Friday, August 17, 2012

link-love: gender boxes, sexual fluidity, and extreme breastfeeding

These are excerpts from some posts worth reading if you haven't already:

Gender boxes limit all kids by Margot Magowan at Reel Girls
A thoughtful post with helpful, practical advice for parents:
I do have some tactics to suggest for parents to deal with sexism/ gender-pressure, but before I even go into that, it’s really important not to let this issue devolve into: who has it worse, girls or boys? When we create rigid gender boxes for our kids, everyone loses out. Everyone. This is about raising healthy, happy, children, helping their brains grow so that they can reach their potential. [...]
Here’s the thing: Most kids like to play with dolls, but we label them “dolls” or “action figures.” Most kids enjoy pushing objects on wheels, but we sell them either trucks or babystrollers. As I wrote, most kids would have fun painting their nails if they thought it was OK to do so. Most kids, while playing outside will pick up sticks and occasionally poke each other with them. Most parents respond to that same act with “Boys will be boys” or “Sweetie, stop that! You’ll hurt yourself and rip your dress.” [...]
Here are some ways, daily, that I decode gender talk, because though an email won’t work, saying the right thing at the right time sometimes does. Here are three main groups parents need to speak up to [teachers, doctors, and other kids], even if it’s awkward, even if you feel like a bitch. [...]
It’s hard. It’s awkward because we can’t send an email like “GET A CLUE. BE OPEN. BE KIND.” And the fucked up thing is, people are often trying to “be kind” when they push stereotypes on kids. Except when they’re not…

Children's Clothes and Gender: What's Our Role? at Balancing Jane
And this one broadens the issue of boxes and labeling:
How often do we push our children to label themselves (or even do the labeling for them) because it makes it easier to function? After all, we label things so that we can make sense of our world. Those labels exist for a functional reason. It's only when they become mired in restrictive stereotype and prejudgment that they become a problem. But how many labels have I already put on my child? How many times will I push her to choose a path before she's ready?

And how can we differentiate between labeling and providing opportunities? If I call my child "active" and decide to enroll her in toddler tumbling, am I giving her the chance to explore who she is or am I pushing her to be someone in particular? If I decide my child is "smart" and then ensure that I get her into the most academically challenging environment, am I opening doors or deciding her future path?

Talking Sexual Fluidity with My Preschooler by Quizzical mama (aka Anne G. Sabo aka me) at Love, Sex, and Family
I was invited to crosspost this at The Buzz: Good Vibrations Online Magazine and I think it's worth sharing it here too if you haven't already seen it.
The beautiful thing about talking sexual fluidity with a four-year-old is that she totally gets it. She gets that we can look female and feel male inside. She gets that the object of each person's affection can manifest immensely differently for that one person. She's not confused by our friends who are currently same-sex partnered while previously opposite-sex partnered. She's unfazed by the prospect of a woman gradually changing to look more like a man and vice versa.

It's not like I'd be doing my daughter a disservice by not teaching her that the "new" normal is that there is no "normal;" she already gets this. Children already get sexual fluidity. Ignoring or pretending there is no such fluidity would constitute a disservice; closing their minds and hearts off to that wonderful plurality of gender identity and sexual orientation that exist among us.

Meet Your Local Extreme Breastfeeder by blue milk at Feministe
This post tackles a lot of our culture's unease about breastfeeding and stereotypes about breastfeeders:
I hear you have a reality TV show coming to your screens in the US about ‘extreme breastfeeders’ and I thought you might like to know one of those weirdos for yourself. Here I am. Before I had children I thought breastfeeding for twelve months was pushing it. Six months is fine, but if they can eat solids then why breastfeed any further? With the first child I really surprised myself and I breastfed her for just under two years. Now I am breastfeeding a three and a half year old who is tall enough to look like a five year old. We could definitely do an impression of that notorious TIME magazine cover. He’s partial to a bit of standing-up breastfeeding, too. ‘This me’ would totally have horrified ‘old me’. Public breastfeeding? Wasn’t keen on that. Breastfeeding toddlers? Really wasn’t keen on that.

The thing I didn’t realise back then when I was repulsed by the idea of breastfeeding a child ‘old enough to ask for it’ is that babies ‘ask for it’ right from birth and they never stop asking for it, their methods just get increasingly sophisticated. And that sophistication, like all other milestones your baby achieves, makes a parent beam with pleasure. If you found yourself compelled to respond to their earlier requests you will quite likely feel compelled by their later requests. [...]
Motherhood is a very challenging identity for many of us. There’s a huge fear of losing yourself, and your boundaries, and your sex appeal, and your focus and direction, and control over your body when you transform into a mother. Breastfeeding can push all of those buttons. We live in a very misogynist culture. The worst trolling on my blog has always been about calling me a cow and trying to humiliate me about breastfeeding. Clearly, the concept that we can be lactating animals scares the shit out of some of us.

Photo credit: What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?
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