March 02, 2010



Toni Morrison in 1989:
I don't think a female running a house is a problem, a broken family. It's perceived as one because of the notion that a head is a man.
But who cares about the schedule? What is this business that you have to finish school at 18? They're not babies. We have decided that puberty extends to what -- 30? When do people stop being kids? The body is ready to have babies, that's why they are in a passion to do it. Nature wants it done then, when the body can handle it, not after 40, when the income can handle it.

--from a Toni Morrison Time interview.

Looks as though Ms. Mantel will be due the Nobel in 5 years.


When the average human life expectancy was 35, it made sense that 14 year old girls (and boys) became parents. I think it's clear we evolved out of that situation, otherwise we would be hitting puberty at 22, not 12. However, modern society is out of synch with evolution. The complexity of our society is such that becoming a parent at 14 is not a good idea, even though it may have been the best thing for you during the Bronze Age. Why is it that it's always British writers making these kinds of comments? Why are American writers so safe, so boring?

Martha Southgate

Um...maybe in a different kind of society? And as Niall points out, maybe when you'd be utterly decrepit by 40 or 50 and dead by 60? But we are so far past that now, for good or ill. I'm the parent of an 11-year-old and a 15-year old and...well...they're great kids but parents they should not be. Not to make assumptions, but Mantel's remark seems like the comment of someone who doesn't have children and doesn't know any contemporary children.
I'm also offended by Mantel's apparent belief that every woman wants to have children. There's already so much societal pressure to feel that way--where's the room to just not have 'em if you don't want 'em. I gotta give it up for Elizabeth Gilbert on the no-kids front. She didn't want to have kids and had the strength to realize that and not have them. Better for her. Better for the children she would have so resented.
So yeah, Hillary--missed the boat on this one. But good point, Niall--the Brits do keep it lively.


Martha, very true. "Child free", not "childless". The child free are looked down upon in society simply because those with chldren secretly envy them so much.



I recently wrote a post regarding Ms. Mantel's comments. Her generalizations (such as the quote below) are offensive to me:

"We were being educated well into our 20s, an age when some of us wanted to become mothers – probably little bits of all [my emphasis on the word all] of us wanted to become mothers..."

Some people are child-free by choice. That option doesn't seem to fit with Ms. Mantel's ideas about how society should operate. However, there are people who choose not to become parents. That is their right.

A friend of mine was outraged at Ms. Mantel's nonchalant reference to going back to school for a PhD at 30. This friend has a PhD herself and commented to me, "she makes it (getting a PhD) sound as easy as going to the store to get bread and milk".

That friend I just mentioned has a medical condition called endometriosis. I have lived with endometriosis for 28 years. Hilary Mantel has endometriosis and, sadly, it resulted in her infertility (which she has discussed in interviews). I have the deepest sympathy for her journey with endometriosis, a painful, incurable condition. I do not, however, agree with her comments in the interview about 14 year old girls getting pregnant.

Hilary Mantel does not speak for me. I am offended at several of her remarks but I am perhaps most bothered by the fact that the interview that has set off all of this controversy mentioned (1) her endometriosis and (2) the fact that she is the patron of Endometriosis SHE Trust. Let me explain…

I am sick and tired of public figures that have endometriosis making controversial comments to the media that set the endometriosis cause BACK.

Endometriosis is a reproductive, hormonal, and immunological condition. Therefore, Hilary Mantel's comments about reproductive issues (while being noted in the article to be a sufferer of this painful reproductive disease) really gets under my skin. I don’t like when public figures who have endometriosis do boatloads of interviews that do nothing to help find a cure or get funding for much needed research… but do get headlines for negative reasons (such as this article).

I normally stick with leaving blog comments on health-related blogs and I do apologize for the length of this comment. Bear with me. I’m just pretty fired up about the situation.

Seeing as it is now Endometriosis Awareness Month and seeing that Hilary Mantel (a public figure associated with an endometriosis organization) is granting such controversial interviews, I thought it might not be a bad idea to let her readers know that many endometriosis patients I have spoken with are outraged at her comments regarding 14 year olds getting pregnant and more.

Endometriosis affects an estimated 89 million women and girls worldwide. 89 million!

Regarding endometriosis patients specifically... in addition to those who are child-free by choice, and to fertile endometriosis patients, there are many endometriosis that are infertile but want desperately to become parents. Either they can’t conceive or they can’t carry to term. The tragic losses I have witnessed my fellow endometriosis patients suffer are unimaginable.

