Feminism's Children
November 1, 2001 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Feminism's Children A reaction to Naomi Wolfe's new book.....so is this really how feminists look at motherhood??
posted by bunnyfire (25 comments total)
and I should say I think they are being a little too hard on her re the reaction to a new baby-I am not a feminist and yet I think some of those feelings are somewhat normal if fleeting......
posted by bunnyfire at 4:04 PM on November 1, 2001

I made a personal rule long ago: Never look to a political magazine for an objective look at any book, movie, play, etc. Did you really think the Weekly Standard would look kindly on ANYTHING Naomi Wolf might have to say?

I'm a feminist; I loved my baby; I love my child. Fuck the Weekly Standard and the horse it rode in on.
posted by nance at 4:34 PM on November 1, 2001

Well, I suppose the author could ask run-of-the-mill feminists how they feel about motherhood. Or, for that matter, investigate the so-called "ethics of care" strand in feminist philosophy, which involves issues of maternity.

Thinking over my acquaintance, all of the feminists I know--and offhand, I'd say I'm acquainted with at least three dozen in academia--are happily married, usually never-divorced types, mostly with children. Whether or not this is a representative sample is another matter, but it certainly makes me read articles like this with a jaundiced eye; has the author ever met a feminist? (That's without going into the internal divisions among feminists, which are about as pronounced as internal divisions among Christians.)

Child-hating is hardly a feminist invention. It's not for nothing that a baffled student asked me last spring: "Did the Victorians hate children?" Naomi W. strikes me as a great improvement over Queen Victoria, who absolutely loathed babies, went literally weeks without seeing her children, and thought it was tragic when her daughters got pregnant.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:39 PM on November 1, 2001

N.W. the author is in fact a mother and if a woman does not want to become a mother, so be it; and if she does, so be it...who cares that someone's else dislikes a choice that another makes? Mind your business and go your way.
posted by Postroad at 4:50 PM on November 1, 2001

The right wing has elevated motherhood to a holy calling, and so they have to crucify women who express even the slightest ambivalence about it. For the first six weeks of motherhood, I thought I'd made a horrible mistake. For the next two, I considered there might be a bright spot in the gloom. By week 10, I thought she was an angel from heaven and wanted another.

Since then, I've learned that occasionally loathing your own child is pretty normal, and not to be confused with pathology of any sort. I frequently skip with glee after parting from my daughter, but I'm always thrilled to see her again. That describes pretty much everybody I know. Maybe feminists are just more willing to admit it.
posted by nance at 4:50 PM on November 1, 2001

I never loath my child.
posted by lileks at 5:02 PM on November 1, 2001

Yeah, what he said.
posted by marknau at 5:04 PM on November 1, 2001

You must be one of those with the holy calling. I'm merely a flawed human being; sometimes she really gets on my nerves. But I love her in spite of it all.
posted by nance at 5:05 PM on November 1, 2001

Really getting on your nerves and loving her still. Yeah, that's familiar. That's not loathing, that's normal.
posted by marknau at 5:13 PM on November 1, 2001

Really, your kids will grate on your nerves, never allow you a moment of peace, destroy any notion you ever had of privacy, standard sleep, standard anything. They pick your whole life up and turn it upside down and sometimes that, and by extension, they, can really piss you off. But that's normal, that's life, that's parenting, that's not loathing. Especially not if it goes away when you cuddle them close and they say "I love you."
posted by Dreama at 5:35 PM on November 1, 2001

There was one thought in the book that kind of struck me...she said something along the lines of feminism being forced to fit a male model of accomplishment, and that "true revolution" would come when the world recognized our needs as women. Then she went off on another tangent, as she does, which is kind of maddening.

I thought this commentary was incredibly confusing...I mean, was the main point that feminism engenders child murdering? And it is insulting in its dismissal of postpartum depression. It's almost as if they didn't read the book, or read the flap and used it as a launching point for their own agenda.
posted by kittyloop at 5:40 PM on November 1, 2001

Well, I plan on finding the book and reading it. My curiosity is piqued.
posted by bunnyfire at 5:46 PM on November 1, 2001

Here's a pretty substantial excerpt from the Guardian.
posted by modofo at 5:48 PM on November 1, 2001

I want one of those soundproof glass barriers they have in limos that I can put up between me and my kids. What does that say about me?
posted by rodii at 6:07 PM on November 1, 2001

rodii: It says that if you find one, you need to let me know where and how much.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:09 PM on November 1, 2001

Oh, and Lileks: wait until Gnat starts singing "the song that never ends" on a long car trip someday, and then we'll see about loathing.
posted by rodii at 7:21 PM on November 1, 2001

rodii: I think you're loathing the song, not the child.
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:55 PM on November 1, 2001

It's just not a word I'd use for my kid. I mean, if you loathe your child, what do you have left for someone who tries to hurt them? Extra-loathe? Uberloathe? Superangryness?
posted by lileks at 8:26 PM on November 1, 2001

Geez, do I really need to put a smiley in a comment like that?

