Her Bad Mother

Sunday, April 23, 2006

'Cause sequels are... New and Improved!**

**There have been a few late-breaking amendments and tweaks to this post. These were not intended to be late, but when one hits Publish prematurely and then is denied publishing for hours and hours and hours by Blogger after making the desired changes... well, that's how it happens. So this is the minorly amended un-sequel that replaces the sequel that never was...

Note that this is likely not worth re-reading unless a) you are addicted to all things Bad Mother, and/or b) you have way too much time on your hands.

So I had big plans for the sequel to Bland Ambition Part I, big plans. There were so many Big and Important Thoughts swirling around in my bulbous head that one post simply could not contain them. I needed two posts! Three! I would discuss feminism, all waves; the force of liberal capitalist ideals of success and the construction of the bourgeois woman; philosophy and sex and the impossibility of the Mother-Philosopher; and, finally, the meaning of happiness, traced back to the ancient Greek understanding of eudaimonia and all the way back 'round again to the post-modern hedonism of contemporary Life in America Including Canada. And these would all be addressed within the context of my personal struggles as a Woman in the 21st Century. It was going to be epic, I tell you. Epic.

Then I thought, who the fuck cares?

Not me.


I was inspired and provoked last week by all of the passionate and insightful discussions of feminism, masculism and other isms relevant to mothers and fathers. And I said my piece about my own struggle with the exigencies of feminism and the politics of being a female whatever - student, teacher, partner, parent, professional - in this day and age. But although I had - have - much more to say on these topics (see above for some indication of the many mind-numbing directions I was going to fly off into), I've decided to give it a rest. For now. In part because, as I forged ahead with my magnum blog opus, I started to bore myself. You know that it's time to stop writing whatever it is that you're writing when a little voice inside your head starts whispering who fucking cares who fucking cares who fucking cares and you start talking back and you say, well, not me, that's for sure. Blah blah blah big words blah blah oh my struggle blah Big Thought blah. Only solution: log out now. Go directly to Writer Jail: do not Save as Draft, do not Publish Post, do not collect 200 comments (ha).

But also because it began to seem to me that I didn't have much else to offer on this topic, at this time. (Read: any and all Big Ideas bandied about by me during the above-described thinking and writing process may be trotted out at a later date under similar or entirely different pretenses.) In the first place, I began to feel uncomfortable with my stance, my voice, as these took shape: I was writing, am writing, as an extraordinarily privileged woman. White, relatively affluent, educated, very happily married - I have almost every advantage imaginable, save, perhaps a penis (well, one that is attached to my body. I have borrowing privileges on a pretty good model that is always ready to hand, no pun intended.) And I'm writing to an audience of similarly privileged peers: you're not all white, you have varying levels of education and material wealth and differing levels of satisfaction with your relationships (and you may, in fact, actually have penises attached to your bodies) but you are all, dare I say it, privileged. You, we, all have voices - forceful, articulate voices - and you, we, know how to make those voices heard. So I asked myself: is poring over my privileged challenges (challenges that are afforded only by privilege, like, I was shamed for not going to Cambridge when I had the opportunity, OMFG) and using my voice to worry over and dissect those challenges really advancing or helping the cause? I don't want to suggest that my quote-unquote problems are completely insignificant - they are, it might be said, extreme cases that prove the insufficiency of feminist gains over the last half century (privileged white women still struggle, too!) - but really? Boo fucking hoo. There are more important stories that need to be told; more important work that needs to be done.

And there is still much, much work that needs to be done; as Mrs Fortune pointed out last week, the truth about the world that our daughters will inhabit as women is that it is one in which they cannot do anything that they want. But, it must be said, the daughters of women like me (and probably you, too) will probably be able to do almost anything that they want - they'll have many more opporunities, for example, than most, if not all, underprivileged boys. Our world is not a just world, but injustice crosses the boundaries of sex. So, my wish for my daughter? That she grow up to wring her hands over - and do battle with - injustice from the sort of privileged position that her mother occupies now. It's not an unrealistic wish. She'll probably even outdo me on the privilege. And for that, I should be profoundly grateful.

There was a second thing... Oh, yeah... (gawd I ramble)...

In the second place, it was becoming apparent, as I sorted out my many heavy thoughts and stories, that not all of these thoughts and stories - perhaps none of these - illuminated or were illuminated by the Greater Question Concerning Feminism in the 21st Century, Whatever That Question May Be. Maybe I'm wrong about this. Now that I think about it, I probably am wrong about this, or at least a certain breed of Women's Studies major would tell me that I am: I am a woman, and everything that I do in this male-dominated, sex-oriented world is, for better or for worse, defined, determined and circumscribed by the fact of my sex. But doesn't that just drain so much life out of who I am and what I have to say? Even if my ideas, my stories, can only be fully understood within the context of my femaleness or femininity, that doesn't mean that they are best understood, or appreciated, that way.

