I just went gay all of a sudden!

Maybe it wasn’t all of a sudden–maybe it’s a process that has happened over the last few years, or maybe I was born this way, but I find myself wanting to align myself with the queer bloggers ever more closelyThe queer bloggers I read and feel a comradeship with don’t think that there is only one way to be a good lesbian or gay man.  They don’t police the language that other gays and lesbians use to write about or talk about their own experiences.  We sometimes disagree, but they don’t feel the need to lecture me about daring to write about queerness or question the authenticity of my queer sensibilities. 

Some of you heterosexualists, especially some of you who identify online as mothers:  not so much!  Quite frankly, I’m tired of my comments threads being jacked by people claiming to be mothers who are offended by this or that thing that I wrote about motherhood.  Although Historiann is not a blog about motherhood, I will talk about motherhood whenever I like because I am an American women’s historian, and motherhood is something about which women’s historians in general have had a lot to say.  Feel free to disagree with anything I write–but don’t bother with the complaints about “hurt feelings” and the insistance that your subjectivity is the only one that counts.

Dr. Crazy has written about the ways in which the interests and views of one subset of women–mothers–come to dominate conversations in the feminist blogosphere.  For example, conversations about improving workplaces for women come to be about maternity leave and child care, as though the careers of non-mothers are somehow perfectly free of institutionalized bias against all women.  She writes:

But don’t tell me what I should think or what words I’m allowed to use. Don’t expect me to believe that the needs of parents are somehow more important than the needs of other workers. Because I just don’t believe that.


Some conversations here this summer have followed a familiar trajectory–like yesterday’s post in which I made an aside about how I didn’t think motherhood should qualify one for an exemption from jury duty.  The comments degenerated into accusations that I’m smug and not authentically feminist because I wasn’t sympathetic to the difficulties of finding child care, the frustrations of women who care for their own children, etc., when I thought it was clear that I criticized *one* woman in particular for mobilizing motherhood as a strategy for avoiding the responsibilities of citizenship.  (As I said in the comments there–I’m sure Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the mother of seven, is spinning in her grave!)

So if this is what some readers think it means to be an authentic straight mother/feminist  blogger, I want off this wagon train.  And if anyone asks, tell them that I just went gay all of a sudden! Now, which of you gay bloggers is going to fix me a drink? (I’ll bring the steaks, obvs.!)

78 thoughts on “I just went gay all of a sudden!

  1. BTW, I had a lethally good cocktail last night, when I gave the finger to the role of self-sacrificing single working mother and went out on a date and shit. The drink had: habanero-infused vodka, muddled cucumbers, lemon simple syrup and lime juice. There was a slice of cucumber floating in its green spicy lustre.


  2. “Much as I believe in patriarchal equilibrium, times for most of us have changed.”

    This is possible a total threadjack, but…

    Recently, I have been wondering whether modern women are de facto feminists for this reason. Now, it’s a bit of an old trope that every year we ask our students ‘are you a feminist’? and they say no, and we say, but do you believe women should be edumacated, and work, and have the vote, etc etc. And they say yes, and we say, look you ARE a feminist.

    But, I have been wondering whether being a feminist requires pushing the gender equality status quo. So, it is not enough to be happy with what we’ve got, but to actively demand greater equality to carry the feminist label. And, that of course, requires us to interrogate what the status quo is and whether we are doing this and how what we do contributes to greater equality.

    And as a good socialist, I think that should apply to our choices to work, as well as those not to! I have a real anxiety that we shouldn’t be setting up engagement in the capitalist system as the feminist way forward, which is hugely problematic for a whole set of other reasons.


  3. @Emma, yes.

    Also: somehow being partnered has morphed into not only a sign of superiority but also a sanctified type of oppression.

    Maybe it’s just my experience but I hear a lot of the following, often from the same individuals (at different hours)

    “I am part of an official couple, [optional: and we have kids], so I have been validated by society, so I am right about most things in life”

    but also

    “I am part of an official couple, [optional: and we have kids], so I am oppressed”

    and at the same time

    “I am part of an official couple, [optional: and we have kids], so I should be entitled…”.

