Search Results for "breastfeeding"

15th 2010
The man question

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

I’ve got lots to do today, but if you don’t, go read this definitive takedown by Echidne of Hanna Rosin’s silly article on “The End of Men,” in which she argues that woman domination is just around the corner because women outnumber men in the workforce and in college these days, and because a certain demographic of prospective parents actually prefer daughters to sons.  ((Yawn.))  It’s too bad–I thought she had a pretty great radical feminist critique of the cult of breastfeeding last year.  I wonder what happened to the writer who was asking what had happened to all of her professional, well-educated women friends, when their husbands seem to be doing just fine and running the world as usual?

Here’s a little flava both of Rosin’s article (in italics) and Echidne’s critique.  Apparently, women are running the world now:

Next comes the major thesis which is written so that even the simplest misogynist can get its relevance;

What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men? For a long time, evolutionary psychologists have claimed that we are all imprinted with adaptive imperatives from a distant past: men are faster and stronger and hardwired to fight for scarce resources, and that shows up now as a drive to win on Wall Street; women are programmed to find good providers and to care for their offspring, and that is manifested in more- nurturing and more-flexible behavior, ordaining them to domesticity. This kind of thinking frames our sense of the natural order. But what if men and women were fulfilling not biological imperatives but social roles, based on what was more efficient throughout a long era of human history? What if that era has now come to an end? More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?

I hate this shit. I hate it, and having to go bang my head against the garage door. Women in the past could not specialize in flexibility and nurturing behavior. They were first fucking gatherers/hunters and then fucking farmers who worked from dawn to dusk and past it. They were not prehistoric Victorian housewives and men were not prehistoric Rambos or whatever the newest killer hero is called: They, too, worked their asses off all day long, most of the history. I hate intellectual laziness and nastiness. Continue Reading »


24th 2009
Food, identity, and personal virtue

Posted under American history & Bodily modification & childhood & class & Gender & Intersectionality & race & the body & women's history

vanillaicecreamI have colleagues who have written articles and books on food history.  I don’t consider food history one of my main subfields, but I’ve learned a lot from food historians, and their work has been incredibly useful to me as a historian who works on the intersections of ethnicity, religion, gender, and identity.  I’ve learned a lot recently, for example, on the consumption of dog meat by Native peoples in the Americas, and how Wabanaki people might have survived on gathered foods in the Maine woods, winter and summer.  (If you find yourself in need of a North woods cure for scurvy, I’m your gal.)  The pretext for all of this Survivor Woman:  colonial edition research is that I’m writing some book chapters about a little girl right now, and I’m interested in her food ecologies because I think food would probably have been something of urgent and pressing interest to her, especially because I’m coming to the conclusion that she was probably hungry more often than she wasn’t.   

All of this seems connected to Anglachel’s “A Taste of Things to Come,” a personal essay about food, social staus, and identity.  Here are a few excerpts, but you should just read the whole thing:

I think a lot about food.

I think about what it was like to grow up not being able to afford the kind of food “normal” people ate.I think about cans from charity. I think about having to shop at cut-rate food stores, buy day-old (“used” in my family’s lexicon) bread, have only non-fat dry milk on the shelf, cheap off-brand margarines on sandwiches, big cans of peanut butter we had to stir to keep the oil from separating, and lunch boxes that had books in them because sometimes there wasn’t lunch. I think about a mother too far gone in depression to care what she served her family. I think proudly about eating Hamburger Helper because I could make it myself and have it ready when Dad got home. I think about the way our meals improved as Dad finally got seniority at his job and his pay inched up. I look at the pantry shelf and wonder if I’m hoarding again.

I think a lot about food.

I think about the varying quality of produce between the IGA, the Trader Joe’s the Ralph’s and the Henry’s Market where I live. I remember, living in New York as a grad student, walking around Balducci’s, eyeing the perfect red bell peppers, then sighing and going to D’Agostino’s or the A&P.
.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

I think about the way in which grocery stores and shopping lists become political markers of having “made it.”

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      Continue Reading »


15th 2009
Motherhood and the construction of women’s athletic talent, part II: U.S. Open edition

Posted under Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & the body & women's history

clijstersOh, yeah!  You know that babies are like catnip to the international media, especially when their mothers are winning, world-class athletes! 

Last year during the Olympics, regarding the spate of stories about Darra Torres and other women athletes with children, I wrote about my bafflement about the ways in which women athletes who are mothers are represented in the media.  I asked, “Why does anyone think that motherhood necessarily erodes or competes with athletic talent?  Of course, not every mother physically gives birth to her children, but even for those who do, childbirth and its aftermath doesn’t necessarily alter the body in ways that would affect athletic performance.”  Well, the Mother-Athlete of the Year has to be Kim Clijsters, whose surprise upset (on faults) at the U.S. Open against Serena Williams has put her in the spotlight.  Once again, the English-language media find it utterly amazing that a 26-year old (26!) who has given birth can win the U.S. Open.

