So as I was looking for images of motherhood on the interwebs which would show social control, I thought “I have adblock on my browser so I’m just going to Google “parenting”. The first website that popped up was parenting.com. I first noticed that the site was not necessarily only focused at women, but that it only showed women interacting with children so I began to question the site’s commitment to male and female parenting rather than just motherhood. I found (separate) tabs that went to parenting tips for women (Moms) and men (Dads) and did a little comparison. One of the first things that I noticed was that women are almost always called “Mommies” rather than Moms or Mothers whereas men were always called “Dad’s”. This is a linguistic tactic that utilizes a diminutive form of the word to make it seem more attractive. I mean, come on. Mommy is fun to say! Mom is less so. Wouldn’t being a Mommy be so fun?!? In contrast, articles written about how hard it is to be a mother use the word “Mom”. These articles focused on how hard it is to have a professional career and take care of children while never commenting on how men do not step up to help. This sets up a “Mom”/”Mommy” dichotomy in which women are expected to either struggle in balancing their careers and prioritize their children or give up their professional lives entirely and be this romanticized “Mommy”. All while assuming that Mother’s instinctively know how to mother because they didn’t really give any basic child raising techniques.
These portrayals of a positive “Mommy” really contribute to creating an illusion of motherhood which is exclusively positive. Many of the images found on these “Mommy” pages were of young-to-middle aged attractive white women who were holding their children, usually babies, and smiling in a very “natural” way as if they never feel any stress in their parenting–the very conception of the word “Mommy”. Image below. These images ensure that “the joys and compensations of motherhood are magnified and presented to consciousness on every hand” to ensure that motherhood is desirable. (Hollingworth)
The articles for “Dads” (notice the absence of a diminutive dichotomy), however, emphasized how much children really need their fathers. Which is really cool, indeed, but it never indicated that men know how to take care of children or would have to sacrifice anything from their personal or professional lives. There was an article about why men don’t want to be fathers, which I found mostly accurate–but it did not really advocate for male parenting but rather complain about how they want a mustang more than they wanted to be a father. There was interesting article on a photography project called “If I Could, I Would”. Link to the portfolio and picture below. It places men in positions as if they were breastfeeding their children. It’s purpose was to encourage men to put more effort into parenting. But I’m wondering if it actually does.It almost seems to me that this is saying “I can’t really breastfeed, so I’m going to just keep doing what I’m doing”. It still paints women as the ideal parents and puts men in a supporting role, at best. We should be at the point where it’s expected that fathers take care of children for as much time as mothers. It helps create happy and healthy families as Walzer argues in her paper.
I really like comparing Walzer’s article to my experience working as a counselor at a camp for people with disabilities. I had various responsibilities here which ranged from changing briefs (diapers), transferring them from bed to wheelchairs, and cutting up and feeding them their food. I had to keep an eye on them at all times. But sometimes I had a co-counselor who would (or at least was supposed to) do everything along side me. I had two weeks, in particular, which I felt that my partner did not pull his weight around. I feel like I should emphasize “his” a little bit here because both times this happened, it was with male counselors. I treated my job much like parent training–I needed to be responsible and omnipresent for a person who depended upon me. But sometimes, particularly my male co-counselors wouldn’t prioritize camper care, supervision, or interaction over their social interests–namely, for one of them, flirting with other counselors. Whenever this happened, I started freaking out and getting angry. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for mothers whose husbands don’t give support when they are needed.
Patrick Gallagher Landes