So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

02 January, 2009

Welcome to the Mommy Wars

The other night I went chasing links around on 'Heartless Bitches International' due to a link posted at Figleaf's. ... until I got sickly depressed and had to stop. It's not enough dealing with crazy shit like GreenConsciousness, as documented at Bastante Already, but one of those sites that I find darkly and crankily amusing went at it too.

The context: mail from a rather skeevy-sounding fellow who had a quote-unquote traditional relationship with a stay-at-home-wife-and-mother type whose responsibilities were childcare and "looking good", for which end he invested a pretty penny in miscellaneous beauty products and what have you and yet expected other people to police their websites for him rather than supervising the kid.

Quite the prize, eh?

So I read this. And the editorial comments start out all right. Stuff like, "Equality would be if she CHOSE this."

And then there's ...

"I'll bet your wife is on an antidepressant, and you convince yourself that all "happy, well-adjusted" women are."

And the mental-health-ablism-thing hits me like a punch in the nose. Oh yeah, right, real women aren't on Prozac. I forgot that. That's all part of housewife ennui, which we've been medicating for for a while to keep those Donna Reeds mellow and in their places, not something that might actually have a history, an etiology, a deeper meaning.

Carry on a little further and we get:

"[Being a stay-at-home mother]'s really a shelter for a woman who is afraid to fail or try."

... where was that 'choice' thing again that I thought we were talking about?

And then we go on. And on. And on.

"She's set herself up to be a parasite her whole life, and you are more than happy to have her this way. You couldn't be more prehistoric if you hobbled her. Frankly, I'm glad the two of you found each other."

"I have known some women that have turned their backs on the life of the "kept woman" simply because their values were more than skin deep."

"You might not have worked so hard, however, if you had motherhood, sexual favors and the ability to have someone ELSE bring home the bacon, to fall back on."

Um.

"Oh... that's right -because in YOUR opinion, it's more valuable for a WOMAN to raise a child than contribute things like a cure for cancer, or ensure justice is served, or design buildings to withstand earthquakes..."

And now we get this -- not only must one be out there doing the career thing, but really, the ones who count and matter, the ones everyone is measured against, are the elites.

And since I was never going to cure cancer anyway ....

...

I just, just. Fuck it all, y'know?

Hi. Mentally ill housewife here. 'Scuse me for breathing, feminist movement.

12 comments:

brooksmoses said...

So, which do you guess the last commenter is doing -- curing cancer, ensuring justice is served (in some presumably grandiose way), or building earthquake-proof buildings?

Which is not to get into the question of whether it's maybe more important to ensure mercy is served. Or maybe it is; that sounds like one of the things motherhood encompasses.

Labrys said...

Oh, geez, that track of thinking always makes me get all toothy and mean. I have both worked AND stayed at home minus the heels and pearls. Minus the anti-depressant, too, although that was offered. This is why I get a pain with certain brands of feminism---it stops being about choice and becomes about meeting their criteria. They will credit any single self-supporting woman as a feminist even if she works for less pay and more hours and is such a "good little girl" that the patriarchal f*cks she works for just love her (but not enough to pay overtime), but any woman who engages in life behind house-hold walls is just a schmuck? Yeah...screw that. To the nearest wall.

Ailbhe said...

Well, she's right that it's not an "easy out." It's a demanding, complicated, risky thing to choose, with far fewer options for changing your mind after five to ten years than jobs which pay in mere money.

Erin said...

"She's set herself up to be a parasite her whole life, and you are more than happy to have her this way."

Wow. How does this person manage to call herself a feminist with a straight face when she manages to sound like the worst of the MRAs?

Anonymous said...

Saying that people have choices but only one choice is the "right" one isn't actually giving a choice.

Truthfully, I don't see this as a "feminist" statement - I see it as trying to box women in now just as much as in the past. People fought for a chance, not a decree - how much of a difference is it to be told that you're "supposed" to stay home with the children versus being told that you're "supposed" to have an outside career?

(Actually, I feel this for both sexes - I just mention women because that was the focus.)

Granted, I found the marginalization of the work-at-home parent by -both- sides to be unfortunate. Okay, that's really not the right word for it, but I'm trying to be calm and rational. :)

(I actually tried to reframe something for my father a couple of days ago - he mentioned my cousin and said something like "she doesn't work", which I rephrased as "works at home" - she has two kids under the age of 5, so what does he think she does all day, sit around bored? Actually, he doesn't, but he was using language that implied it...)

Some people choose to do their work at home. Some people choose to work outside the home. Some people don't -have- a choice and have to do whichever one best fits reality. Other people assigning their own value judgements on other people's choices or non-choices and waving them about? Ugh.

-gelfling

Erin said...

Thinking about this more, and how this is something that leback on LiveJournal comments on from time to time -- if it is to be truly about liberation, feminism HAS to place just as much value on the caregiving and child-raising activities traditionally assigned to women just as much as the breadwinning traditionally assigned to men. Otherwise it just takes for granted the already prevalent cultural value that only breadwinning counts as worthwhile and says, well, okay, women can be worthwhile people too, but only if they also become breadwinners. It's just a change in demographics, not a change in values. What has to happen are both things -- breadwinning and caregiving need to be considered equally important and given equal support by society, and neither should be fobbed off one one gender or the other as what they're "supposed" to be doing by virtue of what's between their legs as opposed to what they are suited for as individuals. Or, as Bastante Kim said more succinctly: "Working towards a foundation in which men are incentivized and thereby forced to take equal responsibility for housekeeping and childcare is the only sustainable fix here."

