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50 Shades of Grey, Time Magazine, and the Dumbing Down of Motherhood

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I bet you and I hit the same 3-5 websites everyday to get our quick fix of news and cultural references. Maybe you’re a CNN and Huffington Post lady. Or maybe your cup of tea is Fox News or The Stir. I’d even bet that among your FB friends and twitter feeds, you’ve found yourself reading and/or engaged in one of the three following topics over the past few weeks: 50 Shades of Grey, the now infamous Time Magazine article on attachment parenting, and/or perhaps some sort of related discussion about a supposed “war” between working moms and stay at home moms. And it is starting to make me anxious to think that we, my fellow sisters, wives and mothers, are co-conspirators in a media-driven effort to make us more stupid, divided, and generally less focused on legitimate issues that matter to us and our families.

First – let’s call a spade a spade. I fell for it all. I monitored all the chats following the hype on 50 Shades of Grey while I furtively discussed among my female friends if I should take the plunge and commit precious child-free hours to this smut. When the Time Magazine article came out, I too jumped into the FB fray, reading blog post after blog post about the supposed merits or demerits of either the picture or the title. Mind you little or none of the discussion was actually about attachment parenting, as we stayed at the surface exactly where Time wanted us. And finally there is my favorite – the fake war between working moms and stay at home moms. We all devote a remarkable amount of energy to this one – defending a territory that doesn’t exist, attacking each other because yet another story hinted at friction that was never really there to begin with.

But you know what the truth is? It is all crap. None of these stories that all of us (and by us at least I mean me) have spent a good deal of time reading, discussing, digesting and disseminating, has anything to do with making any of our lives better. We are discussing what we are told to discuss. We are letting publishing houses and editorial boards drive where things go rather than the other way around. Why aren’t we talking right now online to each other or seeking to share more info about things like how to give yourself a breast exam, how to improve access to excellent education in our communities, increased info about what’s in our food and cosmetics, how to find ourselves (or at least not totally lose ourselves) in the middle of work, and husbands and children. And all of it matters regardless of your parenting technique (attachment or not), or whether you work or don’t. The reality is we all have more in common than not.

But we need to start by driving our discussions in more productive ways – ways that better our lives as moms and women and strengthen our collective voice in the civic discourse. The need is real. In a recent study by the Op-Ed Project, women wrote half or more of the editorials last year on “pink topics” gender, family, and style, but devoted a meager 11% of their contributions to politics. If we want to raise the level of discourse in a way that substantially improves the lives of ourselves or our daughters, we have to start with what we produce and disseminate amongst each other. We have to stop falling for what they spoon feed us. And start talking about what really matters.

Lastly, I don’t want anyone to read this as my declaration that I’ve lost faith in my devotion to pop culture and other fun stuff. Trust me: Andy Cohen is still my homeboy. Rather, it’s more of a reflection on my part to at least try to seek out and share more stuff that really matters to us, in addition of course to the latest 411 on my Real Housewives :)

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