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Web Letter

I found this article provincial, strange and disappointing, until I read Ms. Aronowitz's bio. Of course there is a disconnect between young women and mothers' issues--but other than correctly recognizing this, Ms. Aronowitz herself otherwise misses something when she views the issues as a disconnect between feminism and mothers' issues. Decades of activism and conversation have progressed such that, absent a deliberate effort to become educated in the subject matter, it would be almost impossible for a young, childless woman, lacking personal experience or breadth of vision, to bring much of anything to the table in the way of new ideas.

That lack of a "bird's-eye view" is part of the problem. Every generation of youth believes that it has discovered truths and has unique wisdom, and yet save for those furthering knowledge in a field of academic specialty, tends to start where its elders once were and from which points they have moved far on and beyond. Are we doomed to get nowhere because the wheel continually must be reinvented? Or because pretty wordsmithy is all that is needed for pundits to opine, never mind if there is substance?

The second part of the problem is getting information from the choir of peers. We cannot build upon the knowledge of the past if it's just not learned, so that it can boost the point where each successive generation commences its own work. Nearly twenty years ago when Irene Stuber began "spreading the word" on the very new public Internet, she highlighted this hindrance to women's progress and, sadly, it still exists. A disconnect between "mainstream feminism" and mothers? Whose "mainstream feminism"? When? Are you girls listening to our mothers? There were two full decades after the '70s and feminism moved on, and the issues moved on. It is sadly telling of our education system in this country that Ms. Aronowitz has completely missed literally thousands of academic and organizational websites, containing hundreds of thousands of articles on the very issues she raises, but assumes that knowledge and activism is to be found exclusively in fleeting blogsphere commentary and popular media.

I must make an additional comment on the fatherhood issues and "dads being part of the conversation." We've had National Fatherhood Initiative, workfare, child support enforcement, a revolution in family laws and all of the rhetoric attendant on this position for almost fifteen years now. There was an anti-feminist backlash after the '70s, and by the '90s it was already erasing gains across the board for women, largely boosted by the rise of the popular Internet. Lip service to gender-neutral policies that ignore the realities of pregnancy, childbirth and family life continues, and has now contaminated non-gender-neutral issues such as domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay and the panoply of family laws.

Eighty percent of women will have children, and the majority of divorces, not including unwed paternity cases, involve children. The steady stream we lawyers see of confused, betrayed, beleaguered and devastated women in their 20s and 30s continues, as feminists and "post-feminists" discover the realities of patriarchy. Realities such as that equal pay doesn't mean so much if one simply cannot do that travel, or when one realizes that children cannot be warehoused in daycare fifty hours a week, or if one is not even permitted to take that job offer post-divorce because it involves relocation. Realities such as when, despite her best planning and education, it dawns that if a mother's economic and employment viability is still be tied to the character, fortunes and beneficent largess of the man she married or divorced, not so much has changed. That's not a disconnect between feminism and motherhood; it's a disconnect between the illusions and ideals of a childless uninformed youth and what feminism really is all about. The biggest surprise, of course, comes when women have children and, suddenly, it's not theoretical and the care, custody and well-being of those children override their prior plans and imaginings all about equal marriage and "sharing" the housework and child-rearing.

There are numerous excellent women and mothers' issue bloggers on the internet . The article's respondents have only scratched the surface. Sadly, many of them can be found on domestic violence and family issue blogs. Be this as it may, kindly note that the wisdom of the world is not necessarily contained within the blogsphere. It resides in research, historical documents, the opinions of young women from decades past, books, law and all that old stuff that doesn't spark and then sputter after a go-round for two or three days prompted by the attention-deficit-disordered "news." To the extent that in this airbrushed porn-permeated anti-woman youth-arrogant world there is inherent major media biasing against mothers' issues (which are--surprise, surprise--at the root of patriarchy and all feminist issues), caution is advised; too much of the blogsphere does tend to pick up and comment and cross-comment upon primarily only that which originates with the major media and current events. Not all do, of course, and I'm glad to see that a few of those substantial pundits already have raised their voices in protest here.

Elizabeth J. Kates

Pompano Beach, FL

May 20 2009 - 10:20am

Web Letter

I found this article really shocking! Who do you think is organizing and fighting for pro-woman childbirth and breastfeeding rights, against violence in schools and gender stereotyping in classroom textbooks, for fair sports for girls and a million other feminist issues? Moms. I've found more feminists fighting the good fight since I became a mom than in the years I spent beforehand. This article says more about the self-involvement of some so-called "young feminists" than anything else.

