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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.

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?