Her Bad Mother

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shame And The Written Mom

Husband: "So, that whole thing, earlier this week? That made you a little crazy, didn't it?"

Me: "Yeah. Kinda."

Husband: "Why? Why did it bother you so much?"

Me: "-------?"

Me: "-------."

I tell stories for a living. Mostly, I tell my own stories, the stories of my motherhood, and reflections on same. I do it because I love to do it. I do it because it has become, in some ways, almost like breathing: automatic, unavoidable, necessary. I do it because I believe in it: making public the lived experience of motherhood is, I think, crucial to empowering mothers, because it allows us to share, out in the open, where everyone can see, what motherhood is really like, once we've stripped away the glossy magazine covers and the laundry detergent commercials and the longstanding cultural insistence that family be private, that mothering be private, that we just hush, and not talk about how hard and how terrifying and how utterly, confoundingly, gloriously complicated this whole experience is.

I also do it because I'm vain, and because I crave approval.

Someone (actually, more than one someone) commented on the post of the other day that if I'm committed to telling my stories publicly, to mothering publicly, then I should just accept that I will face criticism and judgment. Moreover - some commenters added, here and elsewhere - since I am semi-well-known for what I do (I never know how to talk about this semi-sort-of-little-bit well-knownness. Being well known in any capacity on the Internet is, I think, kind of like being well-known in Korea for that one karaoke video that you "acted" in that one time: meaningless to anybody outside of a micro-specialized niche of aficionados, and so very probably meaningless in any broader socio-cultural context. Which is to say, nothing to brag about) it is disingenuous and/or hypocritical for me to claim to be bothered by criticism or judgment or whatever slings and arrows get hurled my way. I blog because I'm shameless, right? And I've earned some recognition for being shameless, right? So what's the problem?

The problem is that I'm not shameless. I sometimes wish that I were: Socrates described himself as shameless, and argued that any true philosopher is by definition shameless, because the true philosopher loves wisdom/truth above all else, and certainly above any concern for social approval. If you're going to interrogate social mores to the fullest extent possible, you need to be above them, at least intellectually. Shame (understood classically) is what we feel when we cower under some disapproving social gaze. It is not - contrary to what someone asserted in comments the other day - what we feel when we know that we've done something wrong (although we might feel shame under those circumstances); it is not necessarily associated with guilt. One can believe whole-heartedly that one is entirely in the right with a given action or behaviour, but still feel shamed by the disapproving reaction of some portion of one's community. We can feel shame for living in poverty, for loving a member of the same sex, for breastfeeding publicly, if any measure of social disapproval is directed at those things. It doesn't mean that we feel guilty for those things, that we feel in any way blameworthy - it means that social approval matters to us, and that social disapproval stings.

I am vulnerable to being hurt by social disapproval. It doesn't matter whether that disapproval comes from one person, or a hundred, or a thousand, or more. I'm vulnerable to it. I fell vulnerable to it earlier this week. (All please note: what follows is not an invitation to direct further opprobrium against anyone who expressed such disapproval. These are my feelings, I am owning them and trying to make sense of them, nothing else.)

As it goes, the shame that I experienced earlier this week had - at least at first - little to do with my writing or my public persona. I felt shamed (note the distinction here: I did not feel ashamed of myself - I felt that I had been shamed, effectively, by the exercise of social disapproval toward some action on my part) for an action that I took in real life, that took place in the arena of lived space as opposed to written space. I did something and was observed and my actions were held up (in a misleading manner, which, as everyone knows by now, bothered me to no end) for interrogation and judged. Which, if that interrogation and judgment had occurred in some private space, or had remained unknown to me, might have been no big deal, but it occurred in a public space and was made known to me and so I felt - in a way that was different from how I would feel, have felt, about being judged for my writing or my online persona (I usually take that in stride. I've had lots of practice) - shamed. My real-life self had been observed doing some real-life thing and that real-life self was judged, publicly, and so that real-life self felt shamed.

