Sunday, November 19, 2006


Dear Friends:

I make this announcement with a sense of sadness: Playground Revolution is readying for hibernation. That means I'll be slowing down for a good long rest, and waking in spring with a new spirit and purpose.

I am starting work on a new book, which means I need to carve out time to write, and I need to be focused on fewer things. When I chalk up the tasks of my life, this is what I see:
a baby at home
an active 8-year old
a weekly seminar to teach
writing, correspondence and email
a part-time administrative job at a nearby university
a small business--MotherTalk-- that recently launched

not to mention:
a house
a yard that I love to till
a husband
a neighborhoodful of relationships

That's without counting my everyday share of the laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, and cleanup, not to mention the energy it takes to stamp down the mild dramas of everyday life. Writing a book about the labor of being a parent does not, no surprise, make that labor go away, even if it does help demystify it all.

Add my twelve hours of babysitting each week,
plus another nine of baby naps,
add untold late-night hours,
mix with my desire to spend afternoons with the girls;

Something has to give. Internet grocery delivery, my newest time-saver delight, helps some, as do paper plates. Still, I find myself needing to limit the sheer number of different things I do. I need to clear some space so I can focus on new directions, and so I can be calmer and happier with what's in front of me right now. In the two years of this blog I've published a book, birthed a new baby, and have experienced all sorts of personal things that haven't even reached the pages of this dear blog. To the extent that I've been part of raising political issues about mothering, parenting, and gender, I'm proud, and I look around now and see all sorts of people carrying on good work. I'm in good company, which also means I can take a well-deserved break.

Playground Revolution will stay open, should anyone wish to read through, search the archives, or otherwise muck around in what I've written over the past few years. If you're new to these pages, welcome, and enjoy.

My book The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars remains available almost everywhere, should you need my insights in book form. If you want to reach me, miriam at is a good way to get my attention.

If you sign in to (look to the right....), you're sure to be alerted when I post again.

The good news: I will continue to post 2-3 times each week at Everyday Mom, so in reality, we'll not be apart for long. Please, please follow me over there. It can be a bit hard to leave comments, but I'd love it if you did, just to know I haven't lost you all. Just follow the directions and it all works out.

Why there and not here, you might ask? Simply, because Everyday Mom is sponsored by Hyland Homeopathy, and they send me a check once a month. In my calculus of time and income, that's an economic reality that matters. I resisted refashioning Playground Revolution into an advertisement-driven, income-earning site. I wanted us to enjoy ideas without who-knows-what peering over from the left-hand column. I'm glad I did, but as we all know, good blogging takes time. I can't continue to keep up both with different content on each blog, so help me out and come on over to Everyday Mom.

When the political spirit strikes, I will blog at MomsRising.

About MotherTalk: Andi, Stacy and I are very excited about MotherTalk and the networks we are building. We've been organizing blog tours and literary salons around the United States, and Canada too, for authors of all stripes. We really believe in MotherTalk. Some of my favorite evenings over the past three years have been MotherTalks in DC and in Philadelphia. We love spreading MotherTalks, whether in the blogosphere or in a living room near you.

To add your name to our list of MotherTalk bloggers, or to our list of salon hosts, people who are open their living rooms to 30 friends and strangers and an author traveling through, for ideas and conversations that would not otherwise happen, write to me at miriam at We keep a MotherTalk blog that announces current and future tours, tells which authors we are representing. It will let you know if there's a salon coming to your neighborhood, and show you how to get involved. Help us spread the word and build community through books and ideas.

Please stay with me at Everyday Mom. Most of all, as I gather acorns and prepare for the Playground's winter sleep, I want to thank all of you for the sheer pleasure of your company, and for the happy luck of finding you in this huge world of ours. Thank you for the comments you've left, the emails you've sent, and the incredibly good blogs so many of you write, blogs that inspire and educate us, and which let us into your world. Thank you.

I really believe in the playgrounds, virtual and material, where we meet, talk, scheme, plan and envision. This work and play will continue for years to come. I'm so glad to be hanging out with each of you, pushing the kids on the swings while we think big and talk about the good future of the world.

