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Are Power Moms The New Gays?

Essay: 'Brigitte Mom' is a new German magazine for the post-modern mother, who the publishers want us to believe are the hippest urban creatures since upwardly mobile gays and lesbians.

Mutter or Mom? (Indy Charlie)
Mutter or Mom? (Indy Charlie)
Andrea Fischer

ZURICH - A new German magazine called Brigitte Mom has just made its appearance at newsstands. It's a chic little publication aimed at a new species: mothers who are happy, confident and in step with the times – women, in other words, who aren't very mother-like. As such, these hip modern women aren't content to go by the name "mutter" or "mutti," the German words for mother. Instead they prefer the English term: "Mom."

A typical Mom also has a lot of money, which is why an awful lot of things are invented just for her. Buying these pricey products will make her feel even more special. Being a Mom, in other words, is not only something worth striving for. It's what everybody envies, at least that's what the new magazine seems to convey.

So just how do a bunch of over-tired, sexually frustrated housewives and working mothers suddenly turn into Moms? Here's the way it works. You buy Brigitte Mom (the motto of which is "You are my one, but not my everything" and I swear I'm not making that up), read it cover to cover and then get down to the business of imitating everything it says.

"Moms' just seem so much classier

There's nothing tacky like free sachets of shampoo glued to the pages of this magazine, although there is a contest and if you're the lucky winner you get to have a housekeeper's salary paid for a whole year. The editorial is also encouraging, particularly the thing about how it's preferable to "live imperfectly." Yes! Mabye this is the magazine for me. Lured in, I'm feeling pretty upbeat now as I leaf through to find out how to be a classy imperfect mother. After all, I already know how to be an un-classy one.

I read about single mothers who say not having a husband is sexy. Okay. Moving on. On page 21 I see a picture of pink soap shaped like a pistol. It only costs 15 euros, and it supposedly makes little boys really eager to wash their hands. Uh-huh. After that, pages of pictures of particularly beautiful women, more advertising and then some sweet stories themed around everything from adoption to falling down the stairs. Bottom line: it's really exciting to be a Mom.

But my favorite part is about what Moms wear at home and at work. The fashion shots don't actually seem to make much of a difference between home-wear and work-wear: Mom is wearing a silk outfit at home, leggings by Hugo Boss at what looks like her artist's studio where I spot three toys on the floor! I am so happy. I've found the hidden classy imperfection thing – it's something they do in the regular Brigitte for normal women, too, a publication much read by my non-Mom mother. They'll say something like: "We've hidden a mouse somewhere on this page, can you find it?" Only here, it's not a mouse, it's imperfection.

There's more imperfection to be found near the center of the magazine too: nestled in among tips for buying mood teas, a designer food-dispensing spoon for babies, and a seriously large family car is an article about some poor mother in jail and a pop-psych piece about sex (or lack thereof) in the weeks and months after childbirth. Framing these little excursions into real life is an ad for a cream that makes tummies flat and taut.

Please don't box me in

So now I know what I need to wear and buy to turn myself from a normal mother into a Mom. And I'm getting a feeling of déjà vu. Years ago, when it had finally become socially acceptable to be gay, a way of living was also suddenly transformed into a lifestyle, at least in big cities. The Gay Lifestyle: happy, confident, in step with the times, and of course everybody had plenty of money. It was so chic. Half the non-gay men in Zurich were tapping into the lifestyle. I didn't have any particular problem with it, except that I noticed it didn't have a lot to do with reality – including the reality of most homosexuals.

Please, don't get your knickers in a twist. I know you can't really compare Gays and Moms. It's not the same thing at all. Motherhood has never been illegal, and women have never been ostracized for being mothers -- at least not if they had a marriage license. They were just relegated to the kitchen and considered stupid.

But this Mom-Gay thing isn't about who, when or how someone was unfairly treated; that's a whole other can of worms. It's about not feeling like climbing into a compartment filled with all the stuff that's been created for me as a member of a new species just so I can buy it. Not only that, but I'm supposed to smile as I step into it! I want that as little as most homosexuals, career women, singles, atheists, teenagers, house-husbands, hobby cooks, female fish farmers - you name it - feel like climbing into the compartments created for them, or at least I hope so.

Read the original story in German

Photo - Indy Charlie

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In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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