Friday, May 13, 2011

In Which I Offend Everyone I Know

One of the most interesting things I noticed about this Washington Post Magazine story about ADHD in adult women is that their husbands or partners rarely came up in conversation.

In this story, the author looks into why the rate of diagnosis of ADHD in adult women has gone up so much. She seems to focus on straight, white, middle-class women here, which isn't really surprising, considering that that's who most of these kinds of stories seem to deal with. The point of the story seems to be that women are really stressed out and dealing with ADHD more than they used to be. Which is doubtless true, but I wonder how much role, if any, privilege plays here. Would we find the same thing if we were looking at working-class black women? The very wealthy? I have no idea. I want someone to write THAT article.

Anyway, back to my original point: It certainly seems that women are bearing a lot of the load for running the kids to soccer practice and keeping track of everyone's schedules. Where are the people they had these kids with? I'm sure they're nice people and all, but if your partner and the co-head of your household is losing it, maybe it's time to change things? I know it's not that simple, on an individual level. What I want to know is, is this whole family structure something that's working out, or something we should be rethinking, as a group? Or at least, should we not assume it will work for everyone? I know these women probably really love their children and their partners, but if women are getting diagnosed with ADHD at higher and higher rates, maybe it's time to ask some questions. Is all I'm saying.

It also bums me out that the women here seem mostly worried about the effect this will have on their children, and not on themselves. And they are often getting diagnosed when their children are. This is a childless person writing this, and I do realize that children are the future and whatnot. But why are women so often seeing themselves as reflected through their kids? I am so going to catch just ENDLESS shit for this, but it brings to mind the people who put up pictures of their children as their profile pictures on Facebook. Not the end of the world, or of feminism, but why is this something we do? I don't see men doing it nearly as often as women. This is an observation, a question, and not a judgment. I'm curious, and I'm not the only one.


  1. Why have I had a picture of my daughter as my profile pic? Because I'm proud. That's it. I'm simply bragging: "Look at her, is she not the most adorable thing you've ever seen in your life?" (C'mon, Kyrie, vouch for me!) It is socially unacceptable and really annoying to have people out-and-out telling you how amazing their child is, so that's where the Facebook picture comes in. I get to broadcast to the world my daughter's strawberry-blond hair, big blue eyes, and sunny disposition, and no one can accuse me of stuffing her down their throats. Plus, it means I get to look at her every time I log on. I am not my daughter and I have my own identity, hobbies, friends, etc., but SERIOUSLY, she is just SO CUTE!

  2. No shit from me - I'm in total agreement. This blog post from the NYTimes parenting blog from last week came to mind as I read your piece:

  3. Indeed I can attest that the child of 093d12ca is so delightful of temperament and fair of face as to capture the hearts of all who meet her.

    This profile pic issue is not limited to children. I have noticed that my women friends are more likely to post pictures of their significant others or other relatives (such as their mothers on Mother's Day) as their profile pic, too. One way to look at it is that women place more importance on their relationships as part of their identity than men do, and I don't know that that's necessarily a bad thing.

    But! Posting your kid's pic instead of your own does play into the patriarchal expectation that women should put their families before themselves. You may choose to do it anyway (like I've chosen to shave:, but it's worth thinking about the implications.

  4. okay folks, I think you are crazy here. I don't think that posting your kid's picture supports patriarchy, as I matter of fact I come from a matriarchal culture and my kid's picture is up there front and center. But then again, I damn sure don't have adhd, I don't let my kid run my life or own it, and I don't have a partner or co-parent. As the first person noted, I do it (in part) because my kid is stunningly cute and because I am super proud of ME. You work hard on physics right? Well guess what, my work in this word is a little boy and I am doing a DAMN GOOD JOB and I am super proud of him both as a reflection of my efforts and of his uniqueness.

    On the larger point of the family structure, I think it is totally f-ed. The nuclear family is about as stable as that reactor in Japan. We need GOBS of people to help a kid make it through their first eighteen years. While not co-parenting, my kid is being raised by a GANG of amazing folks.

  5. I'm certainly not arguing that it supports the patriarchy. I just remembered reading that thing by Katie Roiphe - someone with whom I often have major disagreements, because I find her to not be radical enough - and this idea that ADHD is something they're discovering through reflecting in their kids called it to mind. I will accept that this is not the strongest thing I have ever written, heh. But, the Facebook picture thing wasn't really the main point. As Dierdre identified, what I'm really worried about here is whether the family structure is one that makes sense *for everyone* to the point that we assume it's what everyone wants and needs.

  6. In regard to the kid pics: I think "supports" is kind of a strong word to use, myself. I do think that the practice is perceived as consistent with socially-constructed gender roles. I also wanted to convey that I can see value in the practice, too, though perhaps I did not make that point strongly enough.

    In any case, it looks like there's a disconnect between the motivation behind showing children/mothers/S.O.'s in identifying pics and the way it is interpreted. I think this is worthy of a separate post/discussion thread, and am right now writing you to try to get your help with that ...

  7. I'm with Kyrie in feeling that support is not quite right. For me, it's more accurate to say that the over-representation of women among the people who use pictures of their family as profile photos is symptomatic of the patriarchy.

    I tend to view this kind of thing in terms of aggregate statistics. It's usually difficult or impossible to discern the source of an individual action (and there are perfectly legitimate reasons to choose to use a picture of family as a profile pic), but when taken as a whole, a pattern emerges. Just as a single hurricane or hot day can't be attributed to global warming, a single action taken by or against women isn't always attributable to sexism; but in the aggregate it's easy to see that storm frequency and temperatures are rising, and women are systemically paid less and pushed to nurture more.

    Returning to Jess's original topic of ADHD: Medical diagnoses are intricately tied to perceptions of race and gender (among other things). From Freud's views on hysteria to the modern conceptualization of depression as a women's disease (which should be treated not for the women but so that they can better serve their families), it's impossible to extricate medecine (especially mental health) from society.

    In the article itself there is scant data presented which makes me wonder how much of the problem is self-diagnosis. This isn't to say that people don't have real problems, but it's easy to self-diagnos (I do it all the time when I forget something and wonder if I have ADHD, even though I know that I don't meet clinical criteria for it -- though the demarcations used are a whole other kettle of fish).

    For me, another issue is the idea that medication is the answer. It's true that for ADHD, medication is the most effective treatment, but I think it misses the larger point of looking at the underlying causes. Ritalin may help these women, but reading the article it sounds like many of them are simply over-worked (and under-appreciated given the comments from some of the jerk-off husbands). Time and again, women who are diagnosed with depression or ADHD are given treatments to help them manage when they might be better helped by learning to establish boundaries in their lives or given tools to leave abusive relationships (these things should not, of course, be forced upon her, but offered for her choice).