Tag Archives: gender issues

Sorry Working Moms, You’re Getting Bashed Again

I’m popping out of my blog-break to rant. Today I (stupidly) read an opinion piece that flat-out stated daycare is bad for kids. And that studies claiming “the kids are alright” are actually carefully crafted so as not to hurt working women’s feelings with the truth.

Naturally, working fathers were not mentioned in the post.

I’m not linking to the piece because a) I think it’s BS and b) it turns out to be an old post making the rounds a second time and you probably already read it. But allow me to rage for a moment. Or longer.

This blogger’s argument makes the following (wrong) assumptions:

That all children at home are automatically receiving higher-quality care than those in daycare.

That all women have a choice between staying home with their children, and going out to work.

That there was some golden point in history where no mother worked outside the home, and the children were all perfect as a result.

That mothers who did stay at home were always focused solely on caring for their children.

That wealthy mothers who stayed home never hired other women to care for their children. (See: Downton Abbey.)

That mothers who work outside the home today are doing so to afford “luxuries” like [insert things other families are supposed to learn to live without if only they made sacrifices].

That mothers who could afford to live comfortably off their partner’s income but choose to work to afford said luxuries are automatically bad mothers.

That mothers who do have financial choice and still opt to work outside the home because [insert any other reason] are automatically bad mothers.

That men are more ambitious than women and wouldn’t choose to stay home with their children anyway.

That fathers who work outside the home never have anything to do with the raising of their children.

That fathers who work outside the home are never doing so for selfish reasons, or even if they are, that’s ok, because men!

That women are always the better caregivers and should therefore always be the ones to stay home with the children.

That marriages never break up.

That there are no single parents.

That there are no same-sex parents.

That all women who stay home with their children want to do so.

That women can just pick up where they left off career-wise after staying home for X years to care for children.

That mothers who do stay home never have all or some of their children in daycare or preschool.

That sending a child 3.5 and up to school full-time is fine, expected even, but daycare is “letting others raise your children for you”.

I could go on. But bear with me a little longer…

Let’s just say, it’s true: children in daycare are at higher risk of x, y or z. I don’t believe it, but for the sake of argument, let’s go there. So, what now? Many if not most mothers work! Have to, want to, whatever. This is not changing! So maybe something else needs to. Maybe…

We could be a more family-friendly society over all, one that actually cares about the well-being of all children, and supports all parents in caring for theirs? Where women—and men—didn’t have to fear career-suicide for putting their families first when necessary?

There could be better parental leave for both mothers and fathers (we’re pretty fortunate here in Canada, but not everyone can take advantage of it, for financial or other reasons)?

There could be more flex-time, telecommuting, or job-sharing options?

We could value child care workers, and pay them a decent wage?

Or, what if there were more on-site daycares, so families could reduce the number of hours their children are in care and maximize the time they spend together?

What if we had universal child care, so those opting or needing to put their children in care could be assured it is of high quality, and not just what they could afford to cobble together?

What if instead of offering working mothers criticism (because let’s be honest, the articles are never about “working fathers”), we offered solutions and support?

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Filed under babies, career, child care, education, gender issues, in the news, parenting, pet peeves, Uncategorized, work, working parents

Feminism is Dead

Today Chatelaine released the results of their This is (40ish) poll of Canadian women. As a 40ish woman myself, this is something I can definitely relate to. But the stat that really jumped out at me was that 68% of women surveyed said they were not feminists.

Based on the other responses, it seems to me like most of these women work outside the home, even though many also have children. Some are making good money, which suggests they had access to a high level of education. It seems many are married or in a relationship, presumably of their choosing, while others have exercised the right to divorce. I know for sure they all have the right to vote. All things women here in Canada can do thanks to feminism.

Surely these women don’t want to go back to a time when these things were not possible. So I wondered, what gives? Why would so many reject the label “feminist”? Then it occurred to me: it must be because feminism is no longer needed!

So, that must mean that women–all women, white women as well as women of colour–must earn the same amount as men for the same work!

It must mean that movies and TV now feature 50% female lead characters—and they DO stuff to move the story along (as opposed to being just the wife, girlfriend, damsel in distress, or token female in an ensemble).

Our government is made up of 50% women too, and not just the cabinet.

It must mean that boys and girls can choose to play with and read what they like, without so much as raising an eyebrow.

If feminism is no longer necessary, it must mean “like a girl” is not the worst possible insult that can be hurled at a boy or a man.

Women are no longer judged almost exclusively by their appearance. There is no market for photos of female celebrities without make-up, or wearing bikinis on the beach (even if they have cellulite). Because women can wear whatever they want now.

