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This might be your mother's feminism

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At each other's throats [Apr. 17th, 2008|11:26 pm]
This might be your mother's feminism


I really hate the mothers-against-mothers stuff. I have particular aspects of it I particularly hate, chief among them the idea that mothers who have other jobs / do not have other jobs are not proper mothers / not proper workers. I use the phrases "part-time mother" and "doesn't work" when I'm talking about this.

And today I hurt a mother who wasn't familiar with my heavily sarcastic use of the phrases. She knows me well enough to be able to work out that I don't actually think mothers who have other jobs are bad mothers, or part-time mothers, but the issue is so nasty that the phrase made her wince.

How can mothers express their own opinions to each other without it being an automatic attack? So much of the language is so loaded. I quite see that sarcasm doesn't help, but I get so ANGRY.


[User Picture]From: hfnuala
2008-04-19 02:07 pm (UTC)
Personally I disagree that 'doesn't work' and 'part time mother' are equivalently nasty. The second attacks the particularly woman's motherhood in a way the first doesn't.

Now for the caveats - I work for pay outside of the home so that will bias me and certainly means I've never been attacked for being economically inactive. Also, I personally believe that women who don't work outside the home do put in more hours of the work that makes up parenthood than I do (how could I deny it?)

However, I still think you are underestimating how nasty suggesting this makes one a part time mother is. Because being part time in our culture has tones of not being committed, of just doing the minimum, of not being as driven as someone who does something full time. And I don't believe this to be true of me and doubt it is true of pretty much any mother I know.
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[User Picture]From: ailbhe
2008-04-19 10:38 pm (UTC)
I think that "doesn't work" is extremely damaging mainly because so many people think it's not that bad a thing to say. I'm also not convinced that stay-at-home parents are economically inactive; that's not the same thing as "unpaid" at all.

Implying that what a mother does is *nothing* is, to me, at least as offensive as saying that she isn't always a mother. But far, far more people will agree that I do nothing of value, particularly nothing of economic value, than that you are sometimes not a mother.

Of course, in the four years since Linnea was born, I have met three other SAHMs who did not intend to return to paid employment as soon as possible (one by choice, one because of a disabled child, and one because she couldn't afford childcare for twins on her salary). I've also met one mother who went from employed to SAHM (by choice). Perhaps if I was in a social circle which included more SAHMs I'd encounter fewer instances of people who genuinely believe that the work of all-day-every-day childcare is not really work.
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[User Picture]From: merryhouse
2008-04-23 08:18 pm (UTC)
My three mothering sisters all chose to stay away from their paid jobs (all considerably better than mine, too) so I've felt a fairly solid base of support there even if I don't see them very often.

I think we need to shift the emphasis to the money: "unwaged mother" (how I usually describe myself, since I realised "full-time mother" might offend) and - hm, "wage-earning mother" might allow snarky people to suggest that she's getting paid for the mothering. Anyone got any ideas?
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[User Picture]From: merryhouse
2008-04-23 08:25 pm (UTC)
"outworking" sounds a bit cumbersome.
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[User Picture]From: ailbhe
2008-04-23 08:53 pm (UTC)
I do say "unpaid" sometimes, and there's "employed."

"Full-time mother" is only what I call myself when people say "Oh, you don't work, then?
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[User Picture]From: merryhouse
2008-04-26 09:06 pm (UTC)
"employed" sounds ok till you combine it to give "employed mother" which has the same problem as "salaried mother". And neither includes all those people who work freelance or for themselves.
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[User Picture]From: ailbhe
2008-04-20 09:05 pm (UTC)
I find this hard to articulate without more spare time and sleep than I currently get but I'll try.

Saying that the work a mother does when she's at home caring for her children rather than being paid for something else is "not work" is harmful because the society we live in values people directly based on the value of their work, usually the cash value of their work, and this means the mother-as-job woman has little to no value as a person, quite apart from her merit as a mother. It also trickles down to devalue the work of mothers who also have paid jobs, but who do mother-work (as distinct from mother-being) the rest of the time. And it devalues the paid work of the people being paid to care for other people's children while they engage in paid work themselves.

That's all fine, but then there's the fact that the use of the phrase is completely normal and that it's generally accepted as a matter of *fact* and not of opinion, because it supports and is supported by so many of the other assumptions (unpaid == economically inactive, economically inactive == less valuable person, traditionally feminine roles == teh suck, etc).

I find it a lot less offensive when it's used in normal bitchy context, as the insult "part-time mother" is, when it's just being used as a conscious put-down and not casually as part of a greater structure of, um. O hai, patriarchy. Hao R U?
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