Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Feminist Mother's Hopes to Mother a Feminist

After writing my previous blog post about whether or not I would let my daughter watch Disney Princess movies (I still don't have a real answer, by the way), I came across this blog post from blue milk.

In it, blue milk gives a series of questions for feminist mothers to ask themselves. Now, many of these questions are unanswerable for me because I'm only pregnant. I have no idea what being a parent will actually entail. I hope to revisit these questions once my daughter is born and I have some experience to go along with my apprehension, hopes, and (let's be honest) fear. In the meantime, I think that reflecting on these issues now will give me a better perspective on what it is I want to accomplish as a feminist mother. (Reading the responses other women have given to these questions has also helped tremendously.)

So, here are my best attempts to answer as I am today and how I hope I'll be in the future:

1.How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother?

My one sentence description: My feminism strives for a world where women and men are viewed as equals and a person's individual talents, passions, and abilities determine his/her role(s) in life, not gender.

I guess I've been a feminist for my whole life by that definition, but it was not until college and the last five years or so that I've been able to talk about that belief with any intellectual grasp on what it means.

3.How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?
Obviously, my "motherhood" is still, quite literally, nascent. That's not to say that it's had no effect on my feminism. In fact, in a conversation I had with my husband shortly before the ultrasound to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, he told me that he thought I would enjoy raising a boy because I would raise him to be a strong feminist. I hadn't put much conscious thought into my role in shaping my child's views on feminism before that, but it is one of the reasons that it is so important to me that I continue my career after giving birth. Now that I know I'm having a girl, I've been going back and forth between thinking that it will be enough to be a strong role model for her and being terrified that the media around her will be too manipulative. Chances are the answer is somewhere in the middle.

4.What makes your mothering feminist? How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?

I don't know the answer to this yet, but it's something that I think about frequently. Many of the other mothers answered this question by explaining how they offered the same toys and clothes to their girl and boy children, how they did not encourage their children to act "like a girl/boy" but how they did not discourage them from doing things they were interested in. I hope that I can also create a space for my child(ren) that allows freedom of exploration in these roles. I also have fears about how difficult that will be, especially when it comes to interacting with my extended family, who are not very feminist in their thoughts or actions.

7.Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?
Being pregnant alone has made me recognize this. It is challenging to me to not be able to do things because of my pregnancy. I had some early complications that had me on lifting/exercise restrictions, and depending on my husband to do things like carry the laundry baskets/groceries/anything heavier than a gallon of milk drove me crazy. Even now that the restrictions are lifted, being pregnant makes me feel more vulnerable than I've ever felt in my life. I imagine that this feeling will intensify after my daughter is born.

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 very fortunate to be married to a man who shares my views on feminism and with whom I feel comfortable discussing this at length. I do suspect that he will find it easier if he has a daughter that does not conform to normative gender roles than he would have found it to have a son who does not conform, though I know that is a challenge that he will work on diligently if the need arises.

10.Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?
While reading some of the other women's responses to these questions, I noticed one woman who said that she does not often openly identify herself as a feminist mother because the feminist movement in the US is so splintered that any mention of the f-word requires a lengthy explanation. To me, some manifestations of feminism in America seem to have failed mothers by failing to make a space for them. Some of the most radical or militant versions of feminism seem to take an all or nothing approach, one that does not leave much room for the nurturing that mothering (and parenting in general, I would argue) requires. That said, there are plenty of strains of feminism that do allow for this type of nuance, and those are the ones in which I find solace.

1 comment:

  1. I found the vulnerability (so new and scary during pregnancy) did change once she was born. It's still there and takes me by surprise at times but's different. Almost nestled within a protective coating so I can still function with my heart living in her.