Welcome to the very first edition of the Carnival Of Feminist Parenting!
There have been a fair few entries even for this first edition, most good and some really, really bad. I suppose I should have stated in the instructions – if you submit an article with a tagline like “If you are sure your partner is cheating, then being unfaithful in return does not help matters any” or “How to stay calm and plan a great wedding”, or an article all about how teh poor oppressed menz should have a say in abortion (seriously, this dude proposed courts be able to force women to abort if the sperm donor didn’t want to be a father!), it’s not going to get published here. Carnival of Feminist Parenting, dudes. FEMINIST. *sigh*
Anyway, on with the wonderful collection of amazing posts which truly deserve their spots in the Carnival.
“But what about me? The term stepmother comes with so many negative connotations. It’s true that as I hone in on 30 I do have more facial hair than I’d like to admit but I do not in anyway resemble the stereotypical wicked stepmother depicted in those fairy tales. You will not find a single wart on my nose and despite the state of the garage I’m pretty sure that there are no dungeons or spinning wheels to be found around my home. Moreover anything term that uses the term ‘mum’ is likely to further piss off the Child’s mother who is already feeling a bit jealous and threatened by my existence.
The only person who didn’t seem to give rat’s ass about the whole situation was The Child. She knew daddy loved me and I loved Daddy and we both cared for her which was really the most important bit. An extra person meant an extra present at Christmas and Birthday time for the Child, plus someone with another set of interests and hobbies to keep her entertained. She has always referred to me as ex-expat, and truth be told we didn’t really need a label because I had always just been ‘her’ ex-expat. Secretly I worried that if we didn’t attempt to label our relationship someone else would do so for us and seek to define my relationship with the child from their own perspective but in the end we decided to let the issue lie until the child raised it.”
“So, this week, for my GP, I got on the scales for the first time since October. I weighed about 11st, which means I’ve put on about a stone and a quarter. Given that my baby is due in 8 weeks, I think this is a reasonable amount. Added to which, my face has got no fatter than it was and is always the first place to show whenever my weight fluctuates, so I’m confident that the weight gain is temporary and that I’ll have little difficulty losing it once the baby’s born. Being the liberated woman that I am, I stepped off the scales seeing the weight gain as of little consequence. Mr GP, however, had other ideas. “That’s quite a good weight gain,” he said. I was pleased. I thought this meant that the weight gain was just right for the health of my baby and me. He and I clearly have different ideas of what the word ‘good’ means, as he then went on to make it clear that he thought I’d put too much on. “You know, it’s OK to diet during late pregnancy,” he continued, “I think it’s due to hormones. The women in my family tell me they want to eat more during pregnancy and their periods, so they eat too much. Don’t cut out just one food group, just cut down generally so you’re still getting some of everything.”
Next we have not one, not two, but three entries from Rabbit at Rabbit Write.
“I think the key is to have an open and honest household that encourages all curiosity while developing boundaries between the parents and children as they age. In an open and honest home I think you might not even need to even have scheduled talks about sex, as your children will come to you and ask if and when they need to. I think this takes a huge amount of self-awareness and self-work on the part of the parent, as what so often happens is that the parent is reminded through their child of their own childhood, when their own autonomy was shut down and the reaction here often is to anxiously repeat the same behavior of their own parents.”
“The anti-circumcision movement believes that circumcision can have a profound and lasting effect on a man sexually and emotionally. One of the most common complaints about circumcision is keratinization , a condition that happens as men get older when the glans and remaining tissue begin to get dry and calloused. This can cause painful sex for the woman as well as the man, as the penis is very dry and the man has to pump harder. Circumcision is a very traumatic procedure for an infant to go through, a study shows that infants rarely get anesthesia for circumcision, it has also been noted that infants will sometimes go into shock from the pain. The same study also shows that the pain and traumatic memory in the infant seem to persist. I don’t think it is unlikely that this early trauma would create an emotional scar.
Or if you listen to the Jez-blogger these sexual and emotional complaints are just because “So many men believe the world revolves around their dicks.”
