"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mamas, don't let your babies...

Everywhere you look, it always seems that women are getting blamed for something, which is why "victim-blaming" and "slut-shaming" are two subjects that get a lot of analysis and denunciation from feminists. But I want to bring up yet another highly gendered form of criticism: Mother Censure.

I suppose, for many "responsible journalists", it would be too much of a cheap shot to attack the young Jamie Lynn Spears following her recent pregnancy announcement. Spears' mother, however, is apparently fair game. Check out this condescending (and contradictory) article from MSN Entertainment News:

I suppose, in light of the very public (and apparently unending) downfall of her older daughter, Britney, and now, with her youngest pregnant at the age when most of her starlet peers are trying to parlay their TV work into a film career, any advice Lynne Spears might offer on how to raise children seems somewhat suspect. In fact, if the current events are any indication, Momma Spears might benefit from some advice herself.

According to a study done by Lisa Rapport, Ph.D, called "The Relationships Between Professional Experience, Parenting History, and Adult Adjustment," "the environment of the entertainment industry is not necessarily toxic to normal development. Instead, the results support the well-established theory that good parenting serves as a buffer for life stress." Good parenting. It so often comes back to that.

After putting all of the responsibility for her daughters' actions onto Lynne Spears and some huh-LAR-ious specific prescriptions for how to be a better parent to celebrity children, the article goes on to explain that:

Teen moms happen, in famous families, and not-so-famous ones, in lenient households and in strict homes. In fact, teen moms happen a lot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, there were more than 400,000 births in 2005 to 15- to 19-year-old mothers, or about 10 percent of total live births in the United States in that year. When I was in high school, one of my best friends was a girl from a conservative, religious, staid family. Her father was a minister. And although she wasn't on a TV show and she didn't live with an older boyfriend -- yep, she was pregnant at 16, too. She didn't even have an older sister shaving her head and driving over photographers. Sometimes, even with the best-intentioned parenting, it happens.

So, wait. If it happens all the time and can happen to anyone, why the Mother Censure? Why are we so programmed to blame mothers for everything that happens to their children? In a culture where mothers are still often (or at least thought to be) the primary caregivers to children coupled with a societal expectation that women (and women only) sacrifice absolutely everything in order to "raise them right", it's no wonder that (even after the exhausting pregnancy, labor, feeding, caring, clothing, chasing, nose-wiping, diaper-changing, potty-training, and financial-supporting) women are held responsible for their childrens' actions. Even when they aren't children anymore. Even when they're pop music icons or star in their own TV shows.