Although "uberloathe" is pretty good.
posted by rodii at 8:37 PM on November 1, 2001

Do we understand "hyperbole?" Kee-rist.

The point was: It's never all-wonderful. It's sometimes awful. Naomi Wolf is a twit, but she's not saying anything all that disturbing. And the Weekly Standard is just playing that old favorite, Straw Man Shooting Gallery. To suggest she represents a "feminist" style of motherhood would be like suggesting Dr. Laura's model is indicative of the way conservatives raise their children.
posted by nance at 8:44 PM on November 1, 2001

Naomi Wolf is a twit

one of the reasons Wolf is so popular is that she is both opinionated and not afraid to call herself a feminist. so, she can often be used as a litmus test by people to see what those wacky feminists are up to. In this case, it seems like she's rounded up some of her contemporaries and further strengthened her arguments by saying "see, my friends agree..." so, for people who don't know any real life feminists, they can think they know the Real Deal about the feminist opinion [tantamout to calling up your Jewish or Arab friends to get a sound byte about Israeli/Palestinean politics], which, in this case, allows for an easy target.

I mean, it's a pro life article, right? So, the author of the article chimes on on how she thinks most people feel "...most do not experience pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood as personal catastrophes." and contrasts it with how she views Wolf's feminist view "aging ghouls who flaunt their own children's pacifiers as they march for the destruction of other people's babies" which serves her own agenda more than it explains Wolf's, I think.
posted by jessamyn at 5:38 AM on November 2, 2001

Brits here will have most likely seen the wonderful TV commercial for BT's internet services (made by Jake Scott and St Luke's) in which a new mother stands in the middle of an packed ampitheatre and says: "I love my baby, but does anyone else feel overwhelmed sometimes?" En masse, all the mothers in the crowd stand up. I think that speaks as eloquently about motherhood as anything: it's overwhelming. Watching my sister and her daughter grow up together over the past four years, (and I use the phrase very deliberately) I've nothing but respect for her: there's no operating manual, though there's a pretty decent support line.

bunnyfire: you'd probably be interested in Wolf's comments on the relegation of the midwife from the delivery room, and the growing tendency for doctors to push for elective caesarians and other procedures that "medicalise" birth, often because it's more lucrative to use epidurals or whip out the scalpel. The Observer's review of Rachel Cusk's book on becoming a mother is also worth a look, precisely because as a novelist, she can't be tarred with the sterotypical feminist brush that Wolf often receives.
posted by holgate at 5:42 AM on November 2, 2001

Asking how "feminists" look at motherhood is like asking how computer users look at motherhood. Feminists are a diverse group and there's all sorts of different ideas and attitudes that go by the name "feminism."

And all manner of whackos that will try to tell you what feminism "really" means.
posted by straight at 7:31 AM on November 2, 2001

The persons described in the review don't believe in the tested love or loyalty that binds a society and civilization together... they are the future denizens of Logan's Run, the people who ask where children come from...

... also, if fetuses are so trying, what do you do with teenagers?

esp. girl teenagers who stay on the computer too long and don't let their dads have a go at the net...
posted by Kami at 8:15 AM on November 2, 2001

I am always amused by how the actual members of any given "special interest group" can and do differ, sometimes bitterly, regarding their collective priorities and goals and interests... whereas their opposition can tell you not only *exactly* what said group is all about, but also why they're wrong. nance's Dr Laura analogy is very apt. The Weekly Standard doesn't know the first flippin' thing about how feminists think.

And Naomi Wolf may indeed be a twit, but more power to any woman brave enough to stand up and say "You know what? Motherhood is a real bummer sometimes." Maybe if more women said it, instead of trying to come off as benevolent martyr-saints of procreative duty, some good would come out of it. I'm a pro-choice feminist but that doesn't disqualify me (i hope, better check with the folks at the Weekly Standard) from thinking that there are far too many young women ending up mothers without ever having given good hard thought as to what that means. Won't women who look all the scariness in the face and make a conscious and informed decision to be mothers in spite of it all, end up being better parents than a woman who's got this screwed-up "my body for God and for the human race" notion of breeding as destiny? You can't go straight from honeymoon virgin to presiding matriarch of a happy, healthy, loving family without taking a good cold look at what parenting will demand of you.

... she said authoritatively, from the armchair-mommy position.
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:20 PM on November 2, 2001

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