Whirr Whirr, Sputter Sputter: What Happens When the "Birthing-Giving Machine and Device" Breaks Down?

BlogHer Original Post

Just when I thought I was done commenting on women’s reproductive status in the world for a little while, a story of immense interest comes my way. From The Guardian:

"The number of women between the ages of 15 and 50 is fixed. The number of birth-giving machines (and) devices is fixed, so all we can ask is that they do their best per head," Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa said in a speech Saturday, the Asahi and Mainichi newspapers reported. [emphasis mine]

Yanagisawa reportedly apologized even as he made the remarks, and later told Kyodo News agency the language he used was "too uncivil."

You think? The blogosphere is abuzz over this gaffe. Am I a Woman Scientist sums up my response to this statement very nicely:

In fact, sir, it is not appropriate at all.

The mere fact that this phrase would even cross the mind of the (male) health minister says it all... why the hell would any Japanese woman want to have children in that sort of culture? I'm sorry if I am being culturally insensitive here, but what I experienced during my brief visit there was a profound objectification of women, either as sex objects or as mothers, with no other options. It was very, very disheartening.

On the other hand, this type of comment always makes me think about the place of infertile women in this world. What happens when the "birth-giving machine and device" is broken? Do we get traded in for a refund and a shiny new one? As a woman who has polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a frighteningly common disease among women these days in which hormone levels are generally normal, but ovarian cysts mess with regular reproductive function among other issues, I am glad that I live in a world that values me for a bit more than my ability to have kiddies. Then I read things like this, and remember that actually, that world only exists inside my little birthing machine head.

Women of a certain age are always asked to explain why we don’t have kids - to justify it even. What’s worse, strangers often think nothing of asking you the most intimate question possible: why don’t you have kids? (Or "How come you don’t have kids?") A particularly stunning example of this type of thoughtlessness is over at Baggage and Bug. Read it and weep, then be filled with rage. (Are men ever asked why they don’t have kids or when they’ll have them? I’m just curious.)

Personally, I’m more than OK with the fact that I’ll never have biological kids of my own (the world is probably safer that way, anyway!), but many women aren’t, which makes these statements all the more offensive and outrageous.

Suzanne also blogs about her deviant non-birthing lifestyle at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants

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