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Feeling conflicted about (childless) man's feminist views on mothering

(241 Posts)
NomNomNom Fri 31-Jan-14 22:33:53


I think this is one of my first forays into the feminist section, although I've been lurking. I was hoping to get your balanced and reasonable views on this.

Basically, I don't know what to think about this - my personal pissed-offness is clashing with my political views, I think.

I have this colleague who is in his mid-20s (I'm slightly older), childless, very well-educated, very right-on, yet he seems inexperienced in real-life matters. I don't like him for various reasons that are not really relevant. Mostly that he expresses vaguely political views when it helps him impress people in positions of power at work, but doesn't really know a lot about the actual issues and seems to put it on a bit.

Today he posted a video on Facebook of a kind of spoken-word performance by a young female poet/stand-up that was all about the physical changes motherhood brings and how women are great, strong etc for what they go through during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. It was a great poem, I really like it, and it expresses many things I think as well.

But somehow I'm really pissed off that this guy has posted it. He has nothing to do with children. He'll never go through those experiences himself. I often think he jumps on political bandwagons, so I don't know if my discomfort is to do with that.

I think if a dad had posted the video, I would have thought how lucky his partner is.

But somehow, a childless (privileged) guy doing it makes me angry. I've always been a feminist, but only found feminist approaches to mothering and the whole mothering/motherhood distinction a little while after my daughter was born. Reading blogs about feminist mothering, Adrienne Rich etc. really helped me to make sense of my situation and feelings, some of it was so eye-opening and just amazing. I really like how other mothers seem to experience the same issues as me and then write about it in a thoughtful and concise way, taking apart the challenges - it seems like a kind of almost intimate community of mothers (that sounds completely wanky and essentialist, I know!). I don't know how to explain it. So somehow, I just get the sense that this guy I know is 'doing' feminism in an almost consumerist way, putting it on - because feminist views on mothering have nothing to do with his life, so why is he posting about that?

I have to admit that I occasionally feel slightly conflicted about aspects of my feminism - e.g. the whole question of whether men can be feminists (though I read a great explanation regarding how one can perceive feminism as either shared political aims or shared experience). I'm still on the fence when it comes to those 2 views, but I suppose for me feminist approaches to motherhood are rooted in shared experience, and this guy does not share it, so he should butt out.

But on the other hand, more men should admire women for the strength involved in making a person and nurturing them, so… I just don't know!!

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 31-Jan-14 22:36:55

OK, I can see why this guy is pissing you off - but better he has some awareness than none?

For my personal piece of mind, I'm only friends on Facebook with people I actually like... if politically I can't unfriend someone who posts annoying things, I unfollow their posts so they don't appear in my feed.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 31-Jan-14 22:37:15

Peace of mind. Aargh!!

WidowWadman Fri 31-Jan-14 22:38:04

Sorry, don't follow. I think you don't need to have children of your own to have views on motherhood/parenthood. Yes, it's not unlikely that views/emotions change with experience, but I think you should cut the guy some slack.

He may not have children of his own, but he is someone's child, isn't that enough to form an opinion?

AnyFucker Fri 31-Jan-14 22:38:44

Well, I would think he just wants a cookie doesn't he ?

if it doesn't ring true as authentic, then of course it isn't

ashtrayheart Fri 31-Jan-14 22:40:47

Don't have him on your fb if he winds you up that much. He's probably trying a little too hard but you liked the sentiment just not who posted it. I think you are overthinking this.

gigglestar Fri 31-Jan-14 22:41:26

Being childfree doesn't bar you from having an opinion on parenthood/motherhood.

Seems like you just don't like him! grin

NomNomNom Fri 31-Jan-14 22:46:22

Yes, of course I can unfollow his posts, and of course I am over thinking this. But I thought this was an appropriate section for thinking slightly beyond the trite stuff.

Loving the feminist cookies. I would post a link to the photos in response to his post if I didn't think that would have repercussions at work.

I'm not convinced he actually has the sentiments expressed in the poem though, it seems more like 'oh, here's another branch of feminism - quick, let's make people aware I'm so politically correct I'm even into quirky non-mainstream feminism'.

NomNomNom Fri 31-Jan-14 22:47:50

No, of course being child free doesn't mean he can't have an opinion, but surely leaky boobs etc are slightly irrelevant for him at them moment.

You're right, I just don't like him.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 31-Jan-14 22:53:59

I don't think anyone said you were overthinking.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 31-Jan-14 22:54:51

I don't think anyone said you were overthinking - your assessment of him seems pretty accurate.

