Monday, November 14, 2005

Soccer mom

"She's June Cleaver in a minivan" (Anchorage Daily News, November 3,1996).

Soccer moms are the necessary evil of the post-industrial bourgeoisie. Described as an underground network of middle-aged white Christian women who are apparently the sole justification for repealing the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. They are depicted as someone who spends far too much time at the fake-n'-bake, barely stands five feet tall on her tiptoes, drives an SUV the size of a Sherman tank because she has a female Napoleon complex. Well that's according to the unofficial and off the record contributions at urbandictionary.com. It's not only in the dictionary, but on the record and the earliest citation for the phrase in print appeared in The Associated Press on October 14th, 1982.

    A judge has found a husband guilty of looting $3,150 from the treasury of the Soccer Moms booster club in Ludlow headed by his wife. Joseph Decosta, 34, of Ludlow, was found guilty Wednesday and ordered to spend a month in jail and make restitution to the club, which runs candy sales and the like to raise money for soccer games for 400 boys and girls ages 6 to 19.
While alpha moms top the "A list" for play dates for third graders because they come complete with a backyard, a fridge full of goodies and a mother who plays, a soccer mom (SOK.ur mawm) is defined as a white, suburban woman who is married and has children and one of those myths of motherhood created for the sole purpose of political beliefs along with welfare queens, waitress moms, and super moms.

Soccer moms and SUVs go together like carrots and peas. They're the outcome of media driven Mommy Wars throughout the evolution of 20th century American social policy and political debates surrounding child care focused on competing maternal ideals. This makes mothers the primary target population for political policies. At odds are the shared, political, and cultural values that have pitted the stay-at-home "Soccer Mom" in opposition to the career-oriented "Super Mom." The mythical "Welfare Queen" and working poor "Waitress Mom," in disparity, are not even a blip on the media's radar in this combat for the supreme apotheosis of motherhood.

Maternal myths in American society are shaped by mass media outlets and while analysts and academics carry on the debate about the implications of American motherhood, the majority of mothers work both outside and inside of their homes. "This ongoing competition," says one researcher, "between different ideologies and mythologies of motherhood tends to degrade and minimize maternal choices about work, family, and child care stereotypes of American mothers each developed at a specific time in our history and yet, have proven exceedingly resilient despite demographic and experiential evidence to the contrary." Deliberations about child care policy in this country carries on over maternal employment and family structure, meanwhile employed and full-time stay-at-home mothers see it as a war against all mothers. Many see the false dichotomy between working and non-working mothers, which leaves nearly all groups of mothers feeling attacked and on the defensive.

In fact, both public opinion and social science research confirm that the image of a" June Cleaver" housewife in the 1950s continues to serve as the most dominant myth of American motherhood." What's most astonishing is that full-time motherhood is actually an historical abnormality both across the globe and in American culture. All the same, the June Cleaver icon, with a few revisions along the way, has been the mainstay for decades. In reality a current study by the Families and Work Institute established that 50% of married working mothers agreed "it is much better for everyone involved if the man earns the money and the woman takes care of the home and children" In addition, roughly 68% of respondents in a 1997 poll on child care thought that "the best family structure was one where a mother stays home to raise her children full time."

    Somewhere along the way, the stressed-out, minivan-driving juggler of lives and roles was awarded the title of MVP in the competition for voters. She became the icon of 1996, nearly running over the Angry White Male of 1994 in her new Dodge Caravan.

