Category Archives: feminism

Do I dare? “Feminist” doesn’t sound good at all

This is my dilemma at the moment: I’m working crazy hours at home and at work. It’s not that I consider working six hours every day at the university heroic, but being nearly six months pregnant, plus having a demanding toddler at home, plus a horrible nesting drive that’s driving me to tidy up every single wardrobe in the house, and last but not least the need to finish my PG in Coaching in January, just before giving birth, is not helping me to find inner peace!

In the midst of all this chaos I have an urgent desire to set up a feminist seminar at the university. My current university is a bit more traditional than the previous one I worked at. People here don’t talk about feminism, they talk about gender; and they refer to women’s rights, not to patriarchy or gender structural discrimination. So I feel at odds with this crazy idea. Should I risk my legal and professional credentials running a seminar with the title “Feminism isn’t bad, let’s give it a go”, or should I try a more conventional approach and call it “Women’s rights”?

These are the things I would like to talk about in the seminar: mothering, body image, new sexism, gender discrimination at the university, gender parenting and feminism, gender differences and science, feminist activism and women’s networks, among others. But I’m afraid that if I include the word “feminism” in the title nobody will come to my seminars!

I feel this sort of isolation more and more. When I say I’m a feminist people look at me as if I’m outdated, a man hater, a woman who ill-treats her partner (something he might agree to, considering how many times in the last six months he’s told me I have a wicked tongue).

On top of this I’m starting to teach a new course this year. This is a big one, with about 100 students, and I’d like to share with them everything that feminism has brought to my life, the inspiring readings and the way of looking at gender relationships, but I don’t know if I dare.

The same applies to my seminar.  What if I title it “Feminism and women” and nobody comes? I’ll be extremely sad, but I’m so much in need of sharing my thoughts, readings and projects with other women that I might risk it.

Any idea for an appealing title? I don’t want to be left high and dry in the seminar room…

Natalia

Entrevista con Laura Gutman

Laura Gutman es psicoterapeuta familiar argentina, y escritora, que publica entre otras cosas, sobre la maternidad, la paternidad, y vinculos primarios. En la primera parte de esta entrevista habla sobre el (no) valor social de la maternidad, el aislamiento materno, la necesidad de una ‘tribu’ para criar a los hijos, y los diferentes tironeos y desgarros que sufren las mujeren cuando se vuelven madres.

Espero que les guste.

Lucila

Pink and pretty – how ‘innocent’ can harm

Orenstein, Peggy, 2011, Cinderella ate my daughter. Dispatches from the front lines of the new girlie-girl culture, New York:  HarperCollins Publishers

I explained before what moved me to grab this book. As the title of the book suggests, it studies and analyses the new incarnation of the girlie-girl culture.

I liked this book for several reasons.

First, because I could identify with the authors concerns for her daughter and the reasons she set out to study more in detail this phenomenon. She describes how she wants to encourage her daughter to be a healthy, happy, strong girl. The girlie-girl culture freaks her out, but at the same time she does not want to give her daughter the impression that feminine, or girly stuff is not good, that ‘boys’ things are better. She wants her daughter to find a way of exploring her sexuality in her own terms, and being able to understand her body, her desire, her needs. And thus, objects strongly to the early sexualisation of children, and to the models of coming of age that seem to follow the princes stage – that of modern human ‘princesses’ such as Hannah Montana or Britney, which ends up being about objectifying.  She wants her daughter to be strong and independent, to have a healthy body image and at the same time to fit in. She is worried about media, but also about social media. And more. 

And she is brave to tackle head on these difficult issues. To do so, she immerses in the girlie-girl culture, by talking and interviewing different people, such as the mind behind the Disney Princess phenomenon, by analysing different products and toys – from Barbie, American Girl to Bratz, and all the z phenomenon-, by talking to mothers and children –including toddler pageants’ mothers- , by reviewing studies, and also weaving in personal stories. This book is mainly targeted at the general public, more than an academic audience. It is journalistic. And it is well-done in this sense as I found it not only informative, but also funny, and very engaging. I read it very quickly.

