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The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women

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Taking readers on a provocative tour through thirty years of media images about mothers -- the superficial achievements of celebrity moms, the sensational coverage of dangerous day care, the media-manufactured "mommy wars" between working mothers and stay-at-home moms, and more -- The Mommy Myth contends that this "new momism" has been shaped by out-of-date mores, and that Taking readers on a provocative tour through thirty years of media images about mothers -- the superficial achievements of celebrity moms, the sensational coverage of dangerous day care, the media-manufactured "mommy wars" between working mothers and stay-at-home moms, and more -- The Mommy Myth contends that this "new momism" has been shaped by out-of-date mores, and that no matter how hard they try, women will never achieve it. In this must-read for every woman, Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels shatter the myth of the perfect mom and all but shout, "We're not gonna take it anymore!"


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Taking readers on a provocative tour through thirty years of media images about mothers -- the superficial achievements of celebrity moms, the sensational coverage of dangerous day care, the media-manufactured "mommy wars" between working mothers and stay-at-home moms, and more -- The Mommy Myth contends that this "new momism" has been shaped by out-of-date mores, and that Taking readers on a provocative tour through thirty years of media images about mothers -- the superficial achievements of celebrity moms, the sensational coverage of dangerous day care, the media-manufactured "mommy wars" between working mothers and stay-at-home moms, and more -- The Mommy Myth contends that this "new momism" has been shaped by out-of-date mores, and that no matter how hard they try, women will never achieve it. In this must-read for every woman, Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels shatter the myth of the perfect mom and all but shout, "We're not gonna take it anymore!"

30 review for The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women

  1. 4 out of 5

    Books Ring Mah Bell

    After taking a lot of heat about my choice to have only one child... And after hearing comments like, "motherhood is so wonderful!" and, "there's no better job than being a mom!"... And after overhearing lots of "mommy wars" crap - stay at home vs. working moms. Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding... I decided to pick up this book. These women wrote about how eager our government is to build bombs/spend on war, but won't make sure maternity leave is covered or require quality childcare to be provided.. After taking a lot of heat about my choice to have only one child... And after hearing comments like, "motherhood is so wonderful!" and, "there's no better job than being a mom!"... And after overhearing lots of "mommy wars" crap - stay at home vs. working moms. Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding... I decided to pick up this book. These women wrote about how eager our government is to build bombs/spend on war, but won't make sure maternity leave is covered or require quality childcare to be provided... (when other nations like KENYA provide such things) They write about marketing gimmicks. Gotta have your $700 stroller! Gotta have the "in" toys! (if not, your kid will be a nerd and you are a BAD MOM!) Gotta get the EDUCATIONAL toys and videos! (In full disclosure, I did have Baby Einstein videos. Not because I thought it would turn my son into a genius, but because it put him in a trance long enough for me to take a shower, make dinner, or get in some naked time with my husband.) Those nice marketing guys even feed on the fears of Mom. Gotta have the germ killing sanitizers and SIDS preventing mattresses and monitors! They write about celeb moms and the "pressure" they put on us regular moms to be thin, perfect, and blissed out by having babies. Hey, I'd be blissed out and have 5 more if I had 'round the clock nannies, cooks, plastic surgeons to fix the devastation to the body from being pregnant and nursing and millions of dollars! They write about the media, talking about celebs loving motherhood. Talking about kids neglected in day care... Condemning the welfare mothers of crack babies, (Think of the cost to the taxpayer!!!) While putting the mom's of litters, er, fertility drug induced multiples (remember the McCaughy's?) in the limelight of "amazing moms"! (No, no cost to the taxpayer for her to be on bedrest for 3 months and 7 infants spending a year in intensive care, not to mention those developmental delays, right?) They also make several hilarious sarcastic comments, and refer to Dr. Laura as the Mussolini of Motherhood... They also give a shout out to Anne Lamott's book, Operating Instructions: A journal of my son's first year" Which is a must read for any new mom, in my opinion. That's right. They keep it real. Your ability to spit out kids does not make you a woman. Your choice to NOT have kids does not make you LESS of a woman. Sisters, let's be real with one another, stop the envy, petty one-upmanship and help each other out. Excellent, thought provoking read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    K

