When "feminist/breastfeeding blogs" are bad words

I can't even remember what the big hullabaloo was last year with moms, but I do know it was the first time I'd ever heard of the "Mommy Wars."  It could have been about stay-at-home-moms vs. work-out-of-home moms, or mothers vs. non-mothers, or moms who aren't employed, but have their kids in daycare vs. moms who are with their children all day long... the list goes on (and on).

Today, the war of words has drifted to style of parenting and all that falls under certain categories - or, at least, perceived categories and their associations.

On one side, we seem to have the group of mothers who dedicate their public spaces (i.e., blogs) to breastfeeding advocacy, natural child-birth practices, cloth diapers, organic foods, baby wearing, a mother's rights to knowledge and support via legal channels, gentle and non-physical discipline, bed-sharing, not letting their kids cry it out, Cesarean-section avoidance, and keeping their sons' penises intact.

The other side includes mothers with space devoted to telling other mothers that it's ok to formula feed, opt-in for the epidural and scheduled C-section, that disposables are a God-send as are the jars of baby food at the grocery store, a woman should go somewhere private to breastfeed for modesty's sake, spank, have their babies in a separate room from day one, let them cry themselves to sleep, and who circumcise their sons.

Pretty black and white, right?

Wrong.  So wrong!

Not one family is all or nothing.  There are mothers who breastfeed the first, but not the second child; who have an epidural, but refuse inducing; who spank, but don't do CIO; who formula feed, but make their own baby food.  Nor is anyone "wrong" for doing what fits best for their situation and personality.

I don't know why we've done this to ourselves (pitting mothers one against the other, yet again), but we have.  Sure, I might never spank my son and I could give you 100 reasons why, but I would never tell you you were a piece of shit for deciding to do it with your family.  Of course I think MY way is better, it's why it's MY way.  I mean, of course!

And therein lies the rub for all of us: We all think our way is the best way.  It's a necessary job requirement when it comes to parenting.  We have to be married to our methods - and also flexible if the outcome is not what we were expecting - in order to be consistent, fair, and stable.  We have to commit!

I hate it that a blogger I really like because she's witty and wry got absolutely FLAMED for first, a guest post saying it's ok to use formula, and second, for an interview she gave about using over-the-counter drugs for uses it's not intended for.

Jill's whole shtick at Scary Mommy is that she's devoted, but also out-numbered, and sometimes chooses the path of least resistance (like letting her youngest eat like a dog), and yet other bloggers I also esteem (for entirely different reasons) feel entitled to go after Jill's posts with the fury of a mother scorned.  And beat up and with the wind knocked out of her Jill writes this:
For all of you perfect parents making perfect decisions in your perfect lives, this isn’t the place for you. Why don’t you look up some of the feminist/breastfeeding blogs? Those folks always seem to have the right answers.

And, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.


I get that breastfeeding is intrinsically linked up with feminism, but why do feminism and breastfeeding always seem to be linked up with bullying those who choose differently?  And likewise, why do the women who formula feed bully us, too (I've seen it and it's not pretty, either)?

The reason, I think, that feminist/breastfeeding bloggers go so hog-wild whenever anyone ever says that it's ok to formula feed is because they're thinking of protecting that one woman out there who's on the verge of giving up on breastfeeding because (and no one argues with this) breast milk is the best thing for a baby.

Ok, I get that, but going after a humor blogger whose main goal is to entertain and be light isn't the way to do it because breastfeeding might not be the best thing for every woman and her family.  (And let me tell you that I practically choke on those words, but I also believe it.)

If I were that breastfeeding mom whose nipples were bleeding and baby was crying and whose mother kept telling me that she used formula and all 5 of her kids were fine I don't think I'd read Jill's guest post and think, "Hey!  She's right!  I guess I'll stop!"  I would do more research and really ask myself the hard questions.   Breastfeeding is intrinsically linked up to more factors than simply a woman's desire to breastfeed or not.  She needs support, she needs will power, she needs determination, she needs love, she needs focus, she needs education, and she needs examples. 

We haven't always been such an "enlightened" group of parents.  So many used to be hit, beaten even, children were sold to be apprentices, girls were given to old men to bear him heirs, families were split up, children were treated worse than livestock in many cases (the Dark Ages, anybody?).  And certainly NOT to say that any of that was ever ok, but I feel like I need to remind people that WE SURVIVED THE IMPERFECTIONS.  We still created amazing human beings capable of great love, innovation, art, wonder and intellect despite their deplorable childhoods.  Just because not everyone parents the same particular way today does not mean the fall of civilization as we know it.