I complained, in the prequel to the sequel that will never be, that my actions, my choices, as a young woman were being made political by otherwise well-meaning feminists. I suggested that, even though I would always remain aware of the restictions imposed upon me by my sex, I wanted the freedom to think and act and speak and choose as a person, that I wanted to live my life without the oppressive shadow of politics. I suggested that I did not want to feel pressure to ensure that my actions and choices always accorded with someone else's idea of feminism, that I did not want to have to constantly ask myself what a 'good' feminist would do, that I wanted to define my own feminism through my own, happy life. And that, however difficult or perhaps even utopian this might be, I wanted - want - this for my daughter as well. It only belatedly occured to me that by attempting to frame and understand my stories within the context of feminism I was, in fact, imposing politics upon those stories myself. This is not to say that to do such a thing is wrong - it may be, in fact, that doing so is necessary, or at least important, to a healthy understanding of myself as a certain kind of woman living in this age. It's to say that this is not what want, at least not right now. I want to explore these stories to understand more about myself as a person - one who is, inescapably, a woman, but first a person, a thinking, loving human being whose ideas and actions have force as the ideas and actions of a human being and not 'just' as those of a woman. And to someday share these stories with my daughter, who I hope will understand me as both a person and a woman, and who I hope, fervently hope, will always celebrate herself as both a person and a woman.

And as an inspiration to milliners everywhere. Isabella Blow, watch your back.

Tomorrow? Back to what really matters. Tune in for Visualizing Whirled Peas: Revolution through Baby Gastronomy.

WonderBaby starts her own Peas Movement. Diapers and jumbo wipes are on hand.


Blogger Kristen said...

That wasn't a disappointing sequel at all...quite the contrary. To me, the ultimate "feminist" wouldn't have to be concerned over whether or not he/she were considering how "good" of a feminist he/she appeared to be while making life choices. I think that's the place where we all ultimately want to arrive...sounds like you're well on your way. That's the best news of all, right?

12:10 AM  
Blogger Kristi said...

My head is spinning. But those are some awesome photos!

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure that's not your opus? Great post!

We must have a drink together at BlogHer. I understand Sweatpantsmom will be making sure it's open bar :)

1:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And cripes, that kid is cute!

1:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you've probably already seen this link, but if not- it;s kind of funny. I think it applies to your situation. You might have "blog depression"


As for being privelidged. I was so interested to read your thoughts. I have struggled with thoughts about that myself very much. Especially when I see my stats and realize that people from less priveliged places in the world come to my site on occasion.

I start to feel privelidged in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Like I have so much access to having a voice, when others have not- and I use my voice to talk about knitting and other such friviolties.

You know- it is the same feeling sweeps over me when I shop at Walmart. Or get McDonalds. A guily "I'm a North American ignorant consumer" feeling. In the instance of blogging it isn't the "consumer" part that gets to me since my blog is (and always will be) AD free, but the ignorant part sometimes bothers me.

How ignorant is it for me to rant about my inability to find a great parking space at the fully stocked from the comfort of my fully loaded Saturn.

Seriously. But seomtimes I think you have to just do what you said and say "Who the fuck cares"

I don't mean repressing your awareness about these types of things- I think rather, I just mean that sometimes I need to say "who the fuck cares" so I don't feel guilty for being white, affluent, educated, and north American. Because I am one of the blessed, and I am one of the lucky. All I can do is live my life in the best way I can.

(Geez, can you tell you struck a nerve in me, sorry to hijack your post)

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All right, I think I'm going to have to catch up on some of your earlier posts now so I can see the roots of the discussion.

That picture of your daughter in the hat is THE CUTEST.

And you're going to BlogHer? Awesome. It's going to be a blast!

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I suggested that, even though I would always remain aware of the restictions imposed upon me by my sex, I wanted the freedom to think and act and speak and choose as a person, that I wanted to live my life without the oppressive shadow of politics."


Looking forward to Visualizing Whirled Peas...

10:30 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:38 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

yes, you are privileged, and so am I - but I think having an awareness and understanding of that and remembering to look at our struggles in that larger context is an important distinction.

Because there are plenty of privileged people (women and not) who don't think about how lucky they are, they look down on others. (I personally think this is the really dangerous aspect of the amercian dream ideology, but that's another post.)

So while it might well be whining about the troubles of the top 5% of lucky people in the world, those troubles are real to you, and it's not like you are saying you have it worse off than others. THAT, I would be annoyed by. But to say, "I know it could be worse, but this is on my mind right now" I think is simply to talk about your life and who you are in an honest fashion. And isn't that what this whole blogging thing is about? It's the medium, girl, it's the medium!

11:38 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:42 AM  
Blogger The City Gal said...

