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Rebecca Walker Blog

Mothers Do Envy Their Daughters

This is from a piece on a Psychology Today blog, that references Baby Loveand mothers who envy their daughters. It's good to see professionals who understand the subtext of complex relationships.   

"Half a century after Deutsche, Susie Orbach, Kim Chernin and others argued that young women's expanding career opportunities can (albeit not always) arouse a mother's envy. A daughter may hold herself back, terrified that, if she does surpass her mother, she will be forced to eat of those proverbial poisoned apples - in the form of maternal disapproval, disdain, guilt. Or, she may hope to win approval by her success, only to find that success does not give her mother pleasure; instead, her mother responds with envy, which a daughter experiences as disapproval."

This is a hotly debated subject, amd many experts deny and reframe what looks like maternal envy as maternal concern. And yet I hear from so many women who have felt undermined by their mothers. And mothers who have struggled with their jealousy of their daughters.

My feeling is not enough light has been shed on the subject, and, like mental illness, the kind of wounding that occurs in many mother daughter relationships is even more devastating because daughters are considered ungrateful for voicing their feelings, and punished accordingly. Especially in the black community, when so many mothers have had to work so hard for so long. The idea of expressing any kind of upset is  unthinkable. And yet, as Audre Lorde wrote, "Our silence will not protect us."

What about you? Have you experienced any of these kinds of maternal conflicts? Either as a mother yourself or as a daughter?

Time to talk, to open the doors. We all have something to gain.

 

December 16th, 2008

ADHD, The Check-out Line, and Me

Todays post from TheRoot

There is a lot to talk about, like:

What a great job Obama is doing (and how saddened I am by how many are so critical so soon), the auto company bailout and why it's not "cost effective" for the big 3 to go green, the staggering number of people losing jobs, and the theme I've hit several times since the Olympics: China's devastating invasion of parts of Africa. 

But right now I want to have a moment about ADHD, Ritalin, and prevailing attitudes about mental health.

Today at the health food store I overheard a conversation between a Dad, the person ringing up his groceries, and a woman on line.

The Dad said his daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, and Ritalin was working well. He said she's been experiencing a lot of success in school and at home and "her turn-around" was "like a miracle." The checker gave an enthusiastic high-five. "Hey man, that's so great."

Then the woman chimed in with anecdotal information about an Omega 3 supplement that "helped the son of a friend." She tried to remember the name of the supplement, and while reaching for the name, suggested Dad try it. 

Dad suddenly looked ashamed and embarrassed. He said he had "read some studies" about the supplement and was hoping to "get some soon." He really wanted to get his daughter off the Ritalin, he said. Because although she was doing better, he "hated being duped by the drug companies," who probably "invented ADHD in the first place."

The woman nodded, and agreed. "It's worth a shot," she said, offering no further information about her clinical credentials or the supplement she suggested Dad try on the daughter who responded to Ritalin as if it were "a miracle." "The overmedication of children in this country is a crime," she said. "Have you tried taking her off wheat and sugar?"

At which point I had to tune out or risk an intervention.

Listen, I agree big pharma is problematic. I agree all kinds of illnesses are "created" by drug marketers, a lot of kids are over medicated, and the whole world should be focused on preventive care, and living holistically in organic environments.

But sometimes illness actually responds to Western medicine, and when it does, I for one am happy to have access to it, not just for bone marrow transplants and the shrinking of brain tumors, but for schizophrenia and bi-polar disease, clinical depression and Tourette's.

I left the store wondering when we as a culture will decide once and for all that mental wellness, like any other kind of health, is worthy of pharmaceutical support. When mental illness, like cancer or lupus or HIV, will finally be deemed legitimate enough to warrant medication.

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Like any other disease, it's something to treat. Whether it's with herbs, meds, beets, or yoga doesn't matter. What matters is that people--regardless of ideology, religion or cultural taboos--get better, feel happier, and are more able to make healthy decisions for themselves and the people they love.

Right?

I'd like to hear your thoughts.

 

December 9th, 2008

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: War is Out of Date

December 4th, 2008

The Power of Power

To continue our discussion of different kinds of power, I am thrilled Obama has brought Samantha Power, who was forced to resign from Team Obama during the campaign for calling Hillary Clinton "a monster," back on board as part of the transition team--for the office of the Secretary of State. 

