Blamer Hedgepig: I understand your frustration with the situation of parents, but why are you directing it at people who are pointing out those frustrations and their underlying causes?
Blamer Tinfoil Hattie: I’m aware of the underlying causes of my frustrations and of the frustrations of many other mothers. I am responding to people who have said less-than-kind things about motherhood on this thread. One other mother and I felt attacked by some comments here. I responded from the trenches. I am asking for support from fellow feminists, while at the same time shaking my very tired fist at patriarchy.
O, Tinfoil Hattie, you do have the support of your fellow blamers; no true blamer would —
Yikes! Looks like I’m about to wander down Fallacy Lane. I’d better start again.
Post-revolution, things’ll be different, but currently in our culture motherhood is not just a matter of pregnancy followed by childbirth. It is a big ole set of behaviors and expectations and consequences and connotations and allusions and obligations and dogma — what I think of as nuclear motherhood — that is so deeply entwined with patriarchal praxis it is almost impossible to see the forest for the trees. Thus do some feminists take issue with the concept of stay-at-home momming, and do some stay-at-home mom feminists take issue with being conceptually taken issue with.
I do not now and have never advocated blaming women for what some of us radical feminists may experience as their capitulation to or collaboration with the dominant culture. Some blamers may, in a unguarded moment, express frustration with patriarchy in a way that seems to take aim at women who look to be cozied up with the Man. Lap dancers. Women who lurch down the street in 4″ heels. Fun feminists. Workplace-rejectin’ mothers.
We need to cut that shit out.
Except for the BDSMers. I’m still gonna make fun of you guys.
But anyway, check it out: we’re all of us cozied up to the Man in one way or another. Turn over the keyboard you’re typing on right now and read the fine print. Mine was made by slave labor in Malaysia.
Yo, mothers, we really understand. Really, we do, because our fists are tired, too. The maddening antifeminist zeitgeist is exhausting us all. It’s just that we — and when I say we, I mean those blamers who see the nuclear family as an enormous obstacle to liberation — are desperate for women who are living the status quo to challenge the status quo. We are desperate for women to reject the specious narrative that within the nuclear family we have “choice,” when in fact the “choice” (regarding motherhood) is between doing one full-time job (stay home and raise kids) or two full-time jobs (do paid work and also raise kids).* We are desperate for women to stop buying into the patriarchy-sponsored message about women’s fulfillment — that is, the notion that you are a selfish blob of failure, or worse, that you are missing out on life’s greatest joy, if you don’t martyr yourself to home and family and totally subsume your identity in the process. We want women to reject marriage and the nuclear family. We want women to not have kids in the first place. But above all we want women who do have kids to realize that, despite our critique of the traditional feminine behaviors in which they are encouraged — by forces larger than feminism — to engage, we’re on their side, because ain’t they women? And ain’t we for the liberation of women?
A feminist revolt will improve the lives of all women, and all kids, too.
So, even as mothers need the support of the — whaddya call us? Non-mothers? — we need the support of the mothers, goddammit!
That’s right! We want the mothers to step up.
I know, I know, they’ve got a lot on their plate. But we need them. We need them to confirm the notion that the thankless, unpaid drudgery of nuclear motherhood is a product of the astonishing degree to which everyone hates women. We need them to affirm that the nuclear family system doesn’t work. We need them to cop to the fact that nuclear mothers are in an untenable position, often stuck between poverty and either some crap marriage or some crap job or, holy shit, both. We need them to affirm that, as an oppressed class, nothing they do is without political significance. And we especially need them — this one, ho boy, is the biggie — to quit defending nuclear motherhood, because when they defend nuclear motherhood, they are defending the primary method by which patriarchy replicates itself.
Of course we forget how much we’re asking of these women. Some of us are not, perhaps, as keenly sensitive as we might be to the extent of such women’s investment in patriarchy. This investment is often substantial — in many ways more so than that of non-mothers, and it is often invisible to them. So often they’ve married men, changed their names, totally immersed themselves in the nuclear motherhood identity. Of course they have; it’s been expected of them since the cradle. And of course it’s a lot more complicated than that; their husbands are abusive, or they suffer from depression, or they’ve got a special-needs kid, or they’re finally in a pretty good space at the moment and don’t want to rock the boat. Because of the bogus set-up, even the consciousness-raised feminist mother’s survival, and that of her kids, more or less depends on playing nice with the dominant culture. So what we’re asking is no less than a voluntary rejection — ideologically, if not practically — of pretty much their entire reality. Heavy-duty.
This might be a good time to remind the group of the official position of this blog: that neither women as a class nor individual women are to blame for their own oppression, or for implementing such survival strategies as they have found necessary.
So, blamin’ mothers out there, you go girls. We know it’s tough in the trenches.
As an aside, I would like to point out that there is no word in the English language meaning “woman who doesn’t engage in human reproduction” which does not involve the prefix “non-” (“non-mother”) or connote some negative medical condition (“barren”) or express the condition in terms of negative space (“childless”). Even the attempt to turn it into a positive — “child-free” — is clumsy and kind of smug, and defines the person in question in terms of another entity. I mean, there’s no antonym for “mother.” You can’t, because bias is built into the language, write an essay using the phrase “mothers and blorts alike enjoyed a pitcher of delicious margs on the Lido deck.”
I blame, it will come as no surprise, the patriarchy.
Speaking of “support,” another aside: You know, although coping strategies often pop up in the discussion, this blog isn’t really a support group, per se, in that its primary focus is on patriarchy-spotting rather than on survival tips. I sure wish somebody would write that blog, though, because everyone sure gets tired of me de-transparentizing their oppression without offering any handy solutions that don’t involve the word “revolution.” I’m such a goddam downer.
* UPDATE: A communiqué from a long-time blamer reminds me that there is, in fact, a third “option.” She says, “There is the third, and for me most depressing, permutation of doing one paid job and paying another woman daily only slightly more than you pay for a meal – and in many cases considerably less than a meal – to raise your own kids.
These paid kid-raising women of course are most often doing 2 jobs themselves. The patriarchy has the slavery loop well sewn up.”