Ms. Magazine
 

Ms.CELLANEOUS:
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*Word: United
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**Sisters Spin Talk
on Hip-hop
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Two feminists who came of age with the music and the culture take a long, hard look at its impact--for better and worse--on young women, and reassess its importance in their lives. > by Tara Roberts and Eisa Nefertari Ulen

**The Mommy Wars**
How the media pits one group of mothers against another. It all boils down to the Haves versus the Have-Nots. > by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels
**Going Underground**
One woman's moving account of the painful decision to give up family, friends, and identity, and flee with her daughter to a safer life > by Anonymous Plus: Information about hiding in plain sight > by Hagar Scher

YOUR WORK:
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Columns > by Patricia Smith and Gloria Steinem

*Making Waves
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**Turning the Tables on "Science"**
When Natalie Angier wrote Woman: An Intimate Geography, she took on accepted truths about women, poked holes in them, and offered an exciting revisionist view of our bodies. Oh boy, did she ruffle some feathers! > by Marilyn Milloy

NEWS:
*Ten Laws That Will Make Your Blood Boil
*Epithets Deleted: French Women Demand Respect
*Women in the House
*Free Kosovar Albanian Activist-Poet Flora Brovina
*Madrid's Back Alleys
*
Newsmaker: Dawn Riley *Reviving the ERA
*Opinion: Count Me In
*Amazon Bookstore Update: Beware the Lesbians!
*Pakistan's Turning Point
*A New Law for Unmarried Couples in France
*Recognition for African Women Farmers
*Clippings

 
 

 

 
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<cont'd But what if we put these portrayals side by side and compare what these different mothers were made to stand for? Could it be that the tsunami of celebrity-mom profiles helped, however inadvertently, to justify punitive policies toward welfare mothers and their children? While the "you can have it all" ethos of these pieces made the rest of us feel like failures as mothers, and upped the ante in the eyes of employers and coworkers about how much working mothers can handle, a little side-by-side reading also exposes some rather daunting hypocrisy. Often, one group is glamorized and the other castigated for precisely the same behavior.

Let's take a look at a celebrity mom first. Kirstie Alley, for example. It's 1994. The star of Cheers and the Look Who's Talking movies graces the cover of InStyle, a magazine that pays fawning tribute to the charming idiosyncrasies and lifestyle choices of our nation's most glamorous. Among Kirstie's recent choices is the purchase of her third house. InStyle advises us respectfully that "as with all of her houses, Kirstie paid cash." On a tour of her new Bangor, Maine, retreat (the renovation of which was paid for by a quick voice-over job she did for Subaru), we discover that both Kirstie and her house are "at once down-to-earth and whimsical."

Kirstie must be down-to-earth, of course, because now, at long last, she is a mother. Her "playful sense of style" is made evident by the decoupage grapes that grace her son True's high chair. "It was painted and cracked to make it look old," InStyle informs us. (Why not simply rely on natural toddler effluvia to give the chair that petroglyph look?) True has just turned one; his whimsical high chair faces an equally whimsical ceramic pig holding a blackboard on which a new word appears each day to encourage his reading.

In our tour through Kirstie's hideaway, we encounter an entourage--decorators, a nanny, a cook, and various personal assistants. Kirstie spends True's two-hour nap time working out with her personal trainer and then being served a healthful, fat-free lunch by the cook. Lounging in her living room (painted to "echo" the surrounding firs and elms), reflecting on the challenges of motherhood, Kirstie gushes, "Being a mother has given me a whole new purpose. Every day when I wake up it's like Christmas morning to me, and seeing life through True's eyes gives me a whole new way of looking at the world." Perfect house. Perfect husband. Perfect child. Perfect career. Perfect life. Kirstie is a perfect mother. InStyle invites you to curl up on the sofa with Kirstie, but then implies that you'd probably just spill your tea on it.

Forward to 1997. There's Kirstie again, now the star of the television series Veronica's Closet, beaming at us once more from InStyle. "A new man, a new show, a brand-new life," proclaims the cover. Since 1994, her island mansion has "become a place to play." Each of the 15 bedrooms is decorated with Kirstie's "eclectic and playful eye." According to InStyle, most people would have found decorating this 16,000-square-foot house daunting, but not Kirstie. "I'm very fast," she explains. "I don't shop. I just point: boom, boom, boom." Having outgrown his high chair, True now has his own miniature lobster boat. In addition, he and his new sister, Lillie, can frolic in their personal nursery-rhyme garden, complete with Mother Goose figures especially commissioned by "fun-loving" Kirstie because, as she puts it, "I hope I give my children a spirit of play."

Kirstie swears by the facial treatment she receives every morning on her terrace as the fog burns off Penobscot Bay. It involves "blasting her face with oxygen and enzymes . . . through a plastic hose hooked up to two pressurized tanks." Though her life was perfect in 1994, she has since set aside her husband, Parker Stevenson, in favor of her "soul mate," James Wilder, who "is a cross between Houdini, Errol Flynn, and Marlon Brando." Apparently Kirstie uses the same technique for choosing her lovers as she does for choosing sofa fabrics. With James, "it was like comet to comet. Boom . . ."

Not that we ought to single out Kirstie (although such self-serving bilge makes it irresistible). Celebrity-mom profiles are almost all alike and haven't changed much over the years, except that the houses and toys are more lavish. Celebrity moms are shown embracing motherhood after years of sweating under klieg lights, which apparently brings them in touch with their true, essential, feminine natures. Most important, motherhood is a powerfully transforming experience, akin to seeing God. It always changes these women, and always for the better. "I feel more enriched and compassionate toward others since having my son," says Elle McPherson.

Ladies' Home Journal tells us that Christie Brinkley's third child, daughter Sailor (her father, Brinkley's fourth husband, is a descendant of Captain Cook), "barely tipping the scale at eight pounds . . . has become Brinkley's anchor, a midlife miracle well worth waiting for." Of her second child, Jack (from her third marriage, which lasted only a few months), Christie was equally lyrical: "It's like I went to hell and came back with this angel." We assume that most (but not all) of these celebrity moms are not trying to gloat, or to rub our noses in our own poor lifestyle choices (which invariably include the failure to choose being thin, white, gorgeous, and rich). And we've all said mushy things about how much our kids mean to us, especially in the immediate aftermath of birth, before the months of sleep deprivation and projectile vomiting produce a slightly more jaundiced view of the joys of motherhood. CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE>>