Discourse on the intersections of politics, feminism, and motherhood.

Monday, July 31

To Sleep or Not To Sleep?

On Saturday mornings we take our eight month old to a My Gym class. He loves it and we love it. Usually during circle time the group director will ask each parent a question upon introduction of their child. This past Saturday the question was; how is your little one sleeping? We were first in line so we said, "this is Teague, and he doesn't sleep." As each and every child was introduced the following statement followed; "this is so and so, he/she sleeps great and has since two month of age." I'm like, are they lying? How could that possibly be? My child is the only one who takes two one hour naps a day and still wakes up two times on average every night.

Going to sleep is not the problem. We implimented a sleeping schedule at four months when we moved him out of our bed into his own crib. The first three nights using a derivative of the Ferber Method was absolute hell but now he knows exactly what we expect of him. We put him in his crib at specific times and he goes off.....but not for long. It's staying asleep that's the problem.

So I decided to check out some websites with tips on sleep habits for infants. Interestingly enough each website stated that newborns sleep 17 to 18 hours a day for the first few weeks and 15 hours a day until they are three months old. I don't think so! Another site states that baby's sleep patterns are erratic which somewhat contradicts the previous information. Why can't they just say, all babies are different and any expectation you have regarding your own will inevitably be shot down, as they are their own persons with their own quarks and special personalities. Sleep is over-rated anyway!

Wednesday, July 26

It's The Small Instances That Piss Me Off!

A Lovely, incident was published on The Raw Story regarding an emergency room doctor's refusal to give a rape survivor the morning after pill. The story does not disclose whether or not a rape kit was done on the survivor or not, but considering the birth control and other medications are included in such kits the doctor clearly decided to withhold one part of that kit based on religious beliefs. I can't even contain my discontent at this particular senario which most likely happens more often than we are aware and continues to fly under the radar on a regular basis.

Monday, July 24

The Far-Reaching Tentacles of Reproductive Control

The New York Times published an article yesterday reflecting the far-reaching consequences of eradicating a woman's right to choose. Maria, a recovering crack addict, has been battling the state's DCF department in order to regain custody of her children who have since been placed in foster care. The department has also petitioned the court to permanently exculpate Maria's parental rights including the baby now growing in her stomach. They plan to take the baby right after delivery. This particular story is important for reasons that affect the reproductive rights movement. How much control does the government have when deciding who is an appropriate mother?

Feministe provides a glimpse into yet another instance of control, with a detailed complete write-up regarding Barbara Harris's CRACK campaign.

Issues of reproductive choice have been influenced by race, economic status, and geographical locale. Women and girls in lower income areas have been overwhelmingly effected by governmental cuts in education and drug treatment programs, access to safe effective health care, opportunities to achieve, and access to birth control. In New York Gov. Pataki's veto of a bill that would have made the morning after pill available over the counter was a blatent step to ensure his chances of a republican presidental nomination. As in this example government has prioritized power over the majority of people's needs and the larger interests of the New York public.
Susan F. Wood the assistant FDA Commissioner for Women's Health quit over the government's rejection of the morning after pill. She stated;
"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," she wrote in an e-mail to her staff and FDA colleagues."

The political environment is clearly a contradiction. Political figures in bed with right wing religious fundamentalists block any access to the morning after pill or education regarding safe effective birth control methods, but yet campaigns to give drug addicted mothers 300 bucks for sterilization of their reproductive capacity and the government's ability to separate children from mothers seems a bit counter productive.
The country bitches about the welfare system which is designed to keep women and children below the poverty line, and presents an image of the welfare mother that is stereotypical and misleading. The government decides they have a right to separate children from family in the best interest of the children but then complains about the over population of jevenile detention centers, drug addicted teens, teenage pregnancy, and the prision system. The reproductive rights movement is much larger than the right to abortion. The reproductive rights movement encompasses issues affecting all women and girls and their rights to safe health care, education regarding their own bodies, and autonomous, private, decision making regarding their own well being. Most importantly the right to decide when and where and with whom a women will become a mother. The governement can not decide who gets to be an appropriate mother. This issue is all too real at a moment in pop culture when the press decides which celebrity mother as botched up motherhood on any given day. This issue effects the breastfeeding controversy and stay home or work debate. All of the these current areas of contention divide women making it difficult to mobilze and work together for the greater larger idea of the freedom to choose how to mother and when to mother without critical or judgmental messages stating one is not fit.
When is the government going to figure out, you can not place the needs of a child away from the mother. Separation is just as tramatic as a parent's death so to heal, one must provide programs for drug addicted mothers to overcome, provide real opportunities to acheive a decent job, and change a welfare system that penalizes women for making too much money. If the government would create safe educational programs and provide access to birth control and the morning after pill surgical abortion rates would drastically decrease (in theory of course).
The fact that these programs are inherently contradictory makes one conclude that the larger issue is control of women's bodies and some women; black, inner city, lower economic status deserve more control than white middle class women.
The feminist stance on abortion and more broadly reproductive choice has since been directed at defending what the right has thrown at them. We as women need to mobilize to encapsulate the larger over arching issue of control. Control over our own health care, children, ways in which we choose to mother, when we concieve, how we birth, right to protect ourselves, and our rights to make decisions privatly regarding our own bodies. Women's bodies need to stop being the map for political war zones fighting over the country's moral fiber.

