Feminist Mommy Wars: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

picture from Babble.com

picture from Babble.com

This post is going to get heavy in a moment, but before we get in to all that, here’s a gratuitous picture of hot dad Hugh Jackman being hot whilst playing with one of his kids at the beach.

This picture fills me with all sorts of confusing, pervy feelings – do I want Hugh to BE my dad? Or just the dad to my future children? (With all due respect to his lovely wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, it’s very hard to resist the siren call of one’s reproductive organs when faced with pictures of Hugh Jackman. She knows what we’re all talking about. She did marry the guy.)

You know what’s nice about Hugh Jackman? The tallness. The legs. I think that men’s legs are unappreciated, both within the entertainment industry, and in general. I mean, sure, footballers have great legs, but it’s not like we’re supposed to notice, right? We’re always supposed to go for the chests.

Well, screw that. I’m a leg-woman. Always have been. And, on a related note, can I just say – THANK YOU, Hugh, for not waxing your chest. Waxed chests? Me no likey. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a naturally hairless chest (heloooo Orlando Bloom), but I just don’t see the point of waxing *sexy* hair off. It just fills me with sadness, that’s all. Others might disagree, but you can’t really argue about taste, now, can you?

Anyway, here comes the heavy stuff:

Famous Twisty, of Famous “I Blame the Patriarchy” Blog, is once again dispensing her wisdom on poor, clueless fembots in thrall to the almighty Cock. The latest? Don’t have babies, girls. Just hold yer horses until the Glorious Feminist Revolution rolls into town. Then we will have, like, “collectives” (oh how that word grates on my post-Soviet ear), and no nuclear families, and we will all live on Twisty’s ranch in happy harmony, complete with free wireless and duffle coats for all. Or something.

You know what? Fuck that. In particular, fuck the illusion of the Glorious Feminist Revolution. I want none of it. I don’t want nice, perfectly well-meaning, and not at all condescending aunties saving me from myself whilst staring down at me from atop their high, well-bred horses. In fact, I don’t want anyone saving me from myself at all; it doesn’t matter if you’re a bearded priest, or a smooth-faced politician, or a clever spinster, or even Hugh Jackman come a-calling while wearing nothing but a strategically placed red bow, YOU are the very MANIFESTATION of the POWER you are telling me to FIGHT.

“Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.”

Daisy, once again, has made an interesting point – everybody’s personal is political, except for Twisty’s, of course, hers is just personal. Some of us get constantly pulled aside, like naughty schoolchildren at recess, and told “but you must examine, love…” while others get to retain their basic humanity. I don’t begrudge Twisty her inheritance. I don’t even think it must be “examined” much at all – so her rich dad left her money, so what? We all get by in our different ways, and some of us are luckier than others.

Hell, I even understand why Twisty is the one who so often gets held up as the Feminist Messiah – she’s a great writer, she’s witty, she has a (often overlooked) capacity for warmth, and she says stuff that makes other people uncomfortable. I get it.

But what I don’t get is where on earth Twisty gets off telling women what they “ought” to be doing, or else even going as far as drawing the line between “selfish” and “unselfish” behaviour. So having a kid is, by and large, “selfish,” eh? And living off a decently sized inheritance somehow isn’t? Please. See, the problem with the Glorious Leaders of the Glorious Feminist Revolution (which is just around the corner, dont’cha know) is that they don’t hold themselves to the same standards they propagate.

Lenin didn’t live like a poor, humble worker. Neither did Stalin. They’re the reason why the very word “revolution” makes my skin crawl. Twisty’s commentariat has been quick to point out, in the past, that I’m just one of those jaded, cynical, hyper-individualist types who came over from the post-Soviet wasteland in order to confuse and confound the noble and righteous Western Radical Feminist Cause, but hey, if they don’t see how their own Fearless Leader doesn’t exactly practice what she preaches, I can’t save them.

Daisy thinks that all of this, these feminist mommy wars, this constant sneering at women who are “lesser than,” is a product of class. I agree. I would also take it a step further and discuss the issue of entitlement, which does and does not go hand-in-hand with class. Why do I say that? Well, for the last 10 years or so, one of my aunts has been in the grip of a guru. The guru lives in a shoddy apartment in Kiev’s Borschagovka (one of the worst Kievan neighbourhoods by far, in case you’re wondering), and, from a creaky chair with faded and torn upholstery, preaches the exact damn thing that Twisty does.

Of course, the Guru dresses up her brand of entitlement in church-speak, but it’s all the same, essentially: any woman who’s ever enjoyed a dick is an idiot at best, if you bring up children you’re a daft cow who’s merely participating in her own oppression, and as for boys, they will be boys, hatin’ on women and drinking their lager and if you hold your boy to a different sort of standard, you’ll get what’s coming to you in the end, dearie.

