Saturday, March 20, 2004

A Pet Peeve About National Review Online...

As a libertarian, I know what to expect when I surf over to National Review Online. I'll see weird stuff about gays and religion, but otherwise I'll often find well-written and insightful commentary about politics and economics. Derbyshire's homophobia is grating, and Jonah Goldberg can be an ass, particularly when he addresses libertarian ideas he can't refute, but the thing that bothers me more than anything else is Meghan Cox Gurdon's Fever Swamp column. Archive of Fever Swamp here, the most recent Fever Swamp is here.

Mind you, I rarely read it – and when I do, it's with the same fascination people have with auto accidents. For those who don't know, Fever Swamp is little more than than Ms. Gurdon's stories about life at home, raising her little kids. She's a stay-at-home mom – nothing wrong with that. But I think what's weird is this idea that Gurdon, and NRO, think that their readers would actually care about what little Timmy did at his school play, or what cute thing little Suzy said the other day.

Yes, NRO is free, so I'm getting what I paid for. Yes, I don't have to read it, so NRO is hardly ripping me or anyone else off. But I'm thinking that they could easily have another column in the place of Fever Swamp that would actually address topics that NRO is supposed to be covering. You know, like politics and economics. Sometimes arts and culture.

I suspect that that what's behind Fever Swamp is this glorification of the stay-at-home mom and her misadventures. I postulate here, contrary to cultural conservatives and feminists, that there is nothing superior or inferior about the choice to be a stay-at-home mom. My own mom was one. But this entails that being a stay-at-home mom is about as valuable as any other vocation. So why does NRO not feature a column written by, say, an architect about interesting things he does at work? Or from a lawyer, about interesting adventures she faces as she litigates a lawsuit? Hell, why not something from a politician, even someone as lowly as a state representative?

No, of all vocations, they choose the stay-at-home mom, who rarely writes anything even remotely witty or interesting, unless you're the type who loves “America's Funniest Home Videos,” “Kids Say The Darnest Things,” or Anne Geddes photography. And I think this is why – in their eyes, the stay-at-home mom is a kind of moral ideal for women, far above the architect, attorney or scientist. So these stories she writes, for them, carry a significance and meaning above these other forms of work – at least for women. (Mere speculation here – take it only as such – but it's almost like the implicit message here is, “Us men (and the occasional exception like Kathryn Jean Lopez) do politics, economics and sometimes culture. You women do that child-rearing and caretaking thing, so this should appeal more to you.”)

This is what NRO says about Gurdon: Meghan Cox Gurdon is an NRO columnist. Gurdon lives in Washington, D.C. and writes as much as her young family will permit. Her NRO column, "The Fever Swamp" appears weekly.

Anyway. Perhaps this is merely the same knee-jerk reaction I have against things that are so cute they are disgusting, like the aforementioned Geddes. But Geddes photography is something you have to seek out. I think I wouldn't give a tinker's dam were it not for the fact that Gurdon's column is in an inappropriate place - an online journal of ideas.


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