Monday, March 7, 2011

Back in the Game

My little girl got her first cold, which was very sad. Then she gave it to me, which made it miserable and sad. I've been skating by in a (thanks to breastfeeding) cold-medicine-free haze, and I taught four classes without being able to speak above a whisper. But I'm back! While I was hacking and coughing, I read some articles at Salon that had me raising an eyebrow with suspicion, and I was going to blog about it, but then  I saw that L.M. Fenton had beaten me to it and done a pretty good job of articulating what had bothered me about it in the first place. 

But there was one of the three (somewhat)-anti-motherhood pieces Salon posted that I wanted to pick apart in a little more detail. Mary Elizabeth Williams' subheading for her article regarding Natalie Portman's acceptance speech reads "In her acceptance speech, the 'Black Swan' star suggests pregnancy trumps a career. She's wrong."

Excuse me.

I'm pretty sure that Natalie Portman gets to be the one to determine the greatest role in her own life.

Williams goes on to say:
Any working mom will tell you: They don't hand out prizes for being a good mother. You just do it, with as much love and heart and soul as you've got. If you're lucky, it doesn't diminish you as an artist -- it inspires you to greater heights, as this year's mothers nominated for playing mothers -- Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams and Annette Bening -- probably know. Motherhood is important. So is work. And you don't have to backhandedly downplay one to be proud of the other.
I didn't see Portman's comment as "backhandedly downplay[ing]" anything. She gave a gracious acceptance speech for an award she worked hard for. How can motherhood simultaneously "inspire [her] to greater heights" and get marked as a role she shouldn't mention out loud? Williams calls Portman out for downplaying the role of an actress in favor of the role of mother (which I don't think she did), and in doing so asks that she downplay the role of mother in favor of that of actress (and by extension, any other career-minded definition of success). 

I love my job. It is rewarding, and in a field that I feel directly makes a difference with issues that mean a lot to me. I'm good at it, and I feel fulfilled when I do it. But I still consider my role as a mother to be "greater." It's greater in many ways. I work eight hours a day. I am a mother constantly. If I decided to quit my job, someone else could do it. If I just walked away from my role as a mother, there wouldn't be a replacement. I am not planning on staying in this job for the rest of my life, but I will be my daughter's mother forever.

Williams says "the comment jarred me, as it does every time anyone refers to motherhood as the most important thing a woman can possibly do." Portman didn't say that, but fine. I know that there was a time when a woman's role as mother was seen as a requirement above all else. A time when women were trapped by that role. And I know that those pressures still exist, but forcing women to deny the way they feel about motherhood is no better.

No comments:

Post a Comment