.

One who frames one's view of the world through the eyes of compassion, altruism and empathy, as opposed to self-interest, could see the benefits of helping those less fortunate than themselves, even though not every such person may be rehabilitated. Through helping others, you ARE in fact promoting your own prosperity in a roundabout way.

Your writings and your wording (the phrase "child-free" a prime example) belie your own weakness- lack of vision due to self-involvement. If you looked beyond what all this means to you and your own limited life experience and views, you'd see exactly why ensuring everyone possible completes a college education would benefit all Americans- including you.

BTW, no one can call themselves a true feminist if they really buy the idea that abortion is the big solution to the problems facing unintentionally pregnant women. I am STAUNCHLY Pro-Choice (I was an organizer for the March for Women's Lives), but I also know that feeling like giving up one's child to either an abortion or adoption is one's only choice is no real choice at all, and a shi**y one to have to make. Policies and systems are not in place to make it feasible to rear a child without either the assistance of/dependence on a provider or unlimited financial means. My version of feminism includes advocating for better options than the unimaginable pain of both abortion and adoption, because I think women and their children deserve better- society is capable of better.

Also, you forgot to consider the role education plays in this vicious cycle. College-educated parents are more likely to *be* better parents and raise their children more competently, so that those kids will grow up to be strong, self-determining individuals that will make good choices. Children who come of age in a successfully functional primary education system are also more likely to grow up as such. If our public education system wasn't failing so dramatically at preparing the next generation of society to be productive, self-determining, informed individuals, there would be many less unfortunates requiring assistance into adulthood. Get rid of abstinence-only-based sex education, and make birth control more widely available, for example, and you get rid of a big bunch of societal burdens.

Just some food for thought.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you obviously not have children or you would know that good moms want to be highly educated so they can give the best of themselves to their kids. Also, you remind me of me when you talk about your experience watching other people with kids. It is so funny because now, I wouldn't change for the world the so very special bond I share with my baby and the happiness his unconditional love brings. Think about it, there is no greater blessing :)

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Anonymous (and others),

Go ahead, have all the children you want. I really don't care so long as I don't have to pay for your decision to bring children into the world. Everyone has a personal responsibility to make decisions that they can carry through on their own. This post was to outline that it is not the responsibility of society, or educational institutions, or your community to foot the bill for taking care of YOUR children. That responsibility is up to the people who decide to bring those children into the world. Those of us who have opted out of the child thing because we don't want or can't have children shouldn't have to fund those who decide to procreate.

I understand that "good moms" want to be highly educated. "Good Moms" would also understand the benefit of garnering this education on their own and teaching their children a sense of personal responsibility, not a sense of societal entitlement.

daisiedupp said...

An essential component of societal structure is maintaining the rate of reproduction (growth rate) and the perpetuation of socialization.

One detriment associated with the lacks of support for women who are choosing to exercise the very rights won for them in the feminist revolutions is that they are having less children, if any at all, at increasingly older ages. This has brought the birth rate (at least in Canada) to a number lower than that needed to renew the population. Certainly, there is the argument for population control and restriction, but should we continue with these values, North American population will eventually reach a critical point. Further, most college students are never published. So, you are essentially living a non-literate existence. Much like the use of teknonyms in non-literate societies, the point is the individual and their culture only lives on through their future generations. If you do not have successive generations to pass your hard earned knowledge about your culture to, then your education and your cultural values, the pillar of a society, cease to exist.

The point is not whether or not you have tolerance for screaming, misbehaved toddlers, the point is that at the end of the day, your feminist values, your hard work, your place in a culture and society that you apparently value could never be secured without security for those who DO choose to participate in the basic function of a species, the reason for the existence of any society, regardless of the established institutions or individual frivolous pursuits.

Certainly, there are many branches of feminist theory. You would be well informed to understand that only one purports equality for BOTH sexes, and that would be the ideology of Liberal Feminism. While you may be partial to this perspective, understand that as a feminist you cannot discount the perspectives of Social Feminists and Radical Feminists, who would both, on rather differing terms, support women's right to freely choose when they have children and not to be disadvantaged by this choice, including the limiting of access to an education. There are very few Radical Feminists who believe that the love between a woman and a woman is the only true, equal love and that we should not be chained by the oppressive action of child bearing. Child bearing and rearing is only oppressive if society is structured to make it oppressive to women - another tenet of Radical Feminism; perhaps society needs to be entirely restructured to achieve equality. You would also be well informed to understand that Liberal Feminists would also agree with this perspective. They believe in equality of sexes, yes, but there is not equality in disadvantaging a woman for her biological right to procreate, something feminists do not deny as they do not believe in masculinizing a woman to improve her condition in society; that is not equality. Certainly, they advocate contraceptive methods to make that choice a woman's, but the choice is still not in their hands if they are forced to chose between the right to an education and the right to a family.

I am so proud to live in a country that is intelligently run so as to understand the societal repercussions of barring women from having children and getting an education. We have top schools that provide health care and benefits to students and their families as well as aid and coverage for housing and daycare. My beautiful, intelligent child is well cared for in a society where I can freely participate in graduate school, and any other endeavor that my heart and mind can dream up, to a similar degree as a man in my position. There is no refuting better educated mothers lead to better educated and cared for children, perpetuating a stronger cultural base and creating better citizens as all citizens are used to their full potential.