Why are feminist daughters angry with their mothers?

by Kerry Cue

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dark red quote 1We’ve given those girls everything.

We’ve raised them to be feminists.

And they turn around and they hate their mothers.
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     ……………………………………Virginia, NSW, RN, Life Matters, ABC Talkback,28 MAR 2014

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Is this a new syndrome?

When this talkback segment came on the radio I nearly ran the car off the road. This was brutally honest comment, talkback radio at its best. I had to stop the car and listen. Here is Virginia, NSW, again:

‘My daughter is 32 this year …. Anyway, that generation of girls … all highly educated, all got degrees, very career driven young women … but I’ve noticed there is a real syndrome among my friends … I’m now 60 …those girls … are very critical and, I would say in some cases, downright abusive of their mothers. … We talk about it among ourselves and it’s horrible. Virginia, NSW, RN, Life Matters, ABC Talkback,28 MAR 2014

Sibylesque Mummy said 3What’s going on? Surely feminist daughters are independent, self-determining young women, who do not depend on their mothers. Or, could it be that Helicopter Parents – across the parent spectrum from mild hoverer to tyrannical Tiger Mum – have created needy offspring? Helicopter parenting began in the 1970s when Penelope Leach and other child rearing gurus urged parents to build their children’s self-esteem. Parent’s had to be hyper-vigilant in case their child missed out on an A, or an invitation to a party, or being picked for a sports team to make sure their child’s self-esteem didn’t collapse like a house of cards.

Mea Culpa. Many parents from the 1970s on are guilty to some degree of fretting over their child’s self-esteem. But this brings about another problem: EMOTIONAL DEPENDENCE. In her article, The Ties that Unwind (The Weekend Australian Magazine, 1 Mar 2014),

babies-and-their-mothersKate Legge explored the different expectations children have of parents across the generations. There has been a generational shift. People aged 60+, says Kate, grew up believing that children should be fed, clothed and schooled (and, therefore, loyal to the family.) Whereas younger adults between 30 and 50 want and often demand EMOTIONAL SUPPORT and if the parents are not forthcoming they will go elsewhere – to friends or therapists – to get it.

This is the Catch 22 of modern parenting. Children, obviously, need emotional support. (There. There. Did the big, bad thunder frighten you?) But children also have to mature into independent young adults. (Yeah! Life’s a bitch. Suck it up Princess.) In his article on Slate.com, Teen Spirit: Helicopter parenting has crippled American teenagers: Here’s how to fix it, American psychologist, Dan Griffin, calls this parental role change as moving from the more cheerful, obviously, Cheerleader to tougher Coach. But how do parents get this move right?

Could the angry daughter syndrome be related to the feminist mantra: You can be anything you want to be. You can have it all? Mothers, teachers and career advisers wanted each girl to realise her full potential. This mantra was delivered with enthusiasm and the best intentions in the early days of feminism. (Have a look at Australian Content Magazine For Women Who Want It All)

the-tibertine-sibylThis is fine talk for a cheerleader, but as a tough coach the possibilities are unintentionally overstated. A girl cannot be anything or everything she wants to be. She cannot become an A-grade tennis playing, ballerina, plumber, film-star-lawyer princess-bride, for instance. Maybe, just maybe, these daughters are angry with their mothers because ‘mum’ promised them the world and the world hasn’t delivered. Besides, mum is meant to fix everything, isn’t she? As paediatrician Donald Winnicott wrote in 1953, the Good Enough Mother must fail, eventually, to fulfil her child’s every need. Yep! That sounds about right. Suck it up princess.

Then again, as the first batch of feminist daughters of stay-at-home mothers, we were often outlandishly critical of them too. And so the wheel turns.

Dance photo:Alice Murdoch Adams dance school in Calgary  from the chronicallyvintage blog

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Bubble Wrap kids never have to share, never have to wait and never hear the word ‘No’. What would that look like when those kids are 40 years old. Ugly! Very ugly. Who would want to live with a Me-centric 40 year old who won’t share, wait, doesn’t take ‘No’ for an answer yet also needs constant emotional support. This isn’t just narcissism, it is needy, clingy narcissism. They will suck the emotional life out of any partner or mother (See Why are Feminist Daughters Angry with their Mothers.) […]

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