Just posting from Radfem 2013 with the MN feminists - couple of interesting comments :-)

(326 Posts)

I'm just posting because I'm at a conference with a few MN feminists. We've just been to a panel about feminist parenting, and the others are chatting with other feminist mums.

I've been listening in on the discussion mostly on account of not having any children - which is why I'm posting on MN instead of talking - but a couple of women mentioned the old stereotype of MN being full of anti-feminist middle-class white mothers who only talk about nappies. And a couple of FWR regulars were saying that we're actually quite nice. So, I am hoping maybe people who were at the conference will come to check out this section.

Or maybe they won't, but if they do - hello! :-)

TheDoctrineOfAllan Fri 14-Jun-13 09:20:17

SEB, I think it sounds great. What is it that worries you?

MooncupGoddess Fri 14-Jun-13 09:24:56

Men can already deny women the possibility of being mothers by using a condom, or abstaining. Having children should be a joint decision, no?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 14-Jun-13 09:57:44

I think a male contraceptive sounds good. I think men can already deny us the choice - no-one seriously wants a baby with a man who would be on a contraceptive pill if he could be, do they?!

My worry is, we know the female contraceptive pills aren't all they're cracked up to be. I don't know if a male one could or would be different. I worry people would expect a huge social change and it wouldn't be that.

Cynically, I also wonder how many men would take such a pill.

GoshAnneGorilla Fri 14-Jun-13 10:02:53

Also there are plenty of relationships where the burden of contraception falls to the woman anyway, even if she would like children, because she's waiting for her husband/partner to be "ready".

Hullygully Fri 14-Jun-13 10:12:48

I wouldn't trust anything other that a vasectomy - I'm the one that would have the baby as a result of failure, not the man.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 14-Jun-13 10:17:53

I can see that a male contraceptive might suit those men who're already motivated to see contraception as something they need to take care of, but I don't think those men are the problem really. The problem is the men we read about on here, who tell their wives they don't want another baby, but don't want to use condoms, or who turn around when the baby is born and say they never really wanted it. I think that comes from what blis was saying about the way motherhood has become an ideal, and even when we're trying to have open conversations with a partner, it has become so fraught with expectations about how much a man has to be committed and how much a woman has to be committed.

GoshAnneGorilla Fri 14-Jun-13 10:53:35

MRD - I think that has less to do with idealized concepts of parenthood, than the fact that people are able to generally plan their families now. You don't have to go back too far in time to when that wasn't the case.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 14-Jun-13 10:58:31

Well, it still isn't the case, is it? It's still rare across the world to be able to plan. I don't know how much it has changed. If you look back, you still find men who were angry their wives got pregnant, or who got their wives pregnant but didn't feel responsibile for the consequence, well before there was reliable contraception.

Blistory Fri 14-Jun-13 11:39:09

Freya, I've obviously offended you but living in a patriarchal society offends me almost every minute of every day now.

I'm quite capable of considering that a woman living hand to mouth in sub Saharan Africa loves her children and would walk many miles with her child on her back to get them food or medical aid. That same child that will be forced for survival to work from an early age themselves. Of course, it's a brutal life - I've been out there and I've seen it first hand but I don't think it's a feature of motherhood alone as I've seen the same women do exactly the same for their husbands, for elderly relatives and I think it comes down to familial responsibility and the sense that you are responsible for a wider community - I think we possibly lack that in the Western world to a large extent.

I don't think it's offensive or callous to recognise that children, in numerous societies, were sold by their families into slavery, forced to work, sent to war, were considered a burden or indispensible. I recognise that it still goes on. I think contraception may have played a significant role, primarily in the first world, for children's rights coming to the forefront and I was simply wondering why this was, whether it was a natural progression or a forced one as in freeing women from continual pregnancy and childbirth, women didn't achieve the freedom they thought they would. Instead there seems to have been an elevating of 'motherhood' that works to have tied women to the home just as much. Questioning that, isn't to my mind, questioning that women love their children.

I've never argued that women haven't worked - I think the concept that women don't work is a relatively recent one and again is a very sexist view as it doesn't consider child rearing or looking after the home as work, never mind the fact that women have tended to have additional work on top of that.

As for first world problems, well, I've always thought that was an effective way to try and stop discussion. There's a sliding scale of how bad women have it but just because on this thread, I was posting primarily about the modern Western world, doesn't mean that I disregard the appalling situation that women face all over the world. First world problems are equally valid - there's some appalling stuff here in my home town that I wouldn't wish upon any woman or human being and I'm sure it's no consolation to them that they live in a first world society.

