On Being a Badass
March 4, 2015 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Friedman's editorial in "The Cut" about what it means to be a badass woman If we can call any woman a badass, we can surely call Mac McClelland one. An international journalist who has traveled to and extensively reported on crisis situations, McClelland has recently published the book Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story. Friedman explores what we mean when we call her a "badass."

From Friedman's piece:
It’s almost scary to realize how deeply many women — especially those who are pushing the boundaries of what’s traditionally been considered feminine — have internalized the message that toughness and feelings don’t go together. There is something very appealing about adopting this no-feelings badass approach when you’re a woman who’s outnumbered professionally or who’s chosen a line of work that, historically, women have been shut out of. There’s pressure to prove that you’re just as capable as men are, which can turn into pressure to ignore your emotional responses and downplay the tendencies you have that are traditionally considered “feminine.”


Nothing throws a wrench in this desire to downplay the feminine quite like a pregnancy. Photojournalist Lynsey Addario also recently published a memoir that is, in part, about her decision to keep up her grueling and dangerous work while she was pregnant. “With the exception of military embeds, I took on all my regular assignments, hiding my growing belly beneath loosefitting shirts, cargo pants and sometimes, fortunately, a hijab,” she wrote in an excerpt for the New York Times. [...] The fear is understandable. Most of her colleagues covering foreign conflicts were men. And once she told her story, exposing her competing concerns for her job and for her child, the backlash was swift. “I found Lynsey Addario's behavior absolutely reprehensible!” wrote one commenter. “How a mother could put her own ambitions and ego above that of her child is beyond belief.” Wrote another, “I feel so sorry for the baby.”
Read more about Mac MaClelland in this interview at Mother Jones.
posted by amanda (16 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Badass is a word, like awesome, whose time I hope passes soon. It has always struck me as the sort of word that those it is applied to would never really use.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:08 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I for one, long for the day we decouple motherhood, femininity and the capacity to nurture from the capacity to carry a child in the womb. The capacity to get pregnant does not define a damn thing about you beyond that capacity. Everything else is what you decide for yourself, it is the noise floor of what "pro-choice" means.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:00 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

From the article: It strikes me that as women continue to break into traditionally masculine professions and defend their right to exist in unsafe spaces, the rest of us have a responsibility to do more than cheer them from the sidelines. We should also make clear that we understand this work is hard, that it often takes an emotional toll, that there are no easy answers, and that, when they acknowledge their feelings and admit their struggles, they’re all the more badass for it. . . . The real badass move, as women like McClelland and Addario show, is to fearlessly acknowledge how something has affected you and make space for others to do the same. That's really awesome.

She's not only badass, she's awesome. It takes a lot of guts to do what she's doing - to not only acknowledge those feelings/struggles but also talk publicly about them. She's not just a badass for doing that, she's actually redefining the word by moving it into an area where it doesn't quite symbolize hurfdurf machoDieHardMcClaneMan. She is simultaneously standing up to be a role model and opening up her profession to other women, who can say, "Hey, I don't have to be a certain way; I can do this too." That's pretty cool, especially when MacClelland says in the Mother Jones interview that her job is hard but she thinks she does a pretty good job - she brings it comes back to the work itself, not the attendant expectations of how one "should be" to do it. That's really important.

And I say that as a comrade badass in a traditionally masculine profession who constantly has to defend my right to exist in unsafe spaces. ;)

c'mon local bookstore get this book in soon dagnabbit
posted by barchan at 5:08 PM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Lynsey Addario's book just got picked up by Spielberg. Jennifer Lawrence is attached to star.
posted by St. Hubbins at 5:08 PM on March 4, 2015

OK, Ann Friedman, not Thomas. That's a relief.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:11 PM on March 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

This is excellent, thanks for posting.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:16 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

There's a difference between the abortion debate and the debate over whether it is a good idea to go to war zones when you are pregnant. If you have an abortion, you have decided that you don't want the child and that is absolutely a woman's right. But if you choose to stay pregnant, presumably you want the baby and it is morally difficult to justify deliberately putting your child in danger.

Why is this considered differently than say, driving your baby without a carseat?

