Deborah Siegel thinks in public about the through-lines in her writing and asks, what are the through-lines in YOUR work?
I’ve been thinking a lot about gender of late. Gender—that theme that’s made its way into most things I’ve written—is integral to what I’m thinking up next. The other day I composed a quick inventory. I urge you to create one of these for yourselves—turns out it’s a somewhat helpful exercise, particularly when starting something new. Here's mine:
My book Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild, was about the way different generations of women in American have imagined “feminism” across the past 40 years, how they’ve fought for it and fought each other along that long and winding road to gender parity--a goal we're still fighting hard to achieve.
My column, “Love in the Time of Layoff,” posted at Recessionwire, was about gender relations during The Great Recession (media-dubbed He-cession), and all the personal and political ramifications that ensue when a husband (namely, mine) loses his job and a wife (aka me) becomes the breadwinner—and then becomes pregnant with twins.
My "She Writes on Fridays" posts here at SW have focused on varying topics, though the ones that resonate the most for me are the ones that deal with my growing desire to write about motherhood and the conflicts (maternal narcissism, oversharing, overexposure of my kids) that desire dredges up for me. My “Mama w/Pen” column at Girl w/Pen has focused on much the same.
So here are the two sets of gender issues I’m wrapping my head around these days:
1. Gender dynamics in "modern" American marriages: Since his layoff at the beginning of 2009, my partner Marco and I have been genuinely sharing household duties (which, by the end of 2009, when the twins arrived, blessedly included childcare duties) while both working out of our home. Last week, after two years of unsteady freelancing, he accepted an offer for a fulltime, on-site position. Suddenly I’m the working parent who will also be the more primary parent, since I’m still working from home. (I’m also the parent who now gets to spend at least part of each day writing. Woohoo!) I’m somewhat relieved to no longer be the primary supporter, but I’m mourning the end of this period when, stressful though it’s been, we’ve shared parenting equally. Soon, Marco will not be around for bedtime, nor will he necessarily see the babies in the morning before he heads to work. The initial questions now swirling loosely in my brain:
What happens to relationships that start off egalitarian and enter into a more traditional arrangement for a time? What will happen to ours? Why don’t more industries in this country offer the flexibility that allows workers to engage more authentically on the homefront while still being good workers? And why does every damn generation of women in this country—even the liberated, so-called postfeminist one—have to grapple with this tension anew? How does who parents when, and more, affect the kids being parented? How do the roles kids see their parents occupying affect the boys and girls--and ultimately men and women--those kids become? How might it affect ours? Which brings me to number 2.
2. The gendering of childhood from the earliest years of life: The Pink and Blue Diaries has its origin in a diary I started keeping when my twins, a boy and a girl, were born. When they were first born, I was more concerned with staying sane than correct. Still, the last thing I wanted to do was check my feminism at motherhood’s door. So--after finding the Mother Writer! group (thank you, Victoria!) and kicking off some mother writing with this post--I began this journal, a gender diary of sorts, in which to observe the gendering of childhood as it played out in my own private petrie dish. I figured I’d record some of the contradictions at play in the larger culture in which these new lives would begin to grow. Along the way, I’d try to monitor some of my own internal contradictions, which perhaps mirrored those of my generation, in an effort to document that space between ideology and diaper changes where today’s parenting philosophies are born. What I was utterly unprepared for was how immediately the very assumptions I had spent my adult life trying to uproot took hold. So I've been busy getting it all down--the good, the bad, the ugly, and the unexpected. And I'm backing it with some of the latest in research in a variety of fields. (I'm a researcher at heart.)
Can these two threads—the gender shakeup and shakedown experienced both personally and nationally, and the gendering of the two new lives (one male, one female) entrusted to our care, 40 years after the feminist movement began—co-exist as part of a single narrative?
The Pink and Blue Diaries: A Memoir of Gender and Expectation
Hmm. I wonder. I don't know.
What do YOU think?
And what are the through-lines in YOUR work? Feel free to share them in comments or a post!