Her Bad Mother

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who's The Dummy, Mummy?

Rachel Cooke thinks that I'm a dummy. Okay, maybe not me specifically, but women like me. Women who talk or write incessantly about their children and their experience as mothers. Women who, when asked how they're doing, launch into a extended narrative about sleeplessness and breastfeeding and hormones and Xanax. Women who are - how did she put it? - "boring, selfish, smug and obsessed with motherhood."

Like I said: women like me.

"Once upon a time," says Cooke, "educated women fought to separate their identities from the ideal of mother, knowing that until the two came to be seen as wholly distinct they would never be taken seriously; and, in any case, who wants to be defined by only one aspect of their life? In the past decade, however, a growing number of women have reverted, 50s-style, to identifying themselves primarily, vociferously, and sometimes exclusively, as mothers. They fetishise childbirth, and obsess about all that follows it, in a way that is almost, if not quite, beyond satire, and which makes me feel a bit sick."

Which, whatever. So she's not interested in mothers; I can live with that. I wasn't all that interested in motherhood before I became a mother, either. But there's a very great difference between lacking an interest in a subject and asserting that any discussion or celebration of that subject is somehow subversive of broader social goods. That someone, anyone, lacks an interest in the motherhood does not mean that the celebration of motherhood or extensive discourse on the subject of motherhood represent broader social problems for which mothers should be held responsible. I mean, seriously. I'm not interested in hip-hop, but would it make sense for me to say, on that basis, that pop-cultural attention to hip-hop is fetishistic and sick-making? I've certainly had the experience - pre-motherhood - of being trapped in conversations with women who went on at length about the details of childrearing and wondering how I was a) going to escape, and b) scrub my brain of the mental image of mustard poo, but I've also had that very same experience with people who only want to talk about politics (an occupational hazard as a former academic specializing in political philosophy) or cats or global warming. The fact that those subjects, in excess, cause my eyes to roll back in my head does not mean that anyone who is passionate about those things is an out-of-control fetishist. It only means that I am not interested.

Like any reflective bigot, Ms. Cooke asserts that she is not attacking all mothers - some her best friends are mothers! but they're, like, the smart kind who you don't mind hanging out with! - just the smug, stupid mothers who talk too much about being mothers. Because, you know, it's not that mothers as a community are sickening in their fetishistic attachment to the terms and trappings of motherhood. It's that so many of them are, and Ms. Cooke is starting to find it overwhelming. Can't we all just shut up already about childbirth and our children and everything having to do with our children? Don't we realize that the more we talk about this stuff, the more stupid and smug and selfish and Stepford we sound? Can't we see that we are setting women back? And, also, nauseating everybody in the process?

This is what is, to me, most hateful about Cooke's diatribe: the assertion that there is not only something unseemly and uninteresting about the discourse of motherhood, but also something fundamentally unfeminist about it. This is Linda Hirschmann Lite: devotion to motherhood is somehow not deserving of respect, because it limits - limits - women to a life experience that has been dictated, in some part, by the terms of their biology. This is biology-as-destiny, this is femininity-as-enclosure: this is what prevents us from being free, like, men, to do whatever we want. This is an old feminist argument (one, if you're interested, that has roots in Marx), that women need to be liberated from their biological destinies - from the almost-inevitable biological condition of motherhood - so that they might work and contribute to society like men, because only then do they meaningfully contribute to society, only then are they members in full, only then are they interesting.

This is bullshit. Women do not become free by rejecting motherhood, by ignoring motherhood, by keeping the stories of motherhood hidden behind the veil, the wall, the enclosures of the private sphere. Women become free, in some significant part, by celebrating motherhood - by celebrating parenthood (men love their children too, you know, and some might even choose to make parenting their primary occupation, if it were more generally accepted and recognized as important work) - by demanding that it be as valued a part of civil society as politics and business and the arts and, you know, whatever else people like Rachel Cooke and Linda Hirschmann deem to be important and interesting. Celebrating motherhood doesn't mean that every woman must choose motherhood as part of her life experience - we celebrate all variety of callings, without insisting that any of them are necessary for every individual's self-fulfillment - it only means that we all of us recognize that mothering - parenting - and all that it involves is important work. Which means, in turn, we recognize discourse on those subjects as important discourse.

This is not to say, of course, that every anecdote about poo explosions in public places or every detailed explanation of the effects of sleep deprivation on the post-partum mother is in itself a critically important contribution to public discourse. It is to say, rather, that the sum of these stories is important: that in telling these stories, and in recognizing these stories as legitimate and important, we are sharing - we are making public, we are lifting the veil on - the experience of motherhood and demanding that it be taken seriously as something that contributes to - that is, arguably, the backbone of - civil society. Not every one of these stories will be interesting to everyone; many will be interesting only to a very few. But they are our stories, the stories of our parenthood. And we are, in telling these stories, telling each other - telling other mothers, telling fathers, telling future mothers and fathers - that there is no need to be (and every harm in being) isolated in one's experience of parenthood. We are telling each other that there is community in parenthood, and that such community should be sought out and embraced.

Cooke summarizes her argument with this statement: "all this droning on about baby and toddler world is not, in the long run, doing any of us any good. For me, and many other women, it's boring and selfish, and it implicitly casts judgment on the way we choose to live our lives." I'm sorry that she feels that way. I, for one, am quite capable of listening to my husband's colleagues drone on about the TV industry without feeling like I'm being judged for not being in that industry. I am also, for that matter, quite capable of listening to childless friends talk about their careers and their active social lives and their travel adventures without feeling as though they pity me for always having a baby strapped to my chest. If she feels judged, that's her issue, not a larger social problem that needs to be nipped in the bud. Indeed, as I've said above, this compulsion to silence mothers, to insist to them that their stories are not worthy of sharing in public spaces, to demand that they just shut up already about their silly children and their silly fascination with organic baby food and sleep training and post-partum depression - this is the larger social problem. It's a terrible social problem. It does more to keep women silenced and isolated than pretty much anything else I can think of.

So if anyone should just shut up already and stop complaining and judging and holding women back with her need to control what women talk about... well, you know who you are.

/rant.

(Thanks to Karen for the tip on the story. Funny how she knew just exactly what would make my head explode.)

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191 Comments:

Anonymous Lynn (Walking With Scissors) said...

Bravo. Very well written. I would have just called her a stupid bitch and called it a day. Yours is much better. :)

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Kayleigh said...

-coming out of lurkdom- Amen.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous fidget said...

I agree that we, as women, are not going to be "free" or "equal" until we learn to encompass all aspects of our femininity, including motherhood, into our daily lives. Dividing our singular persona from our responsibilities and family does nothing to further us.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Gillian said...

I wouldn't worry too much. Homegirl can't construct a sentence to save her life. I have never seen so many parentheses and commas in my life. Didn't anyone teach her that as far as sentence length is concerned, less is more?

Yawn.

1:32 PM  
Blogger St said...

Amen. Amen. Amen.

1:33 PM  
Blogger monkey girl said...

Well at least she's not having children so we don't have to worry about her offspring being as narrow minded as she is.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

She needs to get new friends.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

I read this the other day and have been seething ever since but haven't been able to put my words together enough to explain why.

I don't get how someone not interested in her traveling to Yemen is a sign of a boring woman - maybe they just don't want to be bored by yet another story by Rachel about herself?

Seemed to me the bigger issue is that Rachel is upset that people don't want to talk about her or her favourite things too much - poor little baby.

1:37 PM  
Blogger catnip said...

Someday she's going to look back at that article and be embarrassed that she wrote such intolerant drivel.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Lucie @ Unconventional Origins said...

Thank you so much for writing this. Her article made me so angry I might have to write my own response as well.

I love the idea of feminism, but women like her twist it so much that they have really done damage to the concept.

My two biggest problems with her: she is completely sexist in basically telling moms to shut up and not dialogue about being mothers. Second, she blames her not wanting to have children on the way moms act. Does anyone else smell bullshit?

Man now I'm all worked up!

1:39 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

I want to know how feminism got switch from celebrating all the women can be to defining it as making women as manly as possible? I enjoy all the things I did before I had kids now, I just have 2 little people who enjoy juice and cookies along for the ride.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

YES! Yes to everything you just said!!! Amazingly written, it's like you took the words right out of my mouth and then made them so much better.

Thank you.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Mr Lady said...

I read her article. It didn't bother me one little bit. Why? Because the woman who tells me they know everything there is to know about motherhood because they worked as a nanny when they were 16 doesn't phase me, either. Her entire argument was, "When I was a child, my mother..." She isn't seeing that when she was a child, she wasn't paying any attention at all to what the mothers were doing. She was busy being A CHILD. Which means her mother did something right, that her mother was devoted to mothering her. Which completely unravels her entire argument.

That whole post was nonsense, and doesn't matter at all, to anything. It was merely instagatory, and I couldn't care less what a childless person thinks about how we should "be" as parents.

1:40 PM  
Blogger thediaperdiaries said...

I read that article and was equally outraged. And is it not the ultimate in irony that there are still feminists out there who insist that we become "like men." That makes little to no sense to me.

Being a mother is not all I am, but it is a huge part of who I am as it shapes a lot of my worldview. And if that makes me some sort of idiot, drain on society than so be it. I wouldn't trade my kids for the title of "enlightened" (as per her standards) for the world.

PS. Never read your blog before cause apparently I was living under a rock, but you floored me at Blissdom and I hope to be back :)

1:43 PM  
Blogger Atlanta Mommy said...

How sad that someone could feel so anti-motherhood. Next thing you know she'll be advocating some kind of Brave New World where the children are all reared at centers and adults are free to frolic in soma-induced hazes.

1:45 PM  
Blogger VanderbiltWife said...

Amen, sister. I don't see how talking about my daughter is more selfish than talking about my job. They're both about ME, MINE, ETC right? Selfish is just not the right word there. You're right--she can't relate, thus it's boring and she wants to blame it on something. Perhaps I will find her and we can have a long discussion about COMMAS since that is what I do for a living (edit) and what makes me an interesting person, obviously. Not anything else about me.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Little Monkies said...

Can you even imagine having HER as a friend? She'd be the one at the party that would sound like Charlie Brown's teacher (wa wa wa wa wa wa) going on about her important self. I love it that she has some sort of signaling requirement from her post-partum friends (dandling baby on knee, indeed!) to make sure they aren't freakish mom zombies and instead can LISTEN TO HER TALK ABOUT HERSELF.

Jesus. Who *is* this being? Not a woman in my book.

And, yes, I am a staunch feminist. Which means that I work for choices and loving the full compliment of a woman. This would have been a much better article about how people are boring conversationalists...isn't that what it's really about?

1:46 PM  
Blogger Mama Smurf said...

To women like her I say....

"Oh bite me!"

But then, motherhood seems to have sucked all brain cells dry and rendered me inarticulate and boring...so...what do I know...

1:47 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

And yet a dad who talks about his children or his experience as a father is a good man.

Just in case you weren't angry enough already.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Gaby said...

Catherine, I think your response to that article was incredibly well written and balanced, and the same cannot be applied to Cooke's article.

