If It’s Not About Choice, It’s Not Feminist

0051 Family Photos 12-2-13

Another post related to feminism and motherhood! *Gasp*

I obviously believe that our culture’s treatment of women in general and mothers particularly are integrally linked.

I read a piece designed to infuriate me. It was judgmental and sanctimonious to the core. I realize I was being manipulated. It was designed to upset me and use that emotional response to bump hit numbers to be able to command more advertising dollars. I won’t dignify the piece with a link to it though. If you really want to read it so you know why I am so bothered, do a search for “I Look Down on Young Women With Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry” by Amy Glass. Even though this piece inspired my thoughts here, my thoughts here can stand on their own, so you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to lend your implicit support to the people making money off of others’ emotional responses. You will still understand what I am saying here.

Any statement indicating something that women should or should not do is inherently not feminist. Feminism is about providing choice and options so that women can make the right choices for them. And the right choice for one woman might be different than the right choice for every other woman on the planet, but she should still be free to make that choice. Laws or social expectations that curtail women’s choice on an unequal ground with men’s choices are the ones feminism seeks to change. Should a woman be free to steal? No, because men aren’t free to steal. We want women to have the same legal freedoms as men.

A woman should be free to seek a career, even after having a family or while raising her children, even if she doesn’t need the money. She should be free to stay home with her kids if she wants without social pressure to work, especially if she has no financial need to work. Her husband should likewise have those same options and both should be able to make those choices without being told they are in some way inferior to people who made different choices. Women should be free to make their own medical decisions, even through pregnancy and childbirth. Obstetrics is the last refuge of misogynist doctors who want to tell women to lie down and shut up and that needs to change. Any argument that seeks to box all women into any choice, even if it’s the most popular one, is not feminist.

If a woman is making choices that make her happy, celebrate with her, even if those choices wouldn’t be right for you. The point is her happiness, right? There is no one-size fits all solution for all women. We all have different personalities, different wants, dreams, emotional needs and we all have different methods for trying to achieve them.

Any method that attempts to achieve the same ends but with force is inherently misogynist. No one, not even another woman, can know what is best for a specific woman better than herself. To tell a woman that you know what she needs or wants better than she does is the essence of misogyny. Rather than attempt to force one very limited view onto an entire gender, we should seek to free women to make the choices they feel are best for themselves, without fear of social repercussions. Denigrating women for choices we might not make ourselves is just rude.

It Is OK

I have a secret that I want to share with all of you new moms. It’s for moms who have had kids for awhile too. And for dads. It’s for everyone who takes care of kids. Are you ready? Seriously, are you ready for it?

No mom has it all together.

Incredible right? No, none of them do. Not one. It might seem like some of them do, but you are not seeing what they are letting slide.

This image appeared in my Facebook newsfeed recently and it seems particularly appropriate.

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It is absolutely true, because you cannot have all three. And I would like to add to that: Please be gentle with yourself. If you are a parent, your job first and foremost is to raise your children. Everything else is a way to accomplish that or a distraction from that. That means that:

  • Sometimes people will ask you to do things and you will have to say no. It’s OK; you have kids.
  • Sometimes the house will not be clean. It’s OK; you have kids.
  • Sometimes dinner will be takeout. Or from the freezer section. Or from the canned section. Don’t beat yourself up.
  • Sometimes the laundry won’t be done.
  • Sometimes you won’t get a shower.
  • Sometimes you will be late.
  • Sometimes it will feel like you have it all together, but
  • Sometimes it will feel like it is all going to pot. Probably more of the latter than the former.

It is OK, it is OK, it is OK because you have kids.

  • Sometimes you will need a break from everything because you have kids. Sometimes, you will even need a break from your kids.

Cut yourself some slack. No mom has it all together. You just aren’t seeing what they are letting slide.

So the next time it feels like everything is spiraling out of your control, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is the nature of having kids.

And that it is OK.

Slut Shaming and Mother Shaming: Be Who I Want or Else

Two feminist posts in rapid succession? Well, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and into a land of madness!

Enh. It’s my blog. You get to hear about whatever is rattling around in my head and recognizing and rebelling against the patriarchy has been rattling around for awhile now.

Especially regarding parenting choices.

