Hillary Clinton as the battleground in the war between mothers and daughters.

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April 18 2008 7:11 AM

Yo Mamma

Hillary Clinton as the battleground in the war between mothers and daughters.

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Morgan's recitation of the practices she's hoping to end included much of the evidence that Traister and Fortini invoked against Hillary-bashers as well: the nutcracker ("Goodbye to the HRC nutcracker with metal spikes between splayed thighs"), the T-shirts, the Chris Matthews. Most important of all, Morgan anticipated the intimidation Traister and Fortini report—intimidation so frightening that most of Fortini's sources would speak only on condition of anonymity. Morgan foreshadowed just this when she wrote, "Goodbye to some young women … who fear their boyfriends might look at them funny if they say something good about her." In her attack on the mammas in the Guardian recently, youthful feminist author Michelle Goldberg described Morgan's warning about the silencing as "hysterical," meaning driven insane by your uterus. Does Goldberg now think Traister and Fortini have been infected with the women's disease?

Self-destructive, untruthful, and unnecessary. Deborah Siegel has written a very important book, Sisterhood Interrupted, about the fractious relationships between the '60s feminists and their filial successors, to show, as she put it, that "we are more alike than we are different." The manifesto Full Frontal Feminism by the icon of young feminism—Jessica Valenti—actually sounds a lot like Betty Friedan (except perhaps that Betty didn't say fuck so much). What is the origin of the idea that because your mama or a member of your mother's generation recommended something, that's sufficient reason not to do it? In this "Mother-Daughter power struggle" that Mojo Mom seeks to ignite, the feminist movement would just replicate the endless division of the feminists within the generations by dividing the generations themselves into interest groups so small that no politician in the world will ever pay them the slightest heed.

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Psychoanalyst Nancy Chodorow famously speculated that since women raise children, men form their moral psychology by separating from their mothers while women identify with their mothers and so are caught in a web of relationships. The campaign actually contains a nifty example of this. In a little-noticed video, when NBC's Brian Williams once prompted Sen. Obama to say if the first picture of himself on the cover of Newsweek made him think of a "loved one," Obama said he thought of his mother. "I think she would have been proud, and she would have cried. Her chin would tremble, and she would get all weepy," he said, with his usual composure.

I've never been much for pop-psychologizing, but perhaps the yo-mamma feminist rebellion is an attempt by young women to similarly free themselves from their identification with the mother. If so, it's a great argument for shared childrearing, but it still makes for lousy politics. Following Chodorow's reasoning, just for argument, men are free to stand on the shoulders of their fathers, who weren't around all that much, without psychological consequence. And so they do. Liberal and conservative. Al Gore and Al Gore, the Bushes, unto the fourth generation, the Harold Ickes, the unbreakable Kristols, Norman and John ("Normanson") Podhoretz. Only women seem to need to separate and destroy in order to start all over again with each generation.

Before all the commentators reach for their macro buttons to accuse me of shilling for the Clinton campaign, I suppose I must offer the obligatory reassurance that neither all women nor even all feminists need to march in lockstep to the polls to vote for Hillary Clinton. But I want to amplify that with the additional caution that just because your mother did it does not make it wrong. After all, she had you, didn't she?

Corrections, April 18, 2008: Amy Tiemann's name was originally misspelled as Tiemanns. Women's eNews was misspelled as Women's e-news. (Return to the corrected sentences.)

Correction, April 21, 2008: Maria Hinojosa's name was originally misspelled as Hinajosa. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Linda Hirshman (who will be 64 on the 26th of April, thank you very much) is the author of Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World.