Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Feminist Parenting

Until this week, I did not know that there is a lively blog carnival for Feminist Parenting.

Thoughts about how my feminist commitments--with their particular theoretical, liberal, academic, and sometimes bourgeois bent--guide parenting a young son do rise to the surface frequently.

I've blogged on pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding before, and the links in the most recent carnival are a good index of those issues. Just guess: the issues have a lot to do with autonomy, trust in women's judgment, and the inflexibility of social (and workplace) contexts.

The feminist challenges of raising a toddler or kid are different than those in babyhood. They have more to do with his autonomy than my own, and with his mental and emotional development than his physical development. Recurring themes have to do with:
  1. Commercialism. This more than anything else. To take an example.
  2. Violence. I take the "no weapons" rule at the daycare for granted--so why is it that other same-age friends can't seem to do imaginative play without guns and swords?
  3. Gender. There was a proposal that one of the weekly themes at my child's preschool be "Kings and Queens." I asked a teacher what, exactly, the educational content of that would be, other than how boys dress and how girls dress. But aside from such obvious gendering, I have constant questions about raising a gender-happy and feminist boy that I don't know the answers to. Here's a promise to post some when they come up.
  4. Discipline. When is it OK to let a child run wild, to allow a scene to happen, to just indulge, etc? My feminist response is that this should depend on the needs of the moment, but in reality how I discipline has a lot to do with who I think will observe it and what their expectations are.
It's not hard to identify where I can't manage to be as feminist as I would like: connecting with and supporting other mothers and feminist-raised kids. Is there an irony that this reflects the frequent failure of academic feminists to join with each other to create maternity-friendly workplaces?

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