Category Archives: Kyriarchy

Doesn’t everyone have house elves??

I’m getting really fed up with the crummy mother-shaming exhortations to “slow down” or “simplify” or whatever, and today I read one that included a couple lines just perfectly encapsulates why I loathe them so, that went something like “slow down mommy, those dirty dishes can wait / slow down mommy, let’s bake a cake”. Because, uh, HELLO, I CAN’T BAKE A CAKE IN A KITCHEN WITH A SINK/COUNTER THAT’S COVERED IN SHIT THAT NEEDS TO BE WASHED AND ALSO NOT IF ALL THE SHIT WE NEED TO BAKE A CAKE IS, Y’KNOW, FUCKING DIRTY BECAUSE YOU JUST TOLD ME NOT TO WASH IT ALL.

Who the hell do the authors of these things think is gonna make sure kids have a clean plate to eat off and oh by the way also something to eat (maybe even something that isn’t going to spin them into hypoglycemic crash and turn them into asshole devil children)? In what magic fairy land does messy play not require a significant amount of prep and/or clean up which apparently we’re not supposed to do because gods forbid we spend two seconds doing anything other than staring at our cherubs in absolute rapture? Where the hell do the clean warm clothes come from for kicking in the leaf piles and how the fuck are we supposed to spontaneously hop outside to jump in them if we can’t find anybody’s %$#@ boots because no one spent the time to make sure they were put where they belong? What the FUCK are we teaching our children if we never let them see us engage in the daily activities of life, including cleaning up after ourselves and yes washing the fucking dirty dishes NOW, not after Freespirit doTerra Moonbeam goes to bed?

But no, fuck all that, once again allllllllll the damn work that mothers do is made invisible1, dismissed as unimportant, and we are told, again, that we are doing. it. wrong.

I get that I’m not the intended audience, but I still get caught in the shotgun spray. Because these things almost never say “hey, if you haven’t played with your kid this month because you’re still polishing the silver, maybe you could consider letting that go for a day”. They don’t often say “you’re doing the best you can under an impossible and unbearable set of demands, so yay you! When was the last time you cut yourself a break and took a moment to just breathe in your kids?” No, they say “you, Mother, I know all I need to know about you because you’re a woman with children and there is nothing beyond you than that, and so I know you’re doing it wrong, and let me tell you how in guilt tripping and/or infantalizing ways”. And that’s fucking awful.

Now someone clean my damn kitchen. I want cake.2

  1. Also invisible: any parents who are not mothers! Because they do not have Sooper Speshul Relashunnship With FdT Moonbeam because, um, vagina! Or something! Also, they wouldn’t be caught dead washing dishes in the first place cuz that’s wimmin’s work, ammirite?
  2. “WHAT THE HELL ARWYN WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN?” Umm… hi! A…round? Mostly trying to earn munnehs and do good work and shiz? And, y’know, cleaning and parenting and sometimes even baking cakes? Y’know! Stuff! Um. Sorry? Hi! …bye! *runs away*

National Gender Creative Kids Workshop

I just got back from Montreal (try the bagels), where I attended the National Workshop for Gender Creative Kids, hosted by Concordia University. It. Was. Amazing. There’s a lot I’d like to share, a lot I learned, a lot of discussions and debates about which I have Things to Say, but much of that will have to be saved for other times, and possibly other venues.

I was honored to be the first presenter on the opening panel, in which I talked about gender diverse parenting, the what and the why. Fifteen minutes was wholly inadequate for more than a too-brief introduction; when I sat down to write my talk, over 3000 words rolled out of my fingers almost without trying, and I ended up having to remove rather more nuance and complexities than I’d hoped, but for all that, I’m pretty proud of what remained.

I can’t share it in full here — it wouldn’t be anything particularly new to regular readers of this blog anyway — but you can read Dr Elizabeth Meyer’s write up of mine and other parents’ talks: Gender Diverse Parenting: Creating Space for Kids (in which she calls it brilliant).