Sausageeggbacon Fri 14-Jun-13 12:10:25

doctorine as a mother of two boys it is great but consider if a man decides he doesn't want a family? One version of contraception is reversible but last five years what happens if he doesn't tell his partner. She could believe there are problems when it is just him deciding. Pros men take responsibility for family planning, con is man can completely control family planning and having seen threads on here about coming off the pill and not telling their partner it will cut both ways men denying partners the chance to get pregnant and men deciding they are ready for children and maybe not telling their partners their contraception is no longer active (depending on the type).

GoshAnneGorilla Fri 14-Jun-13 12:13:47

Blistory - I do think the idea that an " it takes a village" mentality is somehow better then a nuclear family is overly romantic.

Many women living in extended families or close knit communal situations actually have far less say in their lives and how they spend their time then we would want for ourselves and are often at the mercy of immovable hierarchies, whether male or female dominated.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 14-Jun-13 12:18:17

I don't see how that's bad though, sausage? Surely it is much better than the alternative of a man not wanting a family but ending up having one? People can always find more inventive ways of lying to each other if they are total wankers, of course.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Fri 14-Jun-13 12:28:44

Sausage, I kind of see your point but if the woman thinks they have fertility problems when the man is actually taking the pill, I don't think it'd take five years before she was arranging fertility tests for them both etc.

It's not just for my sons I'm pleased this is coming - DH can take a turn on the hormones for once, hooray!

Blistory Fri 14-Jun-13 12:38:06

Goth, I agree about it being an overly romantic concept but I find the nuclear family concept quite insular and selfish. It leaves no room for a a family member on the periphery such as a bachelor uncle.

I take your point about pressures of a more communal society.

I don't know what the ideal would be but there must be something in between the nuclear/communal concepts ?

Sausageeggbacon Fri 14-Jun-13 16:54:25

doctorine I am sure most of us would be checking inside a couple of years. But remembering my controlling ex who first pushed me to an abortion and then when I discussed it with him and he agreed I wouldn't have been surprised if he had of used this if it had of been available. He wanted everything on his terms and a male cream or a minor procedure would not have been to difficult to hide.

And I am of an age where I no longer have to worry I can just enjoy things.

FreyaSnow Fri 14-Jun-13 22:26:14

'I'm quite capable of considering that a woman living hand to mouth in sub Saharan Africa loves her children and would walk many miles with her child on her back to get them food or medical aid. That same child that will be forced for survival to work from an early age themselves. Of course, it's a brutal life - I've been out there and I've seen it first hand but I don't think it's a feature of motherhood alone as I've seen the same women do exactly the same for their husbands, for elderly relatives and I think it comes down to familial responsibility and the sense that you are responsible for a wider community - I think we possibly lack that in the Western world to a large extent'

If it came down to a sense of responsibility for a wider community, it would not be the case that women are doing 70% of the world's work for 10% of the world's income and less than 1% of the world's resources. Women. According to the UN, women produce 75-90% of food crops and do more work to support the household than men in every country in the world. How can any of this be the case if a community feels a shared responsibility? Clearly women are shouldering that responsibility.

I am sure it is the case that people feel a sense of compassion to other adults, but when mothers run or are influential in households, children are more likely to be adequately fed, have access to healthcare and education and spend less time working and have more time for play and recreation, according to UNICEF. Mothers generally prioritise children.

There are societies where fathers are very involved with the wellbeing of children, or ones where brothers are, or sisters, or grandmothers, or friends. There are societies where people form strong bonds with husbands, and ones where they form strong bonds with cousins, or with their superiors at work, or their mother in law, or with their brothers. You can socialise a society in any way you want, and reinforce all kinds of bonds. But when you look for societies where mothers are not very involved with their infants and children, they are the exceptions. The norm is that mothers care a lot about children.

Depending on what society you are in and what options you have, the way mothers do stuff that helps their children varies. They might have a paid job, they might grow crops at home, they might place more value on educating the child at home, or on the child's health. But they collectively use their time, income and resources to prioritise children to an extent that other groups do not.

And so I believe that motherhood is the basic relationship on which society is built - the bond between mothers and children which patriarchy attempts to damage, control or ignore so that they can perpetuate inequality in the next generation by disempowering mothers. You believe that patriarchy creates motherhood. I suspect that difference in opinion is the basis of why many women don't get involved in feminism. It often seems to be saying stop prioritising children, and I don't think the vast majority of women ever will.

I don't really want to get into the whole SAHM thing, because people have discussed that in huge detail on MN. I will say that we live in Britain in a post-industrial society which is highly complex and requires young people to be educated in a set of very complex skills which require specific modes of education to be employable, and where various areas of public life are highly inappropriate for children to be exposed to. I can see why mothers respond to that by trying to control their kids' environment and being heavily involved in their education. I see no point at all at comparing that to the way a mother in a mostly agricultural or industrial society looks after her kids to make a point that 'modern' motherhood is glorified. If you bring your child up to go out and work from the age of seven as a crow scarer in a field or to open trap doors in a mine shaft while living in 21st century Britain, you're neglecting your child. If you're living in the 19th century, mothers would be usually preparing your child for the options that give them the best chance in their circumstances, as mothers do now.

