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.

Street Harassment: Being “Nice”

WCP blogger Amanda Hess has a post up today detailing how responding in a polite fashion to more apparently benign forms of street harassment doesn’t deter but encourages it.

I experienced this type of outwardly friendly yet completely creepy behavior during the summer of 2008 when I still lived in Midwestern College Town. It was an absolutely beautiful day – not too hot, sun shining, light breeze – and I was walking down to the City Pool to enjoy myself. I was also visibly pregnant. It was a short and enjoyable walk; I had the option to drive, but no need.

As I was making my progress along a residential street, a middle aged man in a red pickup pulled up to me and offered me a ride. I don’t remember the precise exchange, but it boiled down to something like this:

He: [smiles] Can I give you a lift somewhere?
Me: [likewise friendly but wary] No thanks, I’m enjoying my walk.
He: [still smiling] Are you sure?
Me: [no longer smiling] I’m fine, thanks.

I sped up my pace a bit, made it more purposeful, and the man drove on. I changed my direction slightly, going first to a local coffee shop where I knew there would at least be people. I endlessly debated whether or not to report this incident to police, but my gut instinct was that they would just slough it off, as nothing identifiably bad had happened. I already had one dude thinking he knew better than me (as evidenced by the offer + “are you sure?”) – the last thing I needed was a (chances are) male cop added to the mix.

As I approached the coffee shop, the truck reappeared – he had apparently circled the block in order to continue following me.

It’s entirely possible that this man just thought he was being kind, practicing the sort of benevolent sexism present in all kinds of thinking about women: that we are to be protected, especially when pregnant, so far that if we’re out by ourselves, we can’t possibly be protected enough, so some dude had better hop to and assist, being all gentlemanly, etc. Trouble is, there’s no way for us to distinguish benevolent vs. malevolent intention until it’s too late.

It was abundantly clear that this man, while he may have had the best (if sexist) of intentions, was acting in a way that patently denied my agency and self-determination in favor of whatever random thought was in his head. That alone told me he was to be avoided at all costs.

But see? I was “nice”. I didn’t do all the things we’re told to do (be rude, put up a fight, shout for help) only after being conditioned to be polite or else. It didn’t “save” me, even though “nothing” happened. In fact, something did happen: that dude was demonstrating, yet again, that men’s desires trump women’s in every single case, no matter what mundane thing she has chosen to do. Even seemingly “innocent” encounters like this smack of patriarchial privilege, and serve to remind women of their designated place, which is certainly not making decisions for themselves to take a nice walk on a pretty day.

Quick Hit: Lucas and Co. are rapey bastards.

Apparently, Marion Ravenwood was supposed to be literally a child (somewhere between 10 and 15) when she and Indy “had an affair”.

Way to promote child rape, dudes. Makes me hate you, hate Indy, hate the whole franchise, even more than that travesty of a movie Crystal Skull did.

ETA: It also make the “romantic” ending in Crystal Skull absolutely squicky.

If you feel like combing through the whole script, it’s here.

And if you do comb through it, be sure to note the rampant racism too: the reference to “Third World sleazos” is particularly ripe.

God is dead.

But only in a manner of speaking. Nietzche was only right insofar as a certain concept of God can be compared to the quintessential abuser, certain religious tenets redacting to “I love you, don’t make me hurt you”.

Kind of like Ike Turner, who died December 12, still denying he had ever beaten Tina, and, according to his biographer, still womanizing at least into his late 60s [story at the bottom of this page].

Analogy credit: Da Spouse


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

Seventeen children later…

Yep, my feminist education is serving me well.

I recently read that Joe Bob and Michelle (http://www.duggarfamily.com/) have had their seventeenth child, and, although a painful thought, I’m not really surprised. I tried to find the blog entry I’d read again (was it on Feministing? Pandagon? Broadsheet?) so I could send it to Da Spouse: one of the guests at a cookout we held last weekend mentioned it, and I wanted to share.

So I searched “Vagina Clown Car” on Google.

Of course, the famous line gracing the photograph of this family (which is old, I think: I only counted fourteen children) became the title to several posts around teh internets. When investigated they yielded some seriously misogynistic lines, all in the name of criticizing Republicans, conservative Christians, or whatever.

This Arkansas couple has seventeen children and still wants more. They’re all home-schooled. All the kids’ names start with the letter J. Is it just me, or does someone need a swift kick to the ovaries?

How many minutes out of the past thirty years has she spent on her feet?

Sure. Blame her. Call her an idiot. No, better yet, call her a slut. Say not one damn word about him. Or the religious background telling her about her Rightful Place.

This is the main point to this feminist:

Among the “fun facts” listed on Discovery Health’s Web page devoted to the Duggars: A baby has been born in every month except June; the Duggars have gone through an estimated 90,000 diapers, and Michelle, 40, has been pregnant for 126 months — or 10.5 years — of her life.

That is. So. Fucking. Scary.

EDIT: Women are now being educated into their Rightful Place… at Seminary. Specifically Southwestern, a Southern Baptist seminary in Nashville.