My aunt has been in thrall to the Guru for years – groveling, apologizing, beating her breast and talking about how she deeply regrets raising three children, that of course she should have expected her first husband to start drinking and her second one to leave (the husbands bear no responsibility for their behaviour, you see – they’re men, so what did my silly aunt expect?), that the Patriarchy… I mean, Satan, in this case, had her fooled, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a miserable situation, and when I see people apologizing for their own lives on Twisty’s blog, I get a little jolt of recognition.

If you are going to be The New Boss, having money certainly helps. Having charisma helps as well. Above all else, you must believe in your inalienable right to tell people what to do with themselves. Not help them, you see. Not offer them useful advice on how to make their paltry, single-mom savings grow, for example. Or even stand in solidarity with them when they demand adequate childcare. Just preach to them.

Beat them down a little more, when they’re already beaten down, then reel them back in with promises of a Wimminly Utopia in which the Great Phallic Serpent has been vanquished once and for all.

And people wonder why the hell hardly anyone takes this brand of feminism seriously nowadays.

picture from Museum of Broadcast Communications (Museum.tv)

picture from Museum of Broadcast Communications (Museum.tv)

It’s all rather depressing, isn’t it?

So here’s a picture of cranky old alcoholic, opera aficionado, occasional sexist, Jaguar-driving fox, and crime solver Inspector Morse, to make it all better, you see.

Because quite frankly, I’d rather be shagging Morse than living in some dreadful commune, having the same ridiculous conversation about who buys into oppression more, and at what price.

In fact, I think I’d rather be shagging Morse than doing a lot of other things, but that’s beside the point.

The point is, childless women telling women with kids that they should never have had them is as ridiculous and backward as women with kids insisting to all and sundry that “you couldn’t possibly be fulfilled” unless you drop whatever it is you’re doing and procreate right this minute. Both worldviews are equally deranged, and just because the former is less prevalent than the latter doesn’t automatically make it OK. Look at it this way: plenty of horrible movies succeed at the box office. But a movie which does not succeed at the box office is not automatically a revolutionary tour de force, cast aside by dim-witted hoi polloi.

Or, to put it in simpler terms: the mere fact of being on the margins doesn’t make you right.

I say all this as a person who isn’t even sure if she wants kids.

But I must think about that. On my own terms. Without an obliging Big Brother or Big Sister looking over my shoulder, making sure I’m not “too brainwashed” to be able to make my own reproductive choices.

I choose Morse. And vodka. And Chaka Khan.

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29 thoughts on “Feminist Mommy Wars: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

  1. Natalia, I know this is completely off-topic, but there’s no email address to contact, so I’ll need to mention this here. I really, really, like your blog, but I have to stop reading it because of the theme that has the “snow” going across not only the background but across the article content as well.

    I have developmental disabilities on the autism spectrum, including Sensory Integrative Disorder. As a result, moving elements, like the “snow”, are very disruptive, and I literally get nauseous within seconds. It’s really a shame, cos your blog is one of the best out there, but I can’t read your blog without becoming physically ill from the “snow”. I’d like to ask you to remove that element from the theme if possible, in consideration of those with developmental disabilities and also those with low vision.

  2. Dear GG,
    I read Natalia’s blog using Google Reader. It takes away the snowflakes.

    What sort of legs does Morse have?

    -Jawad

  3. Oh dear! Well, I’d normally keep it until WordPress terminates it on Jan. 4th (I like the kitschy snowglobe effect), but if it’s causing nausea, I might as well get rid of it. :)

  4. I don’t know about Morse’s legs – I know he had a beer gut, which is, you know, not encouraging, but it was always his intellect and general hatred of the world that made me feel so affectionate toward him.

    It’s sad that he’s dead now, but I imagine he and I can always meet up in the afterlife for some beer and Puccini. :D

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  6. natalia – i believe that someone like twisty faster (i admit i don’t know her site very well) would still cause less damage to the environment and global population than you and your hypothetical children. i’ll be plain, what part of “having children is hypocritical and irresponsible now” do you not grasp? you already receive approval from society for being a good-looking, well-behaved woman, do you really need to fulfill the entire capitalist checklist? your comments on jackman and morse are crass as usual. instead of radical movements, think about sticking to writing about mainstream pop culture. you do it much better.

  7. Good day, asshole! :)

    You have to make your mind up on this one, I don’t think one can be both “crass” and “well-behaved.” Either I’m a trashy tart who fancies men with nice legs and/or alcohol problems, or I’m a Stepford wife.

