So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

30 July, 2010

Bleeding Mama

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.


Rosemary Cottage said...

Yes. Absolutely. A movement that centres children. But try saying that to the vast majority of feminists.

I had been trying to put that into words for a while, but you've done it better here (and that feministe post, well, I don't read that blog except someone shared the link on twitter and I was bowled over).

As for the childfree spaces, etc., thing, well, I did try here but oh jeez, the comments! :-(

It is so nice to hear this conversation being had on big USian blogs though, even if the comments are toxic, 'cos I suppose that's where change usually trickles down from, or something.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Yeah, I don't read the big feminist blogs either because - for all that I'm "supposedly" one of the people who they're written for, being white, middle-class, cisgendered, reasonably well educated even as a dropout, and all - I find them TRIGGERING AS ALL FUCK. And Feministe is the best of them, even.

Here's hoping that something comes of it other than a bunch of people getting in a twist about how the mean black woman has a special snoogie-woogiepants. Or whatever the fuck that is all about.

(I don't have much optimism there.)

Rosemary Cottage said...

Comments on most of the Big Feminist Blogs, and often some of the posts, are bloody awful. One of the reasons I don't ID as a feminist; like you say, they're writing for white, cis women in the main, and I'm one of those, and they rarely speak for me, so how the hell has anyone else got a hope of being represented by them?

But I digress.

Actually, I do think some good comes of it, in that it gets the conversation into the open. Even a few years back, conversations at the BFBs were dominated very much by the concerns of childfree people and issues around parenthood were usually limited to maternity leave and dismissal because of pregnancy. So I suppose in order to change things, you've gorra have the conversation first, even if it starts out in a big argument.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

(Shoulda said I'm cissexual rather than cisgendered, but whatever the fuck, my gender expression is a-ok with most feminists most of the time.)

I hope so. I really do. I hope something comes of it somewhere, someday.

I even allowed myself to hope enough to leave a comment on "Ain't I A Mama", actually, though it's still in moderation (because they locked things down to keep the vileness under some level of control, my gods).

I'm just ... not capable of optimism about it at the moment, because, again, I can't tell if this post is about hope or despair.

switchintoglide said...

Hey lovely,

Thanks for this post--I am 'switchintoglide'--I wrote the "Privileged Feminist Ideologies and Ableism" piece, and linked to the Libertarian and Liberal feminism articles int eh Feministe thread, so thanks for linking to them here.

I think the biggest problem with the North American Feminist movement is the emulation of an alienating and unhealthy masculine individualism, instead of focussing on uplifting our communities. All that will do/has done is put a few token white women in powerful positions, and maintained the status quo for everyone else.

Anyways, keep writing and being awesome.


Kristin said...

"I'm just ... not capable of optimism about it at the moment, because, again, I can't tell if this post is about hope or despair."

I think something truthful, at any rate, comes out of this kind of ambivalence. And that's powerful in its own right. And, in any case, I don't have much patience for the kind of hope that ignores the many reasons we have to despair.

This is one reason I have trouble relating to the Disability Pride movement. Even if I am learning to live with my disability, I am never going to feel celebratory about the physical pain that I live with every day. And I've been scolded for this by more than a few feminist disability activists, but the truth is... I'm not sure that Whatever Makes the Movement Look Good is what I'm for, at the end of the day.

I'm for less suffering, and for ways of talking honestly about suffering... And for honesty in general, goddamnit. I don't think most of us really have ways of accurately articulating suffering in the way we live it. I have tried, and I've been told that I wrote "powerful" things a handful of times, but I only actually just wrote around the tip of the iceberg.

Or, in any case, I often find that the linguistic tools available to me fall short. That's what has made pain so isolating for me, I think. It's quite hard to break through to anyone who is not experiencing Exactly the Same Shit as Me in a way that doesn't ring hollow and empty to me, the person articulating it in the first place.

-blessed holy socks, the non-perishable-zealot said...

You gotta wanna see our blogs to put U.S. back-on-track to Utopia, girl (and not following the whorizontal). God blessa youse -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL