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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.
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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?

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.

No Y chromosomes in this womb

It’s a girl.

Since I was 3 months pregnant, people have been asking me:

— “What are you having?”
— “Um a BABY. I didn’t get knocked up by a poodle.”

Of course, after that exchange, I get some disgusted response where I’m called a smart ass.

There are also those that assume I want a girl and try to convince me so. Truthfully, I don’t want a girl. I don’t want a boy either. I want a baby and that’s exactly what I’ve got.

Eventually, as people realized I was getting closer to the time I would actually be able to know if indeed I was having either/or, the question became: “Are you going to find out the gender?” or “Do you know the gender yet?” Most of the time, I’d just gently correct them and say “No, we don’t know the SEX yet, but yes we will find out.” Other times, I was my usual smart ass self. “Babies don’t have a gender, but we will be finding out the sex.” If I was in a particularly bad mood, I’d say, “What difference does it make?”

After asserting several times to people that indeed it didn’t matter to us what the sex of the child is, I would often get questioned about why I chose to find out in the first place. “If it doesn’t matter then why find out?” Of course, they think they have me at this point. I have 3 reasons for wanting to find out the sex of my baby:

1. My partner wanted to know. He has a little girl and was hoping to have a boy this go ’round. His daughter also really wanted a little brother. I could have let him find out but that would have drove me crazy. Especially since he’s the type that likes to joke around and he’d certainly taunt me with his knowledge.

2. I’m curious (read: nosy). Hence the reason him knowing and me not knowing would have drove me up a wall.

3. I wanted to be able to prepare myself to some small degree for how to approach parenting this child.

Granted, I believe that boys and girls can do the same things and should be allowed the same privileges, opportunities, and support. That’s not the aspect of parenting I’m talking about. I’m talking about preparing my child for the pressures of society. Society treats children differently based on their sex and I need to prepare my child for that. I need to prepare myself for it. How would handle it if my little boy says he was called a sissy? How would I handle my little girl coming home and telling me someone called her fat or ugly? How about when they want to do something not usually associated with their gender and face resistance? These are all concerns of mine and having this pre-birth opportunity to prepare myself is critical to me.

I don’t care about what color to paint the nursery or what color clothes to buy. Those things are irrelevant. I’m concerned about the challenges my child will face as a result of this social construct we call gender. I’m concerned about my own emotional reaction to those challenges and my ability to response intellectually and NOT emotionally.

Why do we feel the need to gender children? Why do so many confuse gender with sex?

There is this idea that the dominant culture is the yard stick against which we must all be measured. We have made strides toward (although have not by far conquered) the acceptance of ethnic, racial and religious differences. But, gender/sex stereotype seem to cross all boundaries. It is easy for us to believe that it is OK for one to be of a religion that differs from the dominant Christian culture we live in. It is much more difficult to believe that little girls aren’t fragile and dainty or that women are not emotional because of our hormones, but because of the way we were socialized.

Socialization is such an unconscious process that most people cannot accept that its results are not natural/biological/innate. It baffles people that I intend to intentionally socialize my child in such a way that she will be aware of and capable of taking advantage of all options available to her. She will be conscious of society’s idea of “appropriate” gender and sex roles, aware that she is not bound by these so called “appropriate” roles, and equipped to handle the backlash she will undoubtedly recieve when she goes against them.

So, this battle with people about buying my child pink or blue gifts isn’t really about pink or blue; it’s about realizing that the rainbow is not a dichotomy, nor is my child’s gender. I have no doubt that she will have some pink in her wordrobe, but she will also have an array of other choices. I don’t feel the need to bombard her with society’s idea of what’s appropriate for a girl child. I don’t think she should only have dolls and kitchen sets to play with. She’ll have Tonka trucks and a chemistry set, and a basketball too.

As much as she’s been kicking lately, I think we should give her room a soccer theme. Maybe she’ll play professional soccer someday. It would justify all these kicks to the bladder (and the resulting trips to the bathroom). I could say it was just practice.