You know, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, because actually, this topic is what made me think “Hey, I should start a blog so I can write a post about that.” And then, like, I started writing and other stuff came out first instead of this topic, and I sort of forgot about it. In fact, I think maybe I thought I’d already written the post, but I hadn’t, I’d just talked about it. Chronic sleep exhaustion does funny things to your brain.
When I was in college, I was an unpaid fundraising intern for a feminist non-profit, and one of my duties was to help out at the annual fundraising dinner. Now, in DC, these events are suuuuuper common, but if you’re not from there, you’re probably not as familiar with what a big fundraising dinner is like. Basically, imagine the biggest hotel ballroom you’ve ever been in, filled with big round tables, and people in cocktail attire sitting at said tables eating a fairly generic chicken dinner and drinking Chardonnay while listening to people on a stage talking about how great the organization is that is hosting the dinner. That’s it, that’s basically the event. And, the tickets that get you the generic dinner are like, I dunno, $100 a person or whatever. This was 20 years ago and I don’t remember what the going rate was back then, but it was waaaay over my college student budget, but that’s OK because I was working the event, so I got in for free. A lot of the seats at our dinner were bought by wealthy and/or large companies that supported our cause, like, Nike bought a table at this dinner–that is, they paid for 10 seats. But then they didn’t send anyone, so their table sat empty, except for me and the other unpaid intern who was working the event with me. Which was awesome because then we got to drink all the wine for the table. (Actually, we just drank some of it and took the rest home with us.)
So, my job at the dinner was to staff the name tag table with the other intern, and hand out name tags to the guests as they arrived. At one point a short elderly woman walked up to the table in front of the other intern, who said, “Can I help you?” And the woman sneered, rolled her eyes and said, “Betty Friedan” in the most condescending voice I’ve ever heard. That’s when it registered in my brain that this woman was THE Betty Friedan, the one whose book I had read the previous spring for a women’s studies course. She DID look like the photo on the back of the book, except much older. I handed her name tag to her, and she took it without smiling or saying thank you. Clearly she’d been insulted that my co-intern hadn’t immediately recognized her and said, “Oh Ms. Friedan, we’re so glad you’re here, may I get you your name tag?” What a bitch. It totally shattered for me my hero-worship of the woman who many see as the mother of second-wave feminism because of that book, The Feminine Mystique.
And now I get to my point about mom blogging and feminism. Friedan’s book was about how women like her–educated, upper-class and upper-middle-class white women–felt being housewives in the post-World War II era. Here were women who in our era would be likely to be doctors or lawyers or hedge fund managers or CEOs, but in those days, the only career that was considered acceptable for them was homemaker. It wasn’t like today when women of that income and education can choose between a career in addition to motherhood, or choose to just stick with motherhood as their career. Instead, it was unseemly for women of that social strata to be gainfully employed once they were married, so, despite having degrees from prestigious colleges, they kept house and raised their kids, whether they felt fulfilled by that life or not.
What was radical about Friedan’s work wasn’t just that she was challenging the idea that the best thing for women is to be homemakers. What was radical, what was game-altering, was that she was talking about what women’s lives are really like. Not the idealized images we saw in advertising, and not an academic analysis, but what they were actually living. She was writing the truth of her experience, and using it to say, “This is why things have to change.” The personal became political, and women everywhere realized they didn’t have to pretend to be happy anymore, that they weren’t alone, that other women felt it too.
And THAT is exactly what mom blogging is. It is women writing the truth of their lives. They’re writing about the poop stains on the carpet, and the choice to let their kid eat the food that fell on the floor, and the frustration with their toddler who still WILL NOT SLEEP. It’s powerful stuff, and the reason it’s powerful is because it is the truth of their experience as women at this point in time, in history, in their lives. And when they do that, it gives other women license to say, “Hey, I feel that way too. I’m not a bad person for feeling this way–I’m not alone.” I really can’t say just how important that feeling is, the feeling that you’re not alone, and that it’s OK to feel the way you do, AND, that it’s to talk about what you’re living. That’s what Friedan gave us, and mom bloggers are keeping up that tradition.
So, keep rocking that mom blog, you guys. Speak your truth. Because you’re helping women everywhere to find their strength.