Has Dooce become the modern day June Cleaver?

by Susan Getgood on April 16, 2009 · 16 comments

in Blogging, Gender

Barbara Billingsley as June CleaverBefore I begin, full disclaimer. These are my thoughts, my feelings, my perceptions about gender stereotypes. Your Mileage May Vary.

I’m 46. As your mileage catches up to mine, you may  see my point of view  🙂  Or not.

Of late, the mainstream media has shifted its attention to the mom blogger. Whether it covers the Digital Mom (Today) or the Secret Lives of Moms (Oprah) , it seems to be focusing its “laser” attention on a new stereotype of moms.

A digital mom. Who seems to be in her early thirties, generally white and blond-ish, and blogging about her experiences — good,  sometimes bad, and occasionally whiny — as a mom. Played on TV,  generally, by Heather Armstrong (Dooce).

Don’t get me wrong. I love being a mom. I waited a long time to become one, and it was never certain that I would. My son is one of the most important things in my life.

But my experience of motherhood as a later in life mom with, at the time Douglas was born, a senior executive job at a technology company is very different than Heather’s.  I had to battle different things, including very real sexism on the job. I had to operate in a world where my joy in parenthood had to be tempered, because my male colleagues saw it as a weakness. They would never admit it, but oh my, was it clear.  Seen, not heard, baby.

I have tremendous respect for women who, like Dooce, have turned their motherhood into a money stream. God bless you and rock on as you rake it in. Not for me, but it works for you and I have no problem with it.

I’m also NOT proposing that mom bloggers stop sharing their stories in any way they wish on their blogs. Your life, your stories, your words, your right.

BUT….

Have we taken four steps forward and five steps back? Are we still letting mainstream media define us by our motherhood? Sure, it is not June Cleaver anymore; there’s a nod to diversity. A teeny weeny nod.

Nevertheless, the media seems to be re-focusing on women in a very traditional role of mother, tripping lightly over our other achievements.

Have we really come a long way, or are we back near the beginning?

Is this new perception of modern day moms damaging our ability to be perceived as women APART from our roles as mothers?  The media seems to be grabbing hold of an image of the digital mom that threatens to overwhelm our individual and collective achievements as professional women. To stuff us back in a gender-defined box.

How else to explain shows like “In the Motherhood” ? Or Oprah’s Secret Lives of Moms, which I did not watch because the show generally irritates me and I didn’t expect the mom episode to be much different. (Read some other moms who weren’t over the moon about Oprah).  Or the idea that Oprah’s foray into Twitter (lord help us) has something to do with soccer moms?

Is the digital mom becoming a new stereotype that will be just as damaging as June Cleaver?

I’m worried that the answer is yes.

Now, here’s where I put on my truly radical feminist hat. Be warned, and bear with me, as I am still thinking through this issue. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree with me, think I am full of shit or something in between.

Is the mainstream media stuffing women, in general, back in the mommy box because the US power structure relies on women staying in their traditional gender role? To some degree, I think the answer is yes.

Those in power – mostly men – want to stay in power. Full stop. Individual women are allowed to break out of the mold – if they push push push hard enough, give up everything except their careers etc. They are allowed to be the rare exceptions – the Queen Bees.  They are unique.

Society doesn’t  acknowledge that women can be just as capable, competitive as male counterparts, and still be nurturers.  Moms. The successful woman is special. [Note: Women are also allowed to rise to the top if they embody the stereotype and use it to be successful. Mary Kay, Avon etc.]

The rest of us? At the core, The Powers That Be want – need  — us as a gender to stay in the traditional role as much as possible. Our economy is to some degree built on the assumption that we will. We can have jobs, but not the top jobs. Look at the tech industry – even the social media industry. At most conferences, most of the speaking slots are STILL filled by men. A smattering of token women, usually the same ones over and over. Because you know, they are special.

Even Michelle Obama, a very successful attorney in her own right,  has been completely redefined as a wife and mother. Don’t even get me started on how the  media has f-ed over Hillary Clinton. Would take multiple posts and only my policy wonk friends would stick it out.

The other side of this problem is the Madonna – Whore dichotomy. It often seems, women must be one or the other. Never both. Our society still has tremendous difficulty separating sex from biology. Consider breastfeeding. Biology, people. Mothers make milk and some choose to breastfeed their babies. Others don’t. Has NOTHING to do with sex. No need for blankets. Or embarassment. For anyone.

Yes,  this mom in the media trend makes me very uneasy. Tell me I’m wrong. I want to be wrong. I don’t think I am.

What do you think?

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