Bettina’s breeding bullshit

You’ll struggle to find many feminists who agree with Bettina Arndt. This feminist certainly never does, because Arndt’s advice to women always comes down to this: “If your husband wants sex and you don’t feel like it, just say yes because halfway through you may find yourself enjoying it, but even if you don’t enjoy it, it’s good for a man to have sex when he wants it”. Um, yeah. Unless you’re a rapist, having sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex ain’t very sexy.

Anyway, she’s done it again: Shacking up is hard to do: why Gillard may be leery of the Lodge:

Julia Gillard doesn’t want to move into the Lodge until she gets a democratic tick of approval. Or so she says. Maybe the real reason she is stalling is to test the waters about public reaction to moving her first bloke in there with her.

I know journalists are more socially liberal than the rest of the population, but I really don’t think the rest of the population gives a shit about whether Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson are married or not. Except for maybe some Abbott supporters.

It’s fine for Gillard – a 48-year-old woman – to live with her bloke. Yet as a popular role model for women, her lifestyle choice may influence other women into making big mistakes about their lives.

Um. I just don’t know what to say about that. Living with someone you love is a “big mistake”?

Cohabitation produces two groups of losers among women and children.

That’s right girls. If you’re not married then you’re a loser.

Most women want to have children – Gillard is an exception – and some miss out after wasting their primary reproductive years in a succession of live-in relationships which look hopeful but go nowhere, leaving them childless and partnerless as they hit 40.

Riiight. So if a woman chooses to live with her partner and they don’t have kids, then it’s Gillard’s fault? And if a woman lives with someone who doesn’t want kids, then he’ll suddenly dump her because they don’t have kids? That just doesn’t make sense.

Women’s tiny reproductive window means they pay a high price for wasting precious breeding time in such uncertain relationships.

Arndt doesn’t think much of women, does she? She has this idea that adult women are silly creatures who only think about having babies. And getting married. And perhaps having babies to trap a man into marriage so she can have more babies. Sigh.

If Gillard chooses to play house with Tim Mathieson in the Lodge, this choice sends a strong message to the huge numbers of women who rightly admire her and seek to follow her example. A lifestyle suited to her particular needs may be riskier for many women and their children.

The chances of an adult woman choosing to live with her partner just because Julia Gillard does, is ridiculously small. And enough of the condescending “play house”. Ah yes, because if you’re not married then you’re not an adult, even if you are the Prime Minister of Australia.

Arndt then goes on to use a conversation between Germaine Greer and Margaret Whitlam IN 1972 (SHOUTING!) as an example. ALMOST FOUR DECADES AGO, when Australian society was very different. Can anyone say ‘out of touch’?

At the heart of this conversation was role models. People in the public eye, our influential leaders, need to think through whether others who don’t share their circumstances will follow their example and get into trouble.

Um, no. Being a role model is one thing. Expecting someone in the public eye to get married simply because they are a role model is completely ridiculous.

Every day we see well-known Australians making dubious lifestyle decisions being lauded in the media – celebrities choosing to become single mothers, unwed fathers, parents dragging children through a succession of chaotic ”blended” families.

Ooh, judge much?

Pat Rafter was made Australian of the Year just as he was about to become an unmarried father. What did that say to his many male fans about the importance of committed fathering?

Actually Bettina, what it says is that he doesn’t need a piece of paper declaring his love to one person (and usually a magical man in the sky) in order to be a good parent to another person. And the suggestion that you need the former to be the latter is just dumb.

Update: From the always fabulous Fuck Politeness:

You’re banging on about Julia Gillard’s ‘real reasons’ for delaying moving into the Lodge? I suggest your real reasons for having a problem are that Ms Gillard has chosen not to have children, has chosen not to get married and has a wildly successful career and appears to all intents and purposes to be a funny, happy, intelligent and well rounded woman and THAT bothers the hell out of you as an example for our girls, since they might realise that they don’t NEED to slide into marriage and babies.

47 responses to “Bettina’s breeding bullshit

  1. I’m so glad you posted on this. I have raged on Twitter for hours over this.

    She is such a loathesome person. I can’t believe that there are people out there who think like this. It’s just dark ages bullshit.

