baroquestar: (Default)
baroquestar ([personal profile] baroquestar) wrote2009-09-17 07:31 pm

Feminism and mothering - there's no "vs." here.

This article, and the resulting discussions and critiques of it, really hit close to home at the moment. I particularly recommend Lauredhel's response at Hoyden About Town.

Lauredhel summed it up beautifully, getting right into where I feel worst about the whole dialogue with this one paragraph: Stuff is not what feminist parenting is about, nor is it what parenting is about. Parenting is so, so, so, so (x etc) much more than what you freaking spend your money on. But the Barbie Question is a convenient, simplistic, attractive way to encapsulate What Feminists Are Doing Wrong This Decade.

We are still, decades after second wave, met with faint disapproval when we raise incongruities or incompatibilities between our feminist beliefs and the type of parenting that is supported/facilitated in our society. Inevitably, it's our feminism that's the problem, not the Barbies or the Bratz or the flashcards with white male doctors and firies and white female teachers and nurses. In any conflict between the two modalities, we are expected to sacrifice feminism, because to do otherwise, to deny our daughters the Bratz doll or our sons the mock assault rifle, is to be humourless, and, it's implied, a Bad Mother. The feeling one gets is that Feminism is a choice you make, discrete from everything else, and to inflict it on a child is ultimately selfish.

My feminism is not in competition with my parenting - it is inextricable from it, something I am. And that something means I do not invite sexism into my home, will not support it economically by buying Stuff that enforces problematic gender patterns, and will not encourage my child to limit herself to popular ideals based on configuration of genitals and chromosomes. And it's so much more than what I *won't* do - what WILL I do, and what DO I do? I encourage her when she wants to paint, climb, draw, use big words, pour her own tea at a tea party, be a mermaid, build a crane. She gets hugs when she's sad, comfort when she's lonely, support when she's frustrated. We respect her bodily autonomy, and expect her to respect that of others. When she asks me if girls sometimes turn into men, and boys into women when they grow up, and if sometimes boys like to pretend to be girls, I answer her honestly ("Yep, sometimes!"). When she tells someone off for calling her a "princess" and says, no, she's MAEVE, we've got her back. We talk about where our food comes from, how we can grow it, and why the worms are our friends. When she asks me awkward questions about STI infomercials on public transport, I answer her, even when it means a tramload of people quietly LOLing at me. The house is full of laughter, love, craziness and, for some reason, socks with no pair.

Do I sound like a joyless, negative, childood ruiner to you? Does telling her I won't buy a Barbie (and this is why) negate the rest of it?

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