Every once in a while I’ll post a cute photo of my daughter to the facebooks. And every once in a while one of my facebook friends will post something like “what a cutie! You’re going to need a shotgun!” And thus they imply that I’m going to need to resort to violence to protect my daughter’s precious virginity from callow, sex-crazed boys. And it pisses me off.
I really really don’t want to be the kind of Dad that gets all possessive about his daughter’s sexuality. I want her to enjoy sex, have sex whenever she’s ready, and equip her with enough self-confidence and information to make sure she’s engaging with herself sexually on her terms, not anyone else’s–not the boys she dates, the girls who are her friends, or her parents’. How her mother and I are going to accomplish this we’re not exactly sure, but it’s a goal we have for her and one we hope to achieve.
I admit I didn’t always think this way, especially when I was younger and wondering what it would be like to have children. But my wife shared with me a story from when she was a teenager and she informed her mother she was having sex. Her mother cried, not because her daughter’s “innocence” was lost or some such nonsense, but because she was so happy for her. My wife’s mother thought it was important for women to have sex with the people they loved, and wanted her daughters to have as many partners as they saw fit. It was a contrast to her Catholic upbringing, which treated women’s sexuality as property and shamed women for having healthy sexual appetites. She was so delighted that her own daughters would not have to live with that kind of psychic oppression.
I think this will be important for my son to see as well. He needs to be raised with the same values, not only to see his sexuality respected, but also to respect the sexuality of others, particularly that of the women in his life. (I recognize, too, that one or both of them might be gay, but the lessons are still the same.) Both children are going to be bombarded with sexist and essentialist societal mores in the media and by their peers, and I can only protect them from that for so long.
So once again I’m not sure exactly how we’re all going to instill these values, but I’m glad nonetheless that we’re at least thinking about them while the children are young. This is tough stuff, and I have a feeling we’re going to need all the time we can get. I also have a feeling that I don’t have nearly as much time as I might otherwise hope.
My only request is that for once we have an honest discussion about the issue Hilary Rosen just raised. (And frankly, it was a little disingenuous of her to later say she was misunderstood and just trying to underscore how wealthy folks like the Romneys are out of touch with issues facing the economic battle-scarred.)
Now, plenty of people recognized that Rosen was talking about privilege, not about the relative merits of SAHMs. Amanda Marcotte recognized it, as did Angry Black Lady, the women of Feministing, and more. (No time for links; look ’em up on twitter.) These same folks realized that the GOP was deliberately using Rosen’s remarks to rekindle the “the mommy wars” for an electoral advantage. It’s saddening that Brenoff is here taking the bait. She continues:
And yet the debate on SAHMs versus working-out-of-the-home moms still lingers. It beats me why except that it never fails to grab headlines and raise the public blood pressure.
Exactly, Ms. Brenoff. Exactly.
As an aside, this quote of hers from the same article needs to be critiqued because she buys into this old sexist canard without, apparently, bothering to verify whether or not it’s true:
(The cavemen, by the way, appear to have very neatly worked things out so that the women raised the offspring while the men went out hunting and gathering, but I’d like to allow for some evolution here.)
Actually, scientific evidence suggests that both sexes engaged in gathering activities in prehistory and there is no clear-cut evidence that hunting was confined to one sex. In certain modern-day hunter/gatherer groups, such as the Aeta people of the Philippines, women hunt as well as the men.
I’m not that familiar with Brenoff’s writing so I don’t mean to disparage her altogether, but this post is pretty dispiriting.
So the right wing twitterverse and punditverse has decided that–despite trying to deny women access to contraception, forcing penetrative ultrasounds on women seeking abortions, defunding Planned Parenthood, and trying to end SCHIP (among other things)—the GOP “War on Women” is entirely fictional. However, they have also apparently decided that there is a very real Obama “War on Moms,” evidenced entirely by the fact that some Democratic woman said something mean about Ann Romney.
What the right has effectively done here is raise Ann Romney up as an “everymom,” insisting that insulting Ann Romney is akin to insulting all mothers. Doing so isn’t a trifle; Ann is reportedly Mitt’s top advisor about women’s economic issues. So I thought I’d do a little comparison between Ann Romney and my own mother, and see which one is more representative of all those mothers out there in America, and therefore who is really deserving of the mantle “everymom.”
Children: Ann has five boys, my mother has three.
