Monthly Archives: January 2010

Last day to vote for Lesbian/Bisexual Woman of the Decade

Just one more day to vote. Repeat votes are welcome (for the same nominee, or multiple), as are votes from anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality.

I’m not voting (because I picked them; doesn’t exactly seem fair), but here’s my official plug for Sook-Yin Lee (bisexual! multi-talented! not unattractive!) and little light (you need to read her writing). They’re not getting near enough vote love as far as I’m concerned.

24 hours left! What are you waiting for??

FU KUFO

I am not making this up.

I like much of the genre generally known as hard rock. I put up with 99.9% male vocalists, and often-problematical lyrics and topics, because I like hard/alternative rock (among other things) and I am too lazy and cheap frugal to bother amassing my own music collection and toting around a multi-listed iPod. So I listen to a lot of radio, and so I put up with 99.9% male vocalists and a lot of other crap.

OK, it’s just music, I can deal with it. Half the time I can’t figure out the lyrics even when I try. And, y’know, sometimes I just don’t mind — for instance — Reznor singing he wants to [bleep] me like an animal1. Misogynist? Sure. Enjoyable? Um, a little. I may have been known to shout along with the lyrics upon occasion. What? It’s a good song.

But there’s misogyny, and then there’s misogyny.

Tonight, driving with the Boychick to drop off our ballots2, The Man at home, this station ad came on between songs:

There’s no such thing as lesbians — only women who haven’t met Chuck Norris. Be a man. Celebrate MANuary.

…yeah.

That’s courtesy these gems of humanity. It’s not a joke. (Or, it is a “joke”, in the “lighten up, you ugly humorless hairy feminist bitch, can’t you take a joke?” kind of way. But it’s part of a whole “Manuary” promotion, which I’m not even going to go into, because ugh. Point is, they really said this.)

I nearly crashed the car. Not only was I shocked, I felt, suddenly, very vulnerable.

I changed the station. I am going to change my radio preset buttons.

And here’s my mini-epiphany of the day: this is how -isms and institutionalized hatred work. They think that lesbians (and women in general) don’t listen to hard rock; and so they say shit like this; and so we stop listening to their station; and so they are more right in their initial belief that women don’t like hard rock, and feel just fine in continuing their exclusionary culture.

It’s true for women in rock, women in sciences, trans women and women of color in mainstream feminism, nonwhite people in business, and so on. It’s not that we’re not interested; it’s that we are actively excluded. And our disgust and unwillingness to put up with the exclusion, with the boys’ club, with the “just jokes” that tell us over and over again just how unwelcome we are, how we are not even people in the eyes of those who would be our colleagues, is what then justifies the belief that it’s “not our thing”.

I call BS. And to KUFO, I say: FU3. There is some shit I will not put up with, even for music I love. The problem is not with me, nor with my sense of humor. The problem is not my girly sensibilities, nor a lack of love for hard rock.

No, sirs, the problem is with you. Plenty of lesbians and hairy queer feminists like hard rock; we just don’t like you.

  1. Although I must admit the last time it came on when the Boychick was in the car, I switched the station. Even I have my limits.
  2. YES on 66 & 67
  3. Help me say FU to KUFO by voting for the Lesbian/Bisexual Woman of the Decade. How about Missy Higgins, or Sook-Yin Lee?

Link round-up: race and parenting

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen most of these. For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter1, I highly recommend reading the following, if you haven’t already (most are not recent posts):

Feminist Parenting: Teaching History

I’ve never had any thought of telling her about [Elizabeth Cady] Stanton thru rose colored glasses. Far from it. I guess I didn’t think she’d bring up the equality question. But I should have known better.

Anti-racist parenting: It’s for everyone

Now, I have several anti-racist parenting allies who are the white parents of white children, but far more of my white friends and acquaintances see racism mainly as a function of the past. …  They “don’t see color” and neither, they insist, will their children.

White Noise: White adults raising white children to resist white supremacy Long, but worth it. The comment thread is illuminating too.

Thandeka in her book, “Learning to Be White: Money, Race and God in America,” states that the first act of child abuse directed towards all white children is that the minute they come out of the womb, they are being taught to be racist. So the game has already started, whether or not we ever directly address race and whiteness in our family.

