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Archive for the ‘10 feminist motherhood questions’ Category

I don’t agree with much of this by Laura Kipnis – for instance, I have trouble being that casual about university teacher-student sexual relationships – but I think her article, “Sexual paranoia strikes academe” in The Chronicle of Higher Education is raising some worthwhile questions about vulnerability and power.

Reading this article it strikes me that the over-simplification of sexual abuse/assault/harassment means that victims are only victims if they are ‘good people’ and conversely, abusers can only be that if they’re ‘bad people’. Realistically, both are ordinary people and there’s vulnerability all over the place. And ok, the woman in this situation might have forgotten that the man is also vulnerable. But he has forgotten that the woman he desires in a fairly objectifying way is actually a human, like him.

What struck me most, hearing the story, was how incapacitated this woman had felt, despite her advanced degree and accomplishments. The reason, I think, was that she imagined she was the only vulnerable one in the situation. But look at the editor: He was married, with a midlevel job in the scandal-averse world of corporate publishing. It simply wasn’t the case that he had all the power in the situation or nothing to lose. He may have been an occluded jerk, but he was also a fairly human-sized one.

So that’s an example of a real-world situation, postgraduation. Somehow I don’t see the publishing industry instituting codes banning unhappily married editors from going goopy over authors, though even with such a ban, will any set of regulations ever prevent affective misunderstandings and erotic crossed signals, compounded by power differentials, compounded further by subjective levels of vulnerability?

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I am proud to announce that I have a chapter in the newly published book, Mothers at the Margins: Stories of Challenge, Resistance and Love, edited by Lisa Raith, Jenny Jones and Marie Porter. My chapter is on the responses from all my lovely readers to my 10 Questions About Your Feminist Parenting that I have been running on this blog since 2007.

You can purchase the book here if you so desire.

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My latest article is here.

Speaking of personal stories, Latham has an interesting story, too. He’s a stay-at-home father with a wife working outside the home. Having made the transition from political leadership to primary caring he might offer an insightful perspective, instead, he seems clouded by a kind of defensive masculinity. And his hostility towards feminist parenting is curious when you consider Latham’s own role reversal is exactly the kind of freedom feminists are seeking as an option to be available for more parents. But critiquing parenting has long been an underhand route for simply censuring women.

Women well know that when male commentators talk about women’s lives they are prone to holding unexamined views that run contrary to one another. So, being the primary parent has allowed Latham to see the hoax that fathers can’t be nurturing, but somehow mothering is still essentialist enough for inner-city feminists to be capable of running a secret campaign to “free themselves from nature’s way”. And further, mothers who take their experiences seriously enough to write about them are “self-absorbed”, but to not take them seriously is to be “breeding a generation of shirtless, tone-deaf, overweight, pizza-eating dummies”. Although Macdonald, apparently, manages to do both.

 

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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 response from Eliza at tea plus oranges is such a considered response that it’s hard to imagine it was written with a sleeping baby on her chest… and reading it was a lovely opportunity to revisit those first early months of motherhood. All my love to new parents.

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

I’m interested to see how this will pan out. It’s something we’ve talked about a lot at various stages of our relationship, mainly in relation to balancing two careers. We met at uni as two ambitious law student types, and he fully supports the idea that I should be able to go forth professionally and do interesting, meaningful things in paid work, as well as being an available and attentive parent. However, there is an inevitable tension in trying to carve out an equal relationship in a non-equal society. “Lean in” feminism emphasises the need for a supportive partner; but the limits of individual action in working around structural problems also apply to the concerted actions of a couple. He wants to support my career, but doesn’t want to sacrifice his. That’s fair enough. Why should either of us have to? Why can’t employment conditions accommodate family life for both partners? Yet, they don’t. So we intend to find some way of realigning the division of labour once we’re through the early years of parenthood (in which I want to be at home with my babies). Watch this space.

He took four weeks’ leave when bubs was born, which was really really fantastic. I’m now passionate about the feminist importance of paternity leave. There was a revelation in that month – he “gets” household management now. Five years of living together, I’ve done more than half the domestic load, but since bubs arrived that has changed. All it took was four weeks in which I completely abdicated responsibility for everything other than breastfeeding… He’s back at work now, and while our relationship may look very traditional at the moment, in many ways it’s more equal than ever (we’re both exhausted). I’m really grateful to be able to spend a full year at home with bubs. In an ideal world, we’d have better maternity leave provisions, so that women’s ability to do this doesn’t depend on the work status of the father. In the meantime, I’m pretty glad to have a breadwinner spouse just now.

(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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Kristen Hurst is a stay at home mother of three who enjoys blogging. She received her bachelor’s degree in fashion marketing, and writes often about nursing clothes. When she’s not trying to juggle the lives of Casey, Austin and Ben, she enjoys painting and catching up with a great Jane Austen novel.

How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother?

