Sometimes I picture online publishers sitting around a room looking worriedly at a bunch of charts with lines heading down down down — waning readership on their sites! Dismal traffic! Not enough clicks!
Then one of them grins and says, “You know what we need to do.” And they all smirk and don’t even have to talk about what comes next. It’s time for a Mommy-Bomb.
All they have to do is print the word “breastfeeding.”
Or “Stay-at-home mom.” Or “Daycare.”
Or “Epidural.” Or “Natural Childbirth.”
And then a subtitle that includes the words “Good Enough” or “Mommy Wars.”
Done. They all laugh and do five minutes of work looking for someone to be the Sarah Palin (that’s what they call the “feminist” they’ll use to take a nonfeminist position for the article).
They then open some beers and laugh about how they can get women readers to do their work for them. They drive up traffic and ad revenue by fomenting insecurity and divisiveness and discord among the readers who can’t help but get sucked in.
So, it just happened again, with tomorrow’s cover article in Time Magazine (note I am not linking to it), which shows a model-thin woman breastfeeding her preschooler. This one’s got extra cha-ching because it’s not only a Mommy Bomb, it’s also a SexyBoobs Shot. The title is, “Are You Mom Enough?” SexyBoob Lady is giving us a Mona Lisa smile in her tank top and skinny jeans, showing off her gym-toned arms while her three year old suckles. She can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and squirt that shit with home-grown organic breast milk. Can you?
The article is apparently, about parenting styles — whether “regular” moms can measure up to Dr. William Sears’ version of Attachment Parenting; whether Attachment Parenting is keeping women down.
Except it’s not about these things, really.
A group of real women, gathered together with an experienced facilitator can have an amazing discussion about parenting philosophies, nursing, working vs. staying home — the works. But online, these topics don’t lead to discussion, they lead to a shitstorm. They’re not published to inspire discussion and thought. They’re published to create controversy. The hope is that you’ll click and click and click, to be scandalized or outraged, not that you’ll think, contribute, learn.
Here are a few things I think we all know, and one I think we often forget.
1. There’s no one perfect parenting philosophy that suits every baby and family just like not all babies are the same.
2. Babies are really needy and there’s actually no way to raise them without getting pretty mutually attached.
3. New moms, finding their way into their new identity are vulnerable to criticism and guilt, and can become insecure and defensive when they’re lonely with no company but the internet.
4. When you click on an ad-based website, you’re making money for that site.
I think it’s shitty that publishers run stories that exploit the normal insecurities new mothers experience. It feels predatory to me. Please don’t add to it by reading the story or participating.
Instead, I suggest you take a look at two really thoughtful pieces *about* the story: Katherine Stone’s piece on Strollerderby collects comments by over a dozen bloggers (including me!) about how to support real life women, not generic philosophies of Motherhood.
Rebecca Odes’ piece, also on Strollerderby, takes a look at the feminist issues in the photography of the cover picture. These pieces are worth your traffic; take a look.