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Second thought about the "Jewish mother" poll - Input Junkie
October 9th, 2013
11:09 am


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Second thought about the "Jewish mother" poll
I'm wondering whether I've got the basic factor (uses guilt as a major motivator) quite right. It's plausible that the real distinguishing trait is "uses guilt about hurting her feelings" is more exact.

If so, is it worth redoing the poll?

Minor note: Garrison Keillor's excruciating family skits have a mother who's presumably Scandinavian background/Lutheran who does the same thing.

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Date:October 9th, 2013 04:16 pm (UTC)
While generalizations are like sieves, still, the use of guilt/gratitude is wider than Jewish cultural use. Women, powerless on so many levels, used it a great deal through the nineteenth century, fostered I think by the "Angel in the Household" foolery. I see less of it in eighteenth century letters, diaries, fiction.

I certainly saw a lot of it growing up, especially in the older generations. Ditto, the response, "Because I say so," was expected to carry great moral weight.

I wish I could remember who it was who maintained that her Eastern European ancestors, confined to a tiny community, had it refined to laser effectiveness.
Date:October 9th, 2013 05:43 pm (UTC)
Garrison Keillor's excruciating family skits has a mother who's presumably Scandinavian background/Lutheran who does the same thing.

I remember seeing (it's probably buried somewhere in the very early days of my LJ) a list of "You know You're Lutheran If..." kind of jokes, and one I distinctly remember is "you know that Lutheran mothers can give Jewish mothers a run for their money in the guilt department." I've only had one mother and she's Lutheran, not Jewish, but as far as I can tell from this small sample size, there is a lot of truth in that. It certainly is one of the very few to stick in my mind (the others I liked were all, now I think of it, reliant on being explicit about their insider-jokeness: "You know what a Lutheran Church Basement Woman is," and that sort of thing).
[User Picture]
Date:October 9th, 2013 07:25 pm (UTC)
Minor note: Garrison Keillor's excruciating family skits have a mother who's presumably Scandinavian background/Lutheran who does the same thing.

Ohhhh yes. Except that it's done by the particularly pernicious method of not saying anything: the presumption being that one already knows exactly what one is doing wrong or failing to do right, or would know if one cared enough to think, and so obviously one must be choosing to do wrong; therefore there's no point in bringing it up. Instead of nagging, Lutheran mothers sigh quietly while turning resignedly away. Instead of yelling, they briefly comment on their disappointment. Instead of sobbing, they surreptitiously wipe away a silent tear - and the real killer is that the surreptitiousness isn't an act; they genuinely try to hide the fact that one has been so awful as to make one's mother cry.

It's absolutely devastating. One can argue with words, but there is no defense against silence.

Edited at 2013-10-09 07:26 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:October 9th, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure the "Jewish mother" trope translates to "$ETHNIC mother" for any distinguished ethnicity as long as it's white-ish: guilt, overfeeding, etc. are supposed to be Jewish, but also Catholic (whether Italian, Irish, Hispanic, or Other) and, as you mentioned, Lutheran; basically anything but English Protestant.

I haven't generally heard it about East Asian or South Asian mothers, or mothers anywhere in Africa, but that doesn't mean it doesn't apply there.

I'm not sure what WASP mothers are supposed to use. Chilly condescension?
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