Oh, and the revolution part. I've never been much of a messianist, you see. I grew up with tales about various European political revolutions and the supposed glory of it all, but that's never been my model. Personally, all that drama, all those people out in the streets standing in front of bulldozers and tanks...heroic, yes, but the next day? The moms are still getting the kids up for school, packing the lunches, still making it all happen. Where's the real change in that?

One of my mentors, Jean O'Barr of Duke University, impressed me with her vision of social and gender change that happens almost silently, apart from public view, in the backroom and the living room, in the exchange of conversations and the intangible flow of ideas, in the crevices of our families' rhythms, in the give-and-take of workplace relationships. Sometimes we see change in broad rallies and marches in the streets, sometimes through the judges in our courts and our government's new laws. There's change that's reported by our journalists and theorized by our scholars and discussed by all of us with our friends.

Change comes big, and change comes small, and all of it matters. Change enters the quiet corners of our lives and consciousness, until different sorts of decisions are made. Like that. This is the kind of revolution I've always imagined, the kind where you don't realize it's happened till you wake up one day and realize things are different, and you wonder how it all happened so quickly.

Let me end. Take care of yourselves, we inhabit our bodies and minds for a long time. Love your kids and your favorite people. Believe in the lives you are living, the witness to a better way that you are creating. Know that the legacy of gender can be changed. We've seen it happen before, and we are, I believe, in the long winter of making gender change once more.

Above all: don't forget to raise a fuss when a fuss needs to be raised. Bon courage, and know that we've all got your back.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Uproars about Breastfeeding

Last week, a woman was on a plane, child in tow. She sat in the last seat, next to the window, and breastfed her child. The cabin attendant, it seems, asked her to cover up with a blanket, and some series of exchanges took place which ended up with the woman being asked to leave the plane before take off. There's now a lawsuit, filed in Vermont, which is where the plane was headed. Vermont is one of the states that protects the legal right to breastfeed.

The MomsRising blog reports on this, and it's been all over several listservs, including the Mothers & More POWER loop. Breastfeeding, it seems, is the motherhood issue that time and again yields most easily to action. Perhaps it's specificity makes it easier to move to anger. In many cases, moms who know breastfeeding is protected legally in their state can allow themselves to get mad when they feel that a legally protected right has been trampled. It's easier to be outraged when you feel relatively protected than in some of the riskier acts of workplace insurgence. And often, there's a single person who has done you wrong: a barrista, a TV commentator, a cabin attendant. So many motherhood issues have such wide berth, and often no there's no specific person to blame, but instead, a wide network of attitudes and assumptions.

Because there's a history here, I'm posting here the pages from The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars about Maryland mother Lorig Charkoudian, and her focused anger and activism after a Starbucks barrista asked her to cease breastfeeding--and in an empty Starbucks, at that.

Here's from chapter seven, called, appropriately for this blog, "Playground Revolution":

... Small acts of change might look like Lorig Charkoudian and her fight to breastfeed in public. If Starbucks was once the literary staging ground for stories about overprivileged mothers relaxing after their morning gym routines, such tales took a markedly different turn at the Silver Spring, Maryland, Starbucks last July. Lorig was on a day off from her job as a mediator. She’d been visiting friends and running errands. At four o’clock she stopped at Starbucks to get a cold drink and a comfy, clean spot so the baby could nurse. Lorig and her child had settled into a chair in the nearly empty coffee shop when the barista stopped by their table and suggested she cover not just herself but the baby’s whole head, or take a chair into the bathroom and nurse there: “He suggested I take my baby to eat in the bathroom. No one should be asked to eat in the bathroom.

“I was stunned,” Lorig recalls. “I’d nursed her for fourteen months. I’d brought her to work with me for the first seven months, and nursed her in offices and conference rooms and meetings throughout the state. I’ve nursed her at church. I’ve nursed her at baseball stadiums. Only once was someone uncomfortable with this, and when he said something, we had a good conversation about it. I had heard other women tell stories about being asked to leave places, but it had never happened to me.”

Maryland is one of twenty or so states that legally protects women’s right to breastfeed with no restrictions or limits. Even if a woman shows lots of breast in public while she nurses, it’s legal and protected. “That’s the thing,” says Lorig. “Everyone assumes I must have been nearly naked. I wasn’t. I was covered up. All you could see was the baby’s head.” No one in the store had even complained—it turned out that a month before, a customer had complained, and the employees were now being extra careful to ward off nursing mothers.