A thing I really appreciated about this book is that it is not written from a smug ‘know-it-all’ perspective. She questions herself, backtracks, starts again, moves in different directions around the issues and shows her personal struggles. It is like reading a funny, honest, on-going conversation of the author with herself, and with others, around the tricky issues parents and children face in contemporary girlhood. It is the type of conversation I would have myself. So in a way, I am glad she has done so much work that I can use, and also work with. Beware, if you are looking for a more ‘parental advice’ book, this book shows her journey, not a clear cut ‘solution’.

For me, this made the book meaty and engaging, but also particularly difficult to review properly, to summarise. And for this reason, I have decided that it would be more interesting to describe here briefly the issues the book touches on, and to, in the following weeks follow up with the different themes this book raises.

So here it goes:

Orenstein starts this book by arguing the importance of thinking about the girlie-girl culture, even though we might be tempted – with so many other issues to worry about- to give it a pass. She states that the emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase a girl’s vulnerability to the issues that most worry parents: depression, eating disorders, disordered body image, risky sexual behaviour, to name a few.

She argues that these issues don’t just magically appear during teenage years, but are slowly built throughout the years. And that these little decisions parents make all along, such as which toys, movies, clothes, children wear/use matter. Her aim is to understand ways in which we can help our daughters navigate the contradictions they will face as girls, and to show us how and what this culture has become and what has changed in the last years.

She deals with the question of why princesses appeal, not only to children and businesses, but to parents. And shows how these are appealing to parents many times for their ‘safety’, but that this is done through a consumer culture that encourages the opposite. In addition, she scrutinises the boom of ‘pink and pretty’ for girls, and for this explores the business sense in this strategy, and how limiting this turns out to be for creating a female identity. This leads her to tackle the issue of nature vs. nurture, and to show how even though there is phase where gender for children needs to be validated through exterior signs, which makes them more prone to seek reassurance from toys, clothes, colours, this is also a stage in which they are more malleable to long-term influences on abilities and roles that go with sex. Next, she looks at how exploration of femininity can lead to exploitation and how difficult to manoeuvre the land of sexually charged toys, dolls, clothes.

Furthermore, she discusses the need for violent play, and critiques how this has been thwarted by TV. She shows how, even if children use the same toys –such as guns – as older generations used, the marketing culture in which they are immersed means that the relationship that girls (and boys) have with this toys and the impact they have, is different. The author also explains how tame Disney fairytales can be detrimental to a child’s emotional development, and describes her successful experiments with more gory versions, which at least, she argues, give better models for coming on age than the real life princesses she goes on to examine.

Orenstein described how the passage, the coming of age, of real-life princesses, such as the Hannah Montana actress or Britney Spears, for instance, seems to invariably involve the shedding of clothes. Her struggle here is that these modern day princesses seem to express the struggle of girls more widely, but encourage girls to view self-objectification as a female rite of passage.

Next comes a related, and major, issue in all this girlie-girl culture:  the importance of body image. She describes here the history of fat, and how it became not only a health issue, but the moral issue it is today. Her advice, before having a daughter, to avoid eating disroders and a disordered body image was the usual: praise the actions not the body, involve her in group sports, in volunteerism, and make her media literate. But she shows how hard it is to counteract a message that is given by everything and everyone, and also one that you find hard modelling yourself. And how hard she finds it to give her daughter a sense of self-worth that was not contingent on her looks and clothes, but at the same time make her also stay allies with other girls.

Finally, she studies how the internet and social media is experienced and used by older children. She shows how social media has changed the ways children conceptualise their selves and their relationships, and that these are build in a similar way as ‘branding’. In addition, she shows how bad judgement was much less memorable before, and how forms of harassment and bullying have found new and wider forms of expression. The author points out how different ages bring different challenges, different abilities and development, and thus, different parental strategies need to follow. The author, however, reminds us that our role is that of preparing them, more than shielding them, from the world.  

As you can see, even with this brief summary of issues, there is plenty of stuff to dissect. I do recommend this book, and would love if you want to join me in reading and discussing it together…like a geeky book club, you know you want to 🙂

And if you don’t keep up, I will send you some pink toys and a princess DVD your way…

Lucila

Note: I have not been sent or asked to review this book.

