Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

05 July 2010

Why Jessica Valenti needs to be the next big mommy blogger

With one retweet and a slightly snarky comment, I started a public conversation with Jessica Valenti about the politics of motherhood and how I think she needs to embrace her public power in that realm.

I've been reading Feministing since it started and honestly a lot of times I don't quite agree with them. But I do admire Jessica's power of the media. Then again, like any celeb, I also pity that power since it seems that everything that they do is put under a microscope. On the other hand, being a blogger means putting out some personal things and having to deal with personal questions. If you don't want to answer questions, then don't put it out there. Jessica wrote about (and I assume got paid to write about) her dog and how it was a starter baby. WHOA BOY did she get ripped for that and then got ripped for buying her dog through a breeder rather than do the "feminist" thing and adopt a rescue. She then got ripped for getting married, having her wedding featured in the NYTimes and now she's pregnant.

When she announced her pregnancy I knew that we would all be in for quite a feminist dissection of pregnancy and motherhood. Today she blogged about people touching her belly. But she again refuses to allow her personal life to be a topic for public discourse. I get that. But I think it's too late for that request.

While Jessica doesn't think she has to answer questions about pregnancy and motherhood, I told her that I think she has the responsibility to answer these questions. Now Jessica & I aren't friends, but we have enough common friends that I know some background info. I know that Jessica and the rest of the Feministing crew have struggled for years to get the media to pay attention to someone other than Jessica (the pretty white feminist). I get that. So when Jessica says that other feminist mom bloggers have been discussing the very issues I say she needs to address, she responded that she shouldn't be the person talking about them, us feminist mom bloggers should.

Yes. But is CNN really going to come talk to me about feminist pregnancy issues? Nope. Are they going to seek out the hundreds of other feminist mom bloggers out there? Not really. Yes, some of us get out spot in the limelight when a smart journalist digs deeper than the uber-feminist blogger (not a slam on Jessica!). But in all honesty, Jessica being pregnant and entering the motherhood is the moment us feminist moms have been waiting for.

Oh yes, there are those of us who have been talking about these issues before we were moms, for decades and will continue to champion, but how many of us can command the media like Jessica?

Should we really care that Jessica can take our issues, now hers too, and ratchet them up in attention like she discovered them? Yes and no. Yes, because it says a lot about celebrity, but no in terms of Jessica.

How many of us, especially GenXers knew it was ok to touch a person with AIDS before Princess Diana did? How many of us knew about the dangers of landmines before Princess Diana shone her sparkly light on the issue? How many people knew polar bears were in danger before Al Gore's movie?

Women In Media & News was helping connect journalists to kick ass feminists before SheSource was conceived. ParentsWork has been working on paid family leave before Momsrising painted their first onsie. There are tons of us who have been working hard on issues but someone shinier, with more connections and more celebrity swoops in and gets the attention and funding.

Does this piss me off? Yes. Does this mean I can't work with said celeb? No. I am in the SheSource database. I support Momsrising. I'm happy at the thought that Jessica Valenti can take years of feminist mom writings and help us actually get somewhere. Will she do as good of a job as a certain Latina zinester in Texas? Hell no. Should that someone else be getting the media attention? Yes, but I've come to the conclusion that sometimes we need to hitch a ride on that celeb to the finish line.

Why else would we get excited when we hear a Hollywood star mention feminism in an interview? Or rally around a feminist cause? Why else are we heartbroken when they laugh off feminism? Because they are celebs and like it or not people listen to them. They have a power we could only imagine having.

Does this mean that those of us who haven't been able to catch that media zip in a bottle should stop working? Hell no. But I have gotten to a point where instead of being upset that someone conforms to what the media whats to see and use as an expert, I see it as an opportunity. An opportunity for those who do garner the media attention to shine a light on the work we have done in the shadows. And for us to use that person in power as a point to rally around, whether to cheer with them or critique them.

When I responded to the journalist about the breastfeeding is creepy article, I quoted Annie from PhD in Parenting. I figured that either the journalist would talk with Annie herself, which she did, or hopefully Annie will be quoted via me. That was me taking part of my 15 minutes of fame and giving a minute to someone else who I think is also doing a kick ass job. I don't get a lot of 15 minutes either! It might not always work, but perhaps with some great collaboration, partnering, etc., we can also benefit from a few celeb moments.

But that's only if that celeb is ready to carry us with her.

