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It will happen again

In light of domestic violence awareness month (that’s October if you weren’t aware) and in facing a newly reopened wound (or possibly one that never completely healed) here’s a poem from an adult survivor & witness of multiple types of abuse during childhood as I sit here in the aftermath of yet another nightmare. I don’t write poetry as much as I once did but I believe there is a connection between my poetry and my pain. When it’s bearable the words don’t flow; when it’s not, like this morning, it sometimes writes itself.

what i knew
that i could trust no one
that it would happen again
that i could do nothing right
that i didn’t want to hurt anymore
that i was terrified
that it would happen again

what i feared
that it would happen again
that someone might find out
that he would kill me if they did
that they would not believe me
that they would not help me
that it would happen again

what i believed
that if i left they would all be safe
that i was the reason it happened
that somehow i deserved it
that no one could help me
that no one wanted to
that it would happen again

what i felt
scared it would happen again
depressed that i was helpless
terrified that it would happen again

what i learned
that i’d gain strength in leaving
that i could be loved
that love doesn’t hurt
that it wasn’t my fault
that it really did happen
that it would happen again

what i feel now
that i’m still scared
that i have to protect my daughter
that i am still helpless to protect my siblings
that it can happen again

what i know
that i still have nightmares
that i’m still afraid to sleep alone
that the fear is still fresh
that my mother was a victim too
that he can’t hurt me now
that he can hurt others
that i am safe
that others aren’t
that it will happen again

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For Mothers With Children

August 25, 2010 2 comments
Reserved for Mothers w/Children

This is the spot next to the handicapped spot at my daughter's pediatricians office.

Today was Keni’s 1 year checkup and my loving partner who hates to park more than a stones throw from anyplace was stalking a space close to the door of Keni’s doctor office. There was an empty space next to the handicapped spaces and we thought: SCORE! As we pulled in, O’Neil reads this sign: RESERVED PARKING FOR MOTHERS WITH CHILDREN. He responded with something to the effect of “Father’s have children too. They can’t do anything about that!” As he was pulled closer, I notice a little black scribble (thank’s to my contacts that I was very happily wearing for a change!) above the words “for mothers.”

Reserved for Mother's w/Children close up
Someone scratched in “and fathers!” to the sign in what I’d like to call a protest of the feminization of parenthood. Father’s bring their children to the doctor too!

This is just another example of the feminization of parenthood. Is it implying that father’s with children cannot park in this space? Probably not, no one would fault a man with a child for parking there. What it is implying is that a father would not be taking his child to the doctor. It’s implying that only mother’s take their children to the doctor AND that they do so alone. I would reach and say it is also implies that they do so while the father is at work or doing some other “more important” business than parenting.

 
Not all parents are mothers, nor are they all fathers. Some parents are grandparents, aunts, uncles, guardians of no blood relation.. So how come it doesn’t just say “For Parents with Children” or “For Patients with Children” or “For Adult’s Accompanying Children”?
 
Why am I all worked up over one little sign at the pediatrician’s office? Because it is the collective impact of millions of small messages like this that perpetuate stereotypes that are poisonous and constricting. We have to stop feminizing parenthood. Women are not the only one’s who parent nor should they be. It is restricting to men or masculine persons who parent that parenting be considered an exclusively feminine or female responsibility. And I’m not talking about the EASY stuff: playing ball in the yard, showing up at their soccer games and handing out punishments. I’m talking about the hard stuff: dealing with a sick kid when you’re sick too, helping with homework while your cooking dinner AND doing laundry, teaching the alphabet, kissing boo-boos. You know the HARD stuff. Classifying parenting as feminine restricts someone who identifies as masculine from participating in parenting. Why shouldn’t a man rock a child to sleep or kiss a boo-boo or give reassurance and emotion support? Why are these considered feminine behaviors? Why is it assumed that only Mother’s take their children to the doctor? What are we gaining by accepting these seemingly small suggestions about the gender of parenting? What are we loosing by not challenging them? These are all questions that need to be asked. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Feminist Parenting Collective

I must apologize for the long delay in posting. I had a very exahsting experience preparing for and taking the LSAT in combination with some trying financial issues that have kept me from having the mental capacity or time to write a blog post. However, I’m back. I’m going to try to post more regularly again. Please. please forgive my absence. You forgive me don’t you?

