Friday, September 16, 2005

Women 'defying nature'?

Specialists are warning that there are health risks involved in women having children in their thirties and fourties. A couple of things come to mind when I read this.

Once an older woman does become pregnant, she runs a greater risk of miscarriage, foetal and chromosomal abnormalities, and pregnancy-related diseases.

They add: "Women want to 'have it all' but biology is unchanged.


I'm not going to argue with the medical evidence here, as I know precious little about biology, and these guys are the experts. What I would like to add is that the perception of what is 'natural' changes over time. In Ancient Greece, for example, women were married at a young age to older men. There was a perception that pregnancy was essential to a woman's wellbeing, and that it was adviseable for a woman to be pregnant for as much of the time as possible. This would seem to be in direct opposition to the damage that mutiple pregnancies and childbirth can do to women, not to mention the life threatening nature of childbirth itself. Medicine has a social context, and what is culturally acceptable is frequently assumed to be what is natural.

This passage really caught me, and illuminated the nature of the problems that women face in our patriarchy:

"Their delays may reflect disincentives to earlier pregnancy or maybe an underlying resistance to childbearing as, despite the advantages brought about by feminism and equal opportunities legislation, women still bear full domestic burdens as well as work and financial responsibilities."


The definition of the 'having it all' in the first quote is made clear in the second quote. 'Having it all' means what men having always had- a career and a family- without being criticised. Women are taking on double the burdens and it would be no small wonder to find these pressures having an adverse affect on their health. 'Having it all' for women also seems to mean 'suffering it all', and to have what men have always been able to claim means they have to work twice as hard.

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