You click on a friend's name and what comes into focus is not a photograph of her face, but a sleeping blond four-year-old, or a sun-hatted baby running on the beach. Here, harmlessly embedded in one of our favorite methods of procrastination, is a potent symbol for the new century. Where have all of these women gone? What, some future historian may very well ask, do all of these babies on our Facebook pages say about the construction of women’s identity at this particular moment in time?Elsewhere in the article Roiphe argues that this is an issue most pertinent to women, that men retain their separate selves whereas amazing, smart women lose their identity in being a mother. Does this really represent a loss of self? Is it an indication that we are still stuck in the same situation as our ancestors? Is parenting really something boring that we should avoid discussing in favour of books and movies?
Many of these women work. Many of them are in book clubs. Many of them are involved in causes. But this is how they choose to represent themselves. The choice may seem trivial, but the whole idea behind Facebook is to create a social persona, an image of who you are projected into hundreds of bedrooms and cafes and offices across the country. Why would that image be of someone else, however closely bound they are to your life, genetically and otherwise? The choice seems to constitute a retreat to an older form of identity, to a time when women were called Mrs. John Smith, to a time when fresh scrubbed Vassar girls were losing their minds amidst vacuum cleaners and sandboxes. Which is not to say that I don’t understand the temptation to put a photograph of your beautiful child on Facebook, because I do. After all, it frees you of the burden of looking halfway decent for a picture, and of the
whole excruciating business of being yourself. Your 3-year-old likes being in front of the camera. But still.
The mystery here is that the woman with the baby on her Facebook page has surely read The Feminine Mystique in college, and The Second Sex, and The Beauty Myth. She is no stranger to the smart talk of whatever wave of feminism we are on, and yet this style of effacement, this voluntary loss of self, comes naturally to her. Here is my pretty family, she seems to be saying, I don’t matter anymore.
Saturday, 16 May 2009
at 2:59 pm by katy
A friend (who, yes, is smart and has a picture of her son as the main picture on her Facebook page) drew my attention to this article written by US feminist Katie Roiphe.