Thursday, June 12, 2008

all codes lead to roam

Just read the recent Salon article about Rebecca and Alice Walker. The author, Philis Chesler has this to say:

"Rebecca conflates feminist views of motherhood (as she perceives them to be) with her own personal experience of Alice's choice or inability to mother in a traditional way. In her interview, Rebecca admits that she prefers her white, Jewish father's second wife, Judy, who bore five children and found meaning as a stay-at-home or ever-available mother. Here is how Rebecca sounds about Judy: 'I actually yearned for a traditional mother. My father's second wife, Judy, was a loving, maternal homemaker with five children she doted on. There was always food in the fridge and she did all the things my mother didn't.'

Yes, and Alice did all the things that women like Judy don't want to do and can't do: Write great poems and novels, devote oneself to world work, crusade for human and women's rights. Rebecca: Trust me, a woman really cannot do both. The myth that we can is a dangerous one."

This blogger has some issues with the assertion that a woman unequivocally CANNOT write great works and commit great works as well as keep food in the fridge and dote on her kids. I do see how the EXPECTATION to do all foists an enormous burden on women, a burden different from men, who traditionally aren't expected to perform as many hours in the domestic sphere. Concurrent fulltiime toddler raising and great civic work may not be much possible. Heck, showering and fulltime toddler raising aren't particularly compatible. But with excellent organisational skills and some domestic help, a personal assistant, par example, certainly one could do a bit of it all during the course of a lifetime. Not that I have either. Scary! But especially if women are supported financially by their partner, the kids are in school, and modern conveniences abound (say, a dishwasher and tumble-dryer and self-cleaning oven), a woman can manage. But to claim that a woman cannot write great work, perform meaningful acts out of a social conscience, and be a beloved and appreciated woman about the place can force women into seeing motherhood and civic personhood as mutually exclusive.

Okay, so now I need a list of women who have been remarkable in both the personal and private sphere. Here's a quick brainstorm written while my own toddler says Mama and looks at the latest issue of the Irish journal Stinging Fly and then wraps my earphones around her big toe.

Sharon Olds, who has a few kids, has doted on them a good bit at least by her own account, and has written a good number of very relevant books of poetry. Not sure about the social justice piece.

Nuala Ni Dhomnail (whose name I cannot spell right now) who has championed the Irish language, written works cherished by her country, raised kids, and nursed her ill husband.

Okay, that's it. Bloggissimo, please help me make this list! I'm just too tired to come up with any names and I'm supposed to be ironing, to take Babu for her walk, to put the dishes away. In fact, Babu is here now putting her tiny pots and pans on my knee, begging for some compay during her cooking. Don't we all want some company in the kitchen? I don't even have time to blog, much less to finish that commission for the library about my year in Rosslare or to think about a third collection and whatever happened to that review for the Chicago Review I was doing of Reginald Shepherd's latest book. This situation, of course, makes ol' Philis Chesler seem spot on.