    The Mommy Myth Trialogue Popular Culture: It’s amazing to be a mom! I am so blissed out as I take care of my baby, and if you’re not, there’s something wrong with you! Feminism is overrated and anti-motherhood! Douglas & Michaels, authors of The Mommy Myth: No! No! No! This is all a bunch of momism (i.e., an impossible standard of perfection in mothering perpetuated by the media). And feminists actually love stay-at-home mothers! They just think men should help more, and want more childcare option The Mommy Myth Trialogue Popular Culture: It’s amazing to be a mom! I am so blissed out as I take care of my baby, and if you’re not, there’s something wrong with you! Feminism is overrated and anti-motherhood! Douglas & Michaels, authors of The Mommy Myth: No! No! No! This is all a bunch of momism (i.e., an impossible standard of perfection in mothering perpetuated by the media). And feminists actually love stay-at-home mothers! They just think men should help more, and want more childcare options. Take that, Christina Hoff Sommers! Hapless reader: Wait a minute, guys – I read a book by Christina Hoff Sommers on feminism. I didn’t find her antifeminist per se as you guys claim, and she cited a heck of a lot of data to support her points. Meanwhile, your acerbic and often vitriolic tone is admittedly bitingly funny and saves this book from being dry, but I’m not sure about your credibility; you can get a bit rhetorical. Popular culture: In women’s movies, guys can be jerks but the happy ending comes when the heroine ends up with a more sensitive man. Douglas & Michaels: Drag that heroine to a gay bar where she can meet some decent women! These heterosexual happy endings with sensitive guys are deluding audiences by masking the patriarchy. Hapless reader: Hey, I’m also not a fan of wish fulfillment in Mary Sue movies, but judging from the number of them out there, I guess other people are. Once we’re appealing to people’s fantasies, is it so terrible to imagine that our heroine finds a decent guy? Is that really so unrealistic? Last I checked, there were still some decent guys out there. Popular culture: It’s all over the news – kids are being kidnapped! Kids are being poisoned! Lots of bad stuff happens at daycare centers! Douglas & Michaels: You see? It’s all a plot. They’re trying to get mothers to leave the workplace and go back home. Hapless reader: Or maybe news shows are just trying to get ratings by being sensationalist and appealing to people’s vulnerabilities. As more mothers work, these will naturally be hot topics. Popular culture: Look at all these celebrities just loving being moms with their five nannies and three chefs! And look how skinny and gorgeous they are all the time, and how they never complain! Douglas & Michaels: And how is the average women’s magazine reader supposed to feel when she sees how short she falls compared to Hollywood celebs? They’re sending you a message – if you fail at motherhood, you fail at womanhood. Hapless reader: I’m not sure how deliberate or calculated this all is, and most of my friends and I aren’t comparing ourselves to Angelina Jolie and struggling with inferiority complexes as a result. Popular culture: Welfare queens! Crack babies! Child abuse! Maternal delinquents! Douglas & Michaels: The media sets up motherhood good guys and bad guys, and are giving us a vastly oversimplified picture. They’re causing us to stereotype people on welfare and exacerbating our tendencies toward racism and classism. These images of evil mothers make insecure mothers with aspirations to perfect motherhood feel better about themselves. But really, mothers on welfare are being unfairly stereotyped and really need their government funding which is now in jeopardy. Hapless reader: I’ve worked with people who were underprivileged, and I’ve met a wide range of people living off of government programs. I’ve met people who fit the media stereotypes, and I’ve met people who were more like the people Douglas and Michaels claim are more typical (hard-working, given a bad break in life, doing the best they can, striving to get off of government programs), and I’ve also met people who fall on different places in that continuum. The system definitely needs an overhaul. But I’m not sure Douglas and Michaels’ image is any more accurate, or less one-dimensional, than that of the media. Popular culture: All mothers are locked in mortal combat in “the Mommy Wars,” clawing desperately at each other as they fight to the death over who’s right, the stay-at-home moms or the working mothers. Douglas & Michaels: First of all, this presupposes that mothers are choosing to work when many of them are not. Second of all, many stay-at-home mothers are sympathetic to and/or envious of mothers who work, and vice versa, but this is entirely overlooked because it’s more fun for the media to pit us against each other. What’s really going on here is that an impossible standard of motherhood is being promoted which is making all of us insecure and defensive. What’s also happening is that an ideal of individualism is being sold to women, which is replacing feminism and the sisterhood of collectively advocating for women’s needs. Ha! The government wins! No need to give women’s needs high priority, because there’s no more women’s lobby! Hapless reader: Yeah, I also thought the “Mommy Wars” were highly overrated and find that most of the mothers I know manage to find some balance between being with their kids and developing a career, even if that balance looks different for different people. I wouldn’t say that there’s an anti-feminist backlash agenda here, just an attempt by media to get readers/listeners/viewers by drumming up controversy among existing social movements. Popular culture: Daycare is bad. Research has found that it negatively affects child development in all kinds of ways. And look at all those sexual abuse scandals that happened in daycare centers! Douglas & Michaels: Well, a lot of that damning research on daycares was agenda-driven and problematic. Jay Belsky, a major researcher in this area, misrepresented his findings as well as his status on the research team just to get attention. And what those scandals really show us is that we need to have better daycare across the board, available to all working mothers, not just the ones who can afford those astronomical prices for quality daycare. Government, where are you? Why can’t we be more like Denmark, Sweden, and France? Shame on you! Hapless reader: I want better daycare, but I’m not sure that I want higher taxes and a more socialized government. I think this issue is far more complicated than Douglas & Michaels are making it out to be. Popular culture: You have to buy your child the best toys, or they won’t develop properly. And you have to buy your child the hippest toys, or they’ll feel deprived compared to their friends. Douglas & Michaels: These educational toys are so overrated, and many of the hip toys are also sexist. Stop commercializing the mother-child relationship! Stop pressuring moms to anticipate, and cater to, all of their child’s needs! Hapless reader: Unfortunately we do live in a materialistic society, and some of this is unavoidable. I agree that it’s regrettable, though I’ll admit that this particular chapter got a bit long-winded for me. Popular culture: Beware of SIDS and other childhood dangers (that can only be prevented by buying our expensive products)! Dr. Laura is proud to be her kid’s mom, and will rip you if you’re not – no confusing moral ambiguity there. Basically, women need to be independent, achievement-oriented, successful, both equal to men and appealing to men, selfless, accommodating, nurturing, and of course, slim and beautiful – “some hybrid between Mother Teresa, Donna Shalala, Martha Stewart, and Cindy Crawford.” (p. 325) Douglas & Michaels: Somehow, kids survived in earlier generations without all these products. Dr. Laura is a hypocrite who has a major career despite being her kid’s mom, and capitalizes on women’s ambivalence about working in a context where it’s hard to afford good daycare (boo to you, government) by reaffirming the sexual division of labor and creating a black-and-white world that infantilizes her callers. Let’s replace momism with something more honest and real. Let’s acknowledge that motherhood, though it can be deeply rewarding, is not an endless high. Let’s ridicule momism, which is really little more than an attempt to sell us stuff and divide women, and instead, let’s come together and advocate for things that mothers actually need. Hapless reader: Douglas and Michaels, for all my making fun of them in this review, are intelligent academics who make a lot of good, or at least stimulating, points. I also found myself chuckling a lot at their acerbic barbs and satire. That being said, they’re clearly agenda-driven and, in their way, just as one-dimensional as all those people promoting the new momism. This book needs to be read critically. It’s also long, and a bit of a commitment. But I’m not sorry I read it, and if the topic speaks to you, you may enjoy it as well.

