Emily Kane Talks About The Gender Trap

GenderTrapImageFeminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Emily Kane, Professor in Sociology and author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls.

1. You have written extensively about gender and childhood. How did this interest come about?
My research had previously focused on how adults think about gender inequalities, and their interconnections with inequalities of race, class and sexuality, mostly in the contemporary United States but with a bit of international comparative work as well. My focus there was on inequalities in the adult world- in workplaces, the division of labor in households, etc. I’d been interested in what kinds of people are more likely to recognize gender inequalities as existing, how they evaluated those inequalities (i.e., whether they thought they were problematic or not), and what- if anything- they thought should be done about them. Then I had children, and that experience brought more of my attention into children’s worlds. As I spent time at day care centers and preschools, on playgrounds, in play groups, and as I visited children’s clothing and toy stores, as I read children’s books and watched children’s movies, I became more and more interested in how deeply gendered young children’s worlds were. And I become increasingly interested in how that early gendering helped build the foundation for gendered patterns in the adult world. [Read more...]

Are All Baby Pics on Facebook Appropriate?

When browsing Facebook and looking at friendss updates there is one thing that keeps creeping me out and that is the photos some people post of their children. As summer is here, many people post very cute photos of their children playing in the pool or taking a bath. I cannot keep from reacting every time I see photos of naked kids displayed online. I do not view children as sexual beings, but let us face the facts; there are certainly some people out there who do. I would be very cautious of the fact that the photos I post online are not in fact all that private and can be viewed by many more than just the people I have selected as my Facebook friends.

For example, if I post a photo and one of my friends comments on it, all their friends can possibly see the photo and the number of people who the photo becomes available to increases dramatically. Photos can also easily be copied and saved by any person who can view it.

Obviously parents just want to share the wonderful moments they have with their children with friends and family but I believe that parents have a responsibility to their children and to the safety of their children. Children themselves certainly cannot consent to these pictures but parents should be more careful of what they post. I have seen plenty of photos that are in fact very cute and harmless but that I still react to and deem unsuitable for Facebook. Again, not because they show naked children but because some people enjoy looking at photos of naked children.

I have not heard, but I certainly can be wrong, discussions about what is suitable in regards to posting photos of one’s children on Facebook. Facebook do have a clause stating something like the fact that explicit nudity is not welcome on Facebook and I think that this should extend to photos of children. It is of course the parent’s rights and responsibilities to chose what they post online but I also believe that there is great naivety about what can and cannot be seen and the privacy of one’s photos and one’s profile. What do you think?

A Working Mother Asks: Can We Please Talk About Working Parents Instead?

Another week, another spate of stories and “debates” about motherhood and working mothers and the right age to become a mother and on and on until oh my god, is there nothing else to talk about besides the ovaries and uterus of The American Woman? What about—just for funsies—the testicles of The American Man? After all, in a whole lot of cases, women are getting pregnant by their male partners. What say The American Man about the best age to become a father, or the ideal career path that fathers should take, or the struggle between financial security and a stable family?

I understand quite well that for many years—nay, decades—women have had a unique set of issues to contend with if they wished to have both children and a career. I also understand that while those issues have shifted over the years, there are still specific challenges to being a mother that earns a paycheck, whether she works outside the house or from home. But focusing just on the challenges and questions encountered by one gender perpetuates the notion that only this one gender needs to meet these challenges and ask these questions.

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Is Breastfeeding Mandatory for Mothers?

Last week we started a discussion about women breastfeeding in public. I interviewed to women who said that they love breastfeeding. They told us that at some point, it just makes practical sense.

But what about mothers who can’t breastfeed? Should they receive criticism for bottle feeding? There is more than one side to this discussion. Here’s how Erin Strange feels about bottle feeding.

I don’t breastfeed. Shortly after Elliott’s birth I realized that I wasn’t producing enough milk. He was jaundiced and his numbers continued to rise even after the typical peak days. In order to get the jaundice out of his system and avoid light therapy, we had to supplement with formula. I am producing about 4oz daily, and we were trying to breastfeed while supplementing, but he rejected the breast and became frustrated. In order to get him to eat we had to bottle feed. I still pump daily and give him the 4oz I get.

I am really insecure about the fact that I’ve got to bottle feed. People close to me have been supportive when they know that I’m unable to breastfeed, but it’s hard to be asked all the time if I’m breastfeeding and then feel like I have to explain why I’m not. [Read more...]

Should Breastfeeding Be Allowed in Public? (Part 2)

erin durbanLast week I started a discussion about the debate over breastfeeding in public. I shared a story from Maureen Shaw, one of the Feminists for Choice writers. Today I am sharing the experience that Erin Durban has had with breastfeeding.

