Here’s the lady’s bio, which reads like a nightmare or a free spirit’s life, depending on your world view:
Left to her own devices by parents she thought were preoccupied with their careers, Rebecca Walker experimented with drugs, had sexual encounters with men and women, and had an abortion at 14.
But by the time she was an adult, she was writing about intergenerational feminism (her godmother is Gloria Steinem), and had helped found the Third Wave Foundation, a philanthropic group for women ages 15 to 30, becoming a symbol for young women who may not have considered themselves feminists.
Symbol though she was, Ms. Walker also cultivated a private life, and in her 20s was in a serious relationship with another woman.
Who is the lady? She’s the daughter of African-American novelist and feminist icon Alice Walker and civil rights lawyer Mel Leventhal. What makes Ms. Walker interesting is that she met her biological destiny, in the form of her two year old son, Tenzin:
Today, however, Ms. Walker, 37, has become what she called a new Rebecca, one who has a male partner, a child and some revised theories about the ties that bind, which she explores in a new book, “Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence” (Riverhead), to be released on Thursday. A review appears in The Times Book Review today.
Its inspiration? Her son, Tenzin, 2, who is named after the Dalai Lama. (Ms. Walker’s father voted for Chaim and lost.)
Gone is the sexual experimentation and, especially, gone is the belief that men and women are pretty well interchangeable. Instead, in their place is a woman who has turned in a 1950s kind of gal:
The book explores the usual pregnancy topics like food intake, genetic counseling and the doctor-versus-midwife debate, and reveals that Ms. Walker is now estranged from her famous mother.
But it is also unusual in that it is a pregnancy book with a message for women who are not yet pregnant, amplifying a theme Ms. Walker sounds on the undergraduate lecture circuit.
“I keep telling these women in college, ‘You need to plan having a baby like you plan your career if it’s something that you want,’ ” she said. “Because we haven’t been told that, this generation. And they’re shocked when I say that. I’m supposed to be like this feminist telling them, ‘Go achieve, go achieve.’ And I’m sitting there saying, ‘For me, having a baby has been the most transformational experience of my life.’ ”
And so Ms. Walker has become the latest to lend her voice to the long-running debate of work versus motherhood, a trade-off that to younger women probably no longer seems as stark as it did to Ms. Walker.
How very troubling for a movement when its icons publicly announce that the chosen path is an empty one.
As for me, I haven’t found children to be my personal be-it-and-end-all. I often miss my selfish old pre-child life of living only for myself. Selfishness exists because, until boredom sets in, it’s very pleasant. I don’t, however, regret having my children, tiring though they may be, and that’s not only because I love them.
I believe that, regardless of their biological age, people don’t fully grow up until they begin to take responsibility for others. I don’t responsibility in the form of being a manager who has to handle a payroll or some such thing. I mean finding yourself in a role where other’s lives immediately depend on you. Children are the most common way in which most people find themselves in this role: If you’re not there for the children, both in terms of providing for their physical and emotional needs, they are lost.
Whether you have biological children, or adopt, or foster, or whatever, the responsibility for a child is the one job that most clearly and instantly separates you from your own childhood (the time when you looked for others to take care of you) or from your young adulthood (a time when you cared for yourself), but for nobody else. In that way, I think children are every person’s biological destiny — man or woman — because it is a necessary step in the trajectory of healthy maturity.
That’s my two cents. What are your thoughts on anything I’ve said here? (Feminism’s failure? Whether people need children to grow? Anything else?)
The reason I’m asking these last questions is because so many of my posts don’t elicit a lot of feedback. I can’t figure out if it’s because many of my posts are such comprehensive little universes that there’s nothing to add or if there’s something else going on. After I’ve had my say on a subject, I really do enjoy listening to what everyone else has to add, especially because I usually learn a lot from the breadth of knowledge and insight you all possess.