Monthly Archives: May 2009

Maybe I do Tweet

I’m not sure yet, but you can try following me @RaisingBoychick. (RaisingMyBoychick was one character too long a name. Hmph!)

Now that I’m caught up in Google Reader…

(and yes, it was largely thanks to liberal use of the “Mark all read” button)

…I have some links I want to share. I’m only sorry I didn’t share them sooner.

First (well, most recently, because I’m working backward in my Reader Starred folder), PhD in Parenting wrote Feminism, fathers, and valuing parenting:

We need to push for a society that values family and parenthood. One that recognizes that role that parents play in raising the next generation. One that recognizes that fathers, like mothers, may need to strike a balance between their career and their family life. One where women don’t feel that they have to be an equally uninvolved parent in order to reach their goals, but where they can ask their partner to step up too.

So much agreement. (My only complaint is the heterocentrism of the post: I don’t see any acknowledgment that families come in more than one mom + one dad.)

Next up, Mikhela at Fly My Pretty proves that great insight can come from mundane “mommy blogging”, in day 2 of her “exercise in recording a week in my mothering life”:

It struck me how I had been negatively interpreting Pearl’s behaviour of trying to engage me in what she was doing in everything we do (she constantly wants to be picked up, she doesn’t sit and play by herself in the loungeroom, she has to watch me having a shower) – thinking that she still needs to develop her confidence. I wasn’t trying to hurry her, but I had been thinking, ‘Oh, Louis is really more emotionally developed and centred at this age.’ It was really good to have another way of labelling it. I think my tendency to do this – assume interdependency is a sign of being less emotionally developed – is a product of our social expectation that babies have to become ‘independent’. This then, I think, goes back to male development being the yardstick by which human development is measured…

I would take it further, and say the tendency is a product of our social expectation that we’re all supposed to be(come) fully (pathologically) independent. And in a society that forces dependence on parents, generally mothers, who spend their time raising their children, I find that a deeply misogynistic expectation. Everything in my life tells me that interdependence is the normal, healthy state of the human animal, of every gender and age.

This may be old news to you, because it came out about a month ago now, but one-of-those-women wrote the best response to the horrific The Case Against Breastfeeding article, titled The Case Against Reasoning, and it is so long and so good, I’m not sure I can pick a favorite summing paragraph. But I must point out how I simply adore the way she manages to reframe the conversation from “breast is best” to “formula is worse” without once denigrating or insulting formula users (well, Rosin the TCAB author, but not for using formula). I want all lactivists to be like her (but, y’know, still like themselves!).

(Ok, one snippet:

I think it’s more useful to look at why this article is being propagated so powerfully. What is happening socially: why it is being so well received. [...]

Well, to begin with, there is the ‘pressure’ that no one in the article, or in the subsequent discussions has touched upon… the commercial interests in making sure that breastfeeding is slagged off at all opportunities.

See? Love it.)

Last, Spilt Milk talks about her step-mom in A mother’s work is… done?

Anyhow, we got to talking a little about mothers and J said to me ‘I don’t feel like a mother anymore. I’m just not a mother anymore. I’m finished with that.’ What she meant was that now that her two biological daughters and I are all grown women, she doesn’t feel the same tugs on the proverbial apron strings and nor does she miss them. She said, simply, ‘I don’t do nurturer anymore.’

What fascinates me about this, and I haven’t quite managed to articulate my thoughts on it, is the idea that this is why we can’t have our entire identities wrapped up in our mothering: because someday, our children will move on, and we will be done with mothering, or at least its active stage. And that’s both normal and good. There’s something refreshingly feminist, and ultimately pro-mother, in that idea to me.

ETA Missed one! It wasn’t starred, but I mailed it to myself: Shapely Prose had a quick hit up on The nocebo effect:

Fat people are unceasingly told that the size of their bodies will kill them — if not personally by their doctors, families, and acquaintances, then collectively by the media or by strangers. [...] Think about it. Being convinced you’re sick can kill. Being convinced you’re well can cure. If indeed fat folks are iller, can we really be surprised?

