My new campaign: Feminists For Yummy Mummies

I’m launching a new campaign to support much-maligned sector of society. Everyone, I give to you: Feminists For Yummy Mummies!

Now it might sound like I’m being sarcastic but actually, I’m not. I’m deadly serious. If there’s one group which suffers due to a very specific form of sexism which is rarely identified, let alone challenged, then it’s … Well, to be honest, there are many such groups. But well-kept upper-middle-class SAHMs definitely form one of them. It’s about time we did something about it.

If you are a mum, you will probably despise any sentence that starts with “if you are a mum”. But the chances are you’re also aware that almost all mummies – no matter who they are or what they’re doing – are perceived to be a bit rubbish. Forget all this crap about motherhood being greatly admired. It is, but only if people are talking about some abstract, perfect mummy and comparing her to rubbish old you. For instance, I am a mum who’s also the main earner in her household and works full-time. Therefore I am rubbish when compared to the noble SAHM, busy doing “the hardest job on earth”. But wait! Were I to give up my job and become a SAHM, I’d then be a scrounger who “doesn’t work”, watching Jeremy Kyle on my crappy estate. I mean, I do actually live on a crappy estate, so I’m halfway there. Perhaps it’d help if I lived somewhere nicer and didn’t claim benefits? Sadly not, since if my partner were rich, I’d still be fucking useless, an airhead MILF swanning about in my4x4. Everyone in the entire cosmimegaverse would resent me – if not for being rich, then for being superfluous and annoying. In fact, the only acceptable form of motherhood is frugal, just-getting-by heterosexual SAHM-dom. This is the kind of motherhood where you’re with a male partner who earns a bit but not much, hence you’re financially dependent on him and spend your whole life stuck at home or at baby group. That form of motherhood’s just great. Mummies you can praise from afar but don’t actually have to see out and about. All the more space in which to ogle those who haven’t yet bred, eh, Daily Mail?

Today’s Guardian features a piece by Rowan Davies in defence of the rich type of rubbish mummy, called What is people’s problem with yummy mummies? It’s written in response to a café owner blaming said yummies for the closure of cafés in Primrose Hill, since the latter don’t purchase food:

The yummy mummies just want somewhere to settle their prams and have a mummies’ meeting, so anywhere with coffee and a table is in demand, and people are supplying it, but it’s not helping the area.

Is it just me, or is there real derision in a term such as “mummies’ meeting”? Certainly Davies detects it too. She sees it as capturing a form of resentment reserved just for affluent mums – but not dads. She identifies it – correctly, in my view – as an unwillingness to accept mothers in public space unless they are sufficiently poor, downtrodden and self-effacing:

Mothers, in ever-greater numbers, are demanding more space, in all senses. The age-old choice between domestic and professional is being rejected; maybe it’s time we were allowed to do both. Maybe we can take the cash that we earned in a well-paid job and spend it on lattes during our maternity leave. Maybe we can have loud conversations about childbirth in public places. Maybe we can express opinions about politics, technology or art while wiping someone’s nose, and expect to be taken seriously. Maybe we don’t care as much as our grandmothers did about the good opinion of passersby, because we are much less dependent on our neighbours’ approval; we have sources of power and influence that are entirely our own. Maybe none of these things should bother people half as much as they do.

Now I’ll admit, the paragraph I’ve just quoted reeks of class entitlement and smugness about one’s own good fortune. I still think Davies has a point. Wealth may not be distributed fairly, but the spending of money should not be seen as more ostentatious and offensive when it’s done by mothers – mothers who, unlike the anyone else with cash to spare, still have to engage in frequently dull, lonely work while they’re spending it (and okay, they have might nannies – but why is outsourcing labour considered a job when you’re in the office yet shirking when you’re at home?).