Is this really what the feminism movement of the last 50 years + has come to? A girls club, too ready to blame men? Men are not naturally sexist and violent, Women are not born submissive and passive aggressive. We raise our genders this way, and we women are on average the primary care-givers. We have absolute power over our children and children only learn abuse from their abusers. If the above is true than how can we change gender roles and achieve equality until we start with how we raise girls and boys? In my mind this includes not circumcising your infant son. If you want to tear down the patriarchy, start from the foundation.”
“The idea of orgasmic childbirth is clearly an off-putting concept. The idea of combining sexual pleasure with birth is at once shocking because a newborn is thrown into a sexual context. I suppose you could also argue the mother is in a round about way (or maybe even directly) obtaining sexual pleasure from her child.
Though after rolling the idea over in your brain or researching the topic it should become clear that birth as a sensuous experience is not about pedophilia or sexualizing the baby. Yet cultural taboos do remain. The idea of an orgasmic childbirth breaks the social norm and the ancient notion that births, periods and all of the earthy, raw experiences of being a woman are unmentionable, things that we “just don’t talk about.””
“The mother-as-suffering-angel equation functions in the same destructive direction as all Women-as-Symbol equations–It works to silence, to objectify and to control. Historically, the only woman one could find in literature existed symbolically; loftily porcelain, elevated on a pedestal of pretty words and metaphorical allusion. The woman as bird, the woman as tempest, the woman as muse.
It’s our job, my job, as a woman writer to inhabit my womanhood, to make it alive, dynamic, imperfect. It is my task to inhabit my womanhood and to write out of that, to break those static symbols for the clamorous, untamable truth.
As mothers, let us never cower beneath the weight of this Supermom icon. She is fiction. She is not real.”
Next, two from Butterflea at Feminist Childrearing:
“It did however come as a shock when, surprise surprise, despite all my best efforts at feminist parenting, age four my daughter transformed from a happy-go-lucky confident unselfconscious grubby child into a pristine pink princess with a “passion for fashion”. Her sexist utterances were even more surprising, “girls can’t have short hair”, “boys can’t play fairies” and her refusal to wear anything that wasn’t a dress and pink or sparkly ensured mornings were traumatic for all involved.
Although I tried to deny it for a while, I knew it was my fault, after all mothers are the primary passeroners of patriarchal values. My slackness, my desire for a few quiet moments, had left my daughter vulnerable to the brainwashing. I knew the risks, I knew the danger of the mainstream media, its power to corrupt, and I deliberateraly sat her down in front of it. I thought I could beat it. I couldn’t!”
“We want to spread this movement of ours yet we don’t make our activism accessible to parents. Many of the women in this country are mothers yet we don’t provide childcare at our meetings. Is feminism for everyone or just for a small clique of childless women?
We rally en masse for abortions rights (rightly so!) but where are the rallies to protest against single-parents being forced back to work, for better childcare for working parents, for better maternity services, for recognition of the unpaid work parents do raising children and what exactly are we doing in our activism to facilitate parents attending?
Sometimes I feel like we’ve fallen for the idea that mothers should be home, tied to the kitchen sink, cooking and changing nappies, voiceless and uncomplaining and that children should be seen and not heard. I suppose it’s so ingrained in all of us that there is a time and place for children that meetings aren’t seen as one of those times or places. I think like that too sometimes, but its ageist against children and sexist against mothers and we all need to address and confront it within ourselves and as a group. Maybe a meeting isn’t the most suitable place for young children but if parents are going to be there we need to accept that children will be too and sort out ways to deal with it.”
Tumbleweed presents another one from Feminist Childrearing - Forest School: towards Feminist, Anarchist and Environmental Learning? (revised edition).
“I discovered Forest School whilst working at a nature reserve, and immediately was hooked- it was everything I thought good environmental education and childhood learning should be! Forest School is a Scandinavian initiative, started in the 1980’s. Within an outdoor setting (ideally woodland), children carry out small achievable tasks (anything from making wooden whistles to Autumn leaf crowns), and from these experiences, the children grow in confidence, independence and self-esteem. They also benefit from just ‘being’ within nature- an experience that previous generations would have had many-a-time, but in a society full of ‘fear’ like ours, many children do not have the opportunity to have such wild experiences, leading to what some term as ‘nature-deficit disorder’ (see www.richardlouv.com). Childhood nature experience is also essential for encouraging life-long learning, responsibility for the environment, and foster such lifestyle choices and attitudes in adulthood. A ‘must’ for the environmental movement.”
