I gave myself the weekend to move past the latest Time magazine cover and all the controversy it’s created in its wake.

It clearly wasn’t enough. Yesterday I ended up having a mini-rant on Twitter about it all.

I was angry…again. Or maybe I never stopped being angry about it all.

On Friday I went and read my “Are YOU ‘Mom Enough'” post for an Arts Night Out event in town. From the cheers and claps in the audience, I felt a sense of comfort that I was not alone in my anger. But instead of quelling it – it only fueled my fire.

Monday, I woke up to an email from somebody who just wanted to vent a little about it all. Her venting stoked the simmering embers some more until I unleashed it all over Twitter. For those of you who missed it, this is the general gist:

The Time magazine cover is a red herring. It’s out there to create controversy and drum up sales and get people talking. And bravo, Time, you’ve accomplished exactly that. Hell, you were talked about on Saturday Night Live already. Really.

But here’s why I’m still angry about all of this. I understand the need to make sales, I do. I get that Time is profit-motivated – they’re a business, it’s to be expected. However, if they wanted to do a story on motherhood or parenting, I can think of many other controversial stories they could have written about that actually exist, instead of the trumped up manufactured “mommy wars.”

For instance, Time could have done some investigative reporting on why the U.S. is only one of four other countries that still do not have a mandated paid maternity leave policy in place. ONE IN FOUR. (The others are Papa New Guinea, Swaziland, & Lesotho). HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?! How are people not enraged by this fact?! Why couldn’t Time have done a story about the real struggles of motherhood  in this country? Jessica Valenti had one good response…

Sure, looking at the lack of policies that support parents in this country isn’t sexy, and we all know that sex sells. But before  we can trot out controversial covers that as Are You MOM ENOUGH? we need to figure out how to get to a place where mothers are even on the same playing field. Before we arrive at that point, we have no place even asking if they’re playing their best (hell, never mind about the same playing field, we’re not all playing the same game. And how can we? We have no paid sick leave programs in place, no mandatory paid family leave, no realistic health care for all, etc…)

To have Time magazine put up a cover with a woman who chooses to follow child-lead weaning while ignoring how the majority of this country isn’t even in a position to actually make that choice if they want to? That is irresponsible, in my opinion. And it’s distracting. It’s distracting us from the real issues that deserve our anger.

Let’s be honest. This isn’t about Attachment Parenting or breastfeeding. If it was, we would be talking about how hard it is to even promote a healthy breastfeeding relationship in this country. We would be discussing formula companies and all of their advertising money that starts with free “gifts” in hospitals. Nobody is showering breastfeeding advocates with money to go and help new moms who want to breastfeed. Sure there are programs in place – but not enough.

And even then… if we don’t have mandated paid maternity leave, or programs in place to promote/support working women who want to pump, then we’re back to square one. This is not about forcing every mother to breastfeed. This is about offering the equal chance to breastfeed, to offer an equal chance to try AP if that’s what you want to do, to spend some time resting up after having a baby so that when you do go back into the workforce, you can be a productive and active contributor (and not just there because you would lose your job, income, insurance benefits, etc… otherwise).

We have real issues that make our country look like the real enemy in the “mommy wars,” yet instead, magazines and websites are causing women to turn on each other by the words and images they choose to feature. Don’t let them distract you with these red herrings.  Let’s focus on the real stuff that matters.

In that vein, I just took on a freelance gig helping a local organization that is fighting alongside others for paid sick leave here in Massachusetts. It’s one thing, but the effects of it can be massive. Start somewhere, but do something. Don’t just let the anger and contempt that has built up over this cover go to waste – channel it into actually fixing some of the issues that parents in this country are facing, rather than the mommy wars that nobody really wants to fight anyway.

And if anyone has a sexy way to sell the fact that we are the last of 4 COUNTRIES that don’t offer paid parental leave – I’m all ears. Really.

UPDATE: Looking for an easy way to start changing things? MomsRising has created an action that basically sums up everything I’e been posting lately re: The Mommy Wars. Check out their letter writing campaign and see how you can help!

20 thoughts on “Distraction

  1. Yes! Yes! Exactly. And how about making that family leave thing apply to men, too? I mean, what if I have a high-power career and I love my job? Why can’t my husband get those benefits? We chose for me to stay home for many reasons, but the truth is that my husband would have been a far better stay-at-home parent than I was (I am NOT complaining, I adore my kiddos). And family sick time? Pshah. I used to be a school nurse and I knew parents with very sickly kids who lost their jobs because they had to take too much time off when their kids were hospitalized. And don’t even get me started on how formula companies are manipulating relief workers in Africa to get them to convince the women there that their kids will die if they breastfeed. Yup, lots more things to talk about than how long a woman nurses her little one or what method of parenting someone uses.

  2. I feel so hopeless when I think about this and how it relates to my career in childcare. Paid family leave just doesn’t exist for child care providers. The irony is painful. I’m afraid I’ll lost my job if I ask for more than a couple weeks’ unpaid maternity leave.

    If anyone wants more proof that the AP “controversy” is just a distraction, I wrote about how my parents attachment parented me before it had an official name. You can read that, here: http://www.donotfaint.com/confessions-attachment-parented-child/

  3. I saw the “MILF” comment and thought, “What kind of a sexist pig makes a comment like that about a woman?” Oh, wait. Valentini. Why am I shocked. Putting down other women who parent differently than she does is the MO. Let’s all objectify the mother because the TIME editors chose a divisive headline.

    I know you’re uber upset over the particular photo that TIME used to make their point, but I wondered about your reaction to knowing that a 16the century painter depicted Jesus and Mary in almost the same exact pose? https://twitter.com/#!/FreeChildhood/status/201161597719293953/photo/1

    I really don’t think that cover was anything new under the sun. But people’s reactions to it seemed to paint a fairly accurate picture of our Puritanical views about breasts and the women they’re attached to.

    • I can’t speak for Jessica, but I took the MILF comment more as a commentary/judgment on Time’s running of that specific photo, rather than the woman herself.

      As for me, like I’ve expressed I have ZERO issue with the picture itself, rather the context and intention Time had when they chose to run it as their cover. (and for the record I have no problem with paintings like the one you linked to)

      Sent from my iPhone

    • I am a mama, feminist, photo editor, and fan of Mamafesto, TFB, and Jessica Valenti’s work. I think we can all agree that TIME’s photo choice was intended to incite those who sexualize breasts, even when a child is being nourished from one. The 16th c. painting may not have had the same intention, but the artists in that moment of art history were not known for their value of depicting what’s natural. Also, they were all men. Maybe the same case with TIME’s editorial staff??

      • I agree completely, Nicole. However *we* take this picture, it’s clear that Time was not framing it in the same way (as in, look at this mother breastfeeding). I think it certainly merits looking at how and why Time framed the photo the way it did. And I think we can do that without placing judgement on the mother/son in that photo.

    • I think Valentini’s MILF comment is fair.

      It’s ironic that the only people without sexuality identity in most cultures are mothers. It’s Everyone Else: men, media, women who have sex, but no babies. Is it any wonder girls are confused?

      A mom is the only one with proof that she has been sexual. A hot, empowered, smart, RESPONSIBLE, sexual mom absolutely connects sex and motherhood and I think it is the way forward.

      Denial of this natural connection is not working.

      We must meet our culture where it is, and raise it up from there. Personally, I adopted mens views of sexuality at the expense of a maternal connection to sexual beingness. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

      • Of course I have no issue with (and quite enjoy) the fact that Moms are sexual. My beef is with media representations of women as objects of sex. Coupled with the headline, I read the photo to mean – do you do enough for your children and look hot (in a normative, hetero way) while doing it? I know that image of unattainable “perfection” sells Cosmo and the like, but this is a news magazine.

  4. I’m very curious about what kind of paid maternity leave is mandated in other countries, as well as how this mandate was achieved. Also, who pays? It’s my understanding that in the three states that mandate paid maternity leave, the companies pay, not the taxpayers.

    And I think you’re right that starting somewhere, with just one thing (like the paid sick days in Massachusetts), is the way to make this kind of change happen. In a reading/discussion with The War on Moms author Sharon Lerner, she said that she believes that the way that a national mandate for paid maternity leave will happen in the U.S. is by more and more states mandating it, until the leaders at the federal level follow in kind.

    • Here in California, you pay your “disability insurance”, so you get the benefit for 6 weeks. I’m glad it’s here, but pregnancy = disability irks the heck out of me. When I had a baby, I felt like a rock star that just climbed the highest mountain of accomplishment — not suffered a loss or setback. What we “lose” is the center of motherhood message in our culture.

      • Absolutely hate the whole “pregnancy = disability” notion. Framing it as such only strengthens the need for medicalized pregnancies and intervention-heavy births IMO. Plus, it makes pregnancy an onus rather than a natural part of life that people can choose.

    • I am an expat living in the Netherlands and I had my son over here. I had a state mandated sixteen weeks of full paid maternity leave (four of which must be taken before due date). My employer paid for my leave, but they get subsidized by the government. Additionally, as part of my health insurance costs, a nurse came to my house all day for 10 days to help with any baby questions, breastfeeding, household chores, etc.

  5. Bravo, another excellent post on how priorities are all screwed up, with media perpetuating negative notions and causing mothers in this country to feel guiltier than the already do if things don’t go as depicted and the mom petition that is only getting worse over the years. Here’s a post that reflects how I feel…and I still can’t believe that Time had the gall to do this right in time for Mother’s Day! http://ivysppdblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/this-mothers-day-lets-focus-on-what-really-matters/

  6. I think the feminist “equality” message holds women back. It has been used against women as equality has been implied as “sameness”. To make concessions for maternity/family policy is considered “unfair” to those you cannot or choose to not make those choices in life.

    We have to approach what we want differently and frame it in a way that makes men’s lives better.

    Example: The other night I saw a show on Iraq Veterans/National Guard members who cannot get jobs because of the leave requirements for duty or medical conditions. This is basically the same delimma mothers have. We need to join with them. There are many instances where similar agendas line up.

    Also, your average mom has no idea how the economic set up works against her. When I hear about a woman with a great adherence to the existing capitalistic system I think she is very, very naive. Moms are at the mercy of the world order — always.

    We are living at time where women have more money and influence than ever before. But we must use it wisely! And if we cannot raise ourselves up now, then when????

    And if MILFs can raise awareness faster than feminist college student, I say: WE DO IT! Consider the gay marriage issue. 15 years ago, no one talked about. It was sensationalism that got our attention, but the policy is following and that is how it is done.

    I wish you can get this article posted to CNN or HuffPost. It deserves to be seen.

  7. Excellent points. I think the lack of social support for mothers and mothering compounded with the general social beliefs of how a good mother must behave creates a huge recipe for disaster for a lot of women. Additionally, it sets the stage for divisiveness. I do think that the systematic attacks on women in the past year have started to engage a backlash response by women all over the country. Health and welfare really are women’s issues at this point and that needs to be the next movement.

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