Monday, 30 August 2010

Snow and sunshine

This weekend was glorious. We went out to the Farmers Markets early and then Lil decided to go from there to my Mum and her partner's place for a play. This meant that P could take me to prenatal yoga, which turned out to be lucky because it was a "partners" class and so he was able to stay and join in. (I am not sure that he quite saw this as 'lucky', but that's another issue...)

Image from here.

On the way home from yoga we stopped past the train station to pick up my Dad who came down to help us out and hang out with Lil for the weekend. Then we went to Silo bakery to pick up yumminess for lunch and the week to come. After picking up Lil from my Mum's, we headed home to eat a scrumptious lunch of fresh sourdough sandwiches and tarts in the sunshine. It turned into one of those gorgeous late winter days in Canberra, where the air is still a bit crisp, but the sky in bright blue and the sun is strong and warm.


After lunch Lil forced Dad to push her on the swing, while P and I got stuck into our sadly neglected garden. I pruned the overgrown plants and did a bit of weeding, while P dug out a new veggie patch around the side. Inspired, Lil decided to join in by planting a bunch of tomatoes seeds and dragging some sticks and weeds over to the compost heap. By 4pm I was utterly shattered and took myself off to bed for a nap. Every muscle in my body felt used, but in a good kind of way.


On Sunday Dad and P were planning to take Lil out to Corin Forest to play in the snow. We were being somewhat hopeful about the snow. It had clearly come down in the Brindabellas on Thursday, but we weren't able to find any information if it was actually still around or even if it had fallen as low as Corin Forest... But we thought it was worth a try.

I spent the morning baking cookies (these ones, and I can highly recommend them - with a little less sugar than she recommends) and packing an elaborate picnic for the snow adventurers. (My intention was to potter around the house once they had gone.) However, when they were on their way out the door, P said 'Why don't you come?' and suddenly I really wanted to (partly 'cause the picnic looked so yummy, and partly because of the prospect of seeing Lil's first contact with snow) and so I threw on some clothes and jumped in the car with them.

Our prospects of finding snow were looking grim for the first 45 minutes of the 50 minute drive. We hadn't seen any at all and were preparing Lil for 'just a picnic in the forest and a play' when suddenly we started to see some patches by the side of the road. Relieved we rounded the corner to see the whole hillside at Corin Forest was covered with snow.

After a dressing Lily up into some borrowed snow gear, which was really very munchkiny, we squelched up the sodden hillside into the bush and Lil had her first contact with snow. Don't you just love "firsts"? She squealed with delight when it was thrown up in the air and proceeded to crawl and slide all over the hillside in her excitement. It was gorgeous to watch.

After making the obligatory snowperson, we stomped back down the hill to have a picnic lunch in the sunshine. It was another gorgeous day - topped off by another nap by yours truly in the afternoon.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Challenges of feminist mothering

[Image credit: http://www.amazon.com/Barbie-Unbound-Parody-Obsession/dp/0934678898
BTW: Have you seen this book? It's really quite funny.]

The other day Lily informed me that girls like pink and boys like purple. I challenged her on that and she wavered a little, particularly when P announced loudly how much he LOVES pink. However, within minutes she was telling P that girls couldn't skateboard it was only for boys.

%*#%^#?!??!

We asked her who told her that and she mentioned a little girl that she goes to preschool with. I hate the power of patriarchy to infiltrate everything.

Of course we spend the rest of the afternoon telling her that she could learn to skateboard when she gets a bit bigger and I demonstrated that her female dolls house people could do some "mad tricks" on a miniature skateboard. She was very keen on them jumping over benches.

Nicole from another mother has been doing a great series of posts on being a "bad mother" (you know: "human") and her latest one on being a "failed feminist" reminded me of wanting to post about this.

I have to keep reminding myself that my mother managed to instill feminist values in me despite the very patriarchal culture that I grew up in. However, as she keeps pointing out, things have actually gotten worse since then in relation to young girls. The gender divide in clothing, toys & accessories is far starker than it was in the 70s & 80s and the whole sexualisation of girls has added a whole new layer of challenge. I think I am going to have to do some more work on finding a supportive community of other feminist parents to spend more time with...

Sick

Did you watch The Young Ones when you were a kid? I bloody loved that show, wrong though it was. Anyway, I've been thinking about it lately - particularly that episode "Sick" where they all get really sick (Neil in particular) and everything becomes even more gross and chaotic than usual.

[image credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/theyoungones/index.shtml]

You see our little household has been sort of living that episode. We have all been taking turns being ridiculously sick for the past couple of months (with poor Lil having far more than her fair share of horrible sickness) and it is really getting to be quite overwhelming. The fact that it is freezing outside and so we can't really air out the house, or even hang the washing outside, hasn't helped. Neither has the fact that I am now a million years pregnant.

Poor Paul has been taking his latest turn being sick and there is now a frightening tower of dishes in our kitchen. Normally I do the odd load during the day, but he makes sure they are done every night and he just hasn't been up to that since the weekend. I have tried to step up, but whenever I stand at the sink for more than a few minutes my lower back starts seizing up and I find that I can't stand or walk for the next hour or two, which is not so feasible when you have a 3-year-old & a sick husband to care for...