Hilary Mantel's comments are a total slap in the face to the latter group (the endometriosis patients who can’t get or stay pregnant). Not all endometriosis-related infertility is the result of surgical removal of reproductive organs (as apparently happened to Ms. Mantel). In other words, for some endometriosis patients… even if they had all of the money, love, resources, and relationships in the world in place, they might not be physically able to conceive if they were to try to do so at age 14. The way she words things makes it sound to me like she thinks fertility is a given for a girl who is 14 years old. Not so.

A certain percentage of endometriosis patients (even those who have recently had surgery to remove all visible signs of misplaced endometrial tissue) are infertile and doctors simply don't know why.

My point is that in addition to Hilary Mantel suggesting that 14 year old girls (that are below the age of consent) are fit to have babies and in addition to all of the outrage that is generating from such a large segment of the general public, her comments are an insult to her fellow endometriosis patients because her remarks seem to imply, to me and to other endometriosis patients with whom I have spoken, that if only she had gotten pregnant in her teens she might have conceived before her endometriosis became so severe. (Yet in other interviews she was quoted as saying that if she had been able to have children, she probably would have done so in her 30s. The surgery that rendered her infertile took place before that. What she was saying is that her 30s would have been when she would have had children, if she could have).

So WHY is she making the controversial comments about 14 year old girls being ready to have babies? I honestly don’t get it.

This interview of her brings up two old and very damaging myths in the endometriosis community: the "pregnancy myth" and the "career woman's myth".

My blog post talks more about all of this (too long to get into here). My point is that her comments are offensive to endometriosis patients like me on a whole different level than any controversy about whether 14 year old girls should be having babies. In other words, her comments are a bigger blow to me than, say, a person who does not have endometriosis.

I am very sick and tired of public figures that have endometriosis hurting their fellow endometriosis patients with their words and actions when they could be lifting their voices to help their fellow patients.

It's all very sad to me.

Thank you.


Sarah Connor

She is right on several counts: Women are fertile by 12 or 13 and our bodies ready to bear children by 17-19. Our society also has extended puberty to 30, especially in males, who like dogs, are the infantile version of what they once were. Living longer does not mean that you can be a child the first 30 years of your life, no matter how much we idolize infancy and youth.

tod goldberg

Just to be clear here: No 14 year old girl is ever going to read Hilary Mantel's book. Secondly, no 14 year old girl who happens across this blog or any other is going to say, Oh, finally, this person tells me it's okay! Someone, gimme some seed! I mean, righteous anger is fine -- it is an odd thing to say, without a doubt -- but I don't think NOW needs to be charging across the Atlantic to toss her into a fire or anything. Or, as Sgt. Hulka once said: Lighten up, Francis.


Tod - I can imagine lots of 14 year old girls interested in and able to read Mantel's work. You're just being condescending on that point. And those who are troubled by Mantel's remarks aren't troubled because they think some 14 year old girl is going to run off and get pregnant after reading them. They're troubled because an honored and respected writer is expressing such retrograde opinions. I don't think Mel Gibson's comments caused any Jews to go out and start a war. That doesn't mean they weren't blameworthy.

tod goldberg

No, I'm not being condescending. When I'm being condescending, I call people fucktards. But that fact is, her books don't tell people to run out and get pregnant, either, and people being up in arms about someone saying something provocative (and stupid, in this case) because they are an honored writer is, well, silly. People who run countries say far dumber things. The issue here is that people choose to be offended by these things. It's not as if she's made a call to action: Hey, Staci, get knocked up! -- she's stated something which is true genetically speaking -- 14 year olds can get pregnant -- but moronic culturally speaking, but then said it about herself, chiefly. So we should blame her for thinking she could have had a kid at 14? I think I could have played professional indoor soccer at 14, but, alas, the Jewish Conspiracy wouldn't let me. I blame the Zionists for that one. But, anyway: She said something stupid but harmless. And Niall, I want a photo of a 14 year old girl reading her book. You find me one and i will give you your due props.


I agree, Tod, that her comment isn't the end of the world. On the other hand, if you're going to make comments in public as an honored writer, then don't be surprised if people have things to say back. It's all part of being a public figure.

My 14 year old niece is currently reading Der Zauberberg. When she's done I'll recommend some Mantel for her, just as a cool down exercise. Cameras will be ready.



Booker Prize = platform for Foot in Mouth syndrome?

Lorraine Adams

I feel as if the topic of mothering brings out as many comments on blogs as the Arab Israeli conflict.


How can you go for a PhD at 30 if you never went to high school?

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