Friday, May 23, 2008

Purple Reign

The truth is that I very nearly missed out on becoming a mother - thanks to being brought up by a rabid feminist who thought motherhood was about the worst thing that could happen to a woman.

My mum taught me that children enslave women.

I was raised to believe that women need men like a fish needs a bicycle.

Feminism has much to answer for denigrating men and encouraging women to seek independence whatever the cost to their families.

It was drummed into me that being a mother, raising children and running a home were a form of slavery.

I honestly believe it's time to puncture the myth and to reveal what life was really like to grow up as a child of the feminist revolution.

Believing that women are suppressed, she has campaigned for their rights around the world and set up organisations to aid women abandoned in Africa - offering herself up as a mother figure.

I came very low down in her priorities - after work, political integrity, self-fulfilment, friendships, spiritual life, fame and travel.

Is that independent, or just plain selfish?

I was 16 when I found a now-famous poem she wrote comparing me to various calamities that struck and impeded the lives of other women writers.

According to the strident feminist ideology of the Seventies, women were sisters first, and my mother chose to see me as a sister rather than a daughter.

The truth was I was very lonely and, with my mother's knowledge, started having sex at 13.

Now I simply cannot understand how she could have been so permissive.

A good mother is attentive, sets boundaries and makes the world safe for her child. But my mother did none of those things.

I organised an abortion myself.

For feminists to say that abortion carries no consequences is simply wrong.

As a child, I was terribly confused, because while I was being fed a strong feminist message, I actually yearned for a traditional mother.

My mother was the polar opposite.

When I hit my 20s and first felt a longing to be a mother, I was totally confused.

She sent me an e-mail, threatening to undermine my reputation as a writer.

She wrote me a letter saying that our relationship had been inconsequential for years and that she was no longer interested in being my mother.

I have since heard that my mother has cut me out of her will in favour of one of my cousins.

She has always had a strange competitiveness that led her to undermine me at almost every turn.

She finds it impossible to step out of the limelight, which is extremely ironic in light of her view that all women are sisters and should support one another.

I've done all I can to be a loyal, loving daughter, but I can no longer have this poisonous relationship destroy my life.

Yes, feminism has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It's helped open the doors for us at schools, universities and in the workplace. But what about the problems it's caused for my contemporaries?

The ease with which people can get divorced these days doesn't take into account the toll on children.

That's all part of the unfinished business of feminism.

Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

But far from taking responsibility for any of this, the leaders of the women's movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them - as I have learned to my cost.

I don't want to hurt my mother, but I cannot stay silent.

I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results.

I am just so relieved that my viewpoint is no longer so utterly coloured by my mother's.

I am my own woman and I have discovered what really matters - a happy family.

-- All quotes from Rebecca Walker, author - and daughter of The Color Purple's Alice Walker - from The Daily Mail


  1. Hey Man,
    Thanks for putting this together, you certainly know how to pack a punch!

    I agree with you, feminism in the USA hasn't at all lived up to its promise of equality and peace between the sexes. I do think that the example you use is from a rather radical fringe though, unfortunately those are usually the vocal ones. Moderates are by definition too moderate to speak up. But do you think that at issue is only feminism itself or that somehow sexuality, relations between men and women in this country are out of whack on a fundamental level? I think it is the second, and that the failures of feminism are a result of a very basic puritan culture in the USA, which was after all founded by Puritans who wanted less social freedoms compared to their English homeland. Post below is somewhat less punchy, and somewhat more tongue in cheek ;)

    Nice work,

  2. And one more thing...

    I sorta disagree with how you link high divorce rates back to feminism. So I looked up a couple of statistics in regards to state by state divorce rates:

    Assuming that both coasts (blue states), which are liberal, bra-burning, children-at-day-care-of-dropping bastions of the lily livers is where feminism is strongest - and assuming that the south and center of USA with hardworking, religious, family oriented, patriotic citizens (red states) is where feminism is weakest these are a bit surprising:

    lower statistic on this page:

    I mean, if the lefties are so confused with feminism, and you link feminism to messed up divorces and ergo messed up children, how come the rates are the way they are? How come Cali is # 19 and the only southern states that have better divorce rates than Cali are Texas and Georgia?

    Now, I have to go find some data for your "the republicans are the new FP democrats and the democrats are all pussies" post.


  3. While she raises many valid points in her article, Walker's daughter clearly has an ax to grind with her mom. And that ax swings toward feminism as the culprit behind her mom's "neglect." Killing two birds with one (misguided) stone?

    I can't help but notice that somehow Rebecca has managed to grow into a bright, independent and successful woman in her own right. Was is all because of or despite her mother's neglect? (And all that nasty feminism that poisoned her life so.)

    I'm reading this collection of grievances and thinking that Rebecca is overreaching here. While it appears that her mother was a neglectful narcissist (as a mother at least), this has more to do with her own character issues than feminism as such. It is too easy to single out mean and bitchy women as paragons of feminism and equate one with another. Feminists come in all shapes and sizes (and both genders), but the lunatic fringe of the movement gets the most attention and coverage to justify its opponents' animosity. Harpy-like militant feminists are no more typical representatives of the whole movement than the rabid orthodox Christians are typical representatives of Republicans.

    While I sympathize with Rebecca's pain -- and know it well, in some respects -- I think she has some growing up to do. I would love to hear from her, on the same subject, twenty years from now, when her children become adults and the tables are turned -- i.e. they have the need and "right" to criticize her mothering skills and critically assess their childhood. Something tells me that the story we'll hear will be somewhat different from this one.

