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Archive for the ‘feminist motherhood’ Category

This is very black comedy and very, very sharp from Mallory Ortberg in The Toast. Yo, dependency is a thing.

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I wrote this column in response to my editor asking me if parents like me, who write, worry about what my children’s future therapist will think about my parenting and articles:

One does not like to dwell on permanent damage inflicted by self on children while one is tending to the work and family juggle. But guilt, like a fear of the dark, is something I have discovered you can’t really afford as a single parent. Anything that must be dealt with alone in the middle of the night should really be rationalised away as a priority. I have stopped fearing parenting mistakes the way I once did.

Possibly that means I make them at double the speed, though I doubt it. My parenting has generally been considered and kind-hearted and it has probably finally acquired something resembling competence. Though notably, I am also not seeking perfectionism in my relationships these days, least of all with my children.

I have begun to see the pursuit of perfectionism as stifling, distancing, a removing of oneself from the messiness of connection. So, it’s not that I don’t make mistakes. I am certain I make many while attempting to avoid others, but it is that I have faith in myself and my children to deal with those mistakes as they become clear. Well, I very nearly have that kind of faith, anyway.

And I interviewed Courtney Adamo, the mother who was banned from Instagram for posting ‘semi-nude’ photos of her toddler in this column.

 

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You talk about how boys lose authenticity over time, or become less authentic and more performative, taking on roles rather than expressing what they really feel directly. But isn’t it good for people to learn how to be less natural in some ways? Toilet training for example; you don’t want them to do the natural thing, right?

Absolutely; being socialized is not inherently problematic. Obviously we want to teach our kids to be appropriate so they’re not at a restaurant dancing naked on the table. You want to teach them to be savvy and strategic; you don’t want them to be vulnerable in every situation and then have that vulnerability taken advantage of. But it’s more that distinction between compromise and over-compromise, in which they’re so focused on setting up a particular image that they believe will get them what they want—acceptance and popularity and success—and realizing that that comes at a cost. And that cost comes when the fit between who they are and who they feel comfortable being doesn’t perfectly match society’s expectations, and they feel like, oh, I can’t show people this part of myself, because then they won’t like me.

That’s not to say that they need to be open and out there in every situation. But they need to have at least one place or one relationship where they can do those things.

From “How boys teach each other to be boys” in The Atlantic.

One way to do this is by teaching boys and men to cultivate empathy — and not just for one another. The violence prevention organization A Call to Men, for example, encourages boys and men to recognize and reject a culture of manhood that enables violence. Part of that involves actually talking to girls.

Societally, “we teach men to distance themselves from the experiences of women and girls,” said Tony Porter, one of the organization’s co-founders. Boys aren’t encouraged to befriend girls, he said. When they do, they are teased about romantic or homosexual implications. To encourage mutual respect, however, boys and girls must be allowed the space to form meaningful bonds.

A Call to Men conducts workshops — on football fields and in community centers — across the country. During these sessions, young men are encouraged to question traditional gender roles and challenge sexist and misogynist attitudes — often in the presence of women.

“As a society, the only emotion we allow boys to have is anger. We need a critical, purposeful conversation with our sons about their experiences. Doing this early on is very important,” Porter pointed out. “Once they turn 16 or 17, they become accustomed to not talking to us.”

From “The case for raising feminist men” in AlJazeera America.

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My generation’s fathers are so much more involved in child-rearing and god, they’re all much happier for it. These are some very nice photos of active fathering.

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More for my collection of photos here of women doing life while also breastfeeding. Love this one. (Thanks Laura for the link).

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Of course the photo caused a stir in some places, of course.

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Similarly, I entered motherhood the same year I completed an Honors B.A. in English and Women’s Studies. When I became a mother unexpectedly at the age of 23, in the final year of my degree, I reflected back on the courses I’d taken and realized I’d never had a single course in which motherhood was discussed in a thorough way—and this was in coursework leading to a degree in Women’s Studies. The few times motherhood was considered, the frame of reference was presented as either the “prison of domesticity” theme of late-nineteenth century literature or the “motherhood-as-patriarchal-trap” paradigm of early 1970s feminist thought. With the notable exception of a Canadian Women’s Writers course, none of my undergraduate courses included a maternal perspective on the women’s issues studied, nor did professors call attention to the absence of motherhood or position it as a worthy and deserving topic for feminist scholarly inquiry.

