Her Bad Mother

Saturday, September 16, 2006

In Which I Break My Promises Yet Again (or, Hey! It's My Blog and I'll Write What I Want To!)

I said that I would do my round-up of the call-to-action posts this weekend. Well, I can't. I've gotten completely distracted by other issues and cannot summon the emotional energy to plug my own cause (supporting the organization that's looking for a way to save my nephew's life) or to plug-by-link the wonderful posts about all the other ways and means of acting to make the world a better place (because those posts get me all teary. Which is why I've been so bad about commenting on them. I get all overwhelmed and can't think of what to say. Because I am a SUCK.)

And, because of these other issues, I don't feel that I can make one more reference to Gloria Steinem without a) apologizing for maybe sounding like I'm brandishing my supah-dupah exciting adventures as the Blogger Who Met Gloria Steinem and Shared a Sofa-Bed With Mom-101's Dog, and b) making some statement about why I keep talking about Gloria Steinem.

So, what of these other issues?

There's been some skirmishing 'round the momosphere about blog politics. Yes, AGAIN. Whatever. It's an old topic and one that, frankly, frustrates me or bores me, depending upon how bad a day I'm having. I'm not going to revisit it here; I've said enough about it in the past, and in any case, I vented at urbanmoms.ca (and received a comment smack, and then vented some more), if you're interested.

So "these other issues" don't really have much to do with that debate. The thing is, in some of the discussion swirling around that debate, there has been occasional reference to Greenstone Media and the possibility that there has been some 'selling out' by those involved with Greenstone projects. Some of this has to do with sour grapes about some bloggers getting more attention than others. Others, however, have raised it as a matter of debate (which is always good): is the fact that Greenstone Media is using advertising and thereby selling women as a market as a means of supporting itself undermine, or entirely destroy, its bona fides as a 'feminist' project?

(The related question that has been popping up: do bloggers who host advertisers - or profit in any way from blogging - undermine or destroy their blogger bona fides? Does even the merest hint of commercial enterprise undermine the openness and honesty of a blog? I'll address this later, which is to say, in another post, which is to say, when I feel like it, which I hope will be soon.)

TOMama wrote a provocative piece about the possibility of there being a dark underbelly to Greenstone's enterprise over at Literary Mama, in which she stated that the fact that Greenstone was treating women, in part, like a market, made her very uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to make her doubt that the emergence of Greenstone could really be viewed as a victory for women and/or feminists. Her discomfort was heartily seconded by one commenter, who noted that Gloria Steinem isn't an appropriate spokesperson for feminism or women's interests anyways, because she is white and privileged and so it really isn't surprising, is it, that she'd front a project that is only relevant to privileged white consumers. Right?

Wrong. This is what I said in response:

I think that it's a stretch to claim that the main purpose of Greenstone is to deliver women to advertisers. As you yourself say, advertising is more or less key to ensuring survival in 21st century media. Women simply won't have a place to be heard as women (what Greenstone is trying to offer) if we cling to antiquated Marxist notions of what constitutes a 'pure' revolution. Media is what it is: it's largely driven by economic interest, sustained by advertising and/or sales. We might prefer that cultural discourse weren't so circumscribed by that fact, but that's the way it is.

And I, for one, don't see much wrong with it. I live in a capitalist, consumer society, and I accept, even embrace, the terms of that society. If we have a problem with being 'sold' to advertisers and/or used as pawns by the capitalist system, that's another revolution altogether (one that, I should note, has been attempted, and not altogether successfully.) I don't expect the feminist movement, or any corner of that movement, to take on capitalism full-stop as a condition of its feminism (nor, as a liberal capitalist, would I want it to.)

(After-the-fact edit: Economic inequality, yes. Capitalism as a system, no.)

I simply don't take it as read that commitment to the feminist movement or efforts toward gender equality require a commitment to anti-capitalist ideals. Capitalism and commerce don't preclude the free exchange of ideas and promotion of change any more than does the established intelligentsia of a socialist movement (quite the contrary, I'd say). How, exactly, does the presence of advertisers or market researchers in the background of cultural or political discourse fatally impair that discourse? That's our world, people - all of the messages we receive are mediated (even in personal conversation; we're products of what social scientists call a knowledge system, and we can never entirely escape that system.) So long as we're aware of that - and, better, constructively critical of it - what's the problem?

One of the biggest obstacles to the success of the feminist movement in its many and varied forms is the incidence of in-fighting and unproductive criticism from the very women who claim to support it. So Gloria Steinem is white and able-bodied and privileged and interested in working with advertisers. So what? Does calling her - or her projects - down help the broader feminist cause? To my mind, anything that gets women heard is a good thing. Anything that mainstreams women's voices is a good thing. Anything that makes women's voices a discernible part of the din of our culture is a good thing. If we sit around waiting for the perfect utopian solution or for the perfect spokespeople (only disabled lesbian women of colour need apply?) before supporting efforts that promote women, our cause is doomed.