“We try to keep our customers happy,” explained the Starbucks rep when Lorig asked to speak with the manager, and then the district representative, and eventually, the regional vice president.

“But what about breastfeeding mothers?” responded Lorig, and began a long discussion with Starbucks about breastfeeding and its virtues. The discussion was followed by letters to Starbucks officials—letters that asked, first, that Starbucks comply with Maryland law and train its employees accordingly, and second, that it adopt for its nearly six thousand coffee shops a nationwide policy that protects women’s right to breastfeed.

“It’s amazing to me now,” Lorig says. “But as committed to breastfeeding as I am, as surprisingly pleasant as breastfeeding had been, and despite how outraged I became, my first response, when they asked me to stop breastfeeding, was shame. It’s that sense of shame that’s the problem. When there’s shame associated with breastfeeding, women are less likely to nurse their babies or to nurse them as long as they want. Or they’ll feel cooped up at home while they nurse.”

When letters to corporate Starbucks yielded no response, Lorig wrote up a flyer for a Sunday, August 8, nurse-in and sent it round to all the parent listservs in the D.C. area. The nurse-in flyer spread, at the speed of many forwarded emails, around the region. “It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done,” says Lorig. She’d been involved in community projects in the past, especially on conflict resolution and mediation, but she had never organized a nurse-in. She found three other volunteers. With the help of a techie coworker they set up a website. They called print shops and asked how quickly they could print up stickers saying, “Can you drink that latte in the bathroom, I’m breastfeeding here.” Using examples on the Internet, they composed and sent out press releases.

Just before the nurse-in, Lorig received a letter back from Starbucks, apologizing for her treatment and telling her that Starbucks would set about training its employees to follow local law. Nothing was said about changing corporate policy. Though thankful for Starbucks’ small steps, Lorig felt that a company that claimed to be socially responsible should go further. Even Burger King has a nationwide policy, created in response to threatened protests a few years back. And, irony of ironies, the Starbucks Foundation supports and gives money to a breastfeeding advocacy group. The nurse-in became the launch of a national campaign to change Starbucks policy.
On the day of the nurse-in, the Washington Post, the local ABC affiliate, and the community gazette showed up to find nearly a hundred people gathered for the event. The Associated Press picked up the story from the Post, and Reuters reported it as well; news spread quickly throughout the country. Radio shows followed the next day, and Lorig appeared on CNN soon after. The debate raged in the Washington Post for a week, fueled by a particularly nasty style section piece that compared breastfeeding to picking your nose or farting in public, and follow-up letters, a political cartoon, and a supportive editorial.

It didn’t stop there, either. Kathie Sever, a clothing shop owner and mother in Austin, Texas, read about the nurse-in on’s list of action alerts. Excited, she sat down at her computer and sent a message about the nurse-in to her AustinMama listserv and included a link to, the homepage that Lorig’s techie coworker had drawn up. Within a few hours, four hundred Austin mothers read about what the Maryland mothers had done. So did Kim Lane, the editor of, who suggested online that the moms exercise their right to peaceable assembly and show support for breastfeeding mothers everywhere. Within days there was a nurse-in coordinator, a location, a time, announcement postcards, and stickers and handouts for the event itself. People emailed back to say they’d be there. Sixty people showed up at a Starbucks in Austin, Texas, as did the Austin Chronicle. The nursing mothers breastfed their babies. Others handed out flyers and talked to passersby. The Starbucks customers were receptive, curious, and outraged. They wanted a corporation that built its reputation and sales by being socially responsible to be truly responsive to mothers, too.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Stuntmother on Dorothy Parker

I'm loving Stuntmother's post today mythologizing of Dorothy Parker, because we all need fab role models to help us summon our courage and get out there to do our stuff in the world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Crossposted from Everyday Mom.

Post-election day, and this will be my memory forever:

Waking up, my husband, who's been up for an hour, tells me the Democrats have taken the House, and that two Senate races are still too close to call.

NPR is turned on.

My oldest daughter, Samira, ambles in, wearing her fuzzy purple PJ's, and heaves herself over me to cuddle from the other side of the bed. I tell her what's going on, and that our family is happy about the new political turn.

