What is an ethics of care? To put yourself into the story, rather than to watch from the sides. There is a wonderful essay by Janet Eldred that explores this ethic of care and commitment in her discussion of her memories of growing up as her mother’s daughter, “Modern Fidelity.” Eldred probes the irony of feeling safe and “daughtered” by the visits and letters of her mother’s adulterous partner, Bernardo. Yet such irony gets set aside,as she moves to what really haunts her: her need even as she writes in retrospect for a loving rock/root, and her hope that Bernardo actually loved her mother even in the remnants of a forever sort of way. She faces the fact she wants a “love story” as part of her family history.and-finding safety in Eldred argues that our essays need on some level to be self stories, that we need to abandon distancing irony as a 20th-century voice and try now to make sense of the acute pain and challenges that face our daily effort at living– technologized lives being foremost amongst these.
Oddly similar in showing an ethic of care is Dave Eggers’ HWSG (Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius). How many “Daves” function in that story? I count at least three strong self-representations parcelled out tocharacters variously named (Dave, young “brother” /little boy Toph, suicidal/so sad John. . . ). It is a story about the fragmented/divided self, and how life forces a process of disintegration upon us.
While many have gasped at the self- and family- revelations, the book seems to be more about the urge to hide and protect family secrets and others. There is a lot of disguise in that book, for all the calls of the author to “look at me.” Always there, that twin tense urge–to show off and to keep secret.
I agree with you Jaque, there wasn’t a lot of content that spoke to me.
I was rather overwhelmed by the consumer/entrepreneurial/monetizing atmosphere and expectation of the conference. I was looking for more dialogue and discussion around the process of making decisions to post what we post, to agree to work with marketing agencies as advertisers or not and the ethical implications of sharing narratives about family and friends on line through social media and the digital world.
I think we were not alone in this perspective, there were other mothers, women and bloggers who were interested in talking about the lack of concern for and, dare I say, disregard for, the feelings and lives of those they blogged about.
I hope we can talk about this more here; I invite others who were at BlogHer12 and others interested in the ethics of mommy blogging to join in our conversation.
A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune of attending the Motherhood and Fatherhood/Popular Culture steam at the 2013 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference in Washington DC. Academics, primarily from the USA and Canada, gathered to talk about many elements of parenting and popular culture, including: the slippery slope of losing hard fought gains to women’s reproductive autonomy; the perpetuation of the ‘mommy wars’ in magazines, film, television and in social media (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter); the pressure to be ‘super’ moms and ‘super’ dads; the historical and ongoing drudgery of housework; and the push back of some moms to their constant surveillance, scrutiny, and judgement by others.
Sheryl Sandberg’s controversial new book Lean in – Women, Work and the Will to Lead (An interview with Sandberg can be found at http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/2013/04/11/summit-tv-women-power-and-the-ability-to-lean-in) and the New York Times article “Why Gender Equality Stalled” by Stephanie Koontz (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/opinion/sunday/why-gender-equality-stalled.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) were often raised when the complexities of parenting were discussed and the tension filled social expectations placed on parents in the name of motherhood and fatherhood. Anne-Maire Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/) was the the catalyst for discussion around the need to place the value of families and humans above those of employers.
Like the academics at the conference, many mommy bloggers find the work of parenting to be challenging in a society that, at best, pays lip service to the value of families and parenting. And it’s not surprising that when the pressures of mothering become too great, or when the end to the exhaustion of themselves and their family members seems impossible, they turn to their blogs and their online community to share their frustrations, anxiety and wicked humour (http://www.topmommyblogs.com/pages/index.php). I particularly like the blogs by two amazing queer feminist mothers, “A Queer Family Grown in Redneckville” (http://aqueerfamilygrowsinredneckville.blogspot.ca) and “Feminist Pigs” (http://feministpigs.blogspot.ca/) for keeping a critical perspective on the tension filled project of raising children. These bloggers, and others, help me feel part of a community of mothers that is both aware of the ideals of motherhood and the necessity of contesting them as we find ways of parenting that are true to ourselves, our children and each other.
The questionable actions in the early months of 2013 of two highly public American male athletes, professional cyclist Lance Armstrong http://www.cbc.ca/sports/cycling/story/2013/01/17/sp-lance-armstrong-oprah-winfrey-interview-live-tweets.html and college football player Manti Te’o, http://www.news.com.au/sport/more-sport/college-football-star-manti-teo-answers-questions-on-fake-girlfriend-story/story-fndukor0-1226557567836, have garnered much attention from social and mainstream media. While these specific cases are related to secrets kept and lies told, they nevertheless underscore the need to think through the ethical practices associated with disclosing information about people’s personal and public lives.
Another example of interest in personal disclosure is found in Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award at this year’s Golden Globe Awards, where she addressed, among other topics, the importance of privacy. Here she suggested that we’re at a tipping point regarding what is expected of people disclosing information about their private lives, and that she will continue to resist the pressure “that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a primetime reality show” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2262264/Jodie-Foster-poses-rarely-seen-sons-coming-gay-Golden-Globes-speech.html#ixzz2IU7e7300.
What I found most interesting is that she makes the distinction between personal authenticity and emotional exhibitionism http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2013/jan/14/jodie-foster-golden-globes-acceptance-speech. This is a distinction I’d like to ponder and discuss further in future posts on this blog about mommy blogging. Who has the right to speak about the personal details of people’s lives; particularly when those doing the speaking are legal guardians of folks who are younger, vulnerable and children? What might personal privacy codes or an ehtical practice of mommy blogging look like?