Caroline Hax had an article recently in which a woman came to her about her husband who didn’t want her pregnancy to continue. He didn’t want another child. This pregnancy was the result of years of IVF attempts, and the husband had changed his mind at some point.
“He wants his wife to abort a child she has ached for six years to conceive.
And you’re the one worried you’re selfish?”
Oh that’s right, he’s the selfish asshole here. She has ached for the baby for six years; what else matters here? After all his reproduction is really none of his business. Or something.
This decision not have another child or not, to abort or not, is absolutely not a case of her body her choice. This is about her imposing her will and making decisions for her husband about his life. Let’s just be real clear about that.
Of course an abortion is an issue of her bodily autonomy, but not the issue in this case. This is about press-ganging someone into parenthood to pander to her baby rabies.
This is not an uncommon attitude apparently. Here’s a woman who threatens to withhold sex, to withdraw from the marriage basically, if her husband has a vasectomy. They have two kids, he doesn’t want any more, and she thinks that is solely her decision. (That, and it makes infidelity so much trickier, I suppose.)
Hax is really not a sexist pig. This seems to be a particular blind spot for Hax rather than a pattern of gender bigotry. When it comes to spouses and partners who have trouble finding work, she is completely even-handed in her advice, whether it’s about a wife or a husband.
On the other hand, food issues seem to be another blind spot. When it’s a husband insisting his wife lose some weight before they have a baby, he’s a controlling asshole. When it’s a wife who decides to go all vegetarian and Puritanical after the marriage, Hax counsels the wife to back off on what the on what the husband chooses to eat but require that he not eat it around the kids – translation: Mother decides the kid’s diet, because after all she’s the real parent. So maybe this is the same blind spot – a Golden Uterus conception of roles and responsibilities in parenting.
So maybe parenting is the final battleground when it comes to gender equality, and even generally sane and decent people like Carolyn Hax haven’t gotten quite all the way there yet. Getting clear of sexist enculturation is a battle of inches, it isn’t just throwing a switch and suddenly everything is all better.