I have however taken this time to jot down ideas that I have finally compiled into something that is (somewhat) coherent. After reading it please don’t hesitate to comment or ask for clarity about things. I’m all for revision and it is currently after midnight so I’m sure there is need.

Anywho, since I found out I was preggers I thought of creating a collective. At first it was a childcare collective that I was thinking of but the more research I did on feminist parenting the more I though of creating this collective statement about what 4th wave feminist parenting is. I just started to realize all of the changes necessary both in society and within the feminist movement in order to support feminist parenting and change from this idea of mothering dominating all discussions of parenting. The more I read about feminism and childrearing the more I realized that feminist literature did nothing but talk about mothers and mothering. It rarely, if ever, spoke of fathers except to critique traditional roles of the male parent. Literature was almost exclusive to parents that were heterosexual and married. There just isn’t any practical information on parenting at all. You can find a ton of “What to Expect” type parenting books (that are almost exclusively geared toward women as parents) that guide you through the various stages of your child’s life but NONE that provide similar practical knowledge from a feminist perspective.

This bothers me. How on earth is one supposed to learn how to parent as a feminist if we are only reading non-feminist how-to books? How do you perform the acts of feminist parenting? And what the heck is feminist parenting?

Well those thoughts (coupled with some experiences) led to bigger thoughts. Why can’t O’Neil get more than 2 weeks off from work to stay home with the baby? Why am I only getting paid 60% of 5 weeks pay when I was out for 9 weeks? What the hell cost $12,000 when I didn’t even have an IV!? Why is every-damn-thing in the girls department PINK?! Why do I have to pay to ask a question about proper latching (breastfeeding)? And most recently, can someone else watch this child and not charge me more than I make in a day so I can remember who the heck I am? Or, at least, so I can gain at least a bit of my sanity back?

So, it’s late and I’m tired but you can read more about my brilliant idea here. Please comment and discuss. I’m really interesting in what everyone thinks. Good night all!

Polite = I’m interested in you?

I am a polite person. I’m friendly and outgoing (most of the time), and I like to talk to people. I believe strongly in human interaction. I believe that our tendency to separate ourselves from others lends to inequality and social injustice. If you can separate yourself from others and not humanize the consequences of your actions, you allow yourself to feel free from liability or responsibility. Separation from the “others” is where marginalization begins.

So, I smile at people. You might not agree that smiling is an act of feminist activism and you have the freedom to disagree. I don’t just smile though. I say hello, make small talk, get to know people on my bus route and occasionally I stick a quarter in a meter that’s almost empty when the owner is no where in sight. I can help it! I’m a nice person.

It is inevitable though that at least once or twice a week someone will misconstrue a simply smile and “good morning” or “have a great day” to mean that I am somehow interested in that person in a sexual way.

I’ve gotten the up and down look like I’m a piece of meat for sale, kisses blown and/or lips licked at me, “hey mami” or some variation thereof, the occasional stalker that decided to got completely our of their way to make sure they see me EVERYWHERE, and of course my absolute favorite the ones that blatantly ask me if I “have a man” (and a little lower on the evolutionary chain the ones who say “what’s he go to do with me & you being friends?”).

Seriously, I’m getting afraid to smile a people, men in particular. I don’t want to make assumptions are stereotype anyone but, in general, I haven’t had this problem with women although there have been exceptions. Mostly however, members of the opposite sex tend to take my politeness as a free pass to bad behavior or as some sort of confession that I want them sexually.

I just don’t get it! It inevitably happens when I’m dressed up or have my hair down. I think as a result the norms of our sexist society most women typically expect to be looked at as a sexual object when they look nice so, although it’s still disconcerting, we aren’t really shocked. But I think what gets me the most is when it’s a day when I’m in sweats or I’m commuting home from work exhausted with my daughter and accompanying baggage in tow.

Seriously, stop subscribing to hegemonic masculinity and realize that women are not here for you personal entertainment, pleasure, or servitude. Moreover, you don’t have “conquer” every woman who smiles at you to prove you are a “man.” Politeness does NOT equal a gesture of sexual desire. Just get over your  “manhood” and leave the sexual connections out the first 30 seconds you know someone (and I’m specifically leaving this gender/sex neutral because I can’t count the times I’ve heard a man get called  “gay” for smiling at another man). Not everyone wants you and you seriously need to reevaluate yourself if you want them to?

