Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm a boy.

Today we decided to escape the muggy heat by hiding out at a local bookstore for a bit. While I browsed the various literary offerings, EZ bided his time at the train table they have set up in the middle of the children's section. I sat for a while and watched him play, trying out the various trains that littered the table. Watching him play with such enthusiasm and creativity brought a smile to my face and caused me to whisper to him, "I love you."

He looked up at me and smiled, "I know, I love you." My smile only increased and I relished the moment to the fullest extent. Then EZ turned towards me and out of nowhere said, "I'm a kid. I'm a boy." I slowly nodded, wondering where that line of thought appeared from. He returned to his trains for a minute or two before looking back up, "I'm not a girl." I nodded again, surprised by this topic.

We never really focused on gender in our house apart from EZ's fascination about who has what body part beneath their pants. And even then it seemed more of a curiosity related to anatomy than gender discrepancy. I was interested to see what prompted this seemingly out of the blue declaration from EZ. I thought long and hard about how much focus I actually wanted to place on his statement before asking, "Well, what does it mean that you're a boy?" He looked at me and scrunched his face, deep in thought.

"That I'm a kid."

And that was that. He was back to the train table before I could engage him in a process-y discussion about gender roles and societal definitions. While his mind had already moved on to trains and tracks, mine was still on the short conversation we just had. I was immediately reminded of an article I recently read about a Swedish couple who were purposefully eliminating the concept of gender from their toddler's life. Only the parents, and a select few people who had changed the child's diaper, know what gender "Pop" is. The parents, working on the feminist principle that gender is a social construct that they do not want to reinforce, have basically decided that they will be proactive in promoting a genderless identity for their child.

So, when EZ decided to take a stance on his gender and announce to the entire book store that he was, indeed, a boy, I wondered if I had lapsed as a feminist and somehow enforced gender stereotypes in my household. That couldn't be true, could it? I pride myself on my beliefs that men and women can do and be whatever they want, and yet here is my son, declaring his gender, loud and proud.

And then I thought, what's wrong with that?

Does knowing and owning your gender mean you are playing into the patriarchal ideals of gender construct? I don't think so. My two and a half year old son claimed his gender while wearing a necklace, white toe nail polish and blonde ringlets surrounding his face, all of which are of his choosing (he has on more then one occasion informed me NOT to cut his hair, which actually relieves me since I love his curls!). I can look around the living room and see it cluttered with trucks, books and dolls. While taken individually, each toy might scream out a particular gender, but taken collectively, one would be hard pressed to guess the gender of the child they belong to.

While ideally it would be wonderful to live in a world free of labels and gender stereotyping that is not the world we live in. So while we try and change things, I think one option is to give my child the tools to be what he wants within the system. He knows he's a boy, yet still feels comfortable wearing or playing with things traditionally associated with little girls. He's bucking the system in his own right, even without realizing it. And, I hope that as he grows to understand this whole social construct of gender "thing" he'll continue to choose what he likes, regardless.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Case Against The Case Against Breastfeeding

