This is really not the post I expected to write this week. (The title is, uncreatively, inspired by a post at Feminist at Sea. Go. Read.)
But I’d had a blog post planned, beautifully laid out, about gender indoctrination of the young, what I’ve seen so far, and how I’ve tried to stop it in raising my young sprog.
After tonight, however, that’s been put aside for next time. If I’m going to start talking about examining gender roles and how they are a disservice to everyone, I’m going to start with ME.
Tonight was the first truly epic struggle to Get The Baby To Go To Bed. I thought we’d had this before, but oh no, nothing like this at all. Act tired, get restful, go (mostly) to sleep, lay the baby down, baby wakes (immediately or in several minutes’ time) SCREAMING. This is, regrettably, no exaggeration. I’d had a couple hours of this already when my partner got home, and it became His Turn.
And see, the thing is, I can hear in my head the whole time that I should be Doing Something. That I’m the Mom ™. It’s my Job. Never mind it’s been my job for 12 hours already today, straight, with no relief. The nagging voices in my head (courtesy of the patriarchy) are saying I’m not Good Enough because I can’t make a teething baby sleep. I’m not a good woman because I’m not infinitely patient with a screaming child to whom I gave life.
And yet I can look at my partner, who has come in from a long day Doing Something Else, and not expect him to have the same infinite patience I expect from myself.
After giving myself a well-deserved break (and letting my partner get the kiddo down, finally), and a nice chat with a feminist friend, I realized something rather important: my reactions, and my partner’s reactions to the same stimulus (the incessantly screaming child) were exactly the same. We both lost patience, but not our tempers, we both despaired of figuring it out, getting it done, and kept trying anyway.
And yet the messages in my head were saying I was crap, and my partner was Superdad.
This is, of course, because I live and was raised in a patriarchy, the system that devalues work when it’s done by women, and uses the fallacious concept of biologically-enforced gender binary to subjugate and demean women and those who do not conform to the binary.
But I digress. The patriarchy. Yes. Indeed.
The patriarchy, and my growing up in one, is responsible for my reaction to tonight’s stress: the barrage of woman-as-natural-nurturer, mother-as-Madonna-figure messages that has bombarded my retinas and eardrums (and most everyone else’s) since my birth shows itself tonight in my gut reaction: that me and my partner, by virtue of having different biological parts, should react in completely different ways to the same stimulus.
And yet. I see it with my own eyes tonight, that we are not so different, that we are pretty much on the same page, and all of a sudden I can let my partner parent, not worry that I’m being neglectful if I’m not in there every second, that having given birth to a human being does not oblige me to use 100% of my energy 100% of the time to making sure that human being doesn’t have to experience pain or discomfort or boredom.
This round: Jo = 1. Patriarchy = 0?
Somewhere along the line of human history men have taken all human characteristics and divided them into two groups. They have taken for themselves the characteristics they liked and have left the rest for women, … To justify oppression and call it the Natural Order of Things.
As a result they have damaged everyone. The “feminine/masculine” dichotomy deprives everyone of the opportunity to become complete human beings.” – Feminist at Sea, “The bullshit dichotomy of femininity/masculinity”.
And here is the best part of tonight: I got rest, and had community with my sister, and a feminist friend, and let my partner do the parenting. I jumped in in the middle, to see if I could help with that one thing my partner can’t (i.e., breastfeeding), and when that didn’t pan out, I left it alone.
If I had followed the patriarchy’s prescriptions for my behavior, being UltraParent until I dropped, then my partner would have missed out on a great experience in parenting, and would have been coddled, as men are in a patriarchy, into not truly knowing what goes into parenting. I could have protected him from that, as my upbringing tells me, and been bitter and resentful that I didn’t have help, which would only have served to isolate me from a person I value in my life, and to entrench me in dogma that serves only to restrict my experience to that of Mother, and leave me no room to be a human being in.
Which is entirely the patriarchy’s point.
As it is, I’m primary parent these days, largely by choice, and generally happy with that. The times I’m not so thrilled are when those messages are playing, the ones that don’t acknowledge all the hard work I’m doing, for nothing more than the knowledge that my child is being raised by a radical feminist, which is nothing to sneeze at in itself, and something worth all the blood, sweat and tears I can put into it. But part of that radical feminist upbringing has to be having me as an example of a real human being, not some saccharine confection the patriarchy’s concocted, designed to give real women an ideal they can never live up to, even if they wanted to. I have to visibly value myself, and the work I’m doing, so that the sprog can see it as valuable.
I also want the sprog to see the entire range of human experience, from both myself and my partner, and not see any of it poo-pooed or particularly lauded because I have one set of bits and my partner has another. The idea that such a small variation in DNA determines what behavior is “appropriate” for one apparent gender or another is absolute hogswallop.
Undermining patriarchal indoctrination, however, is another story, and for the next post in this series.
Bullshit Femininity/Masculinity Series: [Part I] [Part II]