May 13, 2007

Anonymous motherhood

I was reading today's funnies, and against my better judgement I actually read Family Circus this week. The actual content of it had Dolly musing about alternate mothers and Billy imagining a thought bubble with drawings of other funnies-pages moms. Which is a little odd, and I guess funny for some, but what annoyed me was that the little inset box explaining the joke captions the images as follows: "(clockwise starting at upper left) Blondie, Dennis the Menace's mom, Hagar's wife, and the moms in "Baby Blues", "Luann", "Zits", and "For Better or For Worse". (There is then a "happy mom's day to all mothers" balloon coming from the authors' signatures.)

Other than Blondie, who presumably got named because the comic strip is eponymous, all these characters have no identity of their own here. They can't really blame space considerations, because there would've been plenty of space to say e.g. "Blondie from 'Blondie'; Alice Mitchell from 'Dennis the Menace'; Helga from 'Hagar the Horrible'" and so on. And honestly, probably nothing would have even registered if they'd just gone the shorter route and said, "Moms from: 'Blondie', 'Dennis the Menace', ...". But the actual phrasing they used sort of made it sound like these fictional women have no character or relevance except in relationship to other people.

Thinking about it, the one that really started me off on this path was the "Hagar's wife". Hagar gets a first-name reference, and Helga is then identified only in relation to her man, not even by her motherhood (which might arguably be defensible given the message of the strip). Which highlighted the fact that none of the fictional women shown were actually named other than Blondie. And the fact that the actual body of the strip is pretty much devoid of content, except to say that mothers are basically interchangeable. And largely anonymous.

Which, in a lot of cases, I suppose they are. But rather than raising this as a troubling issue, the strip just follows along. I know I'm overreacting, but the whole thing bugs me. I guess that's what I get for reading Family Circus.

But, happy Mothers' Day, everyone!

"You have to be awfully desperate to leave your home behind, risk the crushing daytime heat and the cold nights of the desert, and set out for a country that wants your cheap labor but not the economic burden of educating your children and caring for your sick." --Carol Marin

Posted by blahedo at 3:03pm on 13 May 2007
I don't think you are overreacting, but then you knew that already, didn't you?

I hate being defined by my relation to other people. My mother continues to call me Sis to this day and each time she does I seethe inside. I have mentioned my feelings on this to her, but she will be calling me Sis to her dying day.

I am not alone in my feelings. It reminds me of when the preacher at my grandmother's funeral gathered those closest to her to get some content for her eulogy. He had never met her in life. He asked about her life and said something about her being a mother and housewife in a way that indicated he thought she could be defined by those labels and was going to build a eulogy around that. There were several sharp intakes of breath, a few derisive snorts and then a rush of laughter and exchanged glances as we all imagined just how she would be cutting this preacherman off at the knees on hearing that. I believe it was my father who spoke first and said approximately, "No, no, we would not say that. I don't think anyone would ever describe her that way." Someone else added under their breath, "Not if he wanted to live." She would not let anyone call her Grandma unless they had a valid claim to. She would firmly correct them if they tried.

Posted by lee at 8:43pm on 13 May 2007
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