If you don't know about Samantha Power, here is an excerpt from Esquire:

Power, a journalist and now a professor at Harvard, who won a Pulitzer prize for her 2003 book on America's response to genocide, A Problem from Hell, and who helped kick-start the Save Darfur movement, has a vision that will help shape 21st-century American foreign policy. What Norman Podhoretz is to the neocon movement Power is to this as-yet-unnamed force. (Neo-internationalism? Moral interventionism? Machiavellian idealism?) She espouses talks--firm talks--with rogue states, a respect for international law, and a moral and pragmatic duty to intervene--with troops if necessary--in cases of genocide.

I'm happy she's back for a number of reasons: she's passionate about human dignity and has a complex and pragmatic view of how to secure it. In other words, she's tough and smart. Heart and head. Has a plan. A view. And her Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, is endlessly relevant, and gives her unique insight into seemingly intractable hostilities, like the one between Israel and Palestine.

Though she's been lambasted by Zionist groups who say she wants to do everything from fund islamic terrorists to invade Israel, apparently her official position is the US should engage in an immediate and intensified involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In her view, the situation "has to be resolved first of all for the benefit of the parties involved, but also to prevent "cynical Arab leaders" from exploiting the conflict as a tool for justifying their policies."

I'm no expert, but this sounds like a rational approach to me. 

But mostly I feel good about Power's return because Obama's ability to bring her back in a leadership role in HRC's realm says he feels free as POTUS to make controversial decisions and continue to mix up ideological perspectives in the hopes of reaching different conclusions. He's apparently using the power vested in him to follow his agenda of change, rather than kowtow to personal gripes, party lines, or general consensus.

Power should be an excellent and necessary counterpoint to Hillary. Obama appears to believe the two women, though different in approach, are stronger together than apart.

What do you think?

December 1st, 2008

Shift Happens: Preparing our children for the 21st century

Deep.

November 30th, 2008

House vs. Field Negro Controversy, from Italy's Corriere della Sera

November 21st, 2008

A journalist from Corriere de la Sera called yesterday with an urgent request for an interview about the Al-Qaeda claim that Obama is a house negro. My comments hit the first page--with full spread on page 3.

Translation below the Italian.

November 29th, 2008

What Michelle Obama is Giving Up: A Question of Power

Hey all,

I have an essay in The Root today about Michelle Obama and feminism.

Yesterday afternoon, in tandem with the essay on Michelle Obama, I joined a group of exceptional women including Anna Perez, the former Press Secretary for Barbara Bush, Leslie Morgan Steiner, the editor of the best-selling anthology Mommy Wars, and Jolene Ivey, co-founder of Mocha Moms, on Michel Martin's NPR show Tell Me More to talk about:

What Michelle Obama is Giving Up.

It was a fascinating conversation, but five intense women talking about Michelle Obama for thirty-five minutes? We could have been there for hours. I left the studio thinking about all the things I wished there had been more time to say.

I wish the show had been called "What Michelle Obama is Gaining."

There was certainly more to say about the question of "power" vs "influence." It's my view that Michelle has the opportunity to have a tremendous amount of power--political, personal, ideological, symbolic, financial, social, maternal, emotional, psychological-- but Anna Perez opined Michelle will have influence, but because she can't write legislation and doesn't have a vote on key issues, she won't have power. 

But there are different kinds of power. Laws change administration to administration, but transforming the consciousness of a generation is forever. Did Martin Luther King, Jr. have power or influence? Did Jackie Kennedy want more power and less influence? How about Eleanor Roosevelt? And what about our former First Lady, Hillary Clinton? She almost because POTUS in large part as a result of her "influence." What about the Nobel committee? Do they have power or influence? Freud and Jung? Moses?

I was taken aback by Anna Perez's view, her privileging one realm, the political, over what could be called the personal or communal, a view that has disempowered women for centuries. And I was struck by how difficult it seemed for many of the women in the conversation to see Michelle as anything but a victim. Incredibly, they seemed to think she was more powerful as a hospital administrator than First Lady.

We denigrate Michelle by denigrating her choices. Projecting an idea of her as a deer in the headlights rather than a lioness on the plain reflects a crisis of the imagination, and speaks volumes about what we think is possible for a woman, or any human being, to negotiate.