We start to talk about how Nancy Pelosi will become the Speaker of the House. I tell her what an important position this is. We've been talking over the past few days about Congress, the Senate, the House of Representatives, though it's still a bit abstract. I tell her that Nancy's from San Francisco, and that rings a bell of familiarity. I tell her how our country has never had a woman in such a singularly powerful position before, how we've never had a chamber of Congress run by a woman.

And I thought to myself: never by a woman who is also a mother, who is also a mother, yes, of five children. At 66--the age that many Americans dream of retiring by--Nancy Pelosi is at her peak and moving ahead. I and so many women I know who are in our middle years, who had careers that zoomed quickly and moved fast, and which we assumed would follow the usual path journeyed by men, by mythical men who keep moving ahead (as opposed to real life men, whose careers too, often falter in middle age), here's yet another example of a woman who had major caretaking responsibilities, and in a few months will be Speaker. This adds extra inspiration to me, and probably to others of us who wonder whether life's public options peter out after these middle, caretaking years, or whether second and third acts lay ahead for us all.

And then we roused ourselves from the comfy pile of pillows and blankets, pulled on some clothes, woke the baby (I'm here to report that miss 4 am can now be called SlumberBaby--she has slept through the night twice in a row...), and headed downstairs to make breakfast, pack the day, feed miss SlumberBaby, and in every sundry way, begin the new day.

There will be tons of specific political commentary, today, over the next few days and weeks. But here at home, what matters is the new sense of hope and possibility.

Monday, October 30, 2006


This is cross-posted from Everyday Mom.

Halloween is tomorrow. Our house is ready, the pumpkins, not yet carved, sit in a pair on our front stoop. We've dragged the box of decorations down from the top shelf over the laundry machines and picked some to air for a week. Faux cobwebs greet visitors to our home. A two-foot spider perches over our front door light. Frankenstein leers from a plastic sheet covering our only window to face the street.

We like Halloween at our house. It's fun. There are parties ahead of time. Trick-or-treating with neighbors. A local parade. It's among our few national traditions that bring people out of the house, and together in public space. My daughter Samira looks forward to Halloween all year. On Wednesday, you can bet that she'll start planning next year's costume.

I like it all the more because Halloween is now such a bugbear to conservative religionists in our country. When I grew up, our Christian friends trick-or-treated. Our Jewish friends trick-or-treated. Even the bad boys down the street trick-or-treated. No one's pastor or rabbi admonished them to stay home. Never.

What has happened in the intervening years? Halloween has been re-paganized. Not by actual pagans, who have gone on with their quiet ways, but by people who've been intent on moving our nation's religious traditions to the right. Now, it's become more common for religious American to demonize Halloween. For the first time, my daughter came home and reported that two Christian kids in her class aren't allowed to do Halloween. Friends whose kids go to conservative Jewish schools, too, report that Halloween's a non-entity, and tell me about letters from the head of school that explain why children shouldn't go door to door, or dress up as witches and vampires and ghouls. The move to make religion more religious, to detach religious life from the shared secular sphere, and to shore up the boundaries between religious practice and the secular, public world means that Halloween is no longer a shared American tradition.

So celebrate Halloween. It's a celebration I now see as political: a celebration of American childhood, of families getting together. It's a celebration of the traditions that connect us, and on happy terms. Yes, the commercialism is over the top. Yes, the stores stock costumes starting on Labor Day and it's ridiculous. Yes, the outfits offered for girls are horridly slutty. Make a decent candy policy so our kids' teeth don't rot, absolutely. But don't get hung up on the negatives. Slide around them, laugh. Find your own ways, enjoy what's "pagan" and secular and American and good.

See it from my daughter's bright-eyed perspective: the one night a year when you can stay out late with your friends, knock on everyone's door, and get a big hello and some candy.

