Trying to break down my experience of white privilege

This was always going to be difficult to write because anyway I try to formulate an argument, it ultimately ends up being paradoxical, yet another white girl adding her resoundingly privileged left-wing voice into an already flooded realm of anti-Trump protestations

This year I have had the great privilege to study race, as not just the historical black and white story of oppression, but the ways that I have studied race have always been more politically and socially focussed, whereas now the idea of race has been shifted and has become more abstract and conceptual. We look at the idea of whiteness, whiteness being this figure of undermining privilege, the logic  and reasoning behind colonialism, and its something I’ve really enjoyed studying, but when it comes to the commentary, and taking what I have learnt outside of the realm of academics and into a more social commentary perspective I’ve begun to analyse whether or not I, as someone blessed with many of the privileges of whiteness, can comment on the injustices of oppressed minority communities I witness in the media, without the invocation of my own white privilege.

The issue of whiteness is something very much applicable to the Black Lives Matter vs the All Lives Matter movement on social media. The reason there is a necessity for the Black Lives Matter movement is that yes all lives matter, but in many circumstances, the evidence is clear, for whatever reason, black lives seem to matter less, you just have to look at prison, poverty, progression, employability statistics to see that. In a fight for equality, the Black Lives Matter movement is crucial as it highlights the injustices and institutionalised racism that many of just accept. These are my opinions, but they are the opinions of a white girl, and does that matter? I am not the victim of this injustice but I see the injustice and want to speak out against them.

I am a white female, and as such, I have been afforded the vast majority of privileges that being white has afforded me, and perhaps the ultimate privilege being that up until very recently I have not noticed. Being white means I am less questioned, less scrutinised, less judged. I have a warm home despite my status as a young mother because at least I am a white young mother, yes? Maybe, who knows. The fact is it is very difficult to understand barriers that exist when you have never come up against them yourself. I am not enlightened, how can I fully understand the depth of the struggles that POC face daily, and how can I ally myself alongside them.

So where to begin, how do I use what I know, what I read, what I see, what I believe is right and wrong, and spread that message, I wish to ally myself alongside those who suffer and fear they will suffer under the rising right-wing white supremacist attitudes, I want people to know that despite my position, my education, the colour of my skin, that I do not agree with what they believe in, UKIP and Trump are not what I am. I believe in multiculturalism, in the freedom of expression and equality for all regardless of race, so how do I say this without using my whiteness to do so? Well, hopefully by successfully behaving as an ally to the Anti-Trump, Anti-Brexit “48%ers”, and to the LGBTQ, and ethnic minorities who feel threatened by the latest wave of whiteness.

Do so by promoting the voices of those unheard, share their stories, spread their voice, show your support. Try to use social media platforms as a way of drawing attention to others and not just yourself. People in power get cited as experts on marginalised people’s experiences because they’re considered “unbiased.” You can help push back against this faulty paradigm by insisting marginalised people are the experts on their own lives and the issues that affect them. By getting into the habit of sharing articles and publications and poetry and art by people of colour and most importantly buy their books and link to them on Facebook or Twitter. Make sure their thoughts and perspectives and ideas and analyses reach audiences who might not have had access to them otherwise. Share ideas and articles on intersectionality, black feminism, supporting immigrants, queer and trans writing, and include current statistical analysis to provide depth and validity to your arguments.

Spread the message of equality in the white community, no use preaching to the choir, challenge those people you meet; perhaps families and friends whose attitudes challenge your won, the conversation begins with you and you have the ability to challenge any racism you come across within your own social circles, what is equality without diverse social cohesion? If we look at the statistics it is the white 65+ community whose voice is being heard, so talk to your parents/grandparents about politics, feminism, religious tolerance and LGBTQ rights.

Is the Male Abortion okay?

This is a blog post that’s been lingering in the back of mind for some time now, It’s a question of forced paternity really, what should or shouldn’t men do when they come up against the ultimate life-changing experience, an unexpected, unplanned and unwanted pregnancy and why some people take it upon themselves to decide what the right or wrong reaction to such a situation is. I am a feminist, and an avid supporter of pro-choice under any circumstance. Women should have the right to their own bodies, to choose who what where when and why they have children, they should be given the authority over their own womb, as, contrary to some belief, pregnancies can and do frequently happen accidentally as contraception does in some cases fail to what it says on the proverbial tin.

