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#54107 - 07/09/04 09:57 AM Re: Bitch magazine
zinemama
Ching Shih


Registered: 03/04/02
Posts: 131

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Ok, re the new issue, specifically Amy Richards' "To Whom it May Concern" on p. 27. Please, oh intelligent chicklit women, help me deconstruct this. Maybe it's the sleep deprivation, but I'm having a hard time with this article. Is she really saying that it "glorifies" motherhood to call it work? Is a feminist actually saying this?

Richards is home part-time with a 10-month-old and doesn't think that raising him qualifies as work. Maybe she's got one of those easy babies; I don't know. But what else are you going to call it? It's work when you pay someone else to do it, right? I'm just having a hard time with this, and as an at-home mama of two who works hard at what I do, I feel like it's a slap in the face for a feminist to dismiss my choice of job as simply "following a little munchkin around."

Am I reading this right?? Please tell me what you think, or
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Miranda: a zine about motherhood and other adventures www.mirandazine.com

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#54108 - 07/09/04 05:37 PM Re: Bitch magazine
beastiegirl
Ching Shih


Registered: 03/20/03
Posts: 516
Loc: Toronto

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I haven't got the new issue yet but I'll keep an eye out for that piece.

 Quote:
My sister gave me a subscription to Bitch a few years ago and while I do enjoy it, it sometimes feels like an assignment for me to read the whole thing. A lot of times it ends up half read or even unread - kind of like the Atlantic Monthly, and it kind of makes me feel a little guilty.
I'd agree with this except I actually find Atlantic Monthly to be more entertaining. I too got a subscription on the basis of the plea posted here, and I've largely been disappointed with it, to tell you the truth. I never thought it was possible to make pop culture writing so boring! It's not that I disagree very often with the positions being taken, but where's the wit? If I wanted an academic treatise, I'd go read a textbook. Basically, Reni, I agree with your entire post. I want to like it, but I kind of don't.

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#54109 - 07/10/04 12:28 PM Re: Bitch magazine
Doppelganger
Ching Shih


Registered: 05/06/04
Posts: 203
Loc: Vancouver, BC

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 Quote:
Originally posted by zinemama:
Ok, re the new issue, specifically Amy Richards' "To Whom it May Concern" on p. 27. Please, oh intelligent chicklit women, help me deconstruct this.
I wish I could help, zinemama, but that article is so meandering and poorly written that I read it twice and still don't have a clear idea what she's talking about. Here's my stab at it.

Richards starts her piece with the fairly inflammatory declaration, "I've been a mother for only 10 months... but I don't think this is work, and I realize that it doesn't serve me - or feminism - well if I mouth the slogan [of "working mother"] without honestly believing it." Without backing this statement up at all, she then takes a side trip and says that, of the women she sees who are stay-at-home mothers, "what [she] see[s] women doing isn't so much choosing parenting over their professional lives as choosing parenting because they don't have the professional lives they wanted." Again, she doesn't substantiate this at all, and it's a statement I find extremely offensive. She's basically saying that women are retreating to parenting like crybabies because they can't all be mega-career women. Boohoo.

But why should Richards waste time backing that statement up when she can instead go on to muddy the waters further by mentioning the (statistically tiny) percentage of stay-at-home mothers who have nannies? But then she retreats even from developing that idea and falls back on scolding:

 Quote:
If taking care of your child is really the most important job you can do, do it. The stigma of stay-at-home motherhood won't wear away until more people proudly - and non-defensively - answer the question "What do you do?" with "I am a parent."
Sounds great, except this is coming from the same person who, several paragraphs earlier said that parenting isn't work. And that women who parent full-time are hiding from their careers. Nope, no stigma there at all.

Richards then brings up one of the few sensible points that appear in this article: "Part of what would remedy this conflict between working and mothering, feminists have argued, is giving value to the work done by mothers." She provides a grocery list of the many parenting tasks she performs every way, but she prefaces it by saying, "I still don't think that I would describe it as work." WTF?

Okay, here's where things get really annoying. Next, Richards announces the epiphany that motherhood has brought her: "it has shown me how overrated our work lives are." Again, WTF? So, basically, according to Richards, other women who choose to be parents are fleeing from their careers, while she, on the other hand, has devalued her career because she's realized how "overrated" it is. That is the most hypocritical, sanctimonious bunch of hooey I've read in quite a while.

