The Mother of All Questions

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May 13, 2017 by readingoutside


A problem so dear to my heart – why do so many people think it’s an issue when a woman doesn’t have children? – opens Rebecca Solnit’s latest collection of essays, my favourite of hers so far.   The opening essay was inspired by a talk Solnit was giving on Virginia Woolf, when the conversation was derailed by whether or not Woolf should have had children.  Solnit found the conversation pointless: “after all, many people make babies; only one made To the Lighthouse and Three Guineas, and we were discussing Woolf because of the latter.”  Or perhaps, more eloquently, “Fuck this shit.”

If you’re someone who thinks they should question Woolf (or Solnit’s) reproductive choices, maybe you should read this book.  Solnit is now, dare I say it, my favourite living feminist writer, and she really has got society’s number in a way I’ve never seen before.  I had my feminist awakening in my early twenties and I remember being angry all the time about everything, but I’m more mellow now (older feminists have learned to channel their anger into more productive means.)  So I don’t follow the feminist news as much, to preserve my own sanity.  But the way Solnit delivers it gives me hope that the future of feminism is bright.   Perhaps the backlash is so strong because the way society views women is changing so fundamentally.  Sometimes we are so (rightly) horrified by the misogyny (Gamergate, Twitter, campus rape, etc.) that we miss the bigger, better things that are going on in our collective consciousness.  Change can be scary.  Change can be good.  Rebecca Solnit is your guide in this strange new world.


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