    As for having children – well, who gets to decide which ones of us have the “right” to procreate anyway? Do we draw straws? Shit, I’m from a shrinking ethnic group here, could I be moved up to the front of the line? What wonderful dystopia could take care of my needs?

    Responsibility, moron, involves responsible use of natural resources in the richer countries that consume a lot, and general improvement of reproductive rights and the lot of women in poorer countries, so that “choice” actually figures into the equation. I’m all for having less kids and adoption, but not everyone approaches this issue from the same perspective – due to ability, to class, and other factors that have to be addressed.

    Ranting and raving about how it’s all those OTHER people who are being irresponsible isn’t going to save the planet, idiot.

  8. C.L., after reading your comments here and elsewhere, I only have one question:

    Why do women have to apologize for being attractive?

    I see you do not direct this venom at the men. You’re not upset with “capitalist pig” Hugh Jackman flexing muscle on the beach. But I see that a woman like Natalia must constantly defend herself, first because the way she looks “confuses” native Jordanians (a dreadful stereotype), now because she gets “approval” from the all-powerful capitalist overlords…? This is plain, simple misogyny.

  9. Natalia, How dare you receive approval from society!!! You, you, you good-looking, well-behaved woman! Take that!

    *snicker*

    I agree that Hugh Jackman is dreamy, and I love men’s legs too! When I was in my teens my family went on a picnic for my father’s work. It was summer and most everyone was in shorts. One of my dad’s coworkers had the nicest calves ever. I spent almost the entire time sneaking peeks at his legs and creeping myself out for doing so, because I was just a little older than his daughters who were also at the picnic. I’m generally not interested in much older (or much younger) men, but damn, those legs!

  10. Pingback: deanna zandt » Twisting motherhood

  11. I’m glad that Twisty has her blog, because she provides so much fodder for mockery. Even if a reader agrees with her basic premises, does sie not ever get bored with Twisty, saying the same thing over and over and over? Twisty’s like a broken record, with a few interchangeable phrases.

    (BTW, thanks for making it stop snowing!)

  12. My goodness, I’ve read some rubbish in my time, but Twisty’s post takes not just the biscuit, but the entire tin.

    ‘Revolutionaries’ all kinds annoy me because they are the sort of people who, if your roof was leaking, they wouldn’t help, but would instead witter on about how one day we’ll all live on the moon and there won’t be any rain.

    I’m assuming that Twisty’s blog is American. Any chance of her working to increase the pitiful amount of maternity leave entitlement there? As that would really help mothers.

    No, of course not, as that would involve being useful instead of making proclamations about her vastly superior lifestyle.

  13. Safiya – Twisty is indeed American, and she’s done jack shit wrt maternity leave, or really anything that can actually benefit a significant number of women.

  14. What I love about this post is how *fairly* you deal with Twisty. She really does have a talent for pithy, witty writing. But the same things that bug you – her dogmatism and rigidity – really turn me off, too. I rarely read her blog because I just don’t have much for feminism without nuance and compassion. I also have no desire to jump into discussion threads that mostly consist of everyone nodding and proclaiming “we are all individuals,” Life-of-Brian style.

    This particular post of hers is so maddening because she mixes useful critique of motherhood as an institution with just breathtakingly judgmental and useless statements – like her assertion that no women should have children! It’s a little late for me (I’ve got two younguns) but even if it weren’t, I’d be totally put off by Twisty’s proscriptive bent. She’s only reviving the Mommy Wars (childfree versus “breeder” edition).

    Now, if she’d honor the distinction between motherhood as institution and as experience, that could be the starting point for a real discussion.

    Thanks, Natalia, for saying what needed to be said. And also for sticking up for gorgeous men’s legs. When I was 18, I actually spent the better part of year involved with a guy whose only redeeming feature was his legs (he was a Young Republican, for goodness sake). Hmmm … maybe I’m blinded by false consciousness after all? :-)

    Sungold

  15. I love how someone who consumes as conspicuously and apparently unthinkingly as Twisty is all about not reproducing because of y’know -ecological- concerns. O yes indeedy. Certainly not I don’t know, desire to -control- everyone else. Just pure-D unselfish concern for the rest of the world. I don’t know -what- we’d all do without her, really.

  16. “I don’t begrudge Twisty her inheritance. I don’t even think it must be “examined” much at all – so her rich dad left her money, so what? We all get by in our different ways, and some of us are luckier than others.”

    Not too sure about that. It may not be true in every case, but in my experience as a scholarship student at a private liberal arts college dominated by the similarly socio-economically privileged and working with similarly backgrounded co-workers in the past….there seems to be a tendency for people who are wealthy to believe having that wealth automatically confers superior wisdom and knowledge and with it…the right to pontificate/preach to others, especially those who weren’t as socio-economically privileged.