Just a few of the nonsense things the patriarchy says about being a good mom:

-You should breastfeed but only following my personal comfort levels.
-If you formula feed, you should only do it under the circumstances that I dictate.
-Research vaccinations
-but don’t choose not to vaccinate after your research.
-Always respond when your baby cries,
-but don’t let him manipulate you.
-Make sure your kids don’t eat junk food
-but don’t deprive them.
-If your kids have chronic health issues or allergies, it’s your fault.
-If your kids as exceptionally healthy or strong, you got lucky.
-Never spank unless your kids are doing something in the category of things I say.
-Homeschooling is only a good choice if I say so,
-but the quality of public schools is such that no kid belongs there.
-C-sections are only appropriate under the circumstances I say.
-If you want a natural birth, you are crazy.
-Think for yourself and follow your instincts,
-but only if they lead you to follow the herd and not go astray.

Be different, but not too different. Follow your instincts, but only if they go the way I believe they should. You know your child better than anyone, except this list of professionals who think you are being too soft. Be yourself, go against the grain and stand out, but not too much.

The mommy wars are another face of the patriarchy gone amok. Women participate in it too. They gain a certain amount of power by putting down other women’s choices and so perpetuates this idea that there is one ideal way of parenting and only the cream of the crop can manage it well. Here is the essence of the mommy wars. Daddies sometimes get sucked in too, usually for making choices that are perceived to be feminine.

Basically, what it boils down to is this is another way to slut shame, only instead of it being about how a woman is dressed or her perceived approach to her sexuality, it’s about how she parents. And the only time men are subject to the same degree of scrutiny and subsequent shaming is if they parent (or dress) in a way that our culture deems feminine, rather than masculine.

The other day, a friend commented that one of the worst insults you can throw at a man is to call him in some way feminine. That’s not only true of men either. Even for women, being feminine is considered being subpar, even subhuman. It gets equated with weakness, while masculinity is equated with strength. “If you like pink and purple, that makes you girly. If you paint your nails, that makes you girly. You throw like a girl. You parent like a girl.” Yeah, I do. I parent like a girl. That would be because I am a girl. It doesn’t make me weaker and it doesn’t make my choices any less valid. It doesn’t make me less the disciplinarian and it doesn’t mean I’m a pushover or that my kids walk all over me. There is no shame in “parenting like a girl.” There is nothing degrading about being a woman.

I’m also not inherently stupider or less able to appropriately gauge choices and consequences because I’m a woman. I also don’t have to care about the comfort of the people around me regarding my choices. My kids’ father is the only other person entitled to an opinion.

Passing along research and information is good. We like research and information. We don’t like being shamed back toward the herd when it is perceived that we have strayed too far. Mothers don’t need to justify child-rearing choices any more than fathers do. If a woman finds herself in a family court, just as a man would, she will need to justify her choices, but short of that, she’s doing just fine.

We need to drop the shame tactics. We need to drop the emotional appeals. We need to stop acting as though a woman is less qualified than a man to determine how she should parent. Unless we would tell a man who is not related to us the same thing, we really shouldn’t say it to a woman.

Freedom of choice is not an indulgence. It is a right to which women are well-qualified. More often than not, they know what is best for their kids. Short of them asking for advice, let’s trust them to know what they are doing.

Becoming a Birth Junkie Made Me a Feminist

The experience I had birthing my oldest child was very empowering, and it made me into a birth junkie. Women need to be empowered. I felt like a superhero and I wanted all of my soon-to-be-mom friends to feel the same. Some of them did, and some less so.

Once I became a birth junkie, I could not get enough birth stories. I read them wherever I could find them. Natural birth stories were my favorites, but I read anything I could get onto my screen. I discovered that there is a massive problem with women being disrespected while they birth their babies. Ignored, marginalized, disrespected, threatened and even raped. What. The. Hell. We’re into the 21st century. Rape is a crime. Birth rape is a thing. Not only is it a thing, but an extremely prevalent thing. And it’s protected. How is it possible that our culture understands that no means no, unless a woman is trying to push a bowling ball through her pelvis? A few months ago, a friend of mine screamed for the medical personnel to take their hands off of her while she birthed her baby and she was ignored. She was assaulted and because the people involved were wearing scrubs, very few people take her story seriously.

I started reading My OB Said What. Not only are women treated badly in childbirth, but it’s common enough to be seen as routine. A lot of women will tell you that “that’s just what birth is like.” No, no it’s not. And it shouldn’t be. They want validation that everyone experiences trauma during the births of children and that all women are treated badly in the labor room. They don’t want to know that what they endured was probably unnecessary trauma and they were likely abused. Sometimes emergencies arise in childbirth, but never is it acceptable for a laboring mom to walk away from her baby’s birth with PTSD. But it happens all the time and our culture condones it.

