Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Feminism and Motherhood

1a. How would you describe your feminism in one sentence?

In the words of the ERA "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

American women have come a long way in the last ninety years!

I also love Gloria Steinems words "No means no."

1b.When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother?

I had an academic advisor who was a former airforce pilot. Meeting her, I realized that I had limited ideas of what was possible for women.

2. What has surprised you most about motherhood?
Kids are totally awesome.

3. How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?
It hasn't really changed.

4. What makes your mothering feminist? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?
I like to think of myself as a "mother-figure" to some young women who are not my daughters, and I share whatever little understanding of life I've earned with them.

I knew a young woman who wore t-shirts that said things like Barely Legal and Milk Jugs. In her mind she was "owning her sexuality." I spoke with her about it, in as loving and respectful a way as possible. In the seventies that would have been called consciousness raising.

I have also had motherly talks with young girls about their finances such as the importance of budgeting, saving and investing, maintaining a good credit score, and generally taking care of themselves on that front.

The idea or my own children is to stimulate their minds and not place them into a metaphorical tiny pink or blue box.

My six year old announced "I don't want any boy presents for my birthday." What did she consider boy presents? "Things that aren't pink." At that point her favorite toy was her real workbench where she got to build things with wood. She was awesome in pretty dresses building "skyscrapers." She also loved science- but the erector sets and science sets come in blue boxes. Kids absorb the messages of society no matter what we do. As a mother, I just kept challenging them.

Finally, I think to be a feminist mother you have to really control what your kids see on television.

5. Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?

I avoid the lable "failure" because I think I am always evolving and getting stronger, if something slips this time- maybe I'll catch it that much faster next time. Awareness is not failure. Failure would be something - you couldn't even report because it is so unconscious. A neglectful mother is a failure. A person wading through the soup- is at least a role model for how to wade through soup.

It's OK if a child goes through a "glitter make-up" stage. It's just not OK to stop exposing her to anything else.

6. Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why?

When I noticed my children taking on expanded roles for themselves, I felt I succeeded as a feminist mother.

7. Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?

I chose to be a mother. I suspected it would be like this. The only time it has been hard was when I felt unvalued. And, that turn-around came when I started valuing my own contribution as a mother more. There are sacrifices for motherhood (and fatherhood) but I honor myself by putting some of my own needs on my daily agenda too. It is NOT an either or thing- mothers' needs versus the kids' needs. It only feels that way when your kids are very young. All moms of little kids need someone to let them know- it gets easier. And, all those long nights are actually some of the best days of your life. Don'tbe in a hurry for them to past.

8. If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?

I am only attracted to men who feel secure around strong women. It is probably not possible to love someone long-term who is not a feminist. I often find my husband is willing to support me (watch the kids while I work, for example) and it is I who am afraid to ask for that support because of my lifelong conditioning that his work should come first. Yes, it's true. This isn't just "men oppress women" it's also "women internalize oppression and then act it out on themselves."

And- the same things that limit women, limit men. I don't believe that men are not oppressed. Can you even imagine the pressure most men find themselves under?

9. If you’re an attachment parenting mother, what challenges if any does this pose for your feminism and how have you resolved them?

I am an attachment parenting mother. I was lucky because I could afford to work less.

But for moms that want to work outside the home- I think we have a long way to go towards having really great, affordable childcare options. Also, this culture is not hugely supportive of men that want to make themselves very available to ther children. My father was a very masculine, successful, self-employed man and he probably did more childcare than my mother did. It can be done.

10. Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?

No- feminism has not failed. The only problem is we haven't taken it far enough. Families need high quality affordable childcare options. Women need to be really conscious of planning their career/motherhood. And that doesn't mean as some women think it does- just delay birth as long as possible.