Friday, 21 August 2009

Slummy Mummy and the Feminists: Why do we Categorise Mothers?

In my review of “mummy lit” I have yet to read The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill – but it is on my shelf.

However, I have been doing some Internet research and came across some interesting comments on the book by Katie Roiphe on Slate. She writes “What is being celebrated here is the mindlessness of a certain type of child-rearing, a mindlessness we as a culture are currently infatuated with.”

That resonates with me because I’m wondering why mothers and housewives have become stereotyped in modern literature as being demented or desperate, proud to be exhaustingly scatty and never in control, self-obsessed with their own neuroses. In the “mummy book” I’m writing I hope to create a heroine who more reasoned mothers can relate to. With three children she will of course have stresses and periods of chaos in her life but her story will share the humour found in simply raising children and the issues you encounter without creating a whirlwind of disasters.

I googled “Katie Roiphe” and got sucked into more interesting but time consuming reading. She is a writer, professor and feminist. I thought she had some pertinent points. In an interview in The Sunday Times she said “We think we can create the perfect child by giving them the right music lessons or choosing the right pushchair...When I was a child, children played, and I don’t remember expecting my mother to give me her attention no matter what she was doing...There is a danger in the way we focus on raising our children...”

These are issues I find myself thinking about a lot as I ponder what it is to be a modern woman and mother and I was starting to respect Katie Roiphe’s opinion. But many people don’t it seems. On an American blog I found vitriol over her suggestion that using a child’s photo on your Facebook profile indicates a loss of your identity to your children. The comments went beyond the Facebook issue, and I agreed with many. “Maybe I am wrong...” wrote Laundry and Children “...but I always thought that feminism was about affording women choices...why is it that the “feminists” seem to think that the only choice that is acceptable is to be a working women?”

I am touching on a huge discussion, one which creates much diversity of opinion. But so, it seems, do mothers. “There is something weird about the way mothers are ranged against each other, like football teams; the yummy ones against the slummy ones, the at-home ones against the working ones; the traditional ones against the modern ones...” writes Zoe Williams in The Guardian, interviewing Liz Fraser whose A Spoonful of Sugar I am currently reading.

These are subjects which I hope to come back to with more thoughts. But as I tidied up the house this morning I was wondering, maybe naively, why we have to categorise mothers in such a seemingly negative way. Can’t we just all be Mothers?

1 comment:

Black and (a)Broad said...

Hello there again.

Yes, can't we all mother the way that works for us? This is a brilliant topic, and I hope it comes up in your own book. My own definition of feminism changed drastically after I had my first daughter. After five long months of maternity leave, I went back to the university where I was working. Suffice it to say, I couldn't handle it. I was teaching a new course, advising stuents, working on my dissertation an learning how to be a parent. When I quit teaching my course in the middle of the semester, I felt the backlash from my colleagues. Two stopped talking to me and another told me angrily that I was representing working mothers an should have kept teaching. I was floored because these three WOMEN were supposed feminists. They were all into gender roles, etc. I didn't need their agreement, I needed their support. My definition of feminism is a sort of network of women supporting each others' choices. I don't think I'm cut out for the stay-at-home mom thing, but that doesn't prevent me from supporting those women who make that choice because it works for their families. What do I care if you choose not to work? I do wish that stay-at-home moms would diversify more. As we "discussed", they might be calmer and more focused with a hobby or volunteer work in the community. Doesn't matter what as long as they, in fact, don't wrap their own identites around that of their children.

BTW feel welcome to contact me under the "ask me" tab just like you did the last time. That's a lot easier bc I don't always go back to my old posts.

I can't wait to read your "mom" book.