4 Jan 2007, Comments Off on Hausseggerism Rampant

Hausseggerism Rampant

Author: Helen

Stretch… Stre -e – e – etch…


Blogmuscles are still cramped from the holidays. Spent a week with no. computer. at. all. It was weird, but quite good. Then I come home and read this shit. Obviously, the place has gone to Helena Handbasket while I’ve been looking the other way.

Anna Winter had already had a go at it. Ms Cat sums it up pretty well:

Oh, the little
weasel. The cunning, cynical little [insert opprobrious epithet of choice here].

I really thought I’d mellowed out, these last few years. I really thought I’d never get seriously angry again about anything any politician ever said or did.

I see I was wrong. It’s quite energising.

Howard, Abbott and the rest of them are such cunning little weasels, we need the very best patriarchy blamers to come out swinging in favour of a less gendered, more balanced work-and-family life. Instead, what do we get in the dead-tree media? We get this.

Shorter Salamon: “Now I’ve had a baby, I am really feeling the effect of the patriarchal structures that still exist and the shortfall between the ideal of equality and the fact that mothers are, for most families, expected to bear the burden, and it’s really hard. OMG WHO KNEW???!! I am the first person ever to have discovered this! WHY DIDN’T TEH FEMINISTS TELL ME??! (Does this sound familiar?)

When the title of the article is The motherhood statements of feminism ring a bit hollow, you know you’re in for one of those “feminism has failed!” Fairfax fluff pieces. Hausseggerism, you might say.

Maybe we’ve got it so good that having children is simply too inconvenient. Or could the real problem [with fertility] be that feminism has failed? When it comes to being a mother, does feminism even exist?

Aaaargh! Well, darlin’, you could have listened to what feminists like Leslie Cannold, and Anne Summers, and Belinda Probert (just to mention three off the cuff) have been researching and writing about for decades. Not to mention the rest of us unpaid foot soldiers who wrestle the neoliberal zeitgeist in the internet forums and blogs.

I was tempted to cut this writer some slack, being as how she might be suffering from postnatal lack of sleep fuzz-brain (I see some hands going up there), but no. Scrub that: She’s a lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Melbourne (where Probert also works), specialising in, among other things, “Gender”. No, she should have done a hell of a lot better than that. One example: even though the twin topics of the article are the decline of fertility and the difficulty of life balance once you’re a mother, she completely ignores the interesting evidence of a correlation between women- (or parent-) friendly policy, and family size, opting instead for some vague pronouncement about Ancient Rome.

For a really intelligent analysis of why women aren’t having babies, or why women aren’t having as many babies, what happens when they do, and what the obstacles and possible solutions are, I’d recommend “What, No Baby?” by Leslie Cannold. It’s the best book I’ve read on the sexual politics of motherhood, and guaranteed free of hausseggerism.

Comments (0)

  • suze says:

    I agree that Salamon piece is very disappointing. It makes me wonder (to be generous to her) whether she wrote a much longer piece that was hacked to pieces by the subs or editor, as it’s not very coherent. Exactly who is she complaining about? Why is one parent staying home with a newborn while one goes to work automatically a “gendered” situation? (We did that and we’re both women.) It’s as if there’s a problem (and I don’t deny there is one) that she’s trying to describe but she can only cast around randomly and take potshots at the very obvious targets – “feminists”.

  • Helen says:

    Suze, your comment went to moderation, not sure why. (Along with 14 others by mr. “Greenwo0dz”, who I really wish would go away.

    It makes me wonder (to be generous to her) whether she wrote a much longer piece that was hacked to pieces by the subs or editor, as it’s not very coherent.

    Very good point. I also wonder whether she thought up the awful title or the subeditor did. ppl more experienced in the ways of the MM can explain perhaps.

    Why is one parent staying home with a newborn while one goes to work automatically a “gendered” situation? (We did that and we’re both women.)

    it still is very much the case for heterosexual couples, as (1) it’s usual for the lowest income earner to give the job up and that’s still often the woman; (2) There is still the perception out there that women have some kind of essential inbuilt ability to look after children, even after the breastfeeding period, just as men have some kind of essential inbuilt ability to rebuild Kawasaki engine blocks; (3) there is still the perception that men identify themselves more for their jobs and therefore suffer more in their inner wellbeing when out of the workforce; (4) Men who choose to stay home and do the parenting thing are often either frozen out of local networks which are still largely female*, or treated as some kind of bleedin’ hero (or both, alternately, according to who they’re talking to) – in other words, it’s still not treated as ‘normal’ by mainstream society. in short – yes, parenting is still heavily gendered and the work-and-family thing is still heavily gendered as long as Mum is considered the default.

    It’s as if there’s a problem (and I don’t deny there is one) that she’s trying to describe but she can only cast around randomly and take potshots at the very obvious targets – “feminists”.

