“What’s your son going to think?”
March 17, 2016 12:26 PM   Subscribe

“What will your kid think?” and “Are you worried your son is going to hate you when he grows up?” and “Are you going to let him read it?” and “What’re you going to do when your kid Googles you?” are all questions that, even when offered lightheartedly and in a spirit of ostensible support, feel less like genuine questions and more like a chastening. “Remember, you’re a MOM” and “Remember, you have a mother” both mean “Remember, you’re a woman, and there are consequences.” The Patronizing Questions We Ask Women Who Write by Meaghan O'Connell
posted by nadawi (53 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
We're talking about people who write about children (their children) whoa re incapable of giving consent. This should always be a question we think about, no matter what gender the parent is.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:46 PM on March 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


once i had someone start an interview with 'so, do you have a husband or boyfriend? What does he think of the comic?' with was a bad start because a) wrong gender, 2) what? why would you ask anyone that? 3) why are you interviewing me when you obviously haven't read my work?

and it didn't get much better from there and ultimately didn't get published which was probably for the best.
posted by robot-hugs at 12:47 PM on March 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


Most, if not all, of the writing she mentions in the article does not mention her son.
posted by daisystomper at 12:48 PM on March 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


[Several comments deleted. Let's start fresh. Let me suggest that if your first instinct is to discuss men, male artists, maleness and art, etc, that you hold off on that. Also, beerperson, again and more bluntly this time, FIAMO or you'll get a day off.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:51 PM on March 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


We're talking about people who write about children (their children) whoa re incapable of giving consent

As daisystomper says, most of the writing she talks about does not mention her children.

But even if it did, the double-standard she writes about is still worth addressing. Even if you think that the level of scrutiny she receives about the consequences for her family is fair, it's unfair to give fathers a pass. Just like it would be unfair to give men undeserved bonuses at work, while women only get deserved ones.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:53 PM on March 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


People have been concerned about what my mother and my (hypothetical) children would think of things I’d written — things that had nothing to do with them — long before I ever got pregnant.
posted by kmz at 12:59 PM on March 17, 2016 [11 favorites]


I actually think that the consequences to your family and how they will be affected by your writing IS a good question to ask and something artists should consider.

And at the same time, if you are determined to pursue a socially transgressive vocation like art, you should accept that people will ask you about the social consequences.
posted by deanc at 1:04 PM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Every time I see an article like this I wonder what we, as a society, can do to ensure that the amount of bullshit disrespectful microaggressions faced on a daily basis by men is equal to or greater than the amount faced by women.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:05 PM on March 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


And at the same time, if you are determined to pursue a socially transgressive vocation like art, you should accept that people will ask you about the social consequences.

Sure. As long as male artists get the same probing questions.

Having to work twice as hard for half the pay and twice the crap seems like a raw deal to me.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:07 PM on March 17, 2016 [41 favorites]


As a dad, I know I'm going to embarrass my kids somehow. Hell, I'm counting on it. And I'm not writing about my kids or sex or anything, I'm just going about my day-to-day life. I get to do that.

Will her kids or her mother be embarrassed about what she writes? Damn straight they will. So? Someone's gonna have to explain to me why that's a bad thing. Interviewers shouldn't ask such pointless questions, and it shouldn't change a single thing she writes.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:13 PM on March 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


i also enjoyed this part :
These sorts of questions are understandable, but revelatory. When a reader or interviewer asks someone how they reconcile their personal and writing lives, the implication is that a reconciliation must take place, that their idea of a writer or artist does not compute with their idea of a woman who has relationships. Or worse, their idea of a woman is “mother, daughter, girlfriend, friend” not “writer, artist, public person."
i think that's part of what struck me about this piece - how often as women we're viewed in relation to someone else, someone else's concerns about our art or work or life should have center stage, with us being the afterthought - even if that someone else isn't even in existence yet.
posted by nadawi at 1:20 PM on March 17, 2016 [54 favorites]


i think that's part of what struck me about this piece - how often as women we're viewed in relation to someone else, someone else's concerns about our art or work or life should have center stage, with us being the afterthought - even if that someone else isn't even in existence yet.