My online self, my written self, was, of course, not completely detached from this experience. I made public my act, by Tweeting about it. I fully intended to blog about it. I had most of that post already scripted in my head. I was a little bit in love with it, to be frank: it was going to sort through all of my complicated feelings and ambivalences and reflections about what had transpired. I was going to tell the story as I wanted to tell it. It was not going to be a story about whether nursing another woman's child was the right or wrong thing to do - there was no doubt in my mind that there was nothing wrong with it, even though I knew that it was not something that everybody would do, and even though I knew that some people, even people that I love and respect, would find it off-putting - it was going to be a story about what the experience was like, and about my complicated feelings surrounding it (for example, that it was an act that was both intimate and not intimate, that it felt both ordinary and extraordinary, that I initially felt a little afraid to do it, etc). But I was not able to tell that story, because sometime in the late hours of Monday I heard word that I had already been judged for my actions and I made the mistake of seeking out that judgment and reading it for myself and becoming upset by it and the rest, as they say, is history.

Part of my upset, in other words, was that I felt robbed of my story. It had become someone else's story, told in a different way and with different and misleading details and I no longer had any control over it. It took on a life of its own and my feelings about it changed and I felt that, in addition to having been shamed, I had been robbed of my experience and my ability to define the terms of expressing and sharing that experience. I don't necessarily have any rights to those things, but still: the deprivation of them hurt. Had I written about the experience myself and received shaming comments (by which I do not mean comments that expressed disagreement, but which attached moral judgment to that disagreement, i.e. it is wrong to do that, you were wrong to do that, women who do that are disgusting, etc.) I could have addressed them directly, on my own terms (or, yes, deleted them). I could have incorporated them into the larger story - which was not, as I originally imagined it, about mothers being shamed, but about trust and intimacy and support and community in motherhood, and also, maybe, about eros in motherhood (not in the sexual sense, but, rather, the classical sense. What of our profound physical and emotional connections to our children? How are these disrupted or affirmed by something like nursing another child?) - and controlled the impact of that shaming upon, and its place within, the story that I was telling.

That, obviously, was not to be. And so the story became something else entirely, and I struggled with and against the experience of feeling shamed and with and against the feeling of having lost control of my story, and it made me, yes, a little crazy. A little crazy and a lot exhausted. But beyond that crazy there was reflection, and reflection is good, right? I know now that I'm not as thick-skinned as I thought; I know, too, that I am - rightly or wrongly - possessive of my stories - told or untold - in a way that is much more intense than I understood. I learned more than I wanted to of the personal experience of shame, and I know that I have no desire to revisit it. But I am a writer and a woman who remains committed to sharing, publicly, the experience of her motherhood and of her life, generally, and so I know that critique is inevitable and judgment is inevitable and, probably, some further experience of shame is inevitable. The first I will embrace, as best I can; the second I will tolerate, as best I can. The third, I hope to continue to fight, however weakly, however awkwardly, however ineffectually, because although criticism is good, and judgment to some extent inevitable, shaming - when it is directed at any action or behaviour that is (and I realize that these are fluid concepts) well-intentioned and/or harmless and/or necessary and/or none of anyone else's damn business regardless of how public the action is or how well-known the actor is (Salma Hayek, call me!) - is neither of those things. And the only way that I know how to fight that kind of shame is by continuing to tell my stories as if shaming didn't matter. As if I was, in fact, shameless, in the best sense of that word.

That, and I'm going to make sure that the next time I go traipsing down the Internet rabbit hole in pursuit of stories being told about me? That I just don't.

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73 Comments:

Anonymous Dave P. said...

I like how you have managed to self-evaluate just why it bothered you so much, and have been able to articulate it for others to hear. Describing how the story was told in a different way than how you intended to tell it, and had it scripted in your head, is something with which I identify very well. It is very bothersome to me when someone robs me of the opportunity to do something special for them by guessing what it is, for example. And definitely bothers me more when a story I have to tell about my own life is told by someone else, most especially when the tone of that story is not at all how I intended it.

Kudos to you for sharing all of this, from the weekend through now, and for being able to self-evaluate, and clearly articulate, yourself here.

Stay strong, be happy, and enjoy life. Thank you for sharing.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Jane @ What About Mom? said...

You make me want to view my own experiences being a woman and a mother more critically, in a historical, academic, philosophical framework.

And for that desire, thank you.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Natasha said...

Personally, I just get upset when I'm misunderstood and when people have the gall and arrogance to tell ME what I'm thinking or feeling, as if I'm no authority on that. The opinions that are false are usually laughable but feeling misunderstood brings me right back to my childhood when my mom didn't understand now much she hurt me and the boys in my class didn't understand and on and on.

It sounded to me like you didn't like people saying things about you, about your motivations, about your reasoning skills, that were not true. No one likes to be lied or speculated about. If what they said was the truth, I suspect you would have been able to handle it. You wouldn't be blogging if you couldn't handle fair criticism.

