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We still get together with most of the group of mothers and children we found ourselves amongst at the Early Childhood Centre. Monday was a baby shower at someone's house. Two of our number already have second children, tiny bobble-headed things compared to our sturdy two years olds, who rush across the landscape like dervishes now.
"My goodness!" exclaimed the pregnant mother at her baby shower. "B, this house is covered with parenting magazines!"
"Mine has magazines all over", volunteered T. "But there, they're food."
And mine has craft and sewing magazines.
The disparity of tastes and strong preferences struck me anew as I looked around. The mothers I find myself spending the most time with are not people I'd normally have picked for friends; their personal interests tend to different arenas than me. But early motherhood forged a bond. I wonder if we'll stay in touch, in years ahead. I would like to thnk, at least in some cases, we would, even in the form of the lone Christmas card and family photograph once a year.
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Firstly, HOW badly do I want to buy my child this shirt?! About as much as I want to dye my hair bright purple at the moment (READ: A Hel of a lot!)

Second, a post on Native Appropriation Bingo. It's geared specifically towards the appropriation of Native American cultures, but has quite a bit of relevance outside that sphere.
Cultural appropriation is something I run up against inside my own head and life a bit, lately. I LOVE fashion and clothes for instance, and love alternative styling, which means stuff outside the modern, Western, mainstream world interests and inspires me particularly. I can't pretend there's not some internal exoticisation going on there, but then some of it feels like it is a simple appreciation and notice of something different to what I'm usually exposed to.

More appropriately, I ruminate on the questions of cultural appropriation and exotification every time I go to bellydance class.
I LOVE this dance form. I don't want to give it up. It feels far more comfortable, easy and enjoyable to me than something more culturally relevant according to my heritage (ballet, for instance). But then, I'm aware that bellydance as it's performed today is a new danceform, sprung from a mix of ballet, appropriated traditional dances, various bits of stagecraft and ideas from all over. So although we learn about different styles and musics to go with those styles according to where the dances "came from" it's still a bastardised form of what existed there pre-Western invasion, and the version I learn is diferent again to what is currently being taught in those places (and others in Australia, for instance!). It's this weird mix of Western dance, appropriation of other dances, and fantasy. I'm not sure if that makes it "okay" though - especially when considering how my teacher stresses the importance of not dancing with Turkish moves to a Saiidi (Egyptian valley) piece/beat, and vice versa. And how the groups likely to be hiring those of us who dance professionally expect us to dance (i.e, matching steps with certain beats, etc). Bellydance is certainly more elastic than ballet, but it DOES have forms and rules.

Finally, today I am fucking sick of reading shit that assumes I am a heterosexual male. It fills me with rage beyond rage to be happily reading along an interesting, generally addressed piece of social commentary or joke about University life and find myself SLAPPED OVER THE HEAD with the idea that I a)want and/or have a girlfriend and b)Am a male/unconcerned with my looks.
It ruins totally decent and interesting thoughts just like this one.
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I originally wrote this when I was in my second trimester of pregnancy.
My partner and I had deliberately decided not to find out the sex of our baby because... well, he didn't care, and despite my preference I didn't really, either. I figured if Splodge was a boy I'd always have at least another child and was already deep into that strange "bonding" thing many pregnant women talk about.

It's been eighteen months since I wrote the piece, and I now have a baby son.
I love him very much, but his future frightens me terribly. The crap started from the moment of his birth announcement and the comments about 'lazy boys' have not yet stopped.
I still don't know the answers to most of the things that scared me back when I was pregnant. Thanks to the blogosphere though, I have a few guides to light some of the possible pathways ahead. I hope Splodge and I can figure out a good way for us to continue, but truthfully I often still feel paralysed by the enormity of some of these things.

Everybody wants to know what gender Splodge is.
New-made acquaintances at this Christmas past thought nothing of swanking up five minutes after introduction and asking "So do you know if it's a boy or a girl?"
An old friend from highschool asked me early on 'What do you want?"
When I confessed to desiring a daughter she turned on me an incredulous look "But what if it's a boy?"
The hormones urged me to snap "I'll shove it back in and demand a refund!" but I was ever so controlled. And thus she is still a friend.

What irks me even more are those that follow up the question on gender with "as long as it's healthy."
Again, my hormones whisper away. Have you ever HEARD an expectant mother or father say "Oh, we want a special needs baby! One with lots of health issues!"?
It makes me want to shake them.

The common refrain seems to be "better a boy than a girl" as people contemplate the looming Armageddon of puberty in their child's life. Frequent remarks about "locking my daughter up when she's sixteen" are passed, chuckling amongst men I know (Yes, because if a girl has sex it's The End Of the World, and getting pregnant and/or raped is All Her Fault and nothing to do with how their sons and his friends are raised). This stuff seems so asinine I don't even respond to it anymore.

