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...]

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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What Are We Teaching Kids About Sex?

Sex education is a constant source of debate in American society. As a proponent for sex education in school, I believe that it is important to teach children not only about contraception, pregnancy, and STDs, but also about sexual orientation, feelings, desires, being ready for sexual intimacy, and love. But with the current focus on abstinence and sex being acceptable only within marriage, teens are expected to delay sex until they are married. And that is exactly what most American teenagers are doing, right? They wait until marriage and they only have one sex partner their whole life? Wrong!

Most American teenagers have sexual experiences during their teenage years, and most have sex before marriage. Therefore, abstinence-only programs are not very effective. So is it not better to teach children how to be prepared, protected, and emotionally ready for sex, so that they can avoid unwanted teen pregnancy, contracting STDs, or having sex with a partner before they are mentally and physically ready?

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”Moms that Breastfeed Annoy Me”

I recently read a reader’s comment in one of my local magazines, which was titled “Moms that breastfeed annoy me.” The topic of breastfeeding appears to somehow regularly make the news as many people speak up in different discussions. It is not uncommon to hear how breastfeeding annoys or bothers people and that women should not have their breasts out in public. At the same time, we are bombarded with half-nude pictures of women’s bodies in advertisements, magazines, the news, and even newspapers, which often do not seem to elicit similar discomfort.

This comment was made by a woman complaining about moms breastfeeding at the playground near her apartment, and that she was forced to watch these moms feeding their children every time she looked out the window. She stated that instead of feeding their children in public, these women should go home to breastfeed.

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Why Can’t He Wear a Dress?

A German father is showing support for his 5 year-old son who likes to wear dresses, by wearing skirts himself. Nils Pickert started wearing skirts in order to support his son, who was hesitant to wear dresses and skirts in public due to the threat of ridicule by peers and the overall community.

The story has drawn a lot of attention, and one commentator on the Huffington Post website felt that Pickert was completely in the wrong when allowing his son to wear women’s clothes: “If a boy (at the age of 3 or so) wants to wear girl clothes and act like a girl that means it’s time to explain to him that he is a BOY. There is NOTHING wrong with being a boy or a girl, but be who you are. Fashion and style do not make us who we are, but they do characterize us to a degree.”

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Women don’t do housework and men work too much?

Flipping through a local newspaper the other day, two short articles really stood out. These two articles confirm how we feel about inequality in Sweden; that it is often assumed an issue that has already successfully been dealt with. Many Swedes appear to think that as a country, we have reached equality or even passed to the point in which men are now considered the “second sex”. It is often reiterated that Sweden is one of the most equal countries in the world, if not the most equal country. To us, this overconfidence is very troubling because it leads to the denial of male privilege and the persistent influence and power of patriarchy.

The first article that seriously annoyed us discussed the historical origin of Mother’s Day, explaining that from 1920 and on, Mother’s Day was celebrated with breakfast in bed and a day off from cleaning the house and doing chores. The article stated that it was probably a more important day in the past when most women were responsible for taking care of the household. Say what? But most women are responsible for taking care of the household! They are also responsible for taking care of the children while often working on top of that. Are Swedish women really so lucky as to be free from household chores? Research on the topic says no. [Read more...]

Graditude for My Mother

In light of our recent focus on gratitude, I’ve given a lot of thought to the people and things I’m most grateful for. I’m very blessed to have my health, a loving family, my husband, and friends who would do anything for me.  But when I really sit and think about gratitude, my mom floats to the top of the pile.

My mother has done so much for — and with — me these past 30 years. She mastered the art of parenting while remaining one of my closest confidants, even during those rocky adolescent years, which is a skill I still admire to this day. From indulging my teenaged obsession with Kurt Cobain (dyed pink hair included), to comforting me during my first heartbreak and nurturing my inner feminist, my mom was, and still is, my biggest cheerleader.

She also taught me a crap load, whether I realized it at the time or not. While it would be impossible to catalog everything she has taught me, I’ve jotted down the top 10 lessons she imparted to her youngest child (me!). In no particular order (well, except for #1):
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