1:32 PM  
Blogger All Things BD said...

This was such a tough read for me all week. Ultimately, as you alluded to in your last paragraph, I wondered what would have happened if you had simply posted the original post you had in mind and let the rest lie.

However, I think it was monumentally difficult to be in your position, with that much misinfo in the other post, knowing that people would identify you and misjudge you. It would not have been easy to let that lie. I'm not sure I dould have either.

In the end, kudos to you for doing what you believe in, for not cowering, and for continuing to stand tall.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Bella said...

Wow. Now THIS is what brings me back, again and again, to read your writing. It's this level of analysis -- not just honesty, but hard core analysis -- that is quite rare in many other writers. You do it so diligently and logically and I just LOVE it. Thank you for sharing this last chapter of the story.

And just a basic fact that I first learned in some graduate school class on emotional development: shame is the most painful emotion to feel and for the vast majority of healthy individuals, it quickly leads to anger. Hard core rage in fact. Before Nancy Friday was known for her erotica, she wrote a WICKED book on jealousy and, in it, she does a kick-ass job of talking about the shame-anger-guilt sequence. It is me to a tee (which I only understand when I do let myself recognize I have been shamed). I feel SHAME (e.g., I interpret something my husband says about what I'm wearing as judging me for having gained weight), then I immediately get ANGRY and rage at him for his hurtful, terrible judgments (real or perceived, it doesn't matter) and I yell awful things to him, then I feel GUILT, at being an idiot who denigrates her unsuspecting husband.

What you went through this week felt like it resonated a lot with that sequence Friday writes about.

Again, thanks for reclaiming your story and sharing it with all of us. It IS important.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Norm said...

I think you're cool.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

We strive for self awareness, and yet it complicates life so much, doesn't it?

I say, one day you will tell that story, here or somewhere else, the way you had intended. It may have shifted some, and you may write it with newly found observations, but it is stll YOUR story. Whatever else has transpired in this little korean karaoke videoof a space, nothing changes that fact.

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

You know what my father said to me once? (And my father is the man to whom I look up more than I could possibly measure).

He said that the world was too safe these days. He said that people create concerns, fears, worries, devastating judgments of wrong and right, because the world is too safe these days. He said that when the world is less safe, people concern themselves with legitimate things, such as whether or not they can feed their family or how they are going to weather the winter or when their child will have healed from a recent injury, etc.

He said that with the world as safe as it is, people now concern themselves with stupid things, with those things that really they have no business being concerned with.

I think one of those things could be the use of your breasts. Another could be the ethics of handing your child to another woman to nurse. Another could be whether or not it's appropriate to drink alcohol at a play date. ETC!

My father said he wished that people would recognize how safe their world is and would stop looking for things to worry about and be upset about.

I think your post says the same thing, more or less, give or take, plus or minus. Just with a few more words and a personal experience thrown in.

I hope you don't still feel shamed. Trust me, this: it is not worth it. There is so much more that is so much more meaningful in your life that is so vastly more important. And I think most people realize that, whether or not they're willing to spin their wheels and tell their opinions here.

2:08 PM  
Blogger lorrielink said...

that was very well written. thank you for taking the time.

shame is vastly misunderstood. you dont even need an audience for it.
i felt intense shame when i was punched in the mouth by my (at the time) boyfriend,and no one even saw it. and even though i knew it wasnt my fault it still took a long time to get over the feeling.
shame can be used as a weapon of control.
i know children feel immense shame from excessive abuse from imaginary crimes by parents or other abusers.it is sadly all too common.

i am grateful for what you made and went through publicly here. it was horrible yes, but i can only hope that it, if not tore down, at least weaknd some walls that need to come down eventually.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Jen Maier said...

Good for you, Catherine. It takes courage to put it out there in the first place but then to step back far enough to deconstruct and come to terms with all of this nastiness is truly admirable.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

I think it is fantastic that you can take such an experience and learn something about yourself from it.

And in turn it makes the rest of us (or some of us anyways) look at our own selves a little bit and maybe learn something as well.

Thanks for that.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous pkzcass said...

I agree with Bella. You are an amazing writer and communicator. Well done!

2:18 PM  
Blogger the new girl said...

I love the point about being shamed or feeling shamed being wholly different from guilt.