Because the workshop was hosted by a research project, there is no “next year” currently scheduled, but many of us (which is to say, nearly every one of the 70 or so parents, educators, activists, artists, doctors, therapists, and general rabble-rousers — many trans or former gender creative kids themselves) are hoping and working toward having a similar conference again in the future. I for one already have ideas for my next proposal.

Eating Local

Originally published at Feeding My Boychick

I live in Portland, land of organic vegan locavore ironic bacon hipsterism. Located in the (stolen and colonized) Willamette valley, one of the most fertile pieces of land on the continent (despite many greedy people having done their level best to destroy it), eating local here is downright easy. About the only things we can’t grow are tropical fruits, coffee, and hard wheat, and nevermind because we still import, roast, and mill those locally. It’s absurdly easy, if also absurdly expensive, to buy only foods grown, produced, slaughtered, or processed within 100 miles of here, either in a market or grocer or even dining out at a locally-owned restaurant. And this is great.

Except.

I also live in Portland, one of the whitest cities in the country with one of the worst track records of gentrification. And much of this push for “local” and “sustainable” is coming from relatively new, relatively wealthy, overwhelmingly white consumers and business owners, not from the communities of color who have eked out spaces for themselves here for decades. I see them, small business owners themselves, pushed out of business by white people who’d rather shop at a national name than someplace run by a person of a different color whose fluent English the monolinguists can’t understand, and now replaced by white people who spurn the corporate giants for “local” businesses that have been here for SO LONG — since the mid-aughts! — owned and frequented largely by other white people able to pay higher prices and higher rents and higher mortgages.

So here’s my choice: I can buy dinner from a locally-owned restaurant that’s been here for decades and uses conventional produce and imported noodles and factory farmed meats frequented by the people of color who have lived here for decades, or I can buy it from the three year old place that uses local and organic and fresh everything and is all the rage among the white people who have lived here for three years.

Or I can buy groceries from the locally-owned store that’s twice as expensive (but everything is homegrown!), or the budget Safeway that’s served the neighborhood for decades. I can support the brand-new co-op that sells organic produce, or the Asian market that sells unmarked, unknown-to-me veggies.

It’s not that I disagree with the small-business, locally-owned ethos nor the entirely logical reasons to support the same. But the fact remains that when my neighborhood (which I, middle class white woman with my young family, just moved into) started gentrifying, in classic Portland style, all the new mostly-white people said “we want local shops — let’s start some!” and didn’t ask their neighbors where to buy veggies, where they ate out, who owned and shopped at and was employed at the run-down supermarket. We didn’t move in to this imperfect neighborhood and ask “what’s being done to improve the place we now live, what’s important to our neighbors, and how can we help without taking over?” We moved in and assumed nothing of value was here and we needed to replace it all with trendy, “local” businesses and eateries (never diners!) and then we patted ourselves on the back for being so damn sustainable, so morally superior, doing something good while we bought our organic fair trade latte from the queer artist barista with all the body modifications.

But it’s culture. It’s all culture. We want to shop and eat and be seen at places that feel like ours, that reflect us, that tell others about who we consider ourselves to be and who we want to be. And that’s not wrong, not really. But it’s also what the people who lived here first, who we pushed out to the margins before we decide to take that over too, also want. And the conversation we need to have isn’t local-small-good versus corporate-giant-evil. It’s whose local? Whose good? Who was here first, whose voices have long been marginalized, whose foods are exoticized and whose normalized, who’s making the decisions about what’s valued and what the neighborhood needs?

Those are questions I need to consider as well, no less than “was this peach sprayed, is this asparagus local, is there MSG in this?” It’s not as easy a conversation, nuanced instead of ideologic, complicated instead of obvious. But it’s important. Because “community” isn’t a nebulous concept, it’s the family next door we never talk to, the people who walk up my street to get to the free clinic, the guy who runs the convenience store two blocks away. And the health and sustainability of food isn’t just how it affects and nourishes my family, but how it affects the people who grow it, the people who harvest it, the people who sell it, the people who cook and serve and clean up after it. Only considering part of that system isn’t sustainable; it’s selfish in the extreme.