And I know, should I have a daughter, that even early on I can say "Stop telling my little girl that she SHOULD wear pink, it's sexist. She can wear whatever colour she wants." I know people will get this. I know I won't have to justify and explain it in depth, although I'll probably have to put up with sniggers and whispered comments and possibly a tanty from one of the traditionalist grandparents. If I have a girl, I'll know some of the issues and things she'll come up against, having gone through it all myself.
But with a son I worry, terribly, about stuff like this, from Persephone's Box:
My son is having serious anxiety attacks that have been keeping him home lately. Mainly he just feels the uncontrollable need to cry for extended periods, and he's terrified this will happen to him at school. I wasn't too concerned because the same thing happened to my daughter when she was in grade 6 - the hormones kick in and everything goes for a shit. Except she never missed school because of it. She wasn't worried about losing it in front of people, much less terrified of the possibility.

I'm afraid of the first time a cooing little old lady in the street bends over and says "He's such a big, strong boy."
I'm afraid of the first time a grandfather says to my son "Big boys don't cry".
I'm worried about my son playing games with other neighbourhood kids, hitting them and screeching, and having other parents say "He's such a boy".
I'm worried about my son being taught by the words and behaviour of the adults and other children around him that it's not okay to cry or show emotions, it's okay to declare "books suck!" and that to be a Real Man he should develop an interest in physics and chemistry over art and music, that it's his right to treat women like objects, that it's his right to express his anger violently.

My partner, now in his 30s, is a good man, and a feminist ally - but he had to find his own way to where he is. I don't want that for my son. But if we teach him it's okay to cry, how do we protect him in the playground, from the other boys whose parents have taught them differently? Apart from his Daddy, who will he have to be a role model?
In our wider social circle we know women IT professionals, women mothers, women administrators, women teachers, women scientists, women lawyers, women social workers. We know women who are good at maths, women who write well, women artists and women who enjoy sports - including various martial arts.
We don't really know any male artists or writers. We don't know any male dancers. We don't really know any gentle men, men who have cried in public, who have expressed hurt first, before anger.

In some ways it's easier to think about raising a daughter who can challenge gender roles. But I worry about a future son.
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Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
~ [ Mother's Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe ]

I've recently cleaned out my son's wardrobe.
At the tender age of one, he already possessed a GAP bodysuit with a camo-print logo, and an entire shirt and short set in the Australian Army colours.
My father thinks it's "cute".
I think I want him to grow up knowing that violence begets violence.
That whilst those who fight and suffer and die for their beliefs should be honoured for their sacrifices, they do not pass unquestioned, unexamined.
And, mostly, that this fighting and killing and dying is not something to aspire to.
And that having a penis does not make this his destiny.
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I'm thrilled.
It looks like we're going to get 18 weeks paid parental leave here in Australia, for primary caregivers earning under $150,000 p.a!
I really hope it DOES end up being parental leave, and not the "maternity leave" so many news channels are billing it as, so women are not made out to be State-employed baby machines. Good old racist, sexist Australia.
I originally saw the story on Channel Ten news and wanted to start hurling things at my TV (I did shout and gesticulate a bit) at the incendiary, biased language - the news presenters were basically implying it was excessive - and outright SAID it was "wasteful".
The language of the militantly childfree has infected our newsrooms now?!

Ladies & gentlemen, I don't care if you do not care to reproduce. That's fine. Buy your condoms, have your surgeries, use your pills. Enjoy your lifestyle without children! Go on whacky adventure holidays in your middle-age!
But please, I'm begging you, stop bitching about supporting "the breeders". The majority of the world's population are breeders. It could be argued that the entire reason for society even forming is to support and encourage "the breeders".
You are, in fact, outnumbered.

And that's a good thing, for you.

Very simply, it means you can choose not to breed, and enjoy the lifestyle you wish to.
It keeps your holiday resorts un-crowded, out of school holiday times, for one thing.
For another, the spawn that you denounce at the present will be the adults of the future. Those adults will pay the taxes that maintain the roads, libraries, and community facilities you will want to use, when you are retired and no longer contributing to the system. Those adults will be your nurses and doctors and counsellors and funeral directors and gravediggers and Meals on Wheels people that keep the engine of society - that you enjoy so much - functioning, even when you are not in a position to contribute monetarily to it, and when your wages are no longer significant as a contribution due to inflation.

If you do not wish to contribute to the well-being of these future adults, there will
a)be less of them, as more people decide they simply cannot afford to reproduce (and thus, your resorts become more crowded, the facilities you want to use more overworked) and
b)those that do appear are less likely to be healthy, educated and well-rounded adults, as they spent all their time in overcrowded childcare centres where it was difficult to get enough interaction with the frazzled staff. That is, those that survive to adulthood and don't die because people howling about taxes supporting "others' brats!" eventually lead (worst case scenario) to vaccinations becoming user-pays, and the medical system becoming more and more overworked, as people decide not to become a doctor or nurse, thus dropping their numbers even further than the number of people already retiring from the profession would...

Hmm. Actually, you could write a really cool post-apocalyptic kind of film about it all.

My teal deer senses are basically telling me to tell YOU:
Do not read the comments on the story I linked. You'll want to swear and throw things, too.

The most adamantly childfree people I've ever known in meatspace were women.
The language of most of the anti-paid parental leavers is horribly misogynistic and drips with privilege. It all makes me so sad.


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The Evening Star

July 2011

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