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Hilton Changes the Story - and Diapers!

Elizabeth Velez responds to Monica Hesse's article on the heiress and discusses representations of maternal instinct in modern media.


Becoming a parent opens up your social media feed to a whole range of content and creators about which you might not have otherwise given two figs, and it was via this intravenous internet drip I learned this week that Paris Hilton’s son was a full month old before she ever changed his diaper."


Really? I suppose I am more cynical than Monica Hesse. Paris In Love is a reality show designed to keep Paris Hilton in some sort of spotlight (all publicity is good). So she changed her first diaper on TV--appearing completely incompetent. Lots of outraged responses of course--ah yes, an inability to recognize her extremely powerful privilege, but a brilliant PR move. Since the episode's air, Hilton clarified in a tweet that the segment was a joke: "While I love a good laugh, I also believe in being real and responsible, especially as a parent."

Hesse skillfully argues that Hilton's inability to change a diaper or bond with her baby (she's also afraid to hold her) is evidence that mothering is not "natural" for all women. She cites her own experience:

It felt like my own early parenting experiences, after the house had emptied of the supportive grandmas and aunties who had come to visit for the immediate postpartum days, and I looked down at the minuscule being I was now in charge of. My first thought wasn’t, “This feels natural and abundant.” My first thought was, “Oh, crap.”

She then goes on to discuss the many "crunchy trad wives" online, all of whom who represent the joys of full time motherhood : "Picture an ethereal pregnant woman in a flowing dress, toddler on her hip, fresh bread on the cooling rack, smiling at the bounty she has created in her modern farmhouse kitchen." Yes, these are false representations, and they make many of us feel unsure about our own abilities to perform "joyful" motherhood on a daily basis.

But it's hard for me to empathize with Paris Hilton discovering diapering (she has an older child) or even agree that this performance is truthful. In Beloved, Toni Morrison says, "If not carefree, motherhood is a killer." Simone deBeauvoir argues that there is no maternal instinct and that mothering depends upon a woman's "total situation." So yes, I agree completely that many women (including myself) are not "natural" mothers, but I want a stronger and more authentic model than Paris Hilton.


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