"feminism, all waves; the force of liberal capitalist ideals of success and the construction of the bourgeois woman; philosophy and sex and the impossibility of the Mother-Philosopher"

What if the readers like to read about those on your blog? I am bored with routin life. I am bored with people that don't have anything to say. I am bored with guys (that only go to gym, and watch Hollywood).

I guess I understand why don't want to write on those subjects. But maybe I can attend your lectures at university.

You have no idea how much it means to read about your thoughts.

11:46 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

oh and PS - that hat could NOT be any cuter!

11:47 AM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

i think i know what you mean, bad lady. i struggle with this one a bit too; part of it is that when i want to start to pontificate about gender, power, and all that shit I find myself in academic mode--a mode that always feels more labored and distanced from my own voice. the blog, though a persona is still more *me* (oh deary me, am i being essentialist, committing the biographical fallacy right there?).

see that part in parentheses--that was my academic voice. see what i mean? hmm. i have just conjured up an image of myself as gollum talking to himself in the lake. nice.

anyway, great post. ambivalence, after all, is about as much a part of our contemporary experience as feminists as anything else.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phew woman. You are killing me here. :)

But seriously, we can't do it all. My voice as a feminist woman is making choices that work for me and my family and not trying to carry the guilt of all women on my shoulders. My daily activism is making informed choices and starting my daughter off into a path of the same.

Really, epic post. And love the comment button. I feel so proud.

And PS We're working on a shirt.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

So, in trying to not write another epic post, you wrote another epic post that still made my head spin! I'd write something more intelligent, but I'm stuck in that after-lunch food coma, so I can't get much past "pret-ty words!"

And like Kristen said, we're so working on a shirt. Hopefully we'll have a few designs tonight.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Jezer said...

I, too, love the new comment button. And the unbelievably adorable hat.

I am fortunate in that I've never felt limited or defined by my gender. Perhaps I should thank my very non-traditional grandmothers for that. If Alex had been a girl, I hope that she would have had the same "I can do anything!" confidence. Since he's a boy, I've got a whole 'nother set of issues to deal with.

Since childhood, I have been acutely aware of my own priveleged life. I can remember thinking, "who decided that I got this great life and other kids didn't?" I don't feel guilty for having nice things that I worked hard for, though. However, I do hate the sense of entitlement that is so common today, especially among kids.

See what you went and did--got me thinking and stuff! Gah!

9:39 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

First of all, that is better than a sequel (and after your comment at my place made me teary yesterday - ya I read this post twice because I am a fan of all things Bad Mother).

Second of all - how much do I love that last pic of WonderBaby?!?! That expression is hysterical. Can't help but grin looking at it.

And most importantly...I love your statement about being both a person and a woman. It is so easy to get caught up in the debate to loose sight of that. I thought the way you shared that was wise. Thank you also for raising the very important and overlooked issue of priviledge. I have been invited to a conference on women in the media and it is focusing most about accurately representing all women and not just priviledged women. There are so many layers of feminism and of oppression that it is hard to even scratch the surface.

All that to say...another classic post!

9:58 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

For someone who scrapped it all, you sure had a lot of great things to say.

I also grapple with this idea of privilege and entitlement. Nate comes from nothing--the army family with five kids who were even more poor than the other army families with five kid--and reminds me constantly that my world is not The World. Not that I need reminding. Okay, sometimes I do.

And I could not agree more that we can only make decisions for ourselves and our families, not for any sort of movement. The leaders of a movement often have the least happy children. Do for you and yours first. The rest will follow.

1:31 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I wish I had something more to add, but so much has been said already. I did like your point about teaching our daughters to embrace life as a person who just happens to be a woman. We spend so much time emphasising our woman-ness that we sometimes forget that we are individuals, regardless, in spite of, our sex. I don't think I'm explaining myself very well... Sigh.

I think I'm still too awed by the cuteness of WonderBaby in that hat!

9:58 AM  
Blogger Redneck Mommy said...

No words! Great post. You summed up rather articulately, what I floundered about trying to explain to my daughter this weekend. Now, I am going to clarify my gibberish using your words. I'll just have her read your post!

Maybe not. She'll get distracted by the baby pics. She's a sucker for a bald head!

11:06 AM  
Blogger macboudica said...

Great post!

Right now, I am dealing with a 13 year old daughter and I am really struggling with *her* struggling to define herself as a woman and as a person. For example, she is now struggling with her body image and is making a lot of unhealthy choices so she can fit other people's perception of "ideal." So this is a serious issue for mother, daughters and people.

3:10 PM  
Blogger bunmaster said...

You & everyone else have expressed yourselves so intelligently & passionately that I am once again feeling like I can't add anything that hasn't already been said. (Could just be mommy-brain though.) Anyway, great post(s), sweet hat & I will make it part of my mission to get Hammer to comment on your blog.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, this milliner is inspired-- by the writing, the ideas, and the hat.

As for the hat, did you make it yourself? A wonderful choice for your pretty model.

11:07 PM  
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