I am middle class and educated. I am not however wealthy. Sometimes I resent those who seem to fall into the rich SAHM category. This is particularly likely to happen when I visit my parents, since my mum – for reasons she’s too ashamed to reveal – has a subscription to Easy Living. Every month the magazine includes a godawful feature called School Runway, a feature which exists solely in order for rich mummies to show off about what clothes they’ve got. Seriously, that is all it does. Usually there’s one mummy who’ll boast about how frugal she is because she likes to “mix it up with one key designer piece together with some vintage”. And if the women are in paid employment, they tend to either work for Easy Living or as designers you’ve never heard of (although they’re guaranteed to be wearing one of the pieces they designed). Some of them do not even appear to have children yet they still just “are” yummy mummies. I hate, hate, hate School Runway. Hate it with a vengeance. And yet…  And yet I do not believe cultural oddities such as this can justify the sheer venom and misogyny directed at the average wealthy mother – and by extension, all mothers who dare to seen in public without looking sufficiently miserable.

Here are some of the comments which follow Davies’ Guardian piece:

Stepfords in their 4 x 4s

(That’s the whole thing. Eloquent, no?) And then there’s this:

these women are obnoxious and inconsiderate. they act like they’re the first people to give birth.

No, they don’t. They act as though becoming a parent is a massive deal, and it is. If they seriously believed they were the first people to give birth, they’d be literally in your face the whole time, yelling “LOOK! This little person CAME OUT OF ME!! What the FUCK???” Or something similar. Anyhow, it would involve more that sitting around in Starbucks with a Bugaboo. Oh, but that’s a bad thing, too:

When my kids were little (and I did at least half of the childwork) we’d take them in a folding buggy (which we folded when we got on the bus) if we were using public transport and a pram (which we left outside any retail establishment) when we went shopping or for a walk in the park. If we wanted to hang out drinking tea and yakking, we went to friends’ houses.

Well, good for you. I cannot seriously believe that in 2012 people want to question whether women who’ve had babies should feel entitled to sit in cafés with said babies. Seriously, I can’t.

Surely these particular woman attract resentment because they are wealthy and don’t have to do paid work. They have therefore got a lot more leeway in terms of throwing their weight about than most of us who have to answer to the boss and/or the benefits office, and are likely to have an elevated sense of entitlement. Their hubbies out at work probably do have to answer to the boss and therefore have retained their ability not to go round acting like they own the place.

Yeah, all you women who don’t do paid work! You totally act like you own the place! It’s not as though no longer having your own source of income and wiping shitty arses several times a day is remotely humbling. Not at all.

You just have to overhear a snatch of one of their conversations to understand why this particular group is so universally and rightly reviled.

Again, this is unfortunately the whole comment. So perhaps we’ll never be told what not to say while breastfeeding one’s baby over a latte, at least if one wants to avoid universal, righteous revulsion.

These comments appall me and they’re not even directed at “my type” (presumed-to-be-regretful feminist who farms out her babies while heading to the office). It’s a level of nastiness that’s completely unwarranted, an expression of outrage at the fact that some women are not sufficiently diminished or broken by motherhood. So having children isn’t enough to put the privileged woman in her place. Well, why should it be? And why would that be fair? Social justice is not achieved by ensuring that motherhood pushes all women a few notches down the social scale.

If feminists are truly interested in representing all women, I think we need to engage with this. The yummy mummy type is seen as an embarrassment to us all, but should privilege really provide a little pocket where people feel entitled to indulge their misogyny unchecked? It affects all of us, this resentment of women taking up too much space (“using ridiculous buggies the size of a bubble car” – because of course, women do that for FUN! It’s worth all the inconvenience just to piss people off!). The yummy mummy types should not be the only kind of parent who is seen; she should not be the only one at liberty to care for her young without facing extreme hardship. These are feminist concerns, but so too is straightforward sexist bullying. Hence Feminists For Yummy Mummies. Join me (no vintage pieces allowed).

15 thoughts on “My new campaign: Feminists For Yummy Mummies

  1. Unfortunately I’ve seen even the frugal SAHMs mocked: for not contributing to society (apparently raising children doesn’t count) and/or being stupid enough to rely on a man, because obviously he’s going to run off with another woman in a couple of years.