Reflexiones sobre nutrir y comer, como madre feminista

Uno de los temas que me preocupan como madre, especialmente como madre de una nena, es el tema de la relacion entre la comida y la imagen corporal. Como feminista, me parece que ya hay bastante con la presión cultural y de los medios, con la obsesión por la imagen y un modelo de cuerpo de mujer, y por ende, con la relación con la comida que eso genera, para yo contribuir más a esto. Por eso, cuando tuve a mi hija me puse a pensar en como hacer esto, lo que me llevo a repensar mi relación con la comida y mi cuerpo, que no es poco, digo.  El camino que encontré, que va con mis valores, y con lo que quiero llegar a poder hacer, es el de comer intuitivamente (Perdón pero no encontré un buen link en español). Puesto de una manera simple se trata de dejar de lado la mentalidad de hacer dieta y comer lo que tengo ganas, cuando tengo hambre, y parar cuando estoy llena. Y de enteder, y buscar otros caminos para nutrirme emocionalmente, que no estén atados al comer.

Este fin de semana estuvimos con otra pareja que tiene chicos un poco más grandes, uno de casi cinco y uno de dos y medio. Aparte de pasarla muy bien, lo que note es la tensión que se generaba y que roles se asumían a la hora de comer. Por ejemplo, uno, el más chico, come de todo sin problemas y en cantidad. Y así era, todos los chistes eran acerca de  ‘ahh, el se come todo, no hay problema’, o risas cada vez que comía algo, o te pedía un poco de tu comida, y así. Pero era visto positivamente. Con el otro, todo era una continua negociación. Si decía que no tenía hambre o quería comer solo comer fruta, no primero la comida; si decía que no tenía hambre en el desayuno era come tres cucharadas y después te podes levantar, o come dos brócolis si no, no hay postre, y el negociaba – uno, no dos, y así constantemente.  Y todo el tiempo, puedo comer helado, puedo galletitas, o lo que haya visto. Y así se generaba una dinámica familiar particular. No es una escena nada fuera de lo común, ¿no? ¿Quién no vio o vivió estas escenas cotidianas? ¿Como el chico, o los padres? Sé que este es un modelo, casi diría el más común.

Pero la verdad es que no me gustaría que sea así con r. No quiero negociar constantemente, no quiero que coma para mí –porque cocine- o solo cuando esta lista la comida –si tiene hambre entre comidas-, o que se termine todo el plato, o lo que sea. No quiero que la comida sea un arma de negociación, ni una penitencia, ni una recompensa, ni valorar unas comidas sobre otras como cuando hacemos si les decimos que tiene que comer algo – en general verduras (menos valor) – para llegar a la recompensa – helados o chocolates (mayor valor). Y así las verduras o lo que sea –nunca escuche que fueran los helados o chocolates- van al segundo lugar.  Y se genera una dinámica de prohibición y deseo que ya conocemos.

Pero creo que es muy difícil de manejar, porque dar de comer y nutrir es gran parte de nuestro rol como padres. Y si te sale mal, sentís que le cagas un poco la vida al chico, y de alguna manera te sentis que fracasas como padre/madre. Pero bueno, la perfección no existe, y hay muchas cosas entre medio entre sano y totalmente insalubre. Pero siento que hay mucho en juego. Y esto tambien esta magnificado por los medios con el miedo a la obesidad, y por cierto, de quién parece que es la culpa? de las madres.

Sé que es muy difícil, porque lo vivo día a día. Me preocupo si no come mucho, lo que come, o si come mucho de algo, desde el día que nació. Sobre todo porque cuando nació era muy chiquita, tanto que en su primera semana en el mundo no tenía fuerza para tomar la teta  y le daba de tomar en una copita. Y siempre fue chiquita para su edad. Pero sigue su propia línea de crecimiento, así que me di cuenta que tengo que tratar de dejar de preocuparme por algo que obviamente ella maneja bien. Y aparte de esas primeras semanas en los que me decían que tenía que darle de comer al menos cada tres horas, el resto fue siempre darle la teta por demanda – cuando y cuanto quería.