    But in politics, as in soccer, you have to use your head. A trip through the post election world is a reminder that her role was a touch inflated. Suburban, married moms with kids at home were never more than 6 percent of the voters. Gary Langer at the ABC News Polling Unit calls them simply the "group du jour." He fairly sputters at the idea that they could swing anything but a headline.
    --Ellen Goodman, "Meet the worried woman," The Boston Globe, November 10, 1996

While the 1994 mid-term elections were coined the year of the "Angry White Men," the term "Soccer Mom" was added to the political calendar of clichés during the 1996 presidential election between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole shortly after Susan Casey won a 1995 Colorado election with the slogan "A soccer mom for city council." Pollsters identified her phrase as a supposed swing vote that was a new and influential voting bloc. Paul McFedries at The Word Spy notes how this term's sweep through the media is remarkable. "From its initial citation in 1982 through the end of 1989, soccer mom appeared six times in the media. Here are the annual numbers through 1996:
    1990 - 4
    1991 - 8
    1992 - 5
    1993 - 10
    1994 - 19
    1995 - 35
    1996 - 1,150
"That impressive spike," says McFedries, " in 1996 was due to the incredible amount of ink devoted to the soccer mom demographic in the U.S. presidential election of that year."

Kicked off the high heels put on your Keds and watch the kids.

Soccer moms of the `90s were the "Super moms" of the `80s. The new stay-at-home moms are no longer first and foremost traditional Christian proponents of the "natural motherhood" philosophy--the Soccer mom is unquestionably more mainstream. The principal difference between the Soccer mom and June Cleaver is that the Soccer mom always puts her kids first. This fresh fable of motherhood is "not about staying home to be helpmeet (sic) for your husband or devoting yourself to making your floors spick and span; it is about making sure your babies are the best they can be" While June Cleaver was a "housewife" or "homemaker," the Soccer mom is a "full-time mother" with her housekeeping responsibilities noticeably absent. The Soccer mom has also plainly distinguished herself from working mothers snowed under with the Super Mom Syndrome by making her priorities quite clear: while the Super Mom fights to be a successful worker, mother, wife, and homemaker at the same time, the Soccer mom is incontrovertibly a mother first, with all other roles as secondary. In this fashion, the Soccer mom saga has provided a fairly clear ideal for mothers who previously endeavored in vain to meet the Super mom model. In fact, most women who have chosen to leave their careers to raise their children full-time very consciously view the Soccer mom lifestyle as an alternative to the more stressful life of the Super mom.

Soccer moms are not nearly as common as reported. Op ed pieces may tag the stay-home mother as the new "status symbol" of the 1990s, but in reality the Soccer mom is now professed as "lucky" to get to stay home with her children. With the stay-at-home Soccer mom as the existing maternal superlative, many full-time mothers remain as conflicted as working mothers. Often the feelings of Super Motherhood linger despite their option to "simplify" their lives by leaving their careers. Some full-time mothers go through a "mother crisis" when they feel as if they have failed to meet the "Good Mother" ideal. As disappointment mounts the let down lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety.

While there is no existing studies about the "Soccer Mom Syndrome," many say it's essential to note that "stay-at-home mothers have not been entirely immune from public critique. With the majority of mothers now working, full-time mothers are still in the elite minority and consequently, are often compelled to justify their choices. Indeed, many stay-at- home mothers are still asked the ubiquitous and rather insensitive question, "So, what do you do all day?" To counteract such criticisms, particularly from working mothers, full-time mothers have come up with a variety of responses and supports in the context of the Mommy Wars."...stay-at-home mothers, for instance, have organized local support groups... that have been gaining in popularity and membership...(W)hen FEMALE was founded in 1987, the acronym stood for "Formerly Employed Mothers at Loose Ends"; in 1991, the acronym was changed to Formerly Employed Mothers at the Leading Edge" ... This seemingly minor linguistic shift vividly shows how full-time mothers have become more confident in promoting their vision of motherhood."

The mêlée between the Super mom and the Soccer mom is in the end, a battle among the privileged white, upper middle class mothers for whom working or not working is a "choice." Nevertheless, borgo hits the nail on the head when he tells the E2Parentsgroup, " (I am a) "soccer dad" - actually practice starts this weekend - I have no problem with the term -it's what people attach to it. I'd rather be a so-called "soccer dad/mom" than be uninvolved.

Sources:

Soccer Moms, Welfare Queens, Waitress Moms, and Super Moms
Accessed
Mar 26 2004.

urbandictionary.com
Accessed Mar 26 2004.

The Word Spy
Accessed Mar 26 2004.