Our culture condones abusing women when they are in the most vulnerable position they will ever be in. Childbirth is the last place where women are told to lie back and take whatever comes to them. Women are routinely punished during the birth of their children for having sex, for getting pregnant and they are treated as though they deserve whatever they have coming to them. The menu often includes getting bullied, harassed, digitally raped, given medication without consent and getting cut without consent. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens enough to be noteworthy. The medical patriarchy is shocking and horrifying.

I was raised that women and men were equal in the eyes of the God and under the law. I owe second wave and first wave feminists for that. After all of that, before my son was born, I asked if feminism was still necessary. I can see that it is.

Women deserve not to be undermined. They deserve to choose where and with whom they birth their babies. They deserve to be treated with respect and compassion while they are laboring, whether they want a natural birth, a medicated one or a cesarean section. No one needs to bully a laboring mom if an emergency arises. You can deal effectively and efficiently with an emergency while treating the mother with compassion. There is no excuse for anything less than that.

I am a feminist because women should not be robbed of confidence in their bodies or in their abilities as mothers. We have come far in achieving respect and autonomy for women, but we still have far to go.

Comparing Homeschooling and Standard Schooling

This turned up in my Facebook newsfeed today. I really like it and so I’m sharing it. It’s pretty excellent.

 

 

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up
Source: TopMastersInEducation.com

For Your Consideration

I was pondering this morning on how everything follows the rules to which it was constructed. All animals act on instinct and never deviate from it. All inanimate objects behave in the way they are constructed, always. The only animals that don’t behave that way are humans. We can choose to act as we are designed or we can choose to act differently. We are built on a genetic template and we are further refined by the actions our parents choose, but we also have the option to break those molds and move forward in a way that we choose, independent of either of those things.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I decided on an unmedicated birth, mostly because my mom had had me that way. I felt like I would breastfeed for about a year because that was how long she nursed me. After a lot of research, I have actively chosen to birth my babies without medication and to nurse them as long as we are both comfortable, rather than putting a glass ceiling on at a year, but that was long after my son was born. I parented him based on my instincts, which came straight out of how I was raised. Our child-rearing choices can have far-reaching consequences for many generations because so many people do as their parents did without question. Makes me think much more carefully about the kind of parent I want to be.

Taking Offense is How the Cows Get Out

A friend told me that joke about 10 or 12 years ago.

I find the phrase “taking offense” to be fascinating, mostly because it implies right in the phrasing that the action comes on the part of the offended and not the offender. As is often attributed to the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt “No one can offend you without your consent.” Whether or not she said it, I believe it is true.

I had a conversation with my oldest daughter the other day about this very thing. She told me about something her brother “made” her do. I realize that as an 8-year-old, her big feelings do seem out of her control and that she probably responded from her gut without really thinking about it. That is age appropriate, and not outside of expectations. I totally see where she is coming from. I still don’t believe he “made” her do anything though, and however she was feeling, she still chose to react from her instinct, rather than thinking it through and reacting differently. Do I think she gets this concept yet? No, not at all, but I do think it’s one of those things she will hear me saying in her head for the rest of her life because I say it so often now.

All feelings are valid, but even if you feel bothered by something someone else said, the idea that they said it simply to offend you is almost certainly not true. Most people aren’t trolling you just to get a response. My dad does that, but most of the other people I’ve ever met are more interested in honest and sincere dialogue than in irritating people for their own amusement. By the way, I didn’t figure that out until I was 25.

And here is a picture of a cat because I like pictures and I like cats.

But, lets get back to the phrase again:

Feeling: upset.
Reaction: taking offense.

My opinion can upset you. You can feel however you feel about it. Have the feeling. What you choose to do with that feeling though, is separate. If you want to know how I deal with those feelings without taking offense, read on.

Some people are blatantly honest, even to the point of rude. Some people take pride in that. Both of those things are fine, even though it will likely alienate them from others. That’s their choice. I take pride in it being really difficult to offend me. No matter what someone says to me or about me, I don’t have to get upset about it. If I do, I allow that person to live rent free in my brain and ain’t no one getting a free ride in my head. I usually focus instead on how ludicrous what they said was or how difficult it must be to be that _insert negative word here_. Truthfully, I feel sorry for people when they get huffy at me, and I find it more than just a little amusing that they are allowing ME to live rent free in their heads.

Can you choose how you feel? Sometimes you have some control over that, but generally, no. But we can choose how to react to how we feel. I choose to laugh, rather than to get offended. And I’m much happier now than when I used to choose the reverse.