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Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 9:59 am 
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1 - Did you grow up hearing assumptions about your life as a female?
--No. My mother is a feminist and my father raised me to be more of a 'guy' than a girl. They were cool parents. I was raised to believe I could be whatever I wanted to be. My dream as a young kid was to be an ichthyologist--traveling Africa to study cichlids...not really a child friendly environment! That didn't happen, but they never tried to direct me to 'girly' things such as dolls, playing house, etc. I feel very lucky. My parents are kind of awesome.
2 - There are so many ways to bring meaning to a person's life - whether female or male. As a childfree woman, what are a couple of examples of moments in your life where you felt fulfilled, proud, intense joy, feeling like you'd touched someone's life?
--I volunteer with animals at the shelter and I've adopted two shelter pets. That made me feel really fulfilled and happy!


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Unread postPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:03 am 
In answer to question one - yes I certainly did grow up in the light of expectations re gender. My parents are very old, and they have old assumptions (I am middle-aged). It was expected that I would leave school as soon as I could, find what my mother called 'ever such a good job' (being a bank teller or a secretary to a male boss) find a man, marry, and have children, whilst being a housewife. This was drummed into me, whilst I was completely uninterested in most attributes of normative femininity. I thought I had to get married, though, as much as the idea was .. dull... because I thought that babies grew inside you and if you didn't have a husband when they did you would be an evil 'single mother'. Then one day I found a RTL pamphlet in the letterbox (I would have been about 7) that described different ways of getting rid of unwanted babies. I was hooked. I took it away and studied it until I found the method that I thought I'd use (It involved squirting toxic chemicals at the baby) if that happened to me. Problem solved. I then knew I didn't have to submit to marriage or children. Later, I found out how babies were made and breathed an even bigger sigh of relief! But it wasn't over then, I still had to fight to be allowed to finish school and sit the final exams. Eventually I did, with opposition, and I now have a PhD.

Oddly, I didn't end up doing with my life what I envisaged, despite my bloodymindedness. I have personally found it has not been that easy, and that I have faced discrimination as a woman and been 'gendered' whether I like it or not. I always fancied the hard sciences, but they were expensive to study, especially since I was not terribly good at maths, so I ended up with a Social Science major and all the prizes for all my years, yadda, yadda. In an academic career I have ended up in teaching, which I do love, even though research is more high profile, because I found that my still male dominated area didn't take women seriously as researchers (and still doesn't, thanks broodmoos, at least in part).

Have I touched others' lives? Yes I have, but I didn't mean to. I do think that as a human being one has an obligation to put a little something back, and to behave ethically, but that's as far as it goes. As said above, I have ended up as a teacher (in a university). This is weird. But, as such, I touch people's lives. My students are mostly non-traditional. Many are the single mothers, 'skeevy kids', chavs, whatever you want to call them that are so derided. Most have had cartloads of shit thrown at them in their lives. Many are functionally illiterate and have had illiterate parents. Most have been failed by a system that has bothered too much about their self-esteem and too little about helping them know themselves. Most other teachers have said / say 'poah dears, they have had a hard life they deserve to pass'. Then they end up in my classes where I will not pass them, where I expect them to do their best (and if it does not make the grade they still don't pass), but where I am willing to provide them with resources and work with them until they do make the grade. I am hated by many, I have to say, including my colleagues, but I do touch the lives of others who realise that for one of the first times in their lives they are actually experiencing something real and have the opportunity to really understand who they are and what their talents, and limits are. Scary stuff. Scary, because I am teaching a generation who has been effectively failed by parents and the education system. I have seen students turn from being functionally illiterate to turning in stellar papers. If I hadn't have pushed them no one would have. They'd have got through and never discovered what they could do. One of my proudest and soggiest moments was hearing third hand how my teaching had touched a young man who had had all that war can possibly throw at him and no education as a child. Through a comment on a paper he realised that what he had to do was to always push himself to do as best he could, and then more. I didn't pour pearls of wisdom in his head. I didn't teach him all he knew. All I said was that he should always do his best, and then some - and I didn't give him a sympathy pass either. Last I heard he was doing a masters. Of course I lose some too, its not all like this.

But I wanted to tell this story because what i think we can best offer young people today is not rights or flattery (I am with Socrates on that one), but a groundedness. So rather than 'you can be what you want to be' I'd suggest that parents instead work with the young people to help them figure out what they are good at, and what they are bad at, and what they are passionate about. I see so many fragile and broken egos. Students who are messes because they are simultaneously hearing "you are the moon and stars" and "sorry you didn't gain entry to x". Or, when they receive criticism, they end up with panic attacks (I am not exaggerating). Sometimes I think I see the ghosts of sacrificial mothers in my classroom too - the ones who invest all in little Mary such that her successes are theirs and her failures a blight on them. I also think this is important for parents of daughters, because I think that girls still do face 'gendering' and it takes a lot of fortitude and courage for a girl to become a woman in a fashion of her own choosing, instead of society's choosing. So, we can give girls all the choices we want, but we also, I think have to give them the courage and grounding to make these real.