This has no bearing on emotions and the badassness or not of Mac McLelland, but a pregnancy only lasts nine months and I do think it's reasonable to take some precautions when you are caring for two lives rather than one.
posted by Maias at 5:24 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah you kind of lost me at "Friedman", and then reading the quotes I was like "Tom Friedman wrote *that*?" Sanity restored.
posted by uosuaq at 5:32 PM on March 4, 2015

I am wary when people write articles that use the story of how one person chooses to use their biologically essential quality as a thing that defines what a whole raft of a gender can aspire to be. In my rosy-colored opinion I am looking forward to a day where more is written about who an individual is and less the about how that person represents the hopes of a defined class. Pro-choice is part of that individualization that has to happen. And I know that is a long way off. So yeah...
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:34 PM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I dunno. When I was pregnant with my first kid, my camera crew and I were in Belfast, running down some alley, while people were pounding on the street with garbage can lids, and I didn't feel badass, I felt scared and fat and wished I could find a place to pee.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:55 PM on March 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think the code of badass-dom is basically just masculinity, and women are expected to adopt the rules of masculinity if they're going to succeed in hyper-masculine professions. That sucks for women in those professions, but it sucks for men in those professions, too. I don't think anyone benefits from having to deny trauma or pretend that they don't have feelings. And my sense is that PTSD is actually pretty common across the board among journalists who cover conflict and disaster.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:30 PM on March 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

This has no bearing on emotions and the badassness or not of Mac McLelland, but a pregnancy only lasts nine months and I do think it's reasonable to take some precautions when you are caring for two lives rather than one.

Sigh. Let's try this again slowly:

Your. Opinions. Have. No. Claim. On. This. Woman's. Body.

Or what she does with it. Regardless of what's inside her...
posted by dry white toast at 10:23 PM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

So, pregnancy is the one area where society has no right to judge other people's morality? I didn't say I wanted to make going to combat zones while pregnant illegal. I said I didn't think it was the right thing to do. There are plenty of exceptions I can see: for example, if the war is your own cause and you believe that covering it is your duty or if you think no one else will do it or if you can't afford to support yourself otherwise, etc.

But in the situation described, it didn't sound like that was the case. So I am allowed to have an opinion on this, just as I'm allowed to have an opinion on whether she should smoke cigarettes or drink excessively, neither of which I would think to be a good idea.

Again, I wouldn't legislate that and in fact I have written about the injustices that occur when people try do to that with regard to drugs like cocaine. And I've spent a great deal of time urging compassion towards women who take drugs in pregnancy because overwhelmingly, they have been extremely traumatized and they don't see any other choice for themselves.

However, that wouldn't mean I would say that it's OK for someone who simply wants to get completely drunk for days just because they feel like it while pregnant.

So, sorry, my opinions are as allowed as her apparently inadvisable choices are.
posted by Maias at 5:01 AM on March 5, 2015

I think my problem with saying "women who are pregnant shouldn't go to combat zones" is that there are thousands, nay millions, of women who have been forced to endure combat zones throughout their entire pregnancies. And their stories have been told (or not told) by the men covering them.

Even if a pregnant reporter does not directly cover pregnancy in war time, they are a person bringing a different perspective to reportage. Which I think the world of journalism undoubtedly needs more of.

Having stories told by only a narrow slice of humanity is a dangerous thing.

Additionally, a pregnant person may agree with you that going into a warzone while pregnant is not the best idea, but a sure fire way to lose a job as a pregnant person is to say to the person writing your checks "Hey, I don't think this is a smart risk for me to take right now." To say, as a female bodied/identified person "Some aspect of my personal life is more valuable to me that your job" is a very dangerous thing for ones career.

Men who leave work early to pick up their sick children from daycare are practically given medals. Women who do the same are generally considered to be disloyal to their employers. Until this changes, pregnant people will always be making choices that someone doesn't like. Because going to the warzone is "bad" for the baby, and staying home is "not serious about your job."
posted by bilabial at 7:29 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

So, sorry, my opinions are as allowed as her apparently inadvisable choices are.

Ask a pregnant woman how often people share their "opinions", unbidden, on what they should be doing with their bodies.
posted by dry white toast at 9:10 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I listened to this Fresh Air interview last night with photojournalist Lynsey Addario and thought it was fascinating. She has an amazing and engaging way of talking. There's something in her voice that is so even and thoughtful, I was just sucked right in.
posted by amanda at 9:34 AM on March 6, 2015

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