Moments of power in women's lives...

(86 Posts)
Martorana Mon 17-Mar-14 09:05:39

I am running a serious risk of being deleted for "thread about a thread" but I have been thinking a lot about a situation unfolding elsewhere on this site and I would love other's opinions from a feminist perspective. Basically, the position being held by the vast majority is that the mother should have absolute control over what happens/who holds/sees/ does anything with a new baby for a considerable period post birth. A couple of people even suggest that the father should have no say in any of this for the first 12 weeks. That there is no such thing as unreasonable behaviour in a pregnant/ post partum woman.

This has made me think about the points of power in women's lives. It seems to me that for many women, childbirth and post birth is one of the only times when they are allowed- even expected to put themselves first. In practically all other circumstances, they are expected to appease, to conciliate.

Obviously it's a good thing for women to have power whenever they can- but the complicating factor of this is that it's a power based on hormones and instinct. "They can't help feeling like that- it's the hormones. Let's appease her, she'll be better soon"

A bit like the characterization of any woman who is angry and not conciliatory as pre menstrual.

I am thinking as I write- does any of this make sense? Does anyone have any thoughts?

scallopsrgreat Mon 17-Mar-14 09:19:48

'power based on hormones'? That sounds pretty misogynistic? Do you actually believe that is the case?

A women puts her needs (or more usually the babies needs) before a man's and that is considered power? Jeez. Thanks for that.

I agree that women are conditioned to put the needs of others first. Not doing that isn't power though. Unless you are meaning having power over your own life. And that is pretty awful isn't it really when you think about it. Quite a low bar.

Btw I have no idea of the thread you are talking about and whether the woman's behaviour is particularly unreasonable.

SirChenjin Mon 17-Mar-14 09:24:25

Does any of this make any sense?

Nope.

Amrapaali Mon 17-Mar-14 09:29:29

Power is the wrong word here, I think.

For various reasons- physiology,hormones, pure instinct - a mother MAY be more in tune with her baby. Not always the case. She may make a decision or behave in a manner that instinctively feels is right for her and her child.

A particular woman, for example, may be neurotic, self-doubting, a bit of a waffler, but when she becomes a mother may radically transform into a calm being, completely in control of a situation. Many centuries of honed instincts and biology, maybe, but hardly power in its true sense.

I don't know about the previous thread either, but so far I haven't come across anyone excusing unreasonable behaviour because she is a new mother.

The weeks and months after having babies is one of the times in my life when I have felt the least powerful I have ever felt.

Pain, bleeding, physical vulnerability, needing to learn how to be a parent, everyone else having an opinion, bossy domineering health professionals (not all of them, but enough) and of course the baby, whose needs overtake everything else.

I think there's a risk that what some might construct as power is actually a form of benevolent sexism, as you said, let's appease her, step away from the crazy lady.

That's not power.

I also haven't read the thread, but I think that in most cases (and there are some women who are just unpleasant, of course) we should look carefully at a father who wants to exert his "rights" to "have a say" in what happens to his partner and their baby.

Not to say he shouldn't have a voice, but I think any new father worth his salt would either be:

a) happy to work with and support his partner rather than getting arsey about his rights
b) asking for support from health professionals if he felt his partner was experiencing excessive anxiety etc, in case she was suffering PND or similar.

georgesdino Mon 17-Mar-14 09:34:37

Why do you feel you only put yourself first after babies? Bit of a weird idea I would say most of your life you prioritise yourself (or at least at an equal level to your children, dh) and if anything the only part you definitely dont is when the babies are under 6 months.

I am leaving my baby full time with its dad from 2 weeks as he is the same as me and a parent so it makes no difference which one of you they are with imo.

Martorana Mon 17-Mar-14 09:36:13

I don't want to make this about the other thread- I shouldn't have mentioned it. I was just trying to put my thoughts in context.

Yes, power based on hormones is mysogynist- that's rather what I was saying. It's as if women are being allowed to be in control because they are at the mercy of their hormones, and "normal service will be resumed" once they die down. It's like Freudian "hysteria"- women as womb and endocrine system rather than woman as rational being.

georgesdino Mon 17-Mar-14 09:39:36

What does normal service is resumed mean?

Martorana Mon 17-Mar-14 09:39:46

I'm not talking about individuals- I'm trying to talk about societal attitudes. Generally in our society women are expected to put other people's needs and wants before their own.

georgesdino Mon 17-Mar-14 09:43:38

Only in dysfunctional/abusive relationships.

