Freediving and Motherhood
May 13, 2020 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Lessons from Jeju: Freediving and Motherhood with Kimi Werner (Youtube) "Seven months pregnant and apprehensive of the effect motherhood would have on her career as a professional freediver, Kimi Werner took a trip to the island of Jeju in South Korea to meet her heroes, the haenyeo – a group of freediving and fishing women often regarded as Korea’s first working mother’s whose culture dates back centuries." Related: Meet Kimi Werner: The Woman Who Rode a Great White Shark posted by not_the_water (7 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have had the good fortune of meeting Kimi and hanging out with her in the North Shore. She is one of the kindest and most inspiring people I have ever met. I could go on and on about her but it's better you just watch the film. She's the real deal.
posted by photoslob at 10:16 AM on May 13

Wow, this hit almost every "button" in my particular feminist consciousness (which I developed as a pregnant woman and a mother). Ugh.

- Korea's FIRST WORKING MOTHERS? No. Not only have mothers always, for millennia, since the dawn of time, performed essential domestic and non-domestic labor - on farms, inside homes, in the oceans, in factories, on construction sites, in offices, at the blackboard, you name it! - but also, motherhood itself is actual real work. It's only accurate to describe these women as Korea's first women who were paid high enough wages to become breadwinners for their families. Of course, stating the truth means we cannot exoticize and valorize these particular Korean women as being any more exceptional than every other mother. Stating the truth means this feature would have to be about why the fuck so much of women's essential life-giving and life-preserving and life-saving labor has gone unwaged for so much of history and into the present day. It's easier to pretend that there's something exceptional and unique about these Korean women just because they were able to get wages for their work... that all other mothers are dumb and unworthy for not getting paid for their labor? Or perhaps all other mothers are just brain-dead and lazy, are not actually performing real work ever. That position doesn't challenge the status quo of hating on moms and devaluing motherwork. And so here we are.

- I groaned out loud when she speaks so admiringly? enviously? of men who continue to dive after becoming fathers, as if that is the standard that mothers should aspire to. How misogynistic! And what a devaluation of parenthood and the sacred, essential work of parenting! Babies are demanding creatures. We owe them our time, our energies, our complete immersion into the world of babycare. That's how it should work for dads, too, ffs. Stop admiring men who have infants that they merrily leave in women's care and run off to live their lives unchanged! They are the largest part of the problem!

- I hate so very much the way she conflates "holding on to your own identity" and "true authenticity" and "ownership over your life" with "staying engaged in waged work after becoming a parent". Here is the unholy union of capitalism and patriarchy in full display. FYI, Ms. Werner, there is nothing "lesser than" about people who throw themselves into motherhood to the exclusion of all else. There is honor and value in doing motherwork. It is also another way of staying true to oneself, defining one's identity for the duration of the project of parenthood, of being authentic and valuable in society. Parenting is real work even if it is unwaged.

- "[As mothers] we have to give up such a huge part of who we were, and we don't know how valued we'll be after that." She literally says this out loud at around the 11 minute mark. I can't even.

I don't know whether I feel sorry for Kimi Werner or whether I feel angry with her... or perhaps I'm angry at patriarchy and at mainstream feminism for teaching us such shitty behaviors and ideas surrounding parenthood. This is what happens when our feminism hates mothers. Folks I urge you: seek out the intersectional feminists who speak meaningfully about motherhood, motherwork, and especially those who critically analyze its intersections with capitalism.

Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born and Nancy Folbre's Women's Work and the Limits of Capitalism are good places to start. They are challenging, not 101-level topics, but they're also a necessary counterargument to the worldview that produced this video.
posted by MiraK at 10:47 AM on May 13 [13 favorites]

"The Woman Who Rode a Great White Shark"! Yes!
posted by doctornemo at 11:33 AM on May 13

It's bitter sweet when that kind of successful independent spirit and subject are bottled up, instagrammed, TEDified, and branded for the use of a certain kind of marketability.... but despite all the confounding factors something shines through that still in those videos.

I found another article (maybe less ideologically charged, more sincere, but still glossy) about The Women at the Bottom of the Ocean that also features Kimi Werner.
posted by haemanu at 3:04 PM on May 13

Seems a bit mean to the shark.
posted by howfar at 4:31 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

It really pisses me off when people valorise this "shark riding" thing. It is dangerous, irresponsible, and also unsafe for the sharks.

Respect wild animals in nature, they are not your amusement park ride.
posted by smoke at 5:22 PM on May 13 [6 favorites]

There's a Korean romcom on Netflix set on Jeju and with haenyeo characters - 'Warm And Cosy'.
posted by BinaryApe at 12:41 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

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