In the car, The Man had NPR on to entertain the Boychick whilst waiting for me to bring the pizza (drool) out. We drive off, too busy munching and avoiding downtown traffic to turn off the radio. There’s some interview going on about a “lunch lady” (yes, the reporter actually called her a “lunch lady”, which should have been my first clue) who took the job just to have something to do while her kids were at work, ended up staying to pay the bills, still here 15 years later, etc, yadda yadda. And then, says the announcer, it’s time for the part of her job where she calls up the moms that haven’t paid their children’s lunch bills*.
The fucking MOMS.
Excuse me? Excuse fucking me? Is this “lunch lady” living in the district of exclusively single mother (or two mother) households? Do not a one of their students have a father or two hanging around? (Being raised by grandparents or other relatives, perhaps?) No? So what the fuck is with calling the MOMS?
Oh I’m sorry, I seem to have temporarily forgotten that dads’ responsibility ends at ejaculation. Wait, no, we need them to pay the bills. Oh this was a bill? Oh right, we just need them to earn the money, but it’s up to the mothers to actually make sure the chil’ens are actually fed, because we can’t can’t expect dads to keep track of little things like the survival of their kids.
Did you perchance notice my ire on this topic? Why, you ask? It’s one word. Just one word. What’s the big deal?
It’s one word that carries with it the world of burden that sexist assumptions about parenting brings. It’s one word that says sure there may or may not be men in the picture, but it’s certainly not their job to keep track of lunch bills and permission slips and PTA meetings. It’s one word that tells women fine, you can get a job if you need to, but heaven forbid you ever share the responsibility of childrearing; no, unto you falls all the hassles of work AND keeping track of everything about your children; only men are allowed off work after 5, you just shift jobs. It’s one word that perfectly sums up the double standard of parenting, and it’s one word that makes radfem instructions to avoid procreation to avoid perpetuating patriarchy seem to make sense. It’s one word that if changed could change the world; it’s one word that will probably only be changed when the whole world changes first.
I didn’t hear the rest of the piece; my blood was boiling too loudly, and I snapped off the radio in self protection. The story actually had nothing to do with the calls to moms; that was just an aside, a fun little half-second bit to prop up the patriarchy and keep the wimmins in their place. Nothing, really. Just the dimminuization and essentialization of my entire self as woman with child. Just the erasure of my coparent’s existence and responsibility. The story moved on, even if I could not, stuck and struck as I was by how much misogyny just one little word could convey.
But hey, the pizza was good.
* For an excellent piece this reminded the tiny part of my brain that hadn’t just imploded at the word “moms” of, see Womanist Musings on If you’re poor in New Mexico.