Archive for the ‘gender’ Category

I now lie to strangers when they ask me (and my alarmingly enormous midsection): “Do you know what you’re having?”  I say: “Nope.”

(I do know, though.  It’s boy #3.)

The top five reasons to lie–especially when Boy #1 and Boy #2 are with me…and listening:

5. “Another boy?  Well, you can just keep trying!”

4. “Oh, no–you are going to need plenty of patience!”

3. “I hope it’s a little girl in there!”

2. “Don’t lose hope!  My [insert family member or friend] had 3 boys before finally getting a girl!”

1. (And my favorite–from just last week…)  “Oh, God is playing an evil little trick on you!”

But to the lady at the plant store yesterday:  I forgot to lie to you when you asked, but you said: “Oh, that’s wonderful, because you make such adorable boys.”  Thanks.


I hope that Kris will not mind if I add these excerpts from Garden Varieties.  Often, when I get frustrated with all the boy/girl/expectations stuff–especially when a poor baby hasn’t even been born yet, I think of these two so perfectly-put ideas from her blog:

From her post called Three:

[I could substitute “boy” for “girl” in the following…or keep “girl”…either way…it’s just so right on.]

I’ve never understood why people want a girl. You don’t get a girl, you get someone so unique, so unexpected, so utterly and completely themselves, there’s not much connection to whatever it is we think a girl will be.

I wanted a child and I got a Lu, and she is exactly the right Lu for me.

And, also, from her post called “Forces of Nature,” which I love:

As Lu and Nell grow older cultural expectations will become more pressing, throwing acceptable differences between boys and girls into sharp and disappointing relief, but I love that at the moment they are simply themselves with no thought of what they ‘should’ be.

Thank you, Kris.  These posts have always stuck in my mind…


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Look! B00bs!

A fun movie–fast-paced action, clever twists, entertaining acting, even a couple thoughtful social commentaries woven in…

And then, an inexplicable scene where the two detectives–one in particular–become so impressed by a witness’ breasts that the entire film disintegrates into a series of Beavis and Butthead moments of, essentially: “Heh, heh, look at her b00bs!” as he stares at her chest. Huh?

I will never get used to idiotic and exploitative scenes involving women in films…and television and advertising… I’m anywhere from affronted to outraged, depending on the situation and its context. In this case, there was a thin reference to the possibility that the bank heist perpetrators might be distinguished from the victims by noting body shape; at least, that would have been the excuse for the staring-at-her-boobs moment, but it doesn’t hold up. It also pretended to be humorous, but it wasn’t. And I’m not above finding humor in even stupid body part jokes, believe me. But it wasn’t there. We tried to figure out how this scene might be less distasteful than it was (Hmm, we must have missed something...), and I was hoping we could, but no; I’m convinced that excuses aside, it was simply yet another shameless, degrading moment for a female character in a film.

I don’t get it.

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Men Can Be Doctors, Too.


Above picture from Marketing Alternatif

After Martin’s last dentist appointment, I complimented his behavior. He replied, “Yeah, I was really good for the dentist. And for the guy in the dog mask.”

The “guy in the dog mask” was, in fact, the dentist. His surgical mask, not nearly as creepy as the ones above, had a picture of a little dog face on it. The dental hygienist, a young woman, did the work of the cleaning and x-rays, so he assumed she was the dentist.

It may be more than that–his doctors and mine are all women, and all relatively young. So, as I’m paying close attention to how he’s seeing and figuring out gender, with the aim to dismantle stereotypes, I suppose I need to remind him that men can be doctors, too. He might not believe it until he sees it, though.

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We were waiting for my husband to meet us for lunch, and watching the people go by, looking for him under every umbrella and baseball cap . . . or floating in the pond or hiding on a rooftop.

Oh, there’s Dad balancing on the lightpost! 

No, there he is on the roof of that car!

An eagle just flew by carrying Dad!

A college student walked by, and I said, “Hey, is that Dad?” Martin replied, “No!  That’s a girl!”

“How can you tell?”

“Because she has long hair.”

“But our friend Joe is a man with long hair.  And Julie is a woman with short hair.  So how can you tell if someone is a man or a woman?”  I’ve been wondering a lot lately about what they’re picking up about differences, real and imagined, between girls and boys and men and women.  And now–will this authentic experience give me dazzling insight into how gender is being constructed in this young mind?  I waited with bated breath . . .

“Well, first I look at the head.  And then I look at its uterus.”

Aha.  All my questions answered.

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If you know me, or read this blog, you probably know that I have always valued myself above all else–I don’t really care much for my family and friends or strangers as long as I get my way. I’m also very uncomfortable about being a mother at home, mostly because of things I don’t understand, and I’ve only a residual feminism left–sort of like the flour that I’m trying to brush off my shirt after making pizza dough with toddlers this morning.

Wait a second. Actually, that’s not right at all. Although, if one reads my responses to bluemilk’s ten questions about feminist motherhood, and takes bits out, and twists and turns them to suit, I suppose that this is the impression one could create. At least, this person did on his self-proclaimed conservative web site. The post has the feel of a jigsaw puzzle completed with no attempt to actually make the pieces fit together. He read responses from several mothers, and slipped some impressively condescending language into his analysis–if “an analysis” means “a mis-understanding and mis-reading.”

This person, or anyone else, is welcome to anything I read or say, and welcome to use it or abuse it. No problem at all.

A word of advice, however.  Better evidence and more convincing data for the conservative and/or anti-feminism stance must exist than, say, my life, or it is an even less credible viewpoint than I thought. Manipulating a few details of these feminist mothers’ lives into an erroneous portrait of who they are will not further any anti-feminist crusade because, very simply, the conclusions are incorrect.