Thus, if feminism is truly about the personal is the political and I contend that there is nothing more political than becoming a mother, then I hope that Jessica will find a way to use her celeb status to push a feminist mothering agenda and still maintain the privacy she seems to want. 

10 comments:

I cannot read that site for the sheer volume of unbelievably anti-woman (hello! that means ANTI-FEMINIST!) rhetoric spewing forth. Never do they touch on the constant violations mothers face every day in the delivery room, or while nursing their children at the local mall. In fact, I rarely find any "feminist" mothers talking about the harassment and physical trauma that mothers in this country face every day. Why? I dunno - you tell me. I cannot read any sight that positions itself as feminist, and yet ignores the reproductive rights stripped away from mothers in this country every day, and shaming women for breastfeeding is just one of those. Yes, I think that a woman has every right to do whatever she wants with her own body, but women here are not being given informed consent when they shun breastfeeding or sign up for medicalized births. We've brainwashed women into buying formula, told them their breasts are "gross" unless they're used for sex, and then we expect them to make the healthy choice to breastfeed?

I welcome a day when all feminists will get themselves educated on these issues, and care about them just as much as our right to terminate a pregnancy.

I'd also encourage Jessica to visit http://www.bestforbabes.com to find out how to avoid those types of Booby Traps before she has her baby.

Thanks for the post (having these conversations via Twitter is near impossible!); I'll respond at length as soon as I can.

@TheFeministBreeder If you think Feministing doesn't cover issues of motherhood enough, I believe there's an argument to be made...but claiming we ignore these issues or never blog about them just isn't true. Here are our archives on Motherhood (and since not everything gets tagged properly, I know there's a ton more there if you do some searches on the site): http://feministing.com/motherhood/

Heather - What do mean denial?

I have mixed feelings about this and I'll try to explain. I've found that at times the so called celeb writer's mommy books are not any better than others in the genre, but get the publicity. That said, the publicity for the movement, other feminist mother groups, and issues can be really useful.

Nonetheless, it will be quite natural for JV to blog and write about this next chapter of her life. Parenting will open a whole new territory for her and her partner. And, based on her posts of late, it's begun. We can trust JV to continue to do great work. I always use Feministing, her blog, and other writers from the main blog's in my classes.

Thank you for the mention here and to the media when they came calling.

I agree that it is useful when people with celebrity status pick up on and clearly articulate some of the issues that are so important to mothers. That is why I am always thrilled to hear about celebrities that are promoting natural birth, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, and more. Since medicated birth, bottle feeding, and "push away" parenting is what is seen most often in mainstream media, anything we can do to get those people who are in the mainstream media to spread an alternate message and image will be useful.

In the meantime, I am also doing what I can to raise my voice and spread my message, using what little "celebrity" I have to fight for issues that are important to women.

Janni - I totally get what you mean. I'm hoping that JV would partner with a few feminist moms & then use her power to spread the message. I think that many of us feminist mom bloggers have done an excellent job at being personal without giving away all our personal moments too.

Jessica Valenti doesn't owe you anything. She's free to do what she wants with her own experience.

And TheFeministBreeder, the only anti-woman things I've seen on Feministing are posted by trolls. Mother things are covered often, and covered well, but since you "cannot read that site" you wouldn't really know, would you?

I don't think I'll be coming here again. Just one page of "we know what's best for you" crap was enough for me. And since I don't have to bother commenting on another article (right up the page) some women (feminist, LIBERAL women) like porn.

The problem I have with Feministing as well as Jezebel (even though I may get some people telling me they are technically not "feminist" at Jezebel because they don't state that they are, I think that's a bunch of bull but that's another issue) is that they disregard race by either omitting stories or acknowledging an issue/story but then all the liberal White feminist question the perspective of WOC. This is why I have stopped posting on both sites because both sites sometimes like to acknowledge WOC but then they question us. If liberal feminists want to include us, it's best to just shut up and listen most of the time. I stick to blogs that feature WOC mostly now because I can't stand the ignorance and racism...

tru: I don't believe that JV owes *me* anything, but I do believe that she holds a power very few of us will ever been endowed with and she should use it to its fullest extent.

As for the guest post by gail Dines, I hope you don't judge my entire blog on one guest post. This is going to be a summer chock full of guest posts.

butterfly: Thanks for the thoughts. I kinda agree...sometimes they hit a homerun though. And that's why I advocate for JV to point to others who have been doing the feminist mothering work. Not for her to take all the spotlight. I still want some media too! :)