The Kirsh on Overt Displays of Motherhood

May 21 2009 Published by under Parenthood

Sheril Kirshenbaum has a post up On Motherhood, Identity and Feminism over at The Intersection.

A friend recently pointed me to this particularly ridiculous article criticizing moms who post profile photos of their children*. The author Katie Roiphe goes so far as to suggest feminist Betty Friedan would 'turn in her grave' at such behavior

Go comment, I did.

This comes up sometimes in discussions of whether academics should have their office festooned with evidence of parent-hood, have kid pics at the end of their powerpoint presentations and/or allow that slide-show screen saver of the kid photo archive to run at study section.
I tend to argue that fathers should go ahead and do so because it helps to normalize the practice. Thereby letting everyone, including mothers who are judged more harshly, choose whether or not to display pictures of their children.
The counter, which is a serious issue, is whether this constitutes more privilege waving on the part of men because they get the credit for being a nice family d00d (see? He *isn't* just an unreconstructed jerk! He found someone to marry him. and he has *kids*!!!) without anyone seriously thinking they might be, you know, an actual parent that compromises the career for parenting duties.

10 responses so far

  • DuWayne says:

    Same comment I posted there...
    Good grief, what a ridiculous load of crap. I post pictures of my kids on facebook, because I want to show them off to the people I’ve reconnected with there. And I really enjoy those folks doing the same, because for the most part they’re people I spent many years in the same classrooms with and haven’t seen in nearly fifteen years in most cases. It’s a lot of fun to see the families.
    It has absolutely nothing to do with having lost myself, rather it’s just another aspect of myself. Even when I’m referred to as “eldest’s papa,” it’s not a loss of identity, it’s recognition of another mantle I wear. I’m no less DuWayne, because I’m also eldest and youngest’s papa. Rather there is more of DuWayne than there was before I became papa as well.
    Makes me want to write another papa post, it’s been too long since the last one…

  • CC says:

    This comes up sometimes in discussions of whether academics should have their office festooned with evidence of parent-hood, have kid pics at the end of their powerpoint presentations and/or allow that slide-show screen saver of the kid photo archive to run at study section.
    That's three very different issues. I'd adjudicate them as 1) completely unremarkable, 2) unprofessional and irritating, whether by a man or a woman and 3) forgivable, as long as you don't have (as I once saw a speaker do) pictures of the actual birth.

  • As I recall, the offending article was about women who post photos of their children at the place on their facebook page where one would normally put a picture of oneself. The author wasn't saying that women shouldn't post photos of their children.

  • Lab Lemming says:

    So what does she say about women (or men, for that matter) who use a picture of their dog?

  • DuWayne says:

    Rosie -
    So what? People do that all the time. And most of my "friends" are men, so what does that tell you? My facebook profile picture is of me (face obscured) crawling after younget, while eldest rides on my back. You can rather assume that I'm the one in the picture with them, but the only clearly identifiable people are my kids.
    I'm ok with that and no one seems to think anything of it amongst my network - most of them do similar. So why should this be perceived as somehow antithetical to feminism when women do it? And is it somehow a threat to men and our self-identity?

  • Anonymous says:

    DM, I must admit that it bugs the shit out of me when fathers show pictures of their kids during seminars precisely because of the privilege issue. I don't buy the argument that it normalizes the practice for women. When has it not been ok for male scientists to have families and kids? How often do male scientists ever get knocked for not being serious enough because they have kids? Even if they are the primary care giver, which no one ever assumes, because, well, how could that be?!
    At the same time, we female scientists with kids want to normalize the practice for all the female students out there considering a career in the sciences. It is a fraught issue.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with#6. I hate it when men post pictures of their kids in professional settings because women can't get away with doign the same and not suffer retribution in some way or or being looked down on and dismissed as being unprofessional. And WHY are the men posting pictures of their kids in such venues anyway? esepcially when the majority of the audience are male (as it is in many fields)? Why would a man post pictures at the end of his talk if the audience is mostly other men - do most men normally ooh and aah at seeing OTHER men's kids? Of course not.
    Thus it seems to me to be "showing off a trophy" motive, in this case they want to prove that they have in fact managed to pass on their genes as if that somehow should earn the admiration of others (or at least that there is nothing physicallr or socially wrong with them).

  • Alex says:

    do most men normally ooh and aah at seeing OTHER men's kids? Of course not.
    First, I don't have kids, but I do have awesome little nephews who are often my desktop wallpaper. If the laptop is being hooked up before a seminar, there's a chance you'll see their pictures. And, for the record, my nephews are the most adorable and intelligent children in the history of the world. So if you ever have me as a seminar speaker, consider yourself truly privileged if you catch a glimpse of the most awesome little boys in all of human history.
    Second, now and then my colleagues bring little kids to the department for a bit. When that happens I'm out in the hallway with my bean bags to do some juggling. So yes, I do ooh and aah over little kids. It just so happens that my colleagues have kids who are almost as intelligent and adorable as my little nephews. (Although I hasten to add that there is no child in this world more intelligent or adorable than my little nephews.)

  • Jake says:

    I think it's unprofessional for anyone - men or women - to post pictures of their kids at talks or seminars. If it is off-topic, it's inappropriate and thereby unprofessional. I would feel the same if the picture was of someone's vacation or new house or anything else that is not relevant to the business at hand. And specifically I would not share pictures of my kids or even my pets with a roomful of complete strangers, or people that I only have formal and impersonal relationships with. I mean, why do you want strangers or arms-length colleagues - anyone with whom you don't normally discuss your personal life - to see pictures of your family members??

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