suggestions for building an intergenerational movement

June 25, 2008 § 2 Comments

vikki just sent this list that the revolutionary parenting caucus created.  thank god she wrote these down.

suggestions for building an intergenerational movement

at Saturday’s Revolutionary Parenting caucus, we brainstormed ways that people in our communities and movements can support the needs of their families. Here’s what we came up with:

*rotate the childcare role at meetings and events. This enables the parent or caretaker to fully participate while ensuring that no one person gets burned out.

*barter and trade for childcare. Parents and caretakers often have useful skills that they’re willing to share.

*form relationships with the kids in your community/movement/social justice project

*going to do something a kid might be interested in? Invite him/her along!

*at the start of any event, make an announcement that children (and the noise they make) are welcome. Many times we parents feel that we have to leave if our children make as much noise as the ringing of a cell phone.

*start (or participate in) discussions about the needs and contributions of families in radical communities. Don’t always leave it to parents to have to bring these issues up.

*start a childcare collective!

*One participant informed us that, despite all of her fundraising efforts, her friend, who is a mother of two, had been unable to afford to travel to the conference. Similarly, the mother who had originally proposed the parenting caucus, had been unable to come for the same reason. And so we added this suggestion:

Think about how the conference/event is helping
parents/kids/families get to them. Remember
that if we’re flying, bussing, taking the
train, etc., we’re often paying for more than
one seat (in addition to taking time off work,
having to pay for multiple meals at each
mealtime, etc). How are the organizers working
to make the event accessible for lower-income

*Remember that supporting parents and kids in your community is a big step towards deconstructing the nuclear family.

revolutionary motherhood available

June 25, 2008 § 1 Comment

so the REVOLUTIONARY MOTHERHOOD publication is available!  yay!

get your copy today!

suggested 7 dollar donation!

exclamation points!

contact maia!

loving y’all

revolutionary parenting at the allied media conference

June 25, 2008 § 4 Comments

so i did the revolutionary parenting caucus with vikki.  it went great.  the beginning was stressful because i felt like i was being blamed for the caucus starting late.  even though the time and place had been changed a bunch of times in the 24 hours and i had to figure out where to go.  and no one was offering to help me with aza, or all my bags, or the boxes of zines and photocopies i had made.  so this older lady finally went up to these ‘nice young men’ and asked them to help me.  and so it was a not best way to start a session about how to support mothers in an activist community.  aza was on high energy post-morning nap, throwing paper everywhere.  i had headache partially from drinking a few beers celebrating our anniversary the night before, but mostly from sleeping weirdly in the van.  cal had disappeared to get lunch and took longer than he thought he would.

and then i started to get these weird vibes.  do you know them?  they are the bad mother vibes.  in the midst of a revolutionary parenting session.  crazy? huh?
i think it is because i told my daughter: no.  a bunch of times.  like i normally do.  to everyone.  hell, my daughter doesnt even know that ‘no’ is a single syllable word.  she really thinks it is:nonononono.  see previous post…to learn more about my bad mama philosophy.

it goes a little something like this: baby, no, that paper is not your paper.  i am not sure whose paper that is.  you can play with this paper.  here.  sit here. and ill go get…oh no…dont poor water on your head…give that to me..silly girl…fucking a…ok are you thirsty…here i dont have any juice left…so…well, drink my sprite, yeah cause what you need is more high fructose corn syrup in your life…you like it?  where is your toy? and your paper?  and no, dont play with her bag thats not your bag…ok how about i hold you while i explain this to the caucus…and…silly girl…..

everyone stares at me.  pretending not to judge.  very revolutionary.

cal finally comes back.  my head is throbbing.  we are 15 minutes into the caucus.  i have already been yelled at. judged.  and i am convincing myself to be calm and keep it real and am really grateful that cal can take aza, cause i am weaning and frustrated and i really want to cry.

and plus, i am having that: i am not a single mother guilt.  which is a strange product of having been raised by a single mother and brought up around  single working mothers and heard enough resentment against partnered moms, because they had it so easy, and now i am a partnered mom (with a wonderful partner/co-parent) but i dont have much in common with the vast majority of married moms or stay at home moms (because my conception of motherhood was shaped differently)