With all that's going wrong these days, what can be better than that? I say, if anyone should stay home on Halloween, it's the mean ole bad boys (and girls) with their teasing, mischief and eggs. Get the Christians and Jews, and anyone else who's been in retreat, to come back to the Halloween street. It's about nothing less than saving our American spirit of sharing.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thursday Morning

Hey, I've posted over at Everyday Mom this morning, on everything from Kim Moldofsky's new blog at Austin Mama, to the President of Iran's suggestion that working mothers be paid full time, but be expected to work only half time, to this morning's decision in New Jersey to offer legal protection to lesbian and gay love and famillies (they're not calling it marriage yet, apparently that's for the legislature to decide. I tell you, I shed tears reading the headline story. It called up something very deep about our needs to be recognized as equals in our society. Off to work for me this morning, have a great day!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tracy Thompson: The Way It Isn't

One of my favorite mother-writers, Tracy Thompson, on the careers and household work conundrum, and on the awful waste of female talent we face. Who among us hasn't had that feeling of being "underused"? Click here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

And More

Yes, as the tagline goes, a mom's life is political. But a mom's--any parent's--life is day-to-day and at times wonderful and at times quite tedious. Right now in this mom's life, most daytime hours revolve as much around writing, working, and cleaning up as they do about caring for this cutie pie (and her older sister, too). Here's her pic for all to see.

The Antidote to American Parenting Competition

A few days ago ten-month-old Amelia stopped sleeping so well. She fussed. She woke at 4 am after lulling us into the complacency of 6-7 am wake-ups. She moved about in her crib. Cried and fussed and arched her back in disgust when facing sleep.

All very normal, I know. Babies get off their rhythms. And sure enough, she's starting to remember how to sleep again. This morning it's 8.30, and she's down for an early morning nap. It all works out, but slowly, and leaving very tired parents in the wake.

This short episode brought back the panic of the early months, as well as the years-long frustration of our older daughter's sleep patterns. When the baby was little, and her sleep at weeks 10,11 and 12 seemed to be getting worse, I emailed Ann Douglas, a parenting writer I've only met online, but whom I feel lucky enough to call a friend.

"What do I do?" I typed. "How do I make my baby sleep. Can you help?

Ann's response: An advance copy of Sleep Solutions is in the mail to you. But, she warned, there's no magic bullet.

How frustrating, I thought, in new mother angst. Just when you need some magic, it seems there's none forthcoming. But also, how correct. How nurturing and loving and supportive an answer. The best, really, that there is. Better than how-to guides that pose one answer, one regime, and you're left failing if it doesn't work. Ann Douglas is the author of the series of parenting books known as the The Mother of ALL Solutions series. She's very well known in Canada. In the United States, she's just beginning to be the parenting author of choice for those of us who are very tired of the What to Expect When You're Expecting books that provoke more fear than support. (And on that topic, check out the's TV critic Heather Havrilesky's recent LA Times Op-Ed, "Expect the Worst While You're Expecting".)

Last night, I pulled Ann's book from my bedside to leaf through it. I gleaned some ideas to help Amelia get her sleep groove back. "Sleep Solution #8" on page 110 was clearly written just for me: "Remain as Calm and Relaxed as Possible About the Sleep Issue." That's just the thing, Ann is concerned about us as parents, and about us, just plain. Stay calm, she reassures. It's all going to be okay. The book is filled with stories and advice from mothers, too, so it feels like going to the playground and getting mom wisdom just when you need it, as well as the friendship of other mothers. When so many parents feel judged as good or bad depending on whether their children sleep well, Ann Douglas offers an entirely different sensibility, totally outside the screed of American parenting competition.

So: Ann Douglas's Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler, for those who need it. The antidote to the fear-mongering parenting guides that are bestsellers in our country, from a friend up north.

(ps: Sleep Solutions is in the midst of a MotherTalk blog tour, though Everyday Mom is not an official stop. You can check another, with author Q and A at Mothershock.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Checking out the Dads

Crossposted from Everyday Mom.

Last night a friend sent me her proposal for a new book on dads and parenting. Like a good friend and writing comrade, I read quickly and sent her emailed chapter headings back with some thoughts and suggestions. After, I resolved to check in with my favorite dad blogs in the morning.

Here's what's up with the dads, aka in my world as the good dads, the blogger dads I like the best.

Jeremy at Daddy Dialectic has gone back to work, a move that's poignant and exciting at the same time. He writes so well and so honestly about the love of staying home with his son, about the economics of his family life, and about the politics of our nation at large. Whoever doesn't already think the public and the domestic are linked needs to spend some time on Daddy Dialectic (which has become a group blog, all to the better). As always, Jeremy finds the most trenchant links on politics, too. Thanks, Jeremy, for all the writing you do, for your decision to go public ala blog, and please, please keep writing to us.