A Feminist’s First Mother’s Day

Later on today I’ll be posting my story about Keni’s birth. I’ll also be posting in the coming weeks the same story from the perspectives of my partner (coach), O’Neil, and friend (assistant coach), Yazi, who were present at Keni’s birth to support me. So, keep an eye out for those post.

This post however is more of a Thank You post to all those who were involved in my becoming a mother. As I think back over the years leading up to Keni’s birth, there have been so many people who have supported, inspired, and motived me along this journey.

First, of course, are O’Neil and Keni. O’Neil came along during a time when my life seemed to have been falling apart at the seams. He’s far from that knight in shining armor that young girls are taught to wait for to come in and save them but he has been a constant presence in my life since we met. He didn’t sweep in and save me or solve all my problem, nor did I solve his but he is a terrific source of strength, support and compassion when I really need it. He is truly my friend and partner in life. He sat through 12 weeks of Bradley classes in order to prepare for our little one’s birth (and actually enjoyed them). We didn’t think we’d have the opportunity to be parents due to infertility but we were blessed with Kenisha right when we’d given up.

Kenisha is the most amazing child that a mother could have. Even though she is only 8 months old, I see in her so much compassion, intelligence and determination. She has not stopped challenging me since the day I started having morning sickness! But, I appreciate her ability to keep me constantly aware and  critical of my thoughts, rational and approach not only to parenting but to life itself. She is the reason I am a mother and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To Kenisha’s aunt, for who she is named: You gave O’Neil a piece of your body so that he could live and be healthy. There are no words that can express my thanks that you saved his life and allowed him to be here so that we could meet and have this wonderful little person in our lives. I’ll make sure he takes great care of that kidney. I love you!

Next, there are a few people that have supported me through years of infertility and the end of a marriage. Kelly, Tasha, Christine, and Bobbie you ladies were there with me every step of the way and every complaint, cry,  and false positive. You were there when I finally got that BFP (big fat positive for those not fluent in TTC (trying to conceive) talk) even though I was the absolute last one to get pregnant. Thank you all 100 times over for not leaving me behind when it didn’t look like it would ever happen. I can’t tell you how much your love and support got me through when I thought I’d never be a mom. I truly love you all (even if we’ve only known each other through the internet).

Along the journey of pregnancy I took a birthing class in the Bradley Method and my instructor Laura was the greatest source of “real” pregnancy information. She taught us the truth about pregnancy, delivery and the capabilities of the female body. She also taught us the importance of support during the whole process of creating a human and showed us how to support each other through it all. Thank you Laura for you support and knowledge! We could not have had the wonderful natural birth without your tireless preparation!

In that class we made friends with two couples: Randi & Mike who now have Eli and Lisa & Eugene who now have Caitlyn. These two families were a sense of support and co-misery throughout my pregnancy. It was great to have other male partners for O’Neil to relate to and realize that he wasn’t the alone. These three guys have such great senses of humor and when they are together, as they were in our classes, they are hilarious (or at least they thought they were 😀 ). Lisa & Randi it was wonderful having you two strong women there to listen to me and to hear your stories, worries and concerns. Thanks to you all! You will forever be friends and I love you all dearly.

To Yazi, thanks so much for being at Keni’s birth. Thanks for begin there when I was having a feminist crisis (or two or five) and for having such thoughtful input or just an open ear when need. Thanks for studying the Bradley Method with me and really taking the time to be so well-informed about the birth process. Thanks for being my source of reason and knowing how to appeal to my logical feminist mind in the midst of the excruciating pain of transitional labor. Oh, and thanks for helping me stretch my leg out when I go that cramp in my leg while I was pushing! Love ya, girl! Could never replace you!

To Ingrid, you might not realize that you were a part of the process that was Kenisha’s birth but you were a pretty big one. You gave me the arena to intellectually process and examine the ways that feminism and parenting intersect. You gave me the opportunity to really understand my apprehensions to parenting and the ways in which parenting would be the next level of activism and NOT a submission to traditional sexist ideas of what a mother should be. Thank you for being a mentor to me and for always having time to listen (even though you are always busy educating  students and eradicating social injustices).

This is not exhaustive of course there are many more people who deserve thanks in the process of making me a mother but these are those that have played huge parts in making me the mother that I am.

