Saturday, September 15, 2012

Feminism and the Mommy Wars: Part 2

You must have heard by now the "scandal" that is rocking the sea of calm over a professor bringing her sick child to class and breastfeeding during her Sex, Gender, and Culture class (the professor is a women's studies proff).

My beef isn't with her breastfeeding.  And I feel a bit like a frown is warranted that she brought her sick daughter to her class of 40 students so that others can also get sick  :(  But mostly it's her own attack at the school reporter on the internet that deserves a bit of backlash.

Dr. Pine wrote:
...I try not to talk about her in a way that will make people think it’s appropriate to treat me as some sort of essential mother. I love my daughter unconditionally, but she does not define me, nor do I hope to define her.
While I fully respect that she wants to keep her daughter out of her blog which she uses more in a professional capacity, I feel affronted at the language she uses to describe herself as a mother.  Judging by her use of the word, I think she has a problem with people believing that she by very nature is a mother.  She seems to be extremely defensive about her career.  I think that's ludicrous and probably a bit paranoid on her part.  I've known lots of professors, male and female, with children. 

And that's the problem with liberal professors.  There's this disconnect between having a family life being a good thing and the career also being perfectly fine.  I really don't understand why they can't be equally fine.  And as far as I can tell, it is perfectly fine from the University's policy stand point.  If she has problems with colleges, well that is their personal hang-up.  They can get over it.

with Lee, dressed in her comfiest blue onesie, alternately strapped to my back and crawling on the floor by my feet. The flow of my lecture was interrupted once by “Professor, your son has a paper-clip in his mouth” (I promptly extracted it without correcting my students’ gendered assumptions)
Dr. Pine, judgmental much?   Your assuming that the reason why your student mistook your daughter for being a boy is because of the way she was dressed?  Seriously?  I mistake children's gender all the time, and I'm a parent.  I've also had people refer to my boys dressed in traditional male gendered clothing (sports, dinosaurs, race cars, etc) as girls and asked if they are male or female.  It has nothing to do with presuppositions of gender roles and has more to with all children at young ages don't look like one gender or the other.  It's only natural that from time to time someone is going to guess the wrong gender.

I really don't like feminists.  It's these judgments calls and screams of equal gender roles that royally piss me off and make me think our foremothers are rolling in their graves.   I am not a man.  I do not think of myself as male.  I cannot be a man.  I cannot pee while standing up.  I can't build the same muscle mass as a man.  I don't have the potential nor will I ever be as tall as the tallest man.  I don't have a penis.  I don't have a problem with that.  I am a woman and have stuff about being a woman that a man will never have.  For instance I can give birth.  That doesn't make me equal or better than a man.  It makes me a woman therefore I am different than a man.  Sheesh.

I have specifically tried to distance myself from lactivism, which has always seemed hopelessly bourgeois to me- those marauding bands of lactating white women who go to collectively feed their babies in places where the right to breastfeed has been called into question.
 I took a look at a picture of the professor.  She appears to be a white woman.  And though she may not have "excess of income" she is most likely middle class since she is a professor.  While I've said before I don't agree with nurse ins, I have a completely different reason for it than the professor does.  The fact that she uses "Bourgeois" to describe middle class women is hypocritical of her.  She does go on to say that her right to nurse in public was won on the backs of such forewomen, but she her nasty little jab just makes me think that she thinks she is better than.  And I strongly dislike people who think they are better than.  Lady, you ain't better than me.  Degrees or not.  You ain't.

To be honest, if there were an easy way I could feed my child without calling attention to my biological condition as a mother, which inevitably assumes primacy over my preferred public status as anthropologist, writer, professor, and solidarity worker, I would do so. But there is not. And although until last week it had never occurred, I believed myself a sufficiently belligerent person to take on anyone who challenged my right to feed a child, without having to resort to a gendered essentialism about the naturalness or sacredness of the mother-child bond.

Lady, get a grip.  You are equally a mother, anthropologist, writer, professor, and solidarity worker.  In fact being a mother is really what your daughter needs most in her life.  If you keep putting your career as pride of place in her life, you are going to find one rebelliously conservative woman on your hands.  And I hate to tell you but the right to feed your child rests on the naturalness of the mother-child bond.  It's why women breastfeed and men....don't.  Not only is it sacred given by Our Creator, it is also biologically and naturally a bond when you look at the hormones that are secreted during lactation.  Aren't you supposed to be a medical anthropologist or something?  You should know that.

And yet, having worked for many years to build a reputation based on my scholarly and other work, I was loathe to become the victim of the “scoop” of a sexist third-rate university newspaper available online for all eternity, or the darling of a pro-lactation movement that in many ways I find myself at odds with.
 Ah, the precious reputation of university professors....being married to the scholarly I can assure you your reputation is based on scholarly papers...not on university newspapers.  It's based on your performance in the classroom too.  If your that worried about a "third-rate university newspaper,"  why add fire to flames by writing on counterpunch?  Why not do what most people do who think they are so elite and untouchable, ignore it?  Unless maybe you realize that you aren't better than.  Especially as evidenced by your callous treatment of presumed undergraduate reporter for a university paper.  If you think you are above her, than I have a bit of advice, don't stoop to her level.  As for the pro-lactation movement, I hope you realize that pro-lactation movement is part of the feminism movement.  I think you just shoot yourself in the foot at being called "open."

that regardless of the spin, I was being targeted as a working woman in a way that would permanently tie my reputation to my perceived biological condition. Having taken The Dialectic of Sex out of the library as an act of mourning for Shulamith Firestone, I began to wonder if Firestone was right: that women, as a class, should cybernetically seize control of the means of reproduction.
 I think I'll go pop some popcorn while you ponder how your "seizing control of the means of reproduction" also seizes control over God, who created it.  Good luck beating God.  He always wins.

Clearly, this woman has serious problems with motherhood.  It makes me wonder why she became a mother in the first place.  Needless to say, it's the reason why I stopped pursuing an academic career.   On the one hand, you have the "good ol' boys" club of glass ceilings that think that you should have a career and no family (regardless of gender) and on the other hand you have the pandorings of the paranoid feminists who believe that having a family is so detrimental to your career.  You can't win.  At least the universities have policies to combat that otherwise no parent would become a professor.

I hate to tell you, but you can have both.  And...motherhood does change you and how you define yourself.  It just does. 

Truthfully I feel more sad for Professor Pine.  She hasn't embraced all parts of herself fully and with great confidence to not get so overly touchy about a university journalist.  She needs to grow.  She needs to learn a thing or two about what real femininity is about.  And she needs to realize something, she is being very hypocritical.  She is not any different than me or you or any other mother/woman.  We all have careers and reputations to uphold.  Mine just is on hold for now. 

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great post...

    When I first read about the whole thing it made me feel really, really uncomfortable, and you summed up exactly why perfectly!


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