Oh, mother! What’s the most subversive argument a woman can make in the topsy-turvy la-la land that is America in 2021? It is of course a point that would have been regarded as utterly normal and sane just a few years ago — i.e., that women shouldn’t necessarily be afraid to have children.
Elizabeth Bruenig, an opinion writer at the New York Times, this week made the shockingly transgressive point that ‘there are good reasons to wait to have children and good reasons not to’. She mildly suggested that the nation’s declining birthrates was a cause for concern, that the Biden administration was right to want to do more to support parents in need of financial help. She admitted that she found becoming a mother at 25 daunting but also a ‘relief…for this member of a generation famously beset by anxiety, it was a welcome liberation.’
Heresy! Feminist Twitter duly vented spleen:
If you want a take on this issue that is smart and isn't naked pandering to the fantasies of pathetic men, I recommend @JillFilipovic's newsletter. Unlike anything Bruenig writes, Jill actually respects women. https://t.co/dL0vhP1644
— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) May 9, 2021
"That's right, I'm an affluent, white, married, straight Christian, AND a mother… TRIGGERED YET LIBS???" was always going to have shortcomings as a grift, but Christ, you could have chosen a less obviously off-putting dude to build the brand around
— Jude Ellison S. Doyle (@sadydoyle) May 9, 2021
I think it’s super weird to write opinion columns about how your life decisions are superior to other people’s, but I guess that’s just how the New York Times works pic.twitter.com/V1okb3NHPJ
— jacqui shine (@DearSplenda) May 10, 2021
Not since Sen. Tom Cotton called for the National Guard to be deployed against BLM rioters has a New York Times op-ed — sorry, essay — rubbed up such a lather of social-media indignation. But over what, exactly? A mother saying she loves her child and other mothers might too?
It’s no wonder so many of these women can’t find time to have a child, given the hours they dedicate to being angry on Twitter. A few members of the perpetually offended hivemind were clearly unable even to spare the five minutes needed to read Bruenig’s article.
What we are seeing here is the most powerful case yet of what others have dubbed ‘Bruenig Derangement Syndrome’. For Bruenig, a Christian, seems to trigger the most insane outrage on social media, whether she is doling out advice on dating or posting breast-feeding images. Cockburn suspects this is something to do with her Twitter bio emphasizing that she is both ‘Christian’ and an ‘opinion writer at @nytimes’, meaning she can annoy both sides of the culture war without trying.
Or perhaps it’s just veiled female misogyny: after all Bruenig is physically attractive and, er, fecund. Women can be rather resentful towards more handsome members of their sex, in Cockburn’s long experience, especially if the woman in question has had children and still dares to sport sensuous red lipstick in her profile pic.
Cockburn consulted Mary Kate Skehan, the Spectator columnist and oracle in all such matters, who suggested that BDS was at root something simpler: ‘People feel personally accused by her, since she’s apparently happy and they are not.’
That gets to the heart of it: in her latest piece, Bruenig dared to suggest that her child had made her content. For many, that is unforgivable.