Benedikt v. Roiphe: Is Your Facebook Profile Enforcing the Patriarchy?


Have you been reading Double X? It’s Slate’s recently-launched lady web site founded by three smart women, one whose bio proclaims that she “got her start in journalism at the New Republic writing contrarian essays.”

Last week Double X published Katie Roiphe’s desperate cry for relevance, “Get Your Kid Off Your Facebook Page.” Roiphe, you might remember, is a little famous for a book about how college girls shouldn’t let themselves get raped so much. Now she’s gone and written about how moms on Facebook shouldn’t let themselves get raped so much — of their identity, that is, railing against “the trend of women using photographs of their children instead of themselves as the main picture on their Facebook profiles.” This will be the topic of a woman’s studies seminar, “My Status Update, Myself,” in the very near future.

I’ll address Roiphe’s central point — that moms with kiddie profile pics are actually subjugating their own identities, setting feminism back, and acting like 1950s housewives if 1950s housewives had laptops and joined fanclubs for bacon — in a sec, but first: Roiphe surrounds her whine with other, even-less interesting “points,” including the groundbreaking, “Hey Don’t You Hate Women Who Won’t Stop Talking About Their Kids at Dinner Parties,” and our favorite, “Hey Don’t You Hate Women Who Spend All Weekend Doing Stuff With Their Kids,” cause in the good old days, when moms let toddlers fend for themselves and “music class” was code for “key party,” mothers “loved their kids as much as we love our children, but they had their own lives… and we played around the margins. They did not plan weekend days solely around children’s concerts and art lessons and piano lessons and birthday parties.”

Which couldn’t have been because they didn’t work during the week, and got to spend time with their kids and love them during daylight and stuff.

(Crap, I just realized: I take a music class with my son on Sundays, and they make us take off our shoes before class, so that we are BAREFOOT. What the hell, Music Class?)

OK: Facebook profile pics. Currently, mine is of my son. Which Roiphe says has something to do with me swallowing the part of myself that wrote my “senior thesis in college on Proust” and is a “brilliant and accomplished woman.” Well, thank you for the compliment, Katie. I did not write my senior thesis on Proust or anything else because I guess state universities let you slide by and–fun fact–my high school didn’t even have AP classes! But if I had, and if I were still identifying with my senior thesis at the age of 32 instead of the small human being I currently live with, I would certainly talk about it at dinner parties, as well as my junior year abroad and my mom Anne Roiphe.

Wait, huh? I got sidetracked. Anyway: Roiphe’s is just one more chapter in the long and tired book on mothers setting aside their own needs for their kids–an evergreen that isn’t necessarily untrue in every instance, but one that Roiphe has absolutely nothing new to say about, other than inserting the word “Facebook” into the argument randomly.

Katie, do you really want to know why my photo is of a baby instead of myself? Much as you think it’s because, in the haze of motherhood, I’ve let myself go (untrue!), or am trying to be “dowdy and invisible” (why would I try to be invisible on Facebook?), or because I think I am nothing more than the mother of my child (I’m also the wife to my husband lol), it’s actually because I want all the people I grew up with to see how much cuter my kid is than theirs. Also, now I do it to annoy people like you.