Themes

Have you ever noticed how occasionally certain issues continually reappear throughout the course of a week or two? How everybody seems to be talking about the very same thing you were thinking about? I wrote about this a while ago – as a writer it sometimes appears as though many of my colleagues and I, without discussing it beforehand, decide to write around the same themes at the same time. I wonder if something happens to our consciousness, or what. I don't know. Anyway. This week has mostly been about women, and women's rights, and women at the hands of men, at least it has for me.

It began Sunday morning when I read Mitch Albom's horribly researched, lazy and chauvinistic examination of Katherine Lester's flight to Israel to be with Abdullah Psycho, which I encourage you to read here:

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060618/NEWS05/606180631/1082/COL01

I was so enraged by this incredible mistreatment of Lester's story that I wrote the following letter to the editor, which did NOT get published but you can see how eloquent, how convincing I was:

Mitch Albom’s June 18th examination of Katherine Lester's flight to Amman is irresponsible and lazy. In placing Lester within "a long tradition of (teenage girls) finding 'the loves of their lives,'" Albom reminds his readers of Shakespeare's Juliet, and Berstein's Maria from "West Side Story"; both are fictional. He chose two women from the exact same story: Maria is only an updated Juliet. He couldn't search the tradition enough to bring up Eliza Sommer's from Daughters of Fortune or Lena Grove from Light in August, both women who left their homes to find men they loved. Instead he lumps Lester in with one woman, retold, who kills herself. Certainly the role of the internet and even the role of the parents need to be explored in Lester’s case, but reconciling Lester to a tradition of made-up girls is careless, and possibly the kind of treatment that encourages young women to seek men who actually understand them.

In retrospect, I think that last line did me in. At any rate, you see my point, right?

And then, in our household, the Battle of the Airconditioning and Who Would Stay Home For the Repairman. Well, believe it or not, Wonderhusband took a whole day off work and not only got the airconditioning fixed, he also found cheaper car insurance and renewed our license plates and vacuumed. Mea Culpa. Mea culpa. I am, so blessed.

Then, in the female blogosphere, where women blog about things like the politics of breast feeding, infertility, and staying at home verses working, well, it was CRAZY out there this week, and I am saddened to report that I really believe any sense of sisterhood that our mothers worked so hard for seems to be fractured among the privileged (I mean, let's face it – I'm in my condo on a saturday morning drinking coffee and blogging – that immediately puts me in the upper one percent of the world in terms of privilege, even though I'm solidly middle-class). In terms of women who choose to stay home with their children verses women who go back to work, there seems to be a divide as unstable as the San Andrea fault, and what's most interesting about the divide is how deflective these women are – it's something I've noticed in my own relationships more and more. For example, many of my girlfriends know that WH and I plan to start a family this year. Now I don't expect them to start oohing and ahhing over me or prematurely buying me baby presents or anything, but I also find it hurtful when they say "Well, better you than me. I'm excited to be "Aunt" INSERT FRIEND'S NAME HERE and babysit, but there is no way I could handle a child right now." I've even had friends and relatives go so far as to ask me when I'm going to have children (my own brother actually asked me this) because, while it's a choice totally wrong for them, they're ready to have a baby around their periphery. Similar conversations happen with other women's choices, as well – my boss ridicules her friends who stay home with their children because "there's nothing to stimulate their minds, it's just baby talk all day long," etc. One woman on one blog went so far as to say that the reason women have to work today is because feminists forced their way into the workforce and thus inflated the economy, making it necessary for women to work now. From the politics of pumping breast milk in your office, to advocating whole-heartedly for year-long, dedicated breast feeding, we women have fallen into the same binary trap that the rest of the country utilizes with other issues…do you live in a red state or a blue state? Are you pro-choice or pro-life? Stay at home or working mom? It's the same exhausting rhetoric over and over again, forcing us to choose sides instead of explore the multi-faceted shades of gray that make up a real, thinking person's consideration. Moreover, because of the constant attacks from 'other' sides, we've become overly defensive of our own, deflecting our desires onto others, and practically incapable of having real conversations about real issues. The conclusion I've come to over the course of the week is – none of this really matters. It REALLY doesn't. Now, imagine what could happen if all of us working women and mothers and sisters stopped protecting our decisions, recognized that, hell, some people will stay home and some will go to work and it's a choice of privilege and it will go on and on for the rest of our lifetimes so screw it, let's put our heads together and stop the raping of small girls in the Congo. Let's force governments to make our streets safer for our daughters. Let's end this abortion discussion once and for all by countering conservative opposition with a request for public spaces made safe for women; a national guarantee that rapists won't be given easy sentences; let's choose between lobbying for ERA or for year-long maternity leave – let's examine our womanhood NOT through individual choices like whether you will breast or bottle feed, work or not and instead look how fractured our sisterhood has become throughout the world. In India, women are set on fire by husbands wishing to leave, so that burn clinics are established througout the country. Our own daughters run away from home, thinking true love can be found via computer. And let's not form based on the fact that we are mothers (like MADD) or working women or ice skaters and instead look at the issues in our world as women capable of effecting big change, if only we stop this binary infighting and move beyond tired arguments towards a sisterhood, resumed.

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2 Responses to Themes

  1. litlove says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Staying at home, going to work, well aren’t we lucky to have the choice, and not be faced with the prospect that that baby will be born HIV positive without food to feed it or clothes to dress it. My experience is that mothers can become oddly defensive about their maternity choices. I worked while bringing up my son and found it very hard indeed, but if I’d given up my job I would never have got back in to university work. I don’t think anybody has an easy work/life balance through those early years, but children also offer huge rewards. It’s a juggling act that no one really manages with great style. It’s a great deal better if we all just stick together and support one another. And as you say, turn our vision outwards if we want to look for trouble.

  2. bloglily says:

    Whew. I knew there was a reason I haven’t been reading the mommy blogs. The other day, I put one teensy toe in and boy was it shockingly icy in there — one rant about staying at home and I knew that was not going to make my day one bit better. I am with you 100% — we all lead charmed lives, even with the things that aren’t perfect in them — and if we are feeling feisty then we should do something about REAL problems, of which there are many. Thanks for this. Best, BL

  3. Erika says:

    Courtney! I love the new blog, and really appreciate your voice on so many topics. You should rename your blog to empowered and informed or something like that because that is how I feel after reading so many of your posts! I don’t have much to add or respond to for this post, but I wanted to let you know that I’m reading and loving every minute of it!

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