These Delirious Hem pieces are amazing and thought provoking. I could write a response to each and every one of them if time was no object.
So what to add? How about a confession I'm not supposed to make. When I was pregnant, I desperately wanted a boy and when I found out I was having a boy, I cried with joy.
What the hell? What's my problem with girls? Do I think boys are better, more valuable? Of course not. Would I have loved a daughter any less? I seriously doubt it. I grew up in a house where the boy was openly given preferential treatment over the girls. Not only was there no one on either side of the family who would ever call themselves a feminist, the boys and men definitely were more valuable and better respected. I am familiar with how that stings a girl growing up.
If I had a daughter, I likely would never mention such a preference for concern that she'd misconstrue it to mean that I didn't want her.
But I did have a preference. There are some personal, complicated reasons, but also there is a philosophical one. I want to try to contribute to society a man who is thoughtful, introspective and considerate. Somebody who doesn't view himself as the center, the norm, the standard. A man who can both respect and not take advantage of the women of his generation. As feminists and mothers in general, I believe we spend a lot of time making up for what current society lacks and preparing our daughters to handle that. I think this is incredibly important and must continue. But I think some of us overlook how we need to prepare our sons. It's easy to do, society offers so many more advantages to our sons. But society fails them on many other levels. Raising our sons not to grow up to become the "hey wanna fuck" types might be a start, but it's hardly enough. We need to change how we raise both girls and boys.
I know a lot of poet-moms and poet-dads. I am rather shocked by the disconnect between the two. In general. I'm speaking generally, I know of a number of exceptions. I'm not discussing the exceptions in this post. I'm discussing a trend.
For instance, many of the poet-dads brag about "changing a lot of diapers" or staying home a day or two a week to watch their children. Yes, that's great. Yes, it undoubtedly is helpful to the mother. Yes, that's likely a big step forward from what their fathers did. But these guys see themselves as heros almost, like what their doing is above and beyond the expectation. It doesn't occur to them that 30% of diaper changing and 20% of childcare is closer to being described as supplemental.
I wouldn't even mind this imbalance if there was at least an better awareness of it. A poet-dad admitting that his wife does the bulk of the child rearing which allows him to write more and travel, well that's a totally different situation. That's awareness and honesty. He's not inflating himself or diminishing her.
Can you imagine a poet-mom bragging that she changes a lot of diapers? Your response would be, um, yeah, that's part of raising a baby. If I bragged about staying home to watch my child, you'd stare and scratch your head. Yes, you're a mother, you don't leave your young child alone to fend for himself. How many times have I heard a poet-dad say he's "babysitting" his own children? How can one babysit his own child? Aren't poets supposedly be conscious of their word choices? How many poet-dads of young children go away to writing colonies for a month at a time without a second thought? It's kind of amazing. I go away for three nights and am constantly reminded, often by complete strangers, how lucky (and of course, selfish I am) to leave my son with his own father.
Chris has yet to eat Gideon, but perhaps he's just waiting for him to plump up some.
I often ask myself how did these otherwise intelligent, thoughtful, generally decent poet-dads become this way? I'm quite fond of many of them, consider many my friends. I'm not saying their not good fathers. They certainly are.
But I don't want my son to grow up with their approaches, assumptions and perceptions. I don't want him to grow up and be like them.
Has writing this lost me the esteem or friendship of a poet-dad? I hope not. It's not my intention.
I think many of these poets-dads had hardworking, intelligent, loving mothers who tried to do as much as they could. I don't think their mothers made a big deal about how much work and sacrifice they were doing. So these boys grew into men who didn't give it much thought. That's just what women did. These poet-dads love women. They recognize their talents. They want to be more involved parents than their own fathers. In many cases they are. In theory they believe in equality, fairness and somehow convince themselves they're living it. They don't understand where the poet-mom's frustration and anger stems from. They don't see the situation as a shared problem. They are oblivious to how they contribute to it. They're unaware at how insensitive, selfish and borderline cruel this stance can be. Any women who points that out to them is UNBALANCED or UNWELL. It's not the situation that is unbalanced or sickly, it's her.
Or maybe she's just JEALOUS.
Maybe she is jealous?
The poet-mom is expected to toil in silence. Aren't all mothers? Why should she be different? No whining about difficulty, buck up! Nobody MADE you become a mom-poet. You choose it.
Love it or leave it!
Poet-moms are held to a higher standard. Expected to perform superhero feats minus the superhero status. Expected to write, publish, critique, plus do the bulk of child rearing and family managing. Poet-moms are also blamed for all these number troubles in literary journals. If women were writing poems instead of having babies, we'd publish them!
I want to blame poet-dads for something.
Rabies. Poet-dads are responsible for rabies. And scabies. And shingles. Unfair? Shut up. You made the choice to become a poet-dad, it's time you carried some of this suck it up weight.
I also bite my tongue when I hear poet-moms discuss all the work at home they're doing, basically waiting on their sons and husbands. Cooking the majority of the meals, doing the majority of the cleaning and all the other household responsibilities added on to their writing, projects and jobs. I have sympathy for their situations, but I want to say why aren't you making these boys and men participate more? Why aren't you requiring it? You're not doing them any favors. They're gonna grow up like our generation and expect the women to do everything and not even be conscious of the imbalance. I kind of think this next generation of women we're raising are going to be much less forgiving and understanding than we are. Because as feminists, we're raising them not to be so forgiving and understanding of inequality and double-standards. Not as partners, not as colleagues and not as friends.
For goodness sake, let's at least try to prepare our sons for this next wave of dauntless daughters. Let's give them the 21st skillz to pay the 21st century billz. Let's not write them off as doomed to be oblivious. For everyone's sake.
What I'm trying to do (and to find out if I'm successful, come back in 20 or 30 years), is raise my son to have a higher level of awareness than what I see in a number of my man poet peers. To not feel entitled (cause the world will be a very cruel place for him if he does think this way). I don't want him to perceive that 20 or 30% is somehow equal or will just have to do. I want him to be aware of imbalance and appreciate differences. Not only recognize talent and acknowledge hard work of women, but also not be an opportunist taking advantage of that talent and hard work for his own benefit.
This is a task I'm still trying to figure out. It's a learn-as-you-go thing.
As a mother, I consider this my calling. I feel that as feminist [poet] I'm supposed to be a mother of a son.