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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Feminism and Zen Parenting

"Most posts on here don't come across as feminist to me. Breastfeeding, baby wearing? Are you sure you're a feminist?"

I recently got this comment on my page and was instantly confused by her confusion. What do breastfeeding and babywearing have to do with being a feminist or not? What about my page doesn't seem feminist? First, I state clearly that I am, in fact, a feminist, so ya, I'm sure I'm a feminist. Second, I regularly post about equity, choices, freedoms - all basic tenets of feminism. Third, I wish to breastfeed, I wished to wear my son as a baby, I wish to stay home with him instead of continuing to be a teacher, I wish to fight for his (and every boy's) equality when it comes to their rights to genital autonomy, I wish to do all the things I am doing - sounds pretty feminist to me. Here's why: I choose to take and keep my freedom to do whatever it is I want as a woman, as a mother, as a wife. I chose to become a mother. I fought hard for it, as a matter of fact. I believe we all have every right to choose to or not to become mothers and respect everyone's decisions either way. I chose to become a wife. I waited a long time, was single and on my own with a successful career and life of my own beforehand. I believe we all have every right to choose to or not to marry and respect everyone's decisions either way. I choose to be who I am and believe we all have the right to choose who we all wish to be and respect everyone's decisions either way. I don't feel bound by obligation to do anything. I don't feel chained to my husband, my son, my house, or even my decisions. I feel blessed to go through this life with them, because they're who I wanted. This life is what I wanted and still want. I feel free to make whatever choices I wish to make. I am a woman, I am a person, and I have full freedom to live whatever life I want to live. Feminism.

I have never felt more natural, more at ease with myself as a mother, more like a woman than when I am breastfeeding. I am in tune with myself, my body, my instincts, my history and, most importantly to me, my son. That is what is important to me, he is who is important to me. As Dr. Christiane Northrup said, "“When we trust the makers of baby formula more than we do our own ability to nourish our babies, we lose a chance to claim an aspect of our power as women. Thinking that baby formula is as good as breast milk is believing that thirty years of technology is superior to three million years of nature’s evolution. Countless women have regained trust in their bodies through nursing their children, even if they weren’t sure at first that they could do it. It is an act of female power, and I think of it as feminism in its purest form.” Feminism.

Never before had I ever thought much about my power as a woman, but think about it. I am incredible. I can give life. I nurture and strengthen a human being with my body. I have the power to chase away sleepy-time monsters with a single touch of my strong, feminine hand. I have the power to ease the pain and fear of a fall with my strong, but soft arms. I have the power to immunize him from illness with nourishment from my breasts. I am a powerful woman, mother, and feminist. Feminism.

I have made sacrifices to become the mother that I want to be. That doesn't mean I've sacrificed myself. We all set our priorities and make sacrifices based upon them. It was important to me to stay home with my son instead of returning to work. My choice. My other choice - getting rid of my car, cutting down on what I saw as extraneous expenditures, doing with less "stuff." All my choices made with the freedoms I take and exercise. Feminism. As Elaine Heffner said, "Women do not have to sacrifice personhood if they are mothers. They do not have to sacrifice motherhood in order to be persons. Liberation was meant to expand women's opportunities, not to limit them. The self-esteem that has been found in new pursuits can also be found in mothering." Feminism.

I recently read an amazing post from Barrel of Oranges that sums up why I am both a genital integrity advocate and feminist and why the two go hand in hand. I cannot speak on the topic with anywhere near the eloquence or authority that she does, but here's where I stand: feminism is about equality equity for everyone, so why would that not extend to genitalia? I cannot, for the life of me, understand why I would send the message to my (or anyone else's) son that we should all be treated with equity, we should be respectful of everyone's bodies, everyone deserves protection from those who wish to treat them unfairly except for when it comes to your penis. What sense does that make? If I hope to send the message (and I do) that we are all deserving of equity regardless of genitalia, then I have to work to protect said genitalia for everyone. Feminism.

According to a recent study in Sex Roles, feminists are more likely to be on board with Attachment Parenting than their non-feminist counterparts. Why this is was not readily clear, but the two do, indeed, go hand-in-hand for me. They came naturally to me. I wish for the world to be a fair place in which my son, his peers, and their descendents can live with all the rights, freedoms, and choices they deserve. Whether my child is male or female is irrelevant to this, because feminism isn't about women - it is about equity for everyone. Feminism.

Bottom line: yes, I can be and am a feminist and a Zen Parent. In fact, I know no other way.

Originally published by Our Muddy Boots.


  1. This is a fantastic post! I am a feminist and a mother. I got the same question, particularly from feminists, when I told them I had a natural water birth and did exclusive breastfeeding during my little one's first 6 months. I also got that kind of question when people realized I was breastfeeding beyond that and kept on doing it for 2 years. Both giving birth naturally and breastfeeding were sources of empowerment for me. I was so surprised that I could do it! And it was a hard struggle having to keep a full time job and study and mother my little one as close to attachment parenting as I could and wanted to.
    So yes, feminism and attachment parenting can go hand in hand! One thing that made a difference for me: I have a great partner that participated in all this process, we worked as a team, and still do!
    Again, thanks for this post.

  2. An absolutely wonderful post that describes my feelings on the subject perfectly. Thank you for writing this.