  4. One more thing. Actually more than one.

    Rebecca says, "I am my own woman and I have discovered what really matters - a happy family."

    Good for her, I think. And she should have said so exactly -- i.e. "I have discovered what really matters FOR ME." Because it is clear, even from her own article, that a happy family, or a family at all, is not something that matters equally to all women just because they are women. Rebecca's letter of grievances can actually be used as a strong argument for feminism (as well as abortion): clearly not all women should, or should be expected, to have families and children. The social pressures to steer them toward both should thus lessen. Her mother would have been better off childless, it seems -- and Rebecca would have been better off... wait, she would have been better off what? Not born? Is that something she'd prefer, I wonder? Obviously, she'd like a warm(er) and more attentive mother (who wouldn't?), but given what fate had for her (we don't choose our parents), is she or is she not glad, overall, that her mother chose to give birth to her and raise her after all, in spite of her misgivings and limitations?

    Methinks that Rebecca is complaining a tad too much here. She almost sounds like a petulant and spoiled upper middle class kid who read one too many of pop psychology or self-help books. She had a neglectful mother, she complains. And I hear her say, she had a mother! She had a mother who gave birth to her and decided to keep her and raise her, even though it was clearly not easy for her to do so, emotionally at least. And she taught her daughter enough about the world and a way to create an independent life for herself in it that now Rebecca can stand here, on her own two feet; be "her own woman," as she says; have her own happy family and be a successful writer. If this is all the result of bad mothering (and feminism), then we need to reconsider our notions of motherhood (and feminism).

    Anyway, Rebecca, we want to hear from you again, on the subject of motherhood, in 20 years, okay?

  5. Alright, CMC, this story just keeps growing on me, in a bad way. I've looked up Rebecca Walker's bio and found out, among other things, that after a privileged childhood she went to Yale, had an active and successful career right away, and decided to have a child at 35 (she is bisexual, btw). She discovered all those joys of (privileged) motherhood at a mature age and wrote "Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence." She still remains very active, publicly, and continues to write.

    Sigh. And I wonder who takes care of her child while she writes and travels from one lecture to the next? The child's father (they appear unmarried)? Or a live-in nanny? Unless Rebecca has invented a miraculous way to stretch 24 hours into 48 and perform superhuman stunts, she cannot possibly be such an attentive mother and an active professional at the same time (but nannies are the answer, no?). Not to mention that she does not appear to be a stay-at-home mother herself, given her active public life. So what gives? Why complain about her "horrible" childhood (which many would kill to have) and pontificate on the proper way of mothering while remaining quiet on the obvious (and unusual) advantages she has had in life by the virtue of being Alice Walker's daughter? Why put down her mother when she is obviously following in her steps, at least outwardly, and has been a mother herself for only 4 years (just wait till her son becomes a teenager...)? Somehow she thinks she has re-invented motherhood, singlehandedly and in opposition to her own "unfit" mother (and to that awful feminism), while she is reaping rewards of both in her own life, day in and out.

    In a way, I know what she is going through -- BTDT myself after my first son was born. Boy, how I knew then all the things that my own mother (and father) did wrong! And I was totally sure that I'll be nothing like them in my own parenting... LOL, it's called the naivete and arrogance of youth (or first-time parents). Now when my sons are grown, I have a much different perspective on my parents' efforts to raise us and the challenges they faced. They were not perfect, far from it, but now, instead of criticizing, I appreciate every little thing they have done in their efforts as parents. And our lives were much different from the Walker women's, with none of their comforts and privileges. Oh, and guess what, I turned out to be a very imperfect mother myself, despite my grandiose plans to be so much better than my parents. Raising kids is no walk in the park, I know it now. I marvel at any parent's willingness to give time and energy to their kids, despite their often significant personal challenges; and I marvel at the kids' resilience and ability to grow up to be decent beings in spite of their parents' blunders. We have survived as a species and individual human beings facing far greater obstacles than those Rebecca Walker did.

    So my last (and redundant) message to Becca is: Cut your mum and those hoary feminists who made this fabulous life possible for you some slack. And call us again with updated tales of your motherhood in 2028+.

  6. OK, one more comment and I'll be off to spend the weekend with my family.

    You often quote the conservative female anti-feminists, CMC, such as Noonan, Paglia and others.

    What strikes me in these women's pronouncements is their frequently glaring oblivion to the privileges they have reaped in their lives precisely thanks to feminism. They all went to prestigious schools (which also is a result of their privileged family backgrounds) and they have been able to advance in life and their careers because of feminism and not in spite of it. Yet they turned around (like Paglia) and throw shots at feminists now, as if their own successes had nothing to do with efforts of all these women who preceded them and fought for women's rights to get education, gainful employment and opportunities to speak out and be heard that Paglia & Co. now so enjoy. That's somewhat disingenuous, I'd say.

    It also occurs to me that far from being such independent and independently thinking women, these anti-feminists seem way too often to have sold their minds and souls to their employers. There is obviously a market there for anti-feminist women and they, smartly, found a niche in it as well as a non-ending source of excellent income (and publicity). All while conveniently forgetting that if it were not for those bad feminists, they would not have these options in the first place.

    Not that feminists are walking saints and heroes above criticism; and the movement has not created new social challenges, along with positive opportunities for women, no. But the Paglia & Co.'s anti-feminist vitriol has an unpleasant odor of privileged (and short-sighted) hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement. I, for one, can't take their pronouncements on the subject at face value.