——

There are a few more people I’d like to thank quickly.

My “gramma” Mary Elizabeth Mitchell for being the first person to really accept me as I was without fail. I miss you and I love you and I think of you daily. I gave Keni your middle name so I could never forget you.

To my own mother, who gave birth to me even though she didn’t really want to and who taught me exactly the opposite of what a mother should be. This is not sarcasm but an honest thank you. I would not have the perspective I have with out her. I finally understand what she was facing although I’ll never understand why she handled things the way she did. I hope someday she’ll understand what happened to me as a result. But mostly I just hope someday she finds peace. Thanks Umi, I love you. Maybe someday we’ll meet again.

TV for feminist kids

April 30, 2010 4 comments

Well this is a topic that definitely has many aspects to consider and it’s also been one that has been close to the top of my list of feminist concerns in parenting. There are 3 things that concern me about television: advertisements, content, and quantity.

My daughter has been watching TV since she was 6 weeks old. I really felt like she was too young for television at that age and I did attempt to limit her exposure but that is nearly impossible when we all watch TV at different times and I went back to work when she was 6 weeks old. My mother-in-law put on cartoons when I was away and Keni loved the colors and sounds. I didn’t think it was possible that she was actually aware of the television BUT turn it off while she was “watching” and she’d wale for an hour.

At that age, my biggest concern was whether I should I even let her watch television. It did give me a chance to take a break for the 10-15 minutes she’d be occupied by the TV. That little bit of pleasure I took in her being occupied while I took a baby break lead to some major confusion. I was happy to have a break but guilty for letting the electronic babysitter take over so soon. At 8 months old, Keni has regular programs that she watches and can recognize the Wonder Pets theme song if you hum it. I don’t let her watch TV all the time. I do try to read to her although she hasn’t quite obtained the ability to sit through an entire story yet and we do have TV-less play time. So as for quantity, I think I’ve settled on balance being the answer. And, if I’m having a bad day or feeling sick and I let her watch an hour more than usual, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I’ll just read her 2 stories the next day or spend some extra time talking and playing with her when I’m feeling better.

Advertisements are a really big problem for me. They are bad enough in adult programming but with children I find it’s even worse. Children lack the knowledge and ability to filter this information appropriately and this is where the problem lies. I’m anti-consumerism and anti-materialism. I don’t want my kid to believe that her worth comes from what she owns. At her age, I can’t exactly explain to her that those commercials are designed to make her believe she needs that product just to turn a profit and they don’t care if their product causes your fingers to fall off or if buying it will mean you can’t eat next week. If you are interest in learning more about advertising to children a really great book is Born to Buy. This is only one of many good books on the subject out there but it’s one I’ve actually read.

One of my solutions to this had been DVRing things and fast-forwarding through the commercials. But, we can no longer afford that added expense and now just have basic cable service. Luckily NickJr and PBSKids are commercial “free.” The characters themselves are a brand and when you walk into any children’s clothing or toy store the characters are plastered all over, but at this age her clothes are coming from Goodwill and Once Upon a Child anyway so it shouldn’t make much of a difference just yet (she’s also not talking yet, BONUS!). We’ll have to revisit this when she’s a bit older.

Ah and of course the content! We can’t forget the content. As a feminist I have the added bonus of not only making sure that the program is educational and age appropriate BUT also making sure their aren’t any (or at least as few as possible) hidden (or blatant) messages about gender roles, sexism, or other social constructions that I don’t agree with. This is where things get difficult because she’s still small and I can’t really explain to her that just because Ruby says all girls can’t have a pajama party without fashion magazines & lipstick that’s not necessarily true (an where exactly are her guardians anyway?). When mother’s are always depicted with dresses and a pearl necklace like Olivia’s mom. Even the mom on Dinosaur Train has long eyelashes to prove she’s woman (because being called mom just wasn’t enough).

There is just so much to consider when deciding what is and isn’t OK for her to watch. I think what is most important is staying on top of things. I make sure I’m watching with her as much as possible and when she’s starts to understand things I’ll be right there to explain things and challenge things with her so that she can learn to do it on her own. I want her to learn not to accept everything that television (or the media in general) present to her. I want her to learn to think critically about what she’s watching. But for now, I’ll just have to settle for those that aren’t blatantly telling girls they should be be sugar and spice and everything nice.

