Tag Archives: feminist parenting

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.