    Best quote about this I’ve seen so far on Twitter: @nerdfish nerdfish ” From now on I am referring to my vagina as my tiny reproductive window. ”

    We need The Vaginator to have a quiet word to Bettina. She needs to be schooled.

    Oh and from a personal perspective – I’m in a de facto relationship so obviously I have no morals (around eight years or no morals). Bettina’s wise words have really woken me up to the fact that my partner is eventually going to leave me because we’re not married. To pre-empt my needing to scream “I gave him my best years!” at the sunset I’ve decided to just leave and marry the first person who will have me. And then have lots and lots of babies. Quickly. Before my precious breeding reproductive window shuts forever and I close up completely.

    • That @nerdfish quote is the best one I’ve seen as well.

      Make sure that when you do marry the first person who’ll have you, that you use sex as a mind weapon – oh, wait, that’s Samantha Brett, not Bettina Arndt.

      • Oh forgot about Samantha Brett – that reminds me that I’ll never get a husband because I have tattoos. Oh she’s taught me so much too! Maybe I can cover my tatts with a Playboy bunny or schoolgirl outfit.

  2. Face, meet palm.

    This op-ed was so stupid it made me feel a bit stabby. I mean, “precious breeding time”?! I can’t believe you had the patience to take it apart piece by piece.

  3. I am now very concerned about my “tiny reproductive window”.

    Except, as it was pointed out on Twitter, my reproductive window is capacious enough, so actually, Bettina Arndt can kiss it.

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  5. Excellent post, NwN. I’m very tempted to get divorced, shack up with my ex, and have more kids, just so that I can be a really, really bad example to all the dilly-brained women around me who couldn’t possibly think for themselves.

  6. Yeeeeeeeeah, classic Bettina (I even dislike her name there is something so ‘Stepford’ about it). What happens when a woman’s tiny reproductive window closes up – is there a rush of air out of the room, is it audible, what happens if there are several women in the room at once that it happens to, do we sync like menstruation? My god if that happened it may create a vacuum or affect climate change. agh…Bettina is right – its dangerous!

  7. Oh love, she doesn’t deserve your very fine rebuttal.

    Personally, I would love it if all young women made the ‘mistakes’ Gillard is making. She seems to be doing pretty well for herself, dontcha think!?

  8. Not to mention being such a screw up that she is Prime Minister of Australia – sheesh talk about a girl wasting her life.

  9. So my ex wouldn’t have chucked me over at the altar if I hadn’t shacked up with him and then got knocked up first… Oh my god! I’m a loser! Bettina’s right! My whole life is completely fucked now and its all because I’m a feminist! Oh noes!!!!!

    Stab, stab, stab, dry heave, vomit, dry heave…

    • Aww, lissy, did you forget that your virginity is a gift that you should only give to your husband on your wedding night? Perhaps if you had been thinking about that, and not about buying pretty shoes, your whole life wouldn’t be fucked forever.

  10. Pretty fatuous analysis of her comments if you ask me. I’m not familiar with Bettina Arndt, so maybe there’s a broader context I’m unaware of, but her article was inoffensive. Feminist analysis should be about more than responding to dog whistles and grossly caricaturing the opinions of those who don’t toe the line (which is what all of your responses to Arndt’s comments amount to – tacky caricature). That kind of thing will only ever be a pyrrhic victory – feminismTM is asserted, we all feel good about it and ourselves, but discussion of potential relevance to women is stifled.

    Women’s interests vary. As a great many women wish to reproduce, it is appropriate that the feminist discourse take into account the kinds of self defeating decisions we can sometimes make that may limit our options in this regard. Like it or not, the fact is that when a young woman decides to move in with her male partner she takes a risk, effectively granting her spouse all the benefits of being married but very few of the responsibilities. This can end badly, and more than once I have seen hopeful mothers left single and with diminished reproductive capacity when their partner decides, years on, that he’s actually not all that interested in suddenly acquiring a whole bunch of new obligations.

    That’s a big deal. It’s a personal tragedy for these women and Arndt makes a worthwhile point.

    • You call yourself a feminist, yet claim you’re unfamiliar with Bettina Arndt? Wow.