This is how I think it should go:  I'll tell you about my life, my decisions, and my reasoning if you care to hear it.  I will show you what I think should be done by example, not by badgering or belittling and not by humiliation or condescension.  And you do me the same favor.

I don't know... I'm just so sick and tired of all the animosity between these two camps.  Mothering is hard, the most painful, soul-searing, isolating, and important thing I'll ever do in my life.  The last thing I need is to feel like I have to defend my decisions to women who've made different ones.  I beat up on myself enough as it is.

(Side note: I linked to some blogs that I think are good examples of those "camps", but  I could be entirely wrong, so please let me know and I'll revise.)


  1. You took the words right out of my mouth... I am appalled at the way people can treat each other. No one is safe, while 'The Feminist Breeder' was busy commenting on 'Scary Mommy's' guest post (and her comment was totally benign actually) she herself was being raked over the coals by the 'Peaceful Parenting' people.

    I'll just say it again, before you hit "submit" picture the person on the other end. Try to remember that you only see a snippet of the whole person on her blog, and that the whole person is probably a lot like you. And even if they're not, be careful they might still be able to throw down!

  2. Love this! Thanks for articulating things so well...if nothing else, all the mama drama led me to your blog!

  3. I totally respect what you are saying. I feel terrible for being a woman yet feeling so anti-feminist after the experience last week. It hit close to home for me and I didn't appreciate it. You're right --- it's the hardest thing in the world and we should all be on the same side, not opposing ones.

  4. Jeezus Pleazus. Amen. Seriously, I woke up this morning to internetz DRAMA. Why do people think that bickering about formula/circumcision/epidurals/whateverthehellfuelsyourfire is going to change someone's mind?
    How is "you SUCK because you FORMULA FED YOU MORONZ!" going to make someone say "oh! you are so right! I am definitely going to breastfeed next time!"
    (le sigh)

  5. I think we need to respect each other's choices. And I think that judging others is almost never appropriate. If having two kids has taught me anything, it's that parenting forces you to eat your words and do things you never expected to do on a regular basis.

    Having said that, I read the guest post on Scary Mommy, and I took issue with it. I didn't comment. I got that it was supposed to be funny. The fact that I didn't personally find it funny isn't really that important, and challenging it on its scientific merits or whatever would be missing the point. I've had people do that when I've tried to be funny and [insert big eyeroll here].

    I didn't take issue because I was worried about someone not breastfeeding. It was more because I know people who fought tooth and nail to breastfeed. People who fought and succeeded (like me), and people who fought and didn't succeed (like my very good friend). They fought because it is important. And seeing it dismissed so flippantly as an unnecessary exertion irked me. I think we need to respect each other's choices and efforts, as I said, and the post and comments left me feeling as if my efforts were being belittled.

    But I can feel that way without attacking. And that's the thing. We don't have to agree, but we do have to behave like the adults we (supposedly) are.

  6. I do agree, there are women who wish to breastfeed but for whatever reason don't and other who simply decide egainst it. However although I endorse natural parenting I do beieve that everyone has his own parenting path

  7. @Amber, I agree 100% with you. I read it, thought the same things as you, and didn't comment because it's not what I believe, but I got that it was supposed to be funny (though, I didn't find it to be so). I walked away and thought, Well, ok. I gotta just keep supporting the charities that support my causes, and support the bloggers who advocate for them, too.

    I know that there will always be tension between groups, but it's especially heart breaking to me when it's women vs. women.

  8. Since my kids are now old enough to have kids I've been away from the mommy wars for awhile now. I had no idea things had gotten so heated. Back then it was just working vs. stay at home moms. I feel like a dinosaur!

  9. drama drama drama. i kept up on the whole thing and even commented on the Feminist Breeder's facebook page that i thought her FB fans were being too rude for my taste towards Scary Mommy and her guest poster, regardless of if i agreed with them (which, like Amber, i didn't). guess who they turned on next? me, who is supposed to be "one of them".

    i just wish that we could all treat each other respectfully. i don't have to like your choices. i don't have to read your blog. i don't have to agree with you. but i can treat you respectfully and even still be your friend.

    it sucks to be labeled as one of "those breastfeeding/feminist" blogs because all this drama and jumping down each other's throats makes us look like insane people instead of rational researched women.

  10. ditto to so much of the comments. so much easier to slam someone when you're in front of a computer screen instead of their face.

    great post. we should keep up on ones like this so we can breed the peace and support for ALL moms!