Louise Curtis is a reader of my blog and is also the author of a contemporary fantasy ebook. Recently she turned her attention to responding to my 10 questions about your feminist parenthood and her answers are both fascinating and honest. After writing this not so long ago on my own blog, I really appreciate the way Louise examines the relationship dynamics with her male partner as one of the more potentially difficult challenges faced in feminist parenting. I have included part of her response below and you will find links to the rest of her response and her book at the end of the post.
(You can find all the many other responses in this series here. If you’d like to respond to these questions yourself you can either email me your answers and I’ll put them on blue milk as a guest post or you can post them elsewhere and let me know and I’ll link to them).
How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?
Getting married turned gender roles into an obsession long before I had a baby. When little Louisette arrived, the spotlight on my marriage grew even more intense.
For me, the weakest point of my marriage is the risk of falling into a mother-child relationship with my husband. Anyone who can’t be trusted to do their share of household chores is not an adult.
I knew it was the weakest point of our relationship before we married, and have carefully (often tearfully) explained it to my husband over and over. He simply doesn’t understand what I’m saying. The more powerful members of society never do understand what it’s like to be the less powerful member. That’s one of the perks of power – everything seems fair from where you’re standing.
It’s not all his fault, however. Organising things and making household decisions (from groceries to what kind of house to buy) makes me feel powerful, so I have a tendency to jump in before he has a chance to do his part. It’s not like he’s the only one sending us in that fatal mother-child direction. (And yes, it’s definitely fatal. How can I be in love with someone I see as a child? How can he be in love with his mother?)
Having a daughter also gives me a highly convenient litmus test for feminism. All I have to do is think, “How would I want my daughter treated in this situation?” and I know when someone is treating me badly. I hope that by the time Louisette grows up she’ll have enough self-worth to figure out her rights without needing a prop.
What makes your mothering feminist? How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?
I tread a compromised path, like all mothers. To survive in our society, I think a woman must be able to believe in her own attractiveness, and I choose not to fight that particular battle, because I know Louisette would suffer for it. My prettifying efforts started from her birth, when I dressed her in attractive and usually pink clothing. I believe a girl who is constantly told how pretty she is as a child will be better able to handle the sudden awareness of societal messages saying, “Shouldn’t you be thinner? Shouldn’t you have bigger breasts? Shouldn’t you have blonder hair?” as she grows up. I will teach her to use make-up, to shave her legs, to do her hair. She can stop doing any of those things if she wants to, but she’ll have the skills to fit in if she chooses the more comfortable path.
At the same time I already try to steer her away from the stories that equate goodness and worth with beauty, and that tell the reader the purpose of life is to get married – like Cinderella. Beauty is nice, and everyone has a little bit – but there must be more to you than that.
As a writer, I believe stories tell us who we are and what matters. When I write my own novels, my protagonists are almost always female. They have problems, and they solve them – actively. When they like a boy, they generally tell him, and if a boy treats them badly they don’t stick around. Why would they? But generally they’re too busy saving the day to care too much what boys think. Isn’t that true of all the world’s most interesting women?
Most of all I try to be aware of the contradictions in both society and myself, so that when my little one is old enough she can sort truth from lies, and choose what compromises to make in her own life.
Mental illness runs in my family, so I try to teach Louisette resilience as both a preventative and a cure. I watched a psychology video once that presented toddlers with a problem. Both started off by crying for help, but when no help arrived in a few moments the boys stopped crying and attempted to solve the problem themselves. The girls continued crying.
I try so hard to sit on my hands when my own baby has a frustrating problem to solve – so she learns that waiting to be rescued isn’t the solution to everything. You can’t learn resilience without frustration, and you can’t learn it without pain. Sometimes I have to let her fall down. I remind myself constantly that we all unconsciously let little girls fall down less often than little boys – and that’s not a good thing. (We also shush little girls more than little boys, but that’s another story.)
Amy is a young empath stolen from her Normal parents by law on her fifth birthday – with deadly consequences. Her carefully constructed serenity is ripped away a second time when her empath community in Canberra is attacked from within.