'As for first world problems, well, I've always thought that was an effective way to try and stop discussion. There's a sliding scale of how bad women have it but just because on this thread, I was posting primarily about the modern Western world, doesn't mean that I disregard the appalling situation that women face all over the world. First world problems are equally valid - there's some appalling stuff here in my home town that I wouldn't wish upon any woman or human being and I'm sure it's no consolation to them that they live in a first world society.'

It is an effective way to stop discussion and is often misused in that way. But I referred to it as first world problems due to you and the responses from other posters. You were giving specific examples of women not being invested in their children for their sense of purpose because their children died young, lived in poverty etc. You then used that as a way of criticising the behaviour of 'modern' mothers. I think that is a specific use of the conditions of the lives of huge numbers of women globally now and an assumption about their feelings about their dead children, which you used as the basis of a criticism of 'modern' (presumably you mean Western) mothers. I think it is valid to say that is dismissing the lives of others so you can talk about first world problems. It is completely different to me thinking nobody should ever talk about first world problems. I just don't think you should trivialise or make assumptions about the emotions of mothers about children dying in other circumstances to do so.

Blistory Sat 15-Jun-13 11:08:29

I get it now.

No, I don't believe that only women are capable of prioritising children and I think the idea that they are reinforces the notion that men are entitled to walk away from their responsibilities and leave it all to women.

I was't arguing for motherhood to be valued lower but for men to be expected to value fatherhood as highly as we value motherhood.

FreyaSnow Sat 15-Jun-13 16:23:08

Blistory, yes I agree about fatherhood. And I apologise to you and anyone else that I'be been a bit insensitive to on this thread.

Blistory Sat 15-Jun-13 16:36:40

No apologies needed. I could have been clearer with what I meant.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 17-Jun-13 15:35:33

Thanks for the great thread OP and contributors - I wasn't able to be at RF13 and just now read the whole thing in one! smile

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 17-Jun-13 16:30:05

Oh ... I'm sorry, I still don't feel I've given fair feedback! blush

It is a bit of a pity we got to debate the trans issue, because it was not a huge part of the conference. Honestly, the dominant theme (for me) was how positive it is to get to meet up with other women. From that basic theme there were ideas about how difficult or easy it is to come out as a lesbian, and how comfortable women feel with each other, and all sorts of issues that had nothing to do with much of this thread. I suppose it's inevitable we focus on the controversial stuff, but it did honestly feel very positive and lovely.

BubblesOfBliss Mon 17-Jun-13 20:16:10

I fully expect a woman-only conf thread to have a lot of what about da tranz/menz, so I skimmed those bits. But what you say here:

how comfortable women feel with each other

This is worthy of its own thread smile but then again, it is something that does require woman-only space for the safety to really discuss it with the courage and honestly it requires. Acknowledging and discussing the fear women have of one another cuts to the heart of the divide and rule of women by men (patriarchy)... and makes a lot of people feel very queasy... Afterall, even though societal structure across the globe is a grotesque hierarchy forged by abuse and exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few - at least you 'know yer place'.. That queasiness is often re-framed as 'women need men to fight alongside them' or 'it is just bigoted to say that transwomen and born women are different'.... There are women that will come up with any bullshit excuse to not have to confront their fear of being with only other (born) women who want to put born women at the centre - not the sideline for a change.

Boomba Mon 17-Jun-13 21:44:20

so so fed up of trans-issues popping up all over feminist issues

OneMoreChap Tue 18-Jun-13 12:06:52

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom
I also liked (iirc) that she argued that you could believe that some form of life began at conception and still believe absolutely that women had the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy.

Isn't that a bit like the concept fetus rights don't start until woman's right ends... (which I approve of incidentally; I can't imagine any women enjoy the late term abortions SPUC shroud wave about) - and the woman gets to decide who sharesher body, be that be friend, partner or fetus

Male contraceptive... great idea, but how do you decide to trust a man who says "oh it's OK, I'm on the 'pill' ". I guess it would only be used either by responsible and/or untrusting men. With that proviso, why wouldn't anyone welcome men having control of their own fertility?

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Tue 18-Jun-13 14:02:36

Yes, it's a similar argument. However, in feminist circles, I often hear it argued that a fetus is just a blob of cells up to some point. Which I find harder.

I think that the risk with a male contraceptive is that it becomes an extra, not an instead. So in many couples the male would only take hormonal contraception if he was untrusting of his partner, and likewise many women would 'back up' the man using the pill. And whilst it is good to take contraceptive responsibility, I am not sure doubling up on hormones and NHS cost is necessarily a great thing. I would trust DH to take the male pill, but I do seem to be in a minority when the subject comes up.

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