Monthly Archives: October 2009

Censorship? No.

This is censorship, when the US government blocks websites relating to Cuba.

This is censorship, when the Chinese government blocks all kinds of websites.

This is censorship, when the Australian government bans a video game.

This? Me deleting a comment that defended bigotry? This not censorship. It’s adhering to the comment policy that was already laid out at the time of original posting. It’s keeping my sandbox clean of shit I’d rather not host, and that might sicken the people playing here.

The comment policy read, in part, thusly:

Within this comment policy, there is room for disagreement and debate, and abundant room for discussion and developing our feminist discourse; there is only a dearth of room for discrimination or the defense thereof.

As Amber Strocel says, “Even the newspaper doesn’t print every letter to the editor. Your sandbox, your rules, your call!”

And, basically, that’s what it comes down to. I am not a government, nor a government agency. I do not have a captive audience here. I am not in a position of power or in possession of a monopoly of a method of communication. My decision to uphold my comment policy is so far from an act of censorship that the very suggestion should be laughable.

But somehow, it isn’t. I’m not laughing. Something is fundamentally wrong with a society that thinks that free speech entitles one to say anything one likes, even when it directly contributes to the oppression of others — or defends the same. You know the line about your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins? Same deal with words: when what you say contributes to a social environment in which my nose might be smashed in (or my friends murdered), I have a problem with that. When your words defend another’s right to spout that hate, I have a problem with that.

Do I believe in government censorship? I think it is extremely problematical. I am entirely in favor of libraries’ defense of the right to read anything. But I’m entirely opposed to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded building (unless, of course, there’s actually a fire). Somewhere in there, there is a line. Can I say where I think government should draw the line? No; fortunately for all, I don’t have to.

My only line to draw is much simpler, because the only penalty for breaking it is the inability to post here: no lives are, hah, on the line. This is my comment policy, updated for clarity; this is where I draw my line. I like to think it’s all pretty self-evident, but obviously, given recent comments, ’tain’t so. Now, I know that the folk most likely to break my standards of behavior are those least likely to read a comment policy, but they can’t say it wasn’t there.

I don’t much care if anyone calls me a dictator, or accuses me of censorship, or says I’m on a power trip, or spouts whatever other falsehoods they like. It’s a sort-of free net. Blogs are free. Go wild.

Just don’t do it here. And for the last time, no, that’s not censorship.

23 days later

23 days later is a lot more ominous in the world of menstruation than 28 days later.

It figures: the one month we don’t chart at all (blame The Man needing to go on antibiotics for 10 days, and my laziness) is the one month my body up and decides to do something FUCKING WEIRD. Like have another period after a mere 23 days. And no, I’m not talking spotting or whatnot either. Cramping, bleeding, uterus trying to turn itself inside out: the whole shebang.

All I have to say is: what the hell, body?

Commenting problems?

I’ve heard from a couple people that when they tried to comment on my latest post it failed to go through, which, among other things, makes me wonder for how many that’s been true from whom I HAVEN’T heard. Although obviously some comments at least are still getting through, and my spam queue certainly hasn’t been filling any slower.

I just did a WordPress upgrade, which may or may not have done anything to alleviate the problem: do try commenting again please, so I can know if it helped any. And if you’ve had a problem commenting, either recently or previously, could you either let me know here (if comments work for you this time!), or send me an email at arwyn at raisingmyboychick dot com?

And if you’re also a WP blogger and have had similar problems with your commenting system, please drop me a line as well, especially if you have any tips on its rectification.

And to make this a not-totally-pointless post for all you lurkers out there (really? it’s safe to comment. I promise I don’t bite. unless you ask nicely, and happen to already know where I live), some links to things I’ve enjoyed recently that happen to be open at the moment and I’m able to find among my truly embarrassing tab forest (I counted recently. you don’t want to know. I don’t want you to know. I especially don’t want you to know how this makes my computer unlike my 3-D life not at all. so pretend I didn’t just say anything. what were we talking about? right, links):

Too Big For My Skin — The Campaign (YouTube video)

Default Settings, at this ain’t livin’

How Not to Interview Someone by Kelly Diels

No, Actually, You Did Not Turn Out OK, at Escaping To My Happy Place

Everything over at FWD/Forward: Feminists with disabilities for a way forward

And in case you, like I, momentarily forgot what this post was originally about: comments? problems? comment! or email. Make my comment queue or my in-box happy. Even if it’s only to hear about your sadness.

Dancing between the tables: on the personhood of children

I recently ran across a piece of child-hate (no, I’m not telling you where) that said, in part, “Sure, I think children are people, but their parents need to make sure they act like it in public! People in restaurants don’t crawl on the floor or dance between the tables!” Really? Because I’m pretty sure what you were talking about just then was a person who was, in fact, dancing between the empty tables.

