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So THAT's What Clapback Means...

Entering the dictionary in 2019, clapback (I just learned) is a quick, sharp, and effective response to criticism. Not to be confused with a garden-variety diss, a clapback is deemed by most as a targeted, often viciously acute comeback intended to place someone in much-needed check. Had I known the definition, I probably would not have purchased the Clapback Cards, childfree edition. I learned of them last week, created by a childfree woman of African descent. I felt drawn to support her business venture, to deepen my own sense of what childfree might mean.

Each card offers a question (often unconsciously, insensitively) asked of women who do not have children. Each then offers an answer, a clapback. Knowing what it means now, I did receive what I paid for. No false advertising here! But they are so not for me. Whatever purposes are in mind for this deck, they don't match my own.

I was not surprised by the varying expressions of frustration, irritation, outright anger in the cards. I know this particular frustration of not being seen, or my own life being judged as lacking because of the choices made. I’ve felt the frustration, irritation, even anger myself.

Sitting with the cards, allowing (only) the questions to rest in my awareness, I hear the cultural presumptions given concrete expression. I feel a pleasure that they are being “spoken,” even if they also feel disembodied, imagined. Each question touches the intersection of what folks here would call a pronatalist worldview—women are for child-bearing, have value when they have children—and the tenderness in those whose lives have placed them in a childless/childfree world. It’s good for all of us to become more aware of that intersection—often unconscious—and this tenderness that comes in not being seen or valued as is.

Turning my attention only to the ‘answers’ … I can even appreciate the clarity of a data-driven approach (attention to health, ancestry, well-being); the valuing of women’s voices, courage, self-awareness; the need to name proactively what one desires or values amidst the swirling currents around motherhood (or not).

What I cannot stomach is the very clapback nature. Aggressions aimed to match the perceived aggression of the unconscious or less-aware ‘speaker.’ Each offers a conceptually violent response to a perceived violation.

When has matched violence ever healed a wound or created deeper connection where before there was none? Is unconsciousness necessarily malicious? I have found most unconscious or insensitive things said to lack malice. But even if malicious, do I want to be one who meets malice with violence, verbal or otherwise?

I do not. I want to live in a world where compassion is practiced, in the face of the unconscious as well as the malicious.

I was so naïve, I now see. I was looking for a deck of cards that might offer avenues of curiosity, awakening and connection, compassion across deeply-felt griefs. Such Work was never going to be on a clapback card.

Perhaps reframing the rage is where I need to start, for myself. (Attempt linked there).

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