    It all seems so self serving and seems to much like a manipulative appropriation of actual feminist political analysis.


  4. Emma or anyone, re that Baby Project — is it just me, constantly living in all of these Catholic places where there are lots and lots of kids and they’re not segregated away from the rest of us, who does NOT find babies exotic? I mean, they’re charming and stuff but they’re very familiar … and to me the families on that NPR site look like a primarily homogeneous, not a primarily heterogeneous group.


  5. I get too busy to come online all day and what happens? H’ann goes gay and I missed it, plus all the good drinks or so it seems.

    Sorry that the comments on the other day went south but I’m unsurprised. My years at iVillage scarred me but good: women are very good at being vicious toward each other, just like men, and the internet breeds an outrage where every comment that can be twisted to be an attack upon one’s self must be twisted that way.


  6. http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/wori/shs3.htm

    One of the reasons that Stanton was able to suddenly have the leisure time to engage in these activities was the fortuitous hiring of a 16-year-old Quaker housekeeper named Amelia Willard. [22] Stanton described her as “a treasure, a friend and comforter, a second mother to my children, . . . [she] understood all life’s duties and gladly bore its burdens. She could fill any department in domestic life, and for thirty years was the joy of our household. But for this noble self-sacrificing woman, much of my public work would have been quite impossible.” [23]

    In addition to Amelia Willard, Stanton generally employed one or two women to act as housemaids or cooks. She seemed to have a singularly difficult time keeping them as her letters are full of woeful tales of inept servants or disappearing kitchen help. She tried to be philosophical about it, but rarely succeeded when it was she who had to fill in behind them. The servants left so frequently it seems, not because the Stantons were particularly difficult to work for, although the children did have the reputation in town of being somewhat hard to handle, but because the other opportunities available elsewhere were more attractive than domestic work. Stanton noted in an 1859 letter that one cook was leaving to take a job in a factory, and that she really could not blame her for being tired of “revolving round the cook stove.” [24] Stanton was not the only Seneca Falls resident who had trouble retaining help. A farmer who settled a few miles outside of the village in 1848 recalled that “household help was difficult, if not impossible, to come by. . . . We tried sometimes to work it out with immigrant girls from Ireland or Germany, but just as soon as the girl learned the language and something of the ways of the family, she was apt to get restless and move on. Or some young fellow would come along and marry her, and off they’d go.” [25]

    Stanton’s inability to secure good household help in Seneca Falls helped to strengthen her belief that a communal life-style was the most desirable and equitable domestic arrangement. She had spent a short time at the Brook Farm Community while living in Boston, and was much impressed with the utopian experiment. [26] To have men and women sharing equally in all domestic and agricultural work, and enjoying frequent literary and musical diversions with congenial companions, was to her, an ideal living arrangement. She spoke and wrote frequently on the subject, and never ceased calling for a more equitable distribution of household duties between the male and female members of a family. She was very resentful of the system which confined her to the house while her husband was free to pursue any interest he pleased. Henry Stanton was generally willing to let his wife pursue her reform interests if she could find the time, but even this very liberal individual was not going to volunteer to assume any of the domestic duties to allow her some leisure in which to work. Her frustration boiled over in the following letter to Susan B. Anthony:

    Oh how I long for a few hours of blessed leisure each day. How rebellious it makes me feel to see Henry going about where and how he pleases. He can walk at will through the whole wide world or shut himself up alone, if he pleases, within four walls. As I contrast his freedom with my bondage and feel that, because of the false position of woman, I have been compelled to hold all my noblest aspirations in obeyance in order to be a wife, a mother, a nurse, a household drudge, I am fired anew . . . . [27]


  7. Z, about this:
    “Re mothers and judgment (Bix’s post, above) — I have wondered for years why so many middle class American mothers think this status gives them so much authority in so many areas of life. They judge other mothers, and they also claim authority over multiple subjects they have not in fact mastered, in the same way that men do.”

