Tag Archives: Raising feminists

Friday Feminist – Kaz Cooke

Cross posted

…if someone tells you that all the fights are over, and nobody needs to bother about being a feminist any more, think about these questions.

- How come, on average, girls do much better than boys at school and uni, yet women are more likely to be in lower paid part-time or casual jobs with fewer benefits and worse conditions?
– Why are most managers, bosses and politicians men?
– How come the average full-time wage for women is still less than the average weekly earnings for men? (In most cases, less than or around 80% of the man’s wage.)
– What is the ‘glass ceiling’ – and why do women keep talking about it?
– Why is it that in many countries women who have been raped are arrested and punished because they are no longer ‘virgins’?
– Why is it that in some cultures girls’ genitals are mutilated? And why are girls in some countries forced to cover themselves entirely with fabric or risk being insulted or assaulted in public or legally punished?
– Why is it that in many cultures young girls are ‘promised’ to older men and forced to marry against their wishes?
– How come so many guys in our own society don’t respect girls and women or their achievements?
– Why do some people persist in behaving as if girls are just toys for guys?
– Why do some girls feel they need to know ‘What guys want’ and ‘Will guys like it if I…’? Wouldn’t it be nice if girls more often thought, ‘What would a guy have to do to impress me‘?
– Why is it that radio stations and music channel;s play songs in which guys call girls ‘hos’, bitches and other brutal, disrespectful things, as if it was nothing – as if it was okay to do that?
– How come more girl singers can’t sing their own songs dressed the way they want, instead of having to look as if they’re practically in a porn video?
– Why do some religious leaders say that women who have their period can’t enter a place of worship?
– Why is a teenage girl who gets pregnant sometimes asked or pressured to leave school, but the father of the baby isn’t?
– How come most of the sports reports (and sponsorships) are for men’s sports?
– Why do large corporations sponsor only (or mainly) men’s sports, not women’s?
– Why do so many radio and TV shows have lots of men but only one woman, never the other way round?
– How come male newsreaders and actors are allowed to get old and look ‘distinguished’, but the women have to try to ‘look younger’ by using cosmetic surgery?
– How come the mostly male politicians in the national government haven’t fixed the child-care problem?
– How come the mostly male politicians in the national government, many of them with a religious bias, make the rules about abortion when they will never be pregnant? And when most male politicians leave the raising of their families to their wives and disappear for weeks at a time?
– How come even the women who work full-time with children usually do a lot more of the housework than their partners?
– Why do so many children’s stories have male heroes, rather than female ones?
– How come women writers often write dramas and comedies with equal roles for guys and women, while most male writers tend to write interesting roles for guys but not so many good roles or lines for women? …

Being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t wear girly clothes, or you hate guys. Being a feminist means you support girls and women have equal rights with guys.

Kaz Cooke, “The F-word – Isn’t everything okay now” in Girl Stuff: Your Full-on Guide to the Teen Years, Viking: Melbourne, 2007

Father’s Day in our house

The girls made breakfast in bed for their daddy.

Scrambled eggs on marmite toast, spciy apple cake, oj, all nicely presented on a tray.

Scrambled eggs on marmite toast, spicy apple cake with a drizzle of cream, and orange juice. The cake was left over from last night’s dessert. The usual rule in our house is that she who gets up first may eat any left over dessert for breakfast: the girls’ devotion to their father is shown by their making sure that there was enough left for him to have some too.

I made the coffee.

Cross posted

10 feminist motherhood questions, from Blue Milk

The fabulous Blue Milk, feminist mother of a girl and a boy, has a long-running series of 10 feminist motherhood questions. This is my response to her questions.

1. How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother?

My feminism is about empowering women as they are, not telling them what they ought to be. I’ve been feminist since I was a girl; I learned it at my mother’s knee. I think one of the earliest manifestations of my feminism was a poem I wrote at school when I was about 14. We were studying ballads, and we had to write one, so I chose to write a protest ballad. A judge in New Zealand had given a man a more lenient sentence for physical violence against his partner, because she was living with him, and thus she was no good trash anyway. I can’t find the case on the web, and I don’t have the poem any more, but I think that was one of my earliest experiences of being feminist. So I was a feminist long before I became a mother, but my motherhood has informed and changed my feminism.
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“Mary Wollstonecraft rocks” – more on raising feminists

Those of you who know me IRL, and those of you have been reading my blog for a while will perhaps be aware that my daughters are the most intelligent, likable, delightful, caring, beautiful girls in the world. I am outrageously proud of them.

I’m sure I will write about each of them on occasion, but today I am feeling particularly outrageously proud of my elder daughter, Miss Ten. As part of her school homework, she is required to read aloud to me for 5 minutes, once a week. Last week, she found some political theory notes I had written for a course I delivered a few years ago, and she read the section on Plato’s theory of the forms (it’s useful to know about them when you are reading The Republic). So she decided would read it out loud to me. But I directed her to another section of the notes, about Mary Wollstonecraft. Hard going, for a ten year old. But she’s a bright kid, and there’s good reason to stretch her, and even better reason to start to introduce her to some of the great women who have come before us, and made the world a better place for us.

Miss Ten read the section competently, and then turned to me and said, “Mary Wollstonecraft rocks!”

