I got linked to these posts by guest blogger Maia on Feministe. These links came up in comments, and I am reminded of my commentary on privilege feminism a while back. And this post got linked along the way.
All of which is kind of context for where this bit is bleeding out.
Antiprincess got me between the eyes with this comment, by the way:
the idea of “child-friendly” space vs. “child-free” space is not really about comfort or convenience or “appropriate” behavior or environment. it’s piggybacking (over generations) on the “separate spheres” thing – the idea that men do things in public space and, well, women and children do whatever it is they do wherever it is they do it, at any rate in a space separate from men (private space).
And Faith followed it up with this:
Actually, no one seems to really want to address the problem of women being isolated from certain parts of society if they have children. At best folks have simply stated that parents have to accept a certain amount of isolation when we become parents (and they do use the word parent while ignoring that women are the primary caretakers the majority of the time…), yet no one who espouses this has really given any reasonable explanation for exactly why women just have to accept this isolation.
Since Little Foot was born, I've felt very political.
It's a hard and complicated thing, and I don't know where to go with it, or even where to go with talking about it. I don't know how to tackle it, because it's so large, and because there's nowhere immediate and obvious to get a grip on it. It puts a strange, sharp edge on things, things that matter to me, and I have no fucking words, here.
I've also felt overwhelmingly hopeless about it.
I mean, even if I set aside all the bits where it's farcial to imagine that a freak like me - a polyamorous pagan kinky woman who dropped out of school for mental health reasons - might manage to do a damn thing in the political machine. Even if I imagine that there's some alternate route to organisation and action that hits what I need to do that I can do, which ... I see people do, across a gulf of unshared experience, and I don't know how to pick up those pieces which aren't mine. Even if I set aside all that.
I don't know how to do it. I didn't grow up in a world where mami did the union negotiations with a baby on her hip, as BFP wrote about in one of those threads - I grew up in the world where, for all that it was more integrated then than it is now, there was the children's universe and the rest of the world and it was cute when I listened to All Things Considered and came away wanting to make the budget numbers add up because I could do algebra. Cute, not meaningful. I grew up in a world where any memory of being listened to as a human being is tainted with the sneering, raging, "Your father treats you like an adult." I grew up in a world where I wondered when I would be old enough that someone would consider my opinions on the public sphere worthwhile (answer: sometime in my twenties).
And in that world, there are no public mothers. Because of the separation of the spheres, that white privileged woman's fucking paradise, angel of the household, that thing that was the big feminist victory to escape, to let women into the public sphere. People in public aren't parents; parents - read, mothers - are demi-human, shadows on the public sphere, people who are ghosts in the economy, when the economy is what really matters to be human. Now that I am a mother, it matters to me to touch the public sphere, and now that I am a mother, I am bereft of any understanding of how to do it. (Even if the issues that lost me my schooling would let me, which is another kettle of fish entire.)
Somewhere in one of those threads is a set of people saying that centering children is buying into that Little Precious Can Do No Wrong notion that my child is somehow the most important and perfect entity ever spawned. The idea that radical love by whatever means are necessary - as the guest blogger put it - that centers children is really about the solipistic individualism of the sick society built on capitalism rather than actually being the way a movement goes.
It has to be the way a movement goes, from where I sit.
Because it's too late for me.
It's not too late for my little girl. She hasn't been sexually assaulted. She hasn't been bullied. She hasn't been broken by administrative bullshit. She hasn't had her mental health shatter in a way that destroyed her for years. All of these things that happened to me, they haven't happened to her.
I can't build a world where the stuff that happened to me didn't happen. Those words are already written into the fabric of time. I can't center me, build a political effort around making things okay for me, because even though they're okay now there are worlds and worlds of ways in which the way I got here was not okay. I can't center me and rehash the things that happened to me and make it all about me and ignore all the things that happened to other people whose different courses through the wide wild world of not okay didn't coincide with mine.
I have to center the children. Not just my baby, all the children, because it's only when the children are safe from brutality that nobody will live brutalised.
And I don't even know if this is hope or despair. It bleeds, that's all I know.