It’s finally summer. The kiddo is out of school and has another few weeks until he starts up at camp. I have plans to fill that time with bike rides, visits with friends and family, trips to secret swimming holes, and lots (lots) of soft serve. There will also be tons of baby snuggling if my best friend ever manages to have that baby of hers (officially due now).
And yet, instead of floating in a lazy river somewhere ignoring the pleas of pretty much everyone (except, you know, when my son asks for extra sprinkles on his ice cream. Sure, kid – it’s summer. Have at it.), I’m sifting through the recent explosion of articles in the latest round of Mommy Wars.
The first article that got folks talking was Elizabeth Wurtzel’s piece for The Atlantic, 1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War On Women Possible. While I didn’t post about it at the time, I had thoughts. Of course I had thoughts. Wurtzel attacks the 1% moms, who she feels not only give feminism a bad name, but are helping kill the concept of feminism at the same time.
I am going to smack the next idiot who tells me that raising her children full time — by which she really means going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits — is her feminist choice. Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it?
I certainly understand her frustration and contempt with the trophy-wife set and the various choices they make. I also understand her anger over “choice feminism.” Rail against the 1%-ers all you want, but the article seems to veer into territory of a different kind when it makes sweeping generalizations of a different kind:
If you can’t pay your own rent, you are not an adult. You are a dependent.
What about the many women who stay at home because it’s not a choice? The ones who need to choose between staying home or taking on a job just to cover childcare? Wurtzel’s article reeks of privilege, and not just of the 1% she’s attacking. Instead of blaming choice-feminism or the small percentage of “ladies who lunch” (and essentially fostering a war on women by women) – why not turn the ire and disdain on the actual patriarchal system that is causing women in many situations to even have to make the choice between working or childcare. And let’s not even get into why the husbands aren’t staying home instead. When we can get to a place where women make as much as men, then we can toss around that argument. While there is validity in attacking individual choice, we also need to continue to question and challenge the systemic issues that influence all (both women and men) of our “choices.”
There are many layers surrounding Wurtzel’s post, and to me, it feels like she’s just peeling back and examining the layer closest to her daily life. The same could be said for another Atlantic article that came out today, Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.
Slaughter’s article left me struggling with many of the same issues as Wurtzel’s. Again we’re taking one person’s experience with a specific (upper-class) subset of people and using that experience to paint a broad stroke picture of all mothers (and all feminists). And, to be honest- the description of her life (full professor, maintains up to 50 speaking gigs/year, publishes frequently, etc…) sounds like she lives more of that “having it all” than most folks. Also, just the mere notion of framing things as “having it all” being the preferred outcome is a trap, or as Rebecca Traister notes “a setup for inevitable feminist shortfall.”
Where is the outrage over the systemic issues that prevent folks from having it all or making the choices that Wurtzel derides? In addition to paid parental leave, better health care, more management opportunities for women, equal pay, etc… we also need to change the way we look at parenting in general in this country. We’re still focused on women as the primary care givers. A recent Nightline episode even posed the question, Are Dad The New Moms? Um, no. They’re still dads, but maybe our lowered expectation of them as merely babysitters or drop-in parents is changing? Maybe.
While I appreciate these women stepping up to the plate to take on these topics, I take issue with the way both of these essays are framed, and really how motherhood and the concept of choice is framed in general in our society. Let’s really get to the reasons why both mothers, and women in general, can’t have it all in our current society. Let’s question the notion of choice and who has it and who doesn’t.
Perhaps I get so worked up about articles like these because I see women in positions of privilege talking about their immediate experiences and perhaps not even realizing how significant it is that they even have this platform in the first place. Perhaps it’s because I’m working tirelessly to get the word out about a project that would provide a platform for young mothers whose voices are summarily ignored or talked over. Or maybe it’s because I’m tired of the Mommy War bullshit and would love for somebody to get a damn magazine cover for the actual work they’re doing regarding women and mothers (or… how mind blowing would it be for a magazine to pose the question about men having it all, and looking at how fatherhood is really perceived in this country?).
What about you? Do you relate to either of these article? If not, what do you wish was being put out there instead? What’s your dream headline/story related to motherhood?
While you think on that, I am going to go have it all – at least for the afternoon (and by my own standards). I’ve got a date with some editing, followed up by a secret swimming hole and some soft serve.