Well yes, dear, she does, I thought. We talked a little more about her, and then she started heading off to bed. As I was helping her to straighten her room (a nightly task because she really does prefer to store things on the floor), Miss Ten said, “You know, she [Wollstonecraft] was even more amazing because it must have been much harder to be feminist back then.”

I’ve taught university students who have been incapable of assessing a person in the context of their own times.

Miss Ten says she wants to be a feminist when she grows up. I think she’s one already.

[/proud mother rant over]

Sorting the numbers (and raising feminists)

More on the big question – should we let our Miss Ten get a cell/mobile/hand-u pone (thanks, stef!) phone? There’s a couple of points that are turning into deal-makers for me. The first is to do with being social pariahs, and the second is the money question.

Mr Strange Land and I are not social pariahs, we think (‘though other people might have other opinions about that, and if so, I don’t really want to hear them), but we do tend to go our own way a little, together, that is. We don’t get into the school community scene, although we will happily contribute where needed (both cash and time). We have just one TV in the house, and it doesn’t get tuned to the commercial channels all that often; we don’t listen to commercial radio; if we buy magazines, then they will be New Scientist or occasionally a history magazine, or perhaps a foodie one; we loathe big “community” events; parties are okay in moderation, but a lot of the time we would prefer to stay home; we don’t follow sports much (he does a bit, I don’t at all). In short, we’re not mainstream types. If everyone else is doing something, then that’s fine, but we don’t see it as a reason to do it ourselves.

That’s fine for grown-ups. We’ve gotten over the need to fit in, and we don’t think too much about it. But it’s a different matter for children, who don’t have the same emotional and mental resources as middle-aged adults. The strangelings have all had instances of not knowing about the TV programs that everyone else is talking about, or that are being used as examples in class, nad they’ve found that a bit difficult. (They still don’t get to watch things like “Home and Away.”) I’m reluctant to impose my own individualism on my daughters. I will do my best to help them learn to choose their own paths, but I feel that has to come from the inside, from acquiring a sense of themselves and who they are. That means who they are, not who their parents are. It could be that our children turn out to be more comfortable in a crowd. And if so, that’s fine by us. However, I think that they will find their own way much better if it is done at their own pace, rather than being forced to it by the sticks and stones and slights of their classmates.

I can see good reason not to be the only holdout parents in a class. However, I’m taking a huge grain of salt with Miss Ten’s assertion that every other child in her class has a mobile phone, and her claim that she is the only poor, neglected, child without one. I’m sure there will be others there without. Nevertheless, sooner or later, I think it will be good for her to have one, so that she can participate in the social world of her peers.

But then there’s money. That’s a somewhat tricky question, because Miss Ten has a bit of money saved up, and she says she will use her own money to buy and run a phone (more on that later).

Miss Ten has previously saved up her own money to achieve a particular goal. I’ve mentioned the story in passing before, here and here, but I think it’s worth repeating.

Many years ago, when she was Miss Four, Miss Ten decided she wanted some pet fish. Her father agreed, but he asked her to save up for them. So she saved and saved, and eventually she had about $25 to her name (not bad when pocket money in our house is set at $x/week, where x is half your age). At that stage, she changed her mind. I had banned Barbie dolls in our house, for the obvious reasons, and I had told her that I would not buy her one. But one day, she sat at the lunch table and told us that she had decided she was not going to get fish, she was going to spend her money on something else, and it would be something we didn’t like.

“Bloody hell,” I thought. “That child is going to get herself a Barbie.”

I could have said no, that she was not to spend her money on a Barbie. But it was her money. Children have very little power, and and very little space in which they can make decisions for themselves. I thought that it was better for her to be able to have some area of her life that she could control, so I nodded my head, and agreed that she could get herself a Barbie doll, even though I did not like it.

I see the decision about spending her money on a mobile phone as being a little like the Barbie decision. It is her money, and it does seem reasonable for her to have some control over how it is spent. Of course, Mr Strange Land and I are the parents, and we need to make decisions on behalf of our daughters, and to guide them in their decision making. Nevertheless, we also have to let them learn to make decisions for themselves.

So there are two good reasons for allowing Miss Ten to get herself a mobile phone, both based in our approach to parenting.

But!

As many of you suggested, money, and the complexities of mobile phone plans, are issues. So we have asked her to compile a table showing which companies offer which plans, including the cost of phones, on-going connection, txting, and calling. (Frankly, I will be very grateful if she could sort that out for me too!) She also needs to sort out whether her pocket money will cover it, and if it doesn’t, what she could do to earn more money to cover the cost.

I have also suggested to her that perhaps she needs to get a bit more organised about her life in general before she gets a mobile phone. Little things like keeping her room tidy and remembering to do her homework and piano practice, and helping with the household chores. In other words, start to be a little more responsible, and then we could be sure that she is ready for the responsibility of a mobile phone.

I’m hoping that by thinking about money, and getting organised and being responsible, she will acquire an even greater sense of control over her own life, and a greater sense of being someone who has power. And that in turn will help with finding her way into being her own person, able to make decisions for herself, and to hell with what the crowd is doing. If she wants to go with the crowd, then that’s fine by me. But I would like it to be her decision.

As for raising feminists – she already says she wants to be a feminist when she grows up. I’ve pointed out that she can be one now. But all the feminists I know are people with a strong sense of themselves, a sense that they can, and will, change the world, even if it is one teaspoon at a time. I can think of no better way to raise feminists than by helping them to have power and the ability to do things, right from the start.