Of course, my PhD has been the first thing to suffer from all this sickness, but Paul's job hasn't fared too well lately either and he is seriously thinking of dropping out of his Masters degree, which would be a shame... Hopefully we can get on top of this plague of illness in the next couple of weeks before Mr Charlie arrives. Otherwise things are going to get very interesting indeed!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Marriage equality

On the day that I married P I smiled all day. I smiled so much that my mouth began to ache, but I just couldn't stop. Honestly I felt that happy.

I didn't grow up thinking that getting married was necessarily something that I would do. I never had dreams of a fairy tale wedding or living 'happily ever after'. Not only did my parents get divorced when I was 5, but with the help of my feminist mother I understood from a very young age that the institution of marriage was founded on some fairly problematic patriarchal traditions whereby property in a woman was transferred from her father to her husband. It also had a sad history of trapping people in unhappy or abusive relationships and of reinforcing unequal power relationships in our society.

Despite all this I still chose to get married.

Why?

First and foremost I guess I truly believe that not only is culture something that is constantly evolving, but that it is necessary to make a conscious effort to claim cultural traditions for progressive purposes in order not to cede them entirely to conservative forces.

Second, and this relates to the first point, I believe that cultural traditions have an incredible symbolic power to convey so much more meaning into our lives that we are often willing to acknowledge in the West (or Global North). I don't want to abandon these cultural practices too easily and I felt the tradition of marriage was one that I wanted to take part in, despite its problematic history.

The reason that I wanted to take part in the tradition of marriage specifically was that I felt that it had the power to communicate a whole range of messages that we really significant for me. Due to its history in our culture, marriage had the power to communicate clearly to our family and friends that P and I were now a family and that we hoped that they would adopt our respective partners into our respective family and friendship circles and that they would respect our relationship as being fundamental to our sense of family and belonging in the world. A wedding is certainly not the only way of communicating this message, but it is certainly the most powerful in our culture (particularly if you have family members who are quite religious, etc).

Marriage also had that powerful shorthand in relation to the wider community and to the State and the way that all its various organs treat our relationship. This wasn't a very significant reasons for us to get married, but for some people it would be very important.

Finally, harking back to that symbolic meaning issue, I also felt that marriage was one way that P and I could know that we were both on the same page about where our relationship was going. Of course it is totally possible to commit to someone without marrying them. Of course it is possible to have honest discussions about creating a shared vision for the future, etc. However, some things are difficult to articulate and the less cerebral shared understanding that comes from deciding to marry someone can make that whole process more straightforward for some of us...

So I got married. I didn't change my name. I didn't get 'given away' or promise to obey him. But I got married and it was one of the happiest days of my life. My whole family was there along with many of my friends. We committed our lives to each other in a rotunda by the beach and then I kissed him on the nose. That evening we gathered with our nearest and dearest to celebrate, to eat vegan yum cha and to dance. It was lovely.

My mother and her partner have been together for far longer than P and I. They have loved and supported each other for many many years. They are committed to spending the rest of their lives together. However, despite all this, they are not legally permitted to marry in Australia because they are both female. They are currently denied the right to access the powerful cultural tradition of marriage to communicate to their families and friends that they consider each other family. Of course, their family and friends do understand this by now, but they have also been denied the right to communicate this powerful message to the wider community, to the State and to each other.

Honestly, this makes me so angry. I know that some people consider this to be a minor issue, but it's not. It's a fundamental human rights issue. We might take a fairly casual approach to our cultural traditions here in Australia, but that doesn't mean that they aren't significant or that they don't carry with them enormous power. Denying one group of people access to that power is a human rights abuse.

Today we attended a marriage equality rally in Canberra. This year it was particularly important because there is a federal election next week. Both the ALP and the Coalition have taken positive measures to deny marriage equality to queer people in Australia. Both should be sent a strong message that this is a totally unacceptable breach of human rights.

Meanwhile on planet dark ages, the Families First candidate Wendy Francis has been tweeting about gay marriage being a recipe for child abuse. Having been raised by a gay parent, I found this obnoxious and massively ignorant. However, I do question how fundamentally different it is to the stance adopted by the Coalition and the ALP. Saying that our culture is 'just not ready' for gay marriage is just a more subtle way of perpetuating the exact same prejudices and discriminatory practices. It just means that the bigots in those parties have had better media training.

The ACT Legislative Assembly have tried twice to make civil unions legal for same-sex couples in the ACT. The first time they did this the Howard-Liberal government overrode the legislation. The second time the Rudd-ALP government forced an amendment that prohibited any kind of celebration. They prohibited a celebration! WTF?!

The Australian Greens have tried to introduce a Marriage Equality Act several times and have been blocked by both major parties. If they gain the balance of power in the Senate this election then they may have more leverage to get a conscious vote on this issue. If Lin Hatfield-Dodds gets up in the ACT Senate then the Greens will have the balance of power straight away. This is a significant election for many reasons and marriage equality is one of them.

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