    I suppose that’s one advantage to having recently become a WAHM: nobody writes articles talking about how shit ‘we’ are.

    1. I wrote this yesterday then promptly stumbled upon a piece about how mums working in the home are neglecting their children too. Oh well, at least I feel equal now.

  2. I guess yet another confusing layer is — how do the critics even KNOW those are stay-at-home-mothers? o.O My mom is a musician. She works waaaay more than 40 hours a week, but she doesn’t necessarily work them at “traditional” hours. Just because you see someone at a café at noon doesn’t mean s/he isn’t working… s/he could be grading while staring out the window while watching the kid (or not).

    Of course, all this barrage of criticism is aimed squarely at women (mothers and non-mothers alike). I can’t see why men don’t come in for at least a *little.*

  3. I can completely relate to this. Both my husband and I are qualified accountants. When I am not working parttime I am being a mum. Why on earth should I be disliked just because we earn enough that I feel I can go drink coffee in Starbucks with a fellow mum?

    I don’t understand the dislike. Why should I apologise for working hard before kids and deciding to continue to work parttime as I love my job after kids?

    I am with you!!😀

  4. Brilliantly written post. Those comments horrify me – I’m not sure such vitriol spat at any other ‘group’ in society (can mothers be considered a society group??) would be so tolerated. Mothers are just an easy target, whatever their class, background, or income, because we tend to feel guilty for not being the mythical Perfect Mum at the best of times, so bullies can stick the boot in and it only serves to make us question ourselves even more.
    Well sod it. I’m with you. Feminism for Yummy Mummies!!

  5. I saw the original article lambasting yummy mummies in primrose hill and just thought WTF?!?! Why is there such venom directed at mums in cafes with their babies and friends? There’s a cafe near me which has a policy of not allowing buggies inside at the weekend, even though they are perfectly happy to have supposedly yummy mummies’ custom during the week they prefer other customers’ cold hard cash at the weekend! There is a huge sign declaring this policy and once when I went to go in on a Saturday with my buggy (but for a takeaway) I was rudely accosted at the door and told I coukdnt come in with my buggy! I don’t go there anymore whether weekday or weekend

  6. I have to say that you have cherry-picked the most trollish responses from that comment thread to illustrate your point. I am not a mum, but can’t wait to be in the next year. I have many lovely friends who are lovely mothers. Most of the non-trolling, actual responses on that comment section were lamenting the rudeness of SOME parents (not just mums) who refuse to discipline or properly socialise their children. The fact that there were so many comments left, with very specific examples of (in my opinion) unwarranted rudeness shows that there are many parents who think that, being parents, they are more important. Which is fine, but it is not fine to assume everyone else thinks you are more important too.

    *Disclaimer. Not all parents. Some parents.

    1. I would argue that the criticisms I picked up on are ones I have heard very frequently. And I seriously don’t know how others are able to judge whether parents they don’t know have or haven’t properly “socialised” their children. You get a snapshot of what these people’s lives are like. You don’t know what the rest of their day has been like. You don’t know if they’ve already attempted all the things you think you would have done. You don’t know their child’s situation. If you are bored out of your mind after a long day with no adult contact and have had next to no sleep, you really have better things to do than rank the relative importance of you and others. Moreover, specific examples of rudeness have little to do with parenting in general – everyone can be rude – or the original “yummy mummy” complaint, which was offensive on its own.

      1. “You don’t know what the rest of their day has been like.”

        True. Nor do they know how mine has been. And I am sorry, but when a child is running around a restaurant screaming, knocking things over and making things more difficult for the staff, and the parents refuse to do anything like, I don’t know, taking their bored child out of the place where other people are also paying money to relax – they are not properly socialising their child (i.e. teaching him/her how to behave in social situations so as not to piss everyone else off).

        “You don’t know if they’ve already attempted all the things you think you would have done.”