Martorana Mon 17-Mar-14 09:44:56

I don't think that's true- unless the vast majority of heterosexual relationships are dysfunctional.......

I think you are very seriously misrepresenting the other thread here.

But dealing with the theoretical question posed, I can see what you're getting at but I think it's more complicated than that. There's a whole mystique around women and childbirth -- it's an arena men were excluded from for much of history (and still are in some cultures) and I think there's a taboo/almost quasi-spiritual aspect to it still. In part it probably ties in to the old presumed dichotomy of men as the logical materialists and women as the emotional nurturers -- but then there is in this specific instance a factual basis behind that in that the woman does have hormonal surges that (in most cases though not all) do bond her closely to the baby as well as make her more emotional at a time when she's also physically vulnerable. It's as though all the myths about women come true for a handful days and that's seen as justifying their existence (and the pigeonholing of women) in general.

I know what you mean Martorana

But I don't think the indulgences we are allowed after we have given birth represent power, rather they are benevolent sexism.

georgesdino Mon 17-Mar-14 09:46:31

You really believe that the vast majority of relationships a woman puts a man first? Im very surprised by that.

georgesdino

No, that isn't what socialised to put others' needs before our own means.

One example is the standard by which a man and a women judges themselves when deciding whether they've "pulled their weight" at home.

Women are socialised to be polite and avoid offending anyone with their opinions.

Men aren't. If you watch a conversation in a mixed group, you will likely find that men dominate it.

Of course, this is all based on typical, average behaviour. A conscious choice isn't assumed, nor do the existence of exceptions mean the whole thing is bunkum.

At core, it's about different standards being subconsciously demanded from men and women.

Amrapaali Mon 17-Mar-14 09:51:04

"Generally in our society women are expected to put other people's needs and wants before their own."

Not true. Mothers maybe yes. But not women, in general. Mothers are expected to think of their children first.

But I wouldn't point the finger at Western society or even humankind in general. A mountain lion or a pelican, when it becomes a mother will defend her young at the cost of its own life.

Martorana Mon 17-Mar-14 09:51:51

"But I don't think the indulgences we are allowed after we have given birth represent power, rather they are benevolent sexism."

I think that's what I meant by being "allowed" to have control/power. In a, as someone said, "step away from the mad woman" kind of way. "let her have her little moment of glory- everything will be back to normal soon"

georgesdino Mon 17-Mar-14 09:52:36

I think a lot of the after baby thing comes from some women not trusting a man to care for a child in the same way. I think its bizarre as they are 50% the parent just as a woman is. I think its 100% interchangeable if your not breastfeeding.

'"Generally in our society women are expected to put other people's needs and wants before their own."

Not true. Mothers maybe yes. But not women, in general.'

I disagree. In the world of work, for example, a man is "direct" or "confident" or "no-nonsense" while a woman who displays exactly the same behaviour is "pushy" or "a bitch". Study after study has confirmed that. To be rated as highly on the social dimensions of leadership as a man, a woman needs to display an extra layer of concern for others, to be more tentative in how she suggests things, to be more in tune with her subordinates' feelings.

CailinDana Mon 17-Mar-14 16:50:58

Georgesdino- do you have children?

georgesdino Mon 17-Mar-14 18:16:30

Yes soon to be 3. Why?

NiceTabard Mon 17-Mar-14 18:32:49

I would need to see the thread I think.

Each situation is different, different families have different dynamics, different women have different birth and post-natal experiences, some women BF some don't etc etc.

There is no set standard of reasonableness or otherwise here, it's a case by case type thing IMO.

NiceTabard Mon 17-Mar-14 18:34:36

I also disagree with this:

" It seems to me that for many women, childbirth and post birth is one of the only times when they are allowed- even expected to put themselves first."

I would say that for all women, childbirth and post birth is a time when they are absolutely expected to put someone else ahead of themselves utterly and that is the baby.

GarthsUncle Mon 17-Mar-14 19:50:05

Those of you that haven't seen the thread might need to pad your desks to save yourselves a headache...

(Mart, I think the 12 weeks was under extreme provocation to define a number and not wanting to constrain another woman to being browbeaten by that.)

Anyhow... I agree with you that the hormone thing can be patronising - like "oh she's cross because she has PMT, ha ha ha"

FloraFox Mon 17-Mar-14 20:01:45

Martorana I haven't read the other thread but I get what you're saying, it's not real power. It's like saying a woman has dominion over her home is presented as power.

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