Saturday, October 29, 2011

Feminism and Mommyism

Our perception of feminism has been warped by media. For example in this season of Castle, the female police chief demands she be called “sir.” She’s supposed to be a feminist, tough-as-nails woman who succeeds in a male dominated career, right? Then why does she put more value on “sir” than “mam”?

Her character implies it’s better to be considered a man. How is that feminist?

Another misperception comes from media’s parenting advice. Barbies are bad for girls’ self esteem right? And little girls shouldn’t be forced to wear pink. Why? Because that color and that toy are associated with femininity? Is everything feminine bad? Should we raise little girls as boys?

The argument – raise them the same way. I thought of that too. Unfortunately, my kids disagree with me on what toys they like. I provide a mixture of traditionally girl toys (dolls, kitchen, etc) and “boy” toys (cars, gadgets, construction, etc). They should play with both, right? Nope. Mine won't.

Does that mean we should only give pink toys to girls and blue toys to boys? No, but they should have a choice. If they choose what’s traditional to their gender, let them.

My biggest pet peeve is when women criticize stay-at-home moms. It is the toughest choice in the entire world when you hold your newborn baby and your maternity leave is up. You have to decide whether to leave this precious little one with another woman. Worries of whether your baby will feel loved, get everything she/he needs, of whether your children will latch onto a daycare worker more than you, and whether your children will be prepared for school – all weigh on you in that moment. Can someone else raise your children the way you would?

We’ve all heard co-workers sob because their child called another woman “mommy.” A typical toddler in daycare spends 8+ awake hours being raised by someone with different values, and only 4 to 6 hours awake with his parents, so of course the child will feel closer to his daycare provider. Financially, there may be no other choice.

However, if a mother finds a way to stay home to raise her children, why is that considered anti-feminist? Someone has to raise our babies. In a time when many life-threatening allergies are an issue for children, it may be wise for moms to have complete control over their infants’ and toddlers’ diets. There should be no shame in raising children.

Feminism isn’t about telling women what they can or can’t be. It’s about giving them choices to be whoever they want. Putting children before careers isn’t anti-feminist. It’s a difficult sacrifice, a very expensive family decision, and an investment in children’s future successes.

So many television shows and news articles now idealize women who have both a career and a family. That’s also a feminist choice, but not the only feminist path, and not the best choice for all families. My first son had autism and fifteen food allergies. Had I put my career first, he wouldn’t have started reading at the age of three, he wouldn’t be mainstreaming and succeeding in school, he wouldn’t be down to three allergies, and he wouldn’t have recovered from autism. Am I anti-feminist for having paused my career to raise my children?

1 comment:

Tammie - Night Owl Reviews said...

Hi Vanessa. Been thinking of you and hoping all is great. Andrew and I enjoyed your article and thought it was spot on.

Email me sometime.