Also, it must be so SO hard not to look at a story about yourself. Like, how do you NOT? It's a good goal to try, though.

2:31 PM  
Blogger PunkyBean said...

Beautiful! Well written!

2:34 PM  
Blogger Shash said...

Again and again, I am struck by the poignancy of your writing. Your ability to step aside of yourself and reassess a situation and explain it so beautifully; well, I aspire to such greatness.

What you did earlier was beautiful. What you did here, in this post, is amazing. Thank you.

Lots of love to you!

2:38 PM  
Blogger Me, You, or Ellie said...

Whatever you call the shame you felt, it is now a part of you, it’s yours. For me, one of the hardest components of reflective thinking is the acceptance of the less appealing parts of me. I mean unappealing by my own standard, which as you say is likely colored and exaggerated by the judgments of others, but still it is about what *I* think of *me*. My tendency is to avoid those feelings when they cause me discomfort, but my goal is to do just the opposite. To allow myself time and space to dwell in those bad feelings for a while, and then, as the zen masters suggest, to smile at them. It can be such a relief to just sigh and shrug and move on. In the immortal words of some guy somewhere: “whaddayadonnado?”

Jacquie

2:38 PM  
Blogger Don't Lick The Ferrets! said...

I would have done what you did as well and I would have felt the shame of being shamed for it by the world at large. And then I would have picked myself up by my bootstraps, let the past lay in the past and feel safe and secure knowin I did what was right FOR ME TO DO and let it go. It's in the past, people won't agree, but it's your life and it as your decision. NEVER stop telling your stories...there is great bravery in facing the ridicule and shame. But you face it daily and do it well. What happened is in the past, you are moving on to the future, better off for the experience.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

Show me someone who says they're not hurt by social disapproval, and I'll show you a liar.

Great post!

2:47 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Those commenters made a faulty logical leap in determining that simply because one accepts criticism, one cannot be hurt by it.

Similarly, while scolding a child in public certainly shames him, it does not necessarily make him ashamed of himself.

You were shamed. You have no reason to be ashamed.

I hadn't considered that your story was taken away from you. Now that you've brought it up, I can certainly see why that would be perhaps even more bothersome than the shaming.

2:53 PM  
Blogger mihow said...

HBM: I rarely comment because I never seem to discover the time to read and write and all that, but this post warrants a pat on the virtual back.

I am so impressed that you were able to turn something negative around, spin it positive, by making yourself into an even better person. If everyone did this, we'd be all be far better off, collectively so.

Anyway, that's all. Now back to wiping asses and noses.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Chelle said...

Very well written, I'm glad I stopped by. I truly enjoyed reading this. Makes me feel good about myself and glad to know that you feel good about yourself. There's so much negativity in the world and so many people who judge and treat others badly that it's hard to avoid. I think you're doing well and I think you handled it better than most people would have.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

I hurt for you so much from what happened this past week because I know you personally, and I truly think that if everyone else had the chance to know you apart from your writing they would have responded so very differently.

It's almost like just as you are tough and armored here with your words, you feel feelings that much deeper in your soul. If that makes any sense.

I had no doubt that this whole situation would become a learning experience for many, and live on as a positive high note in the end.

Steph

4:21 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

I think it's fair for people to tell a story about what they observe.

I do that all the time.

But when it involves people that you sort of know that happen to have an online forum and readers and will find such things and you're spouting off a fair amount of bullshit, then it's a whole different issue.

So, for me, as a reader, it was that your story was mis-told. Sure, you can't expect someone else to understand or have your experience, but when all the facts aren't presented and then corrected, that's when it becomes more than just a story.

But you just can't expect everyone to have critical thinking skills and the ability to see the other side, as you have here and always do.

Next time, just make sure you wear your "I tested negative" shirt before you go around feeding other people's babies.

HA.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

This is SERIOUSLY deep... in the best way. :)

6:16 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

I'm glad you've made this decision. Often when I read people reacting to the one negative reaction with such fervor and venom, I can only feel they are giving up some of their credibility.

But I also know that for some folks, getting 400+ comments and a whole flock of Twitters might be worth it.

I'm glad that's not you.

6:24 PM  
Blogger MJMILLS said...