The last two are not explicitly parenting-related, but are nevertheless important for those of us tempted (by virtue of our whiteness) to consider oppression “only” through gender — which really means through gender and whiteness:

Black Women Need Not Apply

What’s great about how our beauty oppression operates is white women can still feel like feminists when they engage in hand wringing about their looks being picked apart by men without once having to examine their race privilege or acknowledge the way in which their status as highly valued hurts and oppresses marginalized women.

What If Black Women Were White Women?

What if suddenly, instantly, the power of white femininity were transferred to black women?

The answer is clear: Black women would represent value, purity; and based on their natural traits would be worthy of protection and instantly become the objects of universal desire. White women would represent the opposite.

“Beauty tar potion” would become globally popular to get the “black look.” “Dove” would be replaced with a black soap called “Raven” to help exfoliate the skin and bring out subtle hints of melanin.

I have posts bubbling away in the back of my brain — threatening to boil over if not attended to soon — but at this moment, I am out of fuel to address them adequately. Tomorrow, though: watch this space!

  1. Why on Earth not? You’re missing out on so much, like play-by-plays of Doctor Who, what I wore to the re-release of the Star Wars Trilogies –  a black cloak and “Vader’s Lover” scrawled on my cheek — and endless urgings to go vote for Lesbian/Bisexual Woman of the Decade. By the way: go vote. Yes, again.

Blog for Choice Day 2010: Trust Women

I’m pretty bad at planning ahead, and as usual I’m a step or two, and a day or two, behind the rest of the world (or the blogosphere, at least). So here is my belated entry to this year’s Blog for Choice Day, on the topic Trust Women:

First, go read Do you REALLY trust women? at FWD/Forward. I mean it. Skip the rest of this post if you only have time to read one thing right now: go read that. If this is to make any sense to you, you need to have read and understood that post.

Second (you read the FWD post, right?), an all-too-real example of the above: Kerry Robertson, whose story I linked to in Whose child is this?, has had her baby removed from her by Irish Social Services. Whether or not there is “more to the story” (there is always more to the story than what becomes public, though not always in the way people who say that mean), the fact that her learning disability has been used throughout as the public justification for these actions — blocking her marriage to her fetus’s father, removing her 4 day old breastfeeding baby from her care and her presence — is far more proof than I would ever care to have that we do not trust women, and that motherhood is a function of privilege, not a privileged status itself. Robertson made the “mistake” of being too young, too unmarried, too poor, having the wrong parents, and being disabled by her kyriarchal society: for that error, she has lost the child she chose to have.

Abortion rights are important, indubitably, indisputably. I would likely not be here if my mother had not had the right to choose when her IUD failed while she was a medical student. In my own very-much-tried-for-pregnancy, I found the knowledge that I had choice, that at any time for the first several months that I could change my mind, to be immensely, indescribably helpful and joyful. I’ve known women who are happier for the abortions they chose, and women whose lives were damaged by the abortions they wanted but could not obtain. We need 100% available, accessible, legal, safe abortions.

But there is so much more to reproductive rights, to real choice for women, than just abortion. And more than that, throughout history and throughout the world today (yes, in your country, in 2010), women who were not the “right” kind of women have been and continue to be coerced or forced into abortions and sterilizations and separations that they did not want.

My own grandmother was strongly encouraged to have an abortion — in the 1950s, in the USA — because of concerns over what the medical procedures she was undergoing at the time would do to her fetus and what the pregnancy would do to her; which is to say, because of ableism that says some babies are not worth having, and because of the misogynistic belief that women can’t be trusted to make the choice for ourselves. She was privileged enough (and obstinate enough: my grandmother did, in fact, wear army boots) that she was able to say no, to make another choice, to birth my mother, and only thus am I here today.

I am not anti-abortion. I am, it can easily be said, pro-abortion, in that I do not think of abortion as an “unfortunate necessity” or a “lesser evil”. But to be pro-choice, we need to think in far broader terms than just access to abortion, as important as that is.

