This morning, with coffee and steel cut oatmeal (to keep my milk supply up for baby R) I stumble across this gem. My initial impulse is to not just read it as I am hardly an Erica Jong fan. I find her writing simplistic and a bit too melodramatic. Her essays and speeches just seem whiny and filled with unacknowledged privilege but since it was causing such a stir where I had found it, I decided to read it. What resulted was lots of sputtered coffee, and rants aimed at the computer screen (I am fully convinced that somehow my computer conveys these rants to the intended recipients). There is so much that just annoys the hell out of me in this article, and since she's all over the place with a poorly executed argument, there is much to cover. I cant' and wont' do it all. I suspect there will be many well reasoned arguments out there that take her to task for her silly stereotypes of AP parents to her confusing logical twists.
What I want to focus on are two major problems I have with her attack on attachment parenting. The first is that her attack ends up being leveled against other women whether she wants that to be the case or not. It's impossible to not read this article and not feel that if you attachment parent that you have somehow given up on being a feminist or having any care for women's rights. Now of course you're just a tool of some kind of nebulous thing called Attachment Parenting but it's still you. What her rant tells us is that only certain kinds of choices that are okay to make. Her choices are good, well thought out ones and the attachment parenting mom's choices are bad. It's that simple to her.
Herein lies the problem with choice. If you make choice the end all of any kind of discussion on rights then you end up in a world where all choices are valid. You can argue, as she does, that some choices are more limiting and cause more pain to others. And yes I do agree with this but I am not sure if attachment parenting is one such choice. I could as just easily argue that her choice to work, hire a nanny, buy formula, etc makes me repressed and that her choice results in a country that does NOTHING to support me in my role as a mother. Who's oppressing who? one may ask. Choice is a problematic little idea. I see choice as a smokescreen that keeps up from focusing on other ways to view the world. There is the argument, for example, that "This is my body and I can choose what to do with it." But on the other hand this is also the idea of the body behind "It's your body so YOU take care of it." I'm not necessarily saying get rid of choice but let's at least look at the assumptions behind such notions.
Because really so few people in the world have ANY choose about their lives. And I'm not just talking about people in "developing" countries. Choice is not a reality for most of the people I know. It's not always a reality for me. We are ALL forced to live in certain ways because of the system in which we live. Which brings me to my next big issue.
I can't figure out what Jong wants. She insists that we parents are too tired to be out in the streets protesting. Apparently what we need to do is to what she did which was hire a nanny so we could tour the world promoting our books which are filled with lovely feminist ideals. Okay then. Let's see. Find a job that will allow me time to write. Why a job? Because writing is NOT going to pay my rent, food, electricity, daycare. Next find a publisher who is going to give me huge advances and promote my book by sending me all the world. Well that's EASY. Okay so maybe she doesn't want to me to aim so big. Instead I need to find a job where I can work against the man. But those jobs don't usually pay well, and I need a fairly well paying job so I can afford daycare. Boy am I screwed. I'll never get to grow up to a good protester.
See that's the big problem here. Jong refuses to acknowledge her own privilege and in doing so does nothing to question the status quo. She bemoans that we don't have villages to help us raise our children but does not suggest that we tear down the corporations that turn us into money making machines. She does not proposal a radical shift in society where we value women and the work they do. She does not offer a visionary world (as our founding feminist MOTHERS did) where men are equal partners in child rearing and housework. She does not outline a plan where we help women and children with health care, food, childcare, etc.
Jong does not take the time to question why it's okay for formula companies to pimp their wares to poor women. She does not question why she hates fast food but is okay with formula (which is processed). I am not slamming mothers who need formula but I am slamming companies who actively try to sell their wares to vulnerable new mothers who are scared that their babies are not gaining weight. The bottom line is that the lifestyle she promotes sells as much as attachment parenting doest. They are both lifestyle niches that capitalism gets its hands on and promotes through exploitation and fear. But there are other paths, and she missed the opportunity to explore these trails.