I guess there are also no more mommy wars articles, because women can not only choose to stay home or to go out to work, no one suggests one is better than the other. Plus, since men now also have this choice, and can exercise it without being criticized or professionally penalized, the term “mommy wars” simply makes no sense.

Women are no longer targeted and threatened by online trolls for expressing opinions, or even for playing video games!

If feminism has done everything it can, I guess women who are harassed or assaulted aren’t automatically asked what they were doing there, what they were wearing, how much they’d had to drink. Even better, it’s great that women can now go out and about just like men, day or night, without fear of being sexually harassed or assaulted at all!

So thank you feminists, but it seems like everything is completely equal now, so we don’t need you anymore.

Oh, wait…

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Filed under gender issues, in the news, pet peeves, random, Uncategorized

Oh, Canada: Change Is Hard

Last year I went with BB#1’s third grade class to a heritage schoolhouse to experience what a typical day was like for children 100 years ago. So we learned about such quaint, outdated practices as corporal punishment, addressing the teacher as “ma’am”, and singing “God Save the King” each morning.

I know: some of you are surprised that once upon a time, our national anthem was not, in fact, “O Canada”! But it’s true! Then times changed. And so did our anthem. It wasn’t actually that long ago either, Canada as it is today is pretty young in the grand scheme of nationhood. And probably, people resisted at first. Probably they said stuff like, “people are oversensitive these days” or “what a silly change” or “why are we rewriting history” or “if we change the anthem to suit one group, pretty soon other groups are going to demand other changes”. Or even “if you don’t like OUR Canada the way it is, get the @#$%! out!”*

Sadly, Twitter and the internet comments sections on news sites didn’t exist back then, so we can never know for sure.** But I think it is safe to assume some people reacted much as they do every time someone makes the suggestion that the lyrics to our current national anthem be changed ever-so-slightly in order to include the other half of our population: you know, our daughters.

What’s particularly ironic is, the lyrics have already been changed at least once. They weren’t actually handed down from on high, written on stone tablets***. We can and do change these kinds of things to reflect the current society (did you know at one time women were denied the vote in this country?) And life goes on. Okay, so “thou dost in us command” might be difficult for modern-day Canadians to sing, but the proposed change to “in all of us command”? Seems like it would roll off the tongue. And hey, we’d get to lose that pesky “thy”! Win-win.

Of course there are always the “there are bigger fish to fry” folks, who suggest activists focus on a more important issue than a few words in a song. Classic distraction technique. Okay then: If it’s no big deal, why not just make the change? Or better yet, let’s change it to “in all thy daughters command”? Because of course, when we say daughters, we really mean “everyone”, don’t be so sensitive! After all, it’s just a word, right?

*to these people, I have to say, in the words of Jack White, even though he was speaking to Americans: “Why don’t you kick yourself out, you’re an immigrant too.” (Unless they are First Nations of course.)

**actually I’m sure there are archived letters and newspaper clippings on the topic, if you would care to do the research.

***which brings up the whole issue of “god” in the anthem of a country where we’re supposed to have a separation of church and state. Let’s just say, I don’t sing that line either, because atheist.

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Filed under education, gender issues, in the news, random, schools, teaching, traditions

A Woman by Any Other Name

A few years back I read a blog in which the writer admitted that she viewed women who took their husband’s last names after marriage as less intelligent, less educated. I was so offended by this that I haven’t been able to read her blog since. It coloured my view of her as intolerant and superior, and so although she may have a lot of other interesting things to say, I can’t be bothered.

If I’m honest, I was also annoyed that by disagreeing with her, I was lumped in with commenters who claimed  women who did not take their husband’s names were less committed to the marriage, would inevitably end up divorced, and were confusing their children. Those comments were just as offensive as the post. Because it was not her choice to keep her birth name I disagreed with–it was that she looked down on anyone who didn’t do the same.

My parents were surprised that I opted to take my husband’s name when we got married because they know I’m a feminist. My belief is that, as a feminist, I have a choice. And I couldn’t care less if others make the same choice or not. Get married, don’t get married. Have children, don’t have children. Keep your birth name, change to your partner’s name. Hyphenate, make up a new name, give some children your name and other children your partner’s name, be a Ms. or  a Mrs. And yep, I’m down with men taking their partners’ names too. Whatever. Do whatever you want. Personally I don’t think it makes any difference to anyone but the two people in the marriage, I don’t believe it reflects the level of commitment to the relationship (or a woman’s level of intelligence!), and I think it’s laughable that children would be confused by any of this (they can handle the truth). Seriously, is anyone really shocked these days by unmarried parents, common-law parents, divorced parents, married parents with different last names, married parents with the same last name, adoptive parents, blended families, same-sex parents, interracial parents? Seriously? And yet, I still see articles and blog posts about the name “issue”.

