Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ever notice how society likes to blame mothers?

If you haven't taken a good look at the misogyny of media posts lately, now is a good time to do so. You have to be careful though, because it's tricky to see how women are portrayed by the media. There are the posts that make you want to think that there is some sort of forward progress with women's lib issues, especially when it comes to telling young girls that they can achieve equality. One example is the recent buzz about "normal Barbie" which purports to make a more realistic and proportionally accurate version for girls to play with. But look closer, it is created by a man and confusingly comes with accessories such as scars for "kids who are really shy about them" while simultaneously promoting bruises on women and sporting halter tops and skimpy clothes and frumpy below-the-knee suits too. It would seem that for the creator of Lammily, everything is ok. "Normal" is good. Normal is better than never-obtainable-crazy-thin with glitter and sequins everywhere, right? Where's the issue? Well, the issue is that it's still focusing on women's bodies, and it's still trying to create a "normal" instead of focusing on the individual characteristics that makes girls and women unique. I'll say this once:
Anytime a "normal" is created, an "abnormal" is simultaneously created whether it was intended or not. 
Why not spend more time creating girl-empowering toys such as Hearts 4 Hearts, a lesser known doll available at Target and which focuses more on what the particular girl believes in and the characteristics that make her unique and the positive ways she impacts her corner of the world than what she looks like? Why not tell girls that they are capable, intelligent, competent change-makers regardless of what their bodies look like or how they compare to others? Why not indeed.

How does this trend in childhood toys affect grown women exactly? Well, it does so like this: when a young girl learns that all she is valuable for is her body, and the way it looks, and what it does, then she learns that her mind and heart and joys and sorrows and desires and choices have no value. Girls learn that they are something to be used, to be defined, to be dictated. And just what does this look like when the girls who were indoctrinated into Barbie become mothers? It looks like exactly what you would expect:
The media is still shaming them into thinking they are not good enough
Except now, in adulthood, it's not as simple as saying "your body isn't good enough" or "you don't fit inside our version of normal". It's cleverly hidden beneath messages of "you as a person are not good enough". Cleverly smart enough not to attack women directly, this recent article aims to hurt mothers where they are most vulnerable: their children. This article claims that the children who are most sleep deprived and thus most disadvantaged amongst their peers are those whose mothers work full time outside the home.  Did you pick up on that? Not the dads, whose employment hours would equal those of the mothers at full time employment. In fact, if you read the'll find no mention of fathers at all. And this is a scientific study. A scientific, data-driven study on how our babies thrive failed to include 50% of their parentage. In fact, this article doesn't even address if the study accounted for single parent homes, stay home fathers, stay home mothers, same sex couples, or any other "alternative to the nuclear family unit" dynamics. It simply states that the kids who suffer most are those whose mothers work full time.

Anyone having a flashback to the 1950s at all? Women are best kept in the kitchen, at home, raising children, where they belong.....not in the workforce which is clearly meant to be dominated by men. Women in the workforce hurts the children! 

Think about that for a second, in combination with the fact that they left out all the alternative families. Single mothers? WOW if they work full time, those kids are doomed. What does this mean for children whose mothers work full time yet have stay-at-home fathers who do all the cooking and bathing that the article talks about? Hmmm...doesn't mention them. What about the children who have single fathers as their primary caregivers, are they extra-fortunate since they don't have females as the breadwinners or are they just as disadvantaged as the single mother group? Readers don't know because, it isn't addressed. (Note that a quick google search of "single mother vs father work statistics" will pull up this as the very first article.....showing the incredible disparity in income amongst children of single mothers with more than double living in poverty vs. single fathers. Why is that? Hint: it's not that women are inept.) The message is this: a child who lives in a home where one parent works full time and the other parent (Oh I'm sorry, the mother) works full time also, is greatly disadvantaged. There's the subtle implication that a child living in a female-run single parent household is simply doomed. Now here's a question: what does this mean for children growing up in same-sex parent homes? Are they doubly blessed if they grow up in a home with two gay fathers, vs. doubly cursed if they grow up in a home with two lesbian mothers, if both households have two parents who work full time? I don't believe they addressed these issues at all.

Let's take another look at this article, from a social justice perspective.

This could easily have said "mothers have so much impact in the home and receive so much pressure from society that recent study shows no insight into the roles of fathers at all and completely discounts their relevance on their children's upbringing or their impact on household responsibilities at all." Look at the difference there, suddenly....this article seems flawed. Suddenly, when the blame is shifted off the women in the scenario, and the light is shed on the fact that researchers completely discounted the male role or any of the other possible dynamics...suddenly it seems inflammatory.

This is the moment when you have to check your worldly beliefs.

Imagine this: As a whole, our country (the USA, in case anyone reads this blog outside of our borders) raises the minimum wage to a livable rate for a family of 4 (the living wage for a family with 2 adults, 2 children in my county is $20.15 per hour...a far cry from the $7.25 national standard), lowers the hours in the workweek to the expected 35 instead of lengthening the required lunch time to ensure that parents spend adequate time with their kids, increases the awareness of the importance of fathers in their children's lives and also appreciates the value of experiences over materialistic items as important, thus decreasing the need for capitalistic gains.

Just for a moment, think about what that would look like. It would look like the entire country being enraged at this article, because it doesn't take into account their family dynamics or their values for their children or their everyday expectations. It neither acknowledges the role of men nor validates the role of women, thereby invalidating the contribution of every parent regardless of their gender or relationship type! Whew, talk about a downer!

Here's the end result of this post:

What does it look like in your household when you discuss life roles? Do you talk about gender, parenting, daily living, media, race, sex, class, income, and how all of these aspects are created by our social environment and how they intersect to form what your household looks like and above all why your household is unique and therefore wonderful and worth celebrating?! 

If your answer to the above question was confusion....consider educating yourself on gender roles and society. And, buy your children toys that promote gender equality so they don't grow up to place all the burden and the blame on mothers one day too!

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