Kimberly Ells is the author of The Invincible Family: Why the Global Campaign to Crush Motherhood and Fatherhood Can’t Win and is a policy advisor for Family Watch International.
Israeli Labor Party Leader Merav Michaeli has momentous news: she has a new baby. This news is especially momentous since, for the last decade, Michaeli has been among the most vocal opponents of marriage, familial belonging, and parental rights on the planet.
News of the birth came to light after Michaeli was criticized for traveling abroad despite Israeli officials discouraging unnecessary international travel. Amid the criticism, Michaeli revealed that she had travelled to meet her new son, born of a surrogate in the United States.
Michaeli hinted at her infertility struggle at age 54 and said of her son, “He is the child of myself and Lior. We’re so happy with him, and happy to be his parents.” Lior Schleien is Michaeli’s longtime partner. The two are not married, of course, in keeping with Michaeli’s vehement opposition to marriage which she expressed in a 2017 Ted Talk titled, “Cancel Marriage.”
She has also articulated strong opinions on family structure, children, parental rights, same-sex marriage, the negative influence of fathers, child custody contracts, etc. Michaeli expressed that she had no intention of having a child and did not see marriage or childbearing as necessary to a happy life. On the contrary, she saw marriage and family as obstacles to happiness.
Then what happened? Why did this anti-family warrior choose to have a baby? She says Schleien talked her into it. What effect might this have on Michaeli, her partner, and her life?
To understand the depth of enmity that Michaeli has harbored toward marriage and biological connections, a few examples are in order.
Michaeli has openly called for all governments, religions, and principalities everywhere to “cancel the very concept of marriage.” She has also berated the family as being a place of supreme danger for children saying: “The core family as we know it, unfortunately, it is the least safe place for children.” She has also opposed parental rights saying, “It is exactly those parental rights…the total custody that we have in this structure of marriage, which still gives men domination, complete domination over their children…[that] is a part of the ongoing hurt in children.”
In 2017 she suggested that biological connections are meaningless and unnecessary, and we should work to dismantle them in policy and in practice. She said, “First and foremost, I want to say that I’m all for love…but it does not necessarily have to do with who you make a child with, or who you bring it up with. That’s one of the things that we need to start breaking apart.”
When asked what should take the place of marriage and the natural belonging of children to their parents, Michaeli said the state should endorse child custody agreements wherein “[a] child can have more than two parents; they don’t necessarily have to be his biological parents or her biological parents. The person who takes responsibility for the child…needs to be obligated for certain criteria that the state should actually decide on.”
Michaeli’s anti-family arsenal is so robust that I spent a whole chapter addressing her arguments in my book The Invincible Family. But with such passionate sermons against the family on her record, will her opinions about children and family change at all? I do not expect her to come out crusading for marriage any time soon. But I do wonder a few things:
- Michaeli said, “He is the child of myself and Lior,” and, “We’re so happy to be his parents.” From this statement one might think that the child is their biological offspring. But since she has argued that “parent” should not be primarily a biological title, perhaps we cannot assume this is the case.
- If it is the case, one wonders why they chose to have a biological child. If biological belonging does not matter, why would Michaeli and Schleien go to the trouble of extracting her egg, fertilizing it with his sperm, and depositing it in a willing womb?
- If “the core family” is among the most dangerous places in the world for a child, will their child be protected from harm because they have remained unmarried?
- If the parental rights of fathers cause “ongoing hurt” in children, then will Schleien be allowed to claim parentage over the child? Will Michaeli need to shield her son from the influence of his father?
- Will Michaeli maintain her belief that the state should decide on the parameters of child custody agreements when it comes to her own child?
Time may reveal the answers to these questions.
But this brings to mind another radical feminist named Sara Winter. Winter was one of the founders of the Brazilian branch of Femen. She and her often violent Femen sisters protested topless in favor of abortion and LGBT rights. Winter was featured in a widely publicized photograph engaging in a same-sex kiss in front of a church as part of a demonstration. She was all-in for abortion and all the anti-child, anti-family ideology that went with it.
Until she changed her mind.
What changed it? She had a baby. Winter said, “What I was missing was love (which changed when I became a mother), love that came to me after having reflected a lot on today’s militant feminism.” After her change of heart, she openly apologized saying, “I understand I made a huge mistake, and I ask forgiveness from the bottom of my heart.”
Winter is not alone in her pivot from radical feminism precipitated by motherhood.
I don’t suppose Merav Michaeli will feel the need to apologize to anyone. But will she find that she likes holding her baby and staring into the eyes of someone she made in tandem with the man she loves? Or if the baby came to them by surrogate adoption, will she consider the baby “hers”, as other adoptive parents do? Will she come to think that she and Schleien are better protectors and guardians of their son than anyone else could be? Will she assert that their rights to keep and raise him should be upheld? Will she see value in the eternally recurring, three-pronged entity of mother-father-child?
I don’t know. But I do know that what E.T. Sullivan wrote is true: “The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies.”
If anything can soften Michaeli’s heart or change her mind, it will be her baby, just like it is for most of us.
Welcome to motherhood, Merav. It’s going to be a wonderful ride.
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