That being said, I must admit that I am a woman who does not have children. I hope to, someday, but I don't have any now. And I could relate to a few items in Cooke's article: the idea that those without children should be more willing to alter their schedules to accommodate those with children. That my weekends, which follow my 40-hour work week, aren't as important a consideration as the weekends of my sisters-in-law with kids.

And that many conversations between women with children and women without follow a path similar to "When you have a baby..." or "You'll understand when you have children..." which I find to be some of the most demeaning comments I could be dealt. It's the adult version of "You'll understand when you're older." Just as dismissive.

I don't want to go against the tide here, but I wanted to present my opinion as a woman who loves children but doesn't have any yet. I admire most women with children, I think they can be moms and still maintain their multifaceted personalities, but those two elements in the article resonated with me. Just my $.02.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Binkytowne said...

I think she's being extreme but you have to admit- there are mom-women like that out there who are also extreme. I don't consider you one of them.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous PBandJBoats said...

Yes and AMEN!

1:54 PM  
Blogger Miss Grace said...

Thanks. I wasn't sufficiently irritated with my day.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous D. Cole Ossandon said...

Good for you for going after such a piece of trash!!!

It's a joke that she says she feels judged when mom's talk about babies or toddlers when NO ONE is judging her -- they're just talking about their children. Yet at the same time SHE is the one who is judging, calling mothers boring and selfish!

Women need to support each other in their choice to have or not have children, not attack each other as Rachel Cooke has done, for making the other choice.

Feminism is about having the right to choose what is best for ourselves, not forcing women to believe there's only one "right" choice in life! And it's certainly not about telling another women to shut up when she's talking about something that doesn't interest you!

1:55 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

::Standing ovation::
Wonderful post!

And Gillian took the words out of my mouth. Honestly, I couldn't get through the article. She is a terrible writer...

Let's look at an example, shall we?

"This quip is not dishonest: though I have several friends who have combined novel-reading with motherhood very successfully, in my own head I hold a convoluted equation, one based on the approximate number of hours I have left to live versus the number of good books I have left to read, and it is very anxiety-inducing."

I'm itching to go at the entire thing with my RED pen. Sentence FAIL.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

Part of me wonders if she was being purposefully inflammatory in order to spark response.

Personally, as you allude to, I think the article reflects her own insecurities more than anything else.

2:07 PM  
Blogger sweetsalty kate said...

Exquisitely put.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Miguelina. said...

I can't add anything to your response, so I'll just say this: Bravo!

2:10 PM  
OpenID geeklady said...

I've taped my latest CV to my ass, and she can kiss it.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

This is me, standing to applaud you.

Also? I love the Like any reflective bigot... Awesome.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Slice of Paradise said...

Her first sentence explained it all: "When people who know me well ask me, as they very occasionally do, why I do not, at this point, want to have children ..."

I get that some people who have decided that children are just not for them, listening to mothers who DO love children is like pouring acid in their cocktail. It's just not acceptable. They can say that without coming off as total bitches though. When a mommy talks about poo, commiserate with tails your dog's poo problems. Disgust the annoying mommy, win a prize!

I'm thinking she protests too much. Sounds like her hatred of mommies may be rooted in a bit of jealousy.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Walsh Family said...

I don't comment, but this is so maddening. As if I am spitting in the faces of all those suffragettes and feminists by simply choosing to be a mother. Oh wait, isn't that CHOICE exactly what they were fighting for?

Nice rebuttal, though.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Eloquently said and I could not agree more wholeheartedly. I have only to add, "Suck on THAT, RC!!"

2:20 PM  
Blogger Mr Lady said...

Also, Brian is totally right. Just wanted to through that out there.

2:25 PM  
Blogger jenB said...

I can't add much but awesome post and fuck that shit. I love you and thanks for speaking and writing so well for those of us, by us I mean ME, who don't do it and certainly don't say it so well.

xo

2:34 PM  
Blogger Goldfish said...

Love a blog that takes me back to my old feminist theory days.... Which were, of course, before I had kids. Because now, of course, I am holding back women everywhere.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me like Ms. Cooke is having issues with her childlessness (made up that word, thanks) and has decided to take it out on thos of us that chose the opposite route, thus burdening the world with our stories of "mustard poo" and tantrums.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Flinger said...

Karen told me about this and I nearly strung together a list of profanities. You are MUCH more eloquent in your debate. I couldn't agree more.

But also? I hold this truth for all things: religion, politics, etc. The fact that anyone should want to silence anyone is unconstitutional.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas said...

She sounds like a blowhard. And stupid and selfish too. Ironic isn't it?

Well written post. I say "ditto."

2:41 PM  
Blogger Jaywalker said...

The Polly Vernon piece on the same day was even worse!
See what I wrote about both of them.

http://belgianwaffling.blogspot.com/2009/02/letters.html

The thing I find saddest is the total lack of female solidarity, or compassion, or tolerance. It comes on both 'sides' (you should see some of the responses to the piece on eg. the Times 'Alpha Mummy' blog, which are poisonous). There shouldn't be 'sides'! Just, you know, people living their lives as they see fit, with or without children. Gah! I sound like such a hippie. Dammit. Off to kick something.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Backpacking Dad said...

1. Parental punditry is the most important kind of punditry. Good children grow into good people who create good culture, which helps create good parents who will raise good people.

2. Amputating women is not a feminist act.

3. I don't want to be judged for choosing to drink, but that doesn't mean that Alcoholics Anonymous should just shut the hell up about drinking.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Amo said...

The irony? She IS being judged now whereas before, it was only in her head.

Hmmm...ain't irony a bitch.

2:55 PM  
OpenID phonemom said...

Thank you for saying what I wanted to but in a much more eloquent way.
While I was on the page, I also looked at the Why I don't want to be a mother article and 20 other reasons not to have children. argh.

I will admit that for most of my life I did not want children, when I met my husband I still did not want children and I am occasionally amazed that we're working our way to #2. I do think that it is aggravating and condescending to tell people that "you'll know when you have children" and all the other patronizing crap that comes out of our mouths. That does NOT mean that we don't deserve our outlet and to share our stories with other parents!
I do work, I do live outside my children but I also don't make anyone listen to the interworkings of a transplant lab. Most people are more interested in my child and I'm interested in sharing that joy that I've discovered through him. We're not doing it to be patronizing and judgie. I do it because it makes me happy to think and emote about my children.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Poppy Buxom said...

Oh. So Ms. Cooke is the only person who has ever had to endure long, boring, self-centered monologues.

And because she is childless and an old-school, stuck-in-the-1970s, to-be-liberated-we-need-to-copy-men "feminist," the most boring and self-centered thing you can be is a mother.

Pfft. She's not a member of our community of discourse, and she has the option of not listening.

Thanks for giving her the ass-whupping she so richly deserves.

2:57 PM  
Blogger anymommy said...

I never comment here, but I read often. Just wanted to say, beautifully, beautifully, put. It's the obvious and it shouldn't need to be said, but you said it so gracefully and eloquently, maybe someone who identified with w/Ms. Cooke will think again.

2:58 PM  
Blogger mom2nji said...

Holy hell, what a biotch!
Bitter much?

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Meagan Francis said...

I find it interesting that she's complaining about reading cute stories about parenthood...ON A PARENTING WEBSITE.

And yeah, she needs to have somebody edit about 75% of the commas out of that piece.

3:02 PM  
Blogger kgirl said...

First of all, Lynn, commenter #1, made me laugh out loud.

Second of all, while everything you say about Rachel Cooke (horrible writer, btw) is quite accurate, imo, she is no worse than one of our own (gasp!) writing an article about how boring her kids, and motherhood in general are.

We women constantly and consistently throw each other under the bus, regardless of whether or not our uterus has been utilized.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Everybody is entitled to an opinion...her's just happens to suck!

3:06 PM  
Blogger BreezieGirl said...

Delurking to say, Bravo!

3:06 PM  
OpenID verybadcat said...

Whether it makes my comment more or less valid, I'm not sure, but...

I don't have children. Yet.

What really gets me about all of this is that it would seems that women will not ever support each other. Working moms support working moms, scoff at and/or jealous of stay at home moms, and vice versa...

Women who have decided not to have children look down their noses at the women who have decided that it is best for them and their babies to be a mother, primarily, in those early years.

Women who have not had babies yet are regarded with some suspicion- will she or won't she- does she get it or doesn't she? And in turn they lash out at Mothers for saying "you'll understand when you have a baby".

Oh, God, is that hard to hear. I'm sure it's true. How could it not be, and I've said to people "you'll understand when you get your first job, first house, start college, have your own dog, blah, blah. Yet we see it as a dig at us, that we are lesser than because we've not yet become mothers.

Anyone that drones on and on about anything for too long is boorish.

I am probably at least three years away (trying to finish school!) from even trying to get knocked up, and I never tire of your stories. Ever. They have value to me. They are entertaining. I feel that they prepare me for my own motherhood- both in reading your experiences and in knowing that I can reach out then, when I understand, when I walk down that path. You have given me the courage not to sit silent when I am at my wits end with the sleeplessness and the philosophical dilemmas. You really have. I will not hesitate to ask my own mother, my aunt, my friends, the world for help, guidance and understanding.

I can't figure it out, though. I have a blog. I'm a corporate drone, a worker bee. Married. Nearly thirty. Quite a boring creature. I prattle on about the latest marriage spat, or the work conflicts, or my aching tooth, or waxing my legs. But I am not boring and self involved, apparently, because I'm not in the phase in my life yet that I will dedicate to my children? It's very puzzling. I mean, score!, I guess, but it doesn't seem right.

Oh, and Catherine? Why are you letting babies starve? You are, aren't you? After all, your babies are cared for, and didn't she say that your babies being cared for causes starving babies? Huh? If she is so concerned about starving babies, they why doesn't she take half of the money she's saving by not having babies to care for a few in poorer nations. Oops! Did I say that?!

3:11 PM  
Blogger Susan Getgood said...

Well said Catherine.

I saw Mrs. Flinger's pointer to your post on Twitter amidst the discussion of the latest breastfeeding incident at Denny's and found the juxtaposition very apropos.

Ms. Cooke's attitude and uproar over women breastfeeding in public are both symptomatic of disdain for the female experience.

All female experience.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Moms At Work said...

WOW. Great response.
I am so tired of women attacking other women. Isn't the real goal of "feminism" to allow women to do choose to do what we want?

Kim

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Undomestic Diva said...

I hope she has kids some day.

What a C U Next Tuesday, you know what I'm sayin'?

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Brooke said...

Oh, my. With all of the news stories about PPD, and post-partum psychosis, parents leaving their teenagers at hospitals, shaken baby syndrome... all of these things that I think are somewhat exacerbated by people just not having an OUTLET for the FRUSTRATIONS of parenting... I think her statement is pretty dangerous. I wonder how many women that really, truly need to vent for their own sanity were silenced by this judgment.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

kgirl - oooh, good point. there's definitely a comparison to be made between this kind of stuff and the stuff that foments the so-called Mommy Wars.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Sif said...