Yet feminism and society, in general, are biased towards the male experience of an unwanted pregnancy. Why, if the women are allowed to decide what is right for her, are men not granted the same agency? Or maybe they are, but this is a topic largely un-discussed, what are a man’s options when he is faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Ultimately the outcome is linked to the mother. If she too does not want to go through with the pregnancy then the situation is simple, but if she wishes to continue with the pregnancy what options does the men have. It seems to me that he has 3 options, the first I define as the Male Abortion So essentially the complex question I wish to ask is, Is the male abortion okay? The male abortion being the ability for a man to decide he does not want the baby he has accidentally created and to be supported and empowered in doing so. The second option is the Absent Father, he has no relationship with the mother but does see his offspring and has some interaction with their life on a largely uncommitted basis, the mother being the primary carer and he being anything from a secondary carer to a card in the post on a birthday. The final option is the Fatherhood by Duty, this is based upon the conservative belief and expectation that the male is obliged to “step up” and against his will be the father figure, he is expected to sacrifice his dreams for his child, this appears to be the dominant rhetoric for fatherhood, and I have seen many instances where this has been successful, one of those unexpected ways that life just sort of falls into place despite an unexpected beginning. However, there are many instances where the resentment and the responsibility of an unwanted pregnancy can become too much and in this, we see the horribly named ‘deadbeat dad’, an inconsistent unreliable member of the babies life. With such a diverse range of outcomes of an unexpected pregnancy, why is it that we view only some as acceptable.

I am interested in this dilemma as I personally have the experience of this definition of the male abortion. I chose to continue with a pregnancy that my (at the time) partner did not want. He and his family severed all ties and physically distanced themselves. He had no experience of the pregnancy past the 10 week point, he is not on the birth certificate and has never made any contact with his biological son. At the time this rejection of myself and my unborn child was absolutely devastating, It felt like the ultimate heartbreak and his decision would leave emotional scars for myself but also a lifetime of unanswered questions for the baby I was carrying. So why am I arguing for even the debate on the Male Abortion, well I believe that there are some fundamental differences between motherhood and fatherhood, past the conception the fate of the unborn child is ultimately either nature or the mother’s decision and despite the male expression of being either positive or negative about the pregnancy he can do nothing physically to enforce this to happen.

I have found that after a significant amount of time has passed, after the juvenile hysterical drama has died down and as my own ideologies and political alignment to feminism has grown I’ve had to reassess some the inequalities of expectation I placed upon someone who did not want to become a father. I believe that in the name of true equality his decision is to be absolutely respected, he knew he wasn’t ready and chose what he and his family believed was the right decision at the time. This decision was brave in its own right, he went against the narrative of “duty” and “what is right” to choose what was right for him and his career, something that pro-choicer’s like myself argue as  one of the many perfectly valid reason for abortion.

The greatest difference perhaps between the Female Abortion and the Male Equivalent is what happens once that decision is made. For a woman she end the pregnancy, there is no baby and granted, very respectfully so, that the emotional recovery can take an indefinite amount of time, for the male, once he makes the decision the woman still has the child, that child exists and it is that, that which is the difficult part. At some part I will have to explain the situation, but how do you explain to a child/teen/adult that someone specifically chose to remove themselves from your life, because it takes a very mature person to understand the reasoning behind that decision.

So, Is it okay? How do we balance morality, fatherhood, and what we believe is right or wrong? Is there a right or wrong, and is our interpretation of pregnancy biased either towards the man or the woman, and how do we cope with the consequences. For now, I have no answers, just the knowledge that more conversations of this nature need to happen, that we need to reassess the dialogues of fault and responsibility surrounding unplanned pregnancy in the name of equality, choice, and wellbeing.

Little Lullaby Trust

When I was pregnant I tried to find support out there for younger mums, particularly for young mums in higher education, I came up with very little, nothing concrete or coercive, nothing that was practical with regards to finance and communication, nothing that told me about all the little pockets of money that are available for people in my situation. So I got in touch with the Little Lullaby Trust to hopefully provide this information for other mums, pass on the wisdom and challenge the young mum stereotype!

This is the link to my article on there page: https://littlelullaby.org.uk/applying-university-young-mum/

 

Teaching A Modern Masculinity, the future of masculinity is in our hands

When I become a parent, being as young as I was I don’t think I had quite contemplated the depth of responsibility that I was walking into and the world in which my child would be entering. If the baby I was carrying was a girl she would face a world where women are still paid 72 cents to the American Dollar, where her place although no longer at home is still defined and debated by men and the government still insists on retaining ownership over her womb. As it so happens he was born a boy, well in any case a child with male genitals and until he was able to tell me otherwise I would be raising a young man, one who would come to define modern masculinity in his own sense, but one who also required me teach him about the values of a modern masculinity. I believe that it is our responsibility, of the millennials, to raise a new generation of children who are allowed to define a masculinity not based in traditions of physical strength, emotional toughness, duty, loyalty, honour, action

Perhaps this is the first issue to address, our binary concepts of gender need to be acknowledged as backwards and restrictive. Russell Brand talks of raising his child as ‘gender neutral’ to not tell his child about the gender roles that have constructed for them. I believe that although perhaps idealistic, maybe as a concept, it should be acknowledged as an ideal to move towards. It is impossible to deny that gender roles for our children exist, they are surrounded by it constantly and (unless you can afford to live in a rather upper/middle-class rural bubble) our children have to interact with this construction daily. However, perhaps the key idea of a new masculinity is to try and reinforce the idea that it is okay for your child to move between these distinct boundaries, that he does not have to be defined by the existing construction of masculinity, that he doesn’t have to be emotionally stunted, or strong, that he can cry if he wants too and not be ashamed to be different.