Yes, I get that some women object to changing their last names because it’s a patriarchal tradition. I completely understand and would not tell those women to make a choice other than the one that feels right to them. Though I couldn’t get too worked up about that personally, because if you want to get technical, most birth names are symbolic of patriarchy. My birth name came from my father, so…Perhaps your mother wasn’t married to your father and therefore you share her birth name. Okay—but where did that name come from? Her father? Yup: patriarchy. When it comes to last names, short of inventing a new one or becoming so famous you don’t need one at all, it’s pretty hard to escape the legacy of patriarchy. But just as keeping my birth name would not have implied my father still retained “ownership”, changing my last name to my husband’s doesn’t mean I’m “his property” either. Our marriage was not arranged between the families, there was no dowry, no bride-price, no goats were exchanged. It’s an equal partnership whether or not we share a last name.

I wore a veil at my wedding because I thought it was pretty and that this was probably the only opportunity I’d ever have in my life to wear something sparkly on my head. I also wore a white dress despite having lived with my husband for several years before we formally married because that’s what I wanted to wear. These symbols don’t mean what they used to. In fact marriage itself is not what it once was (which is why I don’t understand people arguing against same-sex marriage as if the institution itself hasn’t constantly evolved over the centuries—and thank goodness for that!) If you are that hung up on what marriage used to represent, instead of what it means to you and your partner right here and now, I’m not really sure why you would get married at all. And if you choose not to, more power to you! Isn’t personal choice great?

So why did I opt to change my name? It wasn’t because I worried about my children having the same last name. It wasn’t because I thought it would show greater commitment to my marriage. It wasn’t a political statement at all. I most definitely considered keeping my birth name, and can completely understand all the reasons to do that, as well as the reasons other couples make other choices. I think it’s cool when both partners officially change to the same hyphenated name (I admit I’m curious what the next generation will do if faced with combining two already hyphenated names—but I’m sure these couples will work out that little detail just fine. It’s hardly a deal-breaker.) I would have loved to hyphenate, but call me vain, our names just didn’t go well together. To be honest, I could have gone either way. But when it came time to decide, well, my husband’s name is slightly easier for others to pronounce and spell correctly. Really, that’s about as deep as my reasoning went. But it was my choice to make, and I made it, and if someone views me as less feminist or less educated or less something as a result, I think they need to reflect on what feminism really means. (Hint: it’s not “everyone who doesn’t do what I do is doing it wrong.”)

Frankly, I can’t believe what other people choose to do about a last name after marriage or when having children is even still a conversation. You do what feels right for you, for whatever reason, and I’ll respect that. I expect the same in return. It’s pretty simple, actually.

But please, don’t send me snail mail addressed to “Mrs. Husband’s First Name Last Name”, okay? I share my husband’s surname, not his first.

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Filed under gender issues, random

Raising Boys to Men

At 15 ½, my nephew towers over me. But when he was about 3 years old, and still much shorter than me, I used to catch him as he ran by and hug him. One day, he muttered “I hate it when you do that you know”. To which I replied light-heartedly, “I know, but I’m your auntie.”

While my bigger regret is that I’d let my relationship with him, and my nieces, get to the point where hugs and kisses were no longer freely given and received, now that I’m a parent I am also sorry that I so blithely dismissed his right to bodily autonomy. A hug from an aunt may not seem like a big deal, but if he didn’t welcome it, and I knew he didn’t welcome it, it was not okay for me to do it.

These days, I have frequent discussions with my husband about “encouraging” our own boys to hug or kiss relatives and friends. I say if they don’t want to, they should not be forced or nagged. It’s one thing to suggest it; it’s another to tell them they must. He doesn’t disagree—and he gets my point about how cajoling them to hug Great Aunt Agnes sets them up to be manipulated into touching “Uncle” Jake just because he’s a grown up and says so. But my husband also feels familial affection should be nurtured, and that lack of it can cause offense.

It’s also difficult for him to fathom that when I was a child—and really, even today—tickling felt like a sort of torture. So while our children seem to enjoy roughhousing and being tickled—ask for it, in fact—the moment they say “no” or “stop”, I believe it needs to cease. They may just be joking, but we need to take their words at face value. Not only do I want them to know their bodies are theirs alone, but the last thing I want my boys to learn from us is that the proper response to NO is more of the same. Or, “oh come on, it doesn’t hurt”; “we’re just having a little fun”; or maybe worst of all, “if you loved me, it would be okay…” We may not have ever said these things, but they could be implied.