There is an article in this month's The Atlantic that attempts to make a case against breastfeeding. Before discussing the article, I will be upfront and "out" myself as a lactivist. Perhaps you are already rolling your eyes, certain that I can't be objective about an article making its case against breastfeeding, when I am such a staunch supporter of breastfeeding and breastfeeding rights. I am not here, however, to take Ms. Rosin's article apart point by point and explain why I feel "breast is best". Instead, I want to look at the overall point of her article, without even delving into the actual argument over breast vs. formula because I do not believe that is truly the point of Ms. Rosin's article in the first place.
Ms. Rosin begins her article by painting a picture of her play group basically shunning her after she declares that she wants to stop breastfeeding her infant son. She then goes on to stereotype and judge the women who she feels have stereotyped and judged her. The rest of the article sees her bitterly grasping at straws, attempting to build a flimsy case against breastfeeding. Despite the title of the article, Ms. Rosin even comments that she will miss breastfeeding and more importantly that, "...so overall, yes, breast is probably best."
What Ms. Rosin really seems to have a problem with is judgement, and I do not fault her for that one bit. Yet, at the same time, she seems to dole it out in heaps in her article. She plays the "feminist card" and whines that breastfeeding does not make for an equal marriage; That in taking on the burden of breastfeeding, women are then opening up themselves to take on the rest of the domestic agenda. If there is inequality in a marriage, I highly doubt that it stems solely from the choice to breastfeed. That seems too simplistic of an argument that gives little credit to women as well creating an extremely slippery slope as far as defining parental roles. Further playing into her concept of the feminist ideal, she laments that as she has aged she sees less of her female friends in positions of power or success, assuming they somehow disappeared when they had children. Both of these assumptions make me cringe because it pits women against each other. To say that success is only merited by what occurs in the workplace is narrow minded and further fuels the flames of the so-called "Mommy Wars." Why say that because a woman decided not to go back to work once she had children she disappeared? Why feel sorry for her if that is her choice. On the flip side, it is not right to attack mother's who do go back to work either. Neither side is right, yet when we lash out and judge the other side, then what is the point anymore?
In my mind, being a feminist gives me the power and the choice to decide what I will do with my life. My choice works for me and my family, and that does not mean it is any better or worse than your choice, it is just different. And to bad mouth one choice in order to push an agenda seems spiteful and bitter to me, especially when that agenda is full of holes and weak arguments.
There is plenty of guilt that weaves its way through parenting and we do not need yet another article to further plant seeds of doubt and guilt into anyone's mind. I have more to say, but I have a son who needs to nurse ;)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


While I love to write and can write about this topic for days, I sometimes wish there was a way to have an ongoing dialogue about it as well. That is what I loved about my Master's thesis. I was able to interview a wide range of women in their 20s about what was important to them, how they felt about feminism and we could have a discussion. Sometimes it sparked heated debate, other times it caused me to question my own ideals, and at times it was just great fun talking about one of my favorite topics with interesting women. While the blog-o-sphere is a fabulous tool, and allows me to publicly ponder and process ideas, it lacks that immediate give and take you get when surrounded with people as eager as you are to dissect and discuss. 
I have so many topics I'd like to discuss but I'm also interested in hearing what others are excited about. 
Pregnancy, birth options, breastfeeding, working, staying at home, stereotypes & stigmas, gender issues, and on and on...so, what to talk about first? 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


It's been a long, long while since I've last posted. I could use the excuse that I've been too busy being a mom and a wife but that would be wrong. I could just use the blanket excuse that life just got too hectic. And, while that is true it is no real excuse either. There is always some time here and there.
I think I just lost steam for a bit. Perhaps it was because I was more tired than usual due to lack of sleep. Maybe it was due to the winter blues or being cooped up inside for a many months while the temperatures dropped. Maybe I just lost my spark for a bit. Whatever it was, the fog is slowly dissipated and my creative juices are flowing back.
I missed them.
I think I got a jump start when my son got accepted into preschool for next year. He'll be going three days a week for a couple hours a day. Immediately, after first congratulating us, people started asking, "so...what will you do with all that time off?!"
I'm not sure that nine hours a week constitutes a ton of time off, especially when you factor in driving to and from school to drop off and pick up the kid. It's clearly not enough time to get a "real" job, so...what am I going to do with that time?
I've decided to start writing again. Now the trouble is sorting through all of the ideas that I have. One idea kept repeatedly popping up in my mind and I realized it connected to this sadly forgotten about blog.
While I was writing my thesis statement I was in my mid twenties and curious to see how my peers felt about feminism and its place (or lack there of) in their lives. Now, I'm married, a year away from thirty and the mother of a two year old. I am still curious about this topic but my shift has changed in accordance with my own life circumstances. Where is the space/place for feminism in motherhood? I am aware it is different for every mother, and that is what I am curious about. Just as I went and interviewed many young women in their twenties about their relationship (or lack there of) with feminism, I feel the urge to do so with my fellow mamas. I've already touched on this topic briefly in a previous blog post, but I would like to delve deeper and really understand the different perspectives surrounding this phenomenon. I've dubbed my foray into this subject "MamaFesto" - this idea that motherhood and feminism can exist together - the key is to find out how. I hope those who are interested join me on this journey and share their own experiences along the way.
On a small side note - while I still love the name "The 33rd Flavor" (for this indeed is truly the next step in my own research) I've dubbed this section of my blog "MamaFesto" and have added a graphic that expresses that. The graphic was created by the extremely talented Kym Bixler.