  3. 5 out of 5

    April

    As a woman who doesn't want kids, this book was in a section of the bookstore I'd never been in (parenting), with a title that doesn't pertain to my life, and yet I started reading. I was amazed - I found a book that told me it was okay to be a woman but not a mom. Go figure! This book is a well-researched guide for mothers and non-mothers (is that the term?) alike. There are two sides to every story, of course, and this book tells that side that the media doesn't particularly glamorize. I admit As a woman who doesn't want kids, this book was in a section of the bookstore I'd never been in (parenting), with a title that doesn't pertain to my life, and yet I started reading. I was amazed - I found a book that told me it was okay to be a woman but not a mom. Go figure! This book is a well-researched guide for mothers and non-mothers (is that the term?) alike. There are two sides to every story, of course, and this book tells that side that the media doesn't particularly glamorize. I admit the book isn't perfect, but it is definitely food for thought and might open your eyes to another way of life!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Annaliese Fleming

    I think this book is HILARIOUS--it's a laugh out of loud experience for people trying to raise children in this over-the-top era of parenting. I have appreciated the authors' candor in revealing how the media, hollywood and republicans have created the image of a "good mom" as a woman who is totally fulfilled by being a mother and needs nothing else to feel total bliss. Anyone who's been barfed on at 3 AM knows that to be an overly simplistic view. The history of how the media protrays mothering I think this book is HILARIOUS--it's a laugh out of loud experience for people trying to raise children in this over-the-top era of parenting. I have appreciated the authors' candor in revealing how the media, hollywood and republicans have created the image of a "good mom" as a woman who is totally fulfilled by being a mother and needs nothing else to feel total bliss. Anyone who's been barfed on at 3 AM knows that to be an overly simplistic view. The history of how the media protrays mothering is really interesting, and potentially harmful for those women who want/lead more complicated lives.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    I may be trying to drive myself crazy, or maybe it is just time for me to revisit feminism. I have read seven books in the last year that I classified as feminist. I don't know why I have headed down this path at this time. Maybe it is having a grown daughter, maybe that I know I need to be more involved in women's issues. I do know there are a couple more that I plan to read. After reading Enlightened Sexism, I felt the need to go back to Susan Douglas' first book. The Mommy Myth makes some of t I may be trying to drive myself crazy, or maybe it is just time for me to revisit feminism. I have read seven books in the last year that I classified as feminist. I don't know why I have headed down this path at this time. Maybe it is having a grown daughter, maybe that I know I need to be more involved in women's issues. I do know there are a couple more that I plan to read. After reading Enlightened Sexism, I felt the need to go back to Susan Douglas' first book. The Mommy Myth makes some of the same points as Douglas' second book, but this is emphasizing the relationship between moms and the media rather than all women. I liked Enlightened Sexism better, but the arguments in this book are just as valid. I was especially pleased that Douglas is writing for all mothers. I am very frustrated by the perceived need to pit stay at home moms against working outside the home moms. All mothers (and fathers) suffer because many in this country do not respect work done in the home or work done to support our children. We need to learn from other countries.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rudy

    of all the millions of books out there on what it means to be a mother in contemporary society, i feel that this is the best one for a couple of reasons: 1) it is not a personal account but rather a very well researched academic survey of many mothers from all different classes, beliefs, and parts of the country. It is not just the point of view of an upper middle class white mother with angst. 2) There is a lot of history and it's quite educational on the subject of the various methodolgies of of all the millions of books out there on what it means to be a mother in contemporary society, i feel that this is the best one for a couple of reasons: 1) it is not a personal account but rather a very well researched academic survey of many mothers from all different classes, beliefs, and parts of the country. It is not just the point of view of an upper middle class white mother with angst. 2) There is a lot of history and it's quite educational on the subject of the various methodolgies of child rearing throughout the last century, as well as the rise of feminism. 3) Even though it is thorough and academic, it is very readable and well written. Finally!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Fascinating, and I think this should be required reading for anyone who is trying to raise kids in today's society. We are getting so many messages from so many sources about how to be moms and how to raise our kids and -- most upsetting of all -- how to be terrified of everything. It was startling to me to realize how many of those messages are coming in and where they're coming from. Also read another book on this topic: Perfect Madness. Fascinating, and I think this should be required reading for anyone who is trying to raise kids in today's society. We are getting so many messages from so many sources about how to be moms and how to raise our kids and -- most upsetting of all -- how to be terrified of everything. It was startling to me to realize how many of those messages are coming in and where they're coming from. Also read another book on this topic: Perfect Madness.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    I struggled with writing about this when I read it way back in 2004, because I really liked it in some ways, but in others, it irritated the hell out of me. Clearly, there is a lot of truth in Douglas and Michaels's assessment of what they call "the new momism" -- American culture's highly idealized vision of the perfect mother -- and of how the media and many politicians have contributed to its growth. Their history of motherhood in the media is fascinating reading, and the chapter on childcare I struggled with writing about this when I read it way back in 2004, because I really liked it in some ways, but in others, it irritated the hell out of me. Clearly, there is a lot of truth in Douglas and Michaels's assessment of what they call "the new momism" -- American culture's highly idealized vision of the perfect mother -- and of how the media and many politicians have contributed to its growth. Their history of motherhood in the media is fascinating reading, and the chapter on childcare is particularly compelling in its analysis of how from Nixon's time on the government has failed to support childcare programs. However, two things prevent me from being able to recommend The Mommy Myth whole-heartedly. The first is the tone. I've appreciated Douglas's witty style before, in her excellent Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media, but this time, the constantly snide tone just detracts from the message of the book. It's tough to pick out a particular passage to quote here, but the tone is so pervasive that although I barely noticed it in the first chapter, by the end of the second chapter I was constantly rolling my eyes and wishing they'd knock it off (maybe it was the section about the fictional "Committee for Retrograde Antifeminist Propaganda (CRAP)" that did it). The second and more serious issue is that although Douglas and Michaels claim to support the rights of mothers to make their own choices, they seem to have their own ideas about the right way to mother, and they frequently denigrate other choices, giving them lip service while writing about them as though you'd have to be crazy even to think about them. For example, they say of home schooling (which I probably won't be doing but have certainly considered) that "for some parents today, home schooling is the best and sometimes the only option they have, and they do it without an ounce of self-righteousness." Great, but since they've just spent almost a page describing home schooling in a very biased way and making it clear that it's something they would never consider ("we have no idea how any parent spends the whole day attempting to impart knowledge to her kids"), it's hard to believe that they're as open-minded as they act. The Mommy Myth could and should be a valuable book, particularly for mothers who are feeling the pressure of perfection. It does contain a lot of valuable information and a lot of convincing arguments, and I think it's worthwhile reading for those. However, I would have been a lot happier with a book which was a little more serious in tone and a lot more objective.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeanna

    I was curious to see what the authors had to say about motherhood being idealized, even though I knew I wouldn't agree with a lot of what they had to say. I ended up just reading a couple of parts that I was interested in and not really caring about finishing the whole thing. But I think they had a good point: mothers now are increasingly pressured to be totally perfect in every way--make your own baby food, homeschool, always be patient and understanding, teach your kid to read early so they're I was curious to see what the authors had to say about motherhood being idealized, even though I knew I wouldn't agree with a lot of what they had to say. I ended up just reading a couple of parts that I was interested in and not really caring about finishing the whole thing. But I think they had a good point: mothers now are increasingly pressured to be totally perfect in every way--make your own baby food, homeschool, always be patient and understanding, teach your kid to read early so they're smarter, make sure they're involved in 7 million activities, don't have any time to yourself, and did I mention never losing your temper and always being patient and understanding? And lots more things too. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I'm constantly feeling like I'm supposed to be doing more to be a good mom. So I agree with their overall point that there's just too much pressure and it makes life a little bit miserable and guilt-inducing for mothers and even for women without children. But I also do think that being a mother is wonderful and meaningful--and if you're a mom, then that really is one of the most important jobs/roles you have. Not the only one, but definitely one of the most important. And that it does require some sacrifice on your part. It doesn't mean that you can't also have other things that are important to you, but being a mother means sacrificing or waiting on some of those things for a while. Okay, enough soapboxing. Essentially, I thought they had some interesting things to think about, but the book was too politically charged to make a good read for the whole thing.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book was lent to me when I was four or five months pregnant with my first child. I fell in love with it immediately, recommending it to anyone who would listen. As the title suggests, it is about the raw deal women have been given about motherhood. It talks about how feminism in the 70s was about free daycare, and it confirmed what I have been saying, our society doesn't really like children. Yes it wants us to buy a bunch of crap for our kids so they can compete with other children and the This book was lent to me when I was four or five months pregnant with my first child. I fell in love with it immediately, recommending it to anyone who would listen. As the title suggests, it is about the raw deal women have been given about motherhood. It talks about how feminism in the 70s was about free daycare, and it confirmed what I have been saying, our society doesn't really like children. Yes it wants us to buy a bunch of crap for our kids so they can compete with other children and their crap, and yes it glorifies motherhood to the extreme that you are a total loser if you don't want or can't have children, but as a society we are not really equipped to raise children. Most maternity leave is 3 months, if you are lucky, and most people need two incomes to survive (and buy all of the crap they need to keep their children competitive). Childcare is on of the lowest paying professions, yet most people struggle to afford it, which is what the 70s feminist movement was about. I could go on, but suffice to say, I loved this book and other people might as well.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Purl Scout

    basically a manifesto stating that feminism and the idea that we can have it all has straight up fucked women over. can be beautifully summed up by that scene in the 30 Rock episode about the teamsters sandwiches when liz lemon is stuffing her face with the sandwich while yelling, "i can have it all!" no. no you can't, and none of us can. way to sabotage ourselves, girls. its time to get realistic. basically a manifesto stating that feminism and the idea that we can have it all has straight up fucked women over. can be beautifully summed up by that scene in the 30 Rock episode about the teamsters sandwiches when liz lemon is stuffing her face with the sandwich while yelling, "i can have it all!" no. no you can't, and none of us can. way to sabotage ourselves, girls. its time to get realistic.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Quinn Strange