First, let me say that I love your blog. Second, I am SO glad that you wrote about this stupid article. I live in London and usually buy the Sunday Observer (generally a great paper). I couldn't believe this article -- I was shocked that my favorite Sunday paper had chosen this article for its feature in the Women's Monthly. Hurray for your rant! Thank you.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

Amen! I thoroughly enjoyed your rant, and agree with every word you've written. So I'm not interesting to you? Fine by me. But that doesn't mean I'm setting back the cause of women. Good grief.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Amanda said...

I find it wildly entertaining that most of you were so anxious to jump on her for 'throwing women under the bus', and yet you turn around and do the same thing because she's said something you find offensive. She's free to not participate in your dialogue? You're free to not freak out about one woman's opinion and let it dictate the tone of your day. You are, of course, also free to call her a 'C U Next Tuesday' (seriously?? women are still using vagina/vulva slang as a put-downs) and bitch and moan about why you're right and she's wrong. I just hope you can see the hypocrisy evident in both.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Deb on the Rocks said...

I think Rachel lifted half of her opinions from the Sex and the City episode with the baby shower.

I've taken tons of this heat in my life from friends who didn't understand why a young queer feminist (at that time) would dummify her life by not only having kids but actually getting into their development, changing career paths for them, and advocating for justice and good education systems for them. I was a great disappoint to feminist "friends" like Rachel. So an advance of feminism in the last two decades has been that instead of these thoughts being levied against us in our university hallways or after domestic violence rallies, those attacks are now in mainstream media think pieces? Nice.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Rachael said...

Wow. I am so offended by this that I can barely even think of something to say. When I decided to be a SAHM, I felt like it was not what was expected. That I was expected to go to work. I know that women fought hard for equality, but personally, I love being home with my kids and don't really care much about having some big career. Sure, I could work, make money, and use it to pay for someone else to take care of my kid, but it's just not for me.

My main problem with Cooke is that she is so judgemental. I mean, it's great when women want to have careers. But when you decide to be a SAHM, that is your life and there's not all that much else to talk about. If she doesn't like it, why doesn't she just stop reading it? I try hard NOT to blab on about my kid to my non-mom friends unless they want to hear it. I think she is generalizing and attacking moms for no reason.

Like you said - anyone that talks about ANYTHING for too long gets boring whether it be cars, politics, or baby poop. Why can't we just live and let live?

3:59 PM  
Blogger BaltimoreGal said...

I don't have kids- I'd like to but I want a man in the picture. :-S

Sometimes I can get a little bored by friends' mommy talk. But I am quite sure I bore others by dog talk. So we come out even.

You think/talk/write about what is going on in your life! No one should be picked on for that.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Aimee Morrison said...

What gets me is that somehow mothering and feminism are incompatible: you hold the cause back if you want to talk about mothering. So what is the option? Not having kids? I don't see how that furthers the feminist cause.

Here's what I know: I am a feminist and a mother. If I didn't talk about it, get help with my mothering, everything else would fall apart. Am I just supposed to pretend that being someone's mother hasn't changed me? That's ridiculous, dishonest, and crazy-making. Not the kind of feminism I'm particularly interested in participating in.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Yes, yes, yes and YES. I can't say more than that, because my hands are sore from all the clapping I've been doing while I read this post. ;)

4:39 PM  
OpenID mominsanity said...

I loved how you told this woman to go shove it in an educated, in your face, way. You rock lady! Keep it up!

4:50 PM  
Anonymous tali said...

I am usually just lurking (I am one of Lara David's "real life friends") but today I just have to say: RIGHT ON. AMEN. Thank you for writing so well

4:58 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Amanda - "I find it wildly entertaining that most of you were so anxious to jump on her for 'throwing women under the bus', and yet you turn around and do the same thing because she's said something you find offensive. She's free to not participate in your dialogue? You're free to not freak out about one woman's opinion and let it dictate the tone of your day."

Amanda - she raised the issue; I'm engaging it. I absolutely think that I'm right and she's wrong. More than that: I think that she's made an offensive, counter-feminist argument. So I said so. She expressed an opinion that I find offensive; I'm critiquing that opinion. How is that hypocritical? If it IS hypocritical, then all critique/critical discourse is hypocritical.

Socrates would SPIN in his grave.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

"it limits - limits - women to a life experience that has been dictated, in some part, by the terms of their biology."

My one comment is on this quote. I don't understand why so many people think that if you have children you give up everything else. I mean, why can't you take your children with you on your travels, to baseball games, when you go hiking? You don't have to give up your passions and your "life" when you have children.

5:36 PM  
Blogger carrie said...

So, in essence, this wack-a-do Rachael whomever, is saying that SHE wants to control what OTHER women write?

'Cause that's what I'm getting.

Talk about the one with a problem. I'm sorry, but when did MY experience as a mother become someone else's to dictate? That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

In other words, I agree w/you.

5:55 PM  
Blogger daniloth said...

One of the things I found so liberating about the feminism I studied in school was the inclusiveness. Working is good, being at home is good, having no kids is good, having kids is fine too. It really saddens me that RC would define it otherwise. One of the most important things feminism has done is pull back the curtain on the work, physical and emotional, of motherhood. We need to understand and acknowledge that working in the home is as much labour as working out of it. And one is as necessary and important as the other.

What struck me about this article though was RC's regrettable attitude about her friendships. Friendship can be based on shared experiences, but the more lasting ones transcend sharing the same experiences and become a sharing of each other's experiences. Even if those are a lack of sleep and an abundance of brain fog and a post-partum short-term obsession with your child's activities as a reflection of their well-being and your ability to parent. I'm glad my friends have been more understanding than RC. They've been patient enough to let me work through my post-partum hormonal crazies, and even managed to be supportive. I've been lucky, I guess.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Anonymous New York said...

The point of feminism, as I understand it, is to give us the same opportunities as our male counterparts. Now that we have (somewhat) equal opportunity, we can make choices as rational human beings, depsite being biologically predisposed childbearers.

According to this NY Times article, after having all of the opportunity the American Dream can afford, some some of us will choose to make our careers in the home.

http://tinyurl.com/ckvad

How then have we failed at our feminist goals? As long as we teach our children that they, too, have the same CHOICE, feminism will continue to survive.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Veronica Mitchell said...

Well said.

One thing I found puzzling about the original post was her claim that public mothering conversations are somehow new. It's as though she views the Victorian sequestering of motherhood as the baseline for normal. In some sense, the conversations online and in public that are possible today are only a return to a more natural kind of communal life, where everyone was aware of motherhood and children because children and mothers were everywhere.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Mamalooper said...

One of the most wonderful results of the blogosphere and specifically the telling of womens' and moms' stories is that is a bit of an equalizer. Our stories are just as important and one could argue MORE relevant than some theories by a German philosopher who was just writing to be the most clever of his other German philosopher colleagues.

Does it have to be either/or? Can't it just be "and"? Most women have children and have a life outside of their mothering.

And why is being a childless equivalent to the old patriarchal 50 year old white male the ideal? Boring straw man argument...

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always think it is funny that if you ask a woman who is not a mother what she has been up to and she launches into a whole blah, blah, blah about her career as a lawyer, she is none of those, not "boring, selfish, smug and obsessed" with being a lawyer. Currently, my job is being a mother. It is what I do and thus a HUGE part of who I am and therefore, much of what I have to talk about. I don't think that it makes be "obsessed with motherhood," just conscientious and excited about my job. Someday, when my kids are grown I will get a, ahem, 'real job' and then I will talk about that all the time and I will be considered "boring, selfish, smug and obsessed." Ms. Cooke can bite me.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Meera said...

Actually, I dont think she was talking about women like you! or like me for that matter! (i have a 2 year old) Most women who have children on the brain talk to other moms or other parents and thats perfectly normal! But I would daresay that most of us would not go accost a stranger at a party or even someone who knows us well with endless accounts of our kids stories ( a blog doesnt count cause you dont have to read it) without so much as a 'So whats going on in your life?'.

6:43 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

I read these things that get people all up in arms and I just laugh and laugh. I was someone like her, once. Although with a few exceptions ... I didn't call people dummies. I didn't judge their interests of the moment.

But what I was was afraid. I was afraid I wouldn't be happy in a life that was different. As I was plugging along at my career, I hadn't met anyone I'd even want to risk such a change. The planets aligned in someway that allowed it eventually and I learned an entirely new lexicon. And one I never would have been able to penetrate had I not had children.

It's my fervent belief that our superficial interests in our kids' poop will last approximately three to five years (provided there are no lingering problems). But if you read between the lines the shit we're dishing out has a much deeper meaning.

She can barely scratch the surface.
Only a mommy can safely say they have "Mommy Brain."

6:57 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

I forgot to mention, that I'd cut her some slack for that alone.

Everything provides food for thought.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Meera, dude: I am SO one of those women who, if asked by someone, anyone, how I am doing, immediately launches into BIG SIGH, oh, I am so sleep deprived baby doesn't sleep blah blah blah. Even the merest HINT of polite interest will set me off.

I'm not like that all the time, and I would hope that I'd be sensitive to the cues of others ("dead eyes" as Cooke describes) but c'mon: mothering is 70% of my existence. I talk about it A LOT.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Toyfoto - you, my friend, have such a generous soul.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous courtney said...

It's just so frustrating. I don't see how her being bored my motherhood talk is any different than me being bored by political talk coming from a politician. It's just not my bag and I find myself really really bored. That's all that this is. She's bored by motherhood and that's fine, but... seriously? Mothers talking mommy talk are a setback to society? That's insulting.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Domestic Extraordinaire said...

I have lost many a friends because they didn't like that I had essentially become "June Cleaver" (altho if you know me you know I am not June, not really anyways...LOL)

It sucks that women are putting other women down because they chose to embrace motherhood. I say if you don't like what us moms are writing, then stop reading! We aren't writing it for "you" anyways.

Many hugs to you dear Catherine!

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just for the record, DUMMY, across the pond, means PACIFIER

7:30 PM  
Blogger Darx said...

I think this woman will get her come-uppance when she is invited to fewer parties in the future or avoided by people at the ones she attends.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Karen Sugarpants said...

I think what bothered me more about the entire article is that I know my friends who do not have children, do not feel this way.
If you're not interested in parenting, stay off the parenting websites, sugar.
Well said, C. (as always) but I am sorry for any explosions of thy noggin. :)

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a lot of people here are missing the point of her article. I don't think the author minds that some women talk about motherhood. It's just when they can talk about NOTHING ELSE and cannot fathom asking a child(less)(free) woman a question about their lives.

It's myopic. I'm a mother and I talk about motherhood almost exclusively with other mothers but I so value my time with women who are 1. old friends or 2. child(less)(free) so that I can talk about something else.

Besides, it's just good manners to behave in give-and-take conversation. Indeed, I have seen some mothers who have not been able to pop out of their motherhood world to do so. I find this as annoying as the stockbroker who won't stop talking about work or the artist who won't stop talking about the art world. Again, it's simply bad manners as well as a limited view of the world. By all means, everyone needs to ask a question now and then!