I usually avoid reading or watching the news. I feel it’s biased and sensational, and that I don’t need to be haunted by horrible images of things I am helpless to change. But certain headlines and news reports filter through, and sometimes I click. I’ve been disturbed by a couple of stories recently (you can probably guess which ones), and found myself wondering, aside from giving up on the human race completely, what can I do?

And I think the most important thing I can do, as a mother of two boys, is to raise them to respect themselves, respect others, respect women. To protect them, of course, but to raise them not to hurt others, either. While parents of daughters will no doubt go on telling their girls how to protect themselves from rape, I’ll do my part in raising my boys—well, not to rape. Teaching them that forcing sex on another person is never okay, that joking about rape is never okay. And I completely agree with Avital Norman Nathman,  who writes here, “I will not have anyone excuse my son for being ‘too young’ or ‘just a boy.’ I will not devalue him like that.”

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Filed under gender issues, in the news, parenting, teaching, the beautiful boys, Uncategorized

One Gun Added On to the One Gun

I recently read two blog posts (here and here) I could relate to, as the pacifist mother of boys who play with guns. Full disclosure: I had to re-write that first sentence a few times because the fact is, I never thought I’d be the mother of boys who play with guns. But if I’m totally honest, I am, and they do.

As my mother has reminded me on occasion, there were going to be no toy weapons in MY house. I could see no reason why children would ever need to re-enact violence of any kind. Yes, I heard the stories about boys making guns out of Barbie dolls and pieces of cheese. Wasn’t going to happen here.

We did well for a while—I remember the pride my husband and I felt when our first child had to ask what that toy was some kids on our street were playing with. He’d gotten to the age of three without recognizing a gun, even a toy one. Yes, combined with the fact he’d never eaten at McDonalds either, we were feeling pretty chuffed about our parenting.

It was probably not long after that that the first toy sword made it into our home. To be fair, I had suggested dress-up clothes as a gift idea, and probably specifically knights or pirates, both of which he was interested in at the time. And my sister gave me the accompanying sword off to the side, just in case. In fact, I had been tossing any gun or gun-like accessory that came with any toy he was given (we avoided purchasing any toys like that ourselves). Because that was the rule: no guns.

But I reasoned, how would a knight fight a dragon without a sword, and anyway, it’s not as if he’d actually ever get a real one and do damage with it. It was fantasy, totally unrealistic, and not the same as a toy gun. Not at all. Later, when a tussle between him and his baby brother ended in a poked eye, the sword went in the garbage. I wasn’t against toy swords per se, but clearly our boys were not ready for them. That lasted a few years, until the lightsabers arrived (with the caveat that if there’s any eye-poking, we all know where the lightsabers will end up.)

And then there was the question of water guns. They don’t LOOK real, and what kid doesn’t like to spray or get sprayed with water on a hot summer day? I tried to go with “squirters”, I even got some dinosaur heads that were supposed to spritz. They never worked. Nothing ever worked quite as well as a big ole gun, even if I refused to call it that. Not that that ever fooled my boys.

Eventually, other toy guns started trickling in. I’m not even sure how it happened—I suspect it was the Lego. A lot of our Lego belonged to my husband, and in the bin were some tiny guns and swords. It didn’t seem right to throw them out, they were practically antiques, and anyway, most of the new sets we were starting to accumulate had weapons; blasters or lightsabers or spears. I guess I could have “disappeared” them too, but…Besides, at this point the boys had realized they could BUILD a gun out of Lego. Or, you know, a piece of toast bitten in a certain way. Or a stick in just the right shape.

Then there are video games. Don’t panic: they don’t play “Call of Duty” or anything. But if you’ve ever played a video game, you might have noticed, many of them involve “blasting”, “zapping”, “spraying”, “targeting”. It’s sort of all shooting, isn’t it? I find it more and more difficult to tell them they can’t play games with guns in them, but can play games with “pea-shooters”.

Through all this, I’ve held on to a ban against realistic-looking, life-sized toy guns. Perhaps that’s not much of a standard. I guess my thinking has been, handguns are for killing people, and they are not fantasy in our world. Then again, swords weren’t just for decoration or polite fencing matches back in the day, so yes, you can question my fuzzy logic. Maybe I’m more zen, maybe I’m lazy, maybe I’ve given up. I don’t know. But I like to think I still have a line, even a faint one.

