Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why "common motherhood" does not excuse Laura Ingraham

by Jillian Hewitt

First I’d like to say how grateful I am to be contributing to this blog; as many have said before, to be feminist is simply to be humanist. I am also honored to have the chance to write alongside so many intelligent and inspiring people.

In the Huffington Post this week, Tamar Abrams blogged about her experience on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. The topic? Ingraham interviewed Abrams and her 16 year-old daughter about using an image consultant to find “her fashion style.” I’m not sure why any 16 year-old needs a fashion consultant, but that’s a topic for another day. A liberal, Ms. Abrams clarifies that she agreed to do the show because “it was about moms and daughters, a topic on which there’s no political epicenter.” She imagines that if her close friend Amy Coen—who heads Population Action International, and has recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer—were to sit down with her and Laura Ingraham, that they would all talk warmly about the common ground of motherhood. Finally, Abrams concludes that she is better off for having let go of political labels, “at least for a little while.”

I honestly believe that Tamar Abrams’ intentions are good—she hopes to bridge the gap between two ideological extremes, to show that yes, we have things in common and we can get along. Kind of reminds you of The View, doesn’t it? But (surprise!) I have a few problems with Abrams’ thought process. First, at least in this case, I’m afraid that she overestimates the benefits of casting off political labels. With regards to Ingraham it is not sufficient to say that she is “politically conservative”. Her conservatism gets lost in (and confused with) messages that are, quite simply, espoused in disrespect and intolerance. While Abrams says she realizes in the interview that “our political views define only a small portion of our selves,” it seems to me that Ingraham’s political views are simply another vessel by which she spews hatred. And while I don’t think we should try to shield our children from political diversity, are we really obligated to try to reconcile with the likes of Ingraham, O’Reilly, Coulter, or Beck in the name of “tolerance?” I think not.

Another part of the blog that seems problematic to me is this whole “common ground of motherhood” thing. How much in common does one woman really have with another just because they both have children? Abrams suggests that a conversation between Ingraham and Coen about motherhood would “undoubtedly produce the same tone of pride, joy and limitless possibilities expressed by mothers the world over,” and I have absolutely no doubt that this is true. But the fact is, only one of these mothers made news by calling Meghan McCain fat. We need to think about the differences between a respectful dialogue between two women (or men) whose political views conflict and the superficial dialogue between Laura Ingraham and, quite frankly, anyone. What I find unsettling is not just that Abrams accepted the invitation in the first place, but that she goes on to herald her appearance as some sign of progress. The fact that Ingraham invited a liberal and her teenage daughter onto her show to talk fashion does not seem to make it any less likely that she will return (the next day, or the day after that, or the day after that) to her old ways of “arguing” by attacking, belittling, and often outright lying. From a distinctly feminist perspective, we should be especially wary of these tactics because of the frequency with which they’re used against women (Meghan McCain and Hillary Clinton, for starters.)

At the heart of her post is the idea that motherhood can bring people together, and that political differences do not disqualify women from finding common ground—and I would not begin to disagree. In fact, I do not find fault with these assertions—I just think that in the case of Laura Ingraham, they don’t apply. Because it’s not about their political differences, it’s about one woman’s campaign to disparage those who do not agree with her. And isn’t motherhood more about the values you instill in your children than it is about the fact that you hold the title “mother?” What do we really have to learn from a woman who spent her college years avoiding restaurants that she suspected had gay employees? (No, seriously.) I’m afraid there are some people who, in the name of tolerance, equality, and justice, simply must not be tolerated. She does, for the time being at least, have an audience—but we don’t need to be part of it.


At September 11, 2009 at 10:47 AM , Anonymous Brenda said...

I think that to say there is a "common ground of motherhood" that sums up and unites the universal experiences of mothers is quite silly. In fact, as silly as it is to assume that most if not all mothers share a common experience, it sounds just as silly to attempt to unite children through their supposed "common experience". Why would any other position in a family tree as either having offspring or being offspring bring some sort of unity to the individuality of human experience?


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