by MaryAnn Martin
Martin lives in North Texas with her husband and two children. When she’s not taking care of her kids and otherwise holding down the fort, she uses her Ph.D. in mass communication as a lecturer for South Dakota State University’s online journalism graduate program. When the planets align and she’s able to concentrate long enough, she writes the evermore erstwhile post for her blog, the Feminist Mother, on motherhood, life as a parent of a special needs child, politics, the labor movement, immigrant’s rights, and, most importantly, women’s rights. She’s also active on twitter as @soonerhawkeye.
I am STILL fuming on the anti-mother, anti-child vibe emanating from a number of (childless) mainstream, highly visible “feminists.” For instance, after Michelle Obama referred to herself as “Mom-in-Chief” in a stunning address to the Democratic National Convention, writer Amanda Marcotte tweeted this in response (see my heated response below):
Makes me sick with anger. Earlier that week, Jessica Valenti (a mother, unlike Marcotte) garnered a plethora of publicity as her book, “Why Have Children?” dropped. I felt the need to respond via twitter to her, too. And no, I have no plans of reading her book. Then, this morning, Irin Carmon posted this piece about the First Lady’s speech. Another feminist wringing her hands about a public figure centering her role as a mother. Oh, the humanity!
I truly don’t get it. Valenti, for example, decries the nitpicking amongst women on our differing parenting choices (even as she herself cherry-picks what style of parenting and what parents are objectionable). In her mind, these squabbles and the accompanying”finger-wagging” (even as she does it herself) distract women from the real, meaty policy battles, like winning subsidized chid care.
Yeah. We need that in this country. We need better maternity and paternity leave policies, too. Yes, to all that. Yes, yes, yes.
But you know what we also need? Laws that protect breastfeeding mothers so if we don’t want to or have the capacity to shell out the big bucks for synthetic chemicals to feed our child and we can nurse, we’re not arrested or fired for demanding the right to pump in a quiet, clean place or nurse our child in public (the Affordable Care Act went a long way in that direction). We need the freedom to choose VBACs instead of mandatory c-sections, which is next to impossible in some places. We need the right to choose where we labor and deliver our children if we don’t want to do it in a hospital setting.
These rights are connected to women’s rights, in general. They cannot be isolated from each other. They are part and parcel of the structural framework of patriarchy that works to oppress women simply for being women and for which no child is responsible. In other words, we really are in this together. And your position as childless, single, free-loving woman or a mother who feeds her child with formula is no more valuable or progressive or feminist than mine as a breastfeeding, attachment parenting mother. Patriarchy works to oppress us all. My children, my breastfeeding: they do not.
Just like Valenti chafed when a woman chided her in public for bottle feeding her daughter, those of us who are attachment parents, who wear our children, who nurse for extended periods of time, would like to be afforded the same respect Valenti seems to feel she was denied. But, more importantly, according to Valenti and company, I guess we’re supposed to deny the politics and power dynamics undergirding these difference that nonetheless manifest in laws, regulations, and policies just as onerous as Valenti’s pet policies. How are these areas not related? And why do these “feminists” refuse to make the connection?
Besides being an insult to those of us whose role is chiefly parenting, I wonder if they get that their views of motherhood, that reject community, attachment, and selflessness, dovetail so nicely with right-wing, decidedly unfeminist views of society. Do they see the individualism and self-interest at the heart of their positions? And how can we as feminists call this atomization of society “progress?”
When feminists like Valenti and Marcotte demean, belittle, and talk down to parents who make different parenting choices than their own (or, who choose to be parents at all, unlike Marcotte), they don’t seem to realize the way in which they are not only feeding the rancor within feminism, but how they reinforce the anti-woman (and anti-child) policies they are supposedly agitating against. An awareness of gender alone is not feminism. A celebration of your own rights over all others is not feminism. But somehow, their views are beyond reproach or disagreement. Those of us who disagree with these high-profile feminists are, according to Marcotte, preening idiots.
But this isn’t simple disagreement. This is a silencing. And that, for sure, is not feminist.
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