Y cuando llego el momento de empezar a darle comida, decidimos hacer algo que acá se llama baby-led weaning. Básicamente, es darle la comida que vos comes, no molestarse con los purés, y dejarlos que experimenten y juegue con la comida porque de esa manera generan la habilidad que necesitan para aprender a comer solos. Una de las cosas más importantes es respetar su hambre y sus habilidades. Si quieren comer, comen, si no, no. No hay nada de eso de forzarlos  a comer una cucharada más, o distraerlos así comen más. Ellos se sientan con vos a comer, y se entretienen jugando con la comida. El punto es que hay para eliminar las peleas en las comidas hay que encontrar una forma de dejar de hacer de las comidas algo emocional, y de aprender a confiar en ellos. Tal como te decían cuando querían tomar la teta, y cuando no querían mas – porque lo dicen con o sin palabras pero es bien claro.

La cuestión es cómo llevar eso y los principios de comer intuitivamente cuando empiezan a comer comida. Tal como comer intuitivamente implica confiar en nuestro cuerpo, esto implica confiar en el cuerpo de ellos. Si  empezamos desde la premisa que nosotros y ellos, nuestros hijos, saben cuando tienen hambre, que tienen ganas de comer, y cuando están llenos, la cosa cambia. ¡Pero qué difícil que es! Sobre todo porque implica decir que nosotros no sabemos lo que es mejor que coman que ellos.

Lo que me daba miedo es que no coma suficiente, porque la verdad que r. no comía casi nada, prefería teta, hasta pasado el primer año. Y aunque al principio lo decía, después empecé a cuidarme de decir algo como ‘ella no come nada’ y mas bien ante la eterna pregunta de ¿cómo está comiendo? empecé a decir, ‘come lo que necesita’, o de cuidarme de no parecer preocupada o frustrada cuando por enésima vez cocinas y no come nada y lo tira todo al piso- y a veces me salía mejor que otras. Ahora ya come más, y a aunque es poco comparado con otros chicos, ya no me preocupa – tanto. Sé que tiene fases de tipos de comidas que tiene ganas o que a veces, sobre todo si esta con los dientes o resfriada no come nada. Pero obviamente come lo que necesita porque está bien.

Y ahora que se extendió su conciencia y repertorio, bah- se da cuenta si estas comiendo otra cosa y siempre quiere probar- empiezan otros temas. A mí me da miedo, supongo que por extensión de lo que tengo miedo de mi misma, es que si le dejo comer cualquier cosa ¡¡va a comer helado, galletitas y chocolate todo el día!! Pero habiendo empezado a comprar las cosas que me gustan y dándome permiso para comer cuando y cuanto quiera me está mostrando que no, que si sé que es ‘legal’, y que hay, y está disponible, no me como todo, como más cuando tengo ganas, y paro cuando ya estoy llena – o al menos estoy en camino a eso. Y tendré que encontrar maneras de hacer esto con r.

Nosotros por ejemplo, decidimos que –siguiendo las pautas locales- no íbamos a darle comida con sal o azúcar al menos hasta el primer año. Y hasta el momento en que se empezó a dar cuenta, tratar de evitar cosas procesadas o muy dulces. La idea, aparte de un tema de salud con la sal, era exponerla a muchas comidas antes de que se reduzcan – porque parece que es normal que en el segundo año empiecen a ser un poco más limitados en lo que quieren comer. También pensamos que tiene toda la vida para probar todo, que si nunca comió nada, no le iba a hacer mal no comer ciertas cosas por cierto tiempo, y que hacia demasiadas cosas ricas naturales antes de exponerla a cosas más procesadas y con químicos. Que por ahí es un poco controlador, pero pensamos que hay tiempo para cada cosa. De más está decir que ya descubrió cuanto le gustan los helados y las galletitas. Y que me da miedo que solo quiera eso. Y a la vez no quiero hacer un gran tema de estas comidas. Creo también que hay que poner algunos límites, dado que los adultos somos nosotros. Pero es difícil el balance, y el confiar.

