Last week Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast and Newsweek, dished out her latest “must-reads” for NPR, this time on the subject of “The Modern Woman.” Financial Times writer Katie Roiphe’s article, “Disappearing mothers,” was on Brown’s short list, and after reading it, I concur that it’s a provocative piece worthy of a look!
Roiphe catalogues what she views as a trend on Facebook: well-educated, competent, often professionally successful women posting in their profile pictures not photos of themselves but, rather, their children. The result? A kind of self-effacement of women. Women become only a shadowy, motherly presence behind their son at his first soccer game or their daughter smiling back in leotards at the camera.
Roiphe goes on to propose a link between this disappearance of mothers on Facebook and a contemporary parenting culture that, unlike even thirty years ago, places children and their interests at the center of their parents’ lives (rather than the reverse). Whereas thirty years ago, I was by and large expected to fit into my parents’ routines and learn to entertain myself, rather than be catered to at my every beck and call, today in many contemporary families, the child has become the epicenter of the familial solar system, with parents as mere planets circling around their child’s every need.
Consequently, and maybe not surprisingly, women are the first to disappear in this brave, new parenting universe.
Betty Friedan of The Feminine Mystique would indeed be rolling over in the grave…But I’m curious what you think? Mothers? Fathers? Friends who, like Roiphe, have watched your friends, like me, become mothers? Is this a trend that you notice, too? Do you see it as representative of a more sinister disappearance of women in larger society, at least in this long period of child rearing?
I’m inclined to agree with Roiphe that the trend is problematic; and after reading her article, I’ll be hard-pressed to think of a future time when I’ll be posting my children’s adorable mugs in my profile picture. (If I do, I’ll at least be thinking twice.) I guess you could call it my own little, feminist rebellion of sorts, and I’m calling all other mothers in danger of becoming extinct as women to unite!