Rebel Dad has promised to post everyday this week. He too has returned to paid work, and I empathize, it can be awfully hard to blog everyday when life is so full. The current post (sorry, no working trackback yet), is about how at home dad groups tend to be ephemeral: dads meet when they have tots and preschoolers, are tight, post a webpage, and time moves on, the kids start elementary school, PTA takes over, or they return to paid work. Life moves on. His iso wonderfully describes how fluid our lives are, and I always enjoy seeing the life I live narrated on screen.

Let's see. Another favorite dad blogger has been away for several weeks, but back in September published the most marvelous, must-read post, with the title "Raising Kids and Social Change" a post so honest, so right-on and so inspiring I resolved to link to it from everywhere I blog. An excerpt:

"The direct way [to bring about social change] involves a number of discrete elements. The first is that by spending time with our kids we show them through our actions that we are commited to them, that they are important to us. This gives them the confidence and psychological health to act on their principles in the face of a society that is hostile to those principles and values.

If we let our kids be raised by societal norms, we are doing the opposite of progressive, positive activism. Raising progressive kids requires being very proactive, being very involved in our kids' lives, talking to them from the earliest days about the values that we believe are important, about the changes that need to happen in our society, and living those values.

For me, the foundation or prerequisite to doing that was to be an involved father. First and maybe most directly, in the area of gender relations: if we want to bring about change in that area, we have to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.

As a guy, I can thinking of nothing more subversive of "traditional" conservative values than the fact that I chose to stay home full-time with my daughter for the first two years of her life; that I chose to downsize career ambitions to spend time with my kids and to be more involved in their lives than I could have if I had followed my earlier ambitions. I understand that in many ways my ability to do this is related to my class privilege and educational background. Nevertheless, I think that exactly because of those factors, and the resultant fact that I had many other options, it is important for me to take steps to undermine gender hierarchies in the eyes of my kids as well as in my wider community....

Thanks for the inspiration. The definitions of politics these days have reverted back to that which is big, media-saturated, and backed by huge money. We forget that other things matter, that individual decisions about life still matter, and that gender roles--especially the very intimate ones of family life--need challenging every day, and every way.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Time for a Boycott

That's my thought after reading the icky James Wolcott review in The New Republic, titled something inane like "Mommies, Mommies, Mommies: Meow Mix." I won't even link to it, because, a, you have to subscribe to TNR to get to it, and b, because if all of us smart annoyed moms start clicking their website, they win, their hit numbers go up and yes, they win. Mother snark has become a tried and true way for magazines and newspapers to ride our rage and rack up sales. We must resist. Read a copy at a newstand, but don't buy it. Sadly, I've already been in contact with an editor at TNR who seems to think it was a fine piece, and funny. She didn't respond to my charge that their standard for journalism on women's issues is astoundingly lower than their standard for covering other issues in the magazine. She sidestepped it. Snark is clearly okay when it comes to us gals, especially gals with kids at their side.

It's clear they don't want women readers, that's for sure. No wonder their subscriber numbers have been sliding down.

When Seal Press gave me a contract to write Truth Behind the Mommy Wars, its status as the queen publisher of third-wave feminism made me feel like I should get three tattoos and several piercings.Perhaps move to Seattle or Portland, ditch my husband and become a single mom. I thought third-wave feminism was a club of cool girls to which one must be specially invited, and I hadn't been.

When my book came out and I was consistenly described as a third-wave feminist by reviewers I was pleased (oh my, I'm cool now!), and also surprised. At 40ish, with a PhD in women's studies and religion, I felt a bit old to rope onto the cool young girls. When Ms. Magazine was uninterested in responding to my book, but all the third-wave feminist magazines like Bitch and Bust reviewied it happily, I started to see the pattern. Daring to write about motherhood in a different vein, taking on a feminist vision that fiercely includes the possibility of motherhood, one which radically demands change in our workplace structures and cultural expectations makes one, clearly, a feminist of a different striple. If it helps to call that third-wave, or gen-X, or whatever the new pop terms are, well here I am.

It's very clear, too, that third-wave feminism has been sterotyped as being "about culture." That makes it easy for those who do politics in our nation to ignore it. It's a category thing. Culture is not politcs.

Except we know it all is. The matter continues because those of us who do third wave feminism in a political vein are even more invisible.