Una cosa que encontré útil es un libro de Ellyn Satter, aunque también hay cosas con las que no estoy tan de acuerdo. Pero como siempre, hay que sacar lo útil para nosotros, y descartar lo que no nos sirve. Básicamente lo que propone es una división de responsabilidades, los adultos/padres están a cargo de decidir que se come y cuando, mientras que los chicos deciden si quieren comer, qué quieren comer dentro de esto, y cuánto. Y esto quiere decir, que por ejemplo intentar que coman más es cruzar esa división de responsabilidades. Dentro de esto, es también flexible en tanto que el qué se come esta también marcado por el gusto de los chicos, pero no necesariamente en su totalidad, por ejemplo. Y propone  cosas para lidiar con por ejemplo, esas cosas que me preocupan a mí como son los dulces, galletitas, chocolates, jugos, cosas procesadas, que llenan pero no son tan nutritivos si sólo comen eso, sobre todo cuando todavía no pueden entender la relación causa y efecto – por ejemplo si comes un montón de chocolate, después te duele la panza – pero que tampoco quiero prohibir y crear una dinámica de deseo. La idea es encontrar  la forma de darles lugar y tiempo para que coman todo lo que quieran. Por ejemplo – que la merienda un dia sea de galletitas de chocolate, y dejarlos que coman las que quieran. Que sepan que no están prohibidas, que pueden comer la cantidad que desean, pero que a la vez no interfiere con otras comidas, como puede ser la cena o almuerzo, en donde hay otras cosas para comer. Me parecen ideas útiles, y las adaptamos como nos parece, y las cambiamos también cuando vemos que no estamos cómodos, o no funcionan. Pero así es todo. En fin, quería acá poner el tema sobre la mesa, porque es uno de los temas, para mí al menos, importantes y difíciles, como madre, y como feminista.

Lucila

Is childcare a love market?

Carol Vincent and Stephen Ball, 2001, A market in love? Choosing pre-school childcare, British Educational Research Journal, 27, 5, 633-651

This is a bit of an old article, and one which is tentative in that it is a first attempt at looking at a small and limited sample of data, but I liked what they were trying to do here, especially in view of my angst in terms of looking for childcare, and also because of comments that this post sparked in terms of the role of the state in childcare provision. This article explores the way that a group of mainly white middle class women made choices on childcare, and how they ‘operated the market’, in the UK. Most of these women paid for childcare, instead or in addition of using informal arrangements.

What Vincent and Ball show us is that in spite of these women being very good at working the market, by searching different providers, looking for information, getting reviews, going to visit the places and so on, these women did not have much control of the market-based relations that developed, and had to negotiate different tensions and trade-offs between their work, childcare and domestic responsibilities.

What struck me about this article is that it underlines a prominent feature here in the UK, which the article describes as an Anglo-American phenomenon: that childcare for children younger than 4 is considered mainly a private matter, not a public responsibility. This is different from other countries, such as Scandinavia, France, Belgium, and Australia. Families have to cope in their own ways, and have to pay for whatever they can afford for care. The state does not provide, or provides minimally, for this age group. Since this article was written, the state has become a bit more involved, at least in terms of inspections, and offering childcare vouchers and so on, but not much in terms of provision of care. But even if, or because of, this area is left to the market, women find they have to compromise on what they would like for childcare, as they haven’t got the ability, or power to really ‘choose’ the care they want to.

A very interesting part of the article deals with the compromises that women make at the moment of making choices for childcare. Cost, geographies of choice (location and distance of travel, places available, times available, etc), women’s type of work hours and flexibility allowed, different types of care arrangements, are all elements in a giant and fuzzy puzzle that women juggle in their everyday lives. These authors show that there are two key issues that relate to this compromise. They show that even if women manage the market well, they still are forced to accept situations that are not ideal. And that the dissatisfaction is fuelled by their unease about negotiating market-based relationships in search of care.

Women did not have much choice of manoeuvre between one provider or another. They show how it was more of a ‘work with what there is, and what it is’, rather than, as other studies suggest, a continuum of care, or co-ordinated care. That is, the situation was more one in which mothers had to compromise their ideals, or to leave. And women compromised more or less than others, and on different things.

The authors argue that because of this unease with market relations, women attempt to personalise, and bring the affective dimension of care to the forefront. As they show, for these women professionalism is not enough and warm relationships are vital. This is a part of the article that bugs me a bit. In their analysis, the authors highlight how this really is about a financial exchange, and how the other elements are part of a ‘necessary fiction’ that women and providers use to cover this core issue.

This bugs me not because I don’t agree that there is an element of market exchange, and that this brings discomfort and a strategy to bring out the affective, but because it feels like they are saying that the women do not understand this and live in fiction, and thus, for me, it feels dismissive.Secondly, I think that market relations are complicated and more than financial exchanges in any case, and more so in this case.