Like a Bechdel test for real life.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


"What if you have a kid some day?” “Are you going to regret this in ten years?” “What does your boss think?” “What do your mothers say?”

These questions are all really about exerting social and emotional control of the person being asked. They are not about genuine concern for any (future, theoretical) kid or parent or partner. They are about making the author feel guilty or embarrassed about what she's written, because she's done something new and different. And that's to be feared, persecuted and denied.

The not quite so bad flip side are interviewers setting up the "she's so brave" narrative. However, that's also damaging bullshit: a woman writing about being a woman is brave? What better should she write about? The implication being that she's brave to write at all.

So, in my view, these question are all a form of social repression. Even if well meaning, continuing to allow journalists to construct the narrative that women are brave simply for expressing themselves sets up damaging expectations on what women should do.
posted by bonehead at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2016 [43 favorites]


The worst part about articles like this is that they remind me that as long as I'm a woman, I'll never be a person. Maleness is inextricable from the uncontested possession of personhood; womanhood is something different, more delicate, more tender, something arguable, something lesser than. I can't even articulate what I'd be willing to sacrifice for a shot at being considered a failed human for any number of reasons rather than being considered a failed woman for no reason other than because I have no interest in taking on the role of wife, helpmeet, maid, or mother.

Every time I see an article like this I wonder what we, as a society, can do to ensure that the amount of bullshit disrespectful microaggressions faced on a daily basis by men is equal or greater to the amount faced by women.

If it takes men being given an equal or greater amount of bullshit than women for them to understand that it sucks to be on the receiving end of sexism and near-relentless condescension, my hope for humanity is pretty much out the window already. I don't need (or even want) men as a class to be on the receiving end of bullshit disrespectful microaggressions. All I need is for women to have access our share of the personhood pie.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 1:27 PM on March 17, 2016 [48 favorites]


I actually think that the consequences to your family and how they will be affected by your writing IS a good question to ask and something artists should consider.

These aren't largely genuine though. Reporters who concern troll to get better articles need to be called on their shit just as much as anyone else.
posted by bonehead at 1:31 PM on March 17, 2016 [18 favorites]


I don't have much to add to this conversation, but holy shit those are some messed up questions to ask someone. The unspoken implications...
posted by Hoopo at 1:40 PM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


If it takes men being given an equal or greater amount of bullshit than women for them to understand that it sucks to be on the receiving end of sexism and near-relentless condescension, my hope for humanity is pretty much out the window already. I don't need (or even want) men as a class to be on the receiving end of bullshit disrespectful microaggressions. All I need is for women to have access our share of the personhood pie.

You're a far nicer person than I.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:41 PM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


It isn't actually about calling parents on what they write about children or even calling artists on how their art has effects on their families. It is about adopting a tone of faux concern and true shock that a woman would present some aspect of herself that doesn't conform to the idea that women are their socially prescribed roles and nothing more. I guarantee you that no one asked William S. Burroughs or even Tom Wolfe these questions.
posted by gingerest at 1:42 PM on March 17, 2016 [30 favorites]


At first I thought it was about the reasonable question of where you draw the line between posting stuff of your child as part of your parenting vs as part of their life -- kids don't really want their adorable/embarrassing moments to be available to all their classmates, which is fair -- but no, it's just about the fact that a woman will write anything at all, ever.
posted by jeather at 1:51 PM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't need (or even want) men as a class to be on the receiving end of bullshit disrespectful microaggressions. All I need is for women to have access our share of the personhood pie.

Feminism (as I understand it) is about lifting everyone up, not about making sure the current playing field is as level as possible.
posted by bonehead at 2:00 PM on March 17, 2016


Feminism (as I understand it) is about lifting everyone up, not about making sure the current playing field is as level as possible.

Which is a great idea in theory, but it's obviously not working out. If the kyriarchists won't give everyone else their due respect, I'm prepared to go Harrison Bergeron on their asses.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:23 PM on March 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


If it takes men being given an equal or greater amount of bullshit than women for them to understand that it sucks to be on the receiving end of sexism and near-relentless condescension, my hope for humanity is pretty much out the window already. I don't need (or even want) men as a class to be on the receiving end of bullshit disrespectful microaggressions. All I need is for women to have access our share of the personhood pie.


