Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Prison of Motherhood?

Erica Jong's recent diatribe in the Wall Street Journal about how women are ruining their lives through devoted motherhood elicited numerous responses. Here is one from my friend Mattie, poet and mother of ten:
Erica Jong's essay "Mother Madness" and her daughter's article "Growing Up with Ma Jong" reveal modern and postmodern feminism for what they are: materialistic.  Count the material references in each article, if you don't believe it.
    Any average baby like baby Jong-Fast who hated breast-feeding millennia ago would have died.  There weren't too many options to breast-feeding when everyone had to struggle to survive.  American mothers raising children today would be well-advised to ignore the cries from the she-cult of victimization; instead, they should be thankful.  Having the economic latitude to pursue "choices" is new in the history of mankind, and it's deeply rooted in material prosperity--for everyone.
    I, for one, never received feminism well, even though professors pushed it 24-7 at the women's college I attended.  Feminism merely addresses material pursuits--power, money, respect, and parity with men--to name a few.  If we have any victims today, it's the children who have suffered silently through the materialistic struggles of their mothers, children who cannot even recognize these struggles for what they are: materialistic pabulum too dilute to nourish an eternal soul.
Mattie Quesenberry Smith


Miss Moppet said...

I have to respectfully disagree with your friend. Power and money may be material possessions but I don't see respect and parity with men the same way. I have the right to vote because feminists demanded that women should have equal rights with men. I don't see exercising that right as a materialistic pursuit.

Theresa Bruno said...

I don't believe Jong was insinuating that all mothers live in a prison, just the ones that practice attachment parenting.

I have an eighteen month old and was unable to breast feed. I follow some of the attachment parenting guidelines, but not many. As JOng pointed out, there have been as many ways to raise a child, as there are cultures.

Jong, does write a lot about material gain, but I agree with her that in some aspects of American society, children have become an accessory. Their children are dressed in the latest fashions, hair perfectly done and reading is pushed on these children at an early age.

Motherhood, however, is only a prison if you make it one. Be true to your child and yourself and don't give into the latest parenting philosophy if it doesn't suit you.

Julygirl said...

Marriage, one's job or career, life itself can be a prison if one does not have the right attitude. There are functional ways or dysfunctional ways of approaching it all.

Andrew said...

The "right to vote" is not a real God-given human right like the right to life, or the right to attend Mass. Just because feminists demanded it doesn't mean it's truly a right.

Alexandra said...

You make your own prisons; anyone who waters down motherhood to a systematic philosophy or science is setting themselves up for failure. Have we lost our ability to trust our own motherly God given instincts to nurture and raise children?

Kathlyn said...

With all due respect, I don't think Erica Jong proposes that motherhood is a prison. All she condemns is parenting philosophies that impose high expectations upon women and traps them in a prison of guilt if they do not live up to the images of motherhood promoted in today's advertising. Even now, mothers bear most of the responsibility about how well their kids turn out, which is unrealistic since not even the most loving, "hands-on" mothers can protect their children from the harshness of life, given the world we live in. I think feminists have received a lot of flak for "allegedly" undermining the family, while their main goal is just to correct dominant views about what families should be that have worked to keep women in "second place" throughout history. That being said, I would also like to say that I've come to enjoy visiting this blog. Your posts about historical women (especially on Marie Antoinette and her daughter) are a pleasure to read. More power!

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! Kathlyn, I am glad you enjoy the blog!

Alexandra said...

I've been thinking along the same lines...all these motherhood philosophy camps, and the "prisons" they create if you buy into it with a religious fervor. Not to mention how much of it has become a cash cow for companies marketing to these groups.

I think this would upset women trying to make a "career" out of homemaking/motherhood, but it's not rocket science, nor should it be. It's an art, but not a quantitative science. It's filled with emotion, sacrifice, and love which flows naturally from the heart. Basic knowledge is needed, but women come equipped for motherhood. We should tap into this rather than denying it, and not approach it from an intellectual angle as if children were lab rats. There is no one formula because God made each of different with our own gifts - tap into this; nurture that, not a theory.

Michelle Therese said...

This really long, rambling article is both a rant and a Straw Man arguement that she sets up to soothe the guilt she feels for leaving her own daughter behind so much while travelling around and persuing her own interests. She tries to frame her actions as the "only" choice that she had but seriously, an intelligent woman like herself couldn't find *any* other way to spend much more time nurturing and caring for her daughter? After all, she could afford a nanny...

Her essay is all over the place, with blatant contradictions and a lot of finger-pointing and attacking of the way certain parents use attatchment/Green/natural parenting. That is because you can see that this niggles at her own hidden guilt.

Erica Jong is insulting and degrading in this article. She cuts down celeb parents for, among other "crimes", adopting orphans... yet complains that there are too many orphans in the world that need homes. The problem is not that these celeb parents are adopting children, it is that they are so *devoted* to their children. This is a threat to her own conscious.

In each new paragraph she makes blanket statements but does not qualify any of them, just states these things as if they are fact and all of us agree.

After sneering down her nose at "attatchment parenting" (which she can't support because she basically ditched her own kid) and any kind of "Green" and "natural" parenting style, she then states at the end that "There are no rules." Yet throughout the article she has made plenty of rules via her open hostility towards parenting styles that create close bonds and deep involvement between child and parent.

Once the article is read from beginning to end it is clear that Erica Jong feels guilty about her own parenting. And so she sets about trying to justify her actions by attacking the parenting style that is most at odds with her own: the style where the parents are very involved and connected with there child (or children) ~ opposed to ditching them with a nanny/daycare so that Mom can persue her own dreams and her own needs first and foremost. It is a thorn in Ms. Jong's side that far too many parents out there make nurturing their children an important priority and so she is trying to make attatchment parenting look quite negative in the eyes of society. Of course you will feel "imprisioned" by using cloth diapers and making your own baby food because these activities require you to be *there* with your children and this makes Erica Jong feel guilty.

elena maria vidal said...

Beautiful commentary, Alexandra.

Michelle Therese, I also detected some guilt on Jong's part although I could not quite put my finger on it. Thanks for fleshing it all out for me!