Breast feeding is the best option for me and my baby. The primary reason I chose breast feeding was because of the immunities and health benefits that babies get from milk. As we both worked really hard the first month to get breast feeding established, I kept that in the forefront of my mind. However, there are so many other benefits to breast feeding: intimacy, convenience (once everyone gets a hang of it), and cost savings since formula is so expensive. It certainly isn’t easy, though, and I know there are a lot of good reasons why other folks do not breast feed. We were lucky to have a lot of support from our birth center, my partner, my sister and brother-in-law, and our friends. I know that has made a huge difference in terms of being able to continue breast feeding.  [Read more...]

Should Breastfeeding Be Allowed in Public? (Part 1)

Last week Elin and Hennie discussed a Youtube video of mothers breastfeeding in public. Those mothers received death threats in the video’s comments section, and the video has subsequently been removed from Youtube.

Some mothers in Indiana staged a nurse-in and breastfed their babies outside of a pizza restaurant where a mother had previously been ask to leave because she had breastfed on her previous visit to the restaurant.

There is obviously a lot of controversy about breastfeeding in public, but there is also a debate about whether women should breastfeed at all. I interviewed three women to ask them what breastfeeding means to them. These stories show that there are many sides to the debate. [Read more...]

Notes From Pro-Choice Parenting

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about the intersection of personal beliefs and independent thought. Specifically, she was wondering if buying a onesie that said, “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” for her infant son would be expressing her beliefs through her child’s clothing or if it would just be cute. (We agreed that it would be both.) I was reminded of this conversation recently, thanks to a situation that caught me totally off-guard.

As part of our seemingly endless quest to find reliable daycare for our child, my husband and I set up an appointment at a small, local center. I did some research on the facility before our meeting, and came across information that indicated that one of the directors worked at a crisis pregnancy center (CPC). Since it’s not uncommon for online searches to turn up misleading information, I decided to keep the appointment, and was impressed with the facility. Yet my concern lingered, and further conversation with the director revealed that she did, in fact, work at the CPC.

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Be Fruitful and Multiply Capitalism: Children as Economic Items

According to a recent online article in U.S. News and World Report, “… one of the great strengths of the U.S. economy, especially compared to Europe and Japan, is a relatively high birth rate.” This statement is pretty clear:  procreation equates to production. Thus, why–or rather, for whom—could birthrate be a problem? Isn’t the angst about fertility hiding the real difficulties faced by population?

Is a falling birthrate a big problem?

Others in the media have also warned that if women don’t have higher numbers of children, the economy could suffer. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat compared the decreasing American birthrate to France’s higher one: “America has no real family policy to speak of at the moment, and the evidence from countries like Sweden and France suggests that reducing the ever-rising cost of having kids can help fertility rates rebound.” But while benefits such the ones in France obviously could help those rates rebound, they aren’t the key to economic growth. [Read more...]

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

As mentioned in previous posts, I have been cleaning out my garage and came across a wide selection of National Geographic magazines. As also mentioned before, I am very interested in how women and men (as well as girls and boys) are portrayed in the media. Therefore I have been looking through some of the magazines and found interesting examples of gender roles, stereotypes and gendered expectations.

As many of the magazines are from the 1950s to about 1980s, they may seem irrelevant, outdated and not so significant when discussing today’s issues. But it is interesting how much things can change, yet still stay the same. Take for example women’s portrayed roles in advertisements, something I am very passionate about. To summarize overall research; women are portrayed in more roles outside the home now than previously (including positions of power), but the sexual objectification of women in advertisement is also greater now (and more explicit) than it has ever been before. Basically, women are now “allowed” greater freedom in terms of life choices, but at the price of relentless sexual objectification.  [Read more...]

The Mother, The Welfare State, and The Others

The welfare state began in Europe in the late 19th century, but reached its climax after World War II. Europe was devastated and needed to be rebuilt, and at the time, the guarantees of social security, employment, and retirement were real human progress. The population had also declined, and in France, a country of pro-natalist tradition, policies that encouraged having children were more of a priority than ever. Financial support for mothers and other family benefits were introduced, and these pro-natalist policies still exist in France today.

Generally motherhood is glorified, to the detriment of women that don’t have children. Glorifying motherhood to this point, and to the point that it can seem to be an obligation, can also be considered in attitudes that victimize women and demonize men. The persistence of beliefs such as women are weaker than men, can put women into defenseless roles that are reinforced by other, equally damaging beliefs, like women are kindness incarnate because they can give birth. Such obstinate views like women are incomplete without kids, or men are always the bad guys, can contribute to a perception that women that make different choices are abnormal or bad, and therefore are easier for society to reject.

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