7:49 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Anon 7:49 - I have no quarrel with her not wanting to talk about motherhood. I have no issue with her saying that women who ONLY talk about motherhood irritate her. What bothers me - as I said above - is that she extrapolates this irritation to a broader social problem. She derides mothers who identify first and/or fully as mothers as counter-feminist; she insists that devoting oneself to one's children is backwards ("50's style"). She claims that this is a social problem, that it's harmful in some way to women and to society generally.

I think that that argument is both stupid and dangerous.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Pamala said...

I was angered and confused by this article which is why I had to write about it as well. Of course it's nothing like your post which is well thought out. I came to the conclusion that this woman is jealous of mothers who get attention because it's not on her.

8:05 PM  
Blogger The Any Key said...

I don't see it as a feminist issue, I agree it's more about womens' typical behavior to judge and criticize one another too much.

Obviously this woman was bored to near death by the woman at the party, but does she really need to lash out at women across the entire globe as a result? I mean, there is such a thing as saying if you aren't interested, or if after two minutes of listening, the lady shows no signs of coming up for air or changing the subject, she could politely excuse herself.

I'm sure someone as "well-read and worldly" as she says she is would be able to find a polite way of expressing her disinterest, at the very least.

I doubt her friends are as gracious and 'understanding' about her disinterest in the topic as she says, she probably wrote that into her article to ensure she wouldn't offend those closest to her. I'm sure they will mention even less about their children to her after reading that article.

Maybe one day she'll become a mother (god forbid, apparently) and will realize that sometimes, you need to say it to everyone who will listen. Sometimes, you don't have time to keep up with Michelle Obama's fashion trends and who is dating who. Some people actually raise their kids, spend time with them, teach them things.

They don't just put them in a rocker and read a magazine, go online, etc.

People talk about what interests them. I am glad when people talk about their babies, I think it's part of what makes them good parents.

It gives me a little more faith in the next generation to know that the parents are THERE.

8:12 PM  
Blogger April said...

You know how sometimes, when people are gay they are first really homophobic... maybe as a coping mechanism or denial or somesuchsomething? I think, maybe, she just really wants to be a midwestern mom with lots of kids to stay at home with ALL DAY LONG.

LOL.

No, really, she sounds like a self-righteous bitch.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Chantal said...

I read it and was, like you, outraged. But I totally agree with Mr Lady way up there. It doesn't matter. None of it.

She reached her goal with this one. To instigate an outcry and interest and good on her. She did her job.

I think she would be shocked to sit around a table with my mom friends. After playing sports where we get knocked around, we drink beer and talk about our babies, our husbands, sex, politics, religion, liquor. You name it. We swear like truckers and check out men as they walk by.

The only thing different than 10 years ago is that we all have to get up in the morning and wipe someone's ass.

And it rocks.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Ivy said...

very well said

8:23 PM  
Anonymous sherry said...

Catherine, very well said. As always, you put a well thought out retort out there that makes me proud to know you. :)

Her article SCREAMS of the stuff submitted to publications in a down news cycle in order to get a good rise of readers. Clearly, it worked.

What I'm most concerned about is this sort of thing, in my opinion is just nonsense. It's not contributory in the least, and makes women appear to be so dichotomous; either you're with us, meaning mothers, or your against us, the Cooke camp. Black or white. A or B. C'mon. The world doesn't work that way.

Personally, it's hogwash. There is no reason we can't all co-exist and respect the decisions we each make with regards to who has children and what the hell we talk about at cocktail parties.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Allysha said...

Well said. That article made me nuts.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Amanda said...

Her Bad Mother: 'Amanda - she raised the issue; I'm engaging it. I absolutely think that I'm right and she's wrong. More than that: I think that she's made an offensive, counter-feminist argument. So I said so. She expressed an opinion that I find offensive; I'm critiquing that opinion. How is that hypocritical? If it IS hypocritical, then all critique/critical discourse is hypocritical.

Socrates would SPIN in his grave.'

How can it be bullshit to state an opinion? You sound like Jack Black and John Cusack in High Fidelity - an opinion is wrong only when it conflicts with your own. And your invocation of Socrates was cute and all, but I'm more of a Protagoras girl myself.

Critique/critical discourse can be a great forum to discuss opposing points of view. But you're not having an open discourse - you responded in a format, in a place, that Cooke probably won't read and doesn't care about. Own your point of view, and share it however you like, whenever you like - I'm not saying anyone shouldn't - just know that everyone else is entitled to do the same, and shouldn't be personally attacked for it.

8:56 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

She has no children. What does she know anyway? Pass.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Amanda - when or where did I suggest that she is not entitled to her opinion? And where is the personal attack? I attacked her argument - and am owning it - and according to *your* own argument, I'm entitled to do that.

I'm completely confused about what your point is. That I should not have challenged her opinion? That my commenters should not have challenged her opinion? That nobody should ever respond to arguments if the authors of those arguments might never hear the response? That it's wrong to say that one thinks that another's opinion is wrong?

Not sure where you're going with all this. She wrote something; I disagreed in writing. What's the problem?

9:15 PM  
Blogger Momily said...

I see there are 95 comments and I'm much too dumb to read them all, so here is my 2 cents and I apologize if I am being grossly reduntant or "incontinent" as Ms. Cooke so nicely put it!

1) you are the furthest thing from a "dummy mummy" that there could be as this blog is incredibly thoughtful, current, witty, political, insightful, etc,
2) I wondered what happened to Ms. X - now we know!
3)She is so out of touch it made me laugh - i would love to become a bit less "dumb" by doing things like going to the movies or say, travelling to fucking Austria, but i have so few childcare options that it is laughable. I'm guessing I'm not alone on this one!
4)She sucks.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Karen (miscmum) said...

I agree with Mr Lady.

Does Rachel care about what we're talking about here? I doubt it. I daresay she put her petard out there to be hoisted, which is what she's being paid to do.

At the end of the day though, I'll forget her comments because they are irrevelant to me and my life, as I am to hers.

9:17 PM  
Blogger K said...

I always thought the feminist movement was about giving women choices. Work, stay at home, some combination of both, have kids, don't, whatever...the key being that we, as women, would no longer be dictated to by men as to what our roles in life would be.

When did we get so far away from that that women now bash other women for making their own decisions? And THEN having the nerve to be happy and excited about it and wanting to talk about it??? THE NERVE OF THOSE WOMEN TO ENJOY MOTHERHOOD!!!

We're crippling ourselves and our push for equality by stabbing each other in the back over the very decisions we fought so hard to be able to make!

9:24 PM  
Blogger Momily said...

how appropriate that I'm not even smart enought to spell redundant correctly!
5) I've been bored out of my mind in social situations by both parents and the "child-free" - so what! sometimes we find people boring, regardless of whether they've reproduced or not.

As for Ms. Protagoras, where, pray tell, should we be sharing these comments that Ms. Cooke can view them and "care" about them? Please share, I'm sure several of would be eager to go there.

9:29 PM  
Blogger No Mother Earth said...

The kind of article that she wrote (and I read every word) always baffles me. OF COURSE we're going to talk about motherhood. People - all people - talk about the thing that most interests them, OR the thing that consumes the most of their time, be it hobbies or work or, yes, parenting. What else should we talk about, exactly?? I have kids, but if I just read a fantastic book that I can't stop thinking about, I talk about that incessantly till I move on to something else. If one of my kids does something that amuses me, same deal. This is human nature. If it bores you, DON'T LISTEN. Problem solved.

(For the record, I found her article a little boring. Yes, I'm a mother AND a bitch. Discuss.)

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Shannon said...

Bravo! (or would that be brava?) Right on the head, beautifully written. Yes!

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree. She didn't need to criticize mommy bloggers and forums. That is offensive. And what an offensive title to her article.

But I want to add that despite this offense let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater (yikes, I hate that expression). There is food for thought in what she wrote. Because she doesn't speak about all mothers who identify strongly with being a mother - I know I do. She speaks of "a certain kind of mother".

- She talks about mothers who monologue about mothering even when socially inappropriate and rude.

- She talks about mothers who identify "sometimes exclusively, as mothers" which IMHO is as unhealthy as identifying exclusively as a wife.

- She talks about a mother so wrapped up in her motherhood identity who could only come up with a response about the author's trip to Yemen by (offensively) relating it to motherhood in some way.

- She bemoans mothers who do not know how to ask "a proper question (and really listen to the answer), or make mention of the outside world"....

- She bemoans women who begin sentences, in her presence, with ""When you have a baby..."

- She criticizes the mothers who treat child(less)(free) women as if there lives are less important.

These issues that she brings up - these are feminist issues, absolutely. And I'm sorry she stooped to sexism herself in her title and some some comparisons. But there are indeed mothers out there (and I have experienced them in the plenty before I gave birth and I continue to witness their behavior to those without children) who behave badly.

And this is the main point of her article. I think it deserves some attention.

11:04 PM  
Blogger The Mother said...

What about the Dummy Daddy Decade?

You know, the guys who can't talk about anything but football.

What are they doing to male social evolution, giving up the important values of sexism and world domination for fantasy football?

And what about female reaction to them? Are we going to use this opportunity to return them to their prehistoric place at the bottom of the social ladder?

No, wait. We can't. We're too busy going after each other's jugulars.

11:47 PM  
Blogger MBB Founder and Editor Denene Millner said...

So beautifully, eloquently said. Thank you for taking the time... I tend to think that dumb asses who think like her don't deserve the energy it would take to explain to her why she's so incredibly tragic. But I'm happy that YOU had the energy to break it down so it'll forever be broke.

You. Go.

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The silencing / shaming / talking down to / misrepresentation / stereotyping of mothers is the crux of it. And your are right Catherine, it IS a social problem. Silenced and isolated mothers are far less capable of being balanced, fulfilled human beings and are therefore less capable of raising same.
I was and still am a feminist. I am a full-time mother. These things are not mutually exclusive. I have no doubt been boring about both topics. But I would argue - passionately as you have done so well here - that critical to each is dialogue. So thank you once again for raising your fine voice.
~ EarnestGirl

12:43 AM  
Blogger excavator said...

I went and read her article.

Sounds like she knows some boorish people, who by definition are those who monopolize conversation, aren't sensitive to their listener's engagement in a topic, are condescending when another doesn't share their interest.

The socially inept can be found in any group; she implies that mothers are the only offenders.

Looks like she needs to broaden her circle a little and stretch her horizons a bit.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Loralee Choate said...

"...and, in any case, who wants to be defined by only one aspect of their life?"

This is an ill-thought out statement (as are many in that article)as it can easily be turned back on herself.

It seems like she is defining herself by the one aspect of NOT having children, really. And she is also rather smug and boorish about it. My speculation about her consumption of Xanax is just that so I will not elaborate in that area.

20 to 1 she discusses her career and what it entails about as often as mothers discuss their children and areas that encompass them.

(Insert blah, blah, blah about pots and kettles and calling the other black, etc.)

2:37 AM  
Blogger Loralee Choate said...

P.S. The discussion with Amanda is maddening.

"How can it be bullshit to state an opinion?"

Umm...yeah. I believe that means that you have the right to state YOURS, right? As in how can this post be bullshit because it is YOUR opinion and you are stating it.

Right?