That's what struck me, reading the Wolcott review. It's not only catty. It not only made me want to defend wrtiers like Leslie Morgan Steiner of Mommy Wars fame, and Caitlin Flanagan both, because enough is enough. In the end, the political vision his review wants to defend is of a feminism that's thirty years old, and which sees nothing wrong with an American culture that allowed success only to the aspect of that feminism to work that would aid the American economy: getting women to work, and getting us to work more. Productivity rises because we're in the workplace. Profits rise when we women and mothers are in the workplace and paid low wages.

On The New Republic's side: I see their decision to go with snark as a clear choice. They know better. They know about my work. I had begun working on an article about family leave policy for them, until the editor who had at first been interested told me it wasn't, to paraphrase, snarky enough, there wasn't a storyline about women fighting each other. The magazine knows about the work being done by MomsRising and the Motherhood Manifesto. They clearly went ahead with an article that ignored everything that didn't lead back to an old fashioned vision of women and society, one that tells us to get to work, and doesn't demand one iota of change on the part of our workplaces, a vision that just tells us to be like men. Old, old, old.

Ladies, I say: Let's boycott this magazine.
Mothers deserve more than snark.
We deserve more than retreads of policies that haven't worked.
We deserve real consideration of the political issues we face as women and mothers in a society that still discriminates.

Boycott The New Republic.
I've already dumped my local paper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, from home delivery, because of its Tarzan politics of motherhood. Why pay good money to have someone fling a paper onto my front yard that disdains women and mothers.

We don't have political power, clearly, yet. However, women and mothers make the majority of economic decisions in our households. If we stopped buying, if we tell others to stop buying, if we harnass our individual small decisions into something bigger than each of us, what might happen. Boycott bad media. Stop paying for it. There's more than enough news and views available online, fro free. Boycott. It's an old idea, but it's worked before.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Latest from Harrisburg

Here's the update on the attempt to outlaw maternal discrimination in Pennsylvania, a bright story about taking 5000 plus names to the state capitol, and a dim ending from a staffer who says the bill won't be voted on in committee this session. Here's the long update from the website, thanks to Cooper in Pittsburgh, and Kiki, of course.

The upshot: anyone stopping by the Playground today should email Todd Roup, the executive director for the PA Senate Labor and Industry Committee and tell him it really is necessary to bring the bill SB440 to committee this session, since he's told Kiki that it's impossible:

I'm writing, this morning, about how we even get to the point of taking political action, of picking up the phone, of having the conversation, of seeing ourselves as able to do these things, and seeing these everyday sorts of political actions as a normal, even normative part of motherhood. For now: let's just do it. Send the email. Say: We want you to bring SB 440, and end to maternal discrimination, to the Committee for a vote so it can see the light of day on the Senate Floor. We want this bill passed. Soon.

Just do it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A New Vision of Motherhood

Over at Everyday Mom I've been writing about what a motherhood identity that is policial and smart would feel like. The question came up for me this time around, because I've had trouble getting excited talking with other parents of young babies (Amelia Jane is now 9 1/2 months old). I'm friendly, and I introduce myself, but honestly, I'm really bored trading info about how old the kids are, and what they do, and whether they're in childcare or not. I do my best, and last time around, I loved mom-and-dad chitchat. I really did. I wanted to know all the details, I craved knowing what other babies were doing, and how their parents were managing. I made friends over and again by hearing and sharing these details.

This time, it's not enough, this lowest-commom-denominator talk that we do. I've been musing over what might take it's place. When Samira was young and I hung so many hours at the Lake Claire playground, my favorite was when someone would have caught the daily headlines and repeated them back to us at 4 pm as we gathered after the kids' naps. I loved when my friend Lisa would come by and tell what was happening in China. Yesterday, I ambled over to the excellent High Point Cafe. At the table next to me was a mother with a one-year-old baby (yes, we did the baby-age-trade) who was reading a magazine, a political magazine. Yes, this mother was reading The New Republic as she one-handedly helped her baby hold a bottle, and as she sipped coffee.