If you are interested, here is my list of programs that I’ve OK’d for Keni to watch:

  • Wonder Pets – NickJr – Lenny, Tuck & Ming Ming are the best and I love that Lenny is female! Besides it’s Keni’s favorite show!
  • Dinosaur Train – PBSKids – Seriously, who doesn’t like dinosaurs?
  • Word World – PBSKids – great for learning letters. some gendering of the animals but not too bad
  • Olivia – NickJr – yeah her mom’s all prettied up but she also owns her own catering business. Olivia also dreams of doing things like becoming a vet or a spacewoman and likes to get dirty from time to time.
  • Wow Wow Wubzy – NickJr – the main character, Wubzy, is kind of gender neutral and Widget is a female handyperson/inventor.
  • SuperWhy – I’m up and down about this one. It really encourages reading but the fairy tales are sometimes hard to deal with as a feminist.

Yes she does watch the occasional episode of Ni Hoa, Kia Lan or Dora. But I really try to change the channel when Max & Ruby or Miffy come on. That cartoon is the bane of my feminist existence.

Please comment away. I’d love to know what your kids watch or what your thoughts are about kids, TV and feminism.

Pincer Grasp – Dealing with Anger as a Feminist

It’s high time for a practical everyday parenting post. So, I’ve had this brewing in my head for a while and I haven’t been very sure how to approach it until last night.

Kenisha is now almost 6 months old. She is still breastfeeding and, as a matter of fact, she outright refuses to drink expressed milk from a bottle. I even tried formula just to see what she would do and the result was no different. If it’s milk, it must come from the breast. Direct from the tap, no substitutions. This is fine except that occasionally, I need a break! She does eat baby food now so if I absolutely have to be away from her she doesn’t starve herself anymore. That has at least made things easier on me when I go to work on Saturday nights. As a result of my being home with her more now that I’ve had to cut my hours back, Kenisha is way more attached to me and my breasts (although the former may be a result of the latter).

Lately, Kenisha has taken to doing two things during our breastfeeding session that drive me insane. The first is biting. She doesn’t actually have any teeth yet but those gums can bring tears to my eyes. Every time she does it I howl with pain. And what does she do? She laughs! This makes me want to toss her out the window (not literally of course, if she’d bounce maybe). I’ve tried not to show any reaction so that she won’t get the satisfaction and want to do it again, but alas, it is impossible not to respond to a clamp down on your nipple. This has led to two things: 1) as you may have inferred from the window reference above, I get angry, and 2) I’m very reluctant to (and afraid of) feeding her, especially when I know she’s not real happy with me.

The second thing she’s been doing lately while breastfeeding is pinching my nipples! She has realized that if she wants to suck and she puts her lips on my breast or starts grabbing at my shirt that I’ll feed her. It’s good for me because I don’t have to guess if she’s hungry anymore since she let’s me know. But here’s the catch: she doesn’t always want to eat! Sometimes she just wants the comfort and drifts off to sleep but other times it’s a ploy to get at my nipples! She will latch on and suck as if she’s sooo innocent and then pull off and look around a bit, then at me, then at the nipple she was just sucking on. And then she does it! she takes her little thumb and forefinger and pinches my nipple. Luckily, her pincer grasp isn’t fully developed so this doesn’t hurt but sometimes she’s try to rake it and grab it in the palm of her hand. Still not as painful and the biting but it is rather annoying. I’ve obligated myself to the task of breastfeeding. It’s demanding; it’s tiring and, as illustrated above, sometimes painful. I did not agree to let this little girl fondle my nipples! I get enough of that from her father (and that’s a whole other dimension to this story).

I have demands on my body now from both my partner and my daughter. They both drive me insane and I love then about equally as much as they make me crazy (which is a whole lot).

Am I mad about all this because I’m a feminist? I struggled with that question for a while but I’ve come to realize I’m actually not as mad as I would have been had I not understood the dynamics involved in my situation. Feminism has taught me well to examine each situation and take it apart at it’s root. And while initial reactions tend to be heated and angry, I can step back and take appropriate action as a result of this knowledge. Anger is normal, our actions as a result of anger are what need to be examined. Do we perpetuate or to we imped this cycle of inappropriate and hurtful reactions?