The fallout from Biebergate is pretty much over (phew!), but there’s one piece of it that still stands out in my mind.
Vanessa Grigoriadis, the reporter who interviewed Biebs for “Rolling Stone,” caught some heat for asking him questions about abortion in the first place. She graciously and succinctly replied to her detractors via Twitter, saying that “A 16 year old kid, to be 17 in a couple weeks, who has control over a large population should be asked all questions.”
In response, a Canadian radio host named Marlo (as far as I can tell she only goes by that one name) tweeted the following to Grigoriadis: “Vanessa do you have kids? Just wondering why you think a teen boy is capable of answering on weighty topics like abortion/rape.”
And this, ladies, is a pet peeve.
Because here’s the thing. Asking a woman the question, “do you have kids?,” specifically when you’re trying to make the point that the way she’s interacted with a quote-unquote child is wrong, is a deliberate invocation of the sleeping giant that is our society’s widely accepted belief that women without kids are somehow deficient.
The idea is, if you had kids, you’d have the accompanying mommy chip — you know, the chip that makes you maternal, understanding and nurturing — and your instinct to protect any and all young would preclude your instinct to get the facts. And, P.S., that would make you a good woman.
(In this instance, Marlo adds insult to injury by her feigning of wide-eyed innocence, on display as she begins her next sentence in the offending tweet with the words “Just wondering…” You were not just wondering, Marlo. You were making a point. And now you’re being passive-aggressive.)
Of course, the kicker here is that if Grigoriadis hadn’t asked Bieber those questions, she wouldn’t have been doing her job. Yes, Bieber is young, and no, he didn’t know what he was talking about. But giving him the tools he needs to speak intelligently when talking to reporters (a huge part of his job, BTW), isn’t the job of every woman on the planet, and it certainly wasn’t Grigoriadis’ job in this case.
All of that makes Marlo’s comments even worse, because they become a roundabout insult to working moms. The flip side of what she’s saying is that the maternal instinct can — and should — get in the way of being effectively assertive in the workplace.
This whole Grigoriadis/Marlo interaction might not stand out to me quite as much if I hadn’t heard other moms pull this kind of shit, in (obviously) different situations. Rolled your eyes at the kid screaming in Target? You must not have kids. Believe that, say, marijuana should be legal? If you had kids, you’d feel differently. Apparently, the mommy-shaming so prevalent on mommy blogs begins before you even have children. All you need is a womb and you’re expected to be a good mother.
Look. I know that a lot changes when you have kids, and some of those changes are scary, and some women are forced to rethink their whole identity. But in dealing with the new feelings that motherhood brings about, no one needs to go around subtly suggesting that women who don’t have kids are somehow inferior. That’s not the way this whole thing works. We all get to deal with our own bullshit ourselves, not project it onto the closest target.
That is, of course, if we want to set a good example for our kids…