MaMa-Feminista

Discourse on the intersections of politics, feminism, and motherhood.

Thursday, April 27

Cut the "Mommy War" Crap!

The public discourse on this cultural construct is getting exhausting. "The Mommy Wars," as the phenomena is known, continues to pervade the media's mythological formation of motherhood. The false divide that places working mothers on one side and stay-at-home moms on the other, in fact does not reflect women's realities. Books like "To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner House Wife," by Caitlin Flanagan gives the issue increasing amounts of fuel even though other women have written extensively regarding the investment the media has in contructing femininity within these two contradictory spheres. Flanagan was on Comedy Central's, The Colbert Report recently plugging the book. Since she believes that women should stay home, let their husbands be the bread winners, have dinner on the table at precisely the correct time each and every night, give it up in the sack even if your not into it, and that feminism gave women impossible expectations of themselves; it's nice to see she is upper-middle class, white, publishing a book, writing regularly for New York Magazine, and traveling to promote the book, all while being this fabulous stay-at-home wife/mother who has been so completely shortchanged by the feminist movement. Clearly, even Dr. Phil prefers this illusory conflict to those women who have written alternative literature illuminating the media's pervasive insistance that a catfight is still brewing.
Why books like, "The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars: Who Decides What Makes a Good Mother," by Miriam Peskowitz are not getting any consideration in this insuing debate is beyond me. Peskowitz and others have noted that the majority of mothers enter and exit the workforce in fluxuation, working at times and staying home at times. Many moms do work from home but labor statistics do not count these women as 'working,' so any statistics reported do not represent actual working behaviors. The conflict is produced as if women 'choose' to work or not to work 100% of the time when in fact some do 'choose,' but other do not have a choice. Nevertheless, the word 'choice' is a misrepresentation as all mothers are providing detrimental labor for their families.
The entire construction of the "Mommy Wars" is anti-mother on both sides. One, it formulates preconceived notions regarding work, perpetuating mothering as an internal manifestation of femininity, and work/labor as masculine. Therefore, mothering is not conceived of as being analogous to labor, which is in contradiction to what the majority of indivduals know and acknowledge. Two, it places unnessessary psychological burdens on mothers who do choose or have to work as these repeated messages attempt to insinuate that while women are working their children are suffering. Three, it leaves the roles of fathers completely out of the debate and stresses the tradition that women are the 'bodies' responsible for transfering and illuminating the moral fiber of our culture. Women remain the focus of judgment and fatherhood becomes entrenched in that stereotypical ideal which connects masculitity to financial support and neglects the father/child relationship. Four, it completely neglects homosexual couples who wish to become parents as it perpetuates the tradition of heterosexual parenthood. In today's capitalist culture very few couples, heterosexual or homosexual, can afford to live with only one wage earner. So, if the majority of women are participating in some form of 'work' in addition to the 'work' of mothering, where is this conflict residing? I have yet to have a relationship with a stay-at-home mom who has been judgemental of my choices. My sister-in-law is a stay-at-home mom and I'm a graduate student seeking a masters degree in Art History and Women's Studies, a small business owner, a teacher for a small college, and a mom. Though we have drastically different lives due to our different choices, we never judge one another nor have any conflicts. In fact, we have much in common as we are both mothers, and support each other in every endeavor. The false divide constructs a backlash against all women, placing us in compartmental spaces pitted against one another instead of working collectively for social change like, better education funding, government supported childcare, welfare reform, and the end to poverty, as the majority of people in poverty are women and children. Obsessing on a divide that does not exist inevitably hurts our children as they internalize messages around them. We as women exist in a multi-dimensional, complex, and, personal way of life, but I believe we can and do relate collectively. The more dialogue is created regarding this fabricated conflict, the more we can concentrate on parenting as a partnership and create an environment of tolerance for our children where they feel they are loved to the fullest extent regardless of the personal choice of whether to work or not.

7 Comments:

At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Laprad. I enjoyed it. It’s a strong, well written argument. If I may however, I do have a criticism. Why did you suggest that overcoming the “false divide” would leave women free to pursue a liberal, democratic agenda? You present a compelling argument – the Mommy Myth’s destructive impact upon women pits women against one another (work with me, it’s a comment) – and then suggest that absent that conflict, all women would be actively pursuing a liberal, democratic agenda. Many readers will find your argument compelling, but I am not sure that they would all subscribe to your agenda. In fact, for your argument to stand, they don’t have to! I know that you do, but that’s not the point. You are not simply preaching to the choir here! You want to convince those who are not on board to come over to see your POV.

 
At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Stelio said...

Nice Laprad. I enjoyed it. It’s a strong, well written argument. If I may however, I do have a criticism. Why did you suggest that overcoming the “false divide” would leave women free to pursue a liberal, democratic agenda? You present a compelling argument – the Mommy Myth’s destructive impact upon women pits women against one another (work with me, it’s a comment) – and then suggest that absent that conflict, all women would be actively pursuing a liberal, democratic agenda. Many readers will find your argument compelling, but I am not sure that they would all subscribe to your agenda. In fact, for your argument to stand, they don’t have to! I know that you do, but that’s not the point. You are not simply preaching to the choir here! You want to convince those who are not on board to see your POV.

 
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