Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I understand that what I am about to write has absolutely no basis in what anyone would consider acceptable evidence. It's just a hunch.

But my gd, Katie Roiphe must be miserable.

My general experience is that conservatives and people who make really really stupid arguments (note: these two groups usually consist of the same people) usually are projecting their own feelings on others. The more bizarre and out-there the accusation, the more likely it is that they're masking their own feelings.

"Why won't feminists admit the pleasure of infants?" the subhead to Roiphe's article reads. She is amazed that her favorite feminist authors never had children or had only one. She sees feminist writers as minimizing the pleasures of motherhood:

Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a "vocation." The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.

I think Roiphe has mixed up cause and effect. The only women writers that men would take seriously were childless and.or who wrote about how motherhood was a vocation. If they started writing about the pleasures of motherhood, they would be taken far less seriously. Many writers have pushed through those barriers and written about motherhood. Tillie Olsen wrote about the pleasures and pains of motherhood in "Mother to Daughter, Daughter to Mother: A Daybook." From "Tell Me a Riddle," when Eva visits her daughter and brand new granddaughter:

"A new baby. How many warm seductive babies."

From "I Stand Here Ironing":

"She was a beautiful baby. She blew shining bubbles of sound. She loved motion, loved light, loved color and music and textures. She would lie on the floor in her blue overalls patting the surface so hard in ecstasy her hands and feet would blur."

Roiphe's argument only makes sense if you ignore the many feminist writers who did write about the pleasures of motherhood. Or it makes sense as the ravings of a woman who is trying to persuade herself and those who know her of her devotion to her child.

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