links for thought, April 2013 (2 of 2)

from Summer at Midwives, Doulas, Home Birth, Oh My!, “Discretion Can Kiss My Breast” (on Missouri Senate Bill 87, “discretion,” and the right to breastfeed)

from Jody Peltason at The Atlantic, “Before I Forget: What Nobody Remembers About New Motherhood

Don’t get me wrong—it’s an important question that we should keep asking ourselves and each other, and we should seek treatment unapologetically if the answer might be yes. But the problem with that question as our primary approach to the struggles of new motherhood is that it suggests that the post-partum experience itself is just fine, unless of course you have a legitimate clinical illness that distorts your perception of it. And the post-partum experience is not just fine. It is immensely, bizarrely complicated. It is, at various times and for various people, grueling and joyful and frightening and beautiful and disorienting and moving and horrible. There’s a lot going on there that will never make its way into the DSM V.

from Andie Fox at Blue Milk, “Some women want to stay home with children and feminism needs to make peace with that”

We will know we’re living in a world of equality not when just as many men as women are staying home making jam and looking after babies but when women can talk about their life making jam and looking after babies without everyone freaking the fuck out.

When women can make observations about the sense of purpose and fulfillment they experience from being at home with their children, and when they can say that their desire to be with their babies feels different to that their male partner experiences, and when they can describe their children as needing to be with them – when they can do all that and we, as feminists, do not reach for the panic button? Then we will know we have finally found equality. It won’t be that men and women will necessarily be living the same lives with the same roles, though it may look like that, it will be equality because women’s passions, ambitions, choices and failures will be, like men’s, free of constant scrutiny and criticism.

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  1. Posted 18 May 2013 at 6:57 AM | Permalink

    I take slight umbrage with the last comment . . . not what she’s saying about, essentially, the value of care work (I agree there). But that she’s saying men’s choices are free of constant scrutiny and criticism. I think that men are just as trapped in the patriarchy as women are, and if a man chooses to stay home and make jam, his community will howl in protest. Men’s choices are free of scrutiny as long as they fit the patriarchal norm, just like ours. My own brand of feminism is about deconstructing the patriarchy in ways the free both men and women to do the work their heart desires, whether it involves the care of children or some kind of career, or a mix of both.

  2. Posted 18 May 2013 at 7:05 AM | Permalink

    PS – One of the ways I think that happens is if we elevate the value of care work, and change society’s view of it as easy, throwaway work. A friend of mine has a bachelors and master’s in engineering, and she stays home with her 4-going-on-5 children. The other day she told me that she attended a daylong seminar, and that it was all about cooking and cleaning and how to manage a household without feeling like you’re a constant slave. And I will admit that I had to take a deep breath inside – that dismissive and eye-rolling thoughts flew across my mind. “Please,” I thought to myself, “this woman is an ENGINEER and she’s “learning” how to clean toilets??” And then the feminist, gender studies half of me reached out and slapped me in the face. Managing five children and a household is, without a doubt, difficult work, and good for her for enriching her experience by meeting other women who do it, and learning from them. She is incredibly smart and accomplished, and I was doing just what the final comment described – failing to value her experience because I fail to value her work. Not because in my heart I believe that care work isn’t valuable (I don’t think so, anyway), but because of those patriarchal norms that dictate that true work is a career, and the little woman at home is living a life of leisure while her man supports the household. And, to be truthful, because I am probably just a tinge jealous.

    • Molly
      Posted 18 May 2013 at 8:51 AM | Permalink

      Yes, totally: talking about men (free/unscrutinized) and women (constrained/devalued) can be a red herring when we should be talking feminine- (devalued/special) and masculine-coded (valued/’normal’) traits/behaviors/activities/etc.–and certainly that men and boys are constrained and harmed by the gender system. And your engineer anecdote is really interesting: thanks for sharing that.

      Right now, I’m struggling some with the shift in our family shape from me as primary earner to both of us (equally!) unemployed to Eric as primary earner … shifts that have been largely involuntary on our parts. I find myself saying things like “will I still matter?” and “will you [Eric] still respect me?” and “how will people see me and my work?” Last night, Eric asked, amused, “So are you saying you haven’t respected me all these years when you’ve been the one making money?” And I think that’s where some of this is about men and women: somehow Eric writing his dissertation at home while taking care of a child looks like “writing” or “being a student,” whereas I know that me writing a book, etc., at home while taking care of children looks like “a stay-at-home mom.”

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