I agree with you in theory, but inevitably most men I speak to on the topic just don't get it until something happens to them that echos the daily grind women face. And these aren't backwards "get in the kitchen, woman!" Men. Some are self-proclaimed feminists. It isn't until something hits close to home that they really grasp the constant onslaught of the crap women get that they start to recognize we're not making it up.

My assumption has been that even those open to the idea are still primed by social norms to not see women as individual persons and regard the experiences of women with skepticism. And in some ways that's worse, because those men think themselves evolved and beyond reproach. Until they get a taste first hand.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:31 PM on March 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


These aren't largely genuine though. Reporters who concern troll to get better articles need to be called on their shit just as much as anyone else.

I don't think the reporters are concern trolling in the sense that they don't actually believe the question they're asking. I think that it just doesn't occur to reporters to ask about the consequences a man's art/writing will have for their families, but it's he first thing they think to ask with a woman.
posted by deanc at 2:50 PM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Don't believe or don't care? I don't think that matters a lot. I'm not even inclined to give much grace to those who do care but naively ask these sorts of thing---they've just internalized the crab bucket.
posted by bonehead at 3:05 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I hope somebody asks me these questions, not to imply the questions aren't levelled unfairly at women, because I do very much believe the problem is that men are not expected to be responsible to their families as artists and that's the problem that needs to be corrected.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:06 PM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


In other words, men in my opinion have gotten a pass for too long on social responsibility by virtue of their celebrity/great artist status, and that's bad for everybody, and even bad for culture (because it promotes this patriarchal/American fantasy of the possibility of freedom and power without concomitant responsibility and consequence).
posted by saulgoodman at 3:10 PM on March 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


Every time I see an article like this I wonder what we, as a society, can do to ensure that the amount of bullshit disrespectful microaggressions faced on a daily basis by men is equal to or greater than the amount faced by women.

I can't imagine anything more stupid than suggesting that the world should be made more terrible in the name of equity.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:37 PM on March 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


Pretty sure Brad Pitt will have some explaining to do when his kids see him as the stoner in True Romance or Tyler Durden in Fight Club. Pretty sure that is a way easier conversation than Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman - even though both can say 'I'm an actor.'
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:40 PM on March 17, 2016


A fairer comparison might be River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but either way, acting might not be the best example since actors don't (usually) write their own characters.

It's obvious male artists' indifference to their children can have terrible, terrible consequences for the world--I mean, for all the soulful beauty of a Hank Williams' tune, his negligence also gave the world "Bocephus."

It's still an echo of American exceptionalism at the personal level to engage in the idea any artist shouldn't be held socially responsible, and it's still structurally patriarchal, even if the Great Man in question is a nonconforming woman.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:10 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


It astounds me that so many people here—people who are not new to this community—are still doing the "I'm not sure I believe this is real, and anyway even if it is it's probably not a big deal because women should worry about these things more than men" thing. Why is it so fucking hard to grasp the idea that women should be seen as people first, as individuals, just like men are? We are generally a pretty smart, thoughtful bunch here. What is it that stops so many of us from realizing that it's a big problem that men generally get to define themselves in terms of their interests and accomplishments, while women have to fight a constant uphill battle with everyone they meet not to be seen in terms of the pre-defined expectations attached to their gender?

To me, the fundamental kernel of misogyny in our society is that men get to be seen as people while women are seen as women. Almost every instance of misogyny can be traced back to this basic prejudice, and the policing and reinforcement of it which happens constantly in ways that range from unintentional, so-subtle-it's-almost-deniable microaggressions all the way up to systematic gangrape as a weapon of war. Once you open your eyes to it, it's absolutely everywhere. It's ridiculous to deny it. I'm not even a woman and this kind of head-in-the-sand denialism infuriates me. You can come up with a rationale for many individual instances, but taken together they make a pattern that cannot be ignored. The phenomenon presented by the FPP fits the mold perfectly.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:16 PM on March 17, 2016 [30 favorites]


Why is it so fucking hard to grasp the idea that women should be seen as people first, as individuals, just like men are?

