So what did Kirstie actually SAY?
Kathryn Grant on "Bumps and Grind" wrote an excellent post on this and I quote:-
"Based on my reading of the article, Kirstie made several important points about lifestyle choices (as well as some very touching comments on how this country deals with death and bereavement). Her point seems to be that, despite all the "choices" women now have, the one thing that cannot be changed is our biological fertility. We have increased life expectancy dramatically, but failed to lengthen the fertility window, so women (and men!) should consider their choices (study, work, house, kids) in a different order. "
"Mother And Daughter" by Ambro via freedigitalphotos.net
As any half-decent Historian or researcher will tell you, you need the Primary Resource - so in Kirstie's words from the Telegraph interview with Bryony Gordon:-
“Women are being let down by the system. We should speak honestly and frankly about fertility and the fact it falls off a cliff when you’re 35. We should talk openly about university and whether going when you’re young, when we live so much longer, is really the way forward. At the moment, women have 15 years to go to university, get their career on track, try and buy a home and have a baby. That is a hell of a lot to ask someone. As a passionate feminist, I feel we have not been honest enough with women about this issue. [Fertility] is the one thing we can’t change. "
Sounds pretty obvious to me I hear you say.... so what on earth was the fuss all about?!
There was a massive outcry because many felt she was suggesting women should shelve University and Career plans and start families younger, and stop moaning about declining fertility when they've done all they "wanted" to do and were "ready" to start their family.
Which really wasn't what she was suggesting at all. The reason it became "lost in translation" was because of Kirstie's background, and the basic assumptions that everyone still makes about those from different backgrounds to them, even in today's society. Because Kirstie would have been in a solid position financially to start a family before establishing a carer, that apparently completely invalidated her point. Which is a massive oversight and a huge mistake if we are going to really change lives for women and teach them to "think out of the box".
It's a case of "don't shoot the messenger" - because Kirstie is spot on. It doesn't matter whether you are rich or poor, married or not, titled or "working class", every woman on the planet has a defined period of fertility. Even with the wonders of IVF, we simply cannot postpone our childbearing years indefinitely.
Thus in the "what would she know" kind of response that followed, women failed to grasp the key point here..... that women are under pressure like never before. Sure they have numerous work-saving gadgets and machines in the home, few are spending their adult years in servitude or decades in munitions factories and can control how many children they bear. But all of that is merely precipitating this assumption that with the drudgery and relentless childbearing taken care of - rather than making women's lives easier, women now have time for so much MORE!
I'm all for choice, but who dreamt up the idea that women should be independently financially stable before having a family? Whatever happened to a spouse supporting a family and offering financial support? It's not old fashioned, it's common sense! Women absolutely should have a career AND a family if they so choose - but why both together, or at least why are women made to feel guilty if they don't want both at once? And are we not looking at the fertility issue completely the wrong way around here? Instead of trying to prolong a woman's naturally declining fertility, when genetic defects are also far more likely, should we not be gently suggesting that leaving things so late if you are certain you want a family is perhaps not the best idea?
"Young Woman " by David Castillo Dominici via freedigitalphotos.net
There will *always* be women for whom having a family doesn't come early. They simply don't meet the right person, are not emotionally ready or are engaged in a key point in education or establishing a career. (Or, like me biology might need a helping hand and after years of trying to conceive you end up resorting to science even when you are not up against the clock.) But what Kirstie is pointing out is that we do sometimes have a CHOICE. Not always - but when we do, we need to acknowledge it and consciously make a choice knowing the possible consequences.
And whilst we are rethinking women's roles why do we think that women have to do everything? Why should they earn enough for the home AND have the family? Do men get to shirk all their responsibilities now in this "New Age"? If you ask me, that's far more unequal then suggesting women focus on their long term choices rather than shelving the baby decision for the late 30s. If you do that, it's a choice (for many, not all) and if you make it, you live with it when reduced fertility knocks at your door.
Women need to reinvent themselves, think out of the box and recognise they don't have to be on a convertor belt. This is the 21st Century and there is no law stating that career has to come chronologically before family, or that an educated woman needs to fulfil both simultaneously to make the grade. Just as we are rethinking much of education and career progression, why not "rethink" the role of young women that bit further? Give real power to women and remove the assumptions society has imposed. Choosing to have a family in your early twenties if you are in a stable long-term relationship should no longer be seen as premature. It isn't removing options, it's rearranging them.