Politics & Policy

Feminism’s Dreadful Life Advice

Sarah Silverman (Reuters photo: Mario Anzuoni)
Sarah Silverman’s struggle with motherhood offers a cautionary tale for anyone tempted to drink the Kool-Aid of modern feminism.

How do we solve a problem like modern feminism? As I’ve long argued, it offers little more than a long, drawn-out, decidedly un-fun handbook for ruining your life.

Don’t believe me? Witness the latest victim in this long-running series: Sarah Silverman, the high-profile comedian, actress, and very public non-mother.

This week, Silverman whipped up an Internet storm — a mix of shame, drama, and endless variations on “you go girl!” — by declaring the following to her 10 million Twitter followers: “As a comic always working and on the road I have had to decide between motherhood & living my fullest life & I chose the latter.”

Where to begin? The comment had something to annoy a whole lot of people, including the implicit suggestion that mothers, saddled by a bunch of downer children, were not living their “fullest life.” Silverman quickly doubled down on the weirdness, suggesting that men can flit in and out of their children’s lives like a mystical cross between Santa and Don Draper: “Men don’t have to do that. I’d so love to be a fun dad, coming home from the road & being my best fun dad self.”

Talk about oppressive gender norms. Why can’t a mom be a fun dad? It’s 2017, after all, and gender is fluid, at least I’m told. I’m also informed that gender is both completely meaningless and the most meaningful thing in the world. (Incidentally, I’m also repeatedly told that neither I — nor science — can question any of this or disagree.) So if boys can be girls, and girls can be boys, then moms can certainly be fun dads. Hooray! Sarah Silverman’s dilemma is over! This will be the shortest column ever!

Just kidding.

To be fair, this meditation on motherhood came just a few weeks after Silverman called for a coup against Donald Trump followed by four cheerful heart emojis — “WAKE UP & JOIN THE RESISTANCE. ONCE THE MILITARY IS W US FACISTS GET OVER THROWN. MAD KING & HIS HANDLERS GO BYE BYE” — so it’s somewhat tempting to simply look the other way. But Silverman’s public struggle with motherhood says something important about our society, and offers a cautionary tale for anyone tempted to drink the Kool-Aid of modern feminism today.

“It’s a sadness for me because I love kids. I ache for kids,” Silverman told a podcast in 2016, describing her childless state, “but I love my life more. You can’t have it all; you really can’t.” This might come as news to the scores of wildly successful and powerful women with children who have existed throughout history — many of whom, no offense, had far more consequential gigs than comedy — but it’s a feminist doctrine that’s slowly seeping in to the hearts and minds of young women today.

“The reaction to my pregnancy was neatly split along demographic lines,” wrote E. J. Dickson in New York magazine last week, in a piece called “Why Did Everyone Act Like I Was Crazy When I Decided to Have a Baby in My 20s?” (As a side note, Dickson is 27, and far closer to 30 — the time when fertility starts to drop off — than 20.) “When I told people over the age of 40 that I was pregnant, they were delighted. People under the age of 40, however, were horrified.”

“Horrified”? What a strange new world. I had a similar experience years ago, when I lived in New York and got married at the age of 22. Many people were, and I am not exaggerating, astounded. Flabbergasted. Baffled. At one point, a woman spotted my engagement ring in a Blockbuster Video — remember Blockbuster Video, fellow old people? — pulled me aside, and asked if I was a child bride. I think she was only half kidding.

The comedian simply echoed years of feminist indoctrination.

Getting married at 22 was a great decision, at least for me. If I had listened to feminists, however, it never would have happened. If modern feminism were a person, it would be that slightly shady high-school friend who promises you epic times and a Ferris Bueller–style daytime cocktail cruise if you skip school — but when you show up, there are no cocktails, no fun of any kind, and everyone sits around complaining about the patriarchy until you all get arrested because you’re actually sitting on a stolen boat.

In other words, it’s a colossal bait-and-switch. Silverman took a lot of online heat for her comments, with people scoffing at her “barren womb,” which frankly isn’t right or fair. The comedian simply echoed years of feminist indoctrination, highlighting the ridiculous package that countless young American women are being sold.

“You can’t be a woman w/out sacrifice & that’s the fact jack,” Silverman declared. Correction: You can’t be a good parent, male or female, without sacrifice or hard choices. But in the real world, most good things don’t come for free. Oh, never mind. In most cases, modern feminists don’t believe that line either.

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