I don’t want to speak for the other mothers mentioned, but in the little section devoted to me, I found such ludicrous conclusions made about my life that it amused me. The section I’m referring to is tacked onto the end of this post, but it would be too tiresome to go through and explain how wrong it all is sentence by sentence. Instead, I can sum it all up pretty easily like this:

1. The most amusing conclusion, perhaps, is that I’ve valued autonomy and independence above all else. That seems lonely. I’m glad it’s not me. (The “Me do it myself,” anecdote was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that I have not needed or valued assistance in carrying out my responsibilities successfully so much until now. There’s no lunch break or sick day when you’re taking care of children, and I’m very lucky to have the support that I do. Parents who do not have reliable support, and can still do this, are remarkable in their strength and capabilities.)

2. There’s nothing residual about my feminism. Having children was, for me, one of the life experiences that made me more feminist than ever, and more aware of oppressive gender constructs–for boys as well as girls–than ever.

3. I’m not conflicted or confused about my own decision to follow
“a traditional gender pattern of stay at home motherhood.” (Although . . . is it awfully traditional in a conservative definition of “stay-at-home motherhood” to be spending all this time writing and reading about feminist motherhood? To have feminist principles central to our childrearing practices?) It is, instead, the stereotypes and the mistaken conclusions about mothers and parents at home with children that piss me off and leave me without a whole lot to identify with out there–thank goodness again for the mothers I can communicate with through blogs . . . and the rare alone and relaxed conversation time with mother friends in real life.

An excerpt from the post to which I was referring:

Marjorie was the second feminist mother interviewed. She too is a woman who followed an autonomist culture by valuing independence above all else, by intending to remain childless and by intending to return to work once she had children. Again, though, after she had children she began to value family more highly than these forms of autonomy:

I am shocked and bewildered by how much I love my kids and love mothering them. I have a vague recollection of swearing I would never have children (and double- and triple-swearing that I would never have children), but I can’t remember why now …

I have also been surprised that I absolutely need my husband and family and friends to get through it all. I think I first said, “Me do it myself,” at two years of age and said it until the moment before Martin was born. I absolutely need them to help me.

I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed my career in a negative way because the alternative was sacrificing this time with my children, which, to me, would have been the worse option. I thought I was going back to work, but I didn’t even consider it once I had the baby.

The one aspect of patriarchy theory Marjorie still clings to is that of gender being an unnatural, oppressive construct. Yet, given that she herself is following a traditional gender pattern of stay at home motherhood, she feels conflicted:

I sometimes feel compromised and have trouble identifying as a feminist mother since I get so bogged down by the stay at home mother/housewife stereotype.

It’s a pity she doesn’t realise that once you no longer hold autonomy to be the one, overriding value, there is no reason to judge the traditional female role as inferior and therefore no need to attack gender as an oppressive construct. Her residual feminism is making her feel unnecessarily uncomfortable in what she is doing.

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A friend asked me for my dinner recipes the other day. If you do not find this at once hilarious and repulsive, it is because you have never seen me cook. Or rather, you’ve never seen me put some things in a pot and forget about it until it’s on fire. I don’t really like to use the oven because that’s where I keep dirty dishes, and those, too, will catch on fire sometimes if you turn the oven on. And if you find this to be an exaggeration, ask the local fire department before we finally unhooked the automatically-call-the-fire-department feature on the smoke alarms. Now we have lots of fire extinguishers so we can just take care of my meals ourselves.

I have always detested cooking, but I never really needed to. And another bonus to meeting this guy that I married is that he loves to cook. Problem solved, with the advantage of screwing with traditional gender roles, which is always fun. No expectations from either one of us that “the wife” would ever, ever cook. He would be more strenuously against it than I, I would venture to say. He makes fantastic food–his desserts are sometimes on fire. Purposefully on fire. Not like my scrambled eggs, which are accidentally on fire.

Leaving my job changed nothing–at first. Perhaps I breastfed with such reckless abandon because, subconsciously, the thought of preparing even a bottle was too much like preparing a meal? Then it was onto jars of baby food. (I considered homemade when my mom gave me a little machine thing to help, but I forgot to try.)

Then I ran into a problem. The baby food stage only lasted for so long. Then the little guy wanted people food, and he needed to eat it all day long, and I couldn’t hold him off until 6:00 when my husband got home. And what might be good enough for me was not good enough for him. I wanted to control every ingredient that went into him. I learned to do a couple of Crock Pot things and other easy dinners. They’re not bad, actually, when I pay attention to things.

But I felt weird all of a sudden . . . cooking dinner, waiting for my husband to come home, children playing at my feet . . . waaaaay too housewifey. But Bianca Bean‘s comment rattles around in my head when I feel like turning up my nose at this image of myself: “Feminist families gotta eat, too.”

So, now I have recipes. I seem to be unable to form a traditional list of ingredients and steps in my recipe-writing, so when I am done with the long narratives for my friend of how precisely I make pasta sauce (hint: I use a jar of already-made pasta sauce!), I think I will add photographs, and perhaps even post them on the internet. This chance will likely not come again.

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Foxnews.com “reports” on a sickening author and cleric who was broadcast on Saudi and Kuwaiti television giving advice to men on how and when to physically abuse their wives; he references how to assault a child as well.

The first sentence of the article reads: “Move over, Dr. Phil, there’s a new relationship expert in town.”

Then the segment is described. An example: “‘Woman, it has gone too far. I can’t bear it anymore,’ he tells the men to tell their wives. ‘If he beats her, the beatings must be light and must not make her face ugly.'”

The article’s last sentence: “Take that, Match.com!”

I don’t even know where to start with this–this man and his repugnant advice, or the news outlet who sees a flippancy to this story. Hideous all around.

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