Recommended reading:
The Abortion Myth
Feminism, Morality, and the Hard Choices Women Make
Cannold, Leslie. Rene Denfeld, fwd.

"The feminist position on abortion is little changed from thirty years ago, argues Leslie Cannold. Mired in the rhetoric of "rights," feminists have failed to appreciate women's actual experience of abortion and have ceded the debate on the morality of abortion to the anti-choice contingent. In order to counter the current erosion of abortion rights and appeal to women of Generation X, who don't remember a time when abortion wasn't safe and legal, feminism must evolve a richer, more nuanced understanding of abortion, she says, one that is premised on the right to choose, yet sensitive to the value of the fetus and the serious responsibilities of motherhood."

Friday, July 21

Teaching For Change

Teaching for Change is a DC based organization providing resources for parents and teachers that create a more multi-cultural, equitable, anti-biased, and socially conscious educational environment for children. Included on the website are a list of links to publishers and distributors that sell anti-biased children's books and a list of critieria assisting parents in how to determine if some of the books your child has are culturally biased. The critiera listed help parents analyze the many components of a children's book that may seem simple on the facade but in fact is littered with gender bias, racist imagery, and sexual mores. I've pasted the critiera below:


This is a classic list of criteria by the Council on Interracial Children's Books for Children.

10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children's Books for Racism and Sexism by the Council on Interracial Books for Children

Both in school and out children are exposed to racist and sexist attitudes. These attitudes - expressed over and over in books and other media - gradually distort their perceptions until stereotypes and myths about minorities and women are accepted as reality. It is difficult for a librarian or teacher to convince children to question society's attitudes. But if a child can be shown how to detect racism and sexism in a book, the child can proceed to transfer the perception to wider areas. The following ten guidelines are offered as a starting point in evaluation children's books from this perspective.

1. Check the Illustrations

Look for Stereotypes. A stereotype is an over-simplified generalization about a particular group, race or sex, which usually carries derogatory implications. Some infamous (overt) stereotypes of blacks are the happy-go-lucky, watermelon-eating Sambo and the fat, eye-rolling "mammy"; of Chicanos, the sombrero-wearing peon or fiesta-loving, macho bandito; of Asian Americans, the inscrutable, slant-eyed "Oriental"; of Native Americans, the naked savage or "primitive brave" and his "squaw"; of Puerto Ricans, the switchblade-toting teenage gang member; of women, the completely domesticated mother, the demure, doll-loving little girl or the wicked stepmother. While you may not always find stereotypes in the blatant forms described, look for variations which in any way demean or ridicule characters because of their race or sex.

Look for Tokenism. If there are racial minority characters in the illustrations, do they look just like whites except for being tinted or colored in? Do all minority faces look stereotypically alike, or are they depicted as genuine individuals with distinctive features?

Who's Doing What? Do the illustrations depict minorities in subservient and passive roles or in leadership and action roles? Are males the active "doers" and females the inactive observers?

2. Check the Story Line

Liberation movements have led publishers to weed out many insulting passages, particularly from stories with Black themes and from books depicting female characters; however, racist and sexist attitudes still find expression in less obvious ways. The following checklist suggests some of the subtle (covert) form of bias to watch for.

Standards for Success. Does it take "white" behavior standards for a minority person to "get ahead"? Is "making it" in the dominant white society projected as the only ideal? To gain acceptance and approval, do persons of color have to exhibit extraordinary qualities - excel in sports, get As, etc.? In friendships between white and non-white children, is it the child of color who does most of the understanding and forgiving?