This is but one example of the widespread phenomenon of child-hate disguised as simply a “concerned citizen”: children are OK in public, as long as they don’t in any way attract an adult’s attention. It usually comes with a hefty dose of mother-blame (which is a type of misogyny, remember), in the form of “she should control her kids, or keep them at home!”

I don’t really want to get into a discussion of what level of behavior is appropriate to allow children in public, though: what I want to talk about is the message behind these kinds of statements (and the fact that the discussion is about allowing in the first place).

When the parent-blaming child-shaming folk say “I treat kids like people by expecting them to act like it” what they’re really saying is “I expect kids to act like adults”, which boils down to the belief that only adults are people. Because if you actually recognize that children are in fact persons, then you would be able to see that yes, actually, people do do those things in public, and the proof is dancing right in front of you.

This argument is common among so-called “allies” in many fields of anti-oppression work: “Of course I don’t have a problem with [women/gays/immigrants/people with disabilities/people of color/trans persons] — when they act just like me. As long as they [act like men/couple and get married/learn English/act able/act white/are straight and gender normative], of course they should have rights!” It is a fundamentally flawed position, whose bigotry I trust is self-apparent, and serves only to reify the hierarchies it purports to reject.

This is just as true when it comes to children as for any other oppressed group, but with the complication that children will, should all go minimally well, eventually turn into adults; no other group can be said to be reasonably certain to transition from oppressed to privileged. This does not mean that how we treat them doesn’t matter, however, or somehow negate their oppression; rather, it means that however we treat them now, while they are powerless, is how they will learn to treat those they have power over by “right” of unearned privilege.

You might doubt the status of children as an oppressed class. There is much I can use to support this assertion, but simplest and most starkly is this: in the United States of America, and in too many other countries (any would be too many), physical assault on a child is considered a parent’s legally-protected right, often explicitly granted. You might quibble about whether any given act of violence is “assault”, that it’s not really “abuse” unless it leaves a mark for more than a day, or breaks the skin, or breaks a bone, or whatever line you wish you use to delineate “acceptable” from “abusive”, but the fact remains that it is legal for an adult to hit a child against their will, and it is not legal to hit another adult the same way. Physical violence enacted on children’s bodies to “discipline” them is a mark of their status as not-persons, as things, in culture’s conception.

(What, you may argue, of those children who are not hit? Those who are “spoiled” with toys and sweets and activities galore? Surely they are not oppressed! To which I say: that we treat some children as prized possessions does not make acceptable their status as property; that some individual parents choose not to exert their right to hit their children does not offset the injustice that it is their right to exert or not in the first place; that some nations have even removed that “right” and granted children special protections doesn’t mean children as a class are not still oppressed, still considered “ours” to do with what we will or nill.)

I use the example of legally sanctioned violence rather than any of the plethora of other rights denied to children (including other violations of their bodily domain) because I am not arguing that the personhood of children demands they be granted all adult legal rights: that is merely, once again, equating personhood with adulthood. There are many things that are appropriate for adults to do which are not appropriate for children, and there are many times that they do not have the capacity to make choices for themselves (though, as with the delineation between “male” and “female” activities, allowing certain rights based on ability rather than arbitrary age would be a more reasonable, if more complicated, policy). Children are not adults — and they shouldn’t have to be, nor to act like it, in order for their personhood to be honored.

What does it mean, exactly, to honor their personhood? It means simply that we start with the radical idea that children are people: that they have the right to bodily integrity; that their needs are no less important than ours, that their desires are no less worthy than ours; that their feelings matter, that their ideas matter, that they matter; that they should be respected for who they are, not just valued (or devalued) for what they do for us.

From here, many things become obvious: we do not hit children, because we do not hit people. We do not cut their genitals, because we do not perform unnecessary and harmful amputation on people without their consent. We do not shun them and segregate them away from us, because separate is not equal. We do not expect them to act like adults, because they have the right to act like children.

So that child, dancing in the aisle while you are dining? Their personhood means they have just as much right to be there as you do. If they are unreasonably blocking the way, or damaging property, or causing such a commotion that no other patron is able to also be comfortable in that space — in other words, if they are actually doing something objectively objectionable — then of course you have a cause to complain. And perhaps that was the case in the original screed I read: I cannot know. But regardless, if in the course of your complaint, no matter how legitimate, you state that children need to act like adults (especially using the code word “people”) or not be allowed out in public? If your objection is, at its base, that they are a child in public, daring to act like a child? Then you are an anti-child bigot, and you are the problem in that restaurant that needs to be sent home until you can act like a person.

WFPP Guest Post: Before I was a Mother, I was a Woman . . .

The Womanist/Feminist Parenting Primer is back, with a piece from Zoey of Good Goog about what it means to her to be a woman and a mother.

