by LIZ on SEPTEMBER 10, 2010 · 4 COMMENTS
The online magazine Babble (which I featured last week as a Twitter add) released their Top 50 Moms to Follow on Twitter. All but four of them are white. Not one mother of color made the top ten. Twitter can’t possibly be this white.
Lists, generally, are total bullshit. Right now VH1 is running Top 100 Artists of All Time and, as usual, the Beatles are number one and Madonna is the first woman listed at #16. So, you mean to tell me that Janis or Tina or how about ARETHA is somehow not top three? Top ten? Honestly, I have to go check that list again because this is just a travesty. Wait right there . . .
Oh, there she is at #27. Fucking boys club.
But music is music and race and the internet and who frames the motherhood conversation is completely different.
When I saw the list posted, I tweeted this. And because my influence is all of nil, no one responded. I didn’t expect anyone to. Well, maybe just a little. If you’re tweeting and have a massive following like all of the Top 50 Babble Moms, you’re not going to see little ol’ me waving the WTF flag and going after something that just stroked your ego. Because acknowledging an omission kind of cheapens the moment, right?
All kinds of women have babies: poor women, lesbian women, women of color, wealthy women, middle class women, transgender women, women with disabilities, rural women, city women, etc. Obviously, socioeconomic status is not visible. And I have no idea if a woman is from the prairie or a concrete jungle or something in-between from a picture. But, I can see. And, I do see color in all of its wonderful variations and its difference from me.
If you don’t have the time to click through all of the top 50 this picture of all the presidents before and including Obama sums up my visual point. This is what the Babble Top 50 represents, a whole lotta white women blathering on about motherhood, defining their experience, and I’m wondering where is everybody else?
I made two lists of moms to follow on Twitter. I’m going to have to say – because I have not seen all of their pictures – they were all white. One dad was gay and white. So, in a list of almost 20 people, that’s 100% vanilla.
Now, I did not get paid to do this. I haven’t even been using Twitter for a year and I have 500 followers. I do not have an editor or advertisers. But, that’s me being fucking lame. I’m just as bad as Babble. Because when I saw the Top 50 list, put two-and-two together and looked at what I did, I immediately felt dirty. Like somehow I was perpetuating a myth I can’t stand: that white mothers are the only mothers that count.
And that’s false. Because women, as a group, in the 1950’s DID NOT stay at home. Betty Friedan, as ground breaking as she was did not represent all women in her work, but instead a very select population. Women of color worked. Poor women worked. Immigrant women worked. My grandmother worked. The generalization of that time and the role women played in the economy, division of labor, and the home, is an oversimplification, and it’s infuriating. The myth is perpetuated when four women supposedly represent the more than 107.2 million people or 35% of minorities in this country. It’s like writing about hip hop and only talking about the Beastie Boys and Eminem. It only skims the surface and it is not a true representation
But who’s looking for truth at Babble?
Last year (or maybe it was two), Bitch Magazine ran a piece about women of color and motherhood called Ain’t I a Mommy? It’s the piece Babble should have run, if they had any balls. The focus was on memoirs, but it might as well have been about mommy blogs and Twitter.
I identified with the writer. She wrote about her fondness for Anne Lammott; who I also love. Lammott was and is different. She may be white, but she wasn’t always successful or drug and alcohol-free. And then the writer, Deesha Philyaw, hits with the one/two:
This was the only book of its type that I read all the way through back then because, like a copy of a copy, subsequent mommy memoirs just weren’t as sharp. I found them to be one-note and lacking in whatever essential quality that had drawn me to Operating Instructions [Lamott’s published journal of her son’s first year] in the first place. In the absence of top-notch writing, I really needed to see myself in those pages. In other memoirs, I saw college-educated stay-at-home moms who felt equal parts gratitude, mental fatigue, and boredom, but I didn’t see any women who were black like me.
And thank you Ms. Philyaw because you’ve just summed up what I was noticing back then and what’s going on right now.
I am college-educated. I am also a poor white woman who has received food stamps, WIC, and Medicaid. I have lost my internet connection many times. I have lost electricity. I do not have health insurance. I am currently unemployed. My fucking sob stories are not synonymous with “minority, but I rarely, if ever, see myself represented.
But what minority and my broke ass qualifications do have in common is a general lack of nuance in the mommy blogophere. There’s a lot of funny posts and cute scrapbooks and politics and causes, but not enough of _____________ (insert what you will here). Because when you’re going to the library for an internet connection or picking your way up the social ladder or being the first in your family to attend university or checking out the linoleum at the Department of Welfare, you don’t have time for blogging about your furniture. Or, maybe you’re a woman of color with a degree, a nice home, and a blog, but no one’s noticing. And in that way, this all seems beyond fucked.
I do realize that if you’re all “life sucked today, just like yesterday” no one will visit. I also know this post is making some people feel very uncomfortable. Sorry, you’ve haphazardly wandered into the world of an angry bitch rant. You need to be more careful with your clicks.
I remember the first time I read Ariel Gore’s Hip Mama’s Survival Guide, a fellow broke ass mom (and now a successful writer), who reminded mamas everywhere that there was no such thing as debtor’s prisons; I breathed a steam engine’s puff of relief.
I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to not see myself in mommy blogs. I see me everywhere. My life experience is very different, but mirrors are funny things. You need that glimpse at a magnified presence. You seem louder then and less alone. In a time of instant connection, we’re still missing each other. And that’s my mea culpa.