Monday, 10 March 2014

What's the fuss? It's only a boob!

Just to make things clear at the start this is not a breast is best or breastfeeding vs formula feeding post. I have no desire or interest to belittle or judge how anyone feeds their child. Whatever works for you and your child is best! This post is in response to this article about a mother who was labelled a 'tramp' by someone who saw fit to take her picture and post it on one of those *charming* Spotted pages.

My first thought was that I couldn't believe that someone took a picture and then went to the effort of posting it on one of those judgemental pages. To take a picture of someone breastfeeding feels like a violation of both their right to privacy and their right to breastfeed. But, it got me thinking about my experiences out and about breastfeeding. My daughter is only three months but we've made it out to groups and to meet up with other mothers and babies. This has led to many public feeds.

By public feeds I don't mean hanging a sign over my head! But, simply feeding my daughter outside of the home. I'd like to think I'm pretty discreet, one top goes slightly up and the vest goes slightly down. All you can see, if you really tried to look, is my daughter's head against my chest. However, I have still had stares, glares, tuts and outright expressions of disgust! So far, no-one has thankfully said anything but it doesn't stop you feeling self-conscious.

I think the worst experience was yesterday, out on a family outing to a large park we were making the most of the blue skies! My daughter needed a feed so we settled down in the shade and my husband put the buggy to one side to shield me from the path. He then sat on the other side, so there was really very little visible. There was a young woman/teenager who as she wandered past and realised what was happening turned (yes turned!) to stare and as she did her face gained an expression of absolute disgust. Just to reiterate all that was visible was the back of my daughter's head, but you could work out that she was feeding and not simply being cuddled. I think this experience saddened me the most, that this young woman looked so disgusted by what is simply feeding a child. Having read some of the brilliant posts and blogs about the 'no more page 3' campaign and the impact of these images on young people it made me wonder if there are whole sections of the younger generation that think breasts are simply for male enjoyment and sexualisation. And as a result are horrified at breasts being used for anything else.

I've also had the tuts as I mentioned earlier and the furtive stares. Out one afternoon with a group of friends who all have children around the same age, I needed to feed my daughter. Again, really discreet but I kept catching this man looking over and watching! It became pretty obvious in the end and made me feel really awkward. I'm sure there are plenty of people that will think I am imagining this, fair enough! But, you know when you are being watched! I have never had a problem with shop or cafe owners when breastfeeding, in fact many have been hugely helpful. Sadly it has always been other members of the public who have had a problem. I would really like to see a much better culture for breastfeeding women, where it is acknowledged and accepted that it is simply a means of feeding a baby.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Part-time mum, full-time guilt trip?

I tweeted about this at the weekend and thought I should perhaps put down a few thoughts on the subject. Working mothers...everyone seems to have an opinion about what they should and shouldn't do.
  • work and some quarters will accuse you of prioritising your career
  • work and some quarters will accuse you of neglecting your child
  • work and some quarters will accuse you of only having a child as an accessory

  • don't work and some quarters will accuse you of sponging off of the state/your partner/husband (delete as applicable)
  • don't work and some quarters will accuse you of setting a bad example to your child(ren)
Some of you will have noticed that the quarters don't add up! (there is obviously overlap)

But, everyone seems to have an opinion. If you are a mother then it seems that whatever you choose to do, it is wrong. For some reason, in my experience, fathers don't seem to get the same treatment. Although men do speak about being pitied or looked down on for choosing to say at home with their child, so it seems not even the fathers are safe.

The point of this post is my annoyance at the title 'full-time mum' that is often used in interviews or news pieces. The example I tweeted at the weekend came from the Guardian. They interviewed one mother who had the accolade 'full-time mum' in her bio, whereas the other mothers had job titles or what they had done before having children. I feel that this implies that women who choose/need to work are not seen as full-time mums. Anyone who has children, whether male or female, is a full-time parent. You don't stop being a parent when you close the door, whether it is to pop to the shops or do an eight hour shift. A man is not a part-time dad if he is working to support his family.

There is no shame in staying home to look after children, it is an extremely important role and is a huge amount of work. But, to use the title full-time mum only when referring to women who stay at home does a disservice to parents who have to go to work. It only serves to widen the divide and build on the resentment. This is perhaps more so when men and women have to return to work following the birth of a child, and would perhaps rather stay at home. To use the term full-time parent for someone who gets to do this implies that they are not a full-time parent and perhaps increases their sense of guilt or dislike at having to return to work. So, perhaps it is better to drop this term unless we are going to apply it fairly to all parents.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Hello world

This isn't really a blog post that will interest many, but back at the end of last year my daughter was born. I can't believe I haven't posted since September! This is more for her benefit in years to come; some of my earlier blog posts discuss childlessness and the way people treat you. I genuinely thought that I would not be able to have children, largely scared by certain quarters of the medical profession, and helped hugely by other areas.