Zoey discusses her journey from career-driven no-kids-no-thank-you woman to mostly at-home mother, and the things she has given up, as well as gained, along the way. She touches on issues of economic independence (and the risks of the lack thereof), the intersection of privileges and hardships, the blessings of flexible work options, and the notion of sacrifice in motherhood, and ultimately explains how she has continued, “even” in motherhood, to be a woman — to be herself.

Before I was a Mother, I was a Woman . . .

Seriously. I wasn’t always a mother.

Once upon a time, I was a woman and I was quite probably one of the most ambitious people you’d be likely to meet. And I wore really high heels and had impractical handbags. Because I loved it and because I could. I wasn’t ambitious in the conventional way – I didn’t care about earning money (although it did help with the accessories). But I wanted to have enough impact to change something in a big way – to leave something behind and say – look! I left my mark. Maybe it was because I was completely invisible in High School. But I doubt it, some people are just born that way. And although I hadn’t admitted it to anyone I was considering a move into politics because I’d grown tired of banging my head against a brick wall trying to change something from the bottom up. What was I interested in changing? Healthcare and the treatment of mental illness/drug and alcohol addiction but that is a very long story.

If you’d asked me back then what I thought about a woman staying at home while her partner works and living off one income I would have told you that the very idea made me physically ill. Because it’s such a risk to take a gamble that your relationship is going to work out. Because if it doesn’t you have sacrificed however many years of experience in the workforce, have no money of your own and are essentially left stranded to fend for yourself. It’s not about trusting someone, or believing in your relationship: it’s about not placing your future in someone else’s hands. And only a stupid person would do that. Is it becoming obvious that my parents had 6 marriages between them? Full disclosure – I may have a few broken home issues.

Also if you’d asked me back then if I wanted to have children I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, because I knew that if I was to have children I would want to put certain dreams of mine aside for a time. And I liked the freedom of selfishness. I didn’t believe that I was capable of being a ‘do-it-all’ supermum. If I was going to be a mother, I was going to want to be a mother in the home and not miss out on anything. Are you seeing a problem with this scenario? Eventually I realised that while further study and career aspirations don’t have an expiration date, having children does (at least for a woman) and I swallowed my fears about leaving the workforce and did just that. I rationalised that if I ever wanted to go back to work my husband could be a stay at home dad for awhile.

And then she was born and everything was different. Not overnight of course. For the first few days it was surreal. I remember thinking she was beautiful but not quite being able to relate to the idea that she was mine and it was permanent. Within a month I had completely abandoned the idea of going back to work full-time because I loved being at home with her and found that to be more fulfilling than any job could be. In the interest of modesty I would like to say that I got lucky and I was given the opportunity to work part-time from home. But the truth is I am really good at my job and I was lucky that my boss was able to see the value in being flexible. I was also fortunate enough to be born in a country where public education doesn’t end with High School, to have a mother who worked three different jobs to keep us afloat and to not have the kind of obstacles thrown in front of me that indigenous Australians face every single day. Not to mention my phone phobia which had led me to an occupation well suited to at home work.

But how could a woman like myself be happy at home? Had I abandoned the woman for the mother? Surprisingly, no. I am the kind of person who will not do things by half-measures. I embraced being home with my little one and wore her most of the time. I persisted with breastfeeding despite difficulties and didn’t pursue any hard and fast rules – I just followed my instinct. She slept with us most of the time too. Along the way, I found out that I didn’t feel stifled by this because by being true to who I was as a mother, was also being true to who I was as a woman. Suddenly, outside of my usual career-focused environment I was able to rediscover all my creative interests that I’d also put on hold – like writing and photography and even home renovation and I was more myself than I had been in a long while. I will stop working entirely next year and it doesn’t scare me anymore.

I would still like to leave my mark in some way. And while it might be tempting to think that the difference I will make is in the lives of my children, I hope not. Because I want to avoid influencing them as much as possible and just be excited to find out who they are. I still miss my high heels, and my handbags, and spending hours on my own. As my children get older I will actively return to my formerly ambitious self because it’s important to me that they see me the way I see myself. And I am nothing if not driven.

This week I had my first night away from my (now) 18 month old and she had her first sleepover. She was beside herself with excitement when I came back and spent the next day holding on to me for dear life, not really willing to let me out of her sight and giving me cuddles so fierce that her little body shook with force of it. And that’s when I know that nothing I’ve given up feels like a sacrifice. Not because I don’t miss the things that I surrendered, but because they are overshadowed by everything I’ve been given.

Zoey is a (mostly) at home mother of one, and no matter how many people look at her like she’s just weird, she’s still planning to have four more children. Professionally she works part-time as a proposal writer, which somehow evolved out of managing a drug rehabilitation centre for dual diagnosis women and their young children.