    Was quite an interesting experience, especially when they didn’t appreciate having their ignorant comments exposed for the rubbish they were….or finding out not everyone was going to give them “due deference” on the basis of their perceived “superiority”.

  17. I think it’s true that wealth can insulate people to the point that they “start believing their own hype” – to paraphrase Britney Spears (seriously).

    What I was trying to say in regards to Twisty is – I don’t have a problem with her money. Because I bet that a lot of people would jump all over that and go “YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS OF HER CASH!”, you know? Twisty has had it hard in other ways, so I’m glad that she has an inheritance to fall back on. A lot of other people don’t, of course, but that’s a whole other conversation.

    I just don’t think Twisty sees that people can be “selfish” in all sorts of ways – and it’s a part of being human, and that women, furthermore, get called out for their “selfishness” a whole lot more than men do. I mean, she has this whole feminist narrative going on at her very well-read site, but it feels like an echo chamber, most of the time.

    So in that sense, of course, money has to be examined like everything else. I just don’t know where to go with that, really, because I’m generally not one of those people who would urge others to “examine their choices,” or whatever. I have my own to worry about.

    In the end, what would I say to Twisty? “Give it all away, hon”? That would be hypocritical as fuck.

    So that’s why I said what I said. I think. I have a hangover, so take it all with a grain of salt. :)

  18. Speaking as someone who comes from a privileged (UMC anyway) background, and has been in “bubble” situations (school among others) surrounded by people with at least as much privilege, occasionally much more–yep, wealth certainly can be insulating, and it’s actually not a good thing for not only everyone else who has to deal with the entitlement (not to mention the socioeconomic disparity on a macro scale, obviously), but the person hirself, I would say.

    Per “selfishness,” besides all the intersections already observed (sure, there’s still shit that comes with being a woman and/or queer, even if the wealth is insulating to various degrees, depending on how else you’re situated):

    It’s not immediately obvious that simply giving away one’s lands rids one of the privileged attitude, as Orwell once wrote about Tolstoy in an essay connecting him to King Lear; also see, I don’t know, something like Maoist Internationalist Movement or some shit like that. Which isn’t necessarily to say, “don’t,” if that’s the right thing to do, (I try to be conscious, and there’s farther to go in various ways, obviously, but I make no claim to be a “revolutionary,” and I freely cop to my own belly-to-earth selfishness)

    …but again, paraquoting Orwell, if you want to live for others, then live -for- others, not as a roundabout way of getting a less obvious form of reward for yourself. Also see attempts at “getting rid of” privilege in supposedly less mutable contexts: Kyle Payne, for an extreme example, but also any number of other male feminists, white anti-racists, etc. etc. etc. Which, again, isn’t to say, just give up and be a solipsistic entitlement monster, obviously. Just, you know: you share or do whatever else because it’s the right thing to do, not because you secretly expect the rest of the world to recognize your heroic sacrifices in pursuit of your own spiritual path or whatever it is.

    This, however, is really a tangent, because it’s hardly Twisty’s problem. I mean, there’s hairshirt wearing; and then there’s just not even being remotely conscious that one -has- -any- sort of privilege in the damn first place. And it’s not like other people haven’t pointed it out to her over the years, I know. Last I recall she responded with (paraphrasing, but not by much) a whine that she was being told by the feminist police that she can’t be a proper feminist (!!!) on account of she comes from the “wrong” class. Seriously, that’s all she took from it. It’s all she’ll ever take from it.

    Daisy’s post on this is really good, and pretty damn clear for anyone who -wants- to understand it:

    http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/2008/12/feminists-on-high-horses-pt-1.html

  19. But I mean, the whole “giving up privilege”–

    It’s not exactly a great comparison, because unlike material wealth, marriage rights are not in fact a scarce commodity, or needn’t be, if people weren’t assholes (yeah, I know, tax codes mumblesomething, I don’t claim to get how that part works, I’m talking about legal and social recognition as “legitimate”);

    but like, I know heterosexually partnered people who refuse to get married on account of it’s not fair.

    And as far as it goes, that’s fine. If that’s what you think is the right thing to do. But, of itself, it doesn’t exactly solve the problem for the same sex couples who -do- want to get married. And, while a lot of people who do this don’t expect cookies for it–again, totally fine, nice people, no problems–I’ve known a few who do go around preaching smugly about their superior -radical sexuality- –the not getting married would only be one facet in this case; I’ll stop before I start ranting about the (oh, socioeconomically privileged in spades, need it be said) guy who -is- already married to some -other- woman, which he can’t break up because he needs to support his kid or something; but he and his current girlfriend are like totally -against marriage- and -breeding- in -all- contexts, see…

    and it’s like: Really, fuck off. I’d much rather be around straight people who go ahead and take advantage of the privileges marriage offers them, and why not? but actively work to make sure the same rights are available to their gay friends.

