The supposed power of positive thinking is a pet peeve of mine. There is not anything wrong with being optimistic, or trying to succeed. What is wrong is telling someone that the reason they are oppressed is not because we live in a patriarchal, capitalist world that only serves a small percentage, but because they are not putting out enough good vibes. If you are tired of getting kicked, do not speak up or make a fuss, just smile. If you keep getting kicked, it is not because the person kicking you is a jerk; it is because you are not smiling widely enough. Positive thinking is a privilege for some.
As women we are especially encouraged to turn the other cheek. Women who do speak out are crazy bitches. Mothers who speak out are not selfless in the way good mothers are. In her book Maternal Thinking feminist Sara Ruddick uses the term “holding” to describe a metaphysical attitude that good mothers have. Holding is about preserving the best of life for a mother’s child(ren). Part of this preservation includes a resilient cheerfulness, humility, good humour, and cheerfulness. “Humility is a metaphysical attitude one takes toward a world beyond one’s control,” writes Ruddick.
These expectations are not perceived to be confining, but virtuous. We as a society have romanticized motherhood and a never-wavering smile is sentimentalized. “In a daily way,” Ruddick writes, “Cheerfulness is a matter-of-fact willingness to continue, to give birth and to accept having given birth, to welcome life despite its conditions.” In other words, let’s not make a fuss that life is unkind to mothers, because being a good mother means taking it with a smile.
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