There’s already excellent evidence that it is not fat but the damage of repeated weight loss and weight gain that causes the heart damage stereotypical of obesity; there’s also evidence, as discussed in the comments of the thread, that the stress fat people routinely live with chronically (by living in a persecuted body in a fat-phobic society) causes damage to our health; and there’s almost no evidence that the average person — of any size! — can substantially and permanently change their weight: so why, exactly, do we continue to think that shaming people into dieting is “good for them”? Do you really need to ask who I blame? (Hint: it starts with ky, and rhymes with patriarchy.)

So, anything you think I might have missed in my massive Reader skimming and “Mark all read”-clicking spree? Post a link — or several — in the comments please!

More on checklists

Reply-turned-post style. I think I’m giving it its own post half because I may have done a better job explaining myself in the reply (mixed metaphors and bad Titanic reference withstanding) than in the original post, and half because I feel weird having a comment that’s longer than many of my posts. Plus, I can correct all the little things I wanted to change right after I posted it, but couldn’t because damned Blogger won’t let me edit comments. And yes, I am crazy enough to care.

Anyway, Summer (who kicks ass and just had a beautiful baby and for whose bloggy babymoon I really thought about submitting a guest post but was far too procrastinatey and perfectionist to actually do it in time), wrote:

The check list can be a great way to break the ice and start the conversation, but like you said you have to go deeper than the superficial on the surface crap.

To which my reply is:

Yes, the superficialities can absolutely be great icebreakers, and are useful in that they might lead to uncovering whole underwater glaciers of similarities and compatibilities (or was that the wrong metaphor?). But, because what’s underneath the water might or might not be accurately reflected by what’s on the surface, relying on those external indicators — the checklist boxes — can lead us into making colossal (Titanic, if you will) errors, writing off people who might be perfect for us (or getting into fights with our kids over things we should be happy for them about), or having us cling to groups that aren’t really good for us (or ignoring that our straight-A student is also an anti-feminist selfish weanie).

So yea, absolutely if I see someone at the park with a wee baby on her back in a wrap (or lovely pit hair peeking out from under her tie-dyed tank top, or a rainbow bumper sticker on her bio-diesel volvo), I’m going to sidle over to her and strike up a conversation in a way that I wouldn’t with someone bottle-feeding a pink-clad girl-child in a baby-bucket. And I might even be “right” to write off the bottle feeder, because unless there’s an underlying story there (special needs infant and the mom’s on chemo, as an example), we probably don’t have much in common, at least in parenting philosophies.

But the point is more that, well, you can’t judge a book by its cover, I guess. I really do look for friends who value breastfeeding, and attachment, and environmentalism, and women’s rights, and that’s not going to stop anytime soon, so this isn’t an exhortation to just love everyone kumbaya (although, y’know, do); rather, it’s just a reminder that I can’t tell who cares about attachment just by checking off a list of what they did with their kids. One of the most attachment-minded women I know almost never used a carrier, did use a bucket in a stroller, had her breastfed, pacifier-addicted baby on a nursing schedule, and bought both a crib and a bassinet before her child was born (in a hospital!). She’s an AP-checklist fail. But I swear to high holy heathen heaven, she is a better, more attached mom than I am, even if I could get a near-perfect score on stupid crunchy quizzes and she couldn’t. The fact that she’s attachment-minded matters to me, so it’s not a matter of “who cares about how we treat our kids, let’s hang out anyway!” Rather, I’ve learned to toss out the snap judgment comparisons because the attachment level of our parenting isn’t easily quantifiable by snappy checklist bullet points.

And I can think of a dozen more examples, for every label you care to name. People might surprise you. They regularly shock the shit out of me, mostly in fabulously awesome ways.

That’s my point.

On checklists

I think I’ve mentioned my deep and abiding loathing for checklists before, usually in the context of the “mommy wars” crap: “I babywear and EC and homebirth and no-vax, and (only) if you do all those things I can be friends with you”, etc. Hate. It. I mean, I could rattle off a checklist that would win me most crunchy/AP pissing contests, but really, what does that tell you about who I am, or even how I parent? Almost nothing. I know a lot of women who wouldn’t fair near so well on such a checklist comparison, but are definitely better, more patient parents than I am.