It's not a personal attack, it is a response. It is not wrong to do, and it is totally open discourse. It is ON THE INTERNET with anonymous commentary allowed. How the hell more open can you get?

P.P.S. The fact that you said "dude" in one of your responses makes me want to make out with you.

Just sayin'...

2:59 AM  
Blogger Delphine said...

Wow ! I read her -heinous- article and this woman has got serious issues.
Your blog, which reflects in a very clever way about motherhood issues does more good to women than this kind of elitist, guilt-inducing, spiteful and caricatural depiction of dummy motherhood.

4:13 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Natasha Sawatzky said...

I totally loved this post!

I don't even have children and what she said made me angry. lol. And it makes me wonder if she says this stuff to her mom, and how her mom feels about it. If i was her mother i'd be so freaking embarrassed! Jeeze.... i can't wait to have children! and i'll definately be talking about them ALL THE TIME! and as far as motherhood goes, keep talking about it! Every situation is different, and women need to know that, to help each other out. Sheesh..... some peoples children eh!?

4:18 AM  
Anonymous bok said...

I'm with Anonymous at 11.04

Unfortunately the article wasn't very well written and was pretty offensive. More importantly, it missed the point entirely. The writer's ire was misdirected, but- BUT- I do identify with her ire to a point.

For me, the problem is not with individual mothers. I don't begrudge a mum talking about her babies or motherhood whatsoever. In fact I ask a lot of questions because I hope to be in their position too. And I read blogs written my mothers, about motherhood, daily.

But I do feel uncomfortable at the way that society has, in the last decade or so (or at least that's when I've become aware of it) fetished motherhood. It has commodified motherhood, made it into a huge capitalist industry(I think that was RC's point about the myriad types of pushchairs available) and being a mum has become a glossy ideal which we feel, as women, we must aspire to. This image of motherhood bears no relation to the reality of having children: it represents an unattainable goal of perfection.

As part of this ideology, being a mother is held up as the pinnacle of female achievement which trumps any achievement which preceded it in a woman's life. And while this may be true on a personal level, for this to be a given on a social level is dangerous.

On the whole it isn't mothers themselves promoting this idea, it's society. But some mothers (magazines, TV programmes, PEOPLE) do buy into it blindly. And yes it DOES rankle when some people smile (yes) pityingly and say "you won't understand until you have children", or worse, "you won't care about these things when you have children".

It's so hard to explain what I mean.... But my point, perhaps, is illustrated by the fact that I now feel compelled to qualify my words with the caveat that though I don't have children, I do love them and want to have them.

4:43 AM  
Anonymous kata said...

I'd never attack anyone for being childless. Or even comment on them being childless. One never knows if it's due to choice or constraint.

And yet there are a number of childless - actually: childfree - people around whom I have to be apologetic about caring for my child. Which, by the way, is really hard work, aside from the moment of conception there's not much choice about it, it has to be done, yet our society/culture acts like it IS a choice. Which leads to such twisted scenarios as: if you have to pick up your child early form daycare, or care for them when sick, it counts against your vacation.

The problem is that our culture STILL makes the work of mothering/parenting appear invisible, or at the very least society refuses to acknowledge that it is indeed actually work. I mean, think about it: if a mother cares for her own child, that's not work, it's not worthy of any monetary compensation or recognition. But if she hires a caregiver then taking care of her child suddenly becomes work. The difference is that a mother never gets a sick day...

7:41 AM  
Blogger Mrs C said...

Everyone is praising your post, Amen's and all the rest, but I really do not see what the big deal is with Ms Cooke's article. She is entitled to her opinion and you're entitled to yours. However, isn't your post just more fuel to make the rift even wider? You call the woman a bigot for heaven's sake. Name calling! Is that for the dummy mummy comment that wasn't even directed at you personally?

I have children and yet, understand what she's talking about. I'm not particularly interested in certain details of my friend's children either. Does that make me a bad friend? A bad woman? A bad mother because I'm not disposed to talk that much about my children? Why?

How horrible would it be in a world where, as a person that does not want children (her choice!), is confronted with the neverending litany of how she must be an 'unnatural' woman because of that choice.

Anyway, I just don't see what the fuss is all about. And I would sincerely like to see these types of "wars" end because they are silly.

7:59 AM  
Blogger k_sra said...

*clapping loudly from the back of the room*

Brava! : )

8:28 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Mrs C - Bigotry is the intolerance of any belief, opinion, lifestyle etc that differs from one's own. She's a bigot - sorry if the word sounds harsh - because she is completely intolerant of women who hold and live the opinion that motherhood is something to be celebrated and discoursed upon. She calls such women 'dummies.' She extrapolates her opinion (determined on the basis of first-hand encounters with a handful of mothers and reading websites) to society-at-large and uses it to diagnose what she perceives to be a social ill. That's bigotry.

As I said in my post, I've been there with not wanting to listen someone go on at length about motherhood. But I've also been there with politics and environmentalism and sports and certain aspects of popular culture. The thing is, I don't - and didn't - refer to people who are interested in those things as dummies, just because their interest differ/ed from my own.

THAT's what I find problematic.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

bok - fetishizing something and commodifying something are two different things, unless you're a Marxist. I don't get claims that motherhood is 'fetishized' (I certainly did not get Cooke's, and suspected that she does not understand the proper uses of the term 'fetish') - at the crudest level, 'fetishize' is used to refer to something being valued in disproportion to its worth, and I actually don't think that that's practically possible in the case of motherhood. Should mothers be worshiped as saints? No. But we are NOWHERE near that in our society. Motherhood, on the contrary, is undervalued (to an extreme, I would say). Sure, there are elements of commodification (as there are with most walks of life - 'Youth' with capital Y, anybody?) but commodification doesn't = value.

Motherhood could stand to be celebrated and hyped. In fact, I think that it DEMANDS to be celebrated and hyped. It's been marginalized and kept relegated to the private sphere for too long. Maybe then nobody would tolerate calling mothers, as a group, dummies. And, also, maybe I would someday get a day off ;)

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Erica said...

Bravo!

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Cheryl said...

Angry and smart. I love this post.

Thanks.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Mrs C said...

Hmm. The Guardian is a UK website. My British friends use the word 'dummy' to mean 'soother'.

Or 'pacifier'

Funny.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous bok said...

Even as I typed, I knew I should have known better than to try and use the correct terms remembered from my philosophy of art seminars at university, given the present company! :o)

I think we're actually on the same page here. I'm absolutely for the celebration of motherhood.

But the Ad Man's version of motherhood which dominates the media these days- the dreaded "yummy mummy" (barf) myth- doesn't celebrate real motherhood.
It celebrates something unattainable which puts yet more pressure on women to a)bear children and b) bear them wearing perfect make-up and Boden clothes, in their spotless home with their textbook husband in tow. Never mind their REAL, multi dimesional, imperfect experiences, the discourse that matters which is played out in blogs like this.

The article was offensive, but to give the writer the benefit of the doubt, I wonder whether her target was those who talk endlessly about their kids and motherhood in order to create or buy into this false "yummy mummy" image rather than to discuss their real experience.

Or perhaps the article is as ignorant as it appears on the surface.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous J. said...

Well said! Bravo!!

9:33 AM  
Blogger Super Careo said...

I think you are absolutely right. I don't understand how she thinks that mother's talking about being a mother = her being judged.

This is also pretty funny because last night while I was making dinner, doing dishes, baking some bread (with an apron on, of course) and sipping a cocktail the thought came to me that being a housewife wouldn't be THAT bad a thing to be. I mean, all you have to do is make sure the house is clean and have something to eat on the table by 5 o'clock. Compared to working 40 hours a week and having to do all the rest of this junk ... it sounded pretty appealing.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Mrs C said...

bok's point about the Ad Man is a very good one and would explain Cooke's feeling of alienation.

So if the women that Ms Cooke is talking about are 'yummy mummys' who buy into the hype, then I think that everyone is on the same page.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Mamalang said...

http://www.fborfw.com/strip_fix/index.php

That is the link to the "For Better or Worse" Comic in the paper today. I read it right after I read your post. So simple, but so true.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Classy Lady said...

I always read and not commented, but this deserves a BIG WOOHOO!! Very well said!

10:01 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

bok - "But the Ad Man's version of motherhood which dominates the media these days- the dreaded "yummy mummy" (barf) myth- doesn't celebrate real motherhood.
It celebrates something unattainable which puts yet more pressure on women to a)bear children and b) bear them wearing perfect make-up and Boden clothes, in their spotless home with their textbook husband in tow"

100% agreed! ;)

10:12 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

HMB, I think you are a wonderful writer and mother. I love this blog. I'm just peeking my head out to say that I identify with Rachel Cooke's ire. I find a difference in my life between the mothers who only talk about their children and talk down to me because I don't have any. Along the lines of "You'll understand when you...." I hate that. Honestly. These mothers are the same people who can never, not once, accomodate their schedules for me, I must ALWAYS acquiese because I don't have children. If I"m stressed or I didn't sleep, I am not as stressed or as tired as them. I'm not knocking motherhood or mothers, I'm knocking the women who are pretty self absorbed and turned into bad friends. Though, in fairness, these women were most likely this way before they had children.

And then I have friends with children who are considerate of the fact that there is a world outside their children. And that though I may need to bend to their schedule more often (because travelling with two kids IS much harder than me travelling alone), they acknowledge that. And I love their kids and I love hearing about their kids.

My point is that Rachel's article sort of missed the mark, but I do understand the feelings that inspired her to write it.

With respect,
Liz

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

useful acticle.
-----------------
girlshot

10:22 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Ok, I just read the comments, and yes to Anonymous 11:04 who said exactly what I was trying to say (but all intelligently).

And I agree with whoever said that cunt was an inappropriate and offensive (and in this context ironic?) slur.

It's sort of crap that the people who are attacking the original author for being unfeminist and catty and unsupporting of women are also calling her a stupid bitch and a cunt.

Liz

10:31 AM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

She reminds me of people who rant on and on about music they don't like or understand while forgetting one very simple thing: "don't like it, then don't listen." Same with us mothers who write about their children---stop reading us if we upset you so!

I am proud to call myself a feminist---a determined, left wing, liberal feminist---AND a mom. She would probably choke on her latte to hear that I left a well-paying career to not only become a mom but a homeschooling mom as well. I am almost entirely supported by my working husband (gasp!). Oh the shame I am bringing to women everywhere.

That said, I was fairly scornful of women who were 'just' a mom before I had children. What changed? I became a mom. So perhaps you don't really know until you walk in the shoes.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Cammy said...

This post made me love your blog even more.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous LAVANDULA said...

who says I can't be a mother and a feminist too? oh yeah that would be rachel cooke....well i'm here along with countless others to prove her wrong! bravo catherine for bringing this to our attention.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Amy Ruth Webb said...

Oh, geez! Takes me back to my grad school days. I was in what is considered one of the top programs for Women's Studies. And the director of the program told a fellow student that she was not allowed to bring her baby into the T.A. office . Of a Women's Studies program. I finished my degree elsewhere.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Natasha said...

Very well written.

