Rebecca Walker is pissed at her mother, The Color Purple scribe and activist Alice Walker. And she decided to air her grievances about the situation in the Daily Mail, of all places, in a piece entitled "How My Mother's Fanatical Feminist Views Tore Us Apart." To Rebecca's credit, it doesn't sound like Alice was mother of the year — she left Rebecca alone for days at a time as a young teen so that she could go to her writing studio 100 miles away; she left Rebecca with relatives for a summer so that she could jet off to Greece. But these possible maternal transgressions are not what Rebecca is most upset about. No, Rebecca is miffed because Alice had the gall to disapprove of her choice to become a mother. "I very nearly missed out on becoming a mother - thanks to being brought up by a rabid feminist who thought motherhood was about the worst thing that could happen to a woman," Rebecca laments. Again, Rebecca's bitterness is somewhat understandable. But what makes no sense whatsoever is this rhetorical leap: "Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating."
As Phyllis Chesler points out in a Salon essay about the Walkers' war of words, "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."
While Rebecca reviles her mother, she reveres her father's second wife, a woman named Judy, "who was a loving, maternal homemaker with five children she doted on." I agreed with much of what Chesler wrote in her essay, but here's where I must disagree. Chesler says, "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."
Clearly there are not enough hours in the day for a woman to be both stay at home mom to five and jet-setting writer and activist. But what I gleaned from Chesler's statement about "not doing both" is that finding a balance between ambition and motherhood is impossible. To me, accepting the notion that women can be successful both in the office and at the hearth is one of the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling that Hillary Clinton was talking about. In fact, Hillary herself is a perfect example of a work/motherhood balance. Of course, compromises need to be made; readjustments are constantly occurring; but I've found that most women who "do it all" are too busy actually doing it to whine about how impossible it is.
How My Mother's Fanatical Feminist Views Tore Us Apart [Daily Mail]
The Mother-Daughter Wars [Salon]