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The Decade After: Why Katie Roiphe is Still the Bee in my Bonnet

August 31st, 2009     by Diandra Oliver     Comments

Criticism of a recent article by Katie Roiphe on new motherhood is making the rounds in feminist blog-land. Basic premise is that Roiphe looks at her first six weeks of motherhood with a post-feminist lens that conflates motherhood with addiction: new mothers are addicted to both their babies and motherhood. So much so that they’re (she’s) reduced to tears about being separated from her new child.

While nurses, mothers, ECE providers, and academics could go on-and-on about attachment theory and practice, what strikes me most about Roiphe’s article is how flippant she is about feminism and the possible realities for other new moms. Also, she pitches herself against feminists, rather than discuss complexities within feminism and her privilege and access to the feminism she enjoys.

Here’s a list of my complaints:

  1. Subtitle: “Why won’t feminists admit the pleasure of infants?” I think that feminists have admitted the pleasure of infants, but despite the desire for maternal life and a “feminist life” (I’m still unsure on how they’re mutually exclusive), we are still able to be critical of popular culture and societal norms about motherhood as well as our own choices.

  2. Roiphe is lamenting “work” during her first six weeks. I guess this may be a geographical thing, but if you get a year or so mat leave from the Feds, don’t you take that 6 weeks off (this of course considers privilege: not everyone’s experience is “taking time off”)?

  3. “During the taxi ride down the FDR highway, I looked out at the water and cried. It was insane, sentimental, out of proportion, and I was aware that it was insane, sentimental, and out of proportion.” We are not our emotions!

  4. Roiphe conflates tasks assigned to motherhood (she uses picking up more pacifiers) as “just excuses to think about the baby”. These tasks, it seems, aren’t portrayed as essential, but rather unnecessary ways to be self-involved.

  5. She critiques parents who self-congratulate themselves for having babies: “One did, after all, do nothing more than millions of drunken teenagers on an average Saturday night to make that baby, which is not technically an achievement.” This one is so loaded and it’s telling us what she thinks about sex, parents, pregnancy, and teenagers. a) Teenagers all over America are having sex and when they’re drunk. Maybe it’s a reality, but not a very positive way to celebrate sex and even unwanted pregnancy; b) It’s actually hard to get pregnant, at least for some couples! So, if you’ve been trying for a while it is and achievement; and, c) that all parents have to talk about and be proud of is their baby.

  6. “But then part of the allure of maternity leave is precisely this: You give up everything you are and care about.” This is so enabling! This is why some feminists are so critical of motherhood and maternity! Because this is the way the world perceives us when we give birth/have children. That we’ve “lost” ourselves. We’re still here!

Now, to settle myself down with some comedy about motherhood: Target Women!

Tags: body politics, in my opinion...

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