Yesterday someone in my Facebook feed posted this article about Alice Walker, her daughter Rebecca and their estranged relationship. (If you don’t know, Alice Walker is the author of The Color Purple, a book I liked a lot but found deeply disturbing, which was surely an effect Walker had been trying for when she wrote it.)
The article, like many things involving Walker and her world, made my heart hurt. As a white woman born to a middle-class home in the North, I cannot say I understand the influences in her life much at all. Oh, I knew the beatings of a father who’d not had the chance to grow up and learn how to control his temper before he had to learn how to support a family. I know what it was like to have a mother who felt that she’d been condemned to life-long servitude because she’d had a child…
I was told more than once that I should never give up my freedom to a man to have his children because “All men are really boys, and do you really want to be stuck with a baby when you’re raising your husband?”
It’s funny to look back now as my mother’s more radical feminist views have altered and mellowed (becoming the mother of a boy and seeing how society traps young men as easily as it does young women helped there). My father’s radical…yes, radical feminist views, have increased. My father, not my mother, is the long-time member of NOW.
My father, not my mother, was pretty much convinced that his daughter should be a career woman –the one he used to rage at, the one who use to watch through the cold-air return in her bedroom floor as he beat her mother because…well, I can’t remember any particular reason, usually something bad had happened to my father at work, perhaps one of his coworkers mocked his stutter or he was asked to do some work that he felt beneath his position because he was of lower seniority in his building…stuff rolls downhill after all, and Mom was just his wife and the mother of his child…
Hmm, on a tangent again. A lot of tangents show up where family is involved, my family or any other person’s… even Alice and Rebecca Walker’s.
I agree with Alice Walker’s view that motherhood enslaves women. It’s a bit sad that Walker cannot see how it enslaves the fathers or the children too. Or how it’s only enslavement if one sees life as a scorecard where we have to keep track of how much we’re giving away to the world . Yes, parenthood requires one to put the needs and feelings of another person ahead of one’s self interests for a time….
Throughout history people have made this choice, to put their personal desires aside for the welfare of the human species. Some have delighted in that role–some people are natural parents; some are not. I count myself as one who probably should not have been a mother. Hopefully I won’t have as an estranged relationship with my son as Walker and her daughter have. He is a wonderful person, and I’m glad he’s part of my life.
I just would have been as happy as a person and as full as a person without motherhood as I am with it. For every day I find myself as filled with the boundless joy of hugging the Boodle, there is one where I feel trapped by the realization that I am responsible to him for not just the next eleven or so years, but all his life.
After all, my parents have not stopped being my parents just because I’m in my forties and married with a child of my own. Walker understood this.
What she didn’t seem to understand, or wish to accept, is how empowering it can be to give up one’s self to another. Or rather she did, but perhaps not in the role of parenting… In writing, in her craft, yes, clearly she sees the role of sacrifice and the noble power it brings.
I could find article upon article written from the point of view of the indentured and the slave who feel empowered by the fact that they are used so by others. There is a power in being the one who sacrifices. Religions such as Christianity and Buddhism have troves of writing involving the value of personal sacrifice… And indeed, we’re all the result of someone who sacrificed herself (or himself) for our needs.
I can’t say that Walker should probably never have been a mother… Look at her daughter and the wonderful woman she clearly is. Same as my own parents–they certainly weren’t perfect parents. They weren’t natural parents either, but they accepted that they’d made the choice to bring life into the world and that they would be responsible for it, not just financially or physically, but emotionally and… humanely. They’re still trying their best.
And if anything, that more than anything is what bothers me about articles like this one… My parents are still trying, still working at being better parents. Walker and her daughter? They both seem happy enough to give up.
That’s too radical to me.
(Thanks to the Zemanta prompts because I was focusing on Motherhood, I found this… Who knew that old National Geographics were posted in Wikipedia! And wow! Human nature and how self-important so-called civilized people have always been seen in the picture captions…. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/National_Geographic_Magazine,_June_1917 )
ROW80 Goals and 1st check-in
Monday was officially the first day of this Round of Words in 80 days. Most people did their goal postings then. I probably should have posted my own on Sunday, but my head was in a strange place.
My head is back in writing and on schedule now. I’ve spent he last two days getting about 2000 words of story written for my CampNaNoWriMo project called appropriately Finishing Words. I’m dedicating this NaNo to the finishing of my other NaNoWriMo projects I’ve started over the years, and to getting the rewriting done on Release done so I can publish it by the end of the year. This is what I tried to put in for my novel info on the CampNaNo page (I say tried, though the site isn’t letting me):
There is no “synopsis” as I’m playing a bit of a NaNo-rebel role for this camp. I’m using this camp to get the finishing chapters written in my last four WriMo stories. The minimum word goal I’m planning toward is the regular 50K, but it won’t be split neatly between the four books. Swan Song needs a good 30K of story written. Release likely only needs about 5K and a lot of trimming…
Basically, there is a lot of work to be done, a lot of rewriting and reworking. But it’s work that I’ve got to do, and there is something about the push of a NaNoWriMo that gets a fire under me more than anything else. So I’m using it.
And for the month of April, my CampNaNo goals are part of my ROW80 goals. The remainder of my ROW80 plans include regular daily exercise, even if it’s simply spending 15 minutes jogging in place while I read webpages and blogs. I have my ROW80 Sponsor duties to do, comments and blog visits made on Mondays and Thursdays. And when May hits, I will be shifting the large daily word count down to my regular 750words a day and devoting time to editing.
It’s a full enough bucket to haul up the hill on my back. I may not have a rock that will roll downhill when I reach the top, but there’s always another hill up past the first..