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Why I Don’t Like Mark Latham

Source : Australian Financial Review
Source : Australian Financial Review

Mark Latham recently wrote an opinion piece directed at Lisa Pryor, titled “Why Left Feminists Don’t Like Kids”.

As a lefty and a feminist, I had to click on it.  I’ll admit I knew going into it that I wasn’t going to like what he wrote, but I was imagining it was a rant directed at women who choose not to have children (maybe because they’re pursuing a career politics instead – something like that)

I was unprepared for what I stumbled into.

I don’t even know where to begin with what was wrong with what he wrote, so perhaps I should go back to the article “Pill Pop Culture”, written by Lisa Pryor.  It’s the piece that triggered Mark Latham’s attack.

Lisa Pryor wrote about how she shares with people that she’s taking anti-depressants and how that leads to deeper conversations, which she summarised with:

“It is about the power of showing vulnerability, diagnosable or simply human, and how it makes others feel safe to do the same. I’d like to hope this helps build the kinds of connections that protect against psychological trouble in the first place.”

What was Mark Latham’s response to her honesty?

“Why do people like this have children in the first place? How will the children feel when they grow up and learn that they pushed their mother onto anti-depressants?”

Then he goes on to say:

“Whether it’s my daughter’s smile, my eldest son’s Aussie irreverence or the belly laughter of my youngest son – these are my anti-depressants, every hour, every day. What is Pryor going on about?”

Now,  I get that he’s trying to paint this like she’s a feminist and feminists hate their children or some such nonsense, but this was clearly directed at her as a mother, not as a feminist, because she takes anti-depressants. A small side note- he published his opinion piece during Post Natal Depression awareness week. What a hero.

What Lisa Pryor wrote strongly resonated with me.  It’s something I’ve experienced. I’ve been that person who has taken that vulnerable step and spoken honestly about my experiences. I’ve  also been a support to someone through their own struggles . While making that connection doesn’t take away whatever it is you’re going through, it is incredibly reassuring to know you’re not alone. That’s why one of the turning points for me in my recovery from Post Natal Anxiety was attending a support group. I looked around the room full of good mothers who were strong women, who were sharing their thoughts and feelings that were so similar to my own. That was when I started to forgive myself. I had been burying myself under so much guilt because somewhere deep inside me,  I honestly believed that “good mothers” don’t have these issues; I agreed with Mark Latham in that I felt as though my son, my beautiful, healthy, happy baby boy should have been all I needed to heal myself.

Which I now understand is utter bullshit.

Love can no more heal a person’s mental health than it can heal broken foot.

Since he wrote his opinion piece several other writers, such as Mia Freedman and Amy Ahearn, have responded, outlining why what he said was so offensive to so many people.

But in an interview on 3AW he stuck firmly to his belief that “These left-feminists, by and large, look at children as a drag on the freedom of women and I think that’s the wrong attitude.” And that “If you can’t enjoy children, why have them in the first place”

Even when the interviewer Tom Elliot brought up Post Natal Depression Mark Latham dismissed this point by saying “Well the depression can’t be too bad for Lisa Pryor, she’s out doing university studies training to be a doctor”

He went on to diagnose her with “busyness” and suggested that she needs to slow down if university studies and raising two children has driven her onto anti-depressants.

Because obviously Mark Latham knows more about Lisa Pryor’s mental health than Lisa Pryor or the doctor who prescribed her with anti-depressants.

But getting back to his original point, that “Left feminists don’t like kids”.

For whatever its worth I particularly like my own children and I do actually like children in general. As do my friends who are also “left feminists”. I don’t see how advocating social and economic equality as well as equal rights for women could lead to not liking children.

He blames feminists for painting raising children in such a negative light that “Men have been sucked into thinking that work life is inherently superior to a life raising children.” and so have denied them the opportunity to have the “splendid” experience he has had a full time parent for the last decade.

It’s great that this has been his experience of parenthood, but not everyone’s experiences are the same. Also a person can acknowledge that they have struggles, either like Lisa Pryor and her honesty about her mental health, or just parents talking about the every day ups and downs of raising children, and still love their children and being a parent.

I don’t love every minute of every day of being a stay at home mum, but I absolutely and always love my children.

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If you are experiencing difficulty with your own mental health there is help and support available. Below are a list of organisations who can help:

Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA)

Beyond Blue

Gidget Foundation 

Mensline

Lifelife

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.

She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.

She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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One comment

  1. Glad I’m not the only one who was astounded that this kind of article even makes it into the papers!