For a little while now, I’ve found my feminist focus shifting. After a while, I felt like I’d got a permanent sense of deja vu with the big blogs and their interminable blogwars and even more interminable US-centrism. So I stopped reading most of them. (I’m also quite sensitive to blog layouts, for some reason, and it’s no coincidence that the ones that I stopped reading first were the ones I found difficult to look at. Womanist Musings is a good example of this, as are Pam’s House Blend and Pandagon.)
To fill in the gap, I headed down under. Hoyden About Town is a long-term favourite of mine, although they too did some very strange things with their layout recently. Luckily for me, they give the option of reading HAT in the old, simple blog format, or I’d’ve had to stop reading them, too. Anyway, I also started following Blue Milk. And Spilt Milk. And so, despite not being a parent, I kind of got suckered into reading about feminist parenting. I love it. I think of it as gentle feminism, the kind that’s part of a nice chat about your day. I also would like to have kids one day – I don’t mind how. (My parents were seriously considering fostering before Mum unexpectedly got pregnant with my brother when I was 12. If pregnancy doesn’t happen for me, I’d do that. At least, I think I would.) So it’s nice to read about people who are just a bit ahead of me in life. And because I spent my teenage years in a house full of nappies and lego, and being woken up at 2am for a surprise bonus cuddle, I can already relate to a lot of it.
So, it’s been nice. Gentle. Easy reading, if you like. And I do like – that’s why I read them, and that’s why I write for Teaspoon of Sugar, the whole point of which is to be nice and gentle and easy.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the blogwars came to Blue Milk! Well, not quite – she’s steering clear of the threads of doom, and I don’t blame her one little bit. I thought I’d seen all of the blogwars, but this kids-in-public-spaces meltdown must have passed me by last time it rolled round.
It just seems ridiculous to me. Ridiculous and unnecessary. Arguing about whether kids should be in bars or watching late-night films is just daft (age ratings and the discretion of the management: it turns out we have them). I hate those kinds of discussions anyway. They seem no different to the arguments I’ve had with men about street harassment, who try to “win” by pulling ever more stupid arguments out their arses – you know, the “but what if a woman was walking down the road in nipple tassels and a tutu, *then* could I stare at her?” arguments. For the kids debate, you get “but what if a parent took their kid to a BDSM club, *then* could I say that kids don’t belong in public?”.
To the people who make those arguments, I say now: fuck you all.
Children are people too – and by that, I don’t mean that children are defective adults, just like I am not a defective white person, or straight person, or man. I mean that children are people, and therefore not animals, not dolls, not burdens. People. Some children can’t communicate verbally. Well, and nor can some adults. Some children display behaviours inappropriate to the situation they are in. So do some adults. Part of living in society is understanding that not everybody is just like you, and not everybody can behave the way you want them to. This is basic stuff.
But even more basic is this: I didn’t sign up to feminism to have other feminists police my moral standards, whether that’s to do with what kind of period control I use, or where I take my imaginary child. Well, ok, I didn’t sign up to feminism at all – there’s no membership card, no joining fee, no contract. Which is just as well, because right now I feel like asking for my money back. Reproductive rights are a feminist issue. Not just birth control, not just abortions, not even just parental leave issues, but also real children. The children that a lot of the feminists in the thread’o’doom don’t ever want to see, hear or interact with in any way. Thanks a lot, ladies. I’m really feeling that supportive sisterhood I’ve heard so much about.
In more hopeful news, I see that Tigtog from HAT and Chally from Zero At The Bone are now moderating the thread’o’doom, which might mean a bit less shit gets hurled. Even so, I think I’ll be sticking to the nice, quiet, parenting blogs for a while.
I saw a comment recently online to the effect that US President Obama’s daughters are rapidly approaching adolescence, “faster than Dad would like”.
So I thought I’d say a couple of things.
Firstly, that it’s always annoyed me when people call somebody “Mum” or “Dad” – or any variation on the theme – if they clearly do not have that kind of relationship with them. My paternal grandmother, for example, always refered to my mother (her daughter-in-law) as “Mummy”. For quite some time, Mum didn’t realise that my grandmother was addressing her, since not even my siblings or I call my mother “Mummy”! Of course, my gran was convinced that Mum was not answering just to be rude to her, and made our visits a little hellish. Joys.
Secondly, I really, really hate those horrible “Dad” stereotypes.
In short, because they’re just another nasty offshoot of the patriarchal stereotypes of men generally.
In long, because not only are they just another nasty offshoot of the patriarchal stereotypes of men generally, but because I feel that they are an insult to just about every good father out there. Including my own.
The two most pervasive stereotypes that I’ve found are:
A: “Daddy” doesn’t want “his precious little girl(s)” to grow up.
For the record, my father has no interest in the state of my hymen. He does want me to be healthy and happy, and to that end, we did indeed once have a conversation to the effect of “have fun, just don’t get pregnant or infected with anything”. Now that that’s done, I don’t expect to ever have that kind of a conversation with him again. He knows I’ll take care of myself, he knows I know what I’m doing, and I talk openly with my mother about being on the pill. So I’m sure he’s been informed – in general, at least – that I’m not likely to get pregnant any time soon.
B: “Daddy” secretly always wanted a boy.
When my mother was pregnant for the third time, nearly eight years ago (and possibly also when she was pregnant the second time round – but I wouldn’t know about that, as I was 1 at the time), my dad got a lot of well-meaning comments which strongly implied this. You know the type: “Oh, I bet you’re hoping for a boy this time!” or, “wouldn’t it be nice to have a son to play football with?!” – that kind of thing.
And you know what? Seriously, my dad never cared. He just wanted a healthy baby. And you know what else? It’s really, really fucking insulting to his two daughters, to say, when they’re standing right next to him, “oh, I bet you’re hoping for a boy!”.
What, are two daughters not good enough? Seriously? Am I, by virtue of the fact that my gonads are inside my body instead of outside, worth less to you? Does a tiny little floppy thing inside a nappy mean that much to you? If so, you’ll make a shitty, shitty parent. And I’m glad I’ve got my dad and not you.
I don’t think that the commenter I picked up on was saying what they did in a malicious way. I do think that perhaps what they said was not as thought out as it could have been. And I do think that stereotypes should be challenged. Because they are rarely true, and rarely complimentary.