The topic of checklists came up for me again today, in the context of how much we want our kids to be like us when they grow up. And I thought about my conflicts with my own mother over some choices I’ve made in my life, different choices than she would have made, and the conflicts almost inevitably came up when we were focusing on the specifics — the checklist — rather than on the underlying values that the choices reflect. When we did look past the specifics down to what made me make the choices in the first place, we inevitably found common ground that had gotten obscured by the superficial differences.

And that’s the thing: I loathe checklists, I find them close to or worse than useless in discovering any truths about another person, but that isn’t the same as saying that what we do doesn’t matter. What we do, the choices we make, do matter, but I care far more about the process of how decisions are made and the values they reflect than I do about the end specifics. Processes and values are only so, so loosely reflected in checklists, which are all about the end specifics; they are shadows only, if that, especially when there are so many forces outside of our control acting to limit and shape and constrain and dictate what choices we even have available to us.

But I can’t just say that our choices don’t matter, because I do care about the values: I find that I’m going to get along best with other parents who care about attachment with their children, and who care about the environment, and want to teach equality and empathy to their children, and who try to live both authentically and joyfully. And I want the Boychick to grow up valuing justice and social responsibility and simple living and creativity. I think attachment parenting/biologically appropriate parenting and environmentalism and feminism/anti-kyriarchy are inherently good things, things I am passionate about, things I will promote and defend and that I think are worth investing in, and I’m not going to write them off in the name of being “tolerant”, or “unjudgmental”, or what-have-you.

But there are so many ways that those values can be reflected in one’s life, and so many ways life can interfere with their enactment, that a checklist is of so little value in figuring out what a person’s actual beliefs are. And even when there are differences in the beliefs, there is almost always some commonality that can be found once we stop going down our checklists and start actually seeing the person in front of us.

I find it’s hard to remember that sometimes, because the end result, the specifics, are what we outwardly present to the world, and it’s so tempting to use them as short hand, both with our friends and our kids: “she breastfeeds, check, he made it into a good college, check, they use a baby bucket, fail, she wants to be a cheerleader, fail.” No. The real stories will usually surprise those who rely on the external checklists, and they will always be more interesting and revealing. If you want to really know a person, know whether they might be a good friend for you, whether you should be proud of this person you helped raise, toss out the checklists and prepare to spend some time actually listening.

Of course, the kyriarchy doesn’t want us to do that. No, patriarchy and consumerism and racism train us and encourage us and try to force us to focus only on the superficialities: the color of skin, the bits between our legs, the cars we (don’t) drive and products we (don’t) buy. They create the checklists, and make us create our own checklists, and try to ensure we never go beyond them, never dig deeper, never make real connections with other real people.

So destroy the kyriarchy: throw out the checklists. Take the time to look past them. It’ll be worth it. And it’ll be revolutionary.

At what point does Google Reader break?

Right now I have over 500 unread posts in my Google Reader. I haven’t read almost any blog posts in weeks, because I’m intimidated by the backlog.

And I just added two blogs.

What is wrong with me? (Don’t answer that.)

And how do I say, “No, I can’t subscribe to Hoyden About Town and Transgriot and half a dozen others anymore, because while they kick ass, and I am always enriched by reading them, they’re just too prolific, and I can’t keep up”? I feel like I Should be reading all these really important and fabulous feminist and trans* and WOC and anti-racist blogs, but I can’t. keep. up. But if I don’t, I’m, I don’t know, slacking. Missing out. Not doing the intersectionalist work I need to be doing.

How do you deal with that? What, if any, blogs do you consider Must Reads? When do you remove a blog from your reader or feed? When do you add any? Are you happy with your blog reading at the moment? Do you feel like it’s too much? Or are you always on the lookout for new and interesting blogs? Are you only a personal-blog reader, or do you subscribe to any bigger topical blogs? I’m interested in answers to any or all of those questions.

And if you want to throw in some about how Twitter fits in there for you (like I need another online timesuck), I’d love to hear it.