The Personal Is Political

Television, Gender roles, and Motherhood

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What exactly does the media and television tell us about being a woman and being a mother?

A woman, decked out in a catholic school girls uniform, breaks into song about the only thing her boyfriend wanting to do is watch television.
 
A woman, midriff showing, rides a mechanical bull.
 
Impossibly thin women strut down the runway in their bras and panties.
 
A stressed-out mother swings thru a drive-thru. She is picking up dinner before she takes her son to baseball and daughter to dance class.
 
A mother watches while her young children, all dressed in white, run thru her completely white kitchen.
 
A mother is finding what diapers work best for her child.
 
A woman, while dreaming of shopping, starts moaning in her sleep.
 
Another woman shares she just is too tired and doesn't have the tme to think about sex, unless of course, she takes a little pill.
 
A testimonial of a woman using this laundry detergent and how it changed her life.
 
These are all commericals airing on television right now. What do these commericals tell us?
 
1. Looking like a 13 year old is deemed sexy and one should do this to get a man's attention.
 
2. Eating Western burgers from Hardee's will make you thin.
 
3. Everyone parades around in their underwear.
 
4. Shopping induces organsm.
 
5. Women are naturally disinterested in sex and need to take a pill to get in the mood because they have too many things going on and life is too stressful. (Personally, I think the orgasm-induced shopping might have something to do with that)
 
6. It is a woman's job to take care of her home. Making a white home and sparkling white home with the aid of X product shows your family how much you love them.
 
7. Dinner is still a mother's responsibility, even if it is going thru a drive-thru. And boys play baseball and girls take dance. Boys also play with dolls, but we give them guns and call them action figures to sound more "manly" and less "girly."
 
8. Anything dealing with your children, you are responsible. You are the mom. It is your job. It is your job to potty train. It is your job to diaper. It is your job to feed and cloth. You must take on the role of mom, wife, and Superhero and forget about yourself - because that is what mothers do.
 
Music, television, literature, and especially billboards and commericals are very helpful aids in examining and questioning the gender roles and stereotypes placed upon women and mothers.
 
As a woman, to be deemed attractive, this is what you have to look like.
 
And the media is winning that battle, take a look at the plastic surgery industry and the diet industry. We are talking billions and billions of dollars shared between the both of them.
 
Mothers are particular targets. Last night I was reading a chick lit book and this appeared, "She did all the things mothers are suppose to do." What exactly is it that mothers are suppose to do outside from loving their children, being an example to them, and teaching them right from wrong? This particular author was talking about tucking a child into bed for the night, reading him a story until he fell asleep, and then cleaning the home before she went to sleep herself.
 
Commericals put unreal expectations on women. A woman is suppose to keep her home clean to show how much she loves her family. A woman is suppose to take care of the sick child, make the family dinner, use Clorox and Tide and Downy, and do all of this while looking like she walked off of the pages of Cosmopolitan.
 
Our society says that motherhood is the most important job in the world, yet, it is not treated as such. It is treated as an expected role for all women to play, and when a woman choses to stay single or choses to not have children, she is viewed as not having any responsibility, is pitied, and is judged on her own choices.  In listening to conversations recently while I was out in public, I heard a few comments that illustrate how motherhood becomes a form of martyrdom - how one is expected to stop being a person and be all things that are mom.
 
"She has three kids, how is she going to go to school?"
 
"Well, it's too bad she can't stay at home with her kids. Kids need their mom when they are growing up."
 
"Teaching is a fine field for her to go into. She has children so she can do it."
 
"I wonder what her husband thinks about her being the breadwinner."
 
"Can you believe the state her house was in? She should be ashamed!"
 
"The kids are driving me crazy, I need a break."
 
"I admire him so much for staying at home and babysitting his kids while she is out chasing some stupid dream."
 
"If she makes me a list of stuff that need to be done outside, I do it. But I don't vaccume or do dishes or anything like that. That is her job."
 
Lastly, I want to take the myth out of feminism and motherhood. There is a common misconception that one cannot be both a feminist and a mother. This is not true. Feminism deals with issues that intercept the lives of women, mothers, and children. Whether it be quality daycare or taking the myth out of the sex roles parents are suppose to have to domestic violence issues - feminism is there. Feminism is about choice. You should be able to choose how your family runs, and not how society runs your family. You should be able to choose to be a mother, it should not be expected of you. You should be able to choose whether you want to marry or not. You should be able to choose what beauty standard YOU live by and not the one force fed to you.You should be able to live your life the way it works best for you and your family, and not feel guilt if you do not.
 
A single mother is looked down upon. You know, every child should have a father in his home and she was probably being irresponsibile and that is how she got herself into that situation anyway. A working mother is looked down upon. You know she should be at home with her children and not at work. A mother who uses alternative parenting is looked down upon because it just isn't normal. Mothers just don't do that. And a stay-at-home mother is looked down upon because she is just a mom, whose whole world is contained in the four walls of a house. Mothers simply cannot win because there is always going to be something that is away from the "traditional" role of a mother and is going to be frowned upon. So define it for yourself.
 
It wasn't until I realized that I do not have to be everything to everyone, that it is not bad for my husband to share in the household responsibilities, that motherhood does not mean that I am no longer allowed to work towards goals for myself, and that the definition of motherhood was mine and mine alone to define for myself that I began to really enjoy being a mother. Until that point, I was too busy cleaning my house, like a good mother does. I was too busy taking care of everyone, like a good mother does. I was too busy doing everything myself and not allowing my husband to help, like a good mother does.
 
Now I do what works for us, like a woman who finally has a minute to breathe does.