In spite of this matters, I find that this poses interesting questions: would women be more at ease with their childcare decisions were it not a market exchange? Would public provision, for instance, change the forms of childcare at their core? And thus, what role should the state play in childcare provision? Probably the answer to that would be to see what kind of alternative care, public care or cooperative there was, and if the care relationship would be more prominent in this type of care. I would argue that this would probably not be so clear cut, as childcare providers and workers are mostly under-paid, and probably choose this job in some part because it is something they enjoy doing (this does not justify the low pay, which I think should be part of the struggle for better care). Even so, the questions are good ones, especially at this point in time in the UK, where conservatism and forms of privatisation are rampant.

The next thing that struck is how this is an area where women are the main responsables, in two senses, for worrying, juggling and searching, and also in the sense of being responsible for it to work well. Women are the ones juggling, searching, making compromises, and men are in the background, even though these are, as some of them described, involved in many other areas of care and household tasks. This area was theirs.

It is exactly my case too. I do question myself why is it that I am the one that seems to worry most about childcare, searches options, and thinks of the different ways to combine things. Even though my partner comes to visit places, and was there to interview our nanny, and we talk about childcare decisions, I feel this is my responsibility. As the women in the article also state, there are many reasons for that: my flexibility in terms of my work, the relative less pay, the inconvenience in terms of times and distance for ones who those not work from home, etc, but for me the thing at the heart of this is something else: as much I sometimes fume about this being seemingly my burden, I would not like it if it weren’t. Do I care more than him about childcare? Probably not. But somehow it seems like I am the one that is annoyingly picky about it. Why is this? Not sure. Of course he does other things I don’t do, but it seems peculiar that this is something marked not only in our relationship, but is common and has been the most usual way in which it happens: women keep this matter into their hands. It would be interesting to read more about why this is the case: why is it a mother’s matter more than a dad’s matter? Or a shared one? A good feminist question.

Finally, an interesting point is held, when these authors show the ways that women talk about this process. The women in this study compromised somehow in the range between what would be for them ideal and what would be a horror story. These authors show how this middle ground is then maintained through ‘legitimation talk’, that is, narratives that contain very complex justificatory accounts and schemas, which are also underpinned by the rejection of other options. These authors comment how sometimes it is difficult to tell ‘preference’ from ‘necessity’, as there is a lot of emotional work going on, as these women also explain these choices to themselves through this talk.

I find this to be true, and part of the constant questioning that motherhood and parenthood brings: is this the right thing? Is my son/daughter happy? Could it be better? But also, I found, that this is something that many of my friends do, and probably I do too. For instance, sometimes I am a bit taken aback when something that I was told was great, and worked perfectly well, somehow falls apart. It is only then than some start to talk about their doubts, fears and negative experiences. I know it is hard to admit, to oneself first, but also to others, that one is not doing the best thing, but one that is OK, and works for the moment. I think that this area is one in which a bit more insight or openness might do mothers some good. This is what loads of blogs are great for, so there is something brewing definitely, but the competitiveness and tribalism is also rampant, so it is good to keep talking about this.

The materials of mothering

Boyer, Kate and Boswell-Penc-, Maia, 2010, Breast pumps. A feminist technology, or (yet) “More Work for Mother”? In Layne, Linda, Vostral, Sharra and Boyer, Kate (eds.) Feminist Technology, University of Ilinois Press, 119-135. (Women, Gender, and Technology)

Boyer and Boswell-Penc enquire in this chapter whether breast pumps can be considered a feminist technology. I find this article interesting in that it focuses on one example of the stuff, that is,  the materiality, which makes up modern motherhood and examines what roles this technology play, what does it enable, and what are the risks that it brings, through analysing  the cultural context of its emergence but also by analysing its use in practice.

Their work focuses on the use of breast pumps in the waged workforce in the US, one of the countries where women have less maternity leave in the world. One of the questions which frames this study is understanding if the breast pump is a feminist technology or if it is it another device which, as Ruth Schwartz Cowan (1983) argues, creates ‘more work for mother’, as many other so-called labour-saving devices.