    Again, it’s kind of apples to oranges, I realize, but…

  20. I’ve known a few who do go around preaching smugly about their superior -radical sexuality-

    I seem to remember a person who showed up on Feministe to flaunt her radicalism in Jill’s face (Jill being the “original fake pretty feminist,” according to an asshole we all know and love).

    And I think you actually make an excellent point in regards to material wealth and the intersection of human rights in general.

  21. I don’t try to talk about it much, partly because of my own Stuff about personal privilege, which is always much squishier to talk about in leftie circles than how one’s oppressed innit; but also because my grasp of macroeconomics just kind of bites. Not that this stops a lot of other people, I realize, but y’know, I probably talk right out of my ass enough as it is.

    But on a personal level–

    yeah, I don’t know, suppose I could talk about the dream I had once during a more uncertain time, classic anxiety dream with various menacing persecutors not unrelated to internalized and externalized homophobia (dream symbology, won’t go into it), and I got into a cab to get the hell out of there and it turned out that I only had Monopoly money to pay the driver, who told me to get out (back to your classic urban nightmarescape).

    I mean, I have a friend who grew up with material wealth (and a poverty of support in most other ways) and then got it taken away from him rather suddenly when he was 21; and the intersection of his queerness as well as personal family shit (which also contributed to the loss of material wealth) as well as then becoming an immigrant/emigrant…it’s been interesting to observe, I guess, if y’know, not exactly clinical on account of this is my best friend and all. Still, yeah, there’s some residual entitlement there, I would say, in various ways (male and white and able bodied and so on, too, sure, all of which no doubt still stands him in good stead; as do things like higher education and contacts and so on). And a lot of pain, too; and the loss of insulation, I mean basic -security-, is, well, really fucking scary.

  22. But I mean, for instance, to take another intersection wrt Twisty: ableism, or specifically the cancer. Terrifying for anyone. Absolutely, don’t begrudge her the ability to access good medical care, and good for her;

    but at the same time, it’s like…yeah, basic recognition of, money isn’t going to necessarily solve that all by itself–s0metimes the body just does what it does–but it certainly is better than -not- having it when it comes to better life expectancy, isn’t it? And yet I can’t remember the last time she wrote about health insurance as a general issue. Admittedly I haven’t actually read her in a long time, it’s possible that she did. But, y’know. And the commentariat…boy. I still remember the time some sucking wound of an asshole (to her credit Twisty did flame her eventually) yelled at the former grannyvibe (who had cancer and -no- financial backup, ended up having to sell her house and bankrupt herself for treatment) for suggesting that it might be worthwhile to talk about why yet another cancer patient who had no funds was in that position (can’t afford treatment) in the first place rather than how feministically TERRIBLE it was that friends were fundraising for her with a cheesecake calendar they were posing for themselves. And that she wasn’t being a “good role model for suffering,” I wish I were making that up.

  23. Well, you know my philosophy – I think that everyone is an individual, and that is what’s important (others do not necessarily agree, but that’s how I roll). I don’t make a big deal out of anyone’s privilege (in fact, I’m starting to hate that word) unless they make me. Similarly, I don’t expect people to wail on me about being white and decently educated, unless I earn it. And I think we all know the ways in which one can earn it, or the ways in which we perpetuate our own status and effectively tell others “tough break, you’re not me.”

    Real acknowledgment is the first important step, I believe. Often, I think people cross over into this really weird and gross territory where they make it all about themselves anyway – “Oh, look at me! So privileged! So clueless!” That kind of freaks me out, almost as much as people who are blind to all that stuff to begin with.

  24. Yeah, basically.

    btw,

    “I also have no desire to jump into discussion threads that mostly consist of everyone nodding and proclaiming “we are all individuals,” Life-of-Brian style.”

    -snerk- -looks around nervously-

    “I’m not…”

  25. and yeah, I’m starting to get an allergic reaction to the jargon (privilege etc) myself. And yet, y’know, I respect a lot of the people who -do- use it, I don’t immediately have a better way of talking about it, and it does need to be talked about, so. Eh. “The map is not the territory” etc. Something.

  26. I think some people have a really good grasp of the jargon and use it in productive ways. Others? Not so much. Most of my problems with it have actually involved people offline, so far. Even in this part of the world.

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