About my cross-post in Flyover Feminism

Jessica,

Thank you for taking time to respond.

First, please note that it’s not just your writing that I often find extremely frustrating, exclusive, and offensive. I also refer to many of your “feminist” colleagues, a number of whom I referenced in this piece and here as well.

Yes, you have written about these topics. That wasn’t the issue. What exactly I find problematic, and what you seem to understand as a misrepresentation of your work, is the ways in which you and your colleagues consistently exclude and degrade communities of women, simply for living lives different than your own, usually for being some form of attachment parents. Furthermore, your writing does this in the name of feminism and in order to define what constitutes feminism and, therefore, worthy of a political movement and mobilization. I find this particularly reprehensible.

How do you do this? Mostly by extrapolating your experiences onto whole groups of women without any regard for sexual, class, or racial differences between us. In other words, you routinely make the same assumptions and omissions about women’s lived experiences that have plagued white feminists for decades, and you seem to be unaware of it when you do it (like now- you take it as a misrepresention of your work rather than a valid criticism).

So links. Here’s a link to and an excerpt from a Huffington Post article:

You take issue with idea that motherhood is the “most important job in the world.” Why? 
Do I think motherhood is important? Do I love raising my daughter? Of course. But I don’t want it to be the most important thing I ever do. I also don’t want to tell my daughter that the most important thing she’ll ever do is have a child. Because then why do anything else?

I can imagine someone who does consider motherhood the most important thing she does thinking you sound condescending.
Motherhood is the most important relationship I’ll ever have. But when you position something as your job, well, that’s supposed to be compensated. I don’t want my kid to be my job. I want my kid to be my kid! We’ve been suckered into believing that motherhood is a career choice.

It surprises me that you don’t see how insulting this is to the people out there (like myself) whose chief role, day in and day out, is to be a parent, either out of choice or economic necessity. More importantly, your privilege and lack of awareness of the economic position of most parents who have no choice about who and how they care for their children is appalling. Your kid has multiple caregivers. Good for you! Tell me how that comment politically helps those of us who don’t have such a luxury. Furthermore, there are a number of reasons people choose to parent full-time and some of us parent as a job because that’s what we want to do. There’s no shame in that! And no, we don’t get compensated. Yet you assert that there is something wrong with thinking of parenting as our “job,” therefore denying that it is meaningful labor. How does your assertion that we’ve been “suckered” into thinking motherhood is a career choice do anything to raise the status or awareness of the policy issues surrounding full-time parents, or parents at all? How does your language advance the need for subsidized child care, when you don’t even regard the labor of child care as something to be regarded as work? It doesn’t. It just reinforces the decidedly non-progressive notion that domestic labor is not, in fact, labor, and that parenting is anything but valuable.

Then, in the excerpt from your newest book that was recently published on the Huffington Post, you discuss why you quit breastfeeding after the birth of your daughter. I would never dispute the trauma and challenges you experienced in general after the birth of your daughter, but you attribute those hardships to breastfeeding, pumping, excessive pressure to breastfeed, and your belief in natural child birth. Could it also be it was generally just a shitty situation that in no way reflects any of these practices or those of us who practice them successfully?

For instance, you write in “What I Realized About Breastfeeding,”

“I must admit that I once looked down a bit on mothers who chose not to breastfeed; I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t at least try. After all, everyone tells us it is the best thing we can do for our babies. But what if it’s not? What if all the guilt and shame and bleeding nipples are all for something that’s not as amazing for our children as we’ve been led to believe?”

Here you extrapolate your experience with bleeding nipples, pain on pumping, guilt and shame, as if that’s the experience all women– “for our children” should or have had. But it may not be. Where’s the room for those of us who have successful breastfeeding relationships or natural births in this statement? Premature birth and the associated challenges are rare. But you fail to acknowledge that. Instead what you went through becomes what “we” all go through with child birth and breastfeeding. As a result, you represent those of us who have had entirely different experiences with these practices, with natural birth and breastfeeding, as freaks and outliers, as some easily duped minority- a sentiment amplified by your colleague Amanda Marcotte- which is then broadcast to your audience and accepted as fact- and “feminist.”

Back to your writing on breastfeeding and your pregnancy. The authority of the headline alone, “What I Realized About Breastfeeding,” appears to give us the final word on nursing, doesn’t it? At what point do you state that your pregnancy, while traumatic and heartwrenching, was exceptional and out of the ordinary? That your experience with breastfeeding may not have been the norm? That your taffy-like breasts in the breast pump alone were not your reason to quit nursing? And, most importantly, that your blanket statements that undermine breastfeeding run counter to the healthy body of research in their favor? Because are we talking verified research here, or anecdotal sentiment?

Moreover, how did your writing further our understanding and knowledge of breastfeeding other than to make women think breastfeeding does funny things to their bodies that may have no value to their children? In short, this is the area in which you are least aware to the existence of experience contrary to your own, as shitty and trying as it was, while you establish your experience as authoritative and “feminist.” Where is there room for variance, difference, or nuance in this writing? I certainly haven’t found it.

Taken together, your writing presents a narrow, impoverished view of womanhood and, most importantly to me, parenting, that fails to acknowledge the value of the experiences of others even as they run counter to your own. Your writing fails to assess individual circumstance based on the individual’s own terms (maybe we attachment parent because baby wearing is easier than carrying a car seat, my kids fussed less in a sling, and breastmilk is FREE when my husband and I have the money for formula?) and instead asserts troubling generalizations (mothers who use attach parenting techniques must use them all religiously and must be oppressed). In other words, if you were only writing about yourself…it’d be different. And if you acknowledged as much somewhere visibly, that’d be much, much different. But instead, you seek to prescribe “a feminism” for everyone and end up committing the error of arrogance rampant throughout white feminism for the past forty years.

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