Motherhood has totally played a part in radicalising my feminism. This is, oddly, the opposite of how we’re told we’re “supposed” to feel by some subsets of feminists. I am 100% devoted to my son and husband, and yet radicalising by the day. I’m more vocally pro-reproductive justice now, too.
Surprises: definitely my level and depth of love for my son. I now understand the “I’d not hesitate an instant to throw myself under a bus to save his life” side of things, which I didn’t “get” before being a mother. I refuse to see this as a failure of my feminism; my partner feels the same way. It’s not an exclusively female feeling, it’s an attached-parent feeling. If some men are missing out on that level of connection with their kid, I believe they are the ones who are missing out. Motherhood certainly comes with its financial sacrifices, and I vote accordingly and advocate passionately; but I don’t think the problem lies in the attachment to a kid, it’s in society not valuing and nurturing that attachment.
Breastfeeding is a sub-example, of course, of the same principle. Right now we have all of the guilt and none of the practical, realistic, ongoing support, because that’s the way the patriarchy likes it. I want it to be the other way around. Women should no more feel “guilty” for bottle feeding than people do for using any other medical prosthesis or real-food-substitute when any other body part or system of theirs is not functioning along the normal course of things – because in my ideal world, every woman who is able and wants to breastfeed would (and would not be penalised in terms of finances or career or social life for it), and everyone else would get donor milk free to the user. A quick look at Scandinavian rates shows the extent to which we have it all wrong.
Failures: I don’t know, don’t we all succeed and fail a little bit every day in our parenting? The other day, I caught myself wondering whether the lad’s play interests reflected some failure in my feminist parenting: he is fascinated by dinosaurs, space, pirates, sea creatures (especially dangerous ones and the deepest depths), and so on. But then I realised these were the things I was fascinated by as a child, so there are really no surprises there! Then there are the teeny tiny little glimpses of success, such as him forward-planning a “soccer party” for his schoolfriends, and choosing a girl first when asked who he’d like to be on his team. The patriarchy is certainly getting to him: we had an argument last night when he decided that butchers can only be men – but another time, when distributed a piece of school information with clip art of a male doctor and female nurse, he instructed his teacher that she had it the wrong way down, that doctors were women.
I do worry a lot about schoolyard masculinity practices and the influences that is starting to have on him. I worry. But what can I do? Just keep what I’m doing.