Wednesday, May 30, 2012

There's More Wrong With Parenting Magazines Than Missing Daddies

'Monique - Motherhood' photo (c) 2008, Barbara Olson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Mike Adamick has an article up at Jezebel decrying the near erasure of fathers in parenting magazines. He points out that in the rare media mentions of fathers that they are often depicted as inept.  Adamick argues that this is extremely problematic and not representative of fatherhood. To that I say uh huh.  Look, I know damn well that I have one of the good ones, but research has shown repeatedly that most childcare and housework is still overwhelmingly done by women.  This is why parenting magazines, cleaning products, and any products for children are routinely marketed at women.  Advertisers and magazines are not going to market a segment of the population that has historically shown little interest in this area.

Adamick is crying what about the mehnz, rather than encouraging his fellow men to pick up their share of the burden that he misses the obvious erasure in this area. Whether it is magazines, or any kind of advertising, as long as it is related to parenting, it is overwhelming marketed to straight, cisgender, able bodied, White women of class privilege.  It is only in recent years that we have begun to see diaper commercials using Black and Latino children.  I am sure that the changing population demographics have more to do with that than a sudden desire to be inclusive.  Why focus on what is so readily obvious, when he can decry the erasure of men, in a role that they have eschewed for a very long time?

Even in more informal spheres like mommy blogging, marginalized women are continually erased.  White, straight, able bodied, cisgender women continue to be uplifted, even as marginalized women struggle to receive even the smallest recognition.  Can you think of a mommy blog on par with Dooce run by a marginalized woman? Our blogs tend to look different as well, because to raise children successfully, we have to focus on preparing our children for the fact that they have been brought into a world which will see them as second class citizens.  


You won't hear it said publicly, but WOC are erased from these parenting articles and magazines because we have been constructed as the ultimate bad mother.  When people think of a single mother on welfare, with multiple children fathered by different men, a WOC is who people envision, though there are more White people than POC on welfare. We are constructed as continually neglectful, lazy or only interested in having children to gain an increase of welfare benefits, and in the case of Latina women citizenship.  The idea that we love our children, or that we have them because we want to mother is not part of the social discourse.

Disabled mothers are constructed as incapable of being good mothers because of our disability. The role that a lack of support and accommodations play is erased.  Disabled women also share a history with women of colour of being forcibly sterilized.  We also face higher unwanted interactions with government agencies because of the assumption that we are incapable of raising children.  When it comes to disability, we tend to see a lot more of the heroic TAB parents raising a disabled child, than from disabled parents. This is because disabled people can then constructed as a burden and helpless.

Where are the lesbian moms? They're not visible because their very existence challenges the traditional family model that society continues to attempt to enforce, as though this is the only way to successfully raise children.  You would think to women parenting would be a boon because women are after all the target of all the advertising and the magazines, but they are far more interested in affirming heterosexism than profit and being inclusive.

Where are the poor mothers who are taking the bus rather than driving a mini van?  Where are the single mothers who are struggling to make ends meat?  Magazines are more than willing to occasionally include recipes that can be made cheaply, but to actually discuss how difficult it is to parent on a limited income, with no social support, is never part of the discussion.  Poor mothers are constructed as failures no matter the love or support that they offer to their children. Even though there is a social push to place mothers back into the home on a full-time basis, if this is not supported by the labour of a man it is frowned upon.  Like all other forms of media, anything parenting related pushes the lie that everyone is solidly middle class.

When I think of parenting magazines, the last question I ask myself is what about the mehnz. I am more concerned with the erasure of marginalized women and why it continues to happen.  You would think that Jezebel, a blog supposedly interested in dealing with the issues that women face, would see this as something worth exploring, but once again, marginalized mothers are getting the shaft.  I personally am sick of the erasure and the negative constructions.  There is no such thing as a monolithic woman and there is most certainly no such thing as a monolithic experience of motherhood.