“Trust women” means nothing if we do not also trust women to choose to retain her fertility (no matter how many children she has had or what gender she was assigned to at birth), to choose to not retain her fertility (no matter how many children she has had or what gender she was assigned to at birth), to choose what types of reproductive assistance to use when, to choose to carry her pregnancy to term or to terminate it, to choose to how much prenatal screening to have or not have, to choose the location and manner and attendants — or lack thereof — for her birth, to choose when and how and with whom to raise her child(ren).

We don’t have to agree with the choices any woman makes, and we damn well should work to make sure her choices are uncoerced and unconstrained by kyriarchy (classism, capitalism, racism, sexism, ableism, and so on), but we do have to trust her to make them and all the other choices that exist around reproduction if we are to claim we trust women.

Do you?

Whose child is this? Kyriarchy, privilege, and motherhood

Y’all know that I blame the kyriarchy — to talk only of patriarchy is to whitewash (ha ha) the myriad ways that people, including women, are variously oppressed and privileged. It pretends that all women experience oppression in the same ways, and focuses on sexism as the prime or only marginalization of women (because the concept was formulated by highly privileged women — white, US, middle class, mostly educated, abled, cis, and largely straight), which erases the experience of the majority of women on this planet.

To think only in terms of patriarchy leads to false assertions based on too-narrow perspectives, on the belief that what one experiences as a cis white upper class academic woman is typical of all women. Like the assertion that women with children are privileged over women without. (No, I’m not going to link to where I encountered said assertion.)

To the contrary, childfree/child-having is a classic double-bind of womanhood; there is absolutely no way to “win”, no choice to be made that does not result in discrimination and oppression. For to be sure, childfree women — if they are the “right” kind of women, or perceived to be so — are absolutely criticized, and marginalized in many ways; there can be no doubt of that, I think, and this is absolutely not a competition of who has it worse. But let’s go back to that caveat, because that is why the narrow-minded privileged academics get it wrong: it is only some women — the “right” women, privileged women, women like the ones making that assertion — who are most definitely expected to be mothers, and woe unto them if they fail to fulfill this imposed obligation.

What if you’re not the “right” kind of woman? What then?

If you are not white, if you are not cis, if you are not well-off (forget being on public assistance of any kind), if you are disabled or have a history of psychiatric diagnoses, if you are “too young”, if you are “too old”, if you have “too many” children, and especially if you exist at the intersection of more than one of those “failings” — if you are not the “right” kind of woman, motherhood further invites society to comment on and assert control over your life, if society allows you motherhood at all.

Motherhood does not confer privilege, but is a function of privilege; it is conditional, a “right” granted only to those whom society is best pleased with — and only for as long as we continue not only to be “right” but to do “right”.

Because even the rich cis white etc etc mother is policed, often with further double-binds:  the work for pay question is a classic example — there is simply no winning that one, no matter whether one works out of the home, in the home for money, in the home for sticky kisses, or some impossibly juggled combination thereof.  But if she shares sleep space with her children, breastfeeds for “too long”, lets her child roam “too far”, or in any of a million other ways steps outside of what her society deems the “right” way to mother (whatever that is where and when she lives), even the most privileged mother still risks comment and criticism, risks losing her children to “protective” services.

(To some extent, I don’t think that is even necessarily wrong — I entirely approve of lines drawn against physical and psychological and sexual abuse, against reckless child endangerment and neglect, against child slavery and prostitution. The problems come when those definitions of abuse or neglect are defined by a kyriarchy-fueled society, implemented in kyriarchal ways with biases against the already marginalized, and are used to enforce kyriarchal norms: don’t let your child be too emotionally close or physically distant, don’t let women ever have a moment’s rest, don’t let women use their bodies as they choose, don’t respect the personhood and autonomy of children. There are ways to do serious, inexcusable harm as a parent, to be sure, but there are a far, far more ways to be “bad” in society’s eyes.)

We cannot, we simply cannot extrapolate from a singular, privileged experience of motherhood/childfree womanhood to the entire population of women and think it relevant or right. And to pit women against each other, to pretend that one side of a double bind is “better” or “better off” than the other? That’s how we all lose, and kyriarchy wins.

If you want to help broaden the understanding of what it means to be a woman with a child, please tell your story — any one of your stories — as part of the Womanist/Feminist Parenting Primer.