We aren't Greeks
And Amy Richards is not Medea.
Yes, my friends, the "How big a bitch is this woman for not considering the opinions of total strangers before she made her decision?" debate is fired up again at Alas, a Blog. And as usual, there are complaints not about her decision itself, but about the lack of maudlin scenes of despair in her account of it. From Courtney, who started it back up:
It's not so much the fact that she went though with the SR (which I was asked to consider with my quad pregnancy) its the fact that she was so cold about it. While I was going though it I was an emotional mess, the minute I saw those heart beats on the screen I was attached to them, I KNEW they where MY childern, my first though was definatly not "How can I get rid of a few of them".
It has nothing to do with feminie emotion (my husband wept in my arms because he did not think he could take part in the decision of which one of our childern would live and which would die), it has nothing to do with puffing up my own maternal dedication (which every mother should feel, and if she dosn't she should not bother to have children). It has to do with the fact that she saw her childern on the screen and said "What is the best way to destroy them, how can I stop their little beating hearts because I don't THINK I can handle it."
Maybe everyone should struggle with infertilty and the desprate want of a child in order to understand what an amazing blessing they are.
Initially, my annoyance at this stems mostly from Courtney's seeming belief, which is common to those who were angry about this article, that you don't "deserve" the selective reduction unless you have suffered, and loudly, for it. Regardless of perfunctory "men cry too" denials to the contrary, this is a very sexist reaction. If husbands or boyfriend stoically suck it up and say, "Well if it must be done, then it must," then we applaud their courage. But anything less than maudlin weeping from women is considered a sign of cold bitchiness.
And then I realized, the strength of my annoyance is about more than just sexist stereotyping. These demands that women who abort or have selective reductions weep and gnash their teeth about it insults my taste. My god, that would have been a shitty story, way below the writing level of the NY Times! Let us review the detail that everyone likes to pick at to demonstrate how cold Richards is.
I'll never leave my house because I'll have to care for these children. I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise. Even in my moments of thinking about having three, I don't think that deep down I was ever considering it.
This was the most moving part of the story to me. This is where I felt the finality of such a decision, because she's invoking the possibilities that are lost when final decisions are made. Granted, the lost possibility is a grim one, but it's a possibility nonetheless.
So why focus on the small details like Costco? That's what's called writing. It's the style that is familiar to the audience. If I were writing a story about a similiar necessary but sad decision, like breaking up with a boyfriend, I wouldn't concentrate on the heavy-duty crying. No, I'd go for the poignant details, like divvying up a record collection or ruminating on having to watch the kind of movies we liked to watch together alone. Telling details that both personalize a story and hit upon universal feelings the entire reading audience can understand.
And I doubt that I would come under fire for such a story, even though breaking up with someone is difficult and painful. It's not "cold" to meditate on small details. It's poignant. (I would also point out that being housebound is not a small detail, but instead is a soul-sucking pit of hell for some people, but that's off-topic here.)
The slightly stoic, detail-oriented way of handling grief, from large griefs like death to smaller ones like lost possibilities, is our cultural lexicon. Go to a funeral if you'd like for this. After subdued crying, people generally gather at the wake and discuss little things they remember about the passed person as demonstrations of vast love. (Boy, if that's not the difference between abortion and actual death of people--that abortion is considered in lost possibility whereas death in actual memories--I don't know what is.) If people would like to make an argument against our cultural style, you're free to do it. We could return to the era of stylized lamenting, having Greek choruses shouting behind actors making speeches, and professional mourners at funerals doing all the loud crying and lamenting that the actual mourners are too grieved to do, but I would find that style a bit false and jarring myself.