“It is necessary as a parent to lead by example. To show our children what their efforts can do to change this world and not simply tell them that they have this potential. We must become their inspiration, their mentors by modeling the behavior we want them to learn. We must use our feminism and our activism as vital tools of parenting to raise children that can think critically about the world and are not afraid to challenge the dominant power structures in the name of justice and equality. We must parent in such a way as to produce adults that are open minded and see all people as deserving of respect and a peaceful living. We must parent to raise children that do not feel that the needs and desires of one person, not even their own, are more important than meeting the needs and desires of another.”
“A major argument in my honours dissertation, written nine years ago, was that we need to dismantle the myth of the perfect mother. That one way to keep feminism from doing its work is the perpetuation of this myth. And here I am, nine years later, beating myself up for not being perfect. No one else does it – in fact, I’m blessed with a loving partner and gorgeous friends who repeatedly tell me what a good job I’m doing, and a daughter who is manifestly healthy and exuberant. But I still tell myself multiple times a day that I’m shit at this gig. Either the Subliminal Patriarchal Propaganda Machines are way stronger than nine years of thinking and believing could ever be, or I have issues.
I’m taking an each-way bet on that one.”
Our very own Ruth Moss presents two wonderful posts:
“We will revise that statutory guidance later in the year to make it absolutely clear that if at any point the parents refuse to allow the child to be seen alone, the local authority has powers under that Act to apply for an emergency protection order to require parents to comply with any request to produce the child. The Act authorises the removal of a child in those circumstances if necessary.” Disproportionate or what? This is what is coming next for all you stay at home mums with small children and all families during the summer holidays if you don’t wake up and smell the coffee.
What if your child is dyslexic, the author of the report this recommendation is based on believes that given a suitable education all children should be reading autonomously at 8. And if your children have special needs, especially if they are on the autistic spectrum, their behaviours and idiosyncrasies can look very like the government indicators of child abuse.”
“That is the difference between raising boys and raising girls: we need to raise both of them free of gender stereotypes and arbitrary gender roles, but to ignore their sex and the roles their gender will push them toward in society is as ridiculous a proposition as raising children “colorblind” in regards to race: all it does is reify the dominant paradigm, prop up racism and sexism and the entire kyriarchy, because we cannot fight what we do not acknowledge exists. In this case, that is the truth that some boy children will grow up to be rapists.
This is something a lot of parents don’t want to think about — I know I would really rather not. This is my perfect little baby we’re talking about! And he is; he is beautiful, and sweet, and loving, and empathetic, and caring, and absolutely perfect.
Of course, every baby is perfect. And yet, some men are rapists. Somehow, perfect babies grow up in to men who rape. It would be so easy, so reassuring, to hide behind the lie that it couldn’t happen to my baby, that I don’t have to think about that, that that only happens to those other people and their defective children. But that line of thinking is just another tool of the patriarchy, trying to defend itself; if it can just make us blind enough, we’ll do all the defending it needs for it.
No, the only way to make sure that my boy does not become a rapist is to teach him not to rape. And that starts now.”
“Guest post: Stephanie blogs at group blog, The Hand Mirror. She lives with her partner and for almost half the time with his 5 year old daughter also. Consequently Stephanie has become a step-mother. Here is her response to my 10 questions about your feminist motherhood.
Stephanie’s response to these questions as a stepmother is a first and a very appropriate addition. In her response she raises some fascinating questions of her own (including many I’ve never previously considered) around the identity of motherhood and its preoccupation with biological mothers, in addition to the way biological mothers and stepmothers are pitted against one another.”
“So in conclusion, there seem to be some real positives from a supportive class covering what to expect throughout maternity, birth and the first year or so of a child’s life, although clearly such classes should be available freely (although the NCT does offer discounted classes if mothers have financial difficulties). Information on pain relief doesn’t seem to be getting through so well. What is needed in this area is accurate information about all the options and how likely the various outcomes are both nationally and by hospital and clinic so that women can make a considered choice. What is not needed is a load of piffle about trying to relax while you’re in excruciating pain.”
And finally, a few from myself which I thought would be valuable additions to the Carnival:
“No, my kid is making me tell you to tolerate all gender expression.
