Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Feminism. Abandonment. And Rebecca Walker.
Rebecca Walker, daughter of "The Color Purple" author Alice Walker, recently divulged her true feelings about her mother's ardent feminism and their estranged relationship. I first read about it on The Ultraviolet Underground and Okayplayer.
In a column written for Great Britian's The Mail, Walker talks about being abandoned and neglected by her mother who she labeled as selfish, seeing children as a burden, trapping women into subjugation. She essentially calls her mother a feminist fanatic, pushing the most extreme ends of the women's rights movement.
Some have criticized Walker for "outing" her mother as a bad parent, accusing her of only doing it for her career, but I think what she did took a degree of courage. If she was truly raised with the ideology that children were a burden and internalized that she was an unwanted inconvenience to her mother that's a tough load to carry psychologically.
It's hard to go against your mother, especially when she's more famous and better liked than you. Alice Walker is an icon in literary, black and feminist circles. Her story in some ways reminded me of Christina Crawford's tell-all about her famous mother Joan Crawford. She was bashed for writing her book after her mother died and left her out of the will. They said she only wrote it because she was angry, like being cut out of will wasn't reason enough alone to be furious.
You can debate Walker's methodology, but the only people who really know what went on in her childhood were her mother, her father and herself, and I believe her sense of abandonment is real. A lot of black children are abandoned either physically or psychologically by their emotionally stunted parents. Abandonment happens every day. Black parents who think a "whoopin'" is the answer to everything. Black parents who look the other way when their latchkey kids engage in risky behavior. Black parents who just aren't there. Fathers who split. Mothers who leave their kids to be raised by grandmothers.
Familial loyalty can only go so far in a damaged relationship and Rebecca and Alice Walker would have to have a damaged relationship for it come to this. My mother and I have our differences on things, but we have a healthy relationship. She deserves my loyalty because she gave me unconditional love and devotion. I don't have anything to bitch about.
Rebecca apparently does.
Side note: The article is worth reading for her analysis of the extreme end of feminism alone. While I'm a feminist, I identify more with Rebecca views that the movement was about giving women options, not labeling all things related to "femininity" and "marriage" bad. My mother is an independent minded woman with a college degree who became a full-time stay-at-home mom. I don't think she ever felt subjugated by my father. Their marriage was both retro and modern. My mother had options. That's the point. Women can choose their destines, whether it be a career or motherhood.
Also, if all children were burdens no one would have any and that would be the end of all of us, so that logic is a fallacy. This is the real mythology of the movement, that women can "have it all." We still don't live in a fully egalitarian society. Having a family does involve concessions, usually on the woman's behalf. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.