    An absolute must-read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Wuertz

    I found this book to be very informative. I really liked how it analyzed the media's portrayals of motherhood over a 20 year period in everything from magazines to news reports. Even though the book was published in 2004 and a lot of the references were from media in the 80s and 90s, I can still see these same trends in our current media climate. I definitely saw attitudes and cultural "norms" (both good and bad) that are perpetuated in the media that my friends, family and I have been shaped by I found this book to be very informative. I really liked how it analyzed the media's portrayals of motherhood over a 20 year period in everything from magazines to news reports. Even though the book was published in 2004 and a lot of the references were from media in the 80s and 90s, I can still see these same trends in our current media climate. I definitely saw attitudes and cultural "norms" (both good and bad) that are perpetuated in the media that my friends, family and I have been shaped by. However, I did feel towards the end of the book that it was just turning into a bashing of motherhood in general. Because of this, I'm left at the end of the book not exactly sure what the authors' point is other than they want more government spending to support schools, daycare, and the poor. Some key points that I found interesting and liked: -How celebrity mom profiles in magazines make a lot of average women feel that they need to/can do it all and still be a sexy coverlette. Not exactly realistic. -On the opposite end of the media spectrum, most stories in the news surrounding children and parenting tend to be fear mongering like if you put your kid in daycare they will be abused and neglected, toys have all these toxic chemicals in them, child abductions, vaccine reactions, disease outbreaks, etc. -When something bad happens to a child and it so happens that both parents work, the mother being at work is more often emphasized in the media stories. Women are expected to stay at home with their kids and if something happens to their kids when they are not in their care, it is their fault. The fathers are not usually mentioned in these news stories and fathers are not expected to be as responsible. -Feminism is responsible for a lot of really great things in the lives of women, but a lot of Christians and Republicans try to make it seem otherwise and focus on a couple of the negative aspects of the movement. -Stories in the news media about welfare mothers and crack babies tend to almost exclusively feature minorities even though this is not statistically accurate as to actual population numbers. -In the late 80s and early 90s there were a slew of stories in the news media about crack babies and the developmental problems they would have and the cost to society they would be as they grew up. However, many studies since then have found that effects of cocaine on fetuses were greatly exaggerated and many of the negative effects were often caused by other factors like alcohol, tobacco, poverty and lack of prenatal care. I think the section on this really struck me because as someone that has always had a heart for adoption I've been cautioned about "crack babies" countless times as one of the reasons not to go through the US foster system. -The media continues to perpetuate the myth that most welfare mothers abuse the system, are part of several generations that have been on welfare, keep having more kids to get more money from the system, are lazy, and are minorities. Tons of research has been done on this and it just isn't supported. These abuses are a tiny fraction of welfare recipients. -How toys and products marketed to kids have become big business thanks to deregulation of the FCC and anti-trust laws and how our kids are basically turned into brand loyal consumers from a very young age thanks to movies, TV shows, commercials, toy catalogues, etc. And how this brand consciousness and loyalty continues through the teen years. How you are made to feel that you aren't a cool or good mom if you don't get your kids the latest toys (educational and not), clothes and stuff they want.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shel

    I do not read parenting books. The last one I read was What to Expect When You're Expecting, and I hated it because, as Seth Rogan correctly points out in Knocked Up, "This is just a giant list of things you can't do!" Even when I felt the most at sea, the parenting book aisle repelled me, particularly the books that predicted gloom and doom for your budding Ophelia or your boy who had problems you didn't even know about... crisis after crisis after crisis! This book was the first one I picked up I do not read parenting books. The last one I read was What to Expect When You're Expecting, and I hated it because, as Seth Rogan correctly points out in Knocked Up, "This is just a giant list of things you can't do!" Even when I felt the most at sea, the parenting book aisle repelled me, particularly the books that predicted gloom and doom for your budding Ophelia or your boy who had problems you didn't even know about... crisis after crisis after crisis! This book was the first one I picked up on what it means to be a mother today. It is written by a woman who is a professor in media/communications, so much of what she focuses on is what we are told as a nation of mothers, and how it differs from the previous generation's concepts of how to bring up children (to put it another way, how I was raised). So, it's kind of strident sometimes. It's strident because she is pissed off. There are hilarious chapters on celebrity motherhood, a cult of personality still in evidence and growing like crazy since I read the book back in '06. The headlines are still the same: My baby is my life; I've never been happier; We're totally normal... and then there are not so hilarious chapters about bad mothers... welfare mothers, mothers who leave their children, mothers who kill their children, and how we are led to see/understand good vs. bad through the lenses provided for us. More than anything, this book taught me how to critically view marketing, advertising, news stories, books and movies aimed at telling me what is required of me as a mother today. It also taught me that my approach to being a mother -- always saying and doing the "correct" thing -- left me pretty much devoid of my own personality; you could have switched me out for another mom and no one would have noticed. Unfortunately for my children, that means being exposed to my dry sense of humor and my occasional irrational anger, as well as my hugs accompanied with tears. But at least my kids will know who I am, who I really am, as they venture into therapy to complain about me! If you want another good one, get:

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    Snappy and sarcastic, but well researched, this book describes how individual media and political campaigns, the backlash against feminism, the marketing and entertainment juggernauts, celebrity culture, religious right-wingers and others helped shape the "new momism." This is their label for the sneaky idea that feminism was so successful that now women are empowered by choosing to stay home and lose themselves in their children--while staying sexy, of course. In fact, it turns out that what we Snappy and sarcastic, but well researched, this book describes how individual media and political campaigns, the backlash against feminism, the marketing and entertainment juggernauts, celebrity culture, religious right-wingers and others helped shape the "new momism." This is their label for the sneaky idea that feminism was so successful that now women are empowered by choosing to stay home and lose themselves in their children--while staying sexy, of course. In fact, it turns out that what we thought were the dated values proffered by the patriarchy actually turn out to be true! Your only worth is as a mother. Mothers themselves, the authors aren't condemning women who choose to have kids or be homemakers, rather they are talking back to those forces in society who demand the impossible of women, seek to impose sexist gender roles, cajole women to give up their subjectivity in favor of living through their children, and a whole host of crazy-making demands. They also seek to encourage the solidarity, consciousness-raising, and concerted political effort that marked second-wave feminism in service of making the world an equal place for everyone. Some of the celebrity and political references are a little out of date by now and they tend to conflate fictional stories on television with real life (Douglas is a media studies type, so not surprising), but this is an excellent study. I realize it isn't the main focus of the book, but I would have liked to see a chapter on women talking back to the "new momism" by not having kids and an examination of how society's pressure to have kids affects women and the choices they make. I would also like to see a book like this by feminist dads. Hey was that a pig with wings flying by?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Serina