I was elated. Motherhood has long been seen as the opposite of all that is reasoned, smart and public sphere, and even in its current incarnation and association with well educated mothers, this hasn't changed. Any time we break that mold, any time we are active in our social worlds, smart, anytime we read something that isn't an insipid women's magazine, and yes, I really mean that, show me a mainstream women's magazine that really truly takes us seriously, we start breaking that mold. I'm on the lookout for mold-breaking, and I'm on the lookout for how we start to form shared models of motherhood on very different terms.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Isabel Kallman tells her story

About a year ago or so I wrote about the New York Magazine feature on Isabel Kallman and her Alpha Mom TV station on Comcast's Video On Demand. The article trashed Isabel, described her as a crazed Upper East Side Mom who was sending her child into early therapy and certain emotional doom. It sounds funny now, perhaps, but the article was damning and hurtful.

The article ran in June. Later that summer, my phone rang. A nice voice said "Hi, this is Isabel Kallman, from Alpha Mom TV." Thus began a long conversation, and a friendship. Turns out I had been one of the few bloggers not to rush onto the Alpha-Mom-is-terrible bandwagon, that I'd written something about how the story line seemed vaguely familiar of the scary moms described by Judith Warner's Perfect Madness, and that we should be carefully critical of media like this. Turns out, too, that the real Isabel is nothing like the monstrous woman described in the article. She's a totally great, smart, down-to-earth woman who is viviacious and friendly and generous. She wanted better information when she was pregnant and a new mother, and having some resources, a Wall Street background, and a brain for business, she went about creating an on-demand TV station for moms. When you take a look at Alpha Mom TV, you realize it's astoundingly focused and caring. I've joked that Isabel and her crew videotape $400 sleep consultants in NY, and then share the session with the rest of us in America. She works closely with Soho Parenting, and other groups. And she's thinking carefully about how to use alternative media to get the word out on good solid information about parenting. I tell you, when I went through pregnancy last year, with the horrid midwives who told me not to prepare ahead of time, and then left me alone the entire time I was in active labor (and much of the time before that, too), it was Alpha Mom's several segments on positions for labor and backlabor that were the only information I had. They helped. They were what got me through a difficult situation.

Count me, in other words, an Alpha Mom fan, and a fan of its creator, Isabel.

Now, many months later, Isabel is speaking out. After the trashing in New York Magazine, Isabel was contacted by all the morning shows. She could have gone on, told her story, made a big deal of it, started another episode of Mommy Wars fuss. But she didn't. That's not her style, not one bit. So check out her story in her words over at Huffington Post.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Letter from Cooper about Kiki

Hey everyone, here's a letter from Cooper Munroe, who's mad and is going to gather us together to get PA law changed so employers can't discriminate against mothers when it comes to hiring. Apologies in advance, This too-busy mom has no time to code the websites, so just click and copy them to get to where you need to be. Read on:

Hi Everyone,

We need your help, and vast reach, to get the word out on something very important.

At BlogHer I saw the documentary film, The Motherhood Manifesto, and through the film I learned that in Pennsylvania, where I live, it is legal to ask someone in a job interview if they are married or have children. Yep, dark ages. As you can guess, this hurts mostly moms and single moms. BUT - THIS IS NOT JUST IN PA!!! PA is one of 28 states that is in this predicament, and we, and the other states, aren't covered by the federal regs either.

Here is a list of states where discrimination is covered, and not covered, in employment laws (see the marital/familial status column): Pretty surprising, and it will be sure to piss you off.

Since BlogHer, I have been working with Joan Blades (co-founder of and others at, as well as women in Pennsylvania to help get legislation passed (it has been stalled in the state house and senate -- for 6 years!) that would make this practice illegal.

I wrote an article about it that ran yesterday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, please read it if you get a chance, it explains the problem:

If Pennsylvania can do this, it means so much to moms and families everywhere, and could create momentum for many critical issues involving moms and families, not just on this type of discrimination. PA could start a chain reaction, and we need to drum up some noise. has create a web page for this, and we have been blogging over there too: We have information, links to PA legislators' phone/email info and a petition. You don't have to be from PA to send a message that this is important.

It is especially important to get signatures on the petition, fast:

Anything you can do to get the word out would be awesome. So many times I talk about this people say, "I had no idea!" and that seems to be the biggest problem, the lawmakers think since no one is talking, nobody cares. From what I know about the bloggers, we can change that pretty quick.

Thank you!

Cooper Munroe
Been There, Been There Clearinghouse,