In this chapter they look at the cultural context in which the breast pump emerged – a time (60s-70s) where there was growing awareness and advocacy for the benefits of breast milk over formula, and a moment when higher number of women were returning to the waged workforce. The latter practice was due to different reasons ranging from economic restructuring, the need for double wages, and the fact that women were occupying better managerial positions. They describe how, in the 1990s, the technology evolved to be lighter, portable and cheaper, and jumped from being mainly hospital-based, to being available for retail.  

The argument for it being a feminist technology stems from the way that using this technology allows more mobility, more temporal and spatial freedom to the mother. The breast pump can bring a much needed break for mothers and it allows for mothers to break the cyclic time loop that new mothers who breastfeed are in – the two hour window to do things!- as well as the necessary proximity to the child. It also expands the choices that women have in terms of infant nutrition, as well as serve other important purposes, such as relieve engorgement in mothers who choose not to breastfeed, and help initiate breastfeeding for mothers who adopted an infant. Moreover, its use in waged workplaces could help push the boundaries of the private/public, by bringing to work an activity normally done in the privacy of the home.

However, these authors point out that much of its liberatory potential in terms of waged work is constrained by attitudes about pumping (and general lactation), issues about the technology, workplace design and the politics around actual pumping. Breast pumps, thus, have to be understood within its actual use, which is something that these authors delve into. They show how attitudes to pumping at work make women who pump, as well as the breast milk itself, feel ‘out of place’. The strong feelings that breast milk brings out is seen, for example,  in the case where women were fired for leaving their breast milk stored in the communal fridge. For women who pumped at work, the search for privacy and the sense of embarrassment around pumping, made them look for different strategies that would allow them not to be seen or heard (electric breasts pumps can be very noisy!), such as going to feed to the car, in the medical centre, in an unused office/conference room. Other constrains also include finding the time for it, as often employers do not structure extra breaks for this. What this shows is that the responsibility of finding a place and a time for this activity is down to the individual. Moreover, it highlights the reasons for the uneven distribution of its use, in terms of class especially, as the possibility of having this extra space and time is most likely to be in middle income jobs, rather than low income ones.

Furthermore, these authors also highlight some of the risks that this technology can bring to feminist struggles. By providing a technical and individualised fix to the question of how to combine lactation with work, it might keep employers off the hook in terms of providing other, and maybe better, alternatives. In addition, as these authors show, this technology has something in common with other technologies, such as communication technologies, in that they give more mobility, more spatial and temporal freedom, but it also raises the expectations of what can be done. The authors show that as much as this technology increases choices and provides flexibility, there is a risk that it could be used against efforts for longer maternity leave or on-site care, for instance.

What I found fascinating is that this article makes me think about the different things that make up the practices of mothering, and how each of these things are performative in more than their utilitarian sense. They work to highlight questions of race and class, as it has been shown in this article. I would say that things and technologies also play a role in identity formation, as they act as markers of inclusion in certain groups. In a sense, I think that they are also part of the ways of evaluating a mother’s performance – I am thinking here of the pressure I felt the first times I tried to put up or down the buggy in public, for instance!

We are surrounded by stuff in our practices as mothers: buggies, breasts pads, sterilisers, cots, nappies, dummies, bottles, special clothes for breastfeeding, high chairs, car seats. And the list can go on and on. Leaving out the stuff of motherhood would impoverish our understanding of the politics of motherhood/parenthood, which is why I find what these authors do, that is, questioning the theoretical possibilities but also the complexities that seeing and thinking these technologies and things in practice bring about, is a crucial exercise.

¿Feminista yo? No… para nada.

Cada vez que menciono el tema del feminismo entre distintos círculos de amigas, se produce un silencio. Por alguna razón que no entiendo a muchas mujeres no les gusta decir que son feministas.

