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Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

More wonderful Ariel Gore from Rumpus:

I had my son at thirty-seven after having my daughter at nineteen, and I was partnered, although queer and not married so, again, not exactly getting invitations to the mom-party, but this time I was established as a writer. I’d been supporting my family as a writer and teacher and editor for years. I owned a little house. It was a hustle, but I had a level of stability I didn’t dream of when Maia was a baby.

And of course life is also a lot easier when people aren’t constantly making remarks about how your child should be taken away from you and put in an orphanage. No one has ever said that to me about my son. And I’m the same parent. I’m actually a worse parent now because I’m tired and my back hurts.

Rumpus: Ah, that gets to what I was probably asking with that previous question: when is very young motherhood a boon? What are the various factors that can stymie our creative growth and survival?

Gore: I’m all for young motherhood. The only problems were socially constructed. At nineteen, I was as ready to start my family as I’d ever be. I was as physically healthy as I’d ever be. I was getting gayer by the minute, so my biological clock had been ticking since age sixteen.

I wasn’t invited to the mom party or any other party, so I got to write. My first stories, like everyone’s, were just practice and experiment, so the baby wasn’t getting in the way of anything I didn’t have a sense of humor about.

Early motherhood didn’t ruin my life. I just did everything all at once—writer/mother/grown-up. I’m still clawing to dig myself out of the hole, but it’s good dirt and I have no regrets.

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Sometimes I think my whole life has been an embodiment of the conflict between art and motherhood, but by letting the two coexist entwined, I live in peace.

The conflict exists in me, just like it does in everyone, but I refuse to make a choice between art and motherhood. I reject the all-sacrificing martyr-mother archetype and I reject the selfish male artist archetype.

In Western culture, the social role of the mother is as the keeper of the family secrets. The social role of the writer is as the teller of the family secrets. So when you’re both, it goes against the whole social order. We have very little celebrated history for the combination of the two because if our grandmothers tried that shit in a lot of contexts they would have had their children taken away from them, and if their grandmothers tried that shit they were burned at the stake.

Part of the problem expressed in those essays you mention might be having a husband. I’ve never had one, so I don’t know anything about that firsthand, but it does seem that the women I’ve read and heard recently exploring the mother/writer conflict in these terms have not just partners, but specifically husbands. From where I’m standing I can see that straight, married women face an intense pressure to suddenly go super mainstream when they have kids. Like, Okay, mama, enough art for youIt’s going to be all carpool and Superman cakes all the time now. But if you read Maya Angelou or Diane DiPrima, their experience of this issue was very different. Not easier, but very different. So we do have that model—a tradition for at least a couple of generations—for the single mother as bohemian artist/writer. And I think even married moms can take a look at that model and find some inspiration and some tools there. You can keep the husband if you like, but maybe all the adults have to be willing to go against the social order.

In the Kim Brooks piece you mention, she quotes her friend saying, “the point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent.” And I understand that sentiment—but that doesn’t resonate with me at this point in my life. My family has always been targeted for harassment because it’s a nontraditional family, and of course it’s my job to protect my kids from that harassment to the extent that I can, but it would be a fantasy to think that I could shield them from all the bigotry and injustice that a creative life becomes the counterpoint to.

It’s always a mistake to give up art for safety except in short-term, emergency situations where self-preservation has to take priority. We can’t give up art for safety longterm. And we’re not doing out kids any favors if we try.

It does make you wonder if part of progressives’ extreme resistance to early motherhood is that they do believe, deep down, that once a woman has children, she can’t do her own work anymore, shouldn’t have her own life anymore. It’s a place where feminism hasn’t won out over internalized notions that the Family Values people were right—that a mother being herself is a mother being selfish, that our children will suffer if we’re whole and complicated people. And of course I reject that.

For me, the answer is to reinvent motherhood, not just to delay enslavement to it. The answer is to reinvent art, too, so that we’re not just trying to squeeze our complicated experience into the oppressor’s format in hopes of the oppressor’s praise.

From Ariel Gore in an interview in The Rumpus with Zoe Zolbrod.

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In 1776, when Smith published “The Wealth of Nations,” he began his book by envisioning a “pin factory” with just eight workers; Smith and his contemporaries could never have imagined that, in 1913, the Ford Motor Company would hire fourteen thousand people to manufacture its Model T, or that it would police those employees with a quasi-governmental “Sociological Department” that performed unannounced inspections of their houses. (“Workers were eligible for Ford’s famous $5 daily wage only if they kept their homes clean, ate diets deemed healthy, abstained from drinking, used the bathtub appropriately, did not take in boarders, avoided spending too much on foreign relatives, and were assimilated to American cultural norms,” Anderson writes.) The rise of large factories and corporations created a new environment in which private government could thrive.

Contemplating the return of private government, Anderson asks, “Why do we not recognize such a pervasive part of our social landscape for what it is?” She argues that we no longer think carefully about the distinction between “public” and “private.” We seem to have forgotten that private government exists; we believe, incorrectly, that “the state is the only form of government.” Because corporate tyranny takes place in the so-called private sphere, it seems to us like a niche problem for the labor movement, not a civic problem with broad implications for our society, on par with gerrymandering or the rise of the surveillance state. At the same time, we see the corporate world through an eighteenth-century lens. To large corporations, we lend the liberatory aura that, in Smith’s day, surrounded small businesses. This allows C.E.O.s to “think of themselves as libertarian individualists,” even though they are more like “dictators of little communist governments.”

From Joshua Rothman’s “Are bosses dictators?” in The New Yorker. This is a great piece on the encroachment of work into our private lives.

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On politics

I found these photos upsetting. Sometimes it feels like we will never get there.

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pretty dead girls

Just a reminder that the amazing Emily Maguire and I will be speaking about the fetishism of female victims and the limits to empathy at a Queensland Writers Centre event at the State Library THIS Friday. Get your tickets here. We’d love to meet you.

There will also be a book signing.

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Layered on top of Ariel’s narrative are the complex themes of violence and shame. Both are constantly experienced by Ariel, as they act externally on her body—by virtue of unfair welfare policies, a bitter mother, closing institutional doors and the occasional confrontation with the father of her child—and manifest as internalized beliefs on what is “normal.” Towards the novel’s opening, Ariel lists out her woman-shames of the physical body and connects them to what that body produces and experiences: art, sexuality, children, debt, success and failure. After witnessing a male doctor sharply slap the newly-born Maia to hear her first cry, Ariel becomes unrelenting in her commitment to breaking the cycle of shame and violence—to living in defiance of that list.

However, all this is complicated by Gore’s commitment to characters as complicated, fully-fleshed people—both inflicting judgement on Ariel while also offering flashes of support and understanding. The grandmother that is embarrassed for Ariel’s situation is also the family member that loves her best. The flighty ex-girlfriend that visits Ariel also leaves condescending poetry. Ariel is a dedicated mother who chain-smokes around her daughter.

From Sara Gregory’s review of Ariel Gore’s new book, We Were Witches in Ms.

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