    Exactly, and that’s what I found so hard to understand with someone who is an academic, has published a book (or books) and is working in Media and Communications, with Gender listed as one of her specialities. Colour me unimpressed.

  • kate says:

    She’s missing a pretty important historical point about fertility – Australia’s birthrate also declined at the beginning of the twentieth century (when contraception was much less available and reliable) between the wars. When there is economic uncertainty, people avoid making plans that cost them a fortune and prevent them from earning to their capacity. When our minimum wage (and our average wage) is too low to support a partner and child, both halves of a couple need to go out to work, and there’s no one left to take time out for babies.

    Frankly, if she’d paid any attention at all (or just taken a good hard look at her life and had a chat to her partner about his expectations) she’d know that New Parents groups run during the day (Monday at 1.30pm seems to be the norm) so Dads usually can’t go, even if they want to.

    Now I have to go because my mother has turned up with my groceries…

  • kate says:

    Lordy that second point was really two points (I wake up every couple of hours to feed my baby, my brain isn’t working and God help me if I had to go to work in this state):
    1. if she’d been paying attention and talked to her partner she wouldn’t have been so surprised by the fact that as a stay at home Mum she’s doing the cooking, surrounded by nappies and generally in charge of the house.

    2. If she’d asked around, she’d know that New Parents groups run during the day and therefore exclude most Dads. They can’t run in the evenings because that’s an awful time to take a baby out, and they can’t run on weekends because the maternal and child health nurses who organise them are only employed during the week (when they’re cheaper).

    Also, when one bloke did turn up to my sister’s new parents group the discussion revolved around birth and the physical aftermath. While he was fine with his own partner’s stitches and cracked nipples, he looked pretty uncomfortable hearing about the same thing from strangers. I’m not, I have to say, terribly sympathetic to his discomfort (he’s not the one who’s had to be so careful sitting down) it’s sad that he was never seen again (presumably his annual leave was up and he had to return to work anyway). He’s certainly more grown up than the Dad in the same group who is too ‘scared’ to change his kid’s nappies. When that piece of info came to light all the other mothers declared in shocked tones ‘But that’s their main job! It’s the bit they CAN do!’

    Maybe Winnie’s problem is that she judges herself and others according to capitalist standards. She’s not earning any money and therefore she’s powerless. It seems that she missed a pretty big tenet of feminism that goes hand in hand with the idea that women can go out to work and earn money – that women who work at home for no money are still worthy and contributing. Women who work at home still deserve respect, still make a contribution, and are still sentient beings (even when we’ve been sleeping in two hour blocks). That’s why we have divorce laws that divide assets in half regardless of who earned the money.

    Personally, when I see jobs advertised that I’d be perfect for if only I wasn’t breastfeeding a newborn, I reflect on the career of Betty Churcher. She was an artist, she had children and spent a long time at home caring for them, (while presumably also organising school fundraisers and all the other stuff that stay at home Mums do that really is hard work for the benefit of the whole community not just their own kids) then she returned to paid employment and made her way up the ladder to become Director of the National Gallery of Australia. When she neared the compulsory public service retirement age she argued that it should be extended because so many women her age hadn’t had very long in the workforce and were just getting started. As it turned out she was so hard to replace she was closer to 70 when she actually retired.

    I’m at home. I haven’t earned any money for several weeks and I’m not going to for several months (apart from Family Assistance payments) and there are indeed piles of nappies around the house. I haven’t been watching Oprah because my partner got me West Wing and Studio 60 to watch instead. I haven’t read anything other than breastfeeding instructions for a while. My masters degree is on hold, and my career (such as it was) has taken a few hits. Some of this is chosen, some of it imposed by biology. Either way, it wont be like this forever. The kid will grow and change, and our domestic arrangements will shift again. It wont happen by magic though, we’ll have to sort it out like grown ups. Now I think my son needs feeding.

  • Helen says:

    I remember that early time so well. Well, allowing for the brain fog. l was quite up with the mainstream music industry as I’d watch RAGE while breastfeeding. Also the Senate in the afternoons. I think my poor son is scarred for life. I think Sally Jessy Raphael was my bad TV of choice with my daughter. You see the results now – an OC and Buffy / Angel addict. My bad.

    It gives you such a different connection with the neighbourhood than working and coming home in the evenings does.

  • kate says:

    The well-timed death of James Brown has been a boon for the nipper’s musical education. Some people might say that Sex Machine is inappropriate for a two-week old, but if it stops the overtired screaming, I don’t care.

    I’m off to New Parents this arvo (while the Bloke stays home to get some work done)

  • Helen says:

    I know a profoundly disabled six year old on whom Johnny Cash has an instantly soothing effect. It’s a mystery. But this is wearing off a bit (in a good way – she has decided “music” is what she wants rather than just “Johnny Cash’s entire output”.)

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