And Now For Something Lighthearted: Marsupials Creep Me Out

Note: For this week, we’re dusting off an old draft that’s been chilling unfinished in the drafts folder since back in the dark ages of my second trimester. I’m leaving it all in present tense, so if you’re like “hey is she pregnant again?!?!” the answer is a hearty “nope!” I am, however, still creeped out by marsupials.

 

It is common for people to feel, during pregnancy, more connected to other people who have been pregnant in the past, especially one’s own mother. The trajectory goes something like “wow, I can’t believe my mom did this for me… and my grandmothers… and my great-grandmothers… and… holy gestation batman! Actually a lot of people have done this really hard thing! Heroes, they’re all of them heroes.”

I’ve definitely had this feeling more than once during the last joy filled 24 weeks. Particularly since my own mother had difficult pregnancies, and I am also having a difficult pregnancy, I’ve been feeling a lot of solidarity with her. But for me, it goes beyond family members and other humans, and I find myself also identifying with a wide range of birth giving mammals.

This probably makes a lot of sense, given my personal history and general outlook on life. Once upon a time, after reading up on feral cats I got involved in TNR because I couldn’t help but look at young female cats having up to three litters of kittens a year, and think “oh, this is a feminist issue.” Mammals have a lot in common with each other. And for the vast majority of female mammals, pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing, these things are just part of life. Sometimes they are a very difficult part of life.

Which brings me to a slightly comical side affect of all this togetherness and connectedness. Because while I watch the pregnant squirrels eating cat food on our back porch and think “girl, it is rough, I get you,” there’s another class of mammals that I’m suddenly finding extremely unsettling to even think about.

Marsupials. I’m creeped out by marsupials. I mean what is their deal, anyways?

kanga roo

It’s in or out, baby!

Pretty much everybody knows that the thing about marsupials is they have a pouch. Well, the female ones do, anyways, and it is a pouch for babies. The babies get to ride around in the pouch, which is oh-so-cute if you happen to be a cartoon kangaroo. I learned from watching David Attenborough’s Life of Mammals that marsupials are some of the first mammals, and also utterly disgusting and creepy. I re-watched the kangaroo birth scene to write this point, and I have some very serious feelings about it and all of them amount to “NOPE.”

Here, now you can be grossed out too:

 

Here are my feelings, as a female bodied mammal person:

1. ONCE THE BABY COMES OUT IT DOES NOT GO BACK IN WE ARE DONE HERE THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

2. The part where the mom is just sort of vaguely watching it climb up her? No. That is absolutely terrifying to me in a way that I cannot describe. Like maybe I want her to be helping and not just watching, but also I cannot blame her because that thing looks gross and I don’t want to touch it either.

3. It latches on to the nipple and then IT DOES NOT UNLATCH YOU GUYS. A fun thing about being a breastfeeding human is not doing it (quite) 24/7.

And it’s not only kangaroos everyone, it’s all of them. Maybe you think the whole pouch thing is sort of cute, but we aren’t talking about a snuggly sleeping bag here. We are talking about a skin pouch on the mother’s body forcing her to have even less bodily autonomy than the average birthing mammal. And now that I’ve identified with the mother kangaroo, I can’t look back. The pouch is a cruel trick of evolution and I am glad that our branch of mammals chose to do away with it entirely in favor of the placenta.

Ok, here is a picture of a cat, another mammal that has the decency not to have a pouch.

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Hi Everyone,

Out of respect for the recent Black lives stolen by the police, our regularly scheduled Friday post has been postponed. I’m asking that my regular readers take this time to read and center Black voices and Black experiences, educate themselves on police violence and what we can do about it, and of course practice self care when hurting. There is nothing that I, a white woman, can say on these matters that hasn’t been said a thousand times better by people of color already, and it would be disrespectful in the extreme to try to just talk about something else as though it hadn’t happened.

If you are a white person at a loss as to where to begin attempting to understand all of this, I will be sharing pieces on the topic by people of color on the post nuclear era Facebook page.

Blessing

Katherine

The Deal With Dads

Ha ha ha, fathers, amirite? They’re completely incompetent buffoons who have no idea how to care for children, and are totally incapable of learning! It’s not their fault, poor souls, they’re trying! They’re just helpless when it comes to dressing, feeding, and otherwise nurturing the children they help create. This is why mothers have to do everything forever, the end.

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If that sounds sexist and ridiculous to you, it’s because it is.

It is also an idea I run into a lot in the wide world of parenting, and an idea with some pretty serious consequences for all involved.

Check out this piece from Scary Mommy. On the surface, it’s just one of those cutesy write-ups about a funny moment in the world of having a kid. A parent out there in parenting land had a funny moment, shared it on social media, and now we all get to laugh along because haven’t we all had some funny moments? It’s a little bit of relief from the exhaustion and the constant pressure that parenting very young children can entail. Look, we’re all laughing together!

