December 1, 2019

"My favorite genre of mom merch broadcasts desire and dependence: 'Mamacita Needs a Margarita,' for instance."

"There’s an entire subcategory that specifies what 'mama runs on': caffeine, chaos, and cuss words, or Jesus and Chick-fil-A, or Starbucks and pixie dust. Lately, as best I can tell, the most common set of helpmeets are the slant-rhyming trio of coffee, wine, and Amazon Prime.... Social media exacerbates two competing impulses in the performance of one’s everyday self: aspiration and honesty. Women, in particular, find these impulses rewarded on the Internet, [with] the ever-present cultural interest in female desirability and failure....  The 'Unicorn Moms' Instagram page... declares that the Unicorn Mom is 'not perfect, enjoys alcohol, has a sense of humor & couldn’t care less what you think. Also, Beautiful; Boss Bitch & Zero F#&Ks Given.' Many of the memes on the Unicorn Mom page are joking complaints about husbands, children, housework, and conventional expectations.... This mother 'may not be perfect, but she has tried very, very hard to be—and is making peace with her "limitations."' Perfection, in other words, still provides the vocabulary and sets the tone. What’s missing from this dialogue... 'is the larger context, this system in which there’s no way to win, not for any of us.'"

From "The Quiet Protests of Sassy Mom Merch" by Jia Tolentino (The New Yorker).

ADDED: The "larger context" of social justice may be "missing from this dialogue," but what's missing from Tolentino's think piece is the larger historical context of women's humor. She may want to feel like she's talking about something trendy and new, but it's actually quite old fashioned. And I'm saying this as someone who worked for 2 years in the mid 1970s on a market research report on magazines that required me to read all the women's magazines every month. The stuff Tolentino is talking about is of a piece with completely mainstream humor from 40 or 50 years ago. I'll just say one name: Erma Bombeck.

28 comments:

Ken B said...

The zero f*cks given logo proves many f*cks are given.

rhhardin said...

Women wouldn't need anything if they'd learn to reward men when they get stuff for them.

Ann Althouse said...

"to read all the women's magazines every month"

The list of what I read includes: Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, Women's Day, Family Circle, Redbook, McCalls, Town & Country, Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Glamour, and Mademoiselle.

Many other magazines too (not just women's things).

Unknown said...

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tcrosse said...

Another name: Peg Bracken.

Seeing Red said...

I loved Bombeck.

whitney said...

Erma Bombeck is funny. Florence King too.
I was at a client's house today and NPR was on and it sounded like they were interviewing someone who is doing a historical analysis or maybe had written a book on the history of house hunters on HGTV. Her most salient point seem to be that open-concept kitchens, because they using a sledgehammer to tear down the walls, is the only way to get men to watch the show and so then it descended into a man-hating session between the two females, the interviewer and interviewee, because now they have to live without walls in their beautiful kitchens and its mens fault
I've come to the conclusion that women are civilization Destroyers.

Bill Peschel said...

Erma Bombeck was funny, but she also tapped into the frustration experienced by many women who felt trapped in a home and raising children.

One reason why they felt frustrated was because their men were with them, working on the farm or local business. Another is that labor-saving devices spared them from the true drudgery of the housewife (wash day, anyone?), while the consumer culture made it easy to buy anything they needed instead of creating things the family needed and enjoyed, such as quilts, cheeses, clothing, and home decorations.

Where Jia goes wrong is believing there's a "win" that women have been denied them by the patriarchy.

There was no win. Only another bottle of wine, another vibrator, and another episode of "Jerry Springer."

Fortunately, today we have smartphones to anesthetize us until our hearts stop beating.

iowan2 said...

Every generation believes they have discovered__________, but there is nothing new under the son when it comes to the human condition. But, it takes some maturity (consists of accumulating birthdays) to come to that understanding. I comes to you quicker if you seek out some history. Maybe in the future the powers that be, will start teaching the concept of history, if not history itself.

Sebastian said...

"what's missing from Tolentino's think piece is the larger historical context of women's humor."

How large is that context?

To "do humor" you can't be too timid.

iowan2 said...

Another is that labor-saving devices spared them from the true drudgery of the housewife (wash day, anyone?),

I question whether that is really true. Growing up, "wash day" was Monday morning, about two hours. Then another hour to bring the clothes in from the line and fold them. That was four kids. I think we spend more time doing laundery now, with just to two of us.

daskol said...

I saw Jia Tolentino on TV recently promoting something. She seems nice.

Char Char Binks said...