Richards goes on to list her own career accomplishments, though why she does this mystifies me, if in fact work is as overrated as she says it is. She gets in a few more kickers, such as "in many ways, I feel that women have regressed in their thinking on parenting and work." At first, I assumed this to mean that she was sympathetic with how difficult it is to work outside the home and be a parent (in a time when women still shoulder the greater burden of domestic chores and childrearing, even if they work full-time outside the home). But no. What Richards really seems to mean is that women are being crybabies again; they "feel like they are superwoman, when in fact bearing children is one of the most human things you can do." I'd like to know how Richards came by the belief that these two things are mutually exclusive. It goes without saying that bearing children is a "human" endeavour (duh), but that doesn't mean that, given the above-mentioned difficulties of parenting and working outside the home (quadruple that if you're a single parent or if you have several children, which Richards never once considers; caring for a 10-month-old has its own challenges, but I'd like to see how Richards's tune changes when her critter is three years old and has a baby brother or sister), I think many women are entitled to feel like they're expected to be "superwoman".

And just when you thought it couldn't get much more condescending, Richards says that women "use" their pregnancies and babies "to demand attention and respect" (I kid you not - she says this). She then reprimands stay-at-home mothers with the statement that

 Quote:
Ducking important questions - what's wrong with our work lives, why our self-definitions are so tied to work, and how to transform societal attitudes toward work - in the name of parenting will never be the solution.
Granted, those are all interesting, debate-worthy topics for a discussion about our attitudes toward work, but the fact is that Richards doesn't address any of them in her piece. Sheesh. All she does is make this massive leap in stating that, if you're a stay-at-home parent (unless you're her, because she's perfect), you aren't just being a coward about your career, you're also being a coward about discussing heavy social issues. Oh, and don't forget: parenting isn't work, so you can't use that as an "excuse".

Kee-rist. I'm flabbergasted that Bitch even published this. I don't always agree with their writers, but at least the writing is consistently good. I don't even have kids, and I'm POed. I can only imagine how you must feel, zinemama.

I'm interested in finding out what the rest of you think of the article. And please tell me if I'm the one full of hooey. For all I know, I've read Richards completely wrong... which wouldn't have happened if she knew how to construct an argument, but still.

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#54110 - 07/10/04 06:59 PM Re: Bitch magazine
zinemama
Ching Shih


Registered: 03/04/02
Posts: 131

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Ooh, thanks Doppelganger for that cogent reply!

Yeah, the way she mentioned the sahms with nannies really burned my biscuits. I mean, does anyone actually know a sahm with full-ime child care? (Outside the pages of The Nanny Diaries, that is?) What a way to divert attention from the very real issues facing the vast majority of us. (Social Security credit for the years we put in raising the next generation? Hello legislators?)

I'm so glad to know that someone else thinks this was actually as poorly written, disorganized, and just plain wrong as it appeared on first reading. I've learned to function fairly well with the sleep-deprivation, but I was going to be willing to accept that maybe it was clouding my powers of reason in this case, especially as I expect so much better of Bitch. I feel a letter to the editor coming on...
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Miranda: a zine about motherhood and other adventures www.mirandazine.com

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#54111 - 07/12/04 12:35 PM Re: Bitch magazine
Doppelganger
Ching Shih


Registered: 05/06/04
Posts: 203
Loc: Vancouver, BC

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 Quote:
Originally posted by zinemama:
What a way to divert attention from the very real issues facing the vast majority of us. (Social Security credit for the years we put in raising the next generation? Hello legislators?)
Exactly! Have you read The Mommy Myth? I'm reviewing it for another site, and one of the many interesting facts the book cites is that being a mother is the single greatest factor that puts women at risk of living below the povery line when they're seniors. Grrr. Is it terrible that part of me just wants to give Richards a shake?

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#54112 - 07/12/04 01:54 PM Re: Bitch magazine
zinemama
Ching Shih


Registered: 03/04/02
Posts: 131

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Yes, I have read The Mommy Myth (which I thoroughly enjoyed, especially the authors' sense of humor).

I'm a Quaker and I want to give her a shake, too. So don't feel terrible.
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Miranda: a zine about motherhood and other adventures www.mirandazine.com

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#54113 - 07/12/04 06:46 PM Re: Bitch magazine
Exxie
Ching Shih


Registered: 02/18/03
Posts: 147
Loc: Chicago, IL

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I just read the Amy Richards piece and I would reply with my thoughts on it, but Doppelganger has said everything I think about it. And quite clearly, too. I'm in total agreement with your interpretation of the piece. As much as I love Bitch, there are always those articles that make me think, just because you present your argument under the guise of feminism doesn't mean you can say whatever crap you want. A little intelligence is always appreciated.
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#54114 - 07/24/04 07:50 AM Re: Bitch magazine
portuguesa_nova
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/11/04
Posts: 40
Loc: Chicago

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My quest for a favorite magazine continues...