Im not sure that the original poster was concerned with who did the act. It was questioning the act. Remember people: PUBLIC IS PUBLIC

6:29 PM  
Anonymous melissa said...

i just read about this on another blog. it was in a positive light. so it's funny that i ended up on your blog. coincidence...
but i have to tell you...
i think that woman who let you nurse her baby was awesome for letting you do it. and i think there was NOTHING WRONG with what you did!! at. all!!
and you can tell everyone to piss off.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

Hey, I just found that other blog. The one that wrote about you.

It took a million years for me to track it down because I'm apparently the only moron who had NO IDEA what happened or who was talking about what, etc. But I read it.

And I thought about it and I digested it and I read her post response.

And I just came back to say I'm sorry. I think I liked the confusion more than I like knowing - kind of - a little more than before. I hope you have a chance to rediscover your happy this weekend. You deserve it.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

I think that craving approval and feeling shamed or not, that you brought a lot of issues to light here.

It happened to be an issue that is something a lot of women feel very strongly about.

I think that the one big thing it brought up is that everywhere we go, and everything we do we are being judged, as women and mothers, when we should be supporting each other.

There was a way for that woman to respectfully disagree with you and not make you feel shamed for your decision.

I think that your reaction is one that anyone would have had given the circumstances.

It still boggles my mind that someone could specifically single you out. I can't imagine how vulnerable it must have made you feel. I think talking about the issue that bothered her and talking about YOU as an individual are two completely different things and she should have used discretion when talking about such a sensitive subject.

Heck, I don't even know you and I stewed over it all week! I made my boyfriend talk about it over dinner and while we were out running. I blogged about it. I emailed my mom about it! lol

Your choices are yours alone. I'm sorry that anybody made you feel shamed.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub said...

Great post. It is a complicated set of emotions, needs, personality traits and personal use of time that leads us to blog about our lives. You are so intelligent and thoughtful in your posts and I love how you dissect events of your life and how events around you affect it. I think you are offering a valuable talent to the community and am happy that you are here sharing with us. Rock on.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Redneck Mommy said...

I am just proud to call you my friend.

Who would have thought a little Redneck like me could have snagged such a smart friend.

9:12 PM  
Blogger jodifur said...

I think there is another point to this story. I don't want to change your post but I really want to say this,

And that is....why do we have to be so judgmental in the first place? You hurt no one. Not yourself. Not the child. Not the other mother.

I work in family violence, and I say this all the time. I careless what any other mother does until you cross my desk. And then I care because I'm paid to care and because someone got hurt.

Let's stop judging.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous homeslice said...

i followed this thing as it grew. i think you handled it very well. as a not at all semi famous blogger, i have still experienced stinging and harsh criticism. my line in the sand has always been that disagreeing is fine; raking me over the coals is not. when that happens, i tend to wonder why i blog in the first place, and let that one person crap all over my desire to write for a little way. i admire you for being able to say that you were hurt and angry, rather than pretend that it didn't bother you at all. it would have cut me to the core. i would have recovered eventually, but it would have been hard on 99% of us. thank you for the analysis on this one. it helped me with my own issues.

9:27 PM  
Blogger carrie said...

Completely unrrelated:

Every time I read the word "shameless," that stupid Garth Brooks song popped into my head . . .

and I don't even like country music.

And. Thank you for telling your side. I think that you addressed the root of the "issue" - that being that you were robbed of YOUR story to tell.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Cassi said...

Thank you so much for your critical analysis, honesty, and a little meta-blogging. There is nothing worse than being shamed, especially publicly - that's why groups like the Puritans were so effective at punishing "criminals" with social punishments like scarlet letters, shunning, etc. With the exception of sociopaths, there isn't a person on earth who can tolerate shaming. And I agree that being shamed is not the same as being ashamed, so I'm glad you have the strength to keep writing your stories.

(On a side note, I was telling my husband about this whole saga and his response was something to the effective of "man, it must be hard to do anything at a blogging conference without fear that someone's going to write about you!" Which made me curious if everyone's a paranoid mess when they talk to each other at these conferences?)

10:13 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

You nailed it. It's someone else bastardizing your story. I have felt the same way in the blog world. It wasn't that someone thought poorly of me - who really cares what people think?? It was that they took an awesome experience of mine and sullied it, made it sick and stupid and wrong. That got under my skin way more than anyone's opinion. It's hard to explain but I think you just did a really good job of it!

10:22 PM  
Blogger T. said...

I understand where you are coming from, because we want to control our stories, because they are ours. Owning and telling our stories gives us a sense of control that we may or may not have in the real world. When someone takes our control of our story away, we feel violated. It is a sort of mental rape, I guess.

