Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Complexity of Screen Names

There's a post over on GeekMom that has got the poor hamster back up and running the wheels turning in my head. To summarize for those of you who hate clicking on an embedded link within a post to find out what in the seven hills the author is talking about, Ellen Henderson blogged about how she doesn't understand why women would choose to include the word "mom" (or some variation of it) in their screen names.

Because I've put so much thought into my own choices, I’m always curious about what’s behind other people’s screen names. When I became a mother a few years back and started visiting parenting websites and message boards, I was surprised by the number of people — well, the number of women, to be precise — who chose screen names based on their status as mothers. “ProudMommy” and “Mom_of_three” and “Lucysmom” were common configurations, and while I understood the enthusiasm behind them — we were, after all, connecting through parenting sites — I was a bit taken aback by these names. And later, when I noticed similar handles on groups and websites totally unrelated to parenting, I was, frankly, a little dismayed.
Maybe it means I’m a bad mother or a raging egoist, but I don’t identify myself primarily through my relationship with my child. I am delighted and proud to be his mom, but that’s not the entirety of who I am, and I just can’t see myself using his name or my position as “mommy” to project myself into the online world. Neither, by the way, would I use my child’s photo as my profile picture on Facebook — he isn’t me, and I am something more complex than just the person who gave birth to him.
And then, in the comments, there's a continued discussion over those poor deluded souls who have no other source of identification except through their husband or children. [/sarcasm]

This relates back into my ongoing irritation with much of the feminism movement (or, at least, the aspects I've had personal exposure to). Allow me to explain; if you look along the right side of this blog, you will notice links to such sites as Sociological Images and Historiann, which often reflect upon the role of women and the ongoing fight for equality they have. I follow them because I find many of the ideas they bring up to be interesting and thought-provoking. However, sites along these lines also frequently frustrate me.

There is an underlying assumption amongst many feminists, both online and in real life (because, trust me, I was trained and mentored by two raging feminists) that if you find joy and satisfaction in things such as cooking, homemaking, or children, then that means you are either a) uneducated, b) foolish, or c) a victim of society. Furthermore, if the choice you've made is to take care of your home and forgo a career, then you are a bad woman who is betraying the cause of equality for all women.

Please forgive the language, but bullshit.

I recognize and understand that the world is not an equal place--women are frequently pigeonholed as care-takers and men are thought of as unmanly if they choose to take an interest in their home and children. I realize that it is true that many women make less than their male counterparts in the work place. I have witnessed and even, shamefacedly, participated in perpetuating some of these problems.


I do feel that it is okay to be a woman who stays home and takes care of children. I see nothing wrong with taking joy in one's house and being proud of one's children and husband. I do draw a certain sense of identity from my husband, and one day will likely do so with my children as well. I also draw a certain sense of identity from my friends, my parents, my writing, my reading, the schools I attended, the churches I've been a part of, and the theaters I've worked in. For some reason, many feminists look down upon women who choose to be caretakers, thus unintentionally encouraging the patriarchal belief that caretakers are less important than workers. Ms. Henderson mentions later in her post that she has no problem with the handle of "GeekMom" because it shows that she is something else other than "just a mom."

I doubt she would bat an eyelash at the screen-names of "Angel Cole," "Lighting Angel," or "Li'lBookWorm." The first is a character name I came up with a long time ago, the second is a reference to my love of theatre and angels, and the last is a description of my reading habits. That doesn't mean, however, that I identify myself only through said story, theater, angels, or books. It's one aspect of my personality. Just as, if and when the day comes when I have a child, "NewMommy!!!11!" would represent only one aspect of my personality. But because it is a reference to childcare, in her apparent worldview that means that I only identify myself through my children if that's my name.

In the end, what I'm trying to say is that I support the cause of women trying to make the world a better place for all people. I would love to see laws enacted that provided more and better opportunities for working parents to provide care for their children, or that people would be paid equally depending upon skill and ability, or that no one would bat an eyelash if little girls liked Star Wars or little boys wanted to dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween. I just wish that these same women would support people like me who want to make a happy home and (hopefully) focus on my children, without assuming I'm either too stupid, too lazy, or too co-dependent to do otherwise.

I am myself, no more, and no less.

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