It is always so lovely to see a new response to my 10 questions about your feminist parenthood… which started here right back in 2007. These responses have been going for so long now on the Internet that I have amassed enough to write a conference paper on them and this seems like a nice time to announce that the paper will soon be published in a book.
Here is the latest thought-provoking response, and this time it is from Apprentice Mumsy.
What makes your mothering feminist? How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?
My mothering is part of my Fuck You to the bullshit. This is a culture that does not value children anymore than it does women, so everyday that I demonstrate to my daughter that I value her, I respect her as an individual, even if she is one not yet developmentally capable of making all her own choices, is a day of fighting back. This is a culture that makes no room for vulnerability, so everyday that I recognize the vulnerability inherent in childhood, honor it, and allow myself to be open about my own vulnerabilities (to an appropriate degree) is a day of fighting back. This is a culture that says you should never be dependent, ever, on anyone, and if you are then you are weak and wrong, so everyday that I depend on a family member or friend to watch my kid, everyday that I use foodstamps to buy dinner or use medicaid to take one of us to a doctor, everyday that I ask for help, is a day of fighting back. When I make it clear that right now I need time to myself (probably in the garage) I’m modeling that it’s normal, ok, and necessary for women to care for themselves and set boundaries, and be happy with their own company. When I go out on a date, or with a friend, or spend a night or two away from her, I’m modeling that even mothers have lives of their own and are allowed some fun outside of their kids. The greatest impact feminism has on my parenting is the attitude behind the actions. But it also impacts the way I talk to my daughter about the world and the people in it, not just what I say but how I say it. Because this is the next generation, here, that I’m talking to, and there are important things I want riding shotgun in her psyche to combat the nasty stuff I won’t be able to prevent seeping in.
I love that description. I don’t know if Apprentice Mumsy has ever read any Fineman but her response reminds me a lot of the feminist legal theorist, Martha Fineman, because here is Fineman on the same theme:
The ideal of family is essential to maintaining the myth autonomy and independence can be maintained. Our society mythologizes concepts such as “independence” and “autonomy” despite the concrete indications surrounding us that these ideals are, in fact, unrealizable and unrealistic. Those members of society who openly manifest the reality of dependency – either as dependents or caretakers in need of economic subsidy – are rendered deviants. Unable to mask dependency by retreating to contrived social institutions like the family, single mother caretakers in particular are stigmatized and subjected to epithets and scorn for embodying a dependency that society would rather deny.
This is one of the best things about seeing feminist parents respond to my questions, the opportunity for me to observe where the theoretical and the lived experience connect and I have learnt so much from reading these responses.
(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).