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the latest waddle:

good morning, wordpress - 10:36 a.m. , 2009-07-03

elaborate murder attempt - 2:56 p.m. , 2009-07-01

building a tractor in the basement - 10:42 a.m. , 2009-06-19

ask no questions tell just a few lies - 3:17 p.m. , 2009-06-09

my long lasting flavor really lasts long - 1:10 p.m. , 2009-06-04

2006-07-27 ... 9:52 a.m.


Okay, bear with me because I might slip back into crazy ranting soapbox mode for a while, particularly if I take a break for beer in the middle of this post the way I am currently planning. Or I may just plod along and try to puzzle some shit out, in my usual lame and unacademic The Personal Isn't Nearly Political Enough But It Will Have To Do For Now style.*

(*Sometimes I get irritated with the cozy domestic comforts of writing about one's life online, because even when women come to smart and useful conclusions about motherhood and feminism, they are still called "mommybloggers"; even when they make friends and set up networks and help each other out it still comes down to one person at one computer writing about one life and rarely translating it to any sort of political action; and even when I get all kinds of fired up about unpacking my privilege and examining the culture I still sometimes end up writing about poop. But on the other hand the life you are living is the one you have, and I don't think anything concrete would be gained by my shutting up. Stopping my diary would not mean that I would suddenly be devoting more time to the things I am all fired up about. I would probably just send lengthy emails with exactly this kind of diary-stuff in them instead. And I would probably still be writing about poop.)


Nora, lover of all things with wheels, desperately wants a two-wheel bike. I must be out of the loop on kid bikes because I was shocked at the hideousness, the glitter and bling, of the "girl" bikes. I am not entirely thrilled with the endless licensed characters and flames and balls-out-rrrrraaarrr-ness of the "boy" bikes either, but at least it is an active-lifestyle sort of stupid rather than a "princess" sort of stupid. I guess. But I don't really want to buy Nora a boy's bike. I want to buy her a girl's bike that is not retarded.

Wait a minute. Why don't I want to buy Nora a boy's bike?

1. See above. Just because you change the symbols does not mean the whole aesthetic isn't flawed.

2. Because buying her a boy's bike is admitting that girl stuff sucks and that boy stuff is better. From there I think it is a very short walk to "the girl world sucks, the boy world is better" and before you know it you have arrived at "girls suck, boys are better." Cue the self-loathing, the feeling small and unimportant, the view of yourself as Other, lesser than, not the norm. No thanks.

3. This one is tricky, because it feeds into a dynamic that I want no part of but I would be irresponsible not to acknowledge. Here it is: right now neither I nor Nora nor most of our social world gives a shit about what girls do vs. what boys do. Nora is three years old. It would not matter very much if she had a boy bike or wore the Thomas the Tank Engine tighty-whitey underpants that she used to covet.

But someday, probably sooner than I think, it will matter, at least to some people. Some pushy little diva in her peer group will point out that she has a boy's bike or boy's shoes or whatever, and it totally sucks for school-aged kids to be censured for difference. I can rock it all ways until Sunday, stridently and repeatedly pointing out that there is no such thing as gender differences when it comes to something utilitarian like bikes or shoes, and it won't make a whit of difference to how my daughter feels.

(Some people will say that if I have done my job right, Nora will be able to parrot my feminist rhetoric right there on the playground and she honestly won't care what the world thinks. Maybe so.)

I guess I am looking for the middle ground. As a parent, I will never enforce the gender stereotypes, but I will not go out of my way to violate them either. I also don't want any of these things to come as a surprise to Nora. For instance, it is hot as hell here and she loves to run around in just her underpants, but I make her put on a shirt and shorts if we go outside. Not because anyone is going to freak out at preschool-girl nipples, but what about when she is eight or nine and I suddenly say that her body should be covered up in public? Does that lead to shame and weirdness? Isn't it better to normalize some of the milder gender crap early, even if part of me thinks so much of it is evil and wrong? Am I taking the easy way out or wisely choosing my battles?

(Incidentally, whenever Nora asks me a very good question, such as why she cannot walk around on the beach with no shirt while plenty of men are doing just that, I always answer in terms of "we just don't," which implies that it is a particular choice just for our family. It is a total lie and has the unfortunate effect of making me sound like Brooke Astor or some other weird noblesse oblige matriarch, so I need to come up with something else.)

The practical result of all this blah-blah is my learning that if you upgrade to a Schwinn or some other brand-name bike, there is a dramatic decrease in glitter and butterfly decals and plenty of gender-neutral bicycles to be had. You will notice that this real-world fact did not stop me from mind-fucking my way into a very long and boring diary entry, however!


Nora tells me she has to poop. "Then go," I say. When does this stage of The Toilet Report end? She is fully trained, she needs no assistance, why must I be so very informed on her bowel activity? Anyway, she is in there for much longer than normal, so I go to see if everything is okay.

Me: Are you done?
Nora: I'm waiting.
Me: Waiting for what? If you pooped out all the poop, you are done.
Nora: There was only one piece of poop.
Me: Well, ah, it's different every time. If that's all there is, just wipe and move on.
Nora: Mommy, listen to me. I always have three pieces of poop. This time there was only one. I need two more.

While I was impressed with the addition skills and abstract thinking, I was less enthusiastic about the LONG discussion we then had to have about fecal matter and how it does not matter how many discrete sections there are, evacuation itself is the important bit, and so on. I really thought the Scatological Salon would be over after toilet-training was, but I am learning to my dismay that the topic still fascinates.

---mimi smartypants subverts the patriarchy on alternate Thursdays.


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