On being a mama, and being a mama of a small child.

There are a couple of recent guest posts at Feministe written by a woman named Maia regarding children in public spaces and what it means to be a mama. I was horribly late to the comment-party (-FAIL), and when my “thank you” got to be more than 200 words, it got transferred here. So.

The bit of Maia’s post that stood out to me:

im not a feminist ( yeah, i said it…shrug). but i dont understand people who claim to be feminist on one hand, and on the other hand think that children should be designated to certain public and private spaces, not mixing in ‘normal’ public areas, such as restaurants, stores, airplanes, etc. cause in us culture, when you create little reservations for children, you are really creating little reservations for mothers. it is the mother who will be sent away to take care of the child. and how is that supporting all women and girls?

I am the mother of a small child, who, long before becoming the mother of a small child, had the opportunity to watch small children in situations that most people in my area (US Midwest at the time) wouldn’t consider “appropriate” places to bring kids.

The four year old child of my voice teacher ran and played with other kids up until the few moments before my teacher’s recital began, when the kid climbed up into a chair, sat face forward and paid attention to what was going on, with only a small reminder from his mama to do so. This was normal for him, going to concerts and being quiet when they started, because he’d gotten the opportunity to do it.

Thing is: if you take kids places that don’t specifically cater to kids, they learn to do the things the adults do. My two year old already knows, when we go to our local cafe, that you go get in a chair and sit down, that when we go to hear music somewhere, you listen to the music. There are times we go home early, sure, but that’s usually for kiddo’s well being (too tired or hungry).

Expecting children to be on airplanes is the reasonable thing to do, yet some fellow airline travelers seem to think that my child getting to go see the grandparents is some sort of infringement on their right to quiet. If they know they are bothered by children and would take the time to buy a $2 package of earplugs at the dollar store, they might be much less bothered when/if the hollering begins. Pressurizing and depressurizing the cabin hurts some people’s ears, and if you’re not verbal yet, the only way to deal with that is screaming.

I haven’t encountered self-proclaimed feminists with this attitude yet. My usual interactions with the why-are-children-in-my-WAY crowd have either been with complete strangers or with people whom I know to not be particularly interested in treating children like human beings (or women, for that matter, although they’d deny both charges).

The key to treating someone like they’re actually human is not getting in the way of their self-determination. If my child doesn’t want to say “hi” to a complete stranger, I don’t make that happen. I have watched my nieces and nephews (chiefly my nieces, of course) be told to smile, to give people kisses, to say hi and bye when they didn’t want to, all in the name of being “polite” or “respectful” or “because this is what you DO”. My eldest nephew, for example, went through a phase where he didn’t want to say hello or goodbye, but halfway through our visit he’d just come up and start talking to me. He wanted to approach me on his own terms, and I let him. When the adults around him started to insist he go through the formalities with me, a relative stranger, I brushed them off, telling them I wasn’t bothered by the lack of salutations.

The other thing is, the way we treat children teaches them how they’re supposed to treat themselves and others. If you ignore their needs, you are teaching them that it’s ok to do that to other people, and that their needs aren’t really important. I certainly learned that lesson well. I’m grateful I woke up to

One small note: I call myself a radical feminist. I don’t know if that label says all the time what I want it to say, that the problems of misogyny and racism and ableism are at the very roots of our society, so what needs to happen is for all that to be rooted out – that it won’t get better with patches and creams, cosmetic changes like allowing (some) women to vote or making the wage gap not-as-bad or making abortion theoretically legal but only marginally obtainable. The problem is at the root, so the solution has to go there. I don’t know what my part in it is, but when I just read what bfp and other WOC say about their lives, that just kids just being kids while black or brown gets them arrested and abused, that the places mainstream feminism has repeatedly ignored women of color gets them killed.

This shit has to stop. I am not going to go off all delusional like the Great White Woman Who Saves The Brown People From Themselves. What I can do, right now, is raise my child to treat others like human beings. What I need to do further than that, I don’t know. But I’m not going to go expecting WOC to tell me, either. It’s my job to educate myself.