Transportation: Ann has several Cadillac cars and a fleet of Dressage Horses. My mom has a Buick “Regal.” From the 1990’s.
Work Outside the Home: Ann, as we all know by now, was a stay-at-home-mom who didn’t work outside the home at all. Even after her children were grown, Ann didn’t work. My mother was a schoolteacher for 40 years, and just retired on a meager pension.
Spouse’s Income: Ann’s husband makes millions and millions and millions of dollars. My mom was a single mother until I was ten, and then married a fellow teacher. Together they made about sixty thousand a year.
Shelter: Ann has several homes and mansions valued in the millions. My mother just paid off the $30,000 home she bought in the lower-middle class part of town thirty years ago.
Domestic Help: Ann’s homes come with servants and staff. My mother did all the housework herself (with her children’s reluctant help).
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. Which of these two women, as described, do you think more represents the experiences of mothers in America today? Which one do you think would be better able to advise a Presidential candidate about women’s economic issues?
These are rhetorical questions. The answers are obvious, and chances are you didn’t need me to point this out to you. Somehow, I don’t think the “war on moms” line is going to stick.
Those who know me know how much I adore Amanda Marcotte’s writing. She has a few thoughts on the Ann Romney/Hilary Rosen flap herself, and as always says them more artfully than I ever could.
Rosen’s point stands. Romney’s tweet actually confirms that she has no idea what it’s like for most women to be out there, worrying about how to make enough money to take care of themselves and their families. That she had the choice to stay home makes that very clear.
In the real world, many stay-at-home moms are living in poverty, unable to afford a job because of the costs of child care, and often living on a patchwork of family help, food stamps, and under-the-table employment. Even those who don’t live in poverty are often living in a much more financially precarious situation than the “choice” stay-at-home mothers the media loves so much. The reality is that most mothers work, since most middle class families rely on women holding paid employment to stay afloat. More than 3/4 of women with children under age 15 at home have paid employment outside of the home.
Amanda encapsulates exactly the dishonesty that comes with not recognizing privilege. The romantic notion of the stay-at-home-mom embraced on the right by people like the Romneys is demonstrably a myth.
In case you missed it, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen blew up twitter last night after remarking on Anderson Cooper 360 that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life” and was thus not qualified to talk about the economic issues most women face. The resulting firestorm, now being pushed hard by the Romney camp, has been to reignite the “mommy wars” over the “choice” to be a stay-at-home-mom rather than being a working mother.
However inartful Rosen’s remarks were, her point was about privilege, not choice. If you are a wealthy (white) woman–who has never had to worry about such trifles as where your next meal will come from, how you will pay for college, or any other of the myriad concerns most actual women have–you are probably not the best-situated to represent those women and their concerns to anyone, much less a Presidential candidate. This is one of those things that pisses me off to no end: not recognizing your privilege.
Having the “choice” to be a stay-at-home-mom is a privilege most women don’t have. So is having your education paid for, or a healthy trust fund to seed your life. Wealth opens doors unavailable to most. Everyone needs to own those privileges, talk about them, acknowledge them. There’s an anxiety that doing so somehow diminishes one’s own accomplishments. But the truth is that it merely sets those accomplishments in context. Recognizing your privilege makes you curious about the choices available to others. It allows conversation and the flow of ideas. Representing yourself as though you are something you are not (“just another mom,” for example), either through omission or obfuscation, cheapens discourse.
I have a daughter with autism. Any parent with a special-needs child understands that struggle. But at the same time, I have a lot of privileges that make that experience easier than for other parents similarly situated. I’m white, I’m educated, my wife and I have decent jobs (hers more decent than mine), and thus we can afford to do things like hire extra therapists, take time off of work to attend IEP meetings with the school district, and pay for a private preschool that will best challenge her. I can’t imagine what the single mothers whose children I’ve seen in the special education classrooms have to go through, how few resources they have at their disposal compared to me. But I’m curious about it. And when I write about it I acknowledge them. I can’t speak for them, and wouldn’t presume to do so, but I can and do listen.
It’s for this reason that, when I right about feminism, I write mostly about boys. I know I can’t write about the experience of women with the authority a woman can. But if I didn’t listen to women, I wouldn’t be able to situate my own experience in a feminist context. I recognize my privilege as a man, remain open to new ideas, and try to think about seeing the world from an honest place. If nothing else, owning your privileges is about honesty. It also makes the resulting conversations a lot more interesting.