      Of course women’s interests vary. But I fail to see how Arndt calling women in de facto relationships “losers” is anything other than a pathetic attempt to justify her own “lifestyle choices”. And suggesting that all women are just waiting around for someone to marry them while their biological clocks tick louder and louder is, frankly, ridiculous. Equally ridiculous is the suggestion that Pat Rafter is a bad father because he’s not married. Arndt talks of studies, yet doesn’t mention a single one. She quotes a conversation that’s almost 40 years old as evidence of her claims – and Australian society has grown up a lot in the last 40 years.

      It makes me sad that you think “when a young woman decides to move in with her male partner she takes a risk, effectively granting her spouse all the benefits of being married but very few of the responsibilities”. That sells both women and men short, and suggests that women are a commodity to be owned. That thinking is not feminist.

      • Again, a caricature. Saying I even suggested women are a ‘commodity’ is a straw-man.

        It happens. Women who want kids give years of their lives to someone they think they can depend on and end up alone and unlikely to ever have children. Given that this is the truth, it sells neither men nor women short to say so, however ‘sad’ that may be for you. On the contrary, it sells women short to pretend we do them any favors by not discussing it. Feminism should be about protecting women’s interests, not our own delicate sensibilities.

        I agree though. Shame I wasn’t familiar with this particular writer. Thanks for alerting me to her work!

        • I’m not sure why you think ‘women who want children and men who don’t’ isn’t discussed. It’s discussed all the time, to the point that it’s assumed that all women want children and all men don’t, and we all know that isn’t true.

          The idea that women are in relationships simply to have children is rather calculating. Yes, there are women who stay in relationships that aren’t ideal because they do want children, just as there are women who leave relationships that aren’t ideal because they also want children. And there are just as many women who don’t want children at all. Giving “years of your life” to someone you think you can depend on, and then finding out you can’t depend on them at all, sounds to me like it’s the fault of the one you can’t depend on, not the woman who thought she was in a good relationship.

          • I absolutely agree. But this isn’t about blaming women. It’s about arming them with information that may be helpful. That it’s not her fault doesn’t change a woman’s situation one bit when she finds herself in this dilemma.

            Again, the priority has to be protecting women’s interests, and ‘blame’ doesn’t enter into that equation. The fact that we wouldn’t have to think about these kinds of things in a perfect world is irrelevant to whether or not we ought to in this one.

    • dear ‘feminist’ – admittedly we do take the piss out if Arndt…but when an article is as ludicrous it only warrants a low brow and humorous response. To apply serious debate to such a ridiculous analysis is a waste of our collective intellect and precious time.

      I agree with you that feminists take many shapes and sizes and cut across lots of political spectrums. Feminists are mothers and breeders too – this site is proof (pregnancy test) positive of that. lots of mums and prospective mums including married, unmarried, straight and gay ones on here. What you will notice is that most people don’t make sweeping judgements on whether one of these ‘lifestyle choices’ (I hate that term so sorry at using it) is more virtuous then the other…the difference being, and the reason for the rallying cry, is that Arndt does!!! If you can’t understand that simple fact then maybe you want to rethink your commenter name!

      you say this: “Like it or not, the fact is that when a young woman decides to move in with her male partner she takes a risk, effectively granting her spouse all the benefits of being married but very few of the responsibilities” you use the word FACT like ‘A Current Affair’ does. This is an opinion, your opinion, not a fact and I totally disagree with your opinion. Its naive to think a wedding band guarantees babies?

      • Thanks for your reply Lexy,

        I should have said “when a young woman expecting to have children decides to move in with her male partner she runs a statistical risk”. I think that much is true. It might be an acceptable risk to some people, but others might decide, given reason to consider it, that it is not. And of course in some cases it is not a risk at all, depending on the guy.

        But like I’ve said, I really think this is about arming young women with information. I get defensive when I perceive that certain ideas are off limits for discussion because they aren’t consistent with the allotted talking points. Maybe Arndt isn’t the best spokesperson for these ideas, but in and of themselves they do not concern me. In fact, I’m glad to see someone who is prepared to talk about an issue which effects numerous women’s lives, even though it won’t make her popular.

        As for the name, I was making the same point as does your second paragraph by adopting it.

    • PS did you read the SMH comments and see the online SMH poll? I don’t think we are alone in finding it a pointless, misleading and poor excuse for an article.

    • Umm I’m confused. ‘Feminist’ are you aware that many, many de facto couples have children?

