This annoys me

This, right here.

It annoys me for a number of reasons: the author over-generalizes, makes assertions without evidence to back it up, and seems unaware of the ways in which her own positionality on the issue influences her interpretation of these Mormon mommy bloggers.

But I think what irritates me the most about this post is the author’s assertion that she is a “feminist” while she simultaneous judges other women’s life choices- the key word being “choice” here- due to her own failure to understand and accept their choices through their own words. She substitutes her views on the value of being a stay-at-home mother, and the possibility that any one might enjoy it, for the subject of her fascination. She continually discredits the idea that these mothers might actually enjoy what they do because it just doesn’t jive with her own perspective  of what constitutes self-actualization (I guess? or proper womanhood?) as a “young, feminist atheist.”

These Mormon mothers, based on what we know of their perspectives, appear to love what they do. But that’s still not okay with the author. As soon as she seems to come to grips with the idea that maybe some people are happy as mothers (as they lead “simple” lives), that not all families are miserable and mired in power struggles like the “friends” she knows (who are, coincidentally, Ph.D. students…), she symbolically discredits their happiness and contentment by countering it with negative information on Mormon domesticity. Ultimately, the Mormon mothers lose their subjectivity as the author “others” these women, for no other reason than that she cannot understand or relate to their lifestyle.

In short, postcolonial and U.S. Third World Women feminists have been criticizing Western feminists for the same assumption that this author makes for decades (and maybe centuries). She casts judgment on women based on her belief of what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s acceptable, rather than assessing the women’s situation through the lens of their own belief system.

Not only that, but when did feminism take issue with being happy? Are feminists that cynical that we can’t accept that some people are truly okay with where they are in life? Maybe these women just don’t bitch and moan like I do on my blog. I still love my kids (and my husband) dearly. But I wouldn’t discredit “domesticity” any more than I would discount being single, like the author. And dammit, what’s wrong with being able to bake one helluva cupcake? If you haven’t done it, let me tell you there is an art, a freakin’ art, to domestic economics (and that’s what it is- economics).

The point of feminism, I would argue, is for women to have the freedom to make their own choices, without cultural judgment or sanction.  As I write this, I, myself, am adjusting to and finding a new peace with being a stay-at-home mother.  Nonetheless, I would argue that the author furthers the “Mommy Wars” and the overall discord between women that benefits patriarchy by doing so, therefore misdirecting her efforts as a so-called “feminist.” I would suggest a more productive politics to take as a “feminist,” a contested term by itself, would be for the author to more closely interrogate her own dissonance on the issues of motherhood, domesticity, and femininity, rather than misplacing that dissonance on others.

6 thoughts on “This annoys me

  1. When I read her blog, I see nothing but fascination and wonderment. Sure, she has a chip on her shoulder about religion. I mean, who doesn’t?

    What I see is a reluctance to outright admit that she sees the charm in being super mommy. It’s one of the easiest things a woman can dedicate herself to…yet takes the most work and patience to do.

    I think about the cagey housewife that wants to step into the world of no domestic/familial responsibility for just a few hours or days (drinking binge in Cabo) and then wants to go back to her normal life. There are people that are natives to that lifestyle, there are tourists, and then there are people who have no interest in that at all.

    In a way, she has been so steeped in feminism that is anti-feminine, that doesn’t celebrate the gender differences that might be present, that her taboo fantasy is that of the “traditional” role of a mother. As someone who straddles the fence on many things, like traditional gender roles, Mexican-American ethnicity (which is neither Mexican, nor American as the Tea Partiers keep making obvious)… I can relate to the fantasy of “normal.”

    I wonder what it would be like to enter a company meeting where 90% of the room looks like me. It’s fascinating because it seems so inclusive when all you have experienced is exclusion (atheist, etc.). And at the same time, oh so repulsive on a day to day basis because I like who I am.

  2. It’s her lack of self-awareness that bothers me, because, as a self-proclaimed feminist, she should be very self-aware. As a woman who just exited a world that is very masculinist, I am also aware of what it is like to be in room where no one thinks like you or looks like you. I know what it’s like to have your ideas brushed aside…because I’m a woman. And people have explicitly said as much.

    But I disagree with you- she does not seem to “wonder” at these women- she projects her own belief system on them and judges them accordingly, rather than finding out from them how to assess their lives according to their beliefs and values. From any ol’ person, I’d expect as much. From someone who goes to pains to point out that she’s a feminist, I’m disappointed. She should know better.

  3. And, I would add, that one way she “others” Mormon mothers is in the way she casts their blogs and the act of reading them as a form of escapism for more “civilized, disillusioned” readers such as herself. Mormon mothers are depicted here as living in some pure, “simple” state of nature, as it were. This is a historic patriarchal tactic by which mothers and women as a whole have been demeaned- and it functions to reinforce a social trope devaluing women and motherhood and a self-negating narrative internalized all too often (by women like myself) that our roles as mothers are unimportant. I’m sure we can both agree on the danger in such a belief. I would argue that it takes on particular significance given the place Mormons hold in our culture as some White Other, due to the “exoticism” of their religion as compared to other Protestant and Christian denominations.

    Anyways…

    • “Mormon mothers are depicted here as living in some pure, “simple” state of nature, as it were.”

      Let’s not devalue simplicity. The author we are talking about has issues with religion and parenting. That is fine for her. I truly appreciate when things are simple. I like to watch Jenel play with Eli – no toys, no talking stuffed animals. I like to watch them make faces at each other, tickle bellies, and hug in between moments of intense laughter.

      I think as an outsider, her snarkiness and verbal eye rolling has done nothing for me except affirm that these are the things the LDS members seem to get right in general. Life should be simple. Let a cold cynic argue otherwise.

      I still think her fascination is one of envy. She is trying to save face by belittling the mommy blogs. Yes, she isn’t very self-aware. She is the archtype feminist that Rush Limbaugh likes to use in his generalizations of liberals. His “feminazi”, if you will. But we all need to realize that a Rush and this woman are only two sides of the same coin – they don’t allow for diversity. They don’t celebrate differences. They want to uphold one way of thinking. But knowing that this is the media they choose consume says that it is not entirely repulsive – just like the people that watch Bum Fights.

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