I knew it came from somewhere.

In relation to my next-to-most-recent post that happened to mention the madonna-whore dichotomy, a poster, puckrockhockeymom, made mention of it while she waxed eloquent on a Feministe post that was itself inspired by a PostSecret postcard which read “My greatest fear is that I’m good enough to f*ck but not good enough to love”. Continue reading

Feminists in public

I’ve been back to reading the occasional feminist blog, as well as Salon.com’s Broadsheet. Usually I just read the articles, without even realizing, I guess, that there was a comments section too.

Perhaps, though, my subconscious was protecting me from what I was certain would be there.

What is intriguing (well, discouraging, really) to me is that the first (or early) response to each post there is some sort of personal attack, or statement meant to belittle, demean, or trivialize the topic — and usually by an anonymous poster.
Continue reading

Addendum to: Who *would* cry rape?

Having read Thinking Girl‘s first guest post on Slant Truth (which boils down to “if you have privilege where another person doesn’t, and they feel marginalized, demeaned, etc.: shut up, listen and believe them. It’s their experience, not yours”), this thought ran across my head while catching up on the Twisty archives:

I believe a rape allegation because I wasn’t there, and she/he was, and that was her experience. If a woman says she was raped, the case needs to be taken seriously. Let the courts/judge decide, based on actual evidence, presented fairly.

Virtually everyone calls the reliability of a rape victim into question. The general consensus by the ugly side of the media machine (FOX News, I’m talking about YOU), once the declaration of insufficient evidence has been made, suddenly nothing has happened and ‘the girl’
made it all up.

Just because the prosecution couldn’t get up enough witnesses / the witnesses were not treated as credible doesn’t mean nothing happened.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Defense rests.

wherein the author actually deconstructs something.

An acquaintance from way-back posted this li’l “funny” to her LJ a few days ago, and I posted an evaluative response in the comments [no direct url, sorry, but it’s the first one].

I was curious, especially since I’d just put my big-ol-burgeoning-feminist opinion on her LJ*, exactly why she had posted that, and considering she listed her mood as aggravated, I thought of two possibilities:

1) Either she was aggravated at the thing she posted
2) She was aggravated at something else, and therefore posted it.

Possibly the two were unrelated, but I asked. She replied:

At this time in my life, i think i posted it because it was funny and because I’m sick of men who only want sex. Ya know what I mean?

My first response was:

Yup. That’s a frustration I know about.*** I’m sorry to hear you’re being pestered. My (angry, frustrated) response to that sort of thing was always “fine, see if you get ANY.” The “I’ll have sex when I want to, and you can’t make me, so nyah” response. Not my favorite, but sometimes the only thing that gets (got) listened to. Or not listened to.

So, yeah. I get ya. *HUGS*

What I thought about posting after, but didn’t, ran something like this: “Yeah, and then when I want(ed) to have teh sex, I felt I couldn’t because I’d be giving in again” + “Even if you do say that, it’s not always listened to” + something else I’ve forgotten just now.

I wasn’t done yet. I couldn’t just let all that go.

Then I had a Second thought: The list isn’t fair to women. The long list o’ requirements that women supposedly expect from men, some of which are not necessarily important… I mean, “love shopping”?, and the combination of which is clearly impossible, is used to characterize women as impossible to please.

Follow this with the short, lust-based men’s list, which, while treating men as animals who are subject only and always to their basest selves, use the concept of men having ‘simple’ desires to shame women into submission: men’s desires, unlike women’s, would be so easy to fulfill, i.e., women ought to fulfill them, and be grateful men aren’t as ‘demanding’ as women are.

Part of me still wishes I could see this as funny. Right now, though, it just looks like an example of what men pushing for sex would say (have said) in order to get their way: “You women are so hard to please… why won’t you do the one thing to make me happy?”, or “Look at all the stuff you expect me to do; and you can’t/won’t do this One Simple Thing for me? You obviously don’t love me.”

Guilt trips = emotional manipulation. Full stop.

Something else interrupted the Second thought: Yeah, the list is funny, if you look at the first list as what would be appreciated If only that were something women could sanely do. But from where I’m sitting, I can’t, and won’t buy into that sort of stuff anymore. To me, the entire purpose of “funnies” like this, subconscious though it may be, is to shame women back into “their place” (see also, “The Husband Shop” in this post).

So no, dear, I don’t think it’s funny. I can appreciate that you might, and that at one time I would have too. Then, though, I was playing into the ‘shaming women into sex’ game, and suffering from it as a result.

*and yes, I felt like I was forcing it on her**. Not really sure why; looking at that.
**this might have something to with the fact that the topic relates directly to pushing something unwanted on women, and I don’t want to be even remotely associated with rapist-like characteristics, even though this is 1) just my thoughts on a topic and 2) I dont’ hold a position of power/privilege over her and 3) she is free to delete/edit comments on her own site. Talk about being overly cautious.
***In previous relationships. My husband, my dearest one, is a partner in the truest sense of the word, and is by no means implicated in this. Anyone who implies otherwise will have me to deal with.