Who is not seeing a person as a person when they ask them if they consider their children when making choices? If the point is people shouldn't ask this kind of question of anyone, I respectfully disagree. There's no reason not to ask it of anyone with children who acts as a role model in society, is there? If there is, please explain it to me because maybe I'm just too sexist to understand. I've been complaining about the free pass celebrities and artists (males, in particular, since they have so much more representation) get for many, many years. I sincerely believe the premise is flawed.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:31 PM on March 17, 2016


when women who are not mothers are asked about the reactions of their supposed future children (with the implication that the reaction will be negative) so much that they make note of it, there's something else going on than just concern for the children. there are ways that asking about kids can be on topic but it seems like a huge part of this essay isn't discussing those things.
posted by nadawi at 4:41 PM on March 17, 2016 [22 favorites]


CONSIDERING YOUR CHILDREN WHEN MAKING ART: A UNISEX GUIDE

YES: How will it affect your existing kids if you drop off the face of the earth to do a bunch of drugs and complete a creative project, leaving your spouse to do all the childrearing?
IFFY: What will your existing kid think of this piece you've written about him/her?
NO: What will your existing kid think of this piece you've written about your personal feelings about sex?
HELL NO: How will your hypothetical future children be affected by this piece you've written about your personal feelings about sex?
posted by sunset in snow country at 4:45 PM on March 17, 2016 [23 favorites]


Thanks for that clarification nadawi. That makes perfect sense. Sorry for missing the point and accidentally derailing, though it's also sexist (IMO) and a closely related issue that interviewers probably wouldn't think to ask the question of a male artist who's already a father at all.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:56 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


If it takes men being given an equal or greater amount of bullshit than women for them to understand that it sucks to be on the receiving end of sexism and near-relentless condescension, my hope for humanity is pretty much out the window already.

We need a Between Two Ferns style interview with Zoe Galafianackis who asks important male celebrities sexist, stupid questions: Have your kids seen your movie? What did your wife think when you took this job? How hard is it to be in charge? You have some pretty sexy scenes in this movie – what was that like? You travel a lot for your job – how do you keep in touch with your family?
posted by amanda at 5:13 PM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I can't imagine anything more stupid than suggesting that the world should be made more terrible in the name of equity.

Spoken like a true person of privilege.

And anyway, there are plenty of people out there making the world more terrible in the name of inequity, so why not fight fire with fire?
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:15 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


And anyway, there are plenty of people out there making the world more terrible in the name of inequity, so why not fight fire with fire?

Because mistreating other people never engenders respect or understanding. It only appeals to the childish and egotistical desire for retribution and domination.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 5:22 PM on March 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Even if you think that the level of scrutiny she receives about the consequences for her family is fair, it's unfair to give fathers a pass."

"In other words, men in my opinion have gotten a pass for too long on social responsibility by virtue of their celebrity/great artist status,"


Three words: Karl Ove Knausgaard.

"The worst part about articles like this is that they remind me that as long as I'm a woman, I'll never be a person."

Yup. Because clearly we are aliens from Venus.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:35 PM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


there is literally zero chance of some sort of gigantic misandry uprising to grind men under our boots, so maybe we could just move on from that?
posted by nadawi at 5:40 PM on March 17, 2016 [16 favorites]


I can't imagine anything more stupid than suggesting that the world should be made more terrible in the name of equity.

Then perhaps you could recognise what you're seeing is the people who have to put up with this idiocy letting off a bit of steam that they'd like to see the reaction if the shoe were on the other foot. And then take it for what it is rather than another chance to wag the finger of disapproval at their selfish behaviour.
posted by SometimeNextMonth at 5:46 PM on March 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


I wasn't ranting at you, saul. The point you were making seemed reasonable to me, if a little bit off to the side of the issue at hand. If anything I was feeling like you were maybe missing the point a little bit, but not that you were trying to hold men and women to different standards, or deny that female writers are questioned about the familial consequences of their work more frequently than male ones. In any case you were not the intended target of my exasperation; you just happened to have been commenting somewhat prolifically in the thread at the time that I posted my little outburst.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:52 PM on March 17, 2016


Your thoughts about anything, including sex, if sufficiently memorialized and interesting, may indeed affect your children.

Question one if anyone should care about that. Answer: yes, but we must also concede that a lot artists are or have been horrific parents in no small part due to the same mental quirks that made them great artists. Eggs get broken to make omelets.

