Dear Feminism: Please Do Not Throw Single Parents Under the Bus

11 May

Yesterday, Bristol Palin wrote an awful, ugly, offensive, homophobic, thoroughly disgusting blog post in response to President Obama’s announcement this week that he believes two gay people should be able to get married. Reading Bristol’s words deeply hurt me because she’s a person that has the privilege of the national stage and she’s using it to spread hate.

What has been more hurtful – and I mean, almost devastatingly so- has been the quickness with which the feminist twittersphere and bloggers threw single parents under the bus. Right after reading Palin’s hateful post, I scrolled through my twitter feed full of so-called feminists and equal rights proponents only to notice a common theme in response to Bristol: What could a single, unwed mother possibly know about morality!?

Nice–women who have a kid outside of traditional, heteronormative marriage are obviously perfect examples of what immorality looks like, right? Because Palin should clearly shut up about parenting because she’s a single, unmarried mom, and therefore knows NOTHING about parenting! DUH! I mean, Bristol should actually shut up because she’s spreading hate and discrimination, but it’s way easier to say she’s not qualified to talk at all since she’s a stupid single mom.

And I feel like shit. It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and just typing that makes me tear up. My son is seven, and he’ll no doubt present me with an amazing card (I frame each year’s card and put them on the wall) thanking me for being awesome and loving him, but I will still feel inadequate. I’ll still feel like I’m failing. Intellectually I know that self-hate is just another way patriarchy takes power away from us, that being a mother and being unmarried is not a bad thing, that I am no less strong, no less good than the Married Woman Next Door .

But I’m never going to fit into the “normal” model of ‘traditional” parenthood, nor should I have to. I know that my privileges in life, my incredible family, friends, and broad social network enable me to create a life for myself and my son that is comfortable and happy. I’m very much at peace with myself.

And yet, I’m still a bit insecure about my job at being a mother. Mostly becuase I freeze my ass off at my son’s baseball games (It’s not sunny here in the NW) and take on the jerk sideline-dads all by myself and think, it would be cool if I had a partner in crime right about now. Because this time of year I am bombarded with commercials and greeting cards of loving dudes presenting their pretty wives with thank-you trinkets in front of the two beaming kids and a dog.

I’m not that mother, I’ll never be that mother, and the insecurity comes when I forget that it is OKAY that I’m not that mother.

Shame works like that, making people forget that it is okay that their life is not the same as the so called “norm.” Reading the disparaging remarks from feminists about Palin’s status as a single mother were shaming and very hurtful. I’m not perfect, I’ve made my share of awful comments, but I think feminism’s response to Palin’s homophobic post is indicative of a larger problem within feminism today: when it suits the movement (sticking up for Obama and gay rights in this instance), everyone is all too quick to throw a group of people under the bus. In this case, it was single moms, and that’s wrong.

It shouldn’t have to be said that shaming single parents because one particular single parent wrote a really hateful blog post isn’t going to advance the numerous causes Feminism is currently fighting for. It shouldn’t have to be said that shaming single parents ALIENATES them and makes them feel unwelcome. It shouldn’t have to be said that defending one issue shouldn’t come at the expense of other people. But I guess it does have to said.

8 Responses to “Dear Feminism: Please Do Not Throw Single Parents Under the Bus”

  1. Dee May 11, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    Wow, you totally missed the point of the criticism thrown at Bristol. It wasn’t (for the most part) a condemnation of the fact that she was single mother. It was a condemnation of the fact that she was a hypocrite. She was lecturing Obama and gay people on the necessity of having two parents in a household when her own household proved that it was unnecessary, when her own situation should have told her that all families don’t fall into the Biblical standard’ of 1 man + 1 woman.

    I will always call out hypocrites like Bristol in the same way I share news stories of GOP senators who pass anti-gay legislation and are then caught in a bathroom with a rent boy. It’s not a condemnation of gay people, but of hypocrites.

    Hypocrisy should always be called out.

  2. Servalbear May 11, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Thank you for writing this. “It shouldn’t have to be said that shaming single parents because one particular single parent wrote a really hateful blog post isn’t going to advance the numerous causes Feminism is currently fighting for.”

    With WI Senator Glen Grothman’s February 2012 bill still ringing in my head, “the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect,” it is hard not to feel set upon on all sides, allies and enemies, for being a single parent.

    Enjoy Mother’s Day and know you are not alone. There are a lot of single mothers out here who are fighting the same stigma you are. We do our best.

  3. Sophia May 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    @Dee
    Thank you for posting, I do appreciate your feedback. However, you’re wrong in suggesting I missed anything in the response to Palin’s post. I did not miss the hypocrisy in Palin’s blog post, as I stated in my response, her post, not her parenting/marriage status, should be the issue. Sadly, far too many people trashed her for being a single parent. It is okay to point out that Palin herself does not , in fact, have the “traditional” family she herself is suggesting is the norm , but is she a bad parent? No. Is she a bad person for being a single parent? No. That’s my issue, here.

  4. Aubrey May 12, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    This post is great and heartbreaking and totally on point. I was so disappointed to see so many sexist remarks thrown at Bristol Palin shaming her for being a single parent.

    I hope you have a good Mother’s Day with your son.

  5. Ryan Blanchard May 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    Sophia – last year you commented that each year on Mother’s Day, there’s no present waiting for you, and how much that hurt. I don’t know why that stuck with me, but it did. I hope that as Q gets older, you’ll find that his appreciation is all that you need. The rest of us can take our absurd expectations and shove it.

  6. Lorelei May 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Thank you for pointing this out. I read her awful rant but I missed how it related to single motherhood. I think that can be a too easy trap to fall into when you’re trying to stand up for something – don’t use others as your stepping stools to get there. Single mothers don’t get enough credit for the work that they do for their children. I’m sure that Bristol (though privileged) is included in this.

    XX

  7. Sarah Blanchard May 15, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    I think most mothers who wish to be good ones have their hang ups. I’m not a single mom. And I wasn’t raised by one. But I can related to your post and all the thoughts of inadequacy and the sense of shame for not fitting the mold of who knows who’s expectations.

    My hang up on Mother’s Day is that I have never had a good mother. And I have always strived to be a good daughter – even when it hurts me. More recently of course, I’ve also been striving to be a good mother. And after all these years, I’m finding that it’s finally time to move on from the remnants of an unhealthy mother daughter relationship towards ones that are far less hurtful. But even that feels guilty sometimes.

    I’m sorry for your pain, but I’m glad you dare to share it. You and I and so many other mothers – single or not – we’re not as different as we sometimes think.

    And Q is lucky to have you as his mom!

  8. Serena May 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Well said.

    And your son is lucky to have an awesome mother like you. Don’t ever forget that!

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