The summer issue of Bitch was the first I've ever read. I was pretty disappointed. Reading it was vaguely reminiscent of hanging out with my old college roommate who is smart, quite left of the mainstream, a lesbian, interesting, a bit nutty....yet takes life and herself so excessively seriously that when I'm with her, I do a lot of eye rolling.

The Love It/Shove It Section which is, unfortunately, located toward the beginning of the magazine was a major source of eye rolling for me...

I feel like I've got better ways to spend $5 than to pay to read articles telling me that of the new reality shows, Wife Swap is bad because it is "predicated upon the notion of the domesitc sphere as women's realm" or The Swan should be hated because it perpetuates the notion that only beautiful women are loveable.

Huh?

I had to wonder if we were both thinking of the same stupid shows on the same stupid network t.v. stations.

If any of you were enlightened by anything in that particular section of the magazine, at least, please send me $5 and I'll send you my brilliant new scathing critique on the Hershey's Chocolate Bar and how it makes a morally reprehensible lunch as it does not represent any one of the four major food groups and has not redesigned its packaging or advertising to reflect progressions in women's suffrage, improved access to health care or increased presence in university classrooms throughout recent history.

I do remain slightly worried that I didn't like it. I was a women's studies major in college and used to love the "X is bad because it represses women.." conversations. Has the real world and my 8-hours-in-a-cubicle per day lifestyle softened me (and my brain) up a bit?

The message is well intentioned, the point of it all just seemed a little too fuzzy around the edges. It's not a "fun" or, I don't know, irreverantly entertaining magazine to read like Bust or Heeb (not a women's magazine, but always located next to those two on the rack), but its not the white coat, intellectual trade magazine of feminism. I get the feeling they are aiming to be a hybrid of the two, and I don't think it works.

Whatever demographic of feminists they are speaking to, they belong to a world that is a bit too uptight for my tastes.

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#54115 - 07/27/04 12:34 PM Re: Bitch magazine
Peppermint
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/03/03
Posts: 100
Loc: Philadelphia

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I really enjoyed reading the interview with Diane DiMassa in the new issue. Seven or eight years ago I read tons of comics by women, like Diane, Alison Bechdel, and Roberta Gregory. (I hope I'm remembering all of these names correctly. . .) It was really entertaining to see what Diane DiMassa is up to lately, and it made me a little nostalgic for that time in my life. I wouldn't say the interview contained anything earth-shaking, but Diane was so straightforward in it, and I thought that was refreshing.

I also liked the pieces on chick lit and lad lit; I think I'll write a little more about that in the appropriate thread.

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#54116 - 08/01/04 01:02 PM Re: Bitch magazine
Kivrin
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 4604
Loc: Santa Cruz, CA, USA

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 Quote:
I'm interested in finding out what the rest of you think of the article. And please tell me if I'm the one full of hooey. For all I know, I've read Richards completely wrong... which wouldn't have happened if she knew how to construct an argument, but still.
 Quote:
I'm so glad to know that someone else thinks this was actually as poorly written, disorganized, and just plain wrong as it appeared on first reading.
Doppelganger and zinemama--Chiming in to agree with both of your interpretations. It was like reading a poorly written term paper. Here's the thing: Life is work. Whether you hang out with the kidlets, or are the CEO of a corporation. I disagree with Richards viewpoint that parenting is not work. "Following the little munchkin around" certainly isn't physically difficult. But it also isn't the crux of parenting. Which is incredibly hard (mental) work. It is the raising of humans beings, and encompasses way more than the daily maintenance required duties.

I'm not sure exactly what Ms. Richards was trying to say. I think maybe she is grappling with her own feelings of staying-at-home motherhood. But, she hasn't even been through one year of parenthood. Her creds are lacking in this department, and for that reason, I found it hard to take the entire article seriously.

Edited to add:

Portuguesa--I'm not sure what it is about this paticular issue of Bitch, but I don't think it was a good representation of the magazine on the whole. I'd give it one more try. But I think you are right about this issue. It was pretty disappointing.

I did like the DiMassa interiew though! And, I didn't realize she was the artist who painted that hysterical portrait of my girl, Patti. I love that! I enjoyed some of the stories in The Book of Job article too. Some were really quite poignant (Susannah Anderson-Minshall). Others were very sweet and funny (Ayun Halliday).

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