Monday, January 24, 2011

The Plight of the Working (Rich) Mother, by Gwyneth Paltrow

For some reason, I always find stuff like this compelling: Gwyneth Paltrow's advice to working moms on how to balance their work and family lives. It reminds me of adolescent awkwardness, of boys trying to be men and girls trying to be women - at times, they achieve a reasonable facsimile, but something about it is just generally naive and out-of-touch, while at the same time being profoundly self-involved. For example, in this missive, Gwyneth discusses a stressful day of getting up early, going to the gym, singing a country song, and doing an interview over the phone. I know several working moms, and none of their days have ever consisted of doing these things.

Videogum has an entertainingly brutal point-by-point dissection of this out-of-touch account of working motherdom.

For a similar discussion of out-of-touch privilege in my own backyard (D.C.), check out this entertaining yet horrifying post about organic food in D.C., where a rich white people berate poor blacks for not making organic food a priority in their personal budgets:

Since I keep mentioning race, I’ll disclose that I was impressed that a quarter of the attendees were women of color; basically, it was me holding it down for Asian-America plus five African-American women.
One of them raised her hand, tentatively.
“Thank you so much for this information,” she began. “It’s so worrisome…all these chemicals and pesticides in our food. I would like to be healthier by eating organically but…it’s so expensive. Do you have any advice for dealing with that?” She looked hopeful; her hand was poised over her notebook, pen aquiver, ready to jot down wise words which would not come.
Well…” the facilitator drawled, “you really need to make it a priority to eat Organic. It IS more expensive, but it’s worth it.” She beamed decisively; her smile was like an exclamation point to a brilliant, unassailable point. I started to feel uncomfortable, but that feeling was eclipsed by sympathy for and solidarity with my fellow attendee, who cleared her throat uneasily and raised her hand, again.
“I agree that it’s worth it. What I’m saying is, what if you can’t afford it? Some people just don’t have that kind of money. I guess what I’m asking is, what if you can’t afford the more expensive organic fruits and veggies, even though you want to? Do you have any practical advice for that situation? Would washing the produce help?”
The graceful woman at the front of the room stiffened slightly. I don’t think she was expecting the follow-up question or the very real and serious issues this discussion was exploring. She started to speak, then thought better of it, and paused. Then the words came out in a jumbled rush:
“I don’t think so, so even if you need to cut back on certain things, you should realize that it’s worth it, because this is about your health. That needs to be the priority. I don’t have any tips about conventional produce because I don’t think it’s healthy, period.”
The African-American woman nodded slightly and put down her pen.

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