The Oppression of Motherhood
It’s what a mother is supposed to do, right?
- Feed the little guy purée of organic vegetables as his first foods, with a side smidgeon of chicken (non-antibiotic-fed, free-range) finely diced.
- Use only organic hemp and cotton blend cloth diapers laundered in organic detergents free of perfumes, dyes, bleach, and the like.
- Breast feed until baby’s says it’s ok not to.
- Never, never let there be BPAs in any cups or toys or plastic items.
- Limit video- and tv-watching. Maybe don’t allow thes at all: After all, you the Mom are the best toy for your child.
It’s hard—impossible, in today’s society— to criticize any of these child-rearing practises, or the good intentions (healthier, hopefully wiser and just better children). But a recently published book by French philosopher Elisabeth Badinter, Le Conflit, La Femme et La Mère (The Conflict, The Woman and The Mother), asks if women today are not oppressed by motherhood.
From a March 22nd article—”Is motherhood a form of oppression?: Thanks to breastfeeding, organic purees and eco nappies, the baby has become a tyrant, says a bestselling book in France”—about Badinter’s book in the Times of London:
[Badinter] maintains that women have thrown off the shackles of male domination only to impose a far more pernicious tyranny on themselves — that of their own children.
She advocates a return to the old French model, which involved whatever necessary — powdered milk, baby minders, nurseries, you name it — to prevent les enfants from taking over their mothers’ lives.
Badinter singles out the economic crisis, the Green movement and American feminism as culprits:
“The baby has become a tyrant despite himself,” she says. This to the joy of men, who are able to sit back and watch the football, unconcerned by the offspring-mother battle.
So what has driven women to accept this modern form of slavery? The economic crisis is one reason, she says, with motherhood suddenly looking like a better option than the uncertainty of the workplace.
The Green movement is another, with its back-to-nature beliefs in home-made food, mother’s milk and washable nappies — all obstacles on the road to emancipation in her eyes. “Between the protection of trees and the liberty of women, my choice is clear,” she says. “It may seem derisory but powdered milk, jars of baby food and disposable nappies were all stages in the liberation of women.”
A third explanation is the contemporary American feminist movement, which, she says, has made the mistake of trying to feminise the world in the hope of turning it into more a compassionate, tolerant and peaceful place.
“Green mothering” can be seen as emblematic of what’s oppressing today’s mothers. Women buy organic crackers and scrutinize their household cleaning products with the thought of helping their children (only a bad mother would feed her children Doritos, right?) and, too, of somehow making the world greener, cleaner, safer, better. Indeed, parents of autistic children are exhorted to go organic and to create a “clean room” in their homes in the name of helping their children.. And though it’s been suggested that eating organic may not be any better for you—may not have the spectacular, earth-changing outcomes advocates claim—certainly it can’t hurt (except maybe in the checkbook) to go a bit green.
Making your own babyfood and washing all those diapers takes time. I’m sure many women consider this time well and best spent. (I count myself in that number: I made all of my son’s babyfood, filling our freezer with little cubes of puréed asparagus and broccoli). But, as Badinter points out, spending all this time doing all these things means that women aren’t investing their time elsewhere, in the workplace. Have we created a new model of mothering (with a nod to the eco-inclined website mothering.com) that is in danger of going overboard in calling on woman to go green to be good, responsible mothers?
Has motherhood become so “involved” and over-complicated that we’ve lost touch with doing what comes……. naturally?
Photo by simplyla.