Reading Elizabeth’s and Aeron’s columns this week made me wish more than ever that I had been able to participate in the recent Organization for Communication, Language & Gender conference. I had originally been scheduled to do so, but a series of insane technicalities got in the way, and in the end it was simpler to stay home and sulk.
Elizabeth had asked me to write a statement to be read at the conference, about the ways that writing for this blog has influenced the ways I think and communicate about motherhood. It was a thoughtful, important question, and I put a lot of thought into my response:
Writing for Mama PhD has sensitized me to a number of issues faced by mothers in situations that are different from mine. The comments section has been a real education for me. At first, when I would write about my own life, and other women would take me to task for writing from a position of unconscious privilege, saying, "Aren't you lucky to have a partner at home to help with that?" or "Imagine what it's like to be dealing with that as a department secretary who gets no respect from the high and mighty professors," I would resent it. I would think, you have no idea of the difficulties I face in my life. Anyway, I can only write what I know. If you don't like what you're reading, start your own blog.
I have come to see, though, how many privileges I take for granted, and to begin to imagine the struggles of my fellow moms with greater empathy. I think that exposure to these viewpoints has enriched both my writing about motherhood and my appreciation of the struggles of mothers I encounter in real time.
I drew the line, though, at accepting a male professor's reprimand for omitting mention of the suffering of male prisoners in a post on how campus rape culture affects female students' ability to feel safe on campus. I took a lot of flak for that, but I remain convinced that as serious as that problem is, women need a safe space to discuss our own struggles and fears without being overshadowed by men, as so often happens.
I have also, of course, learned a great deal from my fellow Mama PhD bloggers. I particularly love the weeks when our posts become a sort of round robin, each reflecting and responding to ideas put forth by the others!
Maybe it’s actually fitting to have been represented at the conference through written words — that is the medium through which I have gotten to know all of you, at least initially, and through which most of you know me. Though I wish we could all talk in person, in someone’s kitchen, with a bottle of wine. I know we’d have even more to say!