ANY TIME a person feels judged AND LETS IT BOTHER THEM, that is their own issue demanding an overpriced therapist.

Sheesh.

I am a mom with four kids ages 3-9. And I hate reading mommy blogs. I, too, find it boring. But that's just where I am right now. I am SUBMERSED in motherhood all day. So, when I get spare time to myself, I don't care to submerse myself in it any further. Like, duh. ;-) But, at one time, I did get a lot more out of mommy blogs.

I strongly believe that every person who can be vulnerable, opening herself up to share her experiences, her thoughts, her successes and failures, is contributing to the human consciousness. What the world needs now is not a collective (or worse-- selective) muzzle. The world needs authenticity, heart, tolerance... in short? An infusion of "love sweet love".

Good job, famous girl. And thanks be to @gwenbell for linking me up. (Not like I've never been here before but you're a mommy blog, right? So, I don't come by a lot. ;-D Nothing personal. It never is.)

Twitter ID: @SomethingGirl

11:38 AM  
Blogger Janna said...

I just read the article and I could feel the hairs on my neck stand up I was so outraged. Thank you for posting a thought out rebuttal to this ridiculous article.

11:46 AM  
Blogger K@ndi said...

Isn't she just blaming mothers instead of blaming the patriarchy that makes women feel guilty for not wanting children? She's blaming the support circles for mothers rather than the institution that created the need to have those support circles in the first place. The very same institution that made her feel guilty. So while we fight amongst ourselves for a right to speak (or not), the patriarchy lives on.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Jozet at Halushki said...

I think she doth protest too much.

Her slips are showing.

Frankly, I find people who go on and on about the conversations they had with other people at parties to be boring. It's like listening to my kids tell me about the great Playstation game they just played.

Heh. I'm such a mommy.

Good lord, if she doesn't want to read about mommies talking about what their cute kids say, there is a simple answer: change the channel.

With 50 brazillion websites and message boards out there, she reminds me of the old guy who sits at the side of the kiddie pool complaining that 5 year olds should wear less revealing swimsuits.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Amen, amen, and AMEN. I'm passing this around to all the proud feminist mothers I know.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I can't hold back any longer.....
Here is my perspective on all this. It is not remotely condescending or demeaning to tell someone who has yet to experience something: "you'll understand when..." or "you would understand if.." That is merely a truth. It is FACT. It is something everyone does on many different matters, not just motherhood. Until you have actually stepped into a situation (no matter what it may be) and lived it, you cannot truly relate to what it feels like. Again, this is FACT. So when a friend tells Ms. COok that she cannot understand, it's true, she cannot truly understand at all. And along that same vein, those of us who are mothers (and especially those who have been deeply entrenched in it for a long time) would probably struggle to understand exactly what Ms. Cooke's life is all about and what she feels every day being around women who ARE mothers. How she may feel not having that instant motherly connection that mothers have. We just can't, and that's a fact too.
Bearing all that in mind, and herein lies the big difference, we are not going out of our way accusing Ms. Cooke of being incredibly boring and one dimensional by telling her that she has LESS to offer us in a conversation because she is not a mother and therefore cannot talk to us on that level. I mean, we could, right? But we aren't. Because what's the point of being mean and telling someone they are "boring". Which is what she has done and ergo has instigated all this outrage. Ms. Cooke has taken it upon herself to accuse those mommies who dare speak of their current life situation as boring. Not cool. I can not only have a conversation with her about all those lovely subject matters she seems to prefer to discuss but ALSO about something that is near and dear to my heart: motherhood. So I guess that makes me more well rounded??? Her perspective is very close minded in my opinion. It is perfectly normal to want to speak about the things/feelings/emotions that are currently the biggest fraction of your life. When you are going through a break up, that's what you talk to your friends about. When you are applying for a new job, that's what you talk to your friends about. When you are deeply enmeshed in the bone-deep exhaustion and all consuming tasks of motherhood, that's what you primarily talk about. And as a friend, you listen to whatever is foremost on your fiend's mind at whatever stage they are going through in their life. That's being a good friend. Being a good friend is about being there and listening and relating and engaging. IT is not about making stupid, mindless small talk to avoid the elephant in the room merely because the other person is not interested in the subject matter you are currently dealing with in your life. Ms. Cooke would make a lousy friend.
Pascale Wowak

2:56 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Anonymous 11:04 - you said - "there are indeed mothers out there (and I have experienced them in the plenty before I gave birth and I continue to witness their behavior to those without children) who behave badly."

There are people from every walk of life who behave badly, but we usually don't generalize their behavior to others of their type and claim that such behavior is a social problem. How is a mother who can't stop talking about motherhood any more of a problem than a sports enthusiast who can't stop talking about the Super Bowl or an environmentalist who can't stop talking about global warming? Sure, such an individual might be irritating, but representative of a social ill? That's where the argument breaks down into absurdity. There are people out there with limited social skills, and some of those people are mothers. So?

Given that motherhood has for so long been marginalized and discussion about it relegated to the private sphere, I think that any effort to shut mothers up is worrisome, or worse. We need to be encouraging mothers to speak out about what it's like to be mothers. Maybe then it'll be received as a normal part of social discourse and, perhaps, as interesting as business trips to Yemen.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Erin W. said...

What a fantastic post! I need to make my way over here a little more often.
I can relate to those who don't like listening to every single little thing that your darling child has done with his boogers in the last 25 minutes, but I don't think that the fact that we talk about it is a social commentary for how mothers are dulling down feminism.
Yes, I am a mom. Yes, I talk about my daughter. At great length.
I find it disappointing that this "feminist" is looking down on us for embracing and celebrating something that can ONLY come from OUR bodies. I think that, by being a mother - and a mother who celebrates that at great length - I'm taking part in the ultimate feminist act. So what if it's what I'm "expected" to do? Just because society expects me to have children, that doesn't make the act any less feminist. Men can't bare children (despite what TLC might think... That's a whole different rant though) can they?
UGHHH Women like this just make me sick.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Also, Pascale? That's a WHOLE 'nother post ;)

4:09 PM  
Anonymous roo said...

After 140 or so have chimed in,
I doubt there's anything I could add
to the discussion at hand.

What I wanted you to know, regardless, is that
the back-lash against so-called
breeders inspires in me such feelings of impotent rage. I feel it very strongly working in the arts in New York. And I'm having those feelings as a 33-year-old, childless (or -free, whatever) career woman.

Such a contempt of mothers.
Hatred, really.
How can people not understand the implicit misogyny of that outlook?

Want to talk old-school feminism?
Try: the personal is political.


I'll admit,
much as I admire your writing,
and the sophisticated thought consistently reflected therein,
I often skim or skip your posts that deal most specifically with the burdens and drudgery of keeping two small people alive and thriving.

It's outside my experience, for the most part. Luckily for me, so much of your writing about motherhood is simply writing about womanhood, personhood, through your experience of them as a mother.

Intelligent people think deeply about the activities that form their daily experiences. If you spend your days wiping up shit, you might spend a lot of time thinking about it. About what it means that you're the one there wiping it up, maybe. Or simply about how tired you are of doing it, day after day.

I could go on.
In short, sometimes shit is worth writing about.

Even if you're a feminist.

4:25 PM  
Blogger lildb said...

kgirl totally nailed it regarding our throwing each other under the bus for all of the inane reasons under the sun.

it all makes me think that the writer of the original piece is insecure in her position in her life, so she needs to poke at someone and make them lessish in order to buoy up her own awesomeness a few notches.

and it's sad, and it makes me want to give her a hug, and maybe a cookie. i wish she were more comfortable with her current role in life so she didn't feel the need to demean others and their choices. it's SO FUCKING POINTLESS to do so.

thanks for yet another brilliant epic on mominism, Lady C. you outdo yourself. again.

(i'm going to try to match you when i write *my* epic, on, um, nominism, which is the high art of nomming on cookies.)

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HBM,

The difference between the socially inept environmentalist and the socially inept mother is the patriarchy. The patriarchy has nothing to do with enviro nerd-boy waxing on and on, but I do believe the patriarchy has a lot to do with women who demean other women who aren't mothers. Just as I believe the patriarchy has everything to do with the crazy low status/ oddly and unrealistically sexualized high status of motherhood.

So can I say that you are both right? I believe motherhood should be celebrated! And I love that the mommy bloggers are doing so! I think the author was wrong to criticize this trend. But what often happens with the oppressed is that they learn through their oppression to oppress others. And I do believe that some mothers (enough to make this discussion meaningful) oppress women who aren't mothers. And so yes, I agree with Rachel Cooke's main points.

It's unfortunate that the patriarchy is so successful. They have long worked magic by pitting women against women. It's so successful! And that is exactly what is happening here. Rachel Cooke's article does contain bigotry towards mothers. But by not giving any sort of understanding to some of the valid points she has made and by not giving empathy to yes, the bigotry that she has received from other mothers, well the oppression just continues.

4:33 PM  
Blogger kristy said...

I'm late to the fight and sorely pissed off, but here goes.

To Amanda and the anonymi in support:
This is so stupid. It's like when conservatives get all frothy about how intolerant liberals are of intolerance. It doesn't work that way.

This isn't just a black-and-white matter of hypocrisy, a la "She wrote an article saying she didn't like my opinion. Well, I don't like HER opinion. So I'm more right!"

Cooke threw women, mothers, almost universally under the bus. Calling her on it and being pissed off about it (in response) is not the equivalent of throwing her under the bus, too.

Cooke basically said, "Women shouldn't behave in a certain way." And what I am saying in response is that when women dictate how other women should behave, it brings us all down.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Anonymous - the patriarchy demeans WOMEN, mothers and non-mothers both. But I would say that it has gone farther to demean and marginalize mothers, to keep them isolated from each other and from public life. Ask any woman who has felt that she turned invisible the moment she started toting a baby.

I agree with some of what you've said, and certainly with the spirit of your argument. But I don't agree that patriarchy compels women who are mothers to demean women who are not. I don't think mothers, on the whole, do that, period. Maybe some individual mothers do, but generally? No. It's not necessarily demeaning to believe or even to state (Pascale made this point below) that a non-mother can't understand the condition of motherhood until she's experienced it, any more than it's demeaning for a Ghanaian to say that I can't understand what it's like to live in Ghana until I've done it.

So although I totally get that - and have witnessed - the occassional mother being holier-than-thou about her motherhood, I don't think that this is the norm, and I'm not entirely convinced that it represents the same sort of bigotry ('Sickening' 'dummies') that Cooke displays.

Otherwise? YES. The first target for our anger SHOULD be patriarchy. But we should also be holding each other accountable for doing its work, and I think that Cooke has done more in that regard than any mother she's encountered.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, let me add just one last thing.

A question:

Forget Rachel Cooke. Do you think that mothers sometimes degrade women who aren't mothers?

I'll answer the question for myself. I do. I've experienced it. And now that I am a mother I am way more valued and respected by my colleagues and community. And I witness mothers degrade those who aren't mothers. In private conversations between mothers I see this happening ALOT. In open circles it sometimes...just comes out....

And another question. If yes, sometimes mothers degrade women who aren't mothers... do you see a connection with the patriarchy?

