Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thoughts on Feminism: Children Edition

Not all mothers are feminist and not all feminists are mothers. I know some women, feminist or not, who rather loathe children, and I know some women, mothers or not, who rather loathe feminism. The following quote comes from book 4 of Marilyn French's From Eve to Dawn, and I found it interesting:

... part of [conservative feminist] analysis seems to me to be on target: a feminist society should be centered on children. Moreover, we cannot overestimate the importance of the philosophical foundations of patriarchy, its division of experience into two distinct realms: mind, ruled by men; body, in which women are immersed. One is volitional, the other necessary; one is granted the right to dominate, the other the requirement to obey. And there is no question that in struggling to change patriarchal values, women are stumped by the so-far-immovable male refusal to take responsibility for children. All efforts at equality founder on the fact that women give birth and take the responsibility for raising children. If feminists have no yet succeeded in integrating human activities and values, the fault lies less with them than with the men who impede them and the difficulty of a task that cacnot be compassed in a generation.
I first came across this idea in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's novel Herland. In Herland, a nation isolated from the rest of the world for two thousand years and only has female citizens (they procreate through parthogenesis), and Gilman has her narrator, Van, make the observation that the entire civilization has been geared towards the raising of children - to make good people, one has to be a good person, and each adult citizen of Herland is cognizant of this, thus work in tandem in order to improve society in general, in order to better serve the children. This means they create literature (and narratives) for the children to understand, language to facilitate learning, activities that are, like, fun, and not work.

Now, it's a bit creepy to think of a world that's pretty much centered around children, but at the same time, because it's centered around children, and everyone pitches in, it also means that everyone has time to, well, center their lives around their individual selves. So it does sound rather practical.

I've come across ideas that the nuclear family is not sustainable, both from an economics point of view, and from a general family health point of view. Several adults pitching in to help with raising a few children makes more sense and ties in really well with that ol' chestnut, "it takes a village to raise a child".

I wonder what others feel about the assertion that it's the refusal to take responsibility for children that makes the patriarchy so powerful - it makes sense to me, of course, since when I think about the pater in patriarchy, it's not so much the image of the nurturing parent I see, but the master who wants to control his property - the woman whose womb he possesses to create life, and the lives she produces that he has absolute authourity over. Authourity without the responsibility.



  1. Yes! I'm just in the middle of writing a blog post about the failure of the nuclear family. I think you are right on.

  2. Thanks! Do share when it is written!