But the truth is, we can never fully control our own stories in the Bloggy world. There will always be someone out there who doesn't love you, and why that is, who knows? It is often their own baggage.

Don't allow people to make you feel shamed. In the end, the only one you have to please is yourself.

Thanks for being brave and taking us on your journey of self-discovery.

There is a reason I read you, even if I don't always comment.

T.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Alli Worthington { @fussypants } said...

You are loved.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing I can add to this that hasn't already been perfectly stated. I can only offer you this: BRAVO.
Pascale

3:52 AM  
Blogger Lydia said...

Therein lies the challenge of being a "public figure" while still perceiving oneself as private.
I applaud you for recognizing the two sides of "fame", as it were, and for writing so honestly about it.
Bravo!

7:50 AM  
OpenID starrlife said...

Well, honestly I had the thoughts of concern that others seem to have had but was able to move into the reality that it was a personal story and not a scientific essay and I did not require a health certificate to read it! In judging others writing we stand the risk of homogenizing our blogs and supporting the proliferation of shame. Honest feedback is not shame inspiring if it considers that there is a person first policy. People need to come before ideas/ideology. If that makes any sense?

8:19 AM  
Blogger Momo Fali said...

I, for one, thank you for sharing your stories and for breaking down the walls so that mothers can feel less alone, less crazy, and more powerful. It takes a village, right? As a mom, it's good to know the rest of the village has a hard time with this gig too.

9:14 AM  
Blogger patty said...

I've been reading your posts for a few weeks now. I love your tone, your frankness and authenticity. I just read the breastfeeding post last night, and postswere closed. I read this one this am.

I live in a small community and privacy and autonomy is just not possible here. I appreciate your hurt at being judged, and at being judged unfairly. And if only I could tell you how many times I've said, "And just why do these people care what IIIIIII do??!"

My beliefs: live and let live. Don't judge. Let me be the judge of what is right for me and my family and my loved ones. Let me answer to my God. Be kind. Help each other.

I noticed some of your commentors DID throw arrows at the offendor, and you specifically asked them not to. Bravo to your for turning the cheek, insisting that 2 wrongs don't make a right. You were KIND in this.

Your posts and frankness HELP others who feel the same as you, but are pressured as well from outsiders. It empowers them/us.

I'm sorry, too, that you experienced this. Thank you for teaching so many lessons with it.

And your boobs? Not that I've ever seen them, but they are beautiful because of what they can do, because they are a part of you, because they give life.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo! Well said!

10:27 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Cassi - good question about blogging conferences - people generally *aren't* paranoid messes at blogging conferences because there's sort of an unspoken code of conduct there. Most people recognize each other as online writers and respect that everybody has different boundaries - so in most cases where someone might want to write a story that was specifically about someone else or post a picture of someone, most people, I think, would ask permission or let the other person know. Of course, people do write about the conference and tell generalized stories about what goes on, etc, but for the most part (and maybe I'm wrong - hopefully someone else will weigh in on this) people don't tell tales out of school about other bloggers attending the conference.

(Possible exception: the Dooce/Bloggess controversy last year at BlogHer. Widely written about and commented upon. But that was a pretty public thing to begin with, and sort of extraordinary.)

Need to think about this some more!

1:32 PM  
Blogger momranoutscreaming said...

I think Motherhood Uncensored has a good point. We all write about things we observe/hear.
The issue is one of taking responsibility in how it's presented. I feel that one can be objective while still expressing one's opinion. Name calling and degradation have no place.
Against what she said, I do think and expect that people should strive to apply critical thinking and objectivity when writing about a situation. You've done it very well in this post there's no reason why everyone can't do it if they give themselves time to stop and think before taking action. We all judge. the key is to recognize it and explore the reason for it.
I'd like to thank you for putting write a situation that has been more than a little disconcerting to me this week.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Cheryl Lage said...

Wondrous, wondrous post. You've articulated with uncanny finesse feelings, responses and inner-machinations that typically defy explanation. Thank you for this.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Haley-O said...

This is simply brilliant. The whole post. Just, wow.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Must be silly: you made a typo, and where you meant to write 'opprobrium' (as in, don't dump any on Other Blogger), you wrote 'approbrium' which is funny, because although it's not a word, it should be, and also, it would, if it were a word, mean exactly the opposite of opprobrium and thus might be a Freudian typo!