I've talked at length, both on here and on Twitter, about the way people, in particular women, without children are treated. I'm sad to say that this difference has become all the more noticeable now she has been born. My mum made me feel like I had joined some sort of secret society, although she does come out with some odd comments anyway. I notice the way that both her and her sister speak about my child-free aunt, there is such pity in their tones and a sense of looking down. Both women are kind and normally thoughtful, but there is something about discussions involving children that can seem to turn rational thoughtful women in to patronising creatures. I've had comments about how I must understand pain, love and fear now that I have a daughter. Having experience some extremely frightening and low moments in my life I find that distasteful, of course I love my daughter, of course I fear bad things could happen in the world but I was capable of feeling and empathising before she was born.

There is much support within elements of the child-free community and anyone who has read this blog or others that are similar will be aware of child-free bingo. (Essentially people making inane comments relating to your child-free state and the likelihood of you having children). My husband joked that now I was a mother I would end up making such comments, I really can't see that happening! Having experienced the frustration I wouldn't pay it forward. Some such gems that I have experienced, in no particular order:
  • 'when will you make me a grandmother/great-grandmother?'
  • 'you'll understand one day when (not if note) you have children'
  • pain/love/fear/anger (delete as applicable) is more real when you are a parent
  • 'why do you need to leave (on-time, ie. not to cover for a colleague who suddenly wants to change their shift), you have nothing to go home for'
  • children make everything better/more fun, hmmm

Some of those comments have come at really inappropriate times, for example the first comment came very publicly from one of my husband's relatives at a family party, not long after I had had a miscarriage. Thankfully I was actually already pregnant again, I think if I had not have been that that would have crushed my very publicly. I don't tend to walk up to people and ask them 'so how often are you having unprotected sex', because it would be rude.

Long story short, the world now has another feminist to fight the cause!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

More advice for pregnant women?

Just a quick blog post today, relating to an unusual article that I came across following a discussion on a parenting forum. It is a piece in the Daily Mail about the dangers of hepatitis E in pork sausages. In particular the rather sensationalist comments in the article about the 1 in 5 pregnant women who contract hepatitis E will die, it seemed another example of overly dramatic information being presented to a group that is already feeling vulnerable. The article gives advice from 'experts' says that sausages should be cooked at 158F for 20 minutes. It is not clear from the sentences in the article who this particular 'expert' or group of 'experts' are, as there is mention of several groups/individuals in the piece. Now, as a vegetarian I don't know if expecting people to cook pork sausages for 20 minutes is excessive! I cook all of my sausages at 180F for at least 20 minutes so I figured it was probably similar for meat eaters, which would imply that the risks were lessened for the meat-eating pregnant women than being implied.

This is not the first piece of advice in the media for pregnant women in recent months. One of the most controversial press reports (across various news outlets) appeared in June of this year. It was the advice about what to avoid during pregnancy and included such gems as new non-stick frying pans. It seems that where ever pregnant women turn someone is offering advice. It is not simply the amount of advice that is offered it is the range and fact that the advice can often be contradictory. Pregnancy is not a time to start stressing people out, there is already enough going on without being bombarded with 'advice'. If a pregnant woman were to follow all of the advice that was out there I am sure very few would feel confident enough to leave the house, let alone eat. Upon seeing the midwife she asked if I had read the articles in the press with the long lists of potentially dangerous things, which include:
  • non-stick frying pans
  • buying new fabrics
  • moisturisers
  • new furniture
when I said I had seen it and thought the list seemed rather long. Her reply was that you couldn't live with such a long and restrictive list. Everything in proportion and trying not to let the fear of the unknown from gripping you. It seemed like easier advice to follow! I have come to the conclusion that the NHS guides to pregnancy are the right balance of informative without striking undue fear.

*As an aside, I enjoyed the headline of the piece 'Could as many as 10 pork sausages[...]hepatitis E virus?' when in fact the article meant and stated 10%! If it were 10 pork sausages that is a very different story!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Born to rule.....

So unless you have managed to avoid all talk, media-fawning and the like you will know that the future King was born. If you did manage to avoid all references up until this point please share your tips! I don't have a TV or buy gossip mags and yet still could not avoid the coverage. I will congratulate the Guardian on its Republican button, that allowed you to hide the rolling coverage and numerous articles that simply had to be written. However, it would have been even better if they had not covered it at all... (a view I appreciate may infuriate many)

My post brings me to the merchandise that has followed this birth, so many retailers so desperate and so quick to get on the bandwagon. That I can understand, it was a huge media event and people clearly want to buy the stuff. But my objections largely focus on the tired, gendered and stereotypical items of clothing that have been produced. I would have to say that the worst example that I found was ASDA's One day I'm going to marry Prince George. I had thought the assorted Born to Rule items had been bad enough across the media but this one really took the crown.

It's pink, with the boy's version naturally in blue, because clearly clothing for girls must be pink. That's the first problem with it, its simply conforming to the usual stereotypes about clothing colours for girls. Then there is the message, the royalist message is bad enough. The endless fawning over a family that we barely truly know. The celebration of inequality is almost endless, this child will rule over the UK irrespective of skill, ability, political persuasion or personality. As Republic point out 'shouldn't every child be born equal?', shouldn't every child have the chance and opportunity to be head of state, if they have the skill or desire? So for all the clothes that celebrate the recipient being 'born in 2013' perhaps the giver should stop and think about what they are celebrating when they pass on this item. The fact that the recipient happened to be born in the same year as our future ruler? The fact that the recipient will never know privilege like our future ruler? The fact that the recipient will never be head of state unlike the future ruler? Perhaps now it seems like an odd message.

