Friday, January 29, 2010

Good Reads: The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women

I'm keeping with my tradition of reading controversial books about five years people have stopped talking about them. I just finished The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women, and while it's a few years old, I still found it relevant.

Or maybe these perfect mommy/insane momism/superwoman books are appealing to me right now because they meet me where I am. Very much in the middle of trying to make sense out of this whole parenting, career, want-more-now thing.

"The new momism is not about subservience to men. It is about subservience to children. And there's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide."

What Was Awesome

* The look at how government has played a role in creating the conundrum that almost all women find themselves in is fascinating. I learned way more than I ever knew about the history of the childcare debates, the original hearings on FMLA and just how shitty the Reagan Administration really was.

* Similarly, the chapter on welfare mothers was also fascinating. Just a few quotes

"Through , conservatives kept the coals of misogyny warm without offending the politically prized 'soccer mom.' And they succeeded. The poor mother no longer represented the failings of American society to take care of its own. She represented the failure of individual women to take their maternal responsibilities as seriously as possible."

"One of the most important trends that we found during this period was that the attacks on the maternal qualifications of welfare mothers increased, over the years, in direct relationship to the increased emphasis on the new momism. There is little doubt that for working mothers, espeically white working mothers, these highly negative portrayals of welfare mothers enhanced our own self-esteem at a time when we, too, were very much under attack...In other words, the stereotype of the lazy, irresponsible, neglectful, and promisicous welfare mother became so important in the 1980s and beyond because however insecure we felt in our identities as 'mothers,' we suddenly (if briefly) felt very confident and virtuous when juxtaposed to this other, bad mother."

* The chapter on marketing to children is chilling, especially when I look back on my own childhood and remember the toys that I begged my parents for. My childhood was when target marketing was really taking off, and it's frightening to see how I, and all of my friends, fell and continue to fall for it.

* Given that I was pregnant not that long ago, the chapter on parenting trends and the commercialization of pregnancy are riddled with underlines. I LOVE that they describe that fuck Dr. Sears as the Dr. Laura for the high-achieving, educated set (fell for that shit too), and describe how different parenting "fads" have changed in just the last decade.

What Was Sort of Meh About It:

* The book is billed as a pop-culture critique of new momism in the media, but I found the chapters on media fairly boring and lackluster. This may have more to do with the time lapse (does anyone even remember thirtysomething?), but the television and advertising critiques weren't in depth and the authors didn't really explore WHY women are so susceptible to these images.

* Very long and dense. I started this on Thanksgiving weekend, and just finished. It's not exactly a page turner.

* The tone is pretty snotty and arrogant. It sounds like me, and not in a good way.

* Like most critique books, the "so what do we do about it" question remains largely unanswered. There's a rah rah ending about confronting the new momism when you see it, but given all the interesting information on how our government plays such a HUGE role in devalueing women and children, I would have liked to see more about how to get involved.

1 comment:

shanna said...

I went through (am going through?) a big "how moms get screwed in our culture" book phase. If you want recommendations (and/or want to borrow some books), let me know.