Anonymous said...

Erin said:
"...if it is to be truly about liberation, feminism HAS to place just as much value on the caregiving and child-raising activities traditionally assigned to women just as much as the breadwinning traditionally assigned to men."

Yes. That.

(I'm not sure I like the "forced" bit in the other quote, though. Sometimes, it helps foster change simply to learn how much the other person is doing that may not be getting recognized, etc. - but forcing can often backfire. But that's more of a language nitpick than anything else.)

--gelfling

Ailbhe said...

Also, until childcare is recognised as valuable work, it will continue to be done by women for zero or very little money - most parents with jobs rely on women paid significantly less than they are themselves, after all.

Erin said...

Ailbhe:
Yeah, there's that whole uncomfortable class issue, too. If it makes a woman a robot and a sheep to be a stay-at-home mom because childcare is inherently degrading work, what does that make those women (as is usually the case) who provide daycare as a career?

Childcare is hugely necessary and valuable work, as I hope would be obvious, and it isn't going to get done by itself. Sometimes I wonder what it would even look like for society to provide the people who do this work (whether in caring for their own children or others') with proper compensation and draw a blank. It's so easy to just take what society looks like now for granted as the way things have to be.

Graydon said...

One of the problems with bad insecurity management (which is what this "I must be right, uniformly and universally right, beyond any legitimacy of diversity!" nonsense comes down to) is that vehement responses provoke (entirely unjustified, and presumably somewhat projected) feelings of validation; they are getting upset, so I must be right, because rightness is upsetting to the unrighteous!

I'm going to skip the whole "market pricing skilled childcare would make it gasp-choke levels of expensive, and there's a large economic interest in not doing that" point, as being perceived as secondary.

Oppressed populations tend to continue the patterns of oppression; this is a human universal. (Familiar oppression is less scary than not being oppressed in a context where the social structure is amorphous, 'cause the primate hind brain equates "no social structure" with "guts sucked out by carnivores, then you die" values of dead.)

Oppression must create a rigid hierarchy; otherwise the internal logic fails and the primate hind brain panics. It's going to call itself something virtuous, but that's about the end of it; same with neocon Christianity, various rigid feminisms, diverse humanitarian genocides, etc. The point is the belief in correctness, not any kind of actual righteousness.

How you keep the diverse gits in question from stealing your useful nomenclature I have no idea; making actual diversity the good doesn't work, because that is so not what the primate-panic wants.

There are some rhetorical tricks for this sort of thing; never granting validity to the hierarchy the unfortunate is pushing is one of them. ("I realize you feel insecure in your child-free choices, but the difficult and challenging work undertaken by others who have chosen to rear children, and not always in ideal circumstances, is not something everyone is tempermentally or cognitively equipped to undertake. Given your acknowledged inability in this area, not having children yourself is certainly the best thing you can hope to do.")

It all comes down to organization; is the hierarchy rigid, and used in all circumstances, or does it vary depending on the work at hand and the abilities of available individuals? (Not so hot at the childcare myself; no problems with spiders, on the other hand.) Pretty much all the extant hierarchies are supposed to be rigid ones; building a contextual one that's good at winning fights with the rigid ones is tough. (By no means impossible, but tough.)

So, really, the only person who gets to tell you motherhood was something you didn't do right is the kid, in about thirty years. (The wisdom of nineteen year olds being... frequently lacking.)

[The kinds of thing that get the kid taken away aren't failures of motherhood; they're a helya of a lot more basic than that.] (Gods, but I hate these little narrow comment windows.)

Anyway -- they're not being helpful and supportive because they want validation for personal choices that they cannot convince themselves were not wrong, not help and support, and they certainly don't have any help and support to offer. The ideas that there are multiple possible good choices, even for one individual person, and that doing the best you can with what you've actually got is virtuous conduct, however gloriously factual they may be, aren't going to enter into it because that would bring things out of the world of unattained ideals and into the world of messy actualities, and that places is scary.

Pay them no more mind that you should grant the screaming of chipmunks, wroth with the flavour of the apple-seed.

Melissa said...

That whole site rubs me the wrong way. I really hate to fall into the ablist trap but the way the posters on that site seem to lack empathy would make me think that they have some form of high functioning autism.

One of the real life members referred to other women as simple minded. Constantly mocking others is not an indicator of good self esteem. Plus , you have to fill out an application to join this site. On top of that , they publicly mock applications that they deem unworthy. These people are something , but it ain't feminists. In short; Fuck HBI and everything it stands for. That's an unpopular opinion I know. Judith Dormans does a good fisking of them.

Melissa said...

That whole site rubs me the wrong way. I really hate to fall into the ablist trap but the way the posters on that site seem to lack empathy would make me think that they have some form of high functioning autism.

One of the real life members referred to other women as simple minded. Constantly mocking others is not an indicator of good self esteem. Plus , you have to fill out an application to join this site. On top of that , they publicly mock applications that they deem unworthy. These people are something , but it ain't feminists. In short; Fuck HBI and everything it stands for. That's an unpopular opinion I know. Judith Dormans does a good fisking of them.