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Moominland Midwinter
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?

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
lauredhel
Sep. 17th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
" those kids are going to have things you might not approve of, those things might be labelled 'cool' in the playground, and your child might well end up wanting them."

So? (That's not rhetorical. So?)

I'm thinking that just about every kid, me and you (and my kid) not excepted, wants stuff they don't own from time to time.

And I can't say I'm all that impressed with how kids that do have literally all the stuff they want turn out.

(Deleted comment)
lauredhel
Sep. 17th, 2009 06:30 am (UTC)
Do you think baroquestar is handling it badly? Do you think feminist parents, as a group, are more likely to handle the Stuff Issue badly than non-feminist parents?
etfb
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:44 am (UTC)
"Work with me, British man. Give me an axe and show me where to point it."
"As ever, it's not quite that simple..."


So much of the talk about feminism and parenting makes me feel like Xander in that quote, above. I just want to go in and start slapping people. My son and daughters are people, you bastards! Not "proto-people". Not "people-in-waiting". People! And our family doesn't fit into a formula that you came up with so you could fill your quota of blog articles or NYT Best Sellers. Get Clue, ferfuxache!

The EDoD has begun asking about queer sexuality. The BatPup gets annoyed at being called a boy because of her short hair (self-inflicted, via errant scissors), but she gets lots of reinforcement to remind her that gender roles are shite. The Boy Wonder may grow up to be a heterosexual bloke, but it won't be because we forced him into camo gear and bovver boots. (And I'll still respect his choices, even if he's not gay, because I try to be tolerant...)

We'll teach our Small People about all those unpopular minorities -- queers, doms/subs, polyamorists, atheists, fat people (oh, my!), even those nasty and unpleasant disabled people you sometimes see on SBS specials and who sometimes fail to act with appropriate decorum (lauredhel can be so disquieting, can't she?). They may even learn that straight, monogamous, bodily intact Christian conservatives are occasionally OK to hang around with, as long as they don't inhale. We'll teach them that those people are all people, like them.

And we won't be boring. Dear me no...
pezzae
Sep. 17th, 2009 11:26 am (UTC)
Thanks for linking... I am thinking more about this stuff as a parent to a little girl who will one day want more than boob and sleep!
I don't get the binary that the OP sets up: humorless feminist mums vs hip mainstream mums. Yeah, I wasn't allowed Barbie dolls as a kid. I also wasn't allowed caffeine, because mum thought both of them were bad for developing brains. I totally agree. I didn't feel deprived, I felt loved: my parents cared enough about me to think about what was good and bad for me, and to explain why.
(Also, Vicky from over the back fence used to love coming over and playing with my Lego and miniature tool set. My toys were SO much cooler than her Barbies.)
lauredhel
Sep. 17th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
I was impressed recently on the way in which our discussions about appropriateness of toys and media seems to be giving the Lad (age six) the tools to start assessing things for himself, and the tools to say 'no'.

I wrote this a little while back:

The Lad's been playing with his Mega Bloks stuff a lot over the past few days.

We were in the car yesterday, and he piped up:

"You know those Mega Bloks sets, with the plasma dragons and castles and trolls and stuff? If they made a movie of that..."

"Yes?" we said.

"...I don't think that movie would be appropriate for me."


(He's seen plenty of movies about dragons and trolls, by the way - he's seen all the Harry Potters and even the Lord of the Rings trilogy - but I could see that the way he was imagining this hypothetical dragon movie was more violent or scary than he thought he could deal with in a movie at that time.)
conradin
Sep. 18th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)
Heh, well, m'dear, I am a tad non-analytical when it comes to parenthood. You do what you can.

She seems pretty happy and balanced. I think explaining why you won't buy stuff for her, but allowing to her to buy things with her own money that you won't is the way to go (not without some discussion, if something questionable).

Did I tell you she insisted on given $4 to the hippy musicians outside the markets whose music she was getting into? She wanted to give them two coins, and had two $2 and a $1, so it had to be the $2s.

Oh, she has a dollar she saved over here. I don't know if we want to link her "accounts".
(Anonymous)
Oct. 10th, 2009 12:07 pm (UTC)
****waving madly*****
Hi Shiv - googled you and fell into this high powered analysis of important things that generally go swimming past me as I try and grab a breath here and there, not quite drowning in life-as-usual.

Is there such a thing as "post-feminist"? Kind of what happens when all close people around have absorbed and live out feminism/pro-feminism (my husband tells me that's what he is since men can't call themselves feminists, apparently), so that realising the real world still has pretty weird ideas seems like looking into an alien culture.

I served a plate of pikelets Anth made to a group of women who just laughed and laughed at the ridiculousness of the image of their own husbands cooking pikelets.

Ooh, my brain is contorting with the effort of sounding at least half-baked.

Sorry, getting off the point I think. The point is, you are in Melbourne! When do you want to catch up? Not a B****e doll in the house, promise!

Jennifer
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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