Sunday, May 8, 2011

Celebrating Mother's Day with tired mother stereotypes

Why would a popular website that promises in its mission statement "to tell the truth about parenting, to bypass the clichés and dig into the magical and maddening reality," do an 10-part slideshow that perpetuates motherhood clichés, flattening the magical and maddening reality of real-life individuals into unrecognizable cutouts? Not to mention pitting readers, in typical mommy-wars fashion, against these hypothetical figures in some imaginary game of competitive mothering? (The headline touts "11 stereotypes," but only 10 are listed; perhaps "you" are the 11th?)


Yeah, I know the piece calls itself tongue-in-cheek and is intended to amuse. And sure, I realize they were just trying to do something different for Mother's Day. And yes, I admit to being able to loosely attach some of these labels to women I've met in real life. But they were all people I didn't know well, because when you get to know individuals they're harder to reduce to simplistic, one-dimensional characters.

What's worse are the constant cracks telling "you" (i.e., the reader) how "you" supposedly feel in comparison to these people. The answer: You suck. Sanctimommy will "let you know" that she's a better parent than you, and "if you're feeling thin-skinned," you'll agree. Power Mom's activities are "much more important than the likes of you," and Perfect Mom threatens to "make you make you feel like a mess."

When it comes to your appearance, you can't win. Run into Glamor Mom and you'll wind up feeling "upstaged," while Schlumpy Mom's relaxed attire could be perceived as "a knock on your new 'do." Only Slacker Mom is portrayed as someone you'd enjoy spending time with.

The underlying assumption is that anything another mother (or, honestly, another woman) chooses to do is an unequivocal rebuke to whatever different choices you've made for yourself. If you run into someone wearing a blue sweater, the thinking seems to go, you'll feel bad if you're wearing a green one.

Sigh. Call me a Humorless Feminist Mommy (), but I'm not really amused by the image of mothers constantly putting each other down and making each other feel bad because we make different choices. That happens now and then in real life, but not nearly as often as you see it in the media, where it has become a tired trope.

Not only does this slideshow fail to dig into magical and maddening reality, it's peddling one of the most shopworn clichés around.


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