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.


CrankMama said...

I agree that the 'conversation' about feminism is stalled back at around 1970. Feminists are still called "home-wreckers" and "bra-burners"... I agree that something must be done... but why not TAKE OVER the conversation by writing an op-ed rather than boycotting altogether? If many people get their ideas about "what's happening in feminism" from The New Republic, shouldn't they then see a dissenting view in print? I imagine you already thought of that and it sounds like they aren't open to dissenting views.. But if they want TRUE SNARK, they should hear what real feminists who are mothers have to say about the cultural lack of conversation about social policy change.

Great post!

mad muthas said...

bloody hell - you're so right. we're just feeling our way towards this conclusion in the uk. at the moment, our satirical little book of social observation is as radical as it gets, but the pressure is so on parents at the moment - we've become society's whipping boys. we felt humour was the best way to open the debate on this issue, because it's so intensely painful for some women to discuss, it seemed the only way to create a safe place for honest interaction! and this is what our grandmothers chained themselves to railings for!

PunditMom said...

Hear, hear!

Andi said...

I am so with you. My new mantra is Don't. Take. The. Bait.

karrie said...

Crankmama beat me to it. Well said, sister!

Paige said...

Yeah, I agree with Crankmama. Instead of boycotting, let's SAY something in an OpEd or something so that we can hijack this conversation away from TNR's snark and toward something that adequately reflects modern feminism.

Lone Star Ma said...

I'm with all of you. Let's deluge them with letters about what the third wave of feminism is really about - MOTHERS! FAMILIES! - and boycott their asses, too!

Chip said...

well, TNR in general has shifted way right-ward, and what you are describing fits in well with their neoliberal positions on other things; in particular the tone of the article is a clear signal.
Thanks for fighting the good fight and keeping it up even when it seems like you're hitting your head against a wall...