During a discussion of feminine ideals, one of my friends brought up the points made by Rebecca Walker in an article where she rails against the beliefs and legend of her mother, Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple). In “How my mother’s fanatical views tore us apart”, Rebecca speaks bitterly from the heart, and rightly so: “Feminism has much to answer for denigrating men and encouraging women to seek independence whatever the cost to their families.” Unfortunately, this is where Rebecca’s view of the bigger picture ends and her myopia begins.
She makes as fallacious a claim as many of her mother’s with, “I am my own woman and I have discovered what really matters – a happy family.” This is what really matters to her. And she hardly needed 2,400 words to say it. She would, however, need as many words to explain how she worked her way out from under the dogma to which her mother so stubbornly adheres. For those women who aren’t yet Rebecca’s age, how she came to define herself, her life and ultimately her happiness would be most useful to others. By contrast, the only thing the younger set can garner from her statement is that if you want to be happy, get a mate and a child. That’s as ludicrous as her mother’s assertion that men and children are shackles.
Having been brought up under an equally tyrannical mother (different beliefs, same unwavering style; same dedication to and intensity of rhetoric), I can attest it isn’t good enough to disavow an entire movement, legend or tradition. It isn’t even good enough to raise a child without the legend and write an article that dedicates but a few hundred words to what she really believes is true. (The other 2,000 words can be summed up with “My mother is a bitch.” A lot of women can tell that story – and the word “feminism” would never enter into it. Welcome to midlife, Rebecca.)
While she’s not obligated to teach women anything, the first keystroke in the effort to use her experiences to illustrate why her mother’s worldview is askew should be to inform, and in this she missed the mark because it’s not informative and her motivation for writing the article becomes increasingly unclear. There are but two places for this article: a therapist’s office and her mother’s mailbox.