Women in crew cuts who are straight. Men in dresses and makeup who are straight and married to straight women. The same people, in terms of gender expression, who are gay. Everyone.
You don’t have to love them. You don’t have to wear a dress yourself. You don’t have to have a gay marriage, or marry a butch woman. None of this will be mandated in the world which I’m trying to make by talking with you. You, a person I desperately want to ignore.”
“Cruising around the internet, I was reading another lesbian mum blog which made me feel a bit sad. I’d be hard pressed to find it again, but they described their two children as “all boy” and “a hundred per cent girl”. Maybe they didn’t intend it, but it sounded defensive to me – look at our PERFECTLY NORMAL children! No traces of gay-training here! I wrote a couple of days ago about creating my own pressure to be a ‘perfect family’, to demonstrate that lesbian-headed families are completely valid. I keep coming back to gender roles – what I’m modelling, what I’m teaching them. If I was in a relationship with a man, would I think so much about whether it is okay to dress Louis in girl’s clothes? Will people think we are ashamed of his sex? That lesbians hate men therefore we are trying to emasculate our boychild?
Naturally none of these issues come up when we dress Pearl in overalls and little red t-shirts with trucks on them. She just looks cute and tomboyish.”
“The number of prison-based nursery programs is growing, but such programs are still rare. Only 9 states have these programs, and almost half were created in the last five years.
Research shows that these programs benefit mothers and children. Women who participate show lower rates of recidivism (likelihood to commit a new crime), and their children show no adverse affects as a result of their participation. Improves maternal child bonding as well.
Many women parenting their infants in prison nurseries could be doing so in the community instead. Women in both types of programs are serving relatively short sentences for non-violent offenses, and will continue primary caretaking responsibility for their child(ren) upon release. Most women in prison nursery programs present little risk to public safety. The issues that bring most women in contact with the criminal justice system – drug addiction, lack of education, poverty – are better addressed in a community setting than in prison.”
“The problem with feminist mothering is that it either pushes for women to be freed from the shackles of motherhood (by making it easier for them to put their kids into day care) or it pushes for concessions in the workplace for women (more maternity leave, more sick leave, breaks and accommodations to pump breastmilk at work, etc.).
While I don’t think there is anything wrong with pushing for those things, I think we need to push for something more, something different.
We need to push for a society that values family and parenthood. One that recognizes that role that parents play in raising the next generation. One that recognizes that fathers, like mothers, may need to strike a balance between their career and their family life. One where women don’t feel that they have to be an equally uninvolved parent in order to reach their goals, but where they can ask their partner to step up too.”
“In Biddulph world, men are men and women are women. Women stack the dishwasher while hubby reads the paper. Biddulph’s philosophy for happiness is simple. Be heterosexual, be middle class and make sure you marry your man. Once these ideals are fulfilled the stage is set. Mother is nurturing and gentle – her passion wholly centred upon domesticity. In his essay, ‘Stand Up to Your Wife’ in his book, Manhood he claims that strong women will “feel able and willing to bear a child”. The magic is such that Biddulph claims to “have known fertility problems to disappear through this work – as if a woman’s body would not bear a child until her mind knew it could and would protect that child”. Meanwhile the man must “stand up to his wife”. New Man is boring – “I’ve met dozens of strong, capable feminist women, who tell me in the confidentiality of the counselling setting, that they have finally found the sensitive, caring, new-age man they thought they wanted and they are bored stiff! They are starting to drive slowly past building sites, wondering whether to whistle!” he chuckles. Scrape the surface and modern empowered women are the root of the problem – emasculating men, confusing boys and subverting the natural order of things. The temerity is astounding. Women have demanded change of men and now are unhappy with the result. Like modern day Pandoras, they’ve opened the box and unleashed a modern-day catastrophe.”
As you can see, there have been some really cracking posts/articles submitted this month. Let’s make next month even better! The next edition will be published, here at Mothers For Women’s Lib, on Sunday 12th July 2009. Deadline for submissions will therefore be Sunday 5th July 2009. I was fairly lax with the deadline this month, next month anything submitted after the deadline will not be published until the August edition. And to answer a question from our lovely Mossy – yes, non-UK submissions are more than welcome!
I’m not entirely sure yet how carnival hosting works, but if you think you could have a bash at it, please email me and we’ll talk.