Bombeck came to my mind immediately, and I had to read to the final two words of your post to realize that my comment is unnecessary.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Vomit. Just more twee half-assed aping of dude conceits. Meant to be displayed on Facebook or kicky days out with the gals. Garbage like the faux-rustic little signs they sell in women’s gift shops and women pass among themselves like tribal fetishes.

Annie C. said...

Erma Bombeck, Fannie Flagg, Bailey White, Phyllis Diller, Joan Eivers, Minnie Pearl. Lots of funny women Joking about women's lives during their times.

Annie C. said...

Make that Joan Rivers.

tim maguire said...

Erma Bombeck. There’s a name I haven’t heard in a while.

ALP said...

She may want to feel like she's talking about something trendy and new, but it's actually quite old fashioned.
**********
This is one of the reasons I am so irritated/fed up with news media. Too many things are presented in this breathless, excited "this is NEW and I discovered it" mentality. Everthing is "historic" or "iconic" (overuse of iconic drives me batshit crazy). Words like "humougous" or similar used way too often.

Seeing Red said...

My mom told me decades ago, “Your generation didn’t discover sex.”

Bill Peschel said...

"Growing up, "wash day" was Monday morning, about two hours."

Iowa2, I wasn't clear about my context. I'm thinking of before '50s, when the best a woman could hope for was a wringer-type washer and drying clothes on a line.

Actually, in my head, I was thinking about family farms from the Victorian era. That was a time when women had very few tools to do their jobs. They didn't have time to wonder if they were being exploited by the patriarchy; they were working too hard to survive. And their husbands and sons were in the field farming, and taking care of animals.

As more home tasks became automated and easier to do after WWII, wives turned into housewives. Over the next couple of decades, housewives had less they needed to do at home (unless you were low on the income scale), and at the same time, seemed more isolated if they had moved from their tight-knit communities. A lot of our anxieties today can be traced to our alienation from our culture and our kin ties.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I hate that crap. Especially that ass-ugly scribbly font it’s always rendered in.

Having to talk about whatever box you belong in just sounds insecure. Yes, Heather, we know you’re a mom and you run on coffee and Jesus; you don’t need a stupid Mama Bear decal telling us that. You’re driving a Tahoe; we already know everything about you without the scribble font.

Freeman Hunt said...

Pants is not wrong.

Freeman Hunt said...

Also, an over abundance of alcohol-related shirts and memes, and suddenly everyone suspects Heather's an alcoholic.

DavidD said...

Erma Bombeck titles, from memory:

The grass is always greener over the septic tank.

If life is a bowl of cherries why am I always in the pits?

Skookum John said...

27 year olds who know nothing.

Howard said...

Mamma needs a new set of AA batteries

Ken Mitchell said...

Phyllis Diller.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

OK I went back and read the article. (Sorry.)

that conventional expectations of motherhood are untenable even for those who are most eager to embrace them

The problem with overconfident writers like Jia Tolentino is that they say things like this that they can't possibly know. She's not even a mother, for God's sake. She says herself that I’d been wondering about that—about whether these shirts served as an acceptable form of protest against gendered expectations and a lack of structural support or they just took the sting out of these burdens so that moms could shrug and laugh and shoulder them for another day. My female friends with kids express the same frustrations, but in different forms, I said—we mostly end up talking about socialism and universal child care.

She assumes that this concept that exists in her mind- blah blah blah untenable gendered expectations whatever whatever - is an actual reality. She assumes that all, or most, mothers agree with this construct. It's bullshit. She doesn't know anyone who thinks differently than she does, and she's got a raging case of the disabling intellectual virus that is currently running rampant, that is, she has no concept whatsoever how profoundly ignorant she is on any topic other than the fantasies that exist in her head.

I am in downtown momland and I promise you many many many mothers in this country, while they enjoy that stupid bridesmaid font and get a naughty thrill out of celebrating their wine habits, are grateful and happy that they get to live lives around "gendered expectations." The ladies I know who are traditional women married to men--note actual, mature men, not menchildren who wear superhero t-shirts and play video games--are delighted with their arrangements. Because many of them, bless them, think those stupid shirts celebrating how they are just barely holding on--which they are not; if they were it would not be funny; these are women whose stress comes from petty busywork shit like having to come up with a storybook character costume on twelve hours' notice and who have not yet figured out that you can just ignore most pointless timewasters that other moms try to impose on you for instant stress reduction--are so very droll does not mean that there is some simmering social protest about to burst forth from their chests to delight the likes of Jia Tolentino.