And, don't you think, the internet in general needs more approbrium and less opprobrium.

Word nerdily yours,
Mimi :-)

7:52 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Also, I NEVER check my own rankings on Rate Your Professors, because, well, I know it's just a student diversion and the vent and wail and engage in locker room talk, man, really, I wayyyyyy happier just not knowing what people say about my very public persona of university teacher. And that's not my private life.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Mimi - ha, it WOULD mean the opposite. and it would be AWESOME.

Throw some approbrium on me!

(Also, seriously, I NEVER went to Rate My Professor, for the exact same reason. Also, because I heard that there was sometimes a bit too much talk of boobies when it came to younger female profs and lecturers. Which, was not up for.)

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

I don't want to take sides, especially since I haven't been following this entire mess, but I do peek in from time to time on your both blogs so I did catch some of the controversy. I finally read the original post. It does make me sad and I wish for once people can just get along. It kinda reminds me of the aftermath of Motrin moms (I know, we are talking oranges & apples here).
I will say the one thing that would just would unnerve me is that if I went to a blogging conference and someone actually nit picked what I did on their blog. That would bug me. I would think there is some mutual respect, no? Then again, I'm sure the guys in their tech shows do that too. (Probably not fair comparison though--think women are different lol?)
Anyhow, good lessons for us all. And, I'm just so sorry to hear there was such anger and hurt on both sides :-(

8:16 PM  
Blogger JPTG said...

hey, I'm proud of what you did, what you wrote earlier this week, that you opened it for hundreds of comments, and what you write now. The original act may not have been what I chose, but I love that this world is made up of many choices and personal styles. Kudos to you for showing us (again) your "I will soldier on and persevere" style. Immense respect is thrown your way... whatever will you talk about next week? I'll tune in, regardless! Go enjoy your weekend, offline, with your family.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

@Cassi I'm going to agree with HBM that folks are pretty well-behaved at blogging conferences. Mostly everyone's too busy telling their own stories that they don't have time to tell someone else's. I've seen panelists critiqued for a controversial point of views or whining about the hotel room, but that's pretty much it.

I also think the good generally outweighs the bad - why devote a rare free moment to blogging about someone you don't like when you could be torturing someone you love?

Um...I mean blogging about. Blogging about someone you love.

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Joy said...

I keep typing, and deleting, my comment. My words are muddled, and my tongue gets twisted as I try to say, essentially, that I respect the heck out of your brain, and you inspire me. You really do. Thank you for sharing, and for continuing to share, your experience of motherhood with 'us'.

12:15 AM  
Anonymous courtney said...

That was a beautiful post and I love that you took the time to sit down and figure out just what about the whole thing made you so angry. Well done.

And now I'm wondering what the Dooce/Bloggess controversy was all about because I read both of them and apparently missed it!

2:20 AM  
Anonymous Joyce said...

I'm a little embarrassed at getting so sucked into it last week. I was really upset (ask my husband)--though it didn't happen to me personally, I felt as I would have done the same thing, therefore my values were shamed as well. Plus, it is just sad when mothers don't support each other, no matter what their opinion on certain issues. We're all living this bizarre lifestyle together. I'm glad it's being put to rest, you've wrapped it up perfectly. My husband is relieved.

6:40 AM  
Blogger Heather Happymaker said...

I didn't know you existed until this business began. As you see, I live under an udder. I don't like the business, but I like all the "players". You're all so different. And I'd like to think you all mean well. I'll be following you now.

What strikes me like a hit of bad milk is that this business went down at a conference meant to bring female bloggers together. Women: In the past we've been each others' constant competitors and worst enemies. We can't brush each others' hair without being flooded with mixed emotions of love and sisterhood co-mingled with jealousy and fear for what the other is capable of taking from us. And how unfair it is. As though there were only a finite amount of love and approval to be had.

Best to do, as you have, examine our own motives or lack of them, and find out why a situation bothers us so because there's always a chance for growth there even if we've done nothing wrong as it were.

Strong women: I fear you no more! I want to bask in the glow that is your internal fire and warm myself to fortify for the next (gawd) learning experience.

Keep on keepin' on, Sistah.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Eva Robertson said...

I very much like your discussion of shame, but it is all so abstract! You did write about your experience of nursing another woman's child and about the shock and shame of being disapproved for it. And it seems to me that, apart from the the actual social disapprobation that occurred, the possibility of social horror might be something you would fully anticipate or worry about. I know I would.

