Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Revolutionary Parenting

i've been thinking lately about more practical applications of feminism. there are many, but i'm speaking mainly in the arena of parenting, child-birth, pregnancy, and things of that nature. this could even be linked with reproductive health as well.

i read an article by Nanjala Nyabola about the blindspots of western feminism. there are many points that stood out to me in this article. namely, the feminist ideals (past and present) and how they relate to child birth.

since the beginning of feminism's inception, the idea of motherhood has been rendered nearly analogous of submissiveness; docility; the dominated lapdog of a husband and a family. motherhood has been seen by many of us as a steel cage that stifles all the creativity, individuality, and personal goals outside of parenting a woman could have if she didn't have children/before she was impregnated. and in many cases in our society, this is the case. many of us know at least one woman who has become a mother and/or a wife, and not much else. for some women, this is what they want in life and this is what they should pursue, by all means. this becomes a problem, however, when this is seen as the only viable or genuine form of motherhood.

many of us want children AND a career...or at least just a life outside of children. and i'm recently coming to the realization that this is nearly impossible. mothering, in a society such as those in the west (and those that have been indoctrinated by western ideals), is an either/or dichotomy almost no room to do both. and by "mother", i mean a hands-on, emotions-on, attached mother that isn't letting a nanny raise her children, who is involved in their day-to-day lives. and by career, i mean something that you've worked towards that sustains you (and your kids) financially. career can also mean social justice/revolutionary/socially progressive/community organizing work.

this push to have children and a career has almost always resulted in an on-and-off-again/stagnant/non-existent career, or emotionally messed up kids. take Alice Walker, for example. while she is one of the biggest inspirations to Black women, one of my favorite poets/writers, and an amazing woman in general, her daughter, Rebekah Walker, has criticized her mother to point at which they aren't nor have they been even on speaking terms for some years now. most revolutionaries (MLK, Malcolm X, etc.) produce some of the most normal (which isn't a good thing) children that usually lack any revolutionary spirit in them. i'm not insinuating that they didn't care about their children, i'm simply saying that their respective struggles received their main attention.

there are also many issues within mothering that go beyond the basic expectations that many women want to fulfill. Breeze Harper, from Sistah Vegan, has spoken about the challenged she faces in trying to breastfeed on demand. breastfeeding-on-demand is when a woman breastfeeds her child anytime the child asks. so, no bottles, breast-pumps and whatever else. just a breast and a baby. with a little research you can see why some women want to breastfeed on demand-the studies and facts surrounding it are substantially better/healthier for babies.
unfortunately, breast-feeding on demand is damn near impossible. this is with or even without a job. Breeze received money from a scholarship and possibly some help from her partner. most women, however, cannot do this. even if a woman has a career that she is established in, most jobs are not going to allow a woman to take a leave-of-absence for 2-3 years, and come back. not to mention the fact that many employers won't/rarely hire pregnant or a recently married woman. and understandably so-we live in a capitalist society in which nothing matter more than making money. there are also issues of birthing, in which the hospital/medical industry in general is/is potentially very damaging to a women. furthermore, issues of raising children with ideals that may challenge societal norms is problematic. public education, even day-care and pre-school is usually the beginning stage of indoctrination.

if one wants to be genuinely involved in their children's lives, healthily (which often means doing things that aren't common to US Americans), one must either depend on a man, depend on the government, or give up on having and raising healthy children in a safe environment.

depending on men is, frankly, unrealistic. almost everyone knows or is the child of a man who was/is, for the most part, absent. this, of course (and note, that i'm speaking of Black and Brown communities throughout this post) the result of many political, colonial, and oppressive tactics. being a sperm-donor and nothing more is not inherent within the male sex, it simply is common within this society. men from other societies, have traditionally, been a part of at least their son's lives. many a times, after a certain age (5, 8 or after the onset of puberty), the sole responsibility is on men (as well as the community in general). even if a father is willing to take care of a breastfeeding mother and child, that role (for the woman) comes with some expectations that many feminists do not want (for example, submissiveness). and as far as Black men, jobs are scare, health is not good, and the cops are just waiting to kill them.

depending on the government comes with many issues as well. insurance companies do not cover midwives (they're actually illegal in Alabama), insurance requires money and/or a job, and not all women qualify for all the benefits. even if one does qualify, it is not enough to usually sustain a child without assistance.

so, my solution is that, as Black (Latina, Native, Asian) feminists, we have to build networks, communities, organizations, and relationships amongst other women in our communities. this needs to be grassroots, something tailored to our specific communities (be that geographical, based on sexuality, religious, or other). older women, especially, are vital. not only do they have the time, but they also have the knowledge and the skills to help us in our endeavors, not to mention the already-established networks. preferably, this should be done with like-minded individuals (my target is feminists of color).

women that do not wish to have children can donate to sustain the buildings/housing. women that want to be less involved in their children's lives but still want children, can leave their children in the care of like-minded individuals that they know. women that want to have children/want to breastfeed on demand and do not have the money to do so can live with or be in the care of progressive women that know and care for them. the commitment will be to healthy, questioning, revolutionary children. the adage "it takes a village to raise a child" will be a foundational philosophy, in opposition to this two-parent "ideal" unit of individuals (otherwise known in the west as the nuclear family). it is rarely a viable and functional ideal, especially within communities of color. being raised with close ties to more than 2 adults, in caring communities has been shown (historically and statistically) to be a much more stable and healthy environment for children.

not only can this produce healthy children, whose parents (or, just the mother) aren't having to live in unsafe environments in order to survive, whose parents/mother isn't forced into a slave-waging job (only to breed emotional issues within the family unit), who aren't being educated by people who wish to uphold all the ills of this society....this can also produce a network for anything else (jobs, social, etc.). for unity. for unity for a revolution.

it has been shown to us time and time again that the only people we as Black women can depend on are other Black women. this is simply the practical application of that understanding.

the only flaw i see within my solution is the absence of men. so, i'm still trying to figure out if/when men should/should not be included in this network.

comment. think. criticize. cipher ways in which men can be included.