Sticks and Stones

I’m a redhead. Or a ginger. Titian, perhaps, though I’ve never heard that hollered down the street after me.

38 years of it should perhaps have made me immune to name-calling and lazy assumptions, but there’s a new name which stings: Yummy Mummy. What does it mean? It’s hard to say exactly. Yummy mumminess seems to be a portmanteau term; an inevitable fate for any woman who reproduces without being in acute financial hardship (there’s a whole other, even less flattering, lexicon for that). Call me paranoid, but it smacks more of a sneer than a compliment.

I’ve been told I should embrace it, but I don’t think I read the memo properly in the labour ward. I’m just not sure I can welcome my automatic reclassification to someone whose focus has narrowed so closely on social aspiration, self-interest and outward appearance that I’m unable to focus on anything sharper than a new floral pattern.

It doesn’t matter that my forays into the outside world are usually made with the sartorial élan of a badger in a cagoule, nor that Cath Kidston makes my freckles itch. I don’t even escape by virtue of the fact that skiing, violin lessons and organic vegetable deliveries would be fairly far down my list of priorities, even if I could afford them. And, to be fair, even if all those things did apply, they still wouldn’t actually be who I was, just a bit of how I looked.

The thing is, I do know the kind of woman who is the totemic yummy mummy. Every now and again I come across some woman with children and an uber sense of entitlement who really gets on my nerves. I knew annoying females in my own playground days, though, and in the workplace too; and I’ve met plenty of their male counterparts (though I’m struggling to think of a generic term for them). Barring active cult membership, I tend to think annoying people are just that, not representative of others who happen apparently to resemble them in some way.

It makes me cross that my husband ceases to be daddy when he leaves the house or the company of our children, whereas my (yummy) mummyhood is an indelible part of my DNA. It’s deemed to colour every aspect of my thinking, and a narrative of “nimbyism” is likely to be detected in any opinion expressed, whether it’s there or not. Ironically, I’m not a fan of the expression “as a mother”. I’m wary of special pleading on the basis of a productive uterus, and I think it’s insulting to those without children. I don’t honestly think that my opinions have changed materially since having children in any way which couldn’t have been anticipated by someone with a decent imagination. Of course the welfare of my children and my family is closest to my heart, but isn’t that just human nature? It doesn’t automatically preclude awareness of or sensitivity to the needs and rights of others.

Am I a victim? Well, no. Am I disadvantaged? Not so as you’d notice, and, comparatively, not at all. So does it matter? These arguments could doubtless be dismissed as the thrashings of outraged entitlement from someone with all the self-awareness of a (Hunter) welly. I think it does matter, though. I’ve seen “yummy mummy” used as shorthand (and never favourably) by those who would rightly shun other slighting soubriquets. At best it’s patronising; at worst it’s offensive and divisive. Employee, employer, business owner, volunteer, wife, daughter, client, carer, patient: a “yummy mummy” could be any or all of these and more, but every time the idea is reinforced that she is nothing more than a sharp-elbowed shopaholic, I would argue that it makes it that bit easier to dismiss the reality behind the stereotype – and surely that’s a problem?

Unlike sticks and stones, words may not break bones, but they can do a lot to keep people in their place.

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4 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones

  1. The whole Yummy Mummy things can go *f*** it’s self I think. It rolls along with “School run chic” which makes me so irrationally angry. I think it is just another way of patronising women.
    Oh god I feel a rant coming on.

    1. It’s the whole “You are X, therefore you must do Y and think Z” thing that hacks me off (although I suppose that’s the case for any stereotype). Rant away. I think it deserves it.

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