I'm not saying that we must refrain from critical analysis of our actions, but to make any suggestion that some projects might not be worthy because they don't fit a perfect vision of a transformative movement is, to this feminist, foolhardy. It's really not all that different from Hirshman saying that only women who remain in the workforce can call themselves feminists, or Flanagan saying that only women who stay at home can call themselves good mothers. Only certain kinds of feminists and feminist projects - those that reject quote-unquote privilege and capitalism and what have you - are good feminists and good feminist projects? Bullshit. This only hurts us, and our cause.

For the sake of full disclosure, I'm one of the those 'privileged' bloggers who has been invited to participate in Greenstone. About which I'll say this: any suggestion (I'm not saying that you've done so here; this is emerging elsewhere in the blogosphere) that I've sold out for supporting a project that promotes the voices of women offends me deeply as a feminist, and strikes me as evidence of what I've said above. We're calling down women for supporting Gloria fucking Steinem? We're doomed.

Thus spake Her Bad Mother.

I know, it's kind of lame to make an entire post out of a comment that you've left somewhere else, but the recurring beat of what the fuck what the fuck pounding in my brain is hurting my head and I needed to vent.

And it's my blog, even if I am some shameless Gloria Steinem-promoting whore. So I'll write what I want to.

Shocked, shocked to discover that her mother shamelessly whores herself out to aging feminists. Shocked.


As I said, I'll have more to say about how I think this pertains to the so-called commercialization of blogging later, although you've probably guessed how I feel about that. And I'll be flogging this particular dead feminist horse as a Guest Bytch over at SheBytches on Monday. If the screeching of my ranty voice doesn't put you off entirely, you might check it out.

Or you could just head to the Basement for a drink or some tea and a chat...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

HBM Went to New York and All You Get is This Lousy Post

Edited below. Because I wasn't done when I hit publish.

Number One thing NOT to do in New York: blog.

I caught myself yesterday morning, while I was sitting in a Starbucks in Brooklyn, ‘round the corner from Liz’s place, fingers hovering over the keyboard, all a-tingle at the prospect of blogging about the previous evening’s events. I’d hustled over there, leaving Liz to catch up on real-life work, thinking that it was absolutely necessary that I write a post. I hadn’t posted since Monday, after all, and there was all that exciting Greenstone Media launch stuff to blog about, not to mention gushing about Liz and Nate and Thalia and their adorable dog and demonic cat. How could I not blog?

Well, I couldn’t. I couldn't blog. Because it occurred to me in that moment that there were umpteen better things to do with one’s time when one has only one day to one’s self in New York City. So I left the Starbucks, abandoned my laptop at Liz’s apartment and went off to amuse myself.

Which, translated into an afternoon in New York, means the following: doing a happy dance in Argosy Books upon finding an illustrated children’s book set of Wagner’s entire Ring cycle, published in 1939 by the Metropolitan Opera Company; searching unsuccessfully for my favorite-but-now-discontinued peony-infused bath oil at Takashimaya but discovering that the violet oil is even lovelier; wandering down Hudson Street from 14th and then over to Bleeker and then down into Soho to see Michel Gondry’s exhibit at Dietch Gallery; going to Pearl River Mart and buying WonderBaby a onesie with ‘I Heart NY’ printed on it in Mandarin; and then heading back to Brooklyn to hang with Liz and eat pizza and watch My Super Sweet Sixteen and Laguna Beach.

And that last bit? The hanging out bit? That was the best part.

There was a lot to be excited about on this trip. Not least was the launch of Greenstone Media, to which Liz and I were not only invited guests, but invited guests who had their names highlighted in pink on the guest list. Invited guests to whom lovely organizer-type women said things like, oh we must get pictures of you with Gloria. Invited guests who slurped green champagne while chatting amiably with Mo Gaffney and Dee Snider and Emme The Plus-Sized Model and staring at the back of Jane Fonda's head.

Invited guests who only slobbered a very little bit while talking with the incomparable Gloria Steinem, who is absolutely engaging and inspiring and gorgeous. (Seriously. She's, like, 72 and her un-Botoxed, un-lifted self is better looking than most women a third her age. Let that be a lesson to us all: brains and integrity and passion are the source of all kinds of hotness.)

It was fun (Liz captures this much more effectively in her recap, here.) It was wonderful. But it wasn't the highlight of the trip.

