Moms Don't Like Snarky Journalism...
Crossposted from Playground Revolution
The New Republic last week published an essay about three books on motherhood with the inane title: "Mommies, Mommies, Mommies: Meow Mix."
I'm not making this up. I couldn't make up a title with such a high cringe factor if my life depended on it.
I won't 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, that's good for them. Mother snark has become a tried and true way for magazines and newspapers to ride our rage and rack up sales. We must resist. Glance at a copy on a newstand, then announce loudly to everyone in hearing range that this magazine is snarky and mean to mothers. 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 consistently 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 hang with 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 and the F-Word reviewed 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 our shared 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 stereotyped 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 politics.
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 while reading this review essay. It's not only catty. It not only made me want to defend writers like Leslie Morgan Steiner of Mommy Wars fame, and Caitlin Flanagan both, because enough is enough. It was maddening that the essay ignored all politics--in a political magazine, imagine that! Plus, the vision that the the reviewer, James Wolcott of Vanity Fair, 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. Corporate profits rise when we women and mothers are in the workplace and paid low wages. Good for those in charge. Not good for women. Not good for mothers.
Back to the The New Republic. 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 that the tone wasn't right. And there wasn't a storyline about women fighting each other. The magazine knows about the work being done by MomsRising.org 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 or society. A vision that just tells us to suck it up. It's old, and not good for us.
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. And all media that doesn't support real political change for mothers, fathers and families, and that doesn't even engage the issues.
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. Not me. Not anymore. And I don't miss is.
I say, let's stop paying for media that does us wrong. There's more than enough news and views available online, for free.
We don't have political power, clearly, yet. However, women and mothers make the majority of economic decisions in our households. If we stop 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. Tell them why. Stop paying for it.
Boycott. It's an old idea, but it's worked before.