(by the way i had a great experience being raised by a single working mother.  my life would not have been better with two parents significantly.  plus who can tell the past results of things that never happened)

the rest of the caucus went good.  we had some interesting insights.  discussions.   it was a great time.  strange that the majority of people in the room did not have kids and were white…but you know in another way that is awesome.  i mean i thought i would be preaching to the choir.  and instead i got to see how many different walks of life converge at revolutionary parenting.

saying no

June 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

ok–i dont get it.  why would you not tell your children no?  after reading all this advice about raising a ‘free child’ and ‘preserving my kids autonomy’–i decided to see what it would feel like to not say no to my kid.  no: no, stop, dont.  okay i dont get it.  why is it wrong to give your child verbal boundaries?

so i talk to a guy who lives in a co-op with a kid about aza’s age: he says that they only use ‘no’ for safety issues.  okay, but why?

supposedly if you use the word ‘no’ too often your child wont take the word seriously when you really mean it.  so i experimented with aza.  turns out when i am happy and smiley and saying: no.  she knows i am joking. and when i am serious, drop a little bass in the voice, she knows that she needs to back away and
look at me.  actually, her responses are not about what words i use: i could be saying elephant or umbrella, but the tone of my voice.  which makes sense since she repeats tones much more than individual letters. and communication is 70% nonverbal, 20%tone of voice, 10%actual content.  she understands me.

secondly, i think it is important that she recognizes that she has the right to say ‘no’ to people and the best way for me to model this is to say ‘no’ to her.
and for her to watch me saying no to others.  and laying down the verbal and physical boundaries.  and expecting others to respect them.

the funny thing about this i dont spend alot of time around: free or radical parents.  and so i was not really aware of this dont say no policy.  really.  and this weekend i got this funny vibe as i was around those of the ‘ free philosophy.  i couldnt figure it out.  until i realized after enough ‘raised eyebrows’ that i was telling my kid no.  actually i was laughing and running after her and saying no.  and i was saying it sternly at times.  and exhausted at times.  and mockingly at times.  i guess i am just not free or radical enough.

sometimes my kid runs up to something.  something that i have said no to a bunch of times.  and she points at it and says: nononononono

that is so funny to me.  she is so smart.  and she looks so proud when she says it.
but lets be honest.  i am not someone who believes as default: child-centered parenting.  i believe in a mama-centric universe.  i have some serious concerns that the baby-centered philosophy leads to a renewed marginilization and disempowerment of women and mothers, because if the needs of the child are in conflict with the needs of the mother, the mother has historically traditionally been expected to take the back seat in western culture.  especially if the child is a son.
my mother had a different philosophy when we were young.  we were not allowed to say the word: can’t.  yep.  to this day my brother and i grapple with self-conceptions that we can do anything we put our minds to and work hard for yet we never seem to be doing enough.

a friend said to me last night that her parents taught her that she was brilliant and amazing no matter what she did and now as an adult she struggles with the fact that (in the real world) she has to work hard to convince and show people that she is brilliant and amazing, people dont just see it.

and i read these blogs by antiracist parents who dont tell their young children of color about racism or slavery or other bad things that people do to people because they dont want to give their children an ‘inferiority’ complex and they want their children to see themselves as equal to everyone else.  hmmm…..
i guess adulthood is a rude awakening for all of us.

why are we mammals?

June 5, 2008 § Leave a comment

quoted from pbs:

Our own modern scientific classification of animals is based on evolutionary relationships, common ancestry – although in fact scientists started categorizing animals this way about a century before they realized that was what they were doing.

We, for example, are mammals. That was established in the year 1758, a hundred years before Darwin, by a Swedish biologist named Linnaeus. Mammals constitute a natural category. If you ask biology students, they will tell you we’re mammals. Why? Because we nurse our young.

Here is something the student probably can not tell you. Do we nurse our young because we are mammals, or are we mammals because we nurse our young? Let me rephrase the question: Why is milk so important in the great scheme of things that we should take our very name on that basis? Couldn’t we come up with the same group using a different criterion, and so why don’t we?