    "Clearly imagining day care as some place staffed by hippies who passed out joints to toddlers wearing tiny Chariman Mao jackets, Nixon declared..." This book makes excellent (and humorous) points about a topic rarely tackled in popular feminist discourse but which I feel is very important, that being the way that a superficial celebration of women and womanhood and the co-opting of feminist language has been used to put a flashy new coat of paint on old traditionalist conservative values and "Clearly imagining day care as some place staffed by hippies who passed out joints to toddlers wearing tiny Chariman Mao jackets, Nixon declared..." This book makes excellent (and humorous) points about a topic rarely tackled in popular feminist discourse but which I feel is very important, that being the way that a superficial celebration of women and womanhood and the co-opting of feminist language has been used to put a flashy new coat of paint on old traditionalist conservative values and re-sell them to modern women, resulting in the almost invisible rollbacking of their rights. This is accomplished through multiple angles, but the book primarily focuses on an incarnation of post-feminism that Douglas dubs the "new momism": "This book is about the rise in the media of what we are calling the “new momism”: the insistence that no woman is truly complete or fulfilled unless she has kids, that women remain the best primary caretakers of children, and that to be a remotely decent mother, a woman has to devote her entire physical, psychological, emotional, and intellectual being, 24/7, to her children. [...] The “new momism” is a set of ideals, norms, and practices, most frequently and powerfully represented in the media, that seem on the surface to celebrate motherhood, but which in reality promulgate standards of perfection that are beyond your reach. [...] Central to the new momism, in fact, is the feminist insistence that woman have choices, that they are active agents in control of their own destiny, that they have autonomy. But here’s where the distortion of feminism occurs. The only truly enlightened choice to make as a woman, the one that proves, first, that you are a “real” woman, and second, that you are a decent, worthy one, is to become a “mom” and to bring to child rearing a combination of selflessness and professionalism that would involve the cross cloning of Mother Teresa with Donna Shalala. Thus the new momism is deeply contradictory: It both draws from and repudiates feminism." To put it more straightforward, because the initial waves of feminism were successful enough that patriarchal culture knows that it can no longer get away with deriding women as foolish, incompetent, and their work as irrelevant, it has retreated and restrategized: Rather than insisting that women can't cut it out in the working world, it instead heaps excessive praise onto the domestic/maternal world and insists that women were happier and more fulfilled when confined to this sphere. It concedes to feminism that women are as capable as men, but insists that women are only truly done right by when they take on the oh-so-honorable mantle of "Mom." "Oh, of course women are free and enlightened and strong and can make their own choices! ... And the most enlightened choice that a free woman can make is to be a mother. They're the only ones strong enough to do it! Working? Uh- Uh- Well, you see, women are so smart that they know that mothering is far superior to working, unlike us stupid men, who couldn't even do it we tried! Ha ha! And besides! Women are so strong and so amazing that they can handle working and mothering if they really want to! Isn't that awesome?!" Part of how this is accomplished is through the rise of the nauseating "supermom," a strawman version of feminist ideals and supposedly empowering archetype which is the result of patriarchy making a sort of Cinderella bargain with feminism, whereby women will be allowed into the traditionally male sphere of careers, outside lives, etc. ("Fine, you may go to the ball..."), so long as they also fulfill and prioritize their own traditional duties of motherhood, wifery, etc. in addition to this ("... as long as you finish all your chores first!"). The supermom is the woman who "does it all" with a smile on her face, the hip modern woman exemplified by the celebrity flashed on women's magazine covers, the one who is a CEO, a sexy actress, and a fulltime mother to three gorgeous babies without breaking a sweat. Despite her glossy "barrier-breaking" veneer, supermom is actually a very safe woman for patriarchy, as she does not meaningfully challenge established male entitlement in any way; she doesn't ask her children's father to step up more because she's "strong enough to do it all," she doesn't expect the government to force her employer to be more accommodating to work-life balance because she's "strong enough do it all," she doesn't ask uncomfortable questions about whether or not she even wants or values kids because she knows that she's "strong enough to do it all." But just like in the Cinderella story, the whole point of this bargain is that it's a trick of unrealistic expectations designed to keep the victim out of the public and stuffed in the kitchen. Nobody can actually "do it all." Modern women are more stressed than they've been in decades because this lack of liberation from the domestic world along with the new expectations of non-domestic self-realization have effectively doubled their workload. When they inevitably reach a breaking point due to this dilemma, patriarchy swoops in and does what patriarchy does best: Blame women and women's insistence on basic rights for the very problems that it itself has created. Post-feminism and the new momism assert that this fatigue is proof that feminism is a failed experiment, that women got their taste of equality and found it lacking, that they must make a choice and that choice must be a return to the traditional mommy-wife role. Which, they insist, is so much better and more empowering than having a stuffy old job anyway! After all, all those celebrity moms on the magazines said that they find being a mom more fulfilling than any multi-billion dollar movie contract (pay no attention to the fact that they have an entire team of nannies, assistants, cooks, and maids behind them that might sweeten the deal a bit). Simply put, the new momism gives women two choices: You can either be supermom and have double the workload (with men getting to maintain their privilege and freedom), or you can be Neo-June Cleaver with half as much work and half as much freedom and power (with men getting to maintain their privilege and freedom). It is right and fair that Cinderella will just have to miss out on the ball if she can't handle both her chores and finding a dress — don't question why she's even expected to do all these chores by herself in this timeframe in the first place! Advertising, the news cycle, Hollywood, etc. play their role in this scheme both by constantly portraying motherhood as a blissful, transformative experience and the absolute most fulfilling thing that one can do as well as showing the supposed dangers that occur when the ideal image of motherhood isn't properly fulfilled. While putting on an air of celebrating women, it really creates shame for every woman out there. Non-mothers are shamed as cold, bitter, and unfulfilled harpies who have been so sucked in by "manhood" that they don't know what they're missing out on back in the realm of proper woman/motherhood. Working mothers are shamed as selfish, neglectful, and disloyal to both their jobs and their families. Stay-at-home mothers are shamed for not feeling unending joy and satisfaction and for still wanting to have time and identity outside of motherhood despite "choosing" it. The new momism is also used to shape policy, using the excuse that women ought to be home with the kids and do everything on their own used to slash funding for public daycare, welfare, regulation on employee rights, etc., a glimpse into why conservatives find pushing so hard for traditional "family" values to be so lucrative. This fact makes a powerful statement on how we cannot assume that policy alone will be a driving force in shaping social and cultural opinion, as social and cultural opinion itself can be used to deliver a fatal bullet to policy. Douglas explores this phenomena from multiple angles including television, advertising, and political messaging. She uses a lot of snark and humor (which I think lands great), does a lot to dispel popular myths that perpetuate new momism such as those surrounding welfare fraud, the effects of daycare and preschool on children (as well as the viable cost of these things), the effects of divorce on children, the rise of teen pregnancy, and the supposed overall dissatisfaction of working women. She uses a lot of references, making this an excellent resource for anyone pushing progressive policy. Ironically, this is also probably the book's main weakness. Douglas tends to get a bit overkill with her examples at times, giving like thirty where ten would have sufficed, which makes this an excellent resource for research but a bit of a pain as a reading experience at times. At times I felt myself skimming over entire pages because I felt she had already long since made her point. This is especially true when she gets into complaining about aspects of commercialism, which results in dreary lists of Douglas rattling off toys, TV shows, etc. that she does not like with a tone that sometimes borders on an annoying, "Back in my day..." rant. She is also at times guilty of that old-fashioned feminist lack of nuance when it comes to analyzing certain pieces of media, such as when she condemns He-Man and the Masters of the Universe as a beacon of traditional pro-violence masculinity based on the fact that the characters are muscled hulks and Barbie dolls for all the reasons people usually condemn Barbie dolls. This is neglecting the fact that He-Man as a character is usually portrayed with what I believe to be a pretty healthy masculinity, being a laidback character who chooses cooperation and peace when he believes it to be possible, works alongside strong women (such as Teela, the Sorceress, his sister She-Ra, and his mother Queen Marlena) without ever questioning their abilities, pointing out their womanhood, or even showing romantic interest in them, and delivering gentle kid-friendly morals at the end of each episode. As for Barbie, ironically, the toy was developed specifically by a businesswoman who wanted to give her daughters a toy that showed them that women could be something other than mothers, as the primary girls' toys at the time were baby dolls (hence her many careers and the fact that Barbie as a character has never been portrayed as married or having children, only friends who are mothers and younger siblings) — Ruth Handler (Barbie's creator) would have been on Douglas' side 100%! It is not that Douglas is incapable of this nuance as she applies it well enough when analyzing television shows and movies from her own generation, rather it seems that she occasionally lets her age get the best of her in assuming that the new-fangled crap the kids have these days must be straightforward nonsense by virtue of being new-fangled crap. I would also have liked for Douglas to offer more specific recommendations on what can be done to combat the new momism. This is unfortunately one of those books that is very good at laying out the problem but not so much on navigating a way out of it. I suppose that is ultimately the responsibility of the reader, and for that goal I consider it an excellent resource, but it does result in the book coming across as a bit disheartening and aimless towards the end. Overall, I consider this book a good resource in not only taking picking apart traditionalist conservative gender politics and understanding the role that women's work plays in society, but also in understanding the ways in which feminism needs to be more vigilant of shifting patriarchal strategies. We need to keep in mind that oppression is not about being overtly cruel to a certain type of people, but rather about the negative effect that a series of practices themselves have on those people's wellbeing — cruelty and harm is the logical late stage result of these practices, not necessarily the make-up of the issue itself. No amount of respect, praise, fanfare, or appreciation for women's traditional roles is ever going to be an alternative to the benefits that come from the elimination of those roles. The idea that it can be is an excuse for people who feel guilty about the way women have been treated but are too scared of change or attached to their privileges to do the right thing about it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    SmarterLilac