Sonia Shah

Baltimore, MD

May 14 2009 - 4:21pm

Web Letter

"By the same token, mother- and family-related blogs, social networking sites and activist groups rarely associate themselves with mainstream feminism.... The profusion of mostly white, mostly middle-class mom bloggers like Mindy Roberts from The Mommy Blog or Daphne Brogdon from Cool Mom don't promote their work as feminist or even activist."

We don't promote our work as such because it is inherently part of what we do. Our work is activism. We're the voice of one of the most powerful purchasing, politically active, and influential groups in the world:

"The importance of sex: Forget China, India and the internet: economic growth is driven by women," The Economist, April 12, 2006

"Women buy 80% of household purchases and 51% of online purchases," Business Week, 2004

"By 2010, women are expected to control $12 Trillion, or 60% of America's wealth," Business Week (and Gallup), 2004

I may be white and middle-class, but I don't let that define me. I grew up poor and was raised by a feminist scholar who taught me that the most potent activism lay in what I did and who I was, not in how I labeled myself. If I have to explicitly describe my work with labels, maybe my work isn't speaking for itself--but I doubt that, as the reach and traffic has grown steadily over seven years, across all demographics. I'm recognized both as a pioneer and a voice to which not only mothers relate--men and child-free woman make up a large part of my readership. I can say the same for Daphne. She doesn't need to hang a shingle for me to see and appreciate her feminist contributions.

Mindy Roberts

San Jose, CA

May 14 2009 - 2:16pm

Web Letter

There's an interesting conversation going on at Feministing, in which Willis-Aronowitz admits that her own omissions prove the point of some of these letters. She mentions MomsRising and MOMocrats. Could be useful to get in on that discussion.

Bette O'Connell

New York, NY

May 14 2009 - 12:43pm

Web Letter

I'm actually kind of shocked that Moms Rising, an activist organization specifically to address issues of moms (and parents in general) doesn't get a mention here. They work in coalition with feminist organizations, because their goals are also goals held by the feminist movement.

California NOW is in the midst of a series on feminist motherhood on our blog, and we have addressed feminist parenting issues repeatedly, as does National NOW.

We also ensure that child care is available at our annual membership meeting and state conference, because parents should not be excluded from activism through lack of child care. Other feminist groups make similar efforts and accommodations to include mothers.

Yes, young feminists will often be a step removed from the issues of motherhood, which is why feminist organizations need to work intergenerationally to address the concerns of a wide range of women. Just as we cannot allow feminist discussion and activism to ignore the needs of mothers, or of older women, we cannot allow it to ignore the issues that impact younger women.

The solution is not hand-wringing, because any one demographic will always be more interested in its own issues, but working to bring women together to address all the issues that impact us over the course of a lifetime.

Elena Perez

Sacramento, CA

May 14 2009 - 12:07pm

Web Letter

US policies on parental leave, childcare, etc. are abysmal and largely voluntary. However, the policies and programs that do exist are entirely a result of the hard work done by feminists who are now middle-aged and older. The work of such boring, unsexy organizations as NOW and the Institute for Women and Policy Studies has been crucial. So have the Welfare Rights Movement and countless other organizations of low-income women.

There continue to be many women in their 40s and older who fight these battles as activists and professionals. Some have children themselves and some don't, but all understand that good family support policies are an essential element of a well-functioning society (something we do not currently have). Most of the work in this area does not happen on blogs, although some of it happens in community meetings (not usually at 10pm). This is the long haul of social change--the long march through institutions, to steal an old phrase.

Naomi Braine

New York , NY

May 14 2009 - 6:58am

Web Letter

Another MOMocrat here. I was a bit surprised when I read this article because when I started blogging as a new mother in 2006, virtually all of the "mommy blogs" I read talked about feminism and motherhood. Not exclusively, but it was always a major topic. I'm sure there are a number of mommy bloggers who shy away from controversial topics or the F word, but I have hundreds in my Google reader or in my Facebook contact list who don't.

As other writers have pointed out, not only is each of the MOMocrats a noted "mommy blogger," each of them is also a political activist. But here's the thing. In our world, politics and feminism are virtually impossible to separate. So not only is each of us writing about motherhood, feminism and politics, we're all also out there--on the Hill, in our communities, in the blogosphere--trying to change the world. And fighting for your six months of maternity leave.

I guess you just need to know where to look. We aren't invisible. We're the ones pushing the stroller on the sidewalk that you brush by on your journey to somewhere more important.

Stephanie Himel-Nelson

Chesapeake, VA

May 13 2009 - 11:16pm

Web Letter

Actually, there are plenty of blogs, including my own--PunditMom that regularly write about the intersection of motherhood, politics and feminism.

One of the reasons I started PunditMom three years ago was a lack of blogs on these topics, but in the last three years that has significantly changed.