Except, the buoyant laughter is hiding the sinister underbelly of gender roles, sexism, misogyny, and patriarchy.

If you didn’t click the link (hey, I don’t blame you) the story is this: a father was tasked with dressing his infant daughter for daycare, and sent her in overalls without a shirt underneath. When the mother texts him about it, he explains that he dressed her in “that thing” and that he was ignorant to the tradition of wearing shirts with overalls. The mother is, understandably, exasperated and amused, and shares the text exchange. In the comments, other parents (all mothers) share related stories of their co-parents (all fathers) making hilarious wardrobe mistakes. One dad dressed his child in a robe meant for a stuffed Yoda doll, another in clothing from the Build-a-Bear Workshop (clothing which included a tail hole).

The joke, in all of this, is not just that it’s kind of funny that all these kids went out in public in truly ridiculous get-ups. It is kind of funny! The joke is that this happened because they were dressed by their fathers. And fathers, it seems, may be great at playtime and taking the kids for ice cream, but they just don’t know about clothes. These types of stories are shared by mothers (in heterosexual relationships) and the conclusion is that women are just plain superior at this whole parenting thing. On the surface it can look like (and feel like, to the women involved) these kinds of jokes hold mothers up and recognize their greatness. But none of this is actually uplifting to mothers, because it’s firmly couched in benevolent sexism.

Benevolent sexism, in case you are unaware, is sexism that sounds like it’s saying positive things about women, but ultimately is used to subjugate women and enforce strict gender roles. The first time I heard the term was while reading this series about Christian dating books (content note for discussion of rape and sexual violence at the link!). Benevolent sexism can be just as dangerous and harmful as hostile sexism, and men who believe in benevolent sexist ideas often quickly turn hostile when women don’t stay in their place.

I can’t say this enough, “traditional” gender roles hurt people. Especially when children are involved, they are just one more method to maintain the set up of the nuclear family. The nuclear family was created by and for capitalism and patriarchy, and that is all it is good for. Nuclear families keep us isolated, they keep us overworked, they keep us from meaningful connection even within the family unit, and they keep us functioning as consumers in wider society.

A joke that sounds like it’s taking a cheap jab at men (haha, they can’t even dress their babies!) is, once we scratch the surface, just plain old patriarchy all the way down.

Men can’t dress their babies, therefore women have to dress the babies, therefore women are constantly consumed with childcare, therefore women cannot access other meaningful work.

Men can’t dress their babies, therefore men are only suitable as providers, therefore men must provide and women must do all the caring and nurturing.

In the original “joke” that we started with, the baby was being dropped off at daycare by her father. That, to me, strongly implies that both parents work outside the home, possibly both work full time. Yet, it also implies that the father is not used to dressing the baby, that it is somehow the mothers jurisdiction. If both parents work outside of the home, for roughly the same amount of hours, one might expect that they would divide up the childcare and household tasks more or less evenly. Yet this is almost never how it happens. In heterosexual marriages, we see again and again that women who work are also expected to fully manage the children and the household whenever they are home. We’ve taken the original nuclear family model, and altered it slightly to include women making an income, only we don’t see men picking up the slack at home. Instead, women are told to strive to “have it all” and men maintain more or less the same breadwinner role they would have enjoyed in a nuclear family without a working spouse. And in the comments on that “joke” we see several mothers supporting this by essentially saying “see, this is why I don’t let my husband dress the baby anymore.”

And on top of all of that, it’s also just plain unfair to fathers. Fathers are human beings who are actually, contrary to popular belief, fully capable of caring for children. They are capable of learning how to change diapers and how to dress a child and all of the other things one needs to know. They may start out a little bit behind, because those of us who were raised as girls in the world were encouraged early to take an interest in nurturing and care-taking, whereas our male counterparts often weren’t (and in some cases it was even actively discouraged). But they can catch up! I can think of several fathers (some of them live within walking distance of me) who are every bit as full and active of parents as their female co-parents. It isn’t fair to them, or anyone else, to pretend like dads can’t do this stuff.

So maybe that guy confused a pair of overalls with a romper, so what? Was it a stupid mistake? Sure. But it’s not something innate, and it has nothing to do with the gender of the parent who screwed up.

And by the by, these ideas aren’t only used to subjugate heterosexual women! This idea that men parent exclusively one way, and women parent exclusively another way, has been used on the far right to condemn families like mine for years. In fact, during the endless debates about whether or not marriages like mine should even be allowed, some of these ideas were brought up as evidence in court. And years and years ago, someone who knew very well that I was gay, literally said the following to me:

“You’re going to get married before you have kid, right? Because don’t you think all children need a mother and a father?”

The subtext being, of course, that men and women vary so much in their parenting styles and abilities that I, a gay woman, should marry a man for the good of my future offspring.

But children don’t need a mother and a father. Children need parents who care enough about them to learn how to get them dressed in the morning.