Feminists: stop talking over mothers

28 Aug

I’ve spent five years discussing feminism and parenting. I’ve had my work not read or considered less important because people didn’t think it was relevant to them or because it seems ‘soft’ in comparison to so many other issues – despite reading feminist literature on almost any other topic. I was told by other writers to never write about parenting because I would not be taken seriously.

When editors discovered they could make a buck (and possibly even believe in) feminism, the churn began and eventually wanted to cover feminism and parenting. Places like EB had to fight to maintain the original stream of feminist parenting articles they had been publishing for a long time.

EB were fucking brave to publish anything on feminism given their community’s often overwhelming rejection of feminism. These are people juggling work and home, or just enjoying being at home, and wondering why the hell people are pointing at their lives as an example of wasted potential. Feminists have not been nice to mothers and I have long maintained this has been a combination of elitism, classism and ageism. (Here’s a goddamn piece of mine Fairfax republished back in 2012)

So, to hear that Anne Summers is still denigrating women doing work at home – looking after children, finding pride in the ability to cook – is a really thorny one. Yes, there is a valid argument that women have hobbies (cooking), men have professions (chef). Yes, it may even be a rationalisation for some in their suburban oppression.

But here’s the thing: you can’t claim to want to help women when you denigrate their way of life and activities, when you judge them for having children. You can immediately mock the choices of women if they enjoy something as simple as cooking (seriously? You have no idea how you can fuck the system as when you’re poor and manage to feed your kid on $30 weekly budget).

There are HUGE issues when it comes to families and how women can parent with autonomy and safety, free from professional, personal and economic penalty. To reduce their lives to line about baking trivialises this, something Summers would know given her tireless work with DV. It’s just an aside, sure, but how many other asides would feminists let slide from anyone else, especially in today’s call out culture.

You cannot ignore mothers. You cannot think the sum total of motherhood is a bump and kids under the age of 5, who say cute things. Want to know a gigantic group of women? Mothers. Want to know who is at the coalface of so many sexist threats? Mothers.

But don’t think you can start speaking for mothers either. The amount of times I’ve had people tell me they understand mothering because they have a nephew or neighbours or were once a child themselves, the amount of times I realise you’re just talking over another woman without discovering what her life is like, her identity or her experience. We are not a new topic for thinkpieces, we are not an identity you can ignore until you become one yourself (oh Valenti) and, we are not a group you can ignore the identity politics maxim to listen to/read up/stop speaking over.

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