Breaking the internet: enough with the gender bashing!

By Kate Taggart

Last week Reese Witherspoon fed her child a cinnamon scroll and a piece of apple for breakfast and it “literally broke the internet” (don’t even get me started on my disdain for this ridiculous phrase). This week Rachel Finch was crucified on Instagram for putting fresh beetroot, carrot, celery and pineapple juice in a bottle for her 18 month old because it was too healthy – seriously!

Mummies and non-mummies the world over have been going ballistic on social media casting judgement on these celebrities for their parenting choices and then savagely turning on each other Lord of the Flies-style.

Well enough is enough. I’m calling bullshit on gender bashing.

When Helen Reddy penned “I am woman, hear me roar” I’m almost certain she was not inciting women to roar at each other via social media over such trivial issues as cinnamon scrolls and vegetable juice. Come on!

What happened to “sisters doin’ it for themselves”?

Whilst I don’t know either of these celebrity mothers personally, I do know that both are successful in their own right and like the rest of us parents, are most likely just doing the best they can with what they’ve got, which is more than most. I don’t think we need to worry ourselves about the welfare of their children. They have food in their bellies, rooves over their heads and designer shoes on their feet. Their kids will be just fine.

Do you know what’s not fine? Last week the UN announced that the gender pay gap won’t be closed for at least another 70 years based on the slow progress we’ve made in closing it over the past 20 years. This means that girls from the same generation as Reese and Rachel’s kids won’t receive the same rate of pay as their male counterparts, in much the same way that the previous generations of working women before them haven’t.

Did that announcement “literally break the internet”? Did mummies and non-mummies rally in the virtual streets of social media burning their metaphorical bras in protest? No, they did not.

As women we are often far too quick to judge other women for their choices. We cast judgements on women for how they deliver and raise their children and if they choose not to have children, we judge them for that. We judge women based on their hair style, their weight, their clothes, their shoes or the pitch and tone of voice. And not just in social media.

Mainstream media and women’s magazines are rife with such judgements. Just look at the media coverage our female politicians receive. Rarely does it concern policy. We’re often so distracted with judging each other that we lose sight of what’s really important.

As a mother of a young daughter it concerns me far more that in her career span there still won’t be equal pay for women.

What Reese Witherspoon or any other mother chooses to feed her child for breakfast does not concern me (providing the child is being fed) because as any mother will tell you, motherhood is often far more about improvisation, negotiation and compromise than it is about choice. Getting a toddler to eat anything is an achievement at times and getting an 18 month old to drink fresh vegetable juice is a friggen mothering miracle!

Natural or caesarean, breast or bottle, cloth or disposable, TV or no TV, plastic or no plastic, organic or non-organic, return to work or stay at home. Motherhood is often presented to us as a series of dichotomies with opposing sides to be taken.

From very early on in pregnancy our culture impresses upon us the gravity of the “choices” we must make about the type of mother we plan to be. For me, I was going to be a natural, breastfeeding, cloth nappy, no TV, organic, no plastic, returning to work kind of Mummy. Or so I thought. What I’ve learnt in the years since is that motherhood rarely goes to plan and the so-called “choices” are often not your own or completely beyond your control. Ask any mother experiencing the joys of toddlerhood and she’ll tell you that the true essence of motherhood is about learning to compromise.

It’s very easy to pick and choose the type of mother you think you’ll be before you’ve had a child. It’s equally easy to judge the “choices” made by other women without having spent a day in their shoes.

Four years on from the birth of my daughter, I can safely say that I’m far less judgemental of the parenting “choices” made by other mothers, Reese Witherspoon and Rachel Finch inclusive.

I’m a firm believer that most of us are just doing the best we can based on what we know and the resources we have available to us at the time, and the benefit hindsight is not one of them.

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