Question two is if women should care more about that. Answer, no, unless you think that children care a lot more about what their mothers said or did in the past, something that doesn't seem at all likely.

Question three is whether women should get asked more about it. Answer, no, but also, corollary, it's much more explained by lazy effort to find anything interesting to ask artists about when art is really supposed to speak for itself, rather than improbable misogyny of the invariably painfully politically correct people whose job it is to ask artists about anything.
posted by MattD at 6:23 PM on March 17, 2016


One reason crappy personal questions get asked in interviews instead of questions about the book, story or article is that the interviewer didn't actually read the work. But maybe it's likely that interviewers expect to be able to fake it without being called on poor preparation when they are interviewing women.
posted by puddledork at 6:29 PM on March 17, 2016


Seriously though, I tend to stay out of feminism threads because I know they have a tendency to get both nasty and disheartening (i.e. I prefer to maintain for myself the polite fiction that none of my fellow MeFites hold ghastly prejudices against women) but I thought we were getting better about this. And you know, I think we have been, but damn there is still so much work to be done.

And this has always been a relatively progressive scene. We used to be much worse to women here, true, but I feel like we've always been better than the societal average. And I've seen so much work put into making this a more welcoming space for women, and I've seen the results. They're real results, tangible results. But there's so far yet to go.

And then I think about the wider world, the world outside this little oasis of self-professed politeness, thoughtfulness, and civility. I think of how things like this issue with bias against women writers in interviews are just a drop in the bucket, almost imperceptible ripples in a raging sea of hatred against women in general, notable mainly in that they are so relatively minor that nobody has effectively articulated them in this way until now. I don't even know where to begin.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:47 PM on March 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


Well, she addresses that she thinks her son will be embarrassed whatever she does, because kids are always embarrassed by their parents, and that maybe it will be good for him to be able to read her writing and have a window into her independent thoughts and life, as person in her own right, not as a mom.

That strongly resonated for me - There's been studies about the benefits to kids of being raised by a mother who has a career and it tends to make boys believe that women are equal to men and to be more egalitarian in their own lives. For girls it obviously gives them a strong role model. I think being able to read your mothers personal inner dialogue as a child is really revealing and interesting and definitely would help you to realize that your parent is a person, separate from their role of raising you.
posted by rainydayfilms at 6:47 PM on March 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


(And yes, naturally I realize that having the ability to opt out of dealing with misogyny is an enormous privilege.)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:49 PM on March 17, 2016


This has, to my detriment as a writer, affected my art and my process. A friend makes fun of me for my multiple pseudonyms, but seriously - I have to be concerned about what the more misogynist fans of my game writing, or my erotica, or my feminist theory, will do or say about my child and my family.

This is not a victimless or zero sum game.

The fact I write for games has thrilled my daughter, she thinks it's great. I've had several friendships ruined because how very dare! A lady! A mother no less! Writing games that talk about sex and violence. That's their territory (not the writing work, just games in general),

It's odd, most people I've told about the erotica are just interested, but there's still an element of 'well you must be a raging slut' with some people, and again, that intersects badly with my motherhood status.

(aka how do you think this will be used against me?)

The feminist theory stuff of my real job is nearly as bad. Like, I just watched one of our more right wing assholes infer an academic is a paedophile decades after the dude wrote the thing, because of his involvement in our Safe School campaign. Exactly how well is my feminist theory about writing porn going to reflect on my motherhood?

I'll give you a hint - it's mostly badly.

All of this plagues me as I create. I barely have time for the more usual frantic flailing about my relevance or my intellect, I am too busy wondering if this is the piece that someone is going to use to suggest I am a bad mother, or that I am neglectful, or that I need my child taken from me.

That seems to not have occurred to my male compatriots in any of those fields. That's three fields of writing where I have actual concrete physical concerns about how other people will treat my work, me, and my child, based on my work.

No, being asked about what my kid will react to my work is not a consequence-free act. It reinforces sexist bullshit, it reinforces anti-intellectual and anti-creative bullshit, and it gives misogynist assholes a sense of righteousness when they claim all sorts of bullshit about women.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:58 PM on March 17, 2016 [23 favorites]


I once joked that there would be fewer problems in the world if more people asked themselves, "what would my mother think of this?" and "how will this reflect on my family years down the road?" before acting.