        See at that point, if there was no calming the child, I would leave the restaurant or café. That’s all.

        “Moreover, specific examples of rudeness have little to do with parenting in general – everyone can be rude – or the original “yummy mummy” complaint, which was offensive on its own.”

        I agree, the initial ‘yummy mummy’ complaint is offensive and ridiculous. You cannot blame mothers for ruining a business, you cannot castigate them for sitting around with a well-deserved coffee, and mothers are not the sole culprits in nursing a latte for 3 hours!

        But the discussion took on a life of its own, as discussions are wont to do, and became about a certain ‘fuck you’ attitude that was very evident in Davies original post, and that seems to be prevalent.

        (That’s not to say the f-you attitude is not a defensive response from mothers who have felt marginalised or put-upon for a long time. But that’s a whole other comment thread, and this one was about manners)

        1. “And I am sorry, but when a child is running around a restaurant screaming, knocking things over and making things more difficult for the staff, and the parents refuse to do anything like, I don’t know, taking their bored child out of the place where other people are also paying money to relax – they are not properly socialising their child (i.e. teaching him/her how to behave in social situations so as not to piss everyone else off).” I think the trouble is parenting is such a fraught, sensitive area – and being “a bad parent” is believed to have such terrible consequences – that even if you are the type of parent who would take your child out of the restaurant, you can read what you’ve just written and feel judged. Because there will be situations where you look terrible and feel terrible and do the wrong thing, and for others to interpret this as a global attitude you carry around with you all the time – “I’m more important than everyone else / I can’t be bothered to deal with my kids” – isn’t fair. I also feel uncomfortable with this as I grew up with a sibling who had severe behavioural problems (he has schizophrenia, has never worked and still lives with my parents at age 40 – but the diagnoses we have now weren’t there when he was a little kid screaming his head off). I know lots of people (including professionals) who just assumed we were a “bad” family (and yeah, we would end up in social situations in which our presence might piss other people off. Not because we didn’t care about others – but because particularly if you have other children you can’t be constantly heading off home because it’s all got a bit embarrassing again – others need to share space, too). These days I am terrified of ending up in a similar situation as my parents and while I educate my children as best I can, the control you have is limited – and when public space feels harsh, judgmental and not particularly child-friendly (and when mistakes are interpreted as arrogance) it makes it all the harder (and sometimes it does, in the end, just make you want to say f-you).

        2. Of course, all this is understandable. I have a young cousin on the spectrum who can kick off at any moment, and I know what it is like to have to deal with it (in some cases, public physical restraint, which attracts no end of judgement!) It’s just, on that thread, few people were talking about the frazzled mum with a tired child in a supermarket, or the exhausted dad trying to soothe a baby on a plane. If they did, I would call troll. People were talking about a certain sub-section of parents. And their existence cannot be denied – there are rude people, and rude people will likely be rude parents.

          I am equally as repelled by the non-parents who spout about ‘seen and not heard’… Kids are brilliant.

          If they are running riot in a café or pub it IS because they are bored and full of pent up energy, and for their sake as well as everyone elses, perhaps should not be there at that particular time. In my opinion.

          Rudeness was the qualifier in the discussion, and the context was parents. That’s all! Thanks for your measured and interesting responses. You almost definitely don’t sound like they ‘type’ of parent I was referring to, I really hope I don’t sound like the ‘type’ of non-parent that just dislikes children, or mums.:)

        3. Thank you for your comments, too, which have also made me think!

          I assume from your first comment that you’re expecting a baby? One thing that drove me insane when I was pregnant was people who were already parents patronizing me about how hard it would be, how I hadn’t a clue what to expect, blah blah blah, with all these knowing “she’ll learn” eyebrow raises. That is totally maddening – so if people are doing that to you, I’d say you’d be completely right to think they’re rude!

  7. I have just written (actually, ranted) about my annoyance at the term “yummy mummy”. I felt obliged to come and acknowledge this post as my probable inspiration, and apologise for any plagiarism!

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