who’s your daddy

Or, Tell Me What a Feminist Looks Like

As per usual, I am late to the game. There’s been a lot of discussion going on in the world of blogs about parenting, gender roles, and such. I won’t try to frame the conversations at all, but you can go here and here and here to see what angles other folks are coming from, but Bri called for a term paper and I’d better hand mine in before I drop yet another letter grade.

As I’m going about this Baby Search alone*, I don’t have personal, immediate investment in the whole bio-mom/nonbio-mom discussion. But. I have some very definite opinions about using sex to box people in (shut up, KP), and I think, as has been said, that the stereotype of “clueless dad” needs to go, whether you’re parenting with a husband or a wife or a partner or nobody. There is no good service done to any of our children by trash talking, even as a joke, a parent of either gender. And I know, as a feminist, that there is no equality when anyone is considered lesser based purely on gender.

I was born to and raised by two very nice straight parents. I was raised a feminist, and yes, I identified myself that way at age 9**. My mama stayed home and breastfed me and my dad went to school. Until I was just under a year when, to hear my mama tell it, she was going crazy and needed to get a job. Which she did – at a group home for retarded adults. I went with her. By the time I was 5, both my parents worked (or were going to school? – really I can’t remember that well) outside the house. I learned “feminine” and “masculine” things from my dad: how to cook, make hospital corners with a flat sheet, build a fire, hold the door open for people, take my hat off indoors (yes, only the one with brims). I learned un-gendered things from my mama: how to stand up and speak when I see injustice, to speak kindly whenever possible, to see my sex as a privilege, not a burden. Neither of my parents taught me the “boy” things – bike riding, ball throwing. (I hate sports. They might feel bad about this now. Poor them. I don’t feel bad about it at all – I just hate sports.) There were not gendered roles in my house growing up – at least not that I noticed. The picture of “dad” in my mind is similar to that of “mom” – an adult who loves and cares for a child. There is no “secondary” involved in the parenting model I have.

Sometimes, a kid will come to school with mismatched hair clips, or a particularly messy hair-do or an inadequate jacket. Sometimes, somebody – another parent, or a teacher – will say something along the lines of “looks like daddy was in charge this morning” and laugh. No. No, no, no. This bullshit needs to stop. There is an assumption among many people that the “dad” is somehow a lesser partner in the parenting game. He can’t quite get with it – forgets jackets and might dry the baby’s butt with a hand dryer. Funny, yes? No. Maybe for a movie made in the 80’s, but let’s be done with that tired old crap, ok? It seems to me that it is very, very hard to step up to the plate if there’s already somebody standing there. Some folks who’ve been part of this conversation have said how hard they are working to see their partners’ ways of doing things as fine – the butt will likely get dry one way or another.

I came back from my trip to Seattle full of awe and pride in my friends out there and how they were coping together with those first initial post-partum days. Another friend was talking to me on the phone a few days later, looking back on her first days at home with her baby, who’s now 2, and I swear I could see her shaking her head as she told me how hard it was (yes), how tired she was (yes) and how there really was nothing her husband could do with the baby because men just don’t get it (ummm – wtf?). I jumped in quickly with what I’d seen in Seattle – the careful split of sleep time, the relationship that the dad and his daughter had begun to build from the moment she was born, how happy the mom was to see them creating special things they did together, how relieved that it was not all on her. They were parenting together – not just being a mom and a dad.

Now, you may be sitting there in front of your computer, shaking your head, because who am I to talk about all this shit when I won’t be grappling with these issues in my own home. But I was, as I said, raised a feminist and I was reminded by Chicory that

“one of the crucial acts I could do on a daily basis was complicate the notion of “feminine”.”

And I’ll do that by holding doors and not carrying a purse and raising whatever child comes to me to see hirself as competent beyond gender. And I’ll also tell you, more often than you’d like, when I see other people complicating any notions of gender. Especially when those notions come around parenting.

Because it’s not enough that we shake up gender if we are still thinking of the roles in things like parenting as being so very different. (from Bri)

So I think I’ve wandered off from what was originally going on over at dosmamas, but what I really walked away from all these recent blog posts with was this – you can and should call yourself and your partner whatever name fits; you can and should raise your babies with the best part of yourself put forth; you should not let your sex or status as bio- or nonbio-parent stand in the way of being kind and tender and wise – with your children and with anyone else you’re around. Your children will take little parts of you to make themselves – be you a mom or a mommy or mama or baba or dad or papa – that means you’re important, no matter what, so be sure those parts they are taking are the best parts of you. I come away remembering that all this ttc shit I’ve been throwing at you isn’t about getting pregnant, or having a baby girl or boy – it’s about being a parent – not a mom or a dad but a parent. That is, an adult who loves and cares for a child the best way I can.

ETA – I think I strayed off topic enough that I can only hope for a D at best. D for effort? Please?

*Ok, so not alone – really SOOOOO not alone. I mean, really, here you all are. Yay. But isn’t the image of me running around searching for a baby funny?
** Ugh – Sophie could not tell me what feminist meant when I asked her 2 days ago.


8 Comments on “who’s your daddy”

  1. LB says:

    Thank God Someone finally said it. Even among some of these other great conversations I was starting to pick up that folks didn’t want to be labeled the “dad” not just because it didn’t feel right to them but also because they thought of that role as secondary. How crazy making this idea is. All the comercials and t.v. shows. How unfair to men or anyone who identifies as the dad. How much harder it must be to be confident in your abilities to raise a child if every friggin person is telling you you don’t count and are a moron too!

  2. ms.bri says:

    Yay! A solid A for you. Excellent. I have to call Wes over to read your lovely conclusion paragraph.

  3. d says:

    I’ll volunteer for whatever role I might fill!

  4. gypsygrrl says:

    wow. this was beautiful.

  5. reproducinggenius says:

    This was very well written–and you really didn’t stray off topic. I followed you the whole way through. The gender roles are such a mindfuck for all of us lesbians–and even the straight folk–trying to make babies. My stepdad keeps asking us “Who’s going to wear the daddy pants? Who’s going to lay down the law?” And we tell him, “Neither of us is going to wear the daddy pants, and we’re both going to lay down the law.” We’re also both going to give affection and play games, and I’m sure we’ll establish our own roles, but not based on anything even remotely gender related. J plays softball really well, and she can throw, but she can also sing up a storm, and she’s super cuddly. I can fix things and use tools and change the oil in the car, but I can also cook, and I’m very nurturing. It’s something we’re going to work out, but it’s a tricky issue when dealing with anyone who is looking for these “traditional” gender roles that never should have been traditional in the first place.

    Now I’m off topic, but I thank you for your post. So thoughtful and elloquent. A++++

  6. owl says:

    thank you, you said what i tried to say in my dodgy, very long, kind of defensive post about boys vs girls…am considering deleting mine and just posting a link to yours.

    well done clever one

  7. LKC says:

    Well said.

  8. hd says:

    I love this. Well done. I know I’m not the one doing the grading, but it’s an A in my book.

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