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Courage

Declaration: I am a feminist.

I. Am. A. Feminist.

I am a radical feminist. I believe with all my being that all women are human beings, inherently worthy of all the rights and dignities that other human beings (men) enjoy.

I have been hesitant to ‘out’ myself to certain people I know; mostly conservative men, all of whom have no actual authority over me, some of whom are relatives, all of whom I consider to be friends. I have been afraid of losing their friendships and love because of my beliefs.

No more.

If I can remain friends with them, despite having serious objections to some of their beliefs, then they can remain my friends, if they don’t agree with me. If they can’t they were never friends to begin with. If they can’t love me and know I believe these things, they cannot really love me.

We women are asked, every day, to be silent about disagreeing with others so that we don’t upset them, so we don’t ‘rock the boat’, so we ‘aren’t a bother’.

No more.

Listen up: I am a radical feminist.

I don’t believe in limiting a woman’s control over her own body; I don’t believe any man has any right to exercise any control over a woman’s body, mind, speech or actions; I don’t believe any woman has any right to control other women either, whether of her own choosing or in the name of a man.

I believe anyone who attempts to control women’s bodies, minds, speech or actions are misogynist: including rape apologists, rape celebrants, Men’s Rights Activists, promoters or supporters of pornography, promoters or supporters of prostitution, people who seek to limit or obstruct women’s access to health care, contraception, safe and legal abortion, STD prevention, higher education, a living wage, food for her children, her choice of partner(s), her choice of clothing, her choice of sexuality and sexual expression, her bodily autonomy.

If any of these terms or concepts are confusing to you, or if you aren’t sure what I mean by any of them, you may read for yourself at any of the sources listed below. I will be happy to have a civil conversation with any of you about any of these things, where ‘civil conversation’ means you listen to what I have to say, and I listen to what you have to say, and we respond to each others’ concerns. Basically, all the caveats of this blog apply.

If you cannot understand, that is fine. If you will not try to understand, or will not read those things which I suggest that might help you understand, I will have neither sympathy nor time for you. If you cannot treat me like a human being, I will not stay around for the abuse.


Places to Learn:
Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog
Official Shrub dot com Blog (right hand menu)
Andrea Dworkin, I Want Twenty-Four-Hour Truce In Which There Is No Rape

What good is it, anyway?

annie annoyed« Even the cat tries to keep me away from those evil fem-blogs. I needed something to break up the monotony of text, so I’m copying Twisty by posting photos.


I’ve asked myself that question lately, especially in regards to reading feminist blogs. It’s something I feel I have to justify, somehow, although that comes with the awareness that the gut-twisting worry associated with Even though I’m angry more often (and that, coming from a woman, is definitely seen as negative by our society-at-large) I’m definitely learning, chiefly about myself and my privilege as a white middle-class educated Westerner.
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Excuse me, but is that your privilege?

So I was having a conversation with two (female) co-workers. It was actually a moderately serious one, at that; J had seen “The Future of Food” and we were discussing the state of American agriculture (did I mention I’m working in the produce dept. of a co-op? It was even relevant.)

And this other guy, from another department, comes in, hears J and the subject matter, and interrupts her to playfully mock her with “Ooh, J has an opinion!!!”

How demeaning is it to just interrupt a conversation that’s not yours with something that not only doesn’t contribute to the conversation, but makes fun of the participants for having an opinion in the first place.

Privilege is being able to automatically assume that whatever conversation was going on 1) isn’t as important as your contribution, however inappropriate and 2) has earned your mockery if it is even remotely controversial.

Feminism Friday, belated.

There’s been much on-bandwagon-jumping lately by the name of Feminism Friday (which I discovered via Thinking Girl), and I, on a Monday, have decided to start out with this. I’ve seen many ways to do this, and since I’m not in a place where I can do analysis of feminist issues with a (to me) clear voice, I am going to simply share where I’ve been, and maybe what thoughts they’ve provoked. We’ll see where all this goes, and how long I can keep it up.