People working to create a better world dismiss their accomplishment at their own peril. They resign themselves to a lifetime of disappointment.

What do you think? Do you have power or influence, power and influence, or no power and no influence?

How do you define power? 

November 28th, 2008

The Art We Make, The Love We Give

Just watched The Lives of Others.

I have always wondered what I would do for art. For love. For the freedom that making your art and loving your chosen one symbolizes. Would I die for it? Become an informant? Or much, much worse? 

Watching the film, I felt that art is the fire. The work we make, the love we give is the flame we pass from one to the other to stay warm. To stay alive. Awake.

Tonight, let it burn.
November 24th, 2008

The First Review

There are few things more unnerving than writing a book and introducing it to others. When it finally goes out, some writers sit back and second guess the whole shebang. It's genius, we think one minute. It's awful, we think the next. And then the first review comes in and if it's good we let out a HUGE sigh of relief. Or at least I do. And guess what my friends? That review has come in and it's, well, fantastic!

Needless to say, I'm thrilled. 

Pre-order and then send stories about your unique families for posting.

November 22nd, 2008

Why I didn't buy Tenzin an Obama shirt.

wang obama

So of course I love this shirt, and contemplated buying it for Tenzin during the campaign.

But I didn't.

Because I don't want to politicize Tenzin's body any more than it is already. Because he didn't choose Obama himself. Because he is not a walking billboard for my beliefs.

Because it just didn't feel right.

Because politics is a divisive, winner takes all paradigm. Because while I engage and vote, I do not view the world in terms of sides or camps, and would like to allow my son the same freedom for as long as possible.

Because even though I believe in Obama, I am not certain that inculcating my son into the spectacle, the theater, of politics is actually in his best interest. 

Et vous? What did you do? 

November 17th, 2008

Alma de Fuego--Soul of Fire

I love reading black femi power at Alma de fuego. She asks an important question today, referencing a Diego Rivera painting. Here is an excerpt of my comments. You can find the whole thing on the post.

What I like about this image, and many by Rivera is the portrayal of women and men working together to carry the burden. That is what seems to be lost in so many contemporary critiques-- this idea of partnership as a soul maintenance program in the face of empire. Even more, as a mechanism through which accomplishment can be achieved. In that way it is actually a redefinition of success. Success here is the way in which the two are not at odds--their union, the tenderness of it in the face of unspeakable brutality, is more "successful" than any financial gain.

November 14th, 2008

Samadhi

Boy in Samadhi

 Story.

Interesting. What do you think?

November 14th, 2008

Malia and Sasha: Public or Private

Today's Root post:

I'm a little late to this conversation, but I feel compelled to weigh in on the question of whether the Obama children should go to public or private school. I truly, deeply, completely understand why some feel sending Malia and Sasha to a private school will indicate an "abandonment" of the public school system, but still and all I think this is an inappropriate, bordering on reckless, discussion.

First of all--the question reminds me of Obama's behind the scenes remark in Newsweek:

"So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f–––ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."

I don't think sending the girls to public school is going to solve the unbelievable decline of our schools. And I seriously doubt he will be less motivated to improve the public school system de facto because he and Michelle send their girls to a private school.

Then there is the quality of the DC public school system. They are working on it, and I have tremendous respect for the teachers and many excellent public schools, especially the charter schools, in DC, but the history is fraught with issues. I went to one of the best public schools on Capitol Hill when my father worked for the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Jimmy Carter, and let's just say it could have been better.

Which brings us to the question of giving your kids "less" on principle. It reminds me of parents who believe you shouldn't leave money to your children because they won't work hard or appreciate the benefits of self-reliance, which is fine. But what if that somehow compromises the stability of your children or grandchildren?

Aren't principles, if they undermine long-term viability and health, dysfunctional?

What troubles me about these conversations is the assumption Malia and Sasha are just like everyone else. They may be in some ways, but they are not in one very big way: they are the children of the President of the United States. There are massive security issues to be managed. Those kids need to be in the most controlled environment possible. That means contained campuses, administrative familiarity with similar situations, and all manner of other considerations.

Safety first. Principles second. Or, what about safety being the overriding principle? 

What do you think?

 

November 13th, 2008

Michelle and Barack at the White House

Love the dress.

November 13th, 2008

I am a man.

From our friends over at Jack and Jill Politics

November 11th, 2008