      If you’re in a relationship and your partner does not want children it’s up to you if you want to stay in that relationship or not.

      It has nothing at all to do with marriage or being in a de facto relationship.

      It’s so ridiculously sexist to play that ‘women want babies and men don’t’ card. And it’s equally sexist to assume women are so weak-willed that they’re not able to decide whether ot not they want to stay in a relationship with someone who does not want children.

      I know many divorced people with kids. And I know many de facto couples with kids. There are many ways to make a family and I just don’t see the point in heaping pressure on women to get married and spawn.

      There are (generally) two people in a relationship and getting married does not ensure anything – it doesn’t mean you’ll both stay together or have kids. If someone doesn’t want kids when they’re in a de facto relationship they’re not going to want them when they’re married.

      ” Like it or not, the fact is that when a young woman decides to move in with her male partner she takes a risk, effectively granting her spouse all the benefits of being married but very few of the responsibilities. ”

      TRANSLATION: Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free.


      Frankly I think that marrying someone you’ve never lived with is a risk. Notice how I said “I think”….

  11. According to Arndt I’m a loser and I deeply resent that. The sad thing is I remember her championing for womens’ rights to have great sex in the early 80’s (ok she was doing it in the 70’s but it wasn’t on my reading list at that tender age). Not sure what happened to her in the interim.

    As much as I believe there is wisdom to be learnt from our elders, sadly at 60 she seems hell bent on undoing all the advances of feminism she once so valiantly strived for.

  12. If Arndt is to be believed, I live a thoroughly Satanic lifestyle. I am unmarried. I live with someone. I chose not to have children. I am sitting on the fence religiously; agnostic bordering on atheist. So when every opinionated nobody who has a voice within the media criticises Gillard for her life choices, they insult me. Not that I vote for people – I vote for policies – but all this vitriol is sure gathering some empathy for Gillard along the way. One question I need to ask is this: why do media agencies pay idiots like Arndt to write tripe about issues they don’t understand? To get publicity. To sensationalise an issue. And boy, have they achieved their goal on this one; the old adage that any publicity is good publicity. Nice piece. I am glad I found your blog and I look forward to receiving nipples in my in box soon.

    • Hi Amanda, welcome to the good ship Nipples. I look forward to putting my nipples in your inbox soon. (I love how dirty that sounds.)

      Arndt’s piece has been almost universally condemned as being rubbish, and I hope the Herald‘s opinion editor takes note. Any publicity is not always good publicity. As readers, we expect more from the paper.

      • I totally agree NWN but I doubt the SMH will care about the condemnation…otherwise why keep printing Miranda Devine all these years!

        Someone earlier made a comment about the vitriol being offensive to those men and women who are unmarried, childless, not particularly religious etc. This is such a good point and one made very eloquently by Magda Subanski (sic) on Q & A. A good proportion of the public is not married or are not parents. They may be one day or they may not. We vote too and we are less of a minority than many talkback hosts and trollumists care to consider.

  13. Surely a woman takes just as many risks when she marries a man as when she enters a de facto relationship.

    Sure, it’s harder to leave because of all the legal entanglements and some may think, “why bother?”

    But to be honest, how healthy would the relationship be with the family only staying together to avoid all the issues of a divorce?

    • Hi Steve, welcome to the Nipples. That relationship would not be healthy at all – and those kids grow up thinking that’s normal.

      The suggestion by Arndt and Feminist that getting married ensures you’ll have children and be good parents is laughable.

      • “The suggestion by Arndt and Feminist that getting married ensures you’ll have children and be good parents is laughable.”

        Wait. What? Where?

  14. Do you always put words in the mouths of those you disagree with? Just goes to show that you are more interested in confirming your own biases than productive discussion. Because really, the above makes it seem as if you’ve ignored everything I’ve said. Not a serious person. Not a serious thinker. Waste of my time.

  15. “Surely a woman takes just as many risks when she marries a man as when she enters a de facto relationship. ”

    Nice to see a bloke acknowledge that, Steve!

  16. Pingback: 26th Down Under Feminists Carnival: The Leadership Edition « a shiny new coin

  17. Oh – hooray – its so encouraging to see some people who know that Bettina Arndt is a no-good anti-feminist pseudo psychologist with great big hairy testicle-sized rocks in her thinking.

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