Resolution of Problems. How are problems presented, conceived and resolved in the story? Are minority people considered to be "the problem"? Are the oppressions faced by minorities and women represented as related to social injustice? Are the reasons for poverty and oppression explained, or are they accepted as inevitable? Does the story line encourage passive acceptance or active resistance? Is a particular problem that is faced by a racial minority person or female resolved through the benevolent intervention of a white person or male?

Role of Women. Are the achievements of girls and women based on their own initiative and intelligence, or are they due to their good looks or to their relationship with boys? Are sex roles incidental or critical to characterization and plot? could the same story be told if the sex roles were reversed?

3. Look at the Lifestyles

Are minority persons and their setting depicted in such a way that they contrast unfavorably with the unstated norm of white middle-class suburbia? If the minority group in question is depicted as "different", are negative value judgments implied? Are minorities depicted exclusively in ghettos, barrios, or migrant camps? If the illustrations and text attempt to depict another culture, do they go beyond over-simplifications and offer genuine insight into another lifestyle? Look for inaccuracy and inappropriateness in the depiction of other cultures. Watch for instances of the "quaint-natives-in-costume" syndrome (most noticeable in areas like clothing and custom, but extending to behavior and personality traits as well).

4. Weigh the Relationships Between People

Do the whites in the story possess the power, take the leadership, and make the important decisions? Do racial minorities and females of all races function is essentially supporting roles?

How are family relationships depicted? In Black families, is the mother always dominant? In Hispanic families, are there always lots of children? If the family is separated, are societal conditions - unemployment, poverty, for example - cited among the reasons for the separation?

5. Note the Heroes

For many years, books showed only "safe" minority heroes - those who avoided serious conflict with the white establishment of their time. Minority groups today are insisting on the right to define their own heroes (of both sexes) based on their own concepts and struggles for justice.

When minority heroes do appear, are they admired for the same qualities that have made white heroes famous or because what they have done has benefited white people? Ask this question: "Whose interest is a particular hero really serving?"

6. Consider the Effect on a Child's Self-Image

Are norms established which limit any child's aspirations and self-concept? What effect can it have on images of the color white as the ultimate in beauty, cleanliness, virtue, etc., and the color black as evil, dirty, menacing, etc.? Does the book counteract or reinforce this positive association with the color white and negative association with black?

What happens to a girl's self-image when she reads that boys perform all of the brave and important deeds? What about a girl's self-esteem if she is not "fair" of skin and slim of body?

In a particular story, is there one or more persons with whom a minority child can readily identify to a positive and constructive end?

7. Consider the Author's or Illustrator's Background

Analyze the biographical material on the jacket flap or the back of the book. If a story deals with a minority theme, what qualifies the author or illustrator to deal with the subject? If the author and illustrator are not members of the minority being written about, is there anything in their background that would specifically recommend them as the creators of this book?

8. Check Out the Author's Perspective

No author can be wholly objective. All authors write out of a cultural, as well as a personal context. Children's books in the past have traditionally come from authors who were white and who were members of the middle class, with one result being that a single ethnocentric perspective has dominated children's literature in the United States. With any book in question, read carefully to determine whether the direction of the author's perspective substantially weakens or strengthens the value of his/her written work. Is the perspective patriarchal or feminist? is it solely eurocentric, or do minority cultural perspectives also appear?

9. Watch for Loaded Words

A word is loaded when it has insulting overtones. Examples of loaded adjectives (usually racist) are "savage," "primitive," "lazy," "superstitious," "treacherous," "wily," "crafty," "inscrutable," "docile," and "backward"."

Look for sexist language and adjectives that exclude or ridicule women. Look for use of the male pronoun to refer to both males and females. While the generic use of the word "man" was accepted in the past, its use today is outmoded. The following examples show how sexist language can be avoided: ancestors instead of forefathers; chairperson instead of chairman; community instead of brotherhood; firefighters instead of firemen; manufactured instead of manmade; the human family instead of the family of man.

10. Look at the Copyright Date

Books on minority themes - usually hastily conceived - suddenly began appearing in the mid-1960s. There followed a growing number of 'minority experience" books to meet the new market demand, but most of these were still written by the white authors, edited by white editors and published by white publishers. They therefore reflected a white point of view. Not until the early 1970s has the children's book world begun to even remotely reflect the realities of a multiracial society. The new direction resulted from the emergence of minority authors writing about their own experiences. Unfortunately, this trend has been reversing, as publishers have cut back on such books. Non-sexist books, with rare exceptions, were not published before 1973.

