Quick things

I am writing a rather complicated post at the moment for Feministe, so in the meantime..

Quick things to look at – some pretty, pretty pictures in “Yes These Bones Shall Live” over at the International Museum of Women, which is an exhibition of photos of Roller Derby mothers in Canada. (My HTML is not working for some reason at Feministe so here’s an old-fashioned link: http://mama.imow.org/yourvoices/yes-these-bones-shall-live )

Quick things to read and think about –

“When feelings run deep, as they do about mothers and motherhood, the temptation to make extreme statements is high… Motherhood is a raw, tender point of identity, and its relationship to other aspects of ourselves – our other aspirations, our need to work, our need for solitude – almost inevitably involves a tension. It is hard to sit with that tension, which is one reason discussions of motherhood tend toward a split view of the world.

Where we side depends on what we see as the most essential threat. For those working for gender equality over the past forty years, an enduring concern has been that women will be marched back home, restricting the exercise of their talents and their full participation in political and economic life. Efforts to mobilize public opinion against that regressive alternative have at times oversimplified women’s desire to mother and assigned it to a generally backward-looking, sentimental view of women’s place. When taken to the extreme, the argument suggests that women’s care for their children, the time spent as well as the emotions aroused, is foisted on them by purely external economic and ideological forces. Locating the sources of the desire to mother “out there” may temporarily banish the conflict, but ultimately it backfires, alienating women who feel it does not take into account, or help them to attain, their own valued maternal goals.

For those who identify most strongly with their role as mother, the greatest threat has been that caring for children and the honorable motivations behind it will be minimized and misunderstood, becoming one more source of women’s devaluation. Such women feel they suffer not at the hands of traditionalist ideology but rather from the general social devaluation of caregiving, a devaluation with economic and psychological effects. At times, proponents of this position insist on the essential differences between the sexes and the sanctity of conservative-defined “family values”. Such views end up alienating both women who question such prescriptive generalizations and those who feel their own sense of self or their aspirations are not reflected by them.

Most of us feel ill at ease at either pole of this debate, because though the poles represent opposing position, they both flatten the complexity of mothers’ own desires”.

From Maternal Desire by Daphne de Marneffe. This was such a thought-provoking book; I recommend it.

3 comments for “Quick things

  1. SWNC
    August 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Oh, wow. Those de Marneffe quotes are awesome. They manage to encapsulate so much of the tension I feel as a mother and a feminist.

    Such women feel they suffer not at the hands of traditionalist ideology but rather from the general social devaluation of caregiving, a devaluation with economic and psychological effects.

    To me, “general social devaluation of caregiving,”–whether caregiving for the young, sick, or elderly is such a huge issue. It seems that in current US thought, if you can’t make a lot of money doing it, it’s not important or worthy or even “grown-up.” And unfortunately, I see a lot of feminists who buy into this framing as well.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s absolutely vital that a woman be able to financially support herself and her children should she need to, but I want a feminism that values the non-material aspects of life as well.

  2. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    I’ve read the de Marneffe, and I came away very unimpressed; it felt very 101 to me, and the impression I had was that she was making observations as though they were new and groundbreaking, but none of what she was saying was something I hadn’t read or heard before. That said, I read her book after many years of interest in feminist theory on mothering, so it’s very possible that what felt like old hat to me is actually a new synthesis of a lot of stuff I was already taking for granted. That’s the only two cents I have. So far.

  3. Lolagirl
    August 23, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    It seems that in current US thought, if you can’t make a lot of money doing it, it’s not important or worthy or even “grown-up.” And unfortunately, I see a lot of feminists who buy into this framing as well.

    This is a very insightful comment, I really, really agree with it.

    I understand and even agree with the impulse of feminists to distance themselves and even denounce what has traditionally been ascribed to be feminine and the domain of women. However, I think that there is an increasingly vocal segment of modern feminism that takes this to such an extreme that in itself is not terribly feminist. It was the men and their patriarchy that originated and still seeks to further the connecting of one’s worth as a person to his or her capacity to earn money after all, and I think we as feminists must be very cautious about getting caught up in such a mentality.

    That said, I read her book after many years of interest in feminist theory on mothering, so it’s very possible that what felt like old hat to me is actually a new synthesis of a lot of stuff I was already taking for granted.

    I can understand how de Marneffe may sound pretty elementary, but it is because so much of this stuff gets taken for granted that holding up to the light of day and deconstructing it all is such an important thing for feminists to do.

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