(Note: I use “we” throughout not as writer-and reader, not to assume the “they” I speak of is not also you, but as writer-and-agent, as indication of my own guilt and reminder to myself of membership in the offending groups. I’m still searching for less alienating phrasing; please forgive any implications of exclusion.)

Dear RMB

Dear Raising My Boychick,

I’ve been cheating on you.

It’s not you, though, it’s me, really. I’m too tired, too time poor, too unable to write long pieces in short bursts in the five minutes at a time I have most days.

(OK, it’s a little bit you, too: you’re just too good. I’ve built you up over the years into something beautiful — if I may say so — something hard to live up to, and some days hard to live with.)

So I started playing around. Just a bit, at first, just for fun, very nearly on a dare, almost just to see what would happen. And, well, I didn’t mean it to, but things got a little serious.

Not a lot, though. One of the things I love about this, let’s say “side project”, is I don’t have to be too serious. There are a lot of quickies.

And, not that I don’t still love you, but this “side project” really gets me, and doesn’t mind that my interests are a bit different, what with the baby around. I keep wanting to talk about food, and you, well, you’ve never given me the feeling that’s something you’re into. Sure, I can bring it up every once in a while, and you’ll let me natter on, but, I get the feeling that you’re sitting there thinking “I hope she doesn’t expect me to be like one of those blogs.”

I don’t want to leave you, though! You’re still my first love, my one true blog, but I hardly have time to sit down with you these days, and, don’t hate me, but your phone interface is… a little clunky. I’d rather just sit and think by myself than bother, sorry to say.

I really think that if you’ll spend some time with the “side project”, you’ll see how much you have in common, really, and how you two can fit together in my life. We all care about gender and social justice, about bodies and parenting, about finding our way out of kyriarchy. You and I, we’re just about all that through the lens of raising the kids, of surviving as a queer fat crazy woman with children. So let’s keep doing that.

But I’ll also be spending time thinking and talking and caring about food and surviving in a rather more daily-need sort of way with Feeding My Boychick. She’s made me so happy in our brief time together.

I hope you’ll forgive me, and that we can grow stronger together through this. I’m sure when we get a chance to sit down and think it through, we can figure out how all three of us can live together in joy.

Your blogger,
Arwyn

“Not like them”

I wrote a letter to a friend, triggered by but not really (only) about this quote attributed to Timothy Leary. Yes, this is how I write letters. No, I don’t know why I can’t break out of declaiming revolution mode either.

So there’s this meme (see: Doctor Who, goths, The Little Mermaid, geeks, etc) that some people are just “not like everyone else” and it’s predicated on the understanding that “everyone else” lives these mindlessly mundane lives, and consumes and drones is a sheeple and in all ways is just dull dull boringly DULL, and YOU, angsty rebel nonconformist deep thinker YOU are NOT LIKE THEM (ie you are better), because their life isn’t INTERESTING enough for you. I was sort of raised like this, in the SCA, and we were cool because we weren’t “cool” because we weren’t the mundanes.

And while I think there’s lots of interesting stuff there, that it’s a pushback to being excluded for oddness, that some people are more inclined to be the adventurers and some the culture keepers, all that aside: more and more I think it is, simply, bullshit. Because we ALL, to some degree, long for/fear novelty and change, and we ALL sometimes think about boogers and whether we left the stove on, and we ALL get bloody bored with the washing up, and we ALL sometimes wonder “is this all there is?”

And this meme, of special non-mundane, non-sheeple, is just another bullshit way of dehumanizing the people around us, of making ourselves feel better-than, and thus it perpetuates kyriarchy.

I’d much rather spend my time enjoying both the ways in which I am traditional and the ways I am not, exploring the boundaries of what we construct as “mundane”/”boring” and investigating why we do, and connecting with real people who, like me, are complex and nuanced and ugly and boring and bored and amazing.

And the point, the POINT, is we are ALL real people, and it’s up to me to see that, to get to know others’ realness, instead of dismissing them based on my own false imaginings.