There is something else I hold on to though. My husband, who firmly believes no one needs a handgun, and agrees that there will never be a real one in our home, has fired guns. Has enjoyed playing first-person shooter games. And is one of the kindest, gentlest, most respectful, least violent people you’ll ever hope to meet. My boys—yeah, they play shooting games. And: they are also not particularly aggressive children. Knock wood, they have never been in a fight at school (to be honest, I worry they get pushed around by more aggressive kids if anything—but that’s another story). I’m not saying playing with toy guns, or seeing violence in movies and in video games, hasn’t had, or won’t have, an effect on them. But I do think it’s entirely possible this is very normal behavior after all, and that my boys will still grow up good men like their dad. And maybe even pacifists.

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Filed under gender issues, parenting, the beautiful boys, Uncategorized

Breastfeeding Dads

My husband is a very private person who is not at all interested in the online space or social media, so you normally won’t see too much about him on this blog. However, we are co-parents so it’s pretty hard to write about the boys without some mention of their father.

And he’s a pretty amazing dad. He’s crazy about his boys, and it’s mutual. He’s loving, playful, interested, involved, and a terrific role model. He reads bedtime stories, takes them to their activities and appointments, plans parties, tickles them, hugs them, talks to them, plays Lego for hours, teaches them to ride bikes, to ski, to swim. When they were babies, he wore them in a carrier, changed their diapers, burped them, dressed them, comforted them, bathed them, fed them their first solids. You know, normal parent stuff. So it was no surprise to me when I read an article about a recent study (on a terrific site about all things fathering) that found dads of exclusively breastfed babies (as ours were) are as involved as dads of bottlefed babies. To me it’s almost one of those “they had to study that?” studies. Of course the parent-child bond is about more than feeding!

Full disclosure: in the first days of BB#1’s life, my husband was involved in finger-feeding him pumped milk through a tube due to latch issues—but I suspect he’d have traded that “bonding experience” for an easier start to breastfeeding and parenthood. But after that, if BB#1 had a bottle of pumped milk, it was generally given by me, since I was the parent home with him during the first year of his life. And BB#2 never took a bottle from anyone. The idea that my husband didn’t bond with the boys because he didn’t give them bottles is, frankly, laughable. Besides, I hated pumping and was never very successful at it. If I’d felt I had to pump or that I had to get BB#2 to take a bottle when he was clearly not interested, that would have been stress our family didn’t need. There were already so, so, so many other things my husband was doing to help care for his children.

However, the study also found that some fathers feel “inadequate” about their inability to breastfeed. To this I say “and?” I don’t mean that to sound cold. It’s just I think that’s the natural state of being of the new parent: mother, father, breastfeeding, or bottlefeeding. I breastfed, and certainly still felt inadequate a lot of the time. It’s not surprising new fathers can feel the same way—babies are hard work! There may be reasons to introduce a bottle—to reduce dads’ potential feelings of inadequacy about being biologically incapable of breastfeeding is not one of those reasons.

Another finding that surprised me: the vast majority of fathers in the study rated professional breastfeeding assistance as “unhelpful”. I am not certain what type of professional help is meant here. I personally had a lot of professional advice in a variety of forms, and the helpfulness varied greatly:

Obstetrician: non-existent.

Maternity ward nurses: less than helpful (at times, detrimental).

Pediatrician: seemed to focus more on giving me permission to wean when things were difficult than in helping me succeed.

Public health nurse: fairly helpful.

Certified lactation consultant: the main reason I was finally successful with my first baby.

Midwives: though by the birth of my second child, I was fairly knowledgeable and very determined to succeed, built-in breastfeeding support is one of the reasons I suggest first-time parents-to-be consider midwifery. It might save them from dealing with some (or all) of the professionals above.

Without knowing the what sort of professional help the fathers in the study are referring to, it’s hard to surmise why they found it so poor. But my husband is one father who would suggest new parents seek help from a certified lactation consultant if they run into any issues breastfeeding. Unbelievably, not all professionals that work with moms and babies are actually experts in lactation.

My husband and I are very much equal when it comes to parenting, but there were two things he couldn’t do: give birth, and breastfeed. The fact that he completely and unselfishly supported me in my efforts by doing pretty much everything else in those early days so I could focus on feeding our baby, even if it meant he was left out of that small part of the equation, is one of the many reasons he’s an amazing father.

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Filed under breastfeeding, gender issues, midwives, parenting, the beautiful boys, Uncategorized