Since we’re on the topic of “the ideal of the good mother” and her evil twin, the “bad mother,” and on the erasure of women’s history and feminist history in particular, I thought I’d share this trenchant observation from The Rebel Lettriste:
I have found the hipster baby store in my hometown, and its ethos and title just make me laugh. Let’s just say that it’s named after a certain famous feminist writer who wanted to have her own space in which to write. The store–which sells $16 baby hats made of organic Egyptian cotton, and sponsors mom meetups and classes on how to set up your nursery in JUST the right way–is named after this writer and her famous room. The owner advertises herself as having been a women’s studies and English major. And yet. The writer for whom this store is named never had children, probably didn’t want any children, and found her sister’s endless reproduction a little horrifying. She knew that having babies would destroy her ability to be a writer. She is not exactly the postergirl for adorably upper middle class stay-at-home moms and their perfectly outfitted babies. And let’s not forget that she suffered terribly from mental illness and eventually committed suicide. But who cares about that! Those little baby hats are so cute, and the store is so soothingly organic and English-y!
What was the store owner going for with this maneuver of naming her baby store after a famous non-mother? There aren’t all that many famous English women writers who were also mothers, alas–The Brontes, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and even the famously twee Beatrix Potter all were confirmed non-mothers. Mary Wollstonecraft’s motherhood famously put an early end to her life. Agatha Christie had one daughter, whom she had to support through her writing after her first marriage fell apart. My guess is that the famous writer in question would be horrified to see her name repurposed to sell high-end nursery gear.
What I find really fascinating about this–even moreso than the Rebel Lettriste–is the erasure of feminism and alsothe retro-application of motherhood. What else could be implied? These would appear to be allied strategies: to ignore the feminism and mommify the author in one blow. Well played. To the contrary, this distorted vision of the author in question may very well be “the postergirl for adorably upper middle class stay-at-home moms and their perfectly outfitted babies,” after all.