MISOGYNY – Attachment Parenting and Mean Girls

Ozy Frantz has a post up in response to one by Katha Pollitt, about “attachment parenting”, which is basically the current buzzword for the way we raised my kid – my ex-wife and I almost never set him down because he was just too precious for one thing and for another it was just easier to keep track of him that way. (It didn’t include breast-feeding until six, though.) Anyway, it has suddenly become some new thing, after countless generations, and it has become yet another way to beat women up about their personal choices and preferences in their private lives.

She says something really obvious, but apparently not obvious enough for anyone else to say it explicitly:

“However, I think it’s necessary to distinguish attachment parenting as one parenting strategy out of many from attachment parenting as the latest iteration of Cult of the Perfect Mother.”

This is a really, really important point. This is puritanism in action – not sexual repression, but a social movement almost five hundred years old now, the idea of eternal progress, that nothing traditional or customary is ever good, no one is ever really good enough. It is the cultural and social equivalent of Original Sin and Calvinist anxiety about election. It’s a good thing when it’s good, it’s an engine of progress, but it can get really oppressive really quick.

Right now it’ s attachment parenting, but two or three years ago it was another flare-up in the milk wars, with scathing things said about mothers who didn’t breast-feed for however many months, longer and ever longer, that some self-appointed milk maven decreed was the absolute minimum and real mother would nurse.

This is just mean girls in prairie dresses and Birkenstocks. That’s really where the energy for all this comes from, one set of women deciding who’s cool and who’s not, and trying to impose this on all the other women who don’t get to belong to this inner circle. As Katha Pollitt says, this always comes down to middle class white women policing each other – well, actually some of them trying to police all the others. It comes down to petty personal superiority. Ooooooh, maybe if I just act like a teenager, I’ll stay young forever!!

In case anyone thinks this is anything new, let me tell you how every five years the experts flip-flop on whether you’re supposed to lay the kid on his stomach to prevent SIDS and then, oh no! no! – it’s only ever on his back!!!! Then there are the idiots who used to pipe French and Mozart into the kid while still in utero – never too soon to get her on the fast track to the Ivies! Oh, yeah, and the ever tedious milk wars about breast feeding and pumping and actually having to work a day job and all that mess.

And looking ever wider, think of all the waves of controversy the culture has gone through – the mommy wars over women going out to work or staying home, that raged all through the 80s; the orthodoxies around rape that often end up re-victimizing rape victims; and others you commenters can name. Going back further, think of the doctinaire fervor that characterized the major women’s movement of the 19th century, the Temperence Movement. What these all have in common is doctrinaire puritan fervor, as fraught and high-stakes as that surrounding questions of personal slavation.

Misandry – Both she and Katha Pollitt make another equally important point, though that’s not my focus in this article, that fathers get almost no mention in all of this talk about attachment parenting. I think it’s quite simple. This is just another form of mommy-blocking. This buzz about attachment parenting is just another way to make parenting into this abstruse science open only to true believers and initiates, and that doesn’t mean mere males. And if a father somehow doesn’t but into all this anxiety, well, that just proves he’s not really “engaged” and “fully involved.” But that is another post.

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  • debaser71

    The issue, for me, is that unless as a parent, you conform to what other parents are doing, you are deemed (literally) a criminal. The fact is that the state can come in a fuck up your shit at the slightest “offense”. Non- parents simply have no fucking clue. All it takes is a phone call from an anonymous source and the police are banging on your door at 2am.

    When I was a kid, kids were allowed to be independent. I, for example, at age 4 would ride my bike around the block in Brooklyn (East New York…not a nice area, at all). I’d walk to kindergarten by myself or with my neighbor (also in kindergarten). Today, I can’t even let my 10 year get off the school bus without me being there because the bus driver is not allowed to. It’s the rules. Rules designed to protect the school and busing company against law suits.

    So, my point is that from an outside perspective it may be easy to blame parents but what really to blame is the system. So many parents are merely parenting in the way they HAVE to otherwise they get Social Services (the state) involved.

    /rant off

  • Ginkgo

    “The issue, for me, is that unless as a parent, you conform to what other parents are doing, you are deemed (literally) a criminal. ”

    So Puritan. In Massachussetts Bay Colony the community oultawed bathing because it was licentious or carnal or some such shit. This totalitarian impulse in Puritan culture was a major obstacle to the coalescence of the colonies into one nation, and the Bill of Rights, was the response, and it appears to be the work of Virginians and other Southern aristocrats protecting their individual prerogatives, otherwise know as rights. (Slave-owning was definitely included in this.)