The copyright dates, therefore, can be a clue as to how likely the book is to be overtly racist or sexist, although a recent copyright date, of course, is no guarantee of a book's relevance or sensitivity. The copyright date only means the year the book was published. It usually takes about two years from the time a manuscript is submitted to the publisher to the time it is actually printed and put on the market. This time lag meant very little in the past, but in a time of rapid change and changing consciousness, when children's book publishing is attempting to be "relevant," it is becoming increasingly significant.

Teaching for Change PO Box 73038, Washington, DC 20056
Toll-free 800-763-9131 | DC Area 202-588-7204 | Fax 202-238-0109
Web Site by Akadis | Copyright © 1999, Teaching for Change | Legal Notice
Illustration by James O’Brien

Wednesday, July 19

Ghetto Tax

A new study out from the Brookings Institute brings to light the hundreds of extra dollars low income families pay for everyday items in comparison to middle class families. The article in the New York Times today discusses the study's findings and addresses the disparity between those living in poverty stricken areas and others living in middle class areas of cities. It's bad enough that this country's welfare system works against those in poverty to ever have a chance to rise above the poverty line given the vast limitations and strategic rules that keep people from making a certain amount of income, but counting the "ghetto tax" piles on extreme limits to anyone trying to make it. Considering that the majority of people in poverty are women and children these regulations and practices hender a mother's ability to care for her children which again is sad in a country that claims to be so pro-mother and completely pro-child......No child left behind.......right?

The Brookings Institute has advised that doing away with such financial loop holes would be a step forward in the fight against poverty. I wonder how much government investment goes into the 'fight against poverty'? The capitalist culture we live in demands poverty as a means of control and clearly a means of consumption, so I don't believe the government has much investment in eradicating poverty as much as 'fighting the war on terror' which has it's finanical benefits as well. A bit contradictory considering a fight against poverty would in the long run create a better more educated consumer culture and if there was an investment in long term self reliance on natural fuel sources the war on terror would cease to be the front for control of natural resources.

Tuesday, July 18

Urban Baby Link

(Photo: Gail Albert Halaban/Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery)
Thanks to Jennifer over at Toxic Shock for the link to New York Magazine's article on the Urban Baby trend. Interesting and very telling article!

Friday, July 14

It's Cool to be a Mom?

Standing in the line at the grocery store one can't help but notice all the celebrity baby boom hipe. It seems as if celebrity moms are the new trend for the droves of media entities that report to the public. Another trend in motherhood is the Hot Mom's Club. Now, the Hot Mom's Club claims to redefine motherhood and I can't quite decide yet if these parameters will have a negative effect on motherhood in general or perhaps a positive effect pushing mothers and their issues into mainstream media. The Hot Mom's Handbook proclaims that moms should have fun, take time out for themselves as an unhappy woman is an unhappy mom, and can find their inner sexy self.

The Hot Mom's Handbook is the official guide to the "Hot Mom" movement and the ultimate resource for any mom who refuses to check her sense of style and sexuality at the white picket fence! This handbook tosses all those mom? stereotypes right out the minivan window and reveals the eight secrets guaranteed to transform every mom into a Hot Mom!

Seems to me that these mantras read a bit like a Cosmo for moms with a concentration on visual facade. The perception that there is some 'movement' is perpetuated by the trend of celebrity moms going everywhere with their kids in tow dressed in the coolest gear and looking oh so fresh. The kicker is that celebrity moms go places with their kids just like other moms do but now that a media trend has kicked in they are just photographed and published more. So it's cool to be a mom now or is it cool to be a certain kind of mom? Isn't this kind of thing insinuating that moms need to transform themselves into a highlighted hair, lipgloss wearing, fit and trim, style savy, Denali driving, sexually alluring woman/mom? Let's face it moms are already worked to the bone but now popular culture has set in place, icons that can afford nannies while they shower, shave, and get themselves ready to go as the basis for 'transformation'? Geeeeeeeeezzzzzzz what other idealizations will be placed on moms. We are expected to do many things well and now we are expected to look good doing it? Oh I forgot this little doozy is packaged like its 'taking time out for yourself' which I agree with completely. Moms should have time for themselves to relax or take on projects that are pertinent to their interests outside of the family environment but I don't think this concentration on looks and being sexual and hot is nessessarly reaching in the right direction. It's pretty clear that consistent notions of female visual expectations are now flowing over into motherhood. The expectation and concentration on women's bodies is a common issue and women are free to look how they wish as are mothers. Being a mother is about freedom to choose who and what you want to be, what your priorities are, and what kind of path you wish to take. This notion does proclaim that moms should take time for themselves but I'm not so sure that concentration on visual appeal is the way to reach all moms and take into account their issues. The message is good but the path is misdirected.