5:01 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Anonymous - I have never, personally, seen a mother degrade a non-mother for not being a mother. I won't for one minute deny that it happens, but I've never seen it, and I'm not even sure what it would look like. Just saying "you won't know until you've had kids"? Is that REALLY degrading, in the same way that someone saying they hate blacks or that homosexuals are an abomination or - going out on a rhetorical limb here - that mothertalk is sickening is degrading?

In all seriousness, what does that look like?

As for myself, sure, I get more respect in some circles, but less in others. Being a mother in a dense urban community is sometimes like being a vegetarian at a ranch - the community is just not built for you, and people aren't really comfortable seeing you there with your tofu. Or, how about breastfeeding? Mothers are still regularly shamed for breastfeeding, for public mothering. Women still lose jobs and job contracts (I did) for having babies. Women are still expected to keep mothering private. The only thing about motherhood that might be - MIGHT BE - revered is the idea/ideal of it, not the practice or reality.

And no - if a mother degrades a non-mother (which again, don't know what that looks like, so I'm limited in here), I don't think that it's necessarily to do with patriarchalism. I think that it has more to do with personality glitches, somebody trying to lord something over another (the way many people do with money or education.)

5:15 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Oh yawn, another woman insecure with her choices.

Put it this way: If someone asks me why I didn't become an accountant (or an astronaut or a fire eater at the circus) I don't come back with a snarky response. Because I have no problem with the decision.

Yes there are women who talk nonstop about mothering and it drives me nuts. But I also hate women who talk nonstop about their jobs, their husbands, or Rachel Rae.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

PS God I love Mr Lady

7:47 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Wait, wait - so, if feminism means that a woman is free to do whatever she chooses, then...how does not letting her choose to be a mother (or if she is one, to not talk about it or act like it or even ADMIT to it!) have ANYTHING to do with feminism?? I'm so confused!

I dunno about you, but I never felt more feminine than I did when I became a mother. I created a baby in my belly, I birthed it with my vagina, and I fed it with my breasts. I'm a damn LIFE MACHINE! If that's not the ultimate celebration of how awesome being a woman is, then I'll eat my hat.

Feminism took the wrong course when it decided that in order for women to be just as good as men, they had to do all the same things that men do. WRONG! They just had to stop thinking that what they were ALREADY doing was stupid, boring, a waste of time, ad nauseum a la Cooke. Ancient cultures operated on the same men=hunters, women=homemakers system, but they celebrated and honored their women instead of belittling them. It worked for them!

To imply that women doing what they alone can do is not important is the OPPOSITE of feminism. And it's time everyone else figured this out too.

7:54 PM  
Blogger moosh in indy. said...

I'm going to have shirts made.
"I'm a dummy"
It will reside in my drawer right next to
"I <3 Cooters"

8:03 PM  
Anonymous rachel - a southern fairytale said...

Met you at BlissDom, adored you.

Read this, officially love you. period and end of story.

Amen. Thank you. Thank you for writing this and to putting into words what I feel, but doing it so much better.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

My new hero.

8:58 PM  
Blogger leahpeah said...

I'm with Anonymous 5,267. Just kidding. I didn't really read your mile of comments. I just wanted to tell you that I think you are awesome and I'm glad you wrote this. xoxo

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jill,

Oy vey. You've convinced me. I'm done with my work here. I don't think I'm fitting in here.

HBM,

I think you are awesome and thanks for your thoughtful response. Perhaps someday I'll email you a litany of ways that moms have degraded me during my pre-mom days. And I can ask around, see what women without children have to say. But now, er.... I am sleep deprived. You know the drill;)

Best...

10:44 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Bravo!!!
~From an interesting mommy.

10:49 PM  
Anonymous Lizzy MD said...

Delurking to say F*CK Ms. Cooke. Why are we still having this discussion? Jesus. SHE is the one "setting women back". Ugh, I feel ill. Please find some other dead horse to beat, Rachel!

10:50 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Anonymous - I really would love to know, in all seriousness, what such degradation looks like. Because if that's happening, I'm interested, as a former non-mom and wannabe feminist. If some mothers do degrade non-moms, I'd love to give some thought as to why that is.

Rachel Cooke didn't give me anything to work with in that regard, but as I said before, that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. I hope you will tell. Maybe I'll write a post and ask the broader readership. I know that some of my non-mom readers sympathized a bit with Cooke. I'd love to know where this tension comes from. IS it patriarchy? Or (and/or?), as kgirl asked astutely above, us just throwing each other under the bus?

11:22 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

But we've been over all of this so many times already, haven't we? There are those baby-free by choice women out there who are never going to understand why motherhood brings joy and is a worthwhile undertaking to those who choose it.
There are also plenty of mothers out there whose mothering philosophies (and usually by default, life philosophies) I don't agree with.
Yes, Rachel Cooke showed her narrowmindedness and ignorance in her article, but there are just as many blog posts written by mothers about motherhood that I find ridiculous or silly or offensive.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catherine,

I have found little as relevant and timeless as Joan Didion's piece "On the Women's Movement" written in 1972 with such astute observations that anything written during that time, in fact, even much afterward, seem tempests in teapots, arguments made that are beside the point.

Here are some particulars: The invention of women as a "class" obfuscates the reality that many women are victims of sexism, and degradation and oppression just as many women are not. The construction of a mythical everywoman as category is as inchoate and limiting as a similar creation of "mother" or "motherhood" or even, in Cooke's view, a certain type of mother, many of whom undoubtedly exist, others of whom exemplify only some such traits, others, few or none at all.

Reducing complex, ambiguous identities, roles that shift and are continuously redefined, is to join the argument at its most basic, elementary level.

As Didion reminds us, the uncertainty "of what it is like to be a woman-that sense of living one's deepest life underwater, that dark involvement with blood and birth and death," is a valid reality, perhaps no less so for mothers, as for childless women.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Don't Lick The Ferrets! said...

You just rock!!!!

9:24 AM  
Blogger Don't Lick The Ferrets! said...

You just rock!!!!

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Renee said...

HBM - I think I'm in the minority here, as a mother of 2 and a third on the way, but I could sympathize a bit with Rachel Cooke. Of course, she was terribly patronizing and (somewhat/very) bitchy about it, but haven't you ever met/read/heard about those moms who equally patronizing/bitchy to mothers who have made different choices, whether it be to go back to work too soon (I totally agreed with her outrage re: the French FM) or to women who choose not to have children.

Frankly, I was recently talking to my hairdresser, who is about my age, and she was telling me why she doesn't want to have kids. I found myself thinking (though not saying, thankfully!) that she was somewhat selfish and narrow-minded and would really regret this later in life. Isn't that pretty judgemental and patronizing of me?

We all make decisions in our lives and as much as we'd like to say we're open-minded, the reality is: When I make a certain choice, I implicitly believe its better than the other option. But, I can't help wondering if maybe I'm wrong...

As to Cooke's particular article, I think it exposed a huge amount of insecurity on her part (see above re: "what if I'm wrong...") but just as she shouldn't be reading the mommy blogs if they make her "sick," maybe we shouldn't be reading her article if we can't stomache the way she views mothers...

Anyway, I still thought your post was very well-written, even though I wasn't in 100% agreement. Have a good one and enjoy you adorable kiddies!

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Renee said...

Oh - sorry - one more thing. Calling the mummies "dummies," though, that was just plan mean and undermined her argument tremendously. I suspect, though,that she was just trying to get attention that way...

10:33 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I really am going to have to write another post about this.

Renee, I said in the post that I understood (and have experience) feeling bored by or frustrated by mothertalk. But I stand by my argument that it is TOXIC for women - for anyone - to use that kind of social frustration as an excuse to call for the silencing of women, of MOTHERS. Which is what she did. She did not just call us dummies. She called our discourse 'sickening' and 'fetishistic' and suggested that it was counter-feminist. She called for it to STOP.

Would we brush it off if someone publicly called out another community - an ethnic community? the LGBT community? the elderly - for their discourse? Call it sickening? Sure, some moms are insufferable. But so are some of EVERYBODY.

I DO think it's interesting, the question that Anonymous raised, about whether there's something related to patriarchy that has us sniping at at each other. But I still think that Cooke's approach warrants calling out for its toxicity. Don't like moms? Fine. Just don't tell us to shut up.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

amen. what a horrible woman and what a horrible article. thank you for standing up for mothers everywhere.

12:06 PM  
Blogger ChefSara said...

my view of feminism is one that affords women to make their own choices in life; not be told that they mush choose a certain path. so why is it that those of us who make the choice to be mothers are judged unfavorably? why is my choice to be a mom less valued than if i had chosen to not have kids or to remain in the workforce after having kids? in my mind, it is no more feminist to tell me that i should choose to work outside the home than it is to tell me that i shouldn't. My life, my choice. And further, why is it assumed that when I chose to become a mother, my brain disappeared? i am no less intelligent now that i'm a mom than i was when i was while getting my ivy league degree. i hate the assumption that because i chose to be a full time mom, that i'm not every bit as intelligent or interesting as women who made different choices. choice is the operative word here. the world needs all kinds. and we're lucky that we live in a world where we can choose to be a mom or not; to work outside the home or not. and if we could all recognize that and not judge each other for these choices, the world would be a much better place.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Mimi said...

Why so defensive, Rachel Cooke? It sounds like someone is trying to justify her lifestyle choices. What a narrow-minded dipshit. One of those "feminists" who don't know the first thing about feminism or what it means.

4:34 PM  
Blogger KT said...

I wonder if this article would be as offensive if the title were "Binky Mummies" or "Paci Mummies"?
Yes, the content would still be offensive, but in British English, a dummy is a pacifier, as well as a stupid person. As far as just the title goes, I read it more as "Mummies whose kids have dummies", but the word dummy could have been deliberately chosen for its dual meanings.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Schmutzie said...

You are being featured on Five Star Friday!
http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2009/02/five-star-friday-edition-41.html

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catherine, I'll offer my answer on a way that I, as a non-mother, have been degraded by mothers. Let me say first, though, that in general I agree with you rather than Rachel Cooke--I enjoy the company of my parent friends a lot, I love hearing about their kids, just as I would love hearing about anything that my friends find valuable in their lives. They're my friends; that's what we do.

I am not the same anon as above--I'm posting anon because I don't want to start anything with my family. I'm a regular reader.

The moms who have degraded me are actually closer to me than my friends... they're my mother and my mother-in-law. Both are extremely disappointed in my decision not to have kids. I say "my" decision but my husband, of course, had a say in this too. However, he isn't criticized by either Mom or MIL. They save all that for me.

Mom says I'm immature; MIL says I'm selfish. Both have actually wept during conversations about this topic. Mom employs a lot of "you just won't understand until..." rhetoric, insisting that she knows me better than I can know myself. She believes I'm lying to myself about how happy I am now, and mistaken about how unhappy I'd be as a parent. For her, the love I offer the rest of the world through volunteering counts for nothing. My career and my artistic pursuits count for nothing. My close relationships with friends count for nothing. There's only one thing that will make me an adult in her eyes.