The highlight was hanging with Liz. Gloria was, as always, inspiring, and it was thrilling to speak with her (stay tuned), but it was just as - perhaps more - inspiring and rewarding to just hang out and talk with Liz for a couple of days. We talked about everything from motherhood (surprise) to food to politics to MTV to blogging to feminism and beyond. It was, like, Our Super Sweet Hanging Out Thing.

It might not have been MTV fodder. It probably wasn't even Greenstone fodder. It certainly provided a lot of food for thought that will, probably, eventually, be blogged (we discussed at length whether our generation or our daughters' generations will see the likes of Gloria Steinem and I'm going to obsess over this question for EVER), but that wasn't the point.

It was friendship fodder. It was friendship, in real time, in real life. And it was better than green champagne and the back of Jane Fonda's head put together.

It was better, even, than Gloria Steinem. It was better than Gloria because it exemplified both her current mission and the best of the legacy of contemporary feminism. When women have ample space to talk and to air their passions and their ideas in open spaces, they find each other and they empower each and they inspire each other. I've written about this before; you know the schtick.

It's good schtick. And it's even better in person, with pizza and an hour or two of MTV reality-programming.

... and a WonderBaby soul-sistah, Brooklyn-style...

It was wonderful. It is wonderful.

Thanks, Liz.


The Great Gloria Steinem Blogger Interview is up at Greenstone, if you're interested. Keep in mind that we were all nervously clutching our telephones in sweaty hands and that some of us (I'm not naming names) were desperately shushing fussy babies. But it's fun, and if you like listening to awestruck women struggle to remain coherent in the presence of celebrity that has nothing to do with Billboard charts or People's Sexiest Men Alive, then knock yourselves out.


Gloria Steinem's response to The Questions are probably going to take a few days, so I'll be doing the action post round-up early, probably this weekend, after catching up on some blog-cruising... (I'm behind on everything - blog visits, link updates, everything - and am feeling great messy waves of guilt related to neglect of blog and putative neglect of child, so bear with me.)


EDITS - woo hoo! Need more to read? You can find me waxing pissy about recent, recurring debates on blog politics here; you could go check out the Basement, 'cuz I know that you haven't done that in a while; or, you could check out Kristen's efforts to help out another mom by holding a super-awesome contest here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

These Foots Were Made For Walkin'

We interrupt this week of spectacular HBM programming (more Gloria Steinem! random crizzap about New York! the long-awaited eros post that will commemorate WonderBaby's 10-month birthday!) to bring you the following news flash:

WonderBaby walks.


Hell YEAH it's blurry. She's moving. Pretty fucking fast, too.

I think that she actually started walking a month ago, but I don't know know how to evaluate these things. Is it walking when it's one upright step? Two? Three? When it's turbo-cruising at high speeds along any available furniture, animal or pant-leg? When it involves scaling walls?

Speed is reduced for purposes of climbing. The faint-hearted mother finds such baby-scale mountaineering nonetheless alarming.

You'd think that witnessing WonderBaby's dance program would have prepared me for the full extent of her physical determination and prowess. That, and the fact that she's been scaling her baby gates since 8 and half months.

Sadly, no. I was not prepared.

It all surprises me. Even the things that I think I am expecting - these things surprise me. It all surprises me.

Could someone tell me, please, when it is exactly that motherhood will stop feeling so consistently startling?


I'm expecting Gloria Steinem's response to our questions (yes! I snuck in more than one!) sometime this week. Likely after the launch of Greenstone Media tomorrow evening, which I am (omigodpinchme!) attending. In New York. City. With Liz. (Yes, you will hear all about it. Don't you doubt it for a minute.) When I get Gloria's response to our questions I'll post that response, along with your other questions, which will, I hope, provoke much stimulating and fist-waving discussion.

Sometime after the weekend I'll be doing a separate post with a list of all of your Call to Action posts. All of which are beyond wonderful. Please keep sending links. And remember that your calls-to-action needn't focus upon conventional 'causes:' if your family is your cause, write about that and about how you feel that makes a difference. If you feel that the best action is the sort that involves always saying please and thank you and being neighborly and helping the elderly across the street, write about that. The idea is to see how well we can demonstrate the force of writing as an impetus or inspiration to action. What that action is, exactly, doesn't matter so much. If it makes a difference, makes the world a better place, it counts. So do, please, write about it, and tell others why they should consider doing it too.

In the meantime, to see such action in action, please visit the The 2,996 Project - an online tribute to the fallen of 9/11. Truly testament to the power of community and language.


My blog-neighborliness has been sorely lacking lo these last few days, and can be expected to remain lackluster until I get back from NYC at the end of the week. So please forgive me if you haven't seen me around. I'll be back on my rounds as soon as my head stops spinning.