BlogHer, Fem 2.0, MOMocrats.com (for which I also write), Don't Gel Too Soon, Change.org are just a few. And if you spend some time on blogs that are more traditionally called "mommy blogs," there's plenty of discussion of feminism, current events and politics.

Maybe we all have to get better at SEO, but we're out there--trust me, and the voices aren't going away.

Joanne Bamberger

Washington, DC

May 13 2009 - 1:13pm

Web Letter

I think Nona Willis-Aronowitz raises an interesting question, but it's too bad she is unaware that an entire generation of women ahead of her asked the same thing, and then went a step further and said: what can we do to answer and solve this, then went even one step further and implemented their plans.

A quick Google search using any of these terms: moms, politics, feminism, progressive, conservative, etc. would have revealed a rich and diverse number of organizations run by moms for moms (and others) that address politics, political issues, public policy, family issues and feminism.

These groups (on the progressive side) include MOMocrats and WomenCount, both of which I work with, as well as She Can Run ( a group dedicated to encouraging women and mothers to take public office), MomsRising, Politics Anew/Political Voices of Women, and more--and that's just the progressive side. Then you have an entire conservative sphere, as well, of politically engaged women and mothers, who are addressing feminism, conservatism, mothering and more.

We fight the averted eyes, rolled eyes and general state of ignoring that happens to women (especially mothers) in politics and feminism, but we persevere. It's troubling, though, to realize that young women aren't finding and engaging with us--either directly or in articles.

Fortunately, we do have the engagement, interest, and ear of other groups such as EMILY'S List, campaign managers, the White House (including both the president and first lady), and elected officials from national to local.

Moms were a political force at the DNC in 2008 in Denver, including the MOMocrats, who sent one of the largest blog contingents to the event, and managed to receive passes for every single member to go to Invesco.

We here, we're loud, we're proud, we're achieving.

Perhaps the real questions isn't why aren't mothers talking about politics and feminism (the "palpable disconnect" that the author alleges, incorrectly in my opinion, exists)--because we are--but rather why aren't young women listening and hearing.

I think she hit it here when she said, "It's more likely because most young feminists in the national conversation don't have kids, and people are less likely to fight for issues that don't affect their everyday life. Or because the media hone in on hot-button feminist issues such as teen sex or women and pop culture, deeming them sexier than free daycare or family leave."

That's right, too many people think mothering and mother issues of interest aren't sexy.

Apparently not even enough to do due diligence and research to find out if we exist and what we're doing.

I shadowed a local city council member last week to discover what life is like for a young woman and mother in political office. I learned some interesting things, which I'll include in my article (releasing soon). One that stands out, though, is her story of being at the state convention with her baby in a stroller, and people, people she knows, streaming by her without even looking at her or greeting her.

Mothers are often ignored, discounted, rendered invisible.

I'm just so disappointed that's what happened here in this article, about feminism. We count on women to make women relevant.

I also wouldn't be so hasty as to describe many online moms as apolitical. TwitterMoms is a great group, and lack of political position is a description of a group that has inclusiveness as a mission. Don't presume to take from that mission that the members within are also apolitical. They are simply not political in that location.

I know a number of TwitterMoms and quite a few are very politically active. Elsewhere.

Elsewhere such as at MOMocrats and WOmenCount--where family issues are decidedly not just on, but are at the top of, the feminist radar.

Julie Pippert

Seabrook, TX

May 13 2009 - 7:58am

Web Letter

Nice article, but somehow you missed finding MOMocrats.com, a group blog written by about twenty feminist women in eight states. We've been writing on US progressive politics from the perspective of mothers since 2007. We were one of 120 or so credentialed blogs that reported from the Democratic National Convention; we covered the primary race between Clinton and Obama (critiquing and deconstructing the supposed juxtaposition of gender vs. race in that contest); we blogged the election and the inaugural; and have since written extensively on President Obama's first 100 days in office.

In addition to national politics, we've written about state and local politics--most recently the attempt by California State Board of Equalization vice chair Judy Chu to win the special election to fill Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's vacated Congressional seat in Southern California.

While we specifically focus on issues affecting women and children, like SCHIP, health insurance reform, reproductive justice and a recently concluded awareness campaign for the White Ribbon Alliance on maternal-child mortality in the US and overseas, we also write on subjects that tend not to be seen as "women's issues." We've advocated for marriage equality. We've written about organic gardening as a progressive response to food insecurity during times of economic crisis and, yes, we've blogged analytical pieces about various parts of the subprime meltdown, TARP I and II and the bailout offered to the auto industry.

In short, we're out here and we exist.

Wenchung Liu

Los Angeles, CA

May 13 2009 - 5:15am

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