Finally, back to the message of the first item of clothing. Do you really want your child to aspire to marry someone they have never met? Even as a jokey message it is pretty poor. What level of aspiration is that for your child? The focus of clothing like this, even if not explicit, is that girls should be thinking about their looks and superficial pursuits. It's just frustrating that in 2013 we still have this level of inequality and we still produce clothing and items that seek to stereotype and pigeon-hole the sexes.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

What to wear....

Just a very very quick blog post today, about a particular article that I came across this morning. It is a piece in the Daily Mail about women who dislike/are fed up with/want to change their partner's style or particular items of clothing. With the title of the piece being 'Can you make your slobby hubby sexy again?'.

I can't believe how shallow and patronising a piece this is. There are several issues that could be taken up about this particular piece:
  • Image shouldn't be important if you care about and respect your partner
  • They shouldn't have to dress a particular way to please you
  • What you deem fashionable/acceptable/smart (delete as applicable) may be vastly different to what they think
  • Respecting and caring for your partner, it must be quite hurtful to have someone telling you they don't like the way you look, particularly if you have been married/together a long time

I have nothing against people who take pride in their appearance, whatever manifestation that pride may be it is up to them. Just as I don't see the value in judging someone based on the type or brand of clothes that they are wearing. I am sure there are a great number of people who would walk past me and find a hundred ways in which they could 'improve' my look.

The phrase fashion-conscious has been mentioned and a criticism of a husband for buying and wearing the same type of clothes over the decades together. If something fits, works and you like it I can hardly see a problem or the need for a spouse to want you to change. The individuals all look well dressed after their 'make-overs' and seem relatively happy and polite about the changes that have been made. However, it doesn't change the fact that the whole focus of this was to get the men to change because their partners had deemed there was something not good enough about their look.

The reaction to this article will be interesting as there is a little bit of me that cannot help but wonder what it would have been/looked like had the article been reversed. At the point of writing this blog post the positive rated comments on the article identify that it is sexist and the reaction would be very negative if men had done this to their wives. This is perhaps a very fair point, as when we think of control and manipulation we often have a very set idea of what and who this looks like. With the negative rated comments being about how good the changes were and that men should take this on board. Although as the boards are realistically anonymous (despite screen names, you could be anybody) we cannot be certain of the genders posting the comments at the end. I do think this is worth raising because too many people assume that any individual who identifies as a feminist but want female superiority and dislikes men. When in fact feminism is about social and political equality with respect for both genders. This respect works both ways, and means that neither sex should be judging or dictating to the other.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Who needs Lads Mags?

So modesty covers and potentially restricting sales to the over 18s, have been in the press this week, with Tesco seeming to be at the front of this move. But this isn't good enough as Lose the Lads Mags campaign group point out.

A 'modesty cover' to conceal the nudity and breasts/sexual poses doesn't remove or stop this content from being made or existing. By covering the women up it does not really afford them any modesty, as soon as the covers are removed the women have been stripped of their modesty and in my opinion their dignity. Once the modesty cover has been removed the women are degraded to simply being pieces of meat for the stimulation of the buyer. By suggesting modesty covers the supermarkets seem to acknowledge that the content is inappropriate or not respectful. So why not do it properly? Why not ban the sale of these magazines?

I know there is far worse material online, and I know that those in favour of the ISP level porn opt-in will support blocking this, although perhaps without fully understanding or considering the power, restrictions and flaws that such a plan includes. I would like to make it clear I object to porn in all its forms, but I don't think this 'porn filter' as it has been termed will work. I also think the potential for blocking other material is too great a fear to ignore. However, this is not the blog post for such a debate. But, supermarkets need to properly consider their female and younger shoppers. I don't want to visit a supermarket that is selling lads mags, but I have little choice at the moment. I don't want to shop somewhere where crude and degrading images of women are sold, even if they are sealed in a paper/plastic bag. I'm sure parents of young children don't want to have answer awkward or inappropriate questions about the material shown on and in these magazines. Tweets from my followers and others indicate that this is a real problem and concern for many parents when shopping.

I also think that it is unfair on the shop workers to have to stack, handle and scan these items. For some it might cause embarrassment, for others it might distress or frustrate them. A fair question, that has been raised by many, is that is it discrimination against women to stock these sort of magazine? As it depicts women as sex objects. I don't know whether this is an argument that would hold in a court of law, but it is an interesting point.

Finally, the 'over 18' argument. At 18 you are legally an adult, but why as an adult is it suddenly ok to consume images of scantily clad women? At 18 is it suddenly ok to disrespect the opposite sex? No. So being an adult doesn't make it any better at all. It just seems another half-hearted attempt to show that you are bringing in some means of controlling who sees and buys the images. Without actually thinking about the impact of the images, because if you did then the logical step is to ban the magazines altogether. Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, Lose the Lads Mags is a fantastic campaign. See how you can get involved and make a difference towards creating a more equal and respectful society. Good luck!