Archive for the ‘raising daughters’ Category

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Amazing Babes: A Picture Book for Kids & Adults by Eliza Sarlos and Grace Lee, and published by Scribe, is a truly gorgeous picture book. Reviewing this book with my two children, a girl and boy aged eight and four years respectively, was a complete delight.

The hard cover picture book features twenty feminist icons. Each icon is beautifully drawn by Grace Lee and their picture is accompanied by a simple statement highlighting a personal trait of theirs that will most inspire children. These statements express charming wishes like, “I want the curiosity of Hedy Lamarr” and “I want to find ways to explore like Frida Kahlo”.

The range of women included is impressively broad and crosses from the most contemporary, like Tavi Gevinson and Malala Yousafzai, to others from history such as Emma Goldman. Notably for me, the book also includes a couple of Australian figures (eg. Mum Shirl and Miles Franklin).  Amazing Babes manages to avoid the disappointment of so many other feminist texts which all but ignore women from outside the Anglosphere, so women like Vandana Shiva and Aung San Suu Kyi are also here.

There’s a fair bit of diversity in terms of age, race, nationality and area of expertise across the icons profiled but no list of feminist icons is going to meet everyone’s approval.  I am sure some readers will wonder why particular favourites weren’t included, though the book encompasses big stars like Gloria Steinem and Audre Lorde, and given the age of mothers with young children, Kathleen Hanna is certain to be a popular inclusion.

The style of illustration greatly appealed to my children, who as I noted above, range in age from 4 to 8 years. They found the book enormously intriguing and I would encourage parents to offer it both to sons as well as daughters. In fact, the author of the book originally wrote the collection for her own son. The beauty of this book is that it can be read to children of various ages with younger children simply enjoying the illustrations and growing familiarity with famous names and older children being able to go on and research further those women who particularly inspire them.

At the back of the book is a full list of the twenty icons and a more complete description of each woman and her accomplishments. I have only one criticism of the book and it is with this section. This text is not written in an always accessible way for young readers who would otherwise be drawn to the book. For instance, “While working as a feminist, Miles also devoted herself to cultivating a uniquely Australian voice within Australian literature” – it’s not exactly a jargonistic sentence but it is beyond a lot of primary school beginner readers. The descriptions could also have benefited from a pronunciation guide for the women’s names, some of which won’t be immediately familiar to all readers. However, this is a small bone to pick with what is really a very special book. There are simply not enough of these kinds of books being written for children and I hope this one finds plenty of success.

And finally… there are three copies available for give-away to readers of blue milk, if you’re interested in entering the competition simply leave a comment below (with a valid email address) and I will randomly draw three names within the fortnight. The publishers have put no limits on regions for entry so please feel free to enter regardless of which country you live in.

In accordance with disclosure guidelines, please note that I was sent a copy of this book for review by the publisher.

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Very thought-provoking article on cultural capital, parenting, high and low art, racism and representation from David Osa Amadasun – “Black people don’t go to art galleries: the reproduction of taste and cultural values”:

Here’s the scenario: two children, one white and one black, walk into an exhibition filled with portraits of white people. Both children enjoy it. After the exhibition they make self-portraits out of food. The black child asks for brown ingredients – cocoa pops, hot chocolate powder – to represent his skin in the portrait. The white child does not bother with colour in the same way. Her whiteness is not a colour that needs to be marked or thought about, it is naturalized as normal, a seamless part of the wall-to-wall whiteness of the surrounding exhibition. On closer inspection the portraits show further nuances of colouring and also commonality. Other features such as nose, lips, eyes and hair were not represented mimetically. As the brown skin colour of the portrait on the left stands out because of its purposeful colouring, it creates a link between the child and their artwork, making visible what is taken for granted in this space – whiteness.

 There has been progress in the diversity of representations within exhibitions, for example the Meshac Gaba and Ibrahim El-Salahi exhibitions at the Tate – which the kids and parents loved. But adequate progress has not been made in how these institutions, funded by public money, encourage those from underrepresented groups. As Dr Eleonora Belfiore from Warwick University has pointed out, there are fundamental and ‘awkward’ questions that need to be asked about the social and institutional structures that support and maintain hierarchies of taste, ‘if the debate on cultural value is to go beyond an empty rhetoric of self-celebration’ Belfiore writes ‘then it needs to be an occasion in which awkward questions are asked of the sector as a whole. Questions such as ‘For whom does the sector generate value?’, ‘What do organisations big and small do to live up to their status as public cultural organisations?’

And I love the questions he closes with in this article. “Do we want to encourage cultural omnivores by diversifying taste and/or do we want a radical overhaul of the very values that make distinctions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture?”

Thanks to Shawn Taylor for the link.

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Susan Faludi is the business. “Facebook feminism, like it or not” in The Baffler is brilliant.

Beneath highly manicured glam shots, each “member” or “partner” reveals her personal “Lean In moment.” The accounts inevitably have happy finales—the Lean In guidelines instruct contributors to “share a positive ending.” Tina Brown’s Lean In moment: getting her parents to move from England to “the apartment across the corridor from us on East 57th Street in New York,” so her mother could take care of the children while Brown took the helm at The New Yorker. If you were waiting for someone to lean in for child care legislation, keep holding your breath. So far, there’s no discernible groundswell.