Presumably this will be a barrier to me if I wish to pursue a career as an essayist writing about youthful sexual escapades. I am mostly ok with this.

art is really supposed to speak for itself

If so, then why are we asking the artist about it in the first place? Art doesn't simply speak for itself, especially the art of the memoir and personal essay. If we want to get insight into the artistic process, in which case, "how do your family and friends feel about what you put down on the page, and how do you approach that?" is a pretty darn good question.

I would be a heckuva lot less amused if these questions were asked of, say, a woman who was a doctor or an accountant or police officer. But for a writer, a profession in which Joan Didion famously said you're "always selling somebody out," it's a pretty good question.
posted by deanc at 6:19 AM on March 18, 2016


Well thank God all these men are here to tell us what's what.

I for one am glad for saulgoodman's comments earlier and don't think they were a derail, because his point about men, while a related point and not the same point as is being made about women, is important and really illustrates the double standard here: Men are given a total pass, not even on the content of their work, but on the actions they take as artists that directly impact their spouses and children. Women are picked apart for how their writing on "racy" topics might affect children they don't even have yet. I mean if the asking of these questions were actually helping real children then I might have to take my lumps but to me it seems like another tool of the patriarchy to keep women in line.

I mean, as I was writing my snarky little list earlier, I actually thought, "Is this really unisex?" I imagined my life if my father had been a writer. I adore my dad, but he has some "interesting" views on relations between the sexes, and had he been a novelist I can definitely picture him writing something I would find gross and creepy. (Sorry Dad.) But even as I was imagining it, the idea of asking him to limit his expression because it might weird his daughter out felt so wrong, so disrespectful. It is not something we ask men to do.

Can I just repeat this, from rainydayfilms above? - I think being able to read your mothers personal inner dialogue as a child is really revealing and interesting and definitely would help you to realize that your parent is a person, separate from their role of raising you.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:56 AM on March 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


"how do your family and friends feel about what you put down on the page, and how do you approach that?" is a pretty darn good question.

Sure, ok. But "How do the children you don't have feel about stories that aren't about them?" is not that question.
posted by jeather at 9:55 AM on March 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


It's also a different question than “Are you worried your son is going to hate you when he grows up?", “Aren’t you embarrassed?”. Direct quotes from the author, both of those, btw.
posted by bonehead at 9:59 AM on March 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


And, believe it or not, I have thought about what my kid might think about what I write. I do an almost constant risk assessment online about what ramifications it might have on our family, should the 'wrong attention' be brought.

Asking me about it is not helping me, it's helping those who punish women for having the audacity to create something.

(FTR my kid is well aware her mama writes weird stuff and is well aware her mama has a brain and is a person and does work, so I rely a lot on that to assuage some of the 'this could be seen in the wrong light' stuff)
posted by geek anachronism at 2:43 PM on March 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do an almost constant risk assessment online about what ramifications it might have on our family, should the 'wrong attention' be brought.

This is at the crux of the matter. Always asking women about safety, how their choices might impact other people's feelings, how the work that they do on this earth might draw attention... unwanted attention, even, is stifling to a woman's ambition if that ambition takes her into public view. Asking those questions reveals something about the asker – they are uncomfortable about something, maybe their own choices or the way they have been held back over similar concerns. Or they are uncomfortable that the power a woman has might put her above someone else...like her husband or some other man in the field.

"Tall poppy" suddenly came to mind. I heard it in England and it's a phrase that suggests someone is doing too much "sticking out." From that Wikipedia article, it mentions the similar Japanese saying "The nail that stands out gets hammered down." My friend who spent a few years working in Japan actually wrote a blog post about this (which I can't seem to find) that this attitude made his work as a manager of a team nearly impossible. This idea that he could motivate one or more team members to go "above and beyond" was just not a concept that would take.

I think if we boil down these general "concerns" over how a woman's work affects her family, her romantic relationships, her long-suffering parents, and call it like it is: "tall poppy syndrome." We can see how ridiculous and undermining that could be culturally.
posted by amanda at 5:26 PM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


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