Hope this makes sense - I'm ill at the moment and not doing much proofing.


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Unread postPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 1:38 pm 
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Dear Anon.Acad.
Your post made perfect sense to me, I hope you're feeling better soon. I will PM you so that our discussion doesn't overreach the topics that are of interest here. I just wanted to mention a book called "Generation Me" that absolutely supports all that you've said --- a generation that was told "you can be whatever" and caught up in "boosting esteem at all costs" and then they end up unemployed because they didn't hear/learn enough reality-based info.
With great thanks,
SWC

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Prejudices are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education. They grow there firm as weeds among stones -- Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre


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Unread postPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:21 pm 
Hi SWC I'm not a member of this board, so you won't be able to PM me. I just wanted to acknowledge your reply, though. I do know of that book, and think that Twenge has a point, although I do think that she sometimes makes some massive generalisations, relies on a narrow type of data set and focuses too much on the 'product' rather than the cultural processes that created it, contributing to the vilification of 'Gen Y' rather than those who 'created' them. This is a tangent, so I will keep it short, but I wrote what I wrote because it did strike me that raising a healthy, resilient and 'able' young women today is more than about telling them about 'choices', it is about preparing them for a world that has other expectations of women and one in which women who make unpopular choices are often vilified, shunned and sometimes, as a result, lonely. I wonder if you have read Michael Ungar's parenting books (he also writes for a professional audience). They are very good.


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Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 12:48 am 
1. Yes, I grew up with the assumption that I would get married and have kids. Every time that I misbehaved or complained to my mom about something, she replied with "wait until you have your own kids and you will understand..." or something along those lines. My dad always said that I needed to go to college and have a good career... in case I ever found myself without a husband for whatever reason I could take care of me AND my kids. My parents were always thinking about me and my future kids. I grew up never liking dolls or babies, but I assumed that one day my biological clock would start ticking. It never did. The more I was exposed to other people's kids, and seeing the struggles of my SIL with her kids made me realize that kids are optional. My parents now accept and even encourage my decision. However, coming from a Hispanic family, not many other family members are as accepting. I even have an uncle that asked me soon after I got married when am I having kids. He was horrified when I said never, to the point that he even told my dad to tell me that I'm making a mistake! Nosy jerk.... Fortunately dad told him he supports my choice.

2. I don't think I've "touched" any person's life, but I feel very fulfilled in my life right now. I was the first one in my family to go to college, and I managed to go to veterinary school. I love my job and I work full time at an animal shelter and rescue. It is non-profit, and non-profit means I don't make much money, but I love my job and I can stay there because I don't have kids. If I had kids, I would have to work at a place where I would make more money but I would hate more in order to support my kid(s). Not having kids gives me the freedom to follow my passion. My husband and I have a great relationship and we get to travel often and we feel like we are in a never ending honeymoon. I love the freedom and enjoying life 100%. I don't want to make sacrifices for a person I don't even know.


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Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:14 am 
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To Anon Acad. -- the focus of my book is absolutely "those who create the context" for women who are in anguish, confused, picked on, judged, bingo-d, etc. so I absolutely understand your critique of Twenge's "Generation Me." I will re-think my reference to Twenge in my book, but it is a phenomenon that's worthy of note....but to concede to reality, I recognize that there have always been people who think "me-first" and "my happiness trumps all." I don't want to digress, so I'll stop there. Thank you immensely for your feedback. I wish I could PM you, but alas, I hope you will see my book featured here someday and can reach out to me with your feedback at that time.
SWC

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Prejudices are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education. They grow there firm as weeds among stones -- Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre


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Unread postPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:29 pm 
@SWC - Thanks for your thanks. I just read your post on the main page of TCFL and I have some more thoughts. Way back when feminism was in its second wave still it was not taboo to talk about the lack of joy of motherhood (for some). I wonder if you have considered looking at a few of the texts from this era? Simone de Beauvoir comes to mind (The Second Sex), as does Shulamith Firestone (The Dialectic of Sex). Both of these authors were very 'anti-motherhood'. Firestone described childbirth as like shitting a pumpkin, from memory. Then there were others, Ann Oakley and Shelia Kitzinger, for example, who were mothers and who wrote more about ambivalence and ambiguity and how one the main constraints was the patriarchal definition of motherhood (for those who chose it). Dorothy Dinnerstein and Nancy Chodorow wrote about the way that mothers reproduce sexist / patriarchal assumptions, etc. You might also find Mary O'Brien and Juliet Mitchell interesting for different reasons. One of the aspects I find interesting here is the way that feminism once challenged both what motherhood was (employing a social constructionist view they considered motherhood as limiting because of the definition and expected role of 'mother') and also that motherhood should be women's destiny. Then, around 1990, there seemed to be a backlash to this thinking. I honestly think we regressed somewhat. Women once again became venerated as mothers, whilst at the same time the construction of this role became limiting (women were expected to be yummy mummies, milfs, and Suzy Homemaker all in one, the cynical amongst us might say that once again they were expected to be a lady in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom). After the backlash it became taboo to talk both about the social sin of not wanting to be a mother and about not wanting to conform to society's view of motherhood. My honest view is that if we are concerned for the 'liberation' of young women today that as well as challenging the idea that motherhood is women's natural destiny (again), that we also need to challenge how motherhood has become defined.


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Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 6:52 am 
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1 - Did you grow up hearing assumptions about your life as a female? E.g. people in your life just assuming that you would become a mother someday.

Not so much growing up, people were more interested in shoving the univeristy degree = successful career = happiness concept down my throat. As soon as I got out into the working world though, this assumption has been prevalent, presumably because I am now at an age where it would be socially acceptable to pop kids out.

2 - There are so many ways to bring meaning to a person's life - whether female or male. As a childfree woman, what are a couple of examples of moments in your life where you felt fulfilled, proud, intense joy, feeling like you'd touched someone's life?

My pets bring me a lot of happiness. 3 of the 4 of them are rescues so seeing them happy and healthy and cared for is very fulfilling for me. We've had the non-rescue since he was a puppy and it's been rewarding putting him through training and knowing that he is much better behaved than he otherwise would have been without training. I like that with pets you get back what you put in whereas you can give everything to a kid and have it all be for absolutely nothing.


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Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 5:26 pm 
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Anon Acad. -- I greatly appreciate the thought you put into your post and your guidance. I actually wish we were PM'ing, but for the sake of open discussion, let me say that I am absolutely addressing the history of the pendulum (and patriarchal influences). I don't want to re-create a book that's already out there that does this -- Judith Warner's Perfect Madness, but she does it in a way that still assumes motherhood--she wants motherhood to work better and states time and again that the way motherhood is set up in America is flawed. Same assumption, but wants a different template (laws, workplace flexibility, etc.). I don't believe there is a perfect solution other than to say that we are all individuals. That no one has any business defining what someone's life should look like.

Here's the thing about history....each generation disregards what the last generation went thru. I, for one, was married in 1980. I was never educated about the women's rights movement of the 60's, I was a kid. And the assumptions were just there, firmly rooted in the psyches of everyone around me. My life plan was designed without picking up a drafting pencil. In short, how do we keep the lessons of the past alive? Hopefully, by writing a treatise that is fair, to the point, concise, and hopefully draws audiences from both sides. We're talking emotions here so not everyone will be happy. I strive for more open minds and open hearts, even if the door gets opened just a crack wider, it would be better than status quo.

Thank you again. We can take this off-line with my email holmesauthor11@gmail.com

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Prejudices are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education. They grow there firm as weeds among stones -- Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre


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Unread postPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 4:30 pm 
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1 - Did you grow up hearing assumptions about your life as a female? E.g. people in your life just assuming that you would become a mother someday.

Yes. I had sex ed classes, one could argue more factual than others, but in every single one of them, the lifescript that was given to us was sex=babies and babies ideally come after marriage. Homosexuality was never mentioned in any of them. Not having children was never mentioned in any of them either. When it came to discussing contraception, it was described as "a way for a woman to chose WHEN she wants to have children and how many." Never "IF." Always "When."

I can't even put my finger on "when" it was decided (for me) that I was going to have children. It was just always there. I was actually putting off marriage as late as I possibly could because I felt like getting married would mark when I would have to have children, and having children felt like the end of life to me. It felt like a small death. And I wanted to avoid that until the last possible moment. I wanted to preserve my quality of life, as I wanted it, for as long as I could.

Of course, this made me terrified that I would never get married because no man would ever want me unless I could give him kids. I was quite relieved when I discovered that not having kids IS an option, and, the best part, there are other people who feel that way too, and I met someone who loves me more than hypothetical children.


2 - There are so many ways to bring meaning to a person's life - whether female or male. As a childfree woman, what are a couple of examples of moments in your life where you felt fulfilled, proud, intense joy, feeling like you'd touched someone's life?

When I was invited to my friend Victoria's wedding. She had a very small wedding and was only able to invite about 30 people total. Making the cut of that invite list made me so happy. She had a beautiful wedding and I was thrilled to be there to see it.

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If you look like you can be taken advantage of, don't act like it, because then you will be.


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