My feminism is based in activities and attitudes towards valuing that which is traditionally considered “feminine” as equal to that which is traditionally considered “masculine.” This was not the feminism I had initially adopted in college—I definitely believed that I could do whatever I wanted, and I took my inherited feminism for granted. I knew I was “equal” to men, so why not be a feminist? I would say that this was the dominant attitude of the women at my college, and for most of us, our serious feminist identifications faded once we left the classroom, and for me, when I initially went to work in the fashion industry. Nevertheless, both motherhood and my experiences freelancing on behalf of Seraphine Maternity have shaped my feminist motherhood.

What has surprised you most about motherhood?

How much I feel empowered by it! I guess I always knew I’d be a mother eventually—I didn’t question that—but I wasn’t a woman who longed to be a mother. I didn’t even know whether I’d enjoy it or not. Being a mother and staying home with my boys have allowed me to rethink how I assign value in my life. I feel very aware of how our culture measures value through money. Motherhood is not profitable, but it feels even more rewarding to play a part in nurturing young lives and teaching my sons to appreciate art, music, family walks, etc. as much as whatever their future careers will be.

How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?

My feminism was forever altered by re-reading Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking. This book is more philosophy than parenting advice, but it made me realize why my attitudes towards politics and the dominant narratives of our society shifted once I started mothering. I would say that I started out as a plucky post-second wave not-so-riot girl. Once I started working in fashion, I felt that questioning what it meant to be a woman was taboo, unless we were talking about androgyny being in vogue. Motherhood caused me to pick up feminism again because I realized that what was right for one of my sons was not necessarily right for the next, and thus, this is likely the same when we’re talking about individuals in society or our relationships with other countries (both of which Ruddick touches on.) Being a stay-at-home mom caused me to experience how undervalued caretaking is, even as it is necessary. I became an advocate in my community for speaking out in favor of resources that mothers—and therefore everyone—would benefit from, like paid maternity leave and more reliable daycare options. I was initially hesitant to continue indulging my interest in fashion, but my work with Seraphine has placed me squarely back in the present—feminism is important, and feminism and feeling good and fashionable in our slightly-disempowered present reality are not mutually exclusive. Certainly some in the maternity fashion industry have no interest in feminism, but not all of them!

What makes your mothering feminist? How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?

I want my boys to understand the privilege they’re set to inherit due to their gender. We talk about it.

Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?

I don’t know if being a feminist mother is something one can fail or succeed at—it’s always in the process, or the attempt. But of course I feel like a failure sometimes, particularly when my sons imitate something that I do or say that doesn’t reflect my feminist ideals.

Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why?

Yes, but only because I know too many folks who still feel that feminism and staying at home with one’s children are at odds with each other.

Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?

Feminism isn’t really about “having it all,” either, it’s about the opportunity to make informed choices about what to have and not feeling—or being—stigmatized as a result of that. Almost every sacrifice I’ve made on behalf of motherhood has been more than worth it in the end.

Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?

This question makes me want to ask “which feminism?” I feel like acts done in the name of “feminism” or “progress” that ignore the fact that women will mother have failed mothers. Nevertheless, feminism has given us the language to have a conversation like this one about motherhood, and I think that will far overshadow any failings.

(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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I think a pro-feminist man can probably say nothing more honest about his feminism than this: “My feminism is awkward. My feminism is a bit abstract, but so is my life.” I love that – because if a man is not finding feminism a bit of a struggle then chances are he is not being all that self-examining about it. That line was a favourite from the wonderful response by Not Unimportant to my 10 questions about your feminist parenthood.

The blog, Not Unimportant is written by Cameron Mann and it is a lovely, introspective blog which also very often covers parenting from a feminist perspective. Incidentally, the last pro-feminist man to tackle my 10 Questions was Jeremy Adam Smith and if you would like to see more about pro-feminist dads then you can read about his response here.

Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist parent? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist parent?


Compromised feminist? Entirely. Frequently. This makes spotting and calling out sexist assumptions in me and in others a continual activity. As much as my ego can handle it, I invite others to point out and critique my failures.

There is no way to get all the sexism out of my head all the time. I learnt not to see sexism long before I learnt to see it. I strongly believe that what we learn first has a stronger hold than any subsequent correction (which is why I am concerned about feminism and gender and my preschooler son). A habit of carelessly using he/him in cases of unknown sex is probably the least of it.

Policing media (books, music and movies) is terribly hard work. I can’t find the energy to block Cinderella out, so basically hope that Abby Cadabby introduces variety. I am quietly confident that since my wife and I have made it to feminism through a less politically correct time, the attitudes to the content are more important than the content itself.

The arrival of gun play really forced me to accept that my son was going to be as gendered as anything. So, I don’t fight the gender nearly as much as I fight the universalising traps and the dichotomies. Just because he’s running around with a group of boys pretending to kill with finger guns that go ‘pew-pew-pew’ doesn’t mean that it will interest all boys, or interest only boys or interest him always.

(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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