  • http://Titfortat6.blogspot.com Titfortat

    So, my point is that from an outside perspective it may be easy to blame parents but what really to blame is the system.(debaser71)

    You seem to forget who makes up the system. 😉

  • http://www.alliesofmen.blogspot.de doch_doch

    Oh, lord, I have so many opinions on this topic. I work at a day care and get to hear the other moms talk. Apparently, I\’m not the only one who feels like there\’s some sort of mommy big-brother who not only judges you but feels perfectly okay telling you what you\’re doing wrong.

    I\’ve got 4 kids and my oldest is 11. You have no idea how many times I\’ve had people approach me in public and give me parenting advice. I was, sadly, unable to breastfeed and I was heartbroken. Imagine how much worse all those helpful breastfeeding ladies made me feel, the one\’s who told me I just hadn\’t tried hard enough and that it was okay for my baby to be underweight. Screw you, La Leche!

    I was planning on doing a post about this myself at some point, I could go for hours.

  • Ginkgo

    Let me tell you doch_doch, I would rather read your opinions on this than mine because you have a lot more to say on it. Don\’t wait for all this to sort itself out in your head, write a series on it. My ex-widfe and I caught none of this shit 25 yeras ago.

    No surprised really that you run into this in Germany. I call it Puritan because this is America, but Germany, bourgeois as that society so thoroughly is, has its own indigenous form of conformist bourgeois respectability enforcement.

    I can\’t really express how mad this stuff makes me. We all have some responsibility to the kids in our communities; I agree with that. But bearing and caring for a baby is such a tender thing, the idea of somoeone intruding their unsolicited advice, and worse yet, making someone feel bad about it, just makes me see red. My daughter-in-law and son have aprecious four-month-old who by my lights can do no wrong. Seeing the three of them together makes my eyes sting as it is; if some asshole came in and gave either of them, and my daughter-in-law is most vulnerable to this kind of emotional assault, I would put a pick-ax into them. I could not care less how good they imagine their intention to be.

    Delight is about as close to God as we get in this world, and when someone comes and interferes with that – mocking music someone loves, sneering at their taste in beer or food or gardening or whatever, judging them on their relationship with their infant, the red mist just rises.

  • debaser71

    I found that most people were resistant to the idea of breastfeeding. In the US (NY) breasts are apparently only for men to ogle over. The biggest issue was other people\\\’s ick factor.

  • dungone

    @Gingko, Attached Parenting is just a missed opportunity. I don’t have a source, but I have heard that mothers generally provide less nurturing care to boys than they do to girls. Could it be that some of the outrage that Attached Parenting receives is due to the fact that it also applies to boys and not just girls? Over the years I’ve seen plenty of college aged women walking down the street holding hands with their mothers. I know several 30-something women today who have told me that they didn’t leave their mothers’ beds until they are 13 or 14 years old. And I think it’s almost (almost) socially acceptable. Okay, those were just random examples, but that’s the general idea. Attached Mothering + daughters = status quo. Maybe I’m just crazy here, I don’t know. It just seems that most aspects of Attached Parenting, aside from the strange breastfeeding requirements, are things that were never very controversial when it only applied to girls.

    I think this whole thing could have been a really good social initiative if it was about mothers and boys and what’s best for boys. Instead it got framed in terms of mothers and only mothers. In fact I think it’s kind of sickening because on the one hand, some of the women who are proponents of these methods seem to think of children as a fashion accessory through which to loudly proclaim their precious femininity and motherly superiority, while some of the detractors can’t get past talking about whether or not it’s oppressive to women. What’s sort of missing is – hey, so, you know those children? What about them? Especially the ones who sort of, you know, traditionally lack a sufficient level of care that is important to their health and well being later in life because of their sex.

  • Typhonblue

    @ dungone

    Yeah. I also find it deeply ironic that these discussions about ‘motherhood’ almost never reference the needs or wants of the people for which motherhood exists–the children.

    It’s all social posturing and egotism.

  • dungone

    @TB, what’s good for the children are good mothers. So if they are good mothers, then it’s good for the children. Actual needs of children can be met through quack science so long as the mother gets her social approval for it.