This post seems to be in part about how being shamed robbed you of your story. What was that story? Would it have been utterly disconnected from the social opprobrium that one would have to expect?

What I am dying to hear is this other goldfish woman's point of view. You were so hard on her for her disapproval and are now indicating that she affected you so deeply -- did she have something interesting to say???? The shaming is not that public since you haven't shared it with us and it is nowhere to be found on the internet, as far as I can see . . . .

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love you. That is all.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.dailyblonde.blogspot.com/2009/03/rent-boob-controversy.html

Hi Eva (who left a comment)

Here is a link the original post of the other blogger (now reposted). It's not quite what I was expecting given everything that followed from it tbh.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Lisa in Omaha said...

Hey, congratulations to you and to the other mother for solving a real (and painful) problem so wonderfully.

Both my husband and I have relatives, in the US and in England, who were wet nurses prior to the advent of formula. It was a matter of survival. So sorry you had to endure the pain of the ignorant comments.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous LAVANDULA said...

another brilliant post catherine! and for the record i think what you did was kind and honourable.so no shame about it okay

12:47 PM  
Blogger Eva Robertson said...

Witnessing this cat fight between Catherine and Cheryl, I just had to put my two cents down on my blog. In my view, you are both so right and so wrong. My post is entitled "Whose Boobs Are Bigger, Catherine's or Cheryl's?"

See: http://dogwooddiarist.blogspot.com/2009/03/whose-boobs-are-bigger-catherines-or.html

1:29 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Eva - laughing. I'll go check it out once I've caught up on sleep and e-mail.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You go girl. Don't let the bastards get you down.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Aimeepalooza said...

I am not well known and it upset to me to hear one stupid guy make fun of my child and his hyper-activity in a public place. It's tough writing about kids and hearing people's opinions...

5:44 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

Fantastic post!

I am a big fan of yours, and I just have to tell you that I LOVE how honest you are.

A lot of mothers with blogs try to make themselves seem un-humanly PERFECT, and live some sort of fantasy life on the net...

Your blog is so refreshing, and makes myself, and I'm sure a LOT of others, feel great about being not so perfect, and HUMAN.

:)

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this has become tiresome and you take yourself way to seriously.

3:45 AM  
Blogger Ohio_Momto3boys said...

I found your blog from a link sent to me by former students (who are now moms). My babes are all adopted and I was not able to nurse them (although I got a ton of flack for not 'trying harder'...whatever). Keep on keepin' on, my friend. Let people say what they will. We would have been thankful to have a volunteer nurse for the young'un's!

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Lenore Skenazy said...

What's nuts is how everyone thinks that there is a right and wrong way to parent/feed/blog/live (and especially if you're trying to do all four at once!). You're out there, so people will comment (don't I know it!) but your attitude and common sense will see you through. And most of us are totally on your side! -- Lenore "Free-Range Kids" Skenazy (the mom who let her 9-yearold ride the subway alone...)

10:55 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Great post. I think what you and Laura did was fine.

After reading your thoughts, I read the other blogger's post. It occurred to me that if she really found the act bizarre and shameful, maybe she thought you wouldn't write about it, and that maybe no one would realize that you were the subject of her post.

11:03 AM  
Blogger aqua said...

I discovered your blog yesterday, and I can't stop reading! You're so witty and such a gorgeous writer.
Breastfeeding your new friend's baby was a beautiful thing to do, and it shocks me every time I read people's reactions to this natural act (when will I learn to expect such divisive rhetoric? It always surprises me anew.) I am a new mother and only beginning to think about these issues, and I'm sure many have written about this already (Mary Douglas? Purity and Danger? I don't remember, but I wasn't a mother when I read it a long time ago), but it's fascinating to consider the things we find disgusting through cultural conditioning. Even my self-described feminist mother in law surprised me a few months ago when I suggested that I donate some of my breastmilk -- I was overproducing at the time -- to a milk bank (as it turned out, Toronto doesn't have such a bank, though one is apparently in the works). My mother in law had a visceral negative reaction to my suggestion; after she thought about it, she said that she felt milk was such a personal thing, not to be shared with others. I was so perplexed by her reaction.

Sorry for the long, rambling comment. Really, I just wanted to say, thank you for such a thought-provoking and beautifully-written blog.

11:42 AM  

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