Sunday, July 9

Going to Charleston

I'm heading to Charleston until Thursday but will try to hit a computer at some point, though I'll try to stay relegated to the beach! It's my birthday Monday so I deserve it!

Starting to Get a Little Suspicious

Here we go again and again until there is nothing more to say???? Or so, one would assume that eventually the press would shut up already and write about more pressing issues. Alas, another new book and still no conclusion to this tiresome myth!

I'm starting to get a bit suspicious that perhaps even writers claiming to be pro-mother are perhaps cashing in on this merry-go-round by perpetuating the continuing debate on this issue. I mean crap, if we all really came to that almighty conclusion.........All mothers work very hard regardless of whether they are in the paid workforce or not and no, the ones at work are not endangering their children and no, the ones who choose to stay home for whatever reason are not unmotivated and uneducated!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So as to not perpetuate this issue futher I'm not going to talk about again!!!!!! I hope!!!!!!!

Friday, July 7

Things That Make Me Go Hmmmm!

There are a couple of items today that have made me squint my eyes and go hmmmm. There is a new word that has been added to the Merriam Webster dictionary. "Himbo" is the masculine counterpart to "Bimbo" and is defined as "an attractive but vaucuous man." I clearly did not get the memo that "Bimbo" was an actual term denoting an actual person, and not a reference to a specific stereotype of female. I guess the bimbos of the world would be pleased now that they have a male counterpart so the discription is less gender biased, right? Instead of deconstucting the stereotype and realizing the stereotype's purpose, we have now legitmized it. Great!

Good to know as well that Brittney isn't the only mom who makes mistakes. Gee that's a shocker. Moms make mistakes? That word 'mistake' is so interesting. If anyone has the check list for proper mothering could you please send it to me, I am without and thus making 'mistakes'.

My third and final question of the day is; why do men at the gym have to look at my crotch when I'm stretching? I don't get this. I prefer to wear sweat pants to the gym so it's not like you can catch a glimpes of anything but nevertheless, I bend over to stretch and any man within a eight to ten foot radius must look at my crotch. Is it involuntary? Do they know they are doing it? I've battled various methods on handling such glances and none work. I guess I don't understand the enchantment of a clothed anonymous crotch.

Thursday, July 6

I decided for my 31st birthday that I wanted to trash all my old make-up and start new. Even though any primping has become a far distant fantasy, on occasion I actually like to dry my hair instead of pulling it back wet, and put on a bit of war paint. So my husband and I headed to the mall where the only M.A.C and Benefit counter exists in the entire city. I could only dream of a Sephora! Unlike Los Angeles where I've spent the last ten years of life, South Carolina operates on a different level when it comes to facade obsession. Still, the twenty something, running around L.A, eating sushi on Sunset Blvd., looking a certain way woman remains somewhere buried in my body, but is consistently put in check by forces that are spontanious, invisible, and confusing.
As I was looking at the eyeshadows I heard a voice say, "I'm looking for more conservative shades; taupes, creams, and light earthy tones........I'm turning 31 and I'm a mom now so I have to tone it down." I was like where the hell did that come from? I felt like I had developed multiple personalities; one saying I was a mom now, the other saying why the hell do you have to 'tone it down?', and the other analyzing what just happened. Removing my belly button ring that was part of my body since I was 19 was nessessary due to an expanding waist line but when my little one entered the world that voice was there in my head. "Moms don't where belly button jewelry!"
Clearly, some preconceived notion of what a mom should look like has seeped into my brain. I was trying to decide where it came from. As a feminist mom it seems that these forces of conversion would be something of which I'm completely against. I haven't quite decided if these things have anything to do with motherhood at all but moving from the twenty something mentality into a time of life where priorties change. I've read the Mommy Myth, and I get that our culture defines roles by behavior and exterior image. The problem is I miss some of that person or perhaps a bit of the freedom that comes along with being twenty something and somewhat selfish. There has to be a way to carry some of that identity over, I just haven't found a way to integrate them as of yet!

Monday, July 3

Protest in Action!

Go Moms! Read the article about moms protesting at Victoria's Secret.

Saturday, July 1

Protest Victoria's Secret

Support the nursing sit-in!!!!! Victoria's Secret has yet again decided that image is everything at the expense of nursing moms. An article in the Boston Herald has mommy bloggers up on arms and rightly so. This is also not the only incident by the store. Check out the press release for the sit-in and sign the letter that is being circulated by a mother's group.

I also have to give credit to Boston Mommy for posting on this issue. Spread the word!!!!!!!!