On Motherhood, Identity, And Feminism

By Sheril KirshenbaumMay 21, 2009 1:02 PM
content mother


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Regular readers know how I feel about the benefits and costs of new media.  As a middle of the road user, I stay connected by way of a limited Facebook profile, but refuse to foray into the twitterverse for previously stated reasons.  And while I like the opportunity to create a virtual bookmark in time, there’s a dark side to so much accessibility: It provides ever more means to pass unfair judgment on others.

A friend recently pointed me to this particularly ridiculous article criticizing moms who post profile photos of their children*.  The author Katie Roiphe goes so far as to suggest feminist Betty Friedan would ‘turn in her grave‘ at such behavior:

The mystery here is that the woman with the baby on her Facebook page has surely read The Feminine Mystique in college, and The Second Sex, and The Beauty Myth. She is no stranger to the smart talk of whatever wave of feminism we are on, and yet this style of effacement, this voluntary loss of self, comes naturally to her. Here is my pretty family, she seems to be saying, I don’t matter anymore.

Huh?  At just a few days shy of 29, I’m at an age where, yes, many close friends do indeed post family photos.  But I suspect none would report ‘losing‘ themselves in parenthood, but rather gaining a new role that enhances their identities.  They are a colorful mix of womenand men–who also inhabit the real world as artists, scientists, writers, musicians, teachers, and more.  Posted photos don’t imply some need to ‘hide‘ behind youngsters, but rather serve as a means to share their changing lives with people they care about dispersed around the globe.

Furthermore, I also have friends posting photos of pets, superheroes, even legos on their pages. I can’t help but wonder how Roiphe would diagnose them. And if anyone’s seriously wondering whether parents can celebrate their offspring while maintaining independent sense of self-worth, I direct you to ScienceWomanDrugMonkeyIsis, and Abel.

It seems to me that despite the author’s diatribe, parents with digital cameras are not the problem.  Instead I’m most alarmed by her blind ridicule of others–a behavior more often associated with high school cliques than a constructive dialog.  So I remind Roiphe that there’s no cookie cutter model of what it means to be a feminist–or anything for that matter.  However, unwarranted criticism will serve to alienate many, while doing little to foster social progress.

* Child safety on the internet is a very real issue related to photos, but not the topic of this post.

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