community · emotional labour · making friends · reform · righteous feminist anger · slow academy

Feeeeeelings, Nothing More than Feeeelings

You know I write about mommy blogs, right? I’ve just handed in a paper to Biography on the intimate public of mommy blogging, wherein I argue that that genre’s emphasis on sharing personal details about private lives both separates this blogging community from the broader, rational public sphere, and cements deep emotional connections between participants.

This seems important to me to consider more broadly, this week, following Shannon Dea’s fantastic guest post on the situation at UW, and how women’s feelings of (in)security are deemed irrational and overwrought. I’m thinking about the emotional labour of activating the classroom, about making lists to supplement our memories. I’m thinking about how those of my posts that get the most responses are the ones that relate personal details from my private life.

I’m thinking again about how to blend the personal and the professional, and in the context of my own feminism. Feelings, I think, might be a feminist issue.

I’d like to direct your attention to ‘Another Mother’s’ blog– how can you not be favorably predisposed to a blog that puns in its very title as cleverly as Breast for the Weary? Montreal resident Shannon Smith started this blog after being kicked out of a children’s clothing store for breastfeeding her infant. Go away and read her post on the incident, and then come back, okay?

[hums, taps foot, gets a glass of water …]

How brave do you have to be to write this?

“I knew the law. I knew my rights. But I was still upset. And not the angry, self-important, righteous kind of upset. The teary, scared, “they’re going to kick me out of the store”, “I’m here with my kids” type of upset. It was clear I was about to be thrown out, and I was pretty sure that if I was going to be forced to justify feeding my baby, I was going to cry. And I felt truly alone.”

Smith’s blog is remarkable for the way it combines a personal narrative recounted in deeply emotional terms with a call to public action, citing and linking to case law, public policy documents, and activist organizations in articulating purely rational arguments against her banishment from the store.

Lauren Berlant claims “that the gender-marked texts of women’s popular culture cultivate fantasies of vague belonging as an alleviation of what is hard to manage in the lived real—social antagonisms, exploitation, compromised intimacies, the attrition of life” (5). I think being a woman in the academy has some characteristics that are hard to manage in the lived real. For me, this blog (and other blogs I’ve written) help me cultivate a real sense of belonging, a place where I can share my feelings … where I can feel better in ways that perhaps empower me to act in more concrete ways in the sometimes hostile public spheres where I have learned to never show those feelings.

I want to be more like Shannon Smith. I want to be able to pull together a kick-ass, well-cited, rational, legal case to support whatever it is I’m proposing; and I want to be able to talk about my feelings at the same time.

Easy enough (for various reasons on which I can expound at great length, and with citations, even) to do on a blog. Harder to do where it matters: in the classroom, in our published research, in our committee meetings, with our colleagues and advisees, with administrators and public agencies.

How to transform the longstanding dismissal of feelings from public discourse, without either evacuating this public discourse of its rationality? Any ideas?

One thought on “Feeeeeelings, Nothing More than Feeeelings

  1. Seems like this is a longstanding feminist concern. The phrase “the personal is political” kept coming to mind as I read this. And, of course, the ways in which certain things get labelled “personal” and “inappropriate” are themselves political.

    You've given some good examples. Making the links to the wider issues seems to be important. In the classroom, I'd say, making it very clear that the personal doesn't trump, nor is it necessarily typical, but it is important, a way in, an invitation to wider investigation, …


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