    Not the book for anyone who is interested in being appreciated for being a mother. As a proud feminist, I recognize what this book is trying to say about the ways motherhood was and is used against women and as a tool to make it more difficult for women to feel and to be fully self-actualized. But I became uncomfortable with the parts of this book which pretend women in the mothering role are in for nothing but slavery to a man and to children. There isn't a lot in here that recognizes the joys o Not the book for anyone who is interested in being appreciated for being a mother. As a proud feminist, I recognize what this book is trying to say about the ways motherhood was and is used against women and as a tool to make it more difficult for women to feel and to be fully self-actualized. But I became uncomfortable with the parts of this book which pretend women in the mothering role are in for nothing but slavery to a man and to children. There isn't a lot in here that recognizes the joys of motherhood and its rewards—or that this role is one that many women choose voluntarily. Or of the ways the hard work that motherhood provides benefits children and families and the future. To be fair, this is clearly not the book's objective. Women who are unprepared for the unfairness inherent in the way women who are mothers are treated (by society and their own families) in the U.S. would do well to heed the warnings in this book before having children. It's the lack of balance in perspectives here that make The Mommy Myth fundamentally flawed to me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    Very interesting and thorough view of motherhood and the idea of being a mother. I thought that the authors sometimes seemed a little short-sided and convinced that their version was the only right version/way of thinking. Also thought they exaggerated some things. Overall, very interesting. Would recommend to mothers or women wanting to become mothers or even women who don't want to become mothers but want to know why other women do (I'm in the last group). Very interesting and thorough view of motherhood and the idea of being a mother. I thought that the authors sometimes seemed a little short-sided and convinced that their version was the only right version/way of thinking. Also thought they exaggerated some things. Overall, very interesting. Would recommend to mothers or women wanting to become mothers or even women who don't want to become mothers but want to know why other women do (I'm in the last group).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    Thorough book which writes about how women have taken in mixed messages from the media about being a mother and discusses how motherhood has been depicted in the last decades of the 20th century. Well written points throughout the book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    D.