Cuando Lucila y yo organizamos el grupo de lectura sobre maternidad y feminismo en la Universidad de East Anglia, en nuestra primera reunión, a la que acudieron alrededor de 17 mujeres, un tercio dijeron algo así como:

Sí, creo que a las mujeres se nos discrimina en general, y en especial en la Universidad, y me gustaría cambiar esa situación. En casa siempre he luchado para tener un reparto equitativo de las tareas y eso que tenemos 3 hijos y los dos trabajamos a tiempo completo. En el parto de mis  tres hijos, me peleé con todo el equipo médico para tener el derecho a parir como yo quería, y para que mi pareja estuviera en el paritorio. En mi departamento soy conocida por estar comprometida con distintos movimientos de promoción de los derechos de la mujer, pero feminista, la verdad es que no se si soy feminista”

Hay muchas mujeres por el mundo que sin querer sonar feministas, en realidad son muy feministas. Y yo me pregunto, ¿Cuál es el problema? ¿Qué carga negativa tiene la palabra feminista que nos impide en ciertos círculos definirnos como tales? A veces tengo la sensación que cuando digo que soy feminista pierdo credibilidad. En el entorno académico anglosajón no es tan grave, o al menos me lo parece en comparación con España,  en  donde en ciertos contextos te miran como si tuvieras un serio problema de identidad.

Luchar por los derechos de la mujer está bien, pero ser feminista es otra cosa.  Y yo me pregunto, ¿Qué hay de malo en creer en la igualdad entre sexos, luchar por que las personas se desarrollen en función de sus capacidades y no en función de los roles adscritos a su género, intentar que nuestra sociedad sea un lugar en el que hombres y mujeres nos podamos expresar con más libertad, y en que la justicia social no se supedite a criterios de raza, etnia, clase o género?

Algunos de los prejuicios que me he encontrado en relación con el hecho de definirme como feminista son los siguientes:

–         Las feministas son feas, llevan el pelo corto, no se depilan, no se maquillan, y no tienen ningún interés en mostrarse femeninas. Es mas, detestan lo femenino. (Cuando en realidad, lo que se detesta son las construcciones culturales y sociales de lo femenino que subyugan a la mujer. Hoy por ejemplo llevo maquillaje, el pelo en una coleta porque esta mañana no he tenido casi tiempo de peinarme, y lo de depilarme… dejémoslo en que estoy a favor de tener tiempo para poder hacerlo. Y…. este fin de semana me he comprado un vestido para ir a bailar, y unos pantalones vaqueros de rebajas !Seguro que el lunes Lucila me echa del blog….)

–         Las feministas odian a los hombres ( Mira tú por donde que muchas de ellas se casan con hombres, y algunas hasta tienen hijos con ellos! Una de ellas, Lucila, feminista declarada y otra de ellas, una servidora)

–         Las feministas son todas lesbianas ( Y? La verdad es que no todas, pero hay lesbianas, hay gays, hay hombres feministas, hay abuelas feministas y adolelescentes feminista Un poco de todo, como es de esperar en cualquier movimiento social cuyas premisas no son excluyentes)

–         Las feministas son agresivas, están todo el día enfadadas y piensan que todo lo que pasa en el mundo el culpa del patriarcado (Vayamos por partes, muchas cosas son culpa del patriarcado, y tenemos motivos para estar enfadadas cuando nos pagan menos por el mismo trabajo, cuando somos objeto de violencia sexual en nuestras sociedades o cuando se nos discrimina en distintos ámbitos. Pero no nos equivoquemos, disfrutamos de la vida. Así que enfadarse lo justo.  Indignarse ante la injusticia, actuar con firmeza ante la discriminación y ser compasiva  con el dolor  ajeno y el propio es otra cosa muy diferente.)

–         Las feministas queman sujetadores ( Personalmente tiendo a llevarlos más que a quemarlos, y no creo que eso afecte a mi feminismo)

–         Si las feministas quieren la igualdad que sea para todo (Esta frase solía oírse mucho en relación con la mili. Cristina Almeida, contestaba muy bien diciendo que lo que queremos es tener los mismos derechos, pero no para hacer las mismas tonterías. Igualdad sí, en derechos, pero esa igualdad y esos derechos deben reflejar la diversidad y la diferencia entre hombres y mujeres. que fundamentalmente se reduce a que nosotras parimos y amamantamos (la que quiere).  La diferencia no se puede construir para hacer que las mujeres seamos menos en nuestras sociedades. El hecho de que pueda parir, de que quiera parir y  de que quiera amamantar no puede ser una condición que me constriña y me discrimine en esta sociedad.)

Seguro que me he dejado algún prejuicio suelto, y que después de que publique el post me vendrán un montón a la cabeza, pero  éstos son los que me han venido a la memoria en una soleada mañana en Escocia.

Natalia