Within white supremacist capitalist patriarchal cultures of domination children do not have rights. Feminist movement was the first movement for social justice in this society to call attention to the fact that ours is a culture that does not love children, that continues to see children as the property of parents to do with as they will.
-bell hooks, feminism is for everybody
I work pretty hard to avoid any and all mainstream books on pregnancy, birth and parenting. I mean, there were a couple of nervous moments when I accidently read a page of “What To Expect…” I was pulled in within seconds. Comparing the size of my embryo with the mango on the page, examining my nipples to see if they matched with the picture provided, and trying to figure out if I was getting too much exercise for my 28 weeks. After realizing that I was on the verge of a panic attack, I threw the book across the room and promised myself never to open it again. But, without the mainstream books, where do you turn? Who is going to be the reassuring voice and say, “Hey, girl: your growing baby can be any fruit you want to imagine it to be.” Or, insist that your nipples will be their own lovely colour based on an array of factors?
Pregnancy, like birth and parenting is intimidating. No matter how much education, self-awareness or excitement you bring to your pregnancy and mothering, you still have questions. You want to know what your vagina may look like after birth. You want to know what to do with your placenta, if after freezing it, you don’t really want it hanging around. You want to know if your c-section scar is supposed to itch like that. No one is standing on the corner with a ‘baby’s first poos’ colour chart, now are they? And for all the produce you can buy at the grocery store, there isn’t shit-all about going from milk to solids available for purchase.
More importantly, when you can buy it or when it is given freely, this advice and rarely offered with a feminist perspective. It usually comes crafted from some awesome all-male, all-white gynaecologist, paediatrician, car sales man panel of dudes who are going to tell you the things that will only be relevant if you were that one particular white woman that they just happened to listen to. Otherwise, you are a freakshow and you better get yourself to someone (usually a guy with whole piles of secret discourse), who can tell you a thing or two about your uterus (vagina, infant, adopted child, preschooler, teenager, etc).
Blarg. Most of the titles that I do have in my feminist-mama library weren’t bought at Chapters (read: Waterstones or Borders, depending on where you live). They were either picked up at an independent shop or ordered from some giant Amazon warehouse. Other bits have been taken from collections or from chapters of books. I have also relied a great deal on websites (another post), and just plain old talking it out with my feminist friends in real-life coffee dates or the ol’ tweeter.
And, yah. Books are great. Manuals are quite awesome, especially if there are flow charts. But when it comes to pregnancy, birth and raising my little sprog, I have come to realize that no one knows your body, your vagina or your kid better than you. For real. Trust. Your. Self.
But, when you are looking for a manual, feel free to pull on these puppies. I have read them, used them, loved them, and covered them all in my breast milk.
- Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics , bell hooks Chapter 13 of this text is dedicated to Feminist Parenting and says some brilliant things about caring for children in a way that removes the current social construction that children should be powerless in our parent-child dynamic. A polemic that speaks directly to why Gentle Parenting and Feminist Parenting are two parts of my whole being as a mama.
- My Mother Wears Combat Boots: A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us, Jessica Mills This book isn’t necessarily feminist. But, her parenting connected deeply with my feminism and offers a vision of shared parenting with a strong woman-mother as the main focus of the book. A great collection of anecdotes that take you through what feminist parenting might look like.
- Feminist Mothering, Edited by Andrea O’Reilly A stunning collection of essays about feminist mothering. The essays range in topic from professional working mothers and Lesbian advice books to intersectional issues for mothers of colour and representations of motherhood in literature. Highly, highly recommended.
- The Food of Love: Your Formula for Successful Breastfeeding, Kate Evans Absolutely the best ‘how-to’ book purchase I made in my parenting journey. This book is wonderfully and expertly illustrated by a nursing mama who knows her stuff and talks about everything from leaky breasts and sex to co-sleeping and blocked ducts. Her unashamed, unabashed conversational tone about womens’ bodies is refreshing and appreciated. Honestly, I can’t think of another book I have leant out and recommended more.
- Practicing Feminist Mothering, Fiona Joy Green This book comes from a generous selection of interviews with women who identify as feminist mothers. This isn’t a how-to guide, but more of a review of how mothering is shaped by feminism and vice versa.
- Motherhood and Feminism, Amber Kisner Also also not a how-to book, but a study of where feminism and motherhood have travelled together and how one can impact the other.
- Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness, Jessica Valenti Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of this woman. She is outstanding. This book, however, really didn’t sit well with me. Not just because it attacked my attachment parenting beliefs, but because it ‘attacked’. I felt that Valenti was on the defensive throughout the entire text, leaving me feeling uncomfortable. Too much judging parents who did decide to breastfeed, wear their babies, and/or don’t vaccinate. There was too much sweeping assumption in this book for me. Instead it gave me pause to think about judging other parents. We are assholes when we judge. Parenting and feminism are not contests to be won, there isn’t a score card based on whether you went back to work early or decided to breastfeed for another year or two.
Maybe you really love “What to Expect…?” If you do, that’s awesome. Personally, I found it too dedicated to telling me all the things that I was doing wrong, and saturated with routines and lessons I could follow to become ‘better’ at being pregnant, birthing and child rearing. Not my thing. I want to be empowered in my parenting, not made to feel like shit before I even, clean up the….well, you got it.
If you have any books to add to the list, leave a comment and I would be happy to add to this list.
Twitter has already gifted us with an addition to the list! One I’ve not read, but comes recommended from someone I would trust with my feminism and my kid. So get out there and grab Stunned: The New Generation of Women Having Babies, Getting Angry, and Creating a Mothers’ Movement. I know I am!