MIL is more concerned about the dynasty: I'm letting her down because I'm not continuing her family line. I'm wasting her son's potential (never mind that he doesn't want kids either--she thinks that a real woman would talk him into it.)

I really dislike the pressure, but more than that, I dislike the opinion, often implied and sometimes stated outright, that none of what I do is as valuable as mothering. That I'm not a real adult. I see both Mom and MIL as mothers whose identity is bound up too strongly in their kids--and I think they find my choice threatening to their own self-esteem, as if I'm saying that they should have been something other than mothers.

I don't think that. I think it's great that women have all kinds of choices now. I applaud the mothers I know, and I applaud the non-mothers equally. I applaud and respect anyone who does what they love.

Unless, of course, they can't pay me the same courtesy.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catherine, I'll offer my answer on a way that I, as a non-mother, have been degraded by mothers. Let me say first, though, that in general I agree with you rather than Rachel Cooke--I enjoy the company of my parent friends a lot, I love hearing about their kids, just as I would love hearing about anything that my friends find valuable in their lives. They're my friends; that's what we do.

I am not the same anon as above--I'm posting anon because I don't want to start anything with my family. I'm a regular reader.

The moms who have degraded me are actually closer to me than my friends... they're my mother and my mother-in-law. Both are extremely disappointed in my decision not to have kids. I say "my" decision but my husband, of course, had a say in this too. However, he isn't criticized by either Mom or MIL. They save all that for me.

Mom says I'm immature; MIL says I'm selfish. Both have actually wept during conversations about this topic. Mom employs a lot of "you just won't understand until..." rhetoric, insisting that she knows me better than I can know myself. She believes I'm lying to myself about how happy I am now, and mistaken about how unhappy I'd be as a parent. For her, the love I offer the rest of the world through volunteering counts for nothing. My career and my artistic pursuits count for nothing. My close relationships with friends count for nothing. There's only one thing that will make me an adult in her eyes.

MIL is more concerned about the dynasty: I'm letting her down because I'm not continuing her family line. I'm wasting her son's potential (never mind that he doesn't want kids either--she thinks that a real woman would talk him into it.)

I really dislike the pressure, but more than that, I dislike the opinion, often implied and sometimes stated outright, that none of what I do is as valuable as mothering. That I'm not a real adult. I see both Mom and MIL as mothers whose identity is bound up too strongly in their kids--and I think they find my choice threatening to their own self-esteem, as if I'm saying that they should have been something other than mothers.

I don't think that. I think it's great that women have all kinds of choices now. I applaud the mothers I know, and I applaud the non-mothers equally. I applaud and respect anyone who does what they love.

Unless, of course, they can't pay me the same courtesy.

6:32 PM  
Blogger WeaselMomma said...

*standing ovation* ~ Fabulous rant. congrats on 5 Star Friday linkdom.

8:19 PM  
Blogger texasholly said...

AMEN!

This was pure genius.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Rachel B said...

Thank you for writing this.

11:30 PM  
OpenID breedermama said...

Bravo, mama.

I hate that people have such a narrow conception of feminism.

Feminism is about Freedom.

Freedom = choice.

If you say that you can only be a feminist IF you make a certain choice, then that negates the whole movement. It leaves us with no choice at all.

Dear Rachel Cooke... what on earth makes you think you are the spokesperson for a movement you clearly have a loose interpretation of at best. Rejecting motherhood is SO second wave, honey. Welcome to the future, where women have the CHOICE to stay at home OR work.

12:47 AM  
Blogger Stimey said...

This is a really tremendous post. Thank you for writing it.

I hate all of the women coming down on other women stuff. Isn't the whole point of feminism that we can all choose what it is we want to do, be it career, motherhood, or both?

Obviously it's not as simple as that. There are shades of gray and sexism is everywhere, but attacking other women, as she does, isn't the answer.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Joy said...

Regarding the speculation on the word "dummy" in the title of Cooke's post, my take is that "dummy" is used intentionally. To use a visual example - some children walk around constantly with a pacifier in their mouths, and barely take it out to eat or drink, to the perceived detriment of the child's development. They are permanently attached to their "dummy". Substitute in women obsessing about their own motherhood and mothering existence, to the exclusion of all other independent thought and discussion, etc, and you have Cooke's view of mothers constantly expounding on motherhood. And in my opinion, Cooke's title is absolutely degrading and overwhelmingly negative to mothers.

I am sorry for the women that are degraded for choosing to not become mothers, as I am sorry for those of us who are dismissed for choosing to be stay-at-home mothers. We as human beings should remember that everyone is deserving of respect and tolerance, and an attempt at understanding.

As for the commentary from people who are not mothers (perhaps not yet, perhaps not ever), and their offense at the comments such as "until you are a mother ... not know tiredness..." etc, etc., please do not forget that many mothers have viewed life from both sides of pre- and post-motherhood. Many of us have worked, and worked very hard, and know first-hand that without children it is a very different existence, and is often much easier than the post-child existence, whether mom is at home full-time or working full-time, or somewhere else along the spectrum. And life is more complicated after children, but the rewards are wonderful and special, as well.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Lydia said...

my question to these kinds of articles is-- how does there continue to BE a society if there are no mothers to continue making people?
Denying the role of motherhood/parenthood is equal to denying the humaness (is that a word) of experience. We aren't robots who ceate more of ourselves in a factory, nor is this "Brave New World" where we are grown in jars.
To be human means we emerged from our mothers and that experience is worthy of praise, discussion, whatever.
And you're right--don't like it? Don't listen. But DON'T deny it.

5:55 AM  
Blogger cakeburnette said...

Damn woman--YOU ROCK! As an educated, SAHM (for the most part; I do have a part-time job in my kid's school) I applaud what you wrote. It was eloquent AND right on the money. Thank you for being the voice of women who CHOSE motherhood as a career.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

I think the point that she's taken her displeasure with a certain type of behavior she encounters and made it sound like it's an epidemic worthy of knocking a whole community - a community vulnerable and undervalued - is a valid one. It's not like she's slamming rock stars for their indulgent life style. She's slamming mothers for caring too much and sharing too much. The bigotry comment was dead on. "I don't care what you do in your own home, but don't talk about it or shove that "lifestyle" in my face." Be a mom if you want, but don't flaunt it, don't be proud, don't be loud. Um, okay.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Polly Vernon's article on the same day was even worse...

10:33 AM  
Blogger Adelas said...

I thought the whole point of feminism was to be able to choose what the heck you want to do with your life, be it working in a factory, breaking the glass ceiling, becoming liberated sexually... OR being a teacher, a secretary, a mother.

More on that here because I apparently can't just post a response, I have to write an entire POST in response. :P

Rachel Cooke shockingly said in her post: Once upon a time, educated women fought to separate their identities from the ideal of mother, knowing that until the two came to be seen as wholly distinct they would never be taken seriously; and, in any case, who wants to be defined by only one aspect of their life?

Say what? You're saying, as an educated woman, I should be defined as solely that? You're saying that I cannot be taken seriously if I also consider myself a mother, even if my body has physically gone through the process of becoming a parent?

But wait!.... who wants to be defined by only one aspect of their life?!

Also irritating, Rachel went to a site that was ABOUT babies, and then complained that they were encouraging to share anecdotes about their babies. WTH?

Finally, her statement that For men, it just confirms what many of them secretly think, which is that women, bottom line, are only really interested in one thing, and that is making babies, and why should they be promoted or taken seriously or paid well? ... if Rachel is capable of telling the difference between so-called Dummy Mummies and mothers-she-doesn't-disdain, is she precluding men from the capability of telling the difference between child-obsessed Dummy Mummies and sneering, intolerant feminists who are in no uncertain terms NOT interested in making babies? So now she is both intolerant AND misanthropic?

Finally... I ask you... is feminism about being as close to the standard "manly" ideal as possible, or about being free to define womanly in whatever way you want to define it?

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Expat Mom said...

This is just too funny! There are people who would think that her going on about traveling to foreign lands and how fulfilled she is in her job is boring and smug. Bottom line, everyone has different interests.

Mothers are obviously going to be interested in their children (if not, heaven help us!) and I can only assume she hasn`t made proper use of the internet if she doesn`t realize that there are groups for every imaginable interest . . . including motherhood!

Also, this whole "feminism equals being manly" thing is just dumb. We`re the only gender that can have babies . . . why not celebrate that? Geez.

Oh, and if she comes by here to read comments, PLEASE don`t click on my link . . . it goes to my personal blog where I *gasp* talk about my kids (as well as living in a foreign country, freelance writing and cooking).

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Jyo said...

More than motherhood/ non-motherhood, isn't enjoying what you do important? Even though I'm not one, I would rather listen to a mom tell stories about a child she is interested in and enjoys, than listen to some moms go on endlessly about how having children has just ENDED their lives, and they have no time for anything 'productive' anymore.

1:28 PM  
Blogger supermommyof3 said...

Oh my gosh, I am soooo over the whole "Mommy Wars" crap, and it's just as bad to have "Women Wars". Our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and beyond suffered through too many years of not having any choices, and then fighting to GET those choices for themselves and us for our generation to turn it around and try to limit each others choices.

Pathetic. Can't we all just agree that every woman is lucky enough to have the choice to have children or not, be a working mom or a stay at home mom, and frankly - to listen or care about what each other says. If you don't like the mom-talk, you can very simply not listen. Just like I can blow right past the conversations, blogs, TV and radio programs or other forms of media that I don't care to hear. Easy.

8:26 PM  
Blogger MrsEmbers said...

Amazing post- well thought-out, meaningful, and far more eloquent than the "Rachel Cooke: Kiss My Dimpled Ass" that I would've posted.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for so eloquently voicing your critique. I could not agree more. I have just read the article today, as it was only published in Australia last Sunday. Its copy was provided by one of our single and childless co-workers to another like minded colleague that obviously felt supported by it and compelled to share it with others. I just happened to read it, as my Sunday Age magazine still rests at home unopened - the full time working, pregnant dummy mummy did not have a time to read her weekend paper yet!

I feel very strongly that in childless circles the topics of motherhood and parenting are often discriminated against. I too don’t agree with a notion that other topics should rank higher on the ‘acceptable conversation topics’ list.

Unfortunately, I happen to work with educated, childless, some single, sexually frustrated, sadly self centred and sour women, who are very happy to converse for hours about house decorating, buying clothes, perfumes, romantic adventures, husbands’/partners’ eating and snoring habits, but strangely get annoyed when I comment about my current pregnancy, and parenting issues with my 5 year old! Somehow their brain totally excludes that particular area of reality. Wake up people: after all procreation, child bearing and upbringing are part of our human existence, whether you want it or not. You may choose to deny it, but the odds are that majority of people around you either have already or will have a family.

Also, what happened to the concept of freedom of speech and tolerance? Should not it work both ways? If I can listen to pointless dribbles about curtains matching cabinet handles, why can’t my co-workers at least accept I’m pregnant and allow me to touch on the subject from time to time? After all having a human being grow inside of your body is not exactly a walk in the park. Or is it that talking about it is painful because it reminds people about one more area of their lives they feel consciously or subconsciously unfulfilled about?

1:07 AM  

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