Monday, August 20, 2007

Melancholy Monday: Can't We Get Over These Silly Debates?

The SFChron has an important article up about that underlines a-nony-nony's comments that many (if not most) mothers do not have a "choice" to stay at home or go out and work. In fact, the two things that bug me most about this debate, which seems to turn into a cattiness most of the time I see it in action, is that it ignores (a) institutional factors that make parenting and work life quite difficult--if not impossible--to balance and (b) it ignores class.

When I was pregnant, I grew incensed over the "natural" childbirth crowd who guilted out women who bought into the technological birth. Now I am growing frustrated with the SAH moms who guilt out working moms. But, what is common to both of these, frankly, catty debates is that they are going on between rather well-off, white, educated women. They simply don't apply to the majority of women (hell people) on the globe. And yet, they take center stage in the media--in a way similar to ultra-thin supermodels representing 'normal' beauty--so that all women are caught up in these narrow debates, feeling like shit and ignoring what is really wrong with the world!

It makes me melancholy to think that I will be dodging these stupid debates for years to come, when I would rather be doing something more productive like raising awareness about the importance of altering work institutions to accommodate parents or joining campaigns to provide universal healthcare and alleviate crushing poverty. These 'Mommy Wars' are akin to what Noam Chomsky says sports are to politics, they distract us from the real issues.

I end with Maya Rupert's words:

Thanks to this continuing fight, women are buying into the false dichotomy that you can either work or be a good mother, but you can't do both well; and if you have to do both, by extension, there is no way for you to be a good enough mother.

The Mommy Wars can be won when we redefine victory. This will require more nuance than the conversation has thus far been given. This will require us to rethink what it means to be a good mother. The concession that good motherhood requires an abundance of time to spend at home with children overemphasizes quantity over quality and presents an incredibly simplistic view of motherhood, one that stacks the deck against lower-income moms.

Additionally, it will require us to abandon the very premise of the discussion, which is that child rearing is naturally the domain of women. We need to rethink fatherhood and seriously question why we still expect mothers to take responsibility for the bulk of child care. But none of this is going to happen until we reject the negative third-wave model of feminism that has erased class from the equation entirely, and start rebuilding the world that the Mommy Wars has destroyed.

Sing it sister!