For example, Aristotle more than two thousand years ago called land animals “Quadrupedia” (four-legged), and divided them into those that lay eggs and those that give birth to live offspring. Creating a category of four-legged creatures that give birth to live offspring gives you basically the same constellation of animals as the category of mammals (with a few exceptions, like the duck-billed platypus).

Mammals actually have many features that distinguish them from reptiles, amphibians, fish, and birds – hair, for one thing. Some scientists in the 18th century actually did call this group “Pilosa,” or hairy things. But Linnaeus called us mammals, based on an anatomical feature that’s only functional in half of our species, and then only rarely.

So why did he do that?

It turns out to have been a political gesture. In the 1750s, there was major controversy surrounding the practice of wet-nursing. Many middle- and upper-class women in Europe were sending their babies off to stay with poor women in the country to be fed, rather than nursing the infants themselves. Linnaeus was active in the movement opposing this practice. In fact he wrote a book on the virtues of breastfeeding your own children, how it was natural for mothers to do this, and how therefore wet-nursing was something unnatural and bad. Up to that time he had been calling mammals simply Quadrupedia, like Aristotle. Now he calls mammals Mammalia, and uses his “objective” scientific classification to make this point. He is saying the natural role of women is to nurse their own children – that is what is right, and that is what your family should do (Schiebinger, 1993).

The point of all this is to show that what a biology student takes for granted as a fact of nature, that we are in our very essence a lactating species, is actually a fact of history – a political stand from the 18th century embedded into biology. It is true, of course, mammals are a natural unit and the group can be defined by nursing, but having a shared natural property doesn’t make a group an objective category, simply “out there” to be discovered. It is not obviously the case that breastfeeding is the key feature that makes us mammals, any more than having a single bone in the lower jaw (which all Mammalia have, and only Mammalia have) is the key feature that would make us “One-bone-in-jaw-malia.” There’s more here than nature.

So: we make sense of our place in the universe by classifying; our classifications are not necessarily derived from nature; and even when they are derived from nature, they encode cultural information.

ovarian cysts and racial difference

June 5, 2008 § Leave a comment

quoted from pbs:

What can ovarian cysts tell us about ideas of racial difference?

The study of ovarian cysts at the turn of the century offers a good case to look at, in terms of the ways physicians talk about differences between African Americans and whites. So there were two articles published in 1899 and 1900. The first is by a white physician at Johns Hopkins and he says, “Everyone knows that African American women don’t get ovarian cysts.” And the language he used would say, “What I hold before you looks like an ovarian cyst. It has all the characteristics of an ovarian cyst, but it cannot be so because it came from the body of a Negress, and Negroes have not evolved to the cyst-bearing stage.”

So then he goes on in the article to describe the fact that this is what everyone believes, and we know this to be true. However, he had done a small study among patients in the hospital at Johns Hopkins and he had actually found a few cases of ovarian cysts in the African American women that he saw, but apparently not enough to dispel the overall view that these were quite rare in African American women.

And following that, an African American physician, Daniel Hill Williams, ostensibly saw this article and responded quite vehemently to this by saying, “You know, it is commonly asserted that Negresses do not have ovarian cysts, but I have studied hundreds of African American women; I’ve seen all kinds of cysts. And the reason that other people don’t see them is in large measure because of this belief that Negro women do not have such cysts but also because of the great disparities in access to health care that these women experience on a daily basis.”

In other words, by the time they are seen with cysts, many of them have cysts that are so large, many of these women think that they were pregnant. They don’t know what’s going on with their bodies. And if they do, after the cysts have grown to be quite large, if they do have surgery they often die from the stresses of surgery at that particular point.

But his main point was that this perception that Negroes had not evolved to the cyst bearing stage prevented physicians from dealing with their patients’ actual conditions.

The perception of difference is so deeply embedded that doctors then don’t ask the kinds of questions that they should ask to determine whether or not what they see is something that’s due to race and a racial difference or if it’s due to a whole host of other factors. So the desire, I think, or at the very least the ways in which this notion of difference is so strong and still shakes perceptions is something that I see, certainly in cases from 1900, but you see it in cases up until the present as well.

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