When asked why she isn’t pushing for structural social and economic change, Sandberg says she’s all in favor of “public policy reform,” though she’s vague about how exactly that would work, beyond generic tsk-tsking about the pay gap and lack of maternity leave. She says she supports reforming the workplace—but the particulars of comparable worth or subsidized child care are hardly prominent elements of her book or her many media appearances.


Sandberg’s admirers would say that Lean In is using free-market beliefs to advance the cause of women’s equality. Her detractors would say (and have) that her organization is using the desire for women’s equality to advance the cause of the free market. And they would both be right. In embodying that contradiction, Sheryl Sandberg would not be alone and isn’t so new. For the last two centuries, feminism, like evangelicalism, has been in a dance with capitalism.

Which brings me back to this recent post… Capitalism both accelerated women’s liberation and exacerbated inequality and there is no feminist analysis of anything in our lives without consideration of that fact. I seem to continually find myself writing articles about the tensions between work and family and apart from the fact that I might be a bit repetitive I also think this stuff is at the very heart of what feminism is trying to reconcile.

Previous posts on this blog on the topic include:

The split

Some women want to stay home with children and feminism needs to make peace with that

The real reason why you should be careful in your discussions about mothers

David Willets – yeah kinda, but not really

Workplace flexibility is a feminist issue

You must read

Why we should be careful taking ‘maternity’ out of parental leave

What does feminist motherhood look like when black mothers are defining it?

Mother guilt as a luxury item

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After all of this, there is also this..

There is a better way to talk and teach about sexual negotiation and consent, a more realistic and ethical approach that would, I believe, also be more successful in reducing sexual assault. It begins with thinking of sex as the outcome of a collaboration rather than a battle, as dancing rather than fighting.

It’s a wondrful piece in the Sydney Morning Herald from Emily Maguire, who is just as wonderful in person, I must say.

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The whole debate about victim-blaming, drinking and rape blew up in Australia again this week after Mia Freedman wrote a piece along the lines of the controversial article by Emily Yoffe in Slate.

One of my posts, originally part of a series (here, here, here, here and here), was republished at Women’s Agenda in response.

Was I more or less stupid than the girl who passes out drunk? More or less cavalier than her? More or less naive? More or less self-harming? More or less slutty?

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Lovely article here from Monica Dux in Essential Kids about Star Wars birthday parties and sexism.

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Lovely thoughtful piece from my friend, Shawn Taylor in Ebony on what his life-long love of hip-hop brings to his parenting.

From a young age, we were insistent that she knew her artistic lineage—broadly cultural and familial. She is the heir to hip-hop, jazz, blues, reggae, ska, and her grandfather’s guitar, harmonica and drums. We inculcated in her that art was important, and that her life was a continuous work of art. When she was old enough, and I began to really introduce her to hip-hop, some of my parenting became easier. By using the four original elements of hip-hop culture, I’ve been able to paint her world with a much wider brush.

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I LOVE these photos of dads at One Direction concerts. Love.

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But unlike Foster, I am also aware that there is a time and place to discuss the very real concerns about feminine safety in the presence of strangers and that time, nor place, is hooked to the murder of a Black teen who was killed because someone looked at him and made assumptions. That conversation should not be hooked to the words of someone who looks like every scary Black n*gger fear you can conjure in your heart bearing his soul and saying ‘This is what it feels like to be a problem, even when I know that I’m not a problem at all.’

Kim Foster’s piece is emblematic of the reason that many Black people roll their eyes at me when I say that I’m a feminist. Because to them, “feminist” means “a White woman who sees White women’s problems as the most important problems of all the problems in the world and she’ll use your plight and your movement as a stepping stone to put a spotlight on said problems.” Or something to that affect. This essay is, once again, a reminder how different the intersectional nature of Black feminism—the double-conciousness and need to understand the specific pain of our men—is from the “I, me, my, mine” that many cis-gendred White feminists speak to when talking gender and race.

Foster’s piece says quite plainly, “No, Questlove, you really ain’t shit.” And I’m appalled. More:

“See, women almost always look out for others. We are taught as girls that we are inherently caretakers, mothers to everyone. We are taught to placate, be nice, share. We don’t want people mad at us.”

Kim, you couldn’t even look out for Dead Trayvon and let us reflect upon how racial profiling, which led to his death, hurts Black men who are still living. Let’s talk more about your problems instead, amirite?

From “I guess you really ain’t shit, Questlove” by Jamilah Lemieux in EBONY. Reading this I wince for Kim Foster, because it isn’t fun to want to get something right and get it so wrong, and I’ve made the same mistake she’s making many times, myself.. but I thoroughly recommend this article from Lemieux because it’s a terribly thoughtful critique of Foster’s post and white feminism, generally. You will come away with better feminism for it.

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I think Jeremy Adam Smith is asking some really interesting questions here in this article, “Old gender roles obsolete in new economy” at the San Francisco Chronicle.

These women struggle with all the challenges of being both a breadwinner and a woman, such as the sacrifices that must sometimes be made to advance in careers; giving up control of the household to male partners; and needing to forcefully advocate for themselves on the job (for instance, asking for raises, which research shows women are still reluctant to do), among other issues.

They also are struggling to advocate at home: A breadwinning friend recently described a conversation with her husband in which both had meetings at the same time, and she was surprised to find herself telling him: “My job is more important than yours to this family, and therefore you need to move your meeting.”

If we’re not raising girls to anticipate these tensions and issues, we’re not preparing them for family life in the 21st century.

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