Lessons this week(end) have been in discovering misogyny and the exercise of privilege in the durndest places.

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Here comes the theocracy

The first full sentence to hit my ears this morning was from an NPR report that the Supreme Court has voted to hold up partial birth abortion legislation. What I first heard, however, was this:

The decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, stated the right to legislate on moral grounds … and that there would have to be proof that a significant number of women would be harmed by the legislation for it to be struck down.*

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Who *would* cry rape?

This question came to my mind today, in light of many, many things: the dismissal of rape charges against the Duke lacrosse team and a friend’s reaction to that, as well as Dora’s third post on Women and Violence at Shrub dot com.

It is, indeed, an insidious process that leads to victim-blaming and excusing the accused, regardless of what the evidence may say. As much as we’d like to think we have a fair justice system, the fact of the matter is that someone who makes an accusation of rape is disbelieved, belittled, and is regarded as being of questionable character, while someone who is accused of rape is rigorously defended, and the media is said to be unfair to the accused, and not the accuser.

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Wherein I further my commented response to Mr. Shakes

A great discussion (and recent, too!) came up on shakesville dot com regarding feminism and how it ought to look.

I started talking, and it got, well… long winded. (What? Me? Never!) So, without further ado, here’s the gargantuan beastie in full. Enjoy.

*applause*

While I was reading this post, my brain got all clever on me and came up with a slogany-sounding phrase:

It’s called ‘feminism’ because ‘humanism’ was already taken.

Sounds good, feels right, needs examination and discussion. ^^

ballgame wrote:

but mainstream feminism is still not the ‘gender egalitarian’ feminism that you paint it as and which I embrace. It is, by and large a ‘women’s perspectives only’ feminism where the gender oppression of men is minimized, ignored, or denied.

But what do you define as ‘mainstream feminism’? Which feminists bring that phrase to your mind? What sources? Which sites? Knowing the frame of reference here would make replying to your comment much more accurate and applicable.

The feminist blogs I’ve read (if you’re referring to blogs as well, which I’d guess; examples to follow) do limit the male perspective because the female perspective doesn’t get near as much airtime elsewhere. They are intended to serve as a safe place for women/people of color/homosexual/the transgendered.

[My points of reference: Shrub dot com, Feminists Don’t Bake Bread and Thinking Girl, to name a few.]

What I have seen emphasized there is not “women’s perspectives only” but “women’s perspectives respected”. So often the response to a person’s experience of being on the receiving end of sexism/racism/other bigotry is met with statements that serve only to minimize, ignore, and deny that experience. Restricting the most trollish of these responses maintains the safety of the space.

This is getting unwieldy, so look for the rest on https://nightgigjo.wordpress.com/

Privilege isn’t something we’re responsible for taking up, but it happens to us automatically simply because we’re white/male/hetero/cisgendered or any other attribute considered ‘normal’. Realizing this really helps to not take it personally when a forum is designated for the voice of a minority group of which I am not a part.

This most definitely applies to me: the only privileged group I’m *not* a part of is the male gender, so I have much more listening than talking to do on these sites which are exploring and promoting a gender/race/sexuality/ability egalitarian society. In fact, I don’t realize the full extent of my privileged position until I’ve listened, attentively and non-judgmentally, to the perspectives of those folks who don’t enjoy that privilege. It’s not going to hurt me to listen: either it applies to me and I learn something about myself, or it doesn’t apply to me and I don’t have to worry about it.

I don’t have to fight to prove I’m not a racist/homophobe/sexist: in fact, the more I fight, the more I prove it. I was raised in this sexist/racist/homophobic/bigoted society, and I learned many things well. I don’t have to be outrageously sexist/racist/etc. to still be sexist/racist/etc. I don’t call people the N-word, but I have a moment’s judgment-filled hesitation when I see an interracial couple. I grew up in the South where there was a significant stigma attached to ‘the mixing of the races’, so I have this knee-jerk reaction when I see two people of difference ‘races’ together in a relationship setting. I *hate* this, and I’m fighting it by reading and listening, thinking and writing.