links for thought, January-February 2013

I Don’t Want My Preschooler to Be a ‘Gentleman’” (Motherlode)

Start to complain about your preschooler adopting gentlemanly behavior and you quickly discover how out of step you are with the rest of the world. Almost everyone I mention it to thinks it’s lovely and sweet. What’s the harm in teaching little boys to respect little girls?

how you should feel about your body when you’re pregnant” (Eat the Damn Cake)

In defense of the Mayo Clinic Guide, the book is actually full of helpful info, and at least the section that covers body image acknowledges that some women may feel nice, or proud, and that body image issues can be blamed on our culture’s obsession with thinness. But a little later in the book, without any such disclaimers, in a brief section on shopping for new pregnancy clothes, I ran into this statement: “Think vertical. As you widen, look for clothes with vertical rather than horizontal lines to make you look slimmer. Dark colored clothes also tend to be more slimming.”

And I felt kind of weird about that.

A couple of things to bear in mind with the ‘slacker mum’ movement” (blue milk)

Finally, the slacker mother movement seems to be taking a nasty turn lately towards judging mothers it sees as being too dedicated to the pursuit of motherhood. This begs the question what business is it of yours how another mother does her care work, because it’s inherently sexist that we routinely consider women’s lives our business and that we also have so many ways to criticise women? Also, are you sure she isn’t the oppressed minority, rather than you? In which case, step off her neck you big bully, she’s got enough on her plate.

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  1. Posted 2 March 2013 at 6:20 AM | Permalink

    I read the “gentleman” article that you linked, because this is an area that interests me. I am teaching my son to be a “gentleman” – he loves to open doors (I do make sure he does it for men and women. Men don’t tend to let him, but that’s another story). My take on boys having “different rules” than girls is informed by the fact that I was beaten by a man I dated for 3 years. (This was a decade ago, and he is long gone, but as you can imagine, it was a difficult escape.) He used his physical strength to dominate me and my life, slowly cutting everything off over time. Whenever I tried to leave him, it was his physical strength that kept me – threats of force, threats of death. And if I tried to fight back, he always won. Men are stronger than women, in body. No matter my mind, spirit, education, intelligence – brute strength will always crush me, if it is deployed.

    This came up in a discussion in a gender class I was in – we discussed sexual harassment, and a horrible horrible guy raised his hand and said “Sexual harassment is mostly just women who can’t take a joke.” None of us were shocked that THIS guy would say THIS thing, but it still made my eyes nearly pop out of my head from rolling so extravagantly. In any case, another girl pointed out “You probably feel that way because you cannot imagine what it is like to walk through a world where you are physically weaker than at least half of the people you meet. I had a guy friend who used to say that, too, until he was sexually harassed by a huge gay man. And then all of a sudden he understood the undercurrent of the threat of force, and that he was existing in his un-raped state only at the pleasure of this big dude. It wasn’t such a funny joke then.”

    I could write an essay on this, and won’t, but I guess what I’m driving at is that my sons (preschoolers though they be) are very large boys. Tall, strong, fast. They will only grow larger and stronger with time. They will both have the physical ability to take what they want from any woman, and a lot of men. And I see their offering to hold a door, to carry a package, to allow the lady out of the elevator first, as an implied promise that they will not do those things. It’s society’s little signal that “I will follow the social contract. I will not use my physical strength to take from you.”

    I live in the South, an adult transplant, and it took a while for me to get used to men opening car doors and letting me out of the elevator first. But now I have learned to appreciate it, and I’m teaching it to my sons – not because women are less than they are, but because women are by definition less strong in body than they are, and I want every woman they ever meet to understand that my boys are not a threat to their bodily safety.

    • Molly
      Posted 2 March 2013 at 10:38 AM | Permalink

      I’m so sorry that you had that experience, and glad you’re not still having it. I definitely hear you about our own life experiences molding what feels like (and in fact is) the “best” or “feminist” parenting approach in every detail, large and small.

      Funny that you mention being a transplant to the South. I’m a transplant FROM the South and never, ever want to live there again–although I was born and raised in that environment and got my PhD even further into the region, I have never felt comfortable in the culture. Minnesota for me, if at all possible!

      • Anonymous
        Posted 4 March 2013 at 1:53 PM | Permalink

        Too cold!! ;) My blood’s too thin. I will not disagree that the South has its problems. Sometimes I want to flee, myself, and take my children with me – I can imagine why you’d want to get out of here. I was a military brat, though, so I am a transplant everywhere I go.

        That was meant to be a discussion, by the by, not a proclamation. Nuance is so difficult to convey in typed text! I just used to feel the way the author felt, but then my ideas evolved over time. I’m sure they will evolve further as my boys get bigger. It is a heavy load, this shaping of a mind – of two minds. And I can’t wait to read Steingraber’s new book – I think I bought “Having Faith” for pretty much everyone I’ve ever known who had a baby. So gorgeously written, a wedding of poetry and science . . . lovely.

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  • By Tuesday Tidbits: Story Power | Talk Birth on 5 March 2013 at 7:54 AM

    [...] speaking of feminism and all that good stuff, I followed an internet rabbit trail that started with First the egg’s link to a post at blue milk about slacker moms and white privilege (really good observations, by the [...]

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