None of the broadcast or print media stories I’ve seen about Clijsters has failed to note that 1) she’s “a mom!” (or “mum!”), and 2) she had retired from tennis to focus on getting married and having a family.  (Never mind that that’s what a lot of people do, in addition to their day jobs, and that male athletes seem to manage getting married and having lots of children without “taking time off”–like Clijsters’s husband, Bryan Lynch!)  I understand the attraction of a comeback story, but this article from the Australian News really takes the cake.  It doesn’t even mention Williams’s name, let alone anything about Clijsters’s victorious match against her.  Check it out:

SUPER-mum Kim Clijsters hopes to complete some unfinished business in Australia after crowning her amazing comeback with a spectacular US Open triumph.

While unsure exactly how long her second career will last, Clijsters says a return to Melbourne Park in January for the 2010 Australian Open is definitely on her jam-packed agenda.

“I mean, my sister is about to have a baby in a couple of weeks and those are really important moments that I want to be home for,” the bubbly Belgian said.  Continue Reading »


10th 2009
On patriarchy

Posted under American history & class & Gender & Intersectionality & race & the body & women's history

thelmalouiseSquadratomagico has an interesting post (and discussion in the comments) about patriarchy:  What is it?  Where does it come from?  And perhaps most urgently, who’s enforcing it?  She writes:

What is at stake when a rhetorical dichotomy between “patriarchy” and “women” is posited? The way this opposition is used seems to me to suggest the following things:

1. If “patriarchy” and “women” are on opposite sides of a dichotomy, then patriarchy must be an all-male thing.

2. Thus, women are not a part of patriarchy, but fall somewhere outside it. Women may be acted upon by patriarchy in ways that either victimize or benefit them (depending on the women’s status and position vis-a-vis particular men), but they do not themselves perpetuate patriarchy, participate in it, or drive it.

3. If a woman suggests that women sometimes do perpetuate, participate within, or drive patriarchy, then she herself is acting as an agent of patriarchy by blaming women and undermining female solidarity, rather than attacking the real enemy, patriarchy, which is composed of men only. Oh, but wait: huh? Please review the tendentious aspects of this reasoning. I think it boils down to this: women are not part of patriarchy, except when the commenter disagrees with said women. In that case, indignantly accusing your opponent of being an agent of patriarchy, or of “blaming women,” is a convenient means of bludgeoning them into silence while declaiming your own impeccable feminist credentials as a supporter of women. Hence, the tactic poses a false dichotomy between “blaming women” versus “supporting women,” while simultaneously defining debate itself as inherently divisive.

4. Following upon the previous point: feminist politics, for these commenters, appears to be predicated upon strict solidarity for both sexes. The feminist first principle is for women to stick together without dissension or debate, in order to best advance their own collective interests, which are presumed to be self-evident. Feminism thus conceived constitutes a neat counterpoint to patriarchy which, as we already have seen, is presented as an all-male formation existing to best advance men’s collective interests.

I especially like that point in #2:  talking about patriarchy this way erases the complexity of patriarchy (and not incidentally, women’s agency too).  We don’t think this way about other systems–capitalism, or colonialism, and divide the entire world arbitrarily into either victims or agents thereof.  Why do this with patriarchy?  Continue Reading »


5th 2009
Breast is best…for patriarchal equilibrium?

Posted under class & Gender & the body & women's history

Feed me!

Feed me!

Squadratomagico (in a recent e-mail exchange) reminded me recently of an article in The Atlantic magazine last spring that may shed some light on this patriarchal equilibrium thingy we’ve been puzzling on for the last six months or so.  (This post may have some interesting connections to some of the conversations going on over at Reassigned Time with Dr. Crazy this week, at least for the heterosexualists and breeder types.)  Hanna Rosin wrote (very bravely, I think) about what appears to be the very shaky evidence that breast milk is the Holy Grail of All Health and Wellness for babies, and about her very fraught experience with it herself.  After two babies, she had had enough!

One afternoon at the playground last summer, shortly after the birth of my third child, I made the mistake of idly musing about breast-feeding to a group of new mothers I’d just met. This time around, I said, I was considering cutting it off after a month or so. At this remark, the air of insta-friendship we had established cooled into an icy politeness, and the mothers shortly wandered away to chase little Emma or Liam onto the slide. Just to be perverse, over the next few weeks I tried this experiment again several more times. The reaction was always the same: circles were redrawn such that I ended up in the class of mom who, in a pinch, might feed her baby mashed-up Chicken McNuggets.

Scandalous!  What kind of mother are you, Hanna Rosin?  Friends of mine have told me their stories of being terrorized by people they refer to as “the nursing Nazis,” who are beyond evangelical in their insistence that “breast is best,” and that “anyone can do it!”  Continue Reading »


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