  • http://thedamnedoldeman.com TDOM

    Fad parenting styles aren’t much different than fad diets. All of them work for a few people, none of them work for the majority that try them, and all are ultimately unhealthy. Further, much like the need for fad dieting, the need for fad parenting arises from a myriad of social problems. Puritanism may be one way of looking at it. Single motherhood, divorce, and the overall instability of the family is another factor. So is the fear created by the welfare state that has carte blanche to accuse parents of bad parenting and take their children. Another factor that I’ve never seen anyone mention is multiculturalism. But I think one of the biggest factors is fear. News media hypes the worst of society and instills fear through sensationalism. Helicopter parenting, attachment parenting, and other types of over-protectivist practices are a natural result.

  • Ginkgo

    “I found that most people were resistant to the idea of breastfeeding.”

    DB – most *people*? I have a sense the people compalining are women and the poeople taking action are men pandering to those women. Also it may be regional – maybe out here on the Left Coast peopeel respect it more.

    Damn, TDOM, you hit about ten important point s that each deserves a post. multiculturalism and gender discussions – that’s a whole series by itself. How often have i seen some young women get a rage on for The Way Things Are only to find out she’s talking about her Italian-American ( so Neapolitan, too, not even really Italian) family in south Jersey.

    But your other points a really important – fear of government interventions is huge.

  • debaser71

    Here on Long Island there is a lot of right wing nuttery. But also, there is a lot of (I don’t know how to put it) but people who are the opposite of what I would call “down to earth” or “hippie”. They care about make up, appearances, clothes, etc. They sort of want to be “classy” but without the million dollar homes and fancy cars. Now, I don’t watch tv but I know there’s some show about “housewives of the hamptons” or something like that. (again, I don’t watch tv much so maybe I am wrong) but are those women the types of people who breastfeed? Their makeup might smear!

    (There’s a lot of “normal” people here too, so it’s not all bad, but as far as I can tell, this “class obsessed culture” plays a significant role here.)

  • Ginkgo

    “They care about make up, appearances, clothes, etc. They sort of want to be “classy” but without the million dollar homes and fancy cars.”

    You see the same thing in the South. It feels like a kind of class anxiety.

  • debaser71

    Yeah. I think maybe the resistence lies in being seen as poor. “Only poor people nurse their babies”…although I never heard anyone actually say this, I think that’s what my take on it is.

    And (just to shoot the shit) my sister relocated to Washington a few years ago and she hates it there. She’s a bit of that “classy” type person but she’s not obssessed with it. But she doesn’t like Washington (the state) at all. It gets me wondering about West Coast liberalism vs East Coast liberalism. I just don’t run into “Birkenstock” type people here. My sister though, says they are many were she lives.

  • Ginkgo

    Washington is hard to get used tot if you are not from the West Coast. For one thing the climate can be quite a trail, but I don’t think that’s what oyur sister is having a problem with. I am from the Bay Area, so it was not much of an adjustment.

    I think West and East Coast liberlaism are different and one big difference is the east Coast (and European) tendency to center humans in any situation, and the West Coast rejection of that, a more Pacific set of values. I saw a very good op/ed by a woman here, a transplant, after a particularly difficult snowstorom in which she said she had noticed that here people expected to roll with nature rather than fight it. This comes out in attitudes toward land conservation as against the needs of humans. The needs of humans definitely do not always trump everything else. I can see how that would grate on an Easterner’s value system.

  • debaser71

    In NYC there’s a new law or proposal or something about breastfeeding.

    http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/why-the-backlash-on-bloombergs-breastfeeding-initiative/?src=rechp

    From having first hand experience the issue is that nurses and hospitals and formula companys make it harder for mothers who want to nurse. They hand out free formula, the nurses feed the newborns formula (even if you ask them not to), and the hospital sends you home with sample packs of formula and coupons and shit like that. Formula is profitable and easier for the hospitals and nurses to dispense. No one is there to help moms learn how to breastfeed since formula is so much easier.

    But I post this to demonstrate all the backlash this is getting. All the spin detractors use. All the anti-breastfeeding mentality a lot of people unleash.

  • debaser71

    To put it simply, the way a lot of hospitals operate right now, they undermine a mothers decision to breastfeed. The first few weeks after birth are hugely important in establishing your milk supply. If this is interfered with, you may not be able to ever catch up. I was surprised but the comments section of that feministse link had some good comments from people who have, like me, gone through all this. This latch on NYC is desperately needed!

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