AnyFucker Fri 31-Jan-14 22:58:19

ashtrayheart said quite clearly that op was "overthinking"

OP, in my yout, blokes like this used to spout stuff they thought women like to get a shag

y'know, the sensitive guy, but you knew it was bullshit and he would still finger you behind the bike sheds and call you a slag to his mates

Casmama Fri 31-Jan-14 22:58:24

If you can see it then no doubt others can too so the right on politically correct stuff will come across as disingenuous and people pleasing.

AnyFucker Fri 31-Jan-14 22:58:30


WidowWadman Fri 31-Jan-14 23:01:08

I'd rather have people being interested in feminist issues no matter whether leaky boobs currently affect them directly or not.

The more people interested in feminism, the better. And yeah, just posting about it isn't much, but it still spreads the word for more to see, doesn't it?

So the guy posted something you agree with, and that touched you, and it annoys you because you don't like him?

Would you rather he posted some misogynist or sexist stuff, so you can feel justified in your dislike?

FWIW, feminist issues affect everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation, relationship status and if they have children or not. People can be privileged and not directly negatively affected, but still care. Why shouldn't they?

Should only refugees post about refugee matters? Are white people allowed an opinion about racism? Should only gay people have strong feelings about gay rights? Why? And why should feminist issues be any different?

AuntieStella Fri 31-Jan-14 23:03:59

I wish more people would post insightful, thoughtful links, not fewer.

And I don't think the biological detail of where their gonads are located or if they have used then to their full potential is a barrier to doing that.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 31-Jan-14 23:09:24

So she did, AF.

I really shouldn't MN and watch TV at the same time. Sorry, OP!

NomNomNom Fri 31-Jan-14 23:11:03

Yes, that's my problem: I too wish more people posted insightful stuff to alert more people to the existence of those viewpoints and experiences. But somehow the fact that it was this guy annoys me.

He's really not the sensitive type. More the controlling, pushing his way in type. Yet loved by everyone because he talks a lot (but when you push him it quickly becomes obvious he's just spouting others' opinions).

AnyFucker Fri 31-Jan-14 23:16:37

if you say he is a twat, I believe you

I would consider him patronising and paternalistic. I don't need a man to tell me what it's like to be a child bearing woman.

whereisshe Fri 31-Jan-14 23:17:04

It sounds more like a values clash than anything to do with intellectually held views. You feel that integrity and honesty are integral to being a worthwhile person, he's a blatant bullshit artist who violates that.

It doesn't have to be about feminism at all for you to have a fundamental clash with him. The fact that you keep saying you might be over thinking it makes me think you've had a gut reaction to him that you're now trying to understand.

Re the question about whether it would annoy me per se... ? I think that popularity is a double edged sword (in this case it's now becoming more fashionable to show respect for women's role in reproduction) - on one hand all publicity is good publicity. On the other hand it dumbs the issues down and the bite sized chunk approach to major life issues tends to make them less meaningful. I don't think you need to experience something to empathise, it's the over-simplification that bothers me more.

NomNomNom Fri 31-Jan-14 23:17:27

For example, I wouldn't say much about black mothers' experiences, simply because I don't know where the line is between supporting a cause and being a patronising person in a privileged position. But I read some feminist blogs by black mothers because I find them interesting.

Similarly, when my new gay colleague told me that he'd previously lived in a place notorious for its homophobia but didn't explicitly mention the homophobic aspect of life there, I didn't comment because I felt it wasn't my place but rather his because he experiences it. Doesn't mean I don't oppose homophobia though.

ashtrayheart Fri 31-Jan-14 23:17:32

Yes, I did. I will remove myself from the feminist board and get back onto AIBU smile

NomNomNom Fri 31-Jan-14 23:21:44

Whereisshe - thanks for that post, that's really helpful. I hadn't thought about the simplification aspect.

'I don't need a man to tell me what it's like to be a childbearing woman' - indeed!! It does seem a bit like that, even thought he's using a woman's words. That's almost worst, even - using the female poet to make himself look like a well-informed feminist.

NomNomNom Fri 31-Jan-14 23:23:32

All these posts are helpful btw - I definitely had a gut reaction that I'm trying to understand, partly because I feel like a bad feminist for thinking these things. A bit too limiting and restrictive.

AnyFucker Fri 31-Jan-14 23:55:18

I would respect him more if he talked about women's child bearing from a man's pov

Otherwise it looks plagiarising and paternalistic

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