Two years later, I began my Ph.D. in English, giving birth to my second child four months later in December 1986, and my third child three years after that. At 28 years old, with three children born in five years, and the only mother in my Ph.D. program, I hungered for stories and theories by and about mothers and wondered, as did Di Brandt, “Where … were the mothers, symbolic or otherwise, whom I might have turned to in that moment of aloneness and desperation?” In 1991, I designed a third-year Women’s Studies course on motherhood to address and correct the silencing and marginalization of motherhood in academe; it was the first course on this topic in Canada. At that point, York University did not offer a single course on the subject of motherhood, despite hosting two large and successful Women’s Studies programs and a student population of 40,000.

I have taught this course now for over 20 years, and while it certainly has been important for the development of motherhood scholarship and my own survival as a mother scholar, I needed and longed for more. I still longed for a community to sustain and support the work I was doing, a place where I did not have to defend or justify my motherhood scholarship or my identity as a mother academic. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, and so MIRCI and Demeter Press were born.

The amazing Professor Andrea O’Reilly interviewed in Literary Mama.

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I was sent this book, Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics edited by Margunn Bjornholt and Ailsa McKay for consideration… and having now read it I can say it’s terrific. If you’re interested in feminist economics, and I know you are, then this would be a very useful book to start on. (Available here from Demeter Press).

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Or perhaps you’re wanting to read about mothering and neoliberalism? (I’ve also been sent this book, Mothering in the Age of Neoliberalism edited by Melinda Vendenbeld Giles for consideration and it looks very promising, but I’ve only just started it). Available here.

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Demeter Press needs your support to survive and these books are currently on sale for 50% off.

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My latest article is here – I was so damn excited to interview Antonella Gambotto-Burke, who I’ve admired right back since Lunch of Blood:

What would a celebrated writer known for tackling themes as dark and intriguing as suicide, addiction, sexuality and celebrity culture make of something as supposedly tame and ordinary as motherhood? Antonella Gambotto-Burke’s latest book, Mama: Dispatches from the Frontline of Love is part advice for new parents, part a call to arms for change and part memoir.

As you may expect from Gambotto-Burke, while the book includes a banana cake recipe it is far more interested in discussing the bewildering and consuming aspects of motherhood. Such as, how motherhood shatters the myth of independence core to modern womanhood, the unexpected passion of maternal love and the dizzying introspection mothering stirs in oneself.

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This is a very interesting reply to my 10 Questions About Your Feminist Parenthood over at Meet Jesus At Uni. It touches on Tamie’s Christianity and her combination of faith with feminism as well as her experience of being a white woman living in Tanzania.

One of the things that stood out for me in reading her response is how culturally-bound some of our experiences of the patriarchy are while others are universal.

8. If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?

My husband is also a feminist, a true partner and advocate for me, just as passionate as I am about feminist parenting! Our situation at the moment is more flexible than it would be if we lived in Australia. The lines between ‘work’, ‘home’ and ‘social’ are much more blurred in Tanzania, and particularly in our role, living on campus at the university where we work. That means we haven’t had to deal with issues surrounding maternity leave and housework in the same way we would in Australia; the structure of society has given us more room to job-share and to parent together.

 

(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).

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This is a lovely piece of writing from my friend, Shawn Taylor in Ebony on fathering as a black man and activist and the difficulty with being in the moment and experiencing joy when you’re so aware of the injustices:

I was with a friend of mine when his wife called to tell him that he was about to be a father a second time—22 years after the birth of their first child. I could hear the pure joy in her voice (hell, even I was joyful), but he had this faraway look on his face. He wasn’t smiling. For the nearly 30 years I’ve known him, I can’t remember a time that I did not see him smile. I was worried and confused, and I told him so. He had shifted gears into a mood I didn’t recognize.

“I can’t do it, bruh. I can’t bring a child, a Black child, into all this,” he whispered to me. For the next five minutes, it was like he was possessed. He went through the recent affronts to Black American existence: Renisha McBride, Troy Davis, Marissa Alexander, infringed voting rights… he started to cry. He said he felt it would be almost irresponsible to bring a Black child into a society primed to hate them, criminalize them, and kill them without a second thought.

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