Schadenfreude Pie

I've already admitted that I'm a bit addicted to stories of domestic distress. I'm also a capital-F Feminist. The "mommy wars" is where these two things meet up, rather uncomfortably. See, while I'm child-free, a lot of very important people in my life are mothers. Many of them stay-at-home mothers. So I've become very interested in this whole "mommy war" thing, which we know now is very much a product of the media, used to sell papers and magazines. More importantly, it's a product of the patriarchy, which has always used "divide and conquer" as a means of making sure the underclasses ─ in this case, women ─ don't rise up. Who has time to fight the real enemy, when you're fighting each other, right?

A couple years ago I read The Mommy Myth, more as a backup to my child-free choice; I needed something to stablise my mind, in the midst of the "You just got married, when are you having kids?" chorus. At the time, my cohort was mostly child-free as well, but when I started meeting some mamas and their kids, I started noticing the "mommy wars" articles. That's when I got a hold of the excellently researched The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars. A couple months back, someone in a feminist forum (perhaps it was the comments section of my favourite radical Feminist, Twisty Faster) recommended Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. Not only does this book tackle the "mommy wars," but it takes a very serious look at how mothers are expected to be superhuman, even if they're part of the "opt-out" set. There's more than a hint of the post-feminist *cough* in here. Feminism seems to get the blame for making women take on too much, since we (those of us born in the 70s) were told that we could be mothers and career people growing up, and when that doesn't work, we still channel all that super person work ethic into raising children. The concession is made a couple times, far too briefly, that if things were just equal, if men were able to be full co-parents, then perhaps mothers would get a break, get a nap for crying out loud. However, the overriding impression is a bit defeatist: you were lied to; you can't have it all. It's the impression I got anyway. Overall though, there's some really good stuff about how hyper-parenting isn't good for kids, and that mamas need to take it easier on themselves.

And here's the uncomfortable alliance, and full confession: I read, and sympathise, and disseminate, and support mothers. And yet, and yet... I read these books and I still have to breathe a sigh of relief, because I've got it so, so easy. I'm not sure if that makes me a total asshole or not. I suppose the blog world will have to tell me. At any rate, I've been wanting to share the following link forever now, and because the aforementioned sigh of relief just might be bordering on Schadenfreude, I bring you:
How to Make a Schadenfreude Pie.

The problem with all these books, is they focus on a very specific group: middle to upper-middle class (mostly) white women. They almost always miss the people who are struggling to get by, the people who don't have a choice about working, the people who don't have a choice about staying home. They miss the working poor and the single mamas. That's why I was glad to see this article the other day:
The Working Wounded.
The debate over whether mothers of young children should opt out of full-time work, and instead stay home with their kids, has important implications for all mothers, but the vast majority of those mothers are being excluded from the conversation. The vocabulary of the discussion -- opt out, choose to stay home -- reveals its bias: It assumes that all mothers can make a choice that, in actuality, very few mothers are in a position to make.
Because not everyone is Rebecca Eckler (annoying).

* * *

In the least shocking news ever, it turns out Americans don't read a lot.
One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday.[...]The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year -- half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn't read any, the usual number read was seven.
I wouldn't mind seeing some Canadian numbers on this sort of thing. I assume they'd be higher, but I have absolutely nothing to base that on. More important than the statistics in that article, is the picture: where is this bar that I can still smoke in!? Tell me! I will go to it! Bah, it's probably a wretchedly old stock photo.

By the way, if you're curious how many books this Canadian reads per year, check out the "2006 Book List" and "2007 Book List" links on the sidebar there.


KL said...

Thank you. I agree with everything you've said about the mommy wars, particularly w/r the specific class focus. I also think this is just one more thing thrown at women to make us hate each other more than we hate men. I don't think this is the popular view though - I would prefer that all women just cut the crap out and stop talking about this junk and focus on the really important things out there: as we all know, it's the economy, stupid.

Anyways, I'm a mommy of two and I don't mind your schadenfreude at all. In fact, if I were childless, I'd be schadenfreuding all over the place.

Panic said...

Hey, thanks for the comment.
I absolutely agree it's all about the economy. I've got a bit of a Marxist Feminist bent to me, in that I feel a lot of the oppression of women is directly related to the capitalist system. Making us hate ourselves makes the patriarchy a lot of money.

gifted typist said...

I wish the policy makers would read this blog post and get their arses in gear. We are approaching a demographic bomb in Canada and Western democracies because smart women like you aren't having kids. I entirely understand your position, largely because I've struggled with all the stupid crap you raise here - Mommy Wars, Mommy Track, Mommy's mind turns to mush....

But the real problem here is what happens in 30 or 40 years from now? Who will work in the hospitals, pay taxes, consume goods and services? Meanwhile all those boomers and X'ers will be on their pensions and needing health care...

Any, nice post, and good for a non-mommy to look at the issues. Refreshing.

Panic said...

I don't it's true at all that smart women aren't having kids. Most of the mamas I know are University or College educated people, they're political, they're activists, they're readers, all that good stuff.

Also, I'm wondering if your concerned about the overall birth rate dropping, or the birth rate dropping among certain groups of people. If the latter, that's a really ugly slippery slope, because who are we to decide who should be having the babies, and who shouldn't? It becomes classist pretty quickly. Am I reading you wrong here?

Cin said...

Have you read Nobody's Mother by Lynne van Luven? Great book.

As for mind turning to mush, mine is much sharper and more focussed since I had kids. So don't beleive all the bullsh*t about motherhood.

Cindy said...

Except I can't spell believe.

Panic said...

Very funny you mention Nobody's Mother! Amazon "recommended" it to me yesterday, as I was buying Beatles DVDs. It looked interesting, so I ordered it!

And hey, some of the smartest people I know are mamas! They just don't get nearly enough sleep.

Cin said...

Tell me about the sleep department. Ugh.

Once you read Nodody's Mother, drop me a line! Love to discuss it.

Panic said...

I'll be sure to do a post, since your profile is set to private. :)