    Funny, sharp, accessible. Good analyses of media representations of gender and parenting, and how those stories (and political rhetoric) diverge from actual social changes.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    I picked up this book because of an apparently rather controversial article in MacLean's about the realities of motherhood. I have to say, it is one of the best books about women, motherhood, and the origins of feminism I have ever read. It should be included in every foundational feminist course just for its historical and political scale. For those of us who grew up in a generation after the struggles of the 60s and 70s, this is a must-read to get a good understanding of those foundations that I picked up this book because of an apparently rather controversial article in MacLean's about the realities of motherhood. I have to say, it is one of the best books about women, motherhood, and the origins of feminism I have ever read. It should be included in every foundational feminist course just for its historical and political scale. For those of us who grew up in a generation after the struggles of the 60s and 70s, this is a must-read to get a good understanding of those foundations that created feminism in the first place - and how it got derailed. There are of course some arguable things in the book, but it is by and large not only an incredibly funny and simultaneously scathing indictment of the myths of motherhood, it is also a well-crafted call-to-arms. This book will make you laugh with its no-holds-barred depiction of real-world parenthood; but it will also make you mad when you realize the extent of the lies propagated about motherhood (and parenthood in general), particularly with regard to federal funding and legislation. It is a much-needed reality check for everyone.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    This book was published in 2004 (I was in college), and even though it focuses on the 80s and 90s, I as a never-mother born in the mid-80s found this book to be enlightening, funny, and sadly still relevant! I definitely recommend this book as it tackles so may things like how the media gave us unrealistic ideals with celebrity moms, overblew the prominence of 'welfare cheats', child abduction, and 'crack babies', how 'professionals/experts' sabotaged mothers, and how the government (Republicans This book was published in 2004 (I was in college), and even though it focuses on the 80s and 90s, I as a never-mother born in the mid-80s found this book to be enlightening, funny, and sadly still relevant! I definitely recommend this book as it tackles so may things like how the media gave us unrealistic ideals with celebrity moms, overblew the prominence of 'welfare cheats', child abduction, and 'crack babies', how 'professionals/experts' sabotaged mothers, and how the government (Republicans shine here) consistently sabotaged women and children. It also talked about how the toy industry and television shows changed the face (and profits) of the toy industry. I think this is so interesting to look at for recent history, response to feminism, unrealistic mom-expectations and what we STILL need to address.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Abdullah

    motherhood is not a myth , and media has nothing to do with it , it's individual conception , it can be a privilage , or a burden . BUT , looking at how life is rinning nowadays , deeply materialistic , therefore two choices are facing mothers : get a job and finde carer for children , or stay home with children and wait for help from the government ore else ??? motherhood is not a myth , and media has nothing to do with it , it's individual conception , it can be a privilage , or a burden . BUT , looking at how life is rinning nowadays , deeply materialistic , therefore two choices are facing mothers : get a job and finde carer for children , or stay home with children and wait for help from the government ore else ???

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mythili

    There's a time-capsule quality to this book-- the style of its sassiness and nature of some of its specific rants feel dated. But I liked the spirit of it and its larger point about how certain kinds of narratives about motherhood are used to hold women back. There's a time-capsule quality to this book-- the style of its sassiness and nature of some of its specific rants feel dated. But I liked the spirit of it and its larger point about how certain kinds of narratives about motherhood are used to hold women back.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hanley

    Interesting but caustic. I appreciated a lot of the arguments that were made: they were, for the most part, well-thought out and delineated. However, the bitter tone of the book made for obnoxious reading after awhile.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    A must read for any mom...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Lamica

    I liked this book, changed my thinking on mother hood abit

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    DNF at 30% As I've decided not to continue reading this one, I didn't think it fair to rate it. The book's subject matter was just different from what I was expecting. DNF at 30% As I've decided not to continue reading this one, I didn't think it fair to rate it. The book's subject matter was just different from what I was expecting.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Natascha

    favorite resource about motherhood (and domesticity) - media representaion and the dilemma (of it all).

  30. 5 out of 5

    kevintloney

    The book wasn't scholarly enough for my taste. The book talked a lot without saying a whole lot. The book wasn't scholarly enough for my taste. The book talked a lot without saying a whole lot.

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