    That’s the hangover from teh Victorians and their “women’s sphere” — you can be an activist, decry bars and hookers, but only for the sake of the *children*, not because teh mens are being evil imperialist fucks because their government does that sort of thing. Power could only be wielded in the role of the mother — I suspect they only tolerated female spinster/free love activists ’cause the married ladies had to go home every once in a while and give the servants instructions.


  8. Forgot to bold this. It bears repeating

    She spoke and wrote frequently on the subject, and never ceased calling for a more equitable distribution of household duties between the male and female members of a family.

    Hiring help per se is not the feminist issue. Shifting men’s burdens to other women so that men never have to shoulder them is.


  9. (Sorry for the sidetrack back to the housekeeper conversation of last week.)

    Anyway, yes, ECS had domestic help. She also engaged in public life, critiqued her husband’s lack of assistance from a feminist perspective, and used her frustration with his perspective and the freedom of the domestic help in order to push for a different vision.

    She didn’t hide behind her children or her identity as a mother.

    The insistence upon making the juror’s statement (counterfactually!) into a CLASS issue is bewildering.

    Women in poverty, after all, don’t get to say they can’t work or comply with government requirements because they’re mothers.

    Housekeepers and waitresses certainly don’t get to call in because they don’t have childcare.


  10. Yes to cgeye and also to anon. — great points — (you know, I feel now as though I’ve been in class all day and learned a bunch of important stuff).


  11. If you had said that taking care of kids shouldn’t be an excuse, I’d have understood the outrage. But you didn’t.

    You said that a SAHM with four kids, whose husband has some sort of job where he has patients, i.e., some sort of medical professional, should not be able to beg off a constitutional responsibility because she didn’t get off her ass and get a sitter.

    From where I sit, that’s perfectly in order. If you had said she had no excuse, even though she had said she tried and brought some sort of evidence to explain why finding care was a hardship, then I can see people getting all upset. There are all sorts of reasons a SAHM, or a working single mom (or dad) might have a hard time getting a sitter that should probably be taken into account. But people in shitty jobs have to lose pay to sit on juries, so it seems to me that people whose job is taking care of a house and kids might also expect to be inconvenienced.

    The real issue here is not about whether finding a sitter is hard, or unreasonable.

    The real issue here is that Historiann called out a woman for trying to dodge her responsibilities simply because she was a mother, and so should get some sort of special privileges. The point Historiann was making was not about whether or not the woman could get childcare. It was about the fact that this woman thought her SAH parenthood (and, I think, the class privilege that allows it) entitled her not even to try.

    As an addendum on identity politics: Racefail 2009. Ugliest identity war I’ve seen so far. By the end of the first day, many US-based PoC, were telling PoC who had experienced racism differently because racial identity isn’t necessarily the same in Europe, Africa, and Asia than it is in the US, that they were doin it rong. American exceptionalism at its finest there.


  12. No, it’s not! It’s snark, but wev. I think you’ve summed it up nicely, ADM. I wonder how these families cope when a family member gets sick, or any other of life’s emergencies happen.

    Looking after other people’s kids on occasion helps build up a community that one can go to when one needs a similar favor. But I think part of the ideology of the SAHM is that their labor is unique and uniquely valuable to their families, and having a friend or neighbor babysit occasionally undermines that belief. If just about anyone can do it, then their labor isn’t so special or valuable.


  13. OMG! It starts again!

    Thanks Historiann for writing about life and leaving out the motherhood. I, like TriPartite Academic above, am childless by choice. But I do not resent anyone’s decision to have kids, it’s just not for me. You wouldn’t know that from people’s reactions though who assume I hate children or hate mothers or hold motherhood against them.

    I used to read a few family/work/life balance blogs written by women and found they quickly devolved into motherhood-only. That’s fine, I accept that being a parent is a large part of somebody’s life. But it’s nice to go somewhere and talk about work and our homes and who we are and not have someone trying to define themselves by their children or lack of children every minute of the day. Aren’t we individuals? I’m as a career-centric as most of the men (and women) I know but I get judged differently for it and it doesn’t seem to be a suitable “life” treated as fairly as “motherhood” is. So it’s nice to go somewhere and meet some like minded women and not talk about what our uteruses have been doing lately.


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