[DWJ] Bad Mothers (was HP)

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed May 16 18:59:55 EDT 2007

Charlie demonstrated his shattering ability to stick to the point:

>So, going back to Hallie's original question, which I fully admit I have no
>good answer to - given that the mother in *Conrad's Fate* is not only
>selfish (which any parent may be, for my money) but that her selfishness is
>presented as hypocritical, and hypocriticial precisely because of
>her feminism - does it matter that she is the only self-proclaimed feminist
>in the DWJ canon? The fact that parents, and particularly mothers, are
>always open to blame for everything they do or don't do with their children,
>doesn't really address the more specific point of this character's

Is she in fact *presented* as hypocritical, or is it that we are perceiving
her as such or as being so presented?

Come to that, is she a feminist?

That's a serious question.  She might claim to be one if asked, but merely
making a claim for oneself does not make it so; plenty of people in DWJ
claim to be things they are not, one way and another.  (See "brilliant and

She might equally be described as an unsuccessful author.  Her books don't
sell, for all their snappy titles, so she isn't exactly furthering the
feminist cause very much, and it doesn't seem that she is doing anything
except sit in her attic writing, which doesn't seem particularly feminist
to me.  Merely talking about "the exploitation of women" and refusing to do
anything for one's family doesn't make one a feminist, though it may make
one a bore and a parasite.  I think DWJ was presenting the idea that
feminism may be used as an excuse for not doing housework, just as
proclaiming oneself to be of a particular religion may be an excuse for
being nasty to people of a different religion, or being an animal
liberationist may be an excuse for being nasty to people full stop.
There's nothing like a good cause for hiding behind and doing what one
wants to, or not doing what one doesn't want to.

About the hypocrisy of exploiting her daughter to feed her own liberation:
it isn't only her daughter she exploits, she also exploits her son.  At
least, he has to do the housework that she refuses to do, once his sister
has left.  So that particular charge against her doesn't really stand, I
don't think.  She just isn't prepared to do any housework, full stop, and
she doesn't care who has to do it so long as it isn't her.  I don't think
that is either feminism or hypocrisy.

It occurs to me suddenly that we wouldn't be having this discussion if the
parent in question were male rather than female.  The adult male of the
household equally doesn't do any housework, after all.  Shame upon us, eh?
Gender stereotypists that we are!

(Is there such a thing as a gender stereotelephonist?)


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