I’ll tell you why some of us blog – it’s out of sheer frustration at seeing people with no visible qualification being allocated space to mouth off on the editorial pages of our national broadsheets. (Not that I want to come across like Prince Charles or anything.)
Now I know generational name-calling is not only uncivil, but bullshit. Dina Ross however, who is described as a “writer and journalist”, is happy to title her AGE article “The gen X take on the failings of feminism“, so there you go. Like Virginia Hausegger and Fiona Stewart before her, she’s moaning about the Failures of (Twentieth century style, older women’s) FeminismTM. (“Feminism’s cruel fall-out has polarised mothers who do not work and those who do. The stay-at-home versus work debate has become a minefield of prejudice and antagonism…” etc, etc.)
And what is this feminism? Well, Dina Ross reckons feminism is Shirley Conran and Cosmopolitan!
Of course, if you start from this idiotic premise, feminism’s an easy target.. That’s like bemoaning the state of modern literature and only quoting Danielle Steel and FHM magazine. Hasn’t this woman heard of Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Susan Brownmiller, Anne Summers, Katha Pollitt…? and I’m only scratching the surface here.
I googled Dina Ross. Nope, it wasn’t the one with the Supremes. She’s an OK writer– I didn’t mind this short story over here. But I found no sign of any actual credentials to lecture us on 20th century feminism. Is it too much to ask that these scribbler superstars read a book occasionally? Apart from Shirley Conran, that is?
OK, now for a bit of admitted anecdotalism. I really need to address this Gen-X myth that “feminists” are bullying them to get to work and neglect their kids. As a mum of 13 years standing (my feet are killing me), I have heard many a homily in my time from well-meaning people who think that childcare centres are run by the devil and staying at home is the only path to fulfilment. I have yet to experience a conversation where a working mum told a stay-at-home or part time mother she should get a paid job. This happens in postfeminists’ imaginations. (I know there are people who pester single stay at home mums to get a job for ideological reasons, but this is kind of a different angle.) Working women, and feminists, are simply not interested in lecturing SAHMs on their choices. However, they do not believe that all women should be bullied into thinking their lives will be ruined if they do not follow that choice.
Joanna Murray-Smith, a well known Australian playwright, has been disapproving of working mums for as long as I can remember. When I first read her thinkpieces in the ’90s, it was all about how we’re damaging our children by putting them into long day care, and we have to make the tough choice to stay home for them and forgo our selfish ambitions (no mention of the dads). This was no worse than Anne Manne and others who were pushing the same barrow around that time, but it was the hypocrisy of JM-S which made me jump up and down with rage; because she was a famous playwright and could just do her thing at home, so she DIDN”T HAVE TO CHOOSE. Unlike ordinary commuters like me, she could have her cake and bloody well eat it while flicking the crumbs at us and telling us how awful we are.
This time around she is a little more honest, ‘fessing up to the fact that she does, in fact, have a career, but she’s consumed, consumed! With guilt at even working at the computer at home. And still no mention of Dad.
There have been many responses in print to J M-Sís latest ñ mostly against. Liz Porter can’t resist pointing out that the post-feminist desire to make children into Little Emperors just might not be the best thing for them, and that mums have had to juggle tasks, and teach their children independence, throughout history.
It’s a salutary and necessary experience for children to learn that it is not a law of the universe that their immediate needs come first. They do, of course, when children are ill or unhappy. But not when “Batman’s scuba equipment” needs to be found and the mother in question is, as Murray-Smith puts it, on the computer trying to write a few sentences. There are a few handy replies for this situation, used by mothers of all classes. Depending on the age of the child, they are: “wait”, “you are able to get it yourself”, or “what did your last slave die of?”
Mpff. Sounds just like our house. And my kids, long daycare alumni as they are, are thriving.