Masculinity at the moment is so narrowly defined, the media shows images of hyper-masculinity, oiled, tanned, muscled, macho, with the means and affluence to sweep his woman off her feet, take care of her, provide for their family. It leaves very scope for young boys to look at themselves and be okay with being different. The superheroes we encourage little boys to make their role modeller the epitome of a forced masculinity, we need to diversify this role model and provide alternative role models…. LGBTQ men, men of all sizes, cultures, backgrounds, disabilities as sources of inspiration for our children.

So how do I intend to instil these values into my son, well I intend to do very little actively, he will be encouraged to share his feelings, he will be acknowledged and heard, he will be reassured that whatever he feels is okay, and he will not be given a gendered limitation on activities, clothes, toys, on anything, his choices will be acknowledged and supported thoroughly. He will, I am sure, when he goes to school, and any time he interacts with society feel the pressure and the weight of masculine values. He will be told to “man up” that “boys don’t cry” that “he can’t wear that, that for girls”

Masculinity has many flaws, and often those who represent masculine ideals have done so through the belittling of others, as if in order to keep masculinity as the ultimate pinnacle of what it is to be a man. Masculinity is one of those entities like whiteness that is something that can only be obtained by the chosen few, and the majority of men can only ever yearn to be such a figure. Donald Trump is a man who is defined by his masculinity, his unwavering stance on abortion, immigration and suspicion of anyone who is another to him, including Muslims and women. He has been heard to brag about sexually assaulting women, as a child the message is clear, masculinity mean you have a certain amount of authority and entitlement, this entitlement is reinforced by centuries of male cultural domination, and quite frankly stayed static in a world where other aspects of gender, race and culture have developed, this development means that masculinity represents an era that  no longer exists. Donald Trump is a fossil and emblem of masculinity from a bygone era but he appeals to the conservative nature of man beings unwilling to let go of the idea that the past is safe and the future, the future for our children is so strange and new that it’s simply can’t possibly be good.

If we, the millennials embrace this strange new world and redefine masculinity by modern standards, that of no real standard, a masculinity that belongs to the individual upon their terms, not on terms set by others. There is no one size fits all definition of masculinity. If my son chooses to define his masculinity in the pursuit of a career of bodybuilding, or as an army sergeant or as anything that traditional masculine values encompass, then I am determined that his decision will be not be based upon external pressures but on a decision that is purely his.

Why I’m raising my son to be a feminist

Feminism is a somewhat controversial issue, many adults can’t seem to quite grasp the idea that something called feminism does not automatically mean anti-male. Feminism is about equality. Feminism is an interdisciplinary approach to issues of equality and equity based on gender, gender expression, gender identity, sex, and sexuality as understood through social theories and political activism. Historically, feminism has evolved from the critical examination of inequality between the sexes to a more nuanced focus on the social and performative constructions of gender and sexuality. Feminist theory now aims to interrogate inequalities and inequities along the intersectional lines of ability, class, gender, race, sex, and sexuality, and feminists seek to affect change in areas where these intersectionalities create power inequity. I believe that we should utilise our time at University to have Intellectual and academic discussion about how these inequities impact our society. This allows us to go into the world aware of injustices and to work toward changing unhealthy dynamics in any scenario.

For me it’s crucial that my son is aware of the campaigns in areas such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, fairness, social justice, and workplace issues such as family medical leave, equal pay, and sexual harassment and discrimination.

Anytime stereotyping, objectification, infringements of human rights, or intersectional oppression occurs, it’s a feminist issue, so you might ask yourself why is it important for a young boy to tackle issues that focus primarily upon women right. It is crucial because our generation has the opportunity to break the cycle of internalised misogyny. If we reiterate the importance of consent, we will not be the parents of another generation of Brock Turners. If we teach our sons that it is okay to have feelings, that it’s okay to cry and to express your feelings then perhaps we can begin to tackle the horrific stigma surrounding male mental health and the high suicide rates. My son will not be told that he has to fit into a box regarding sexuality, gender identity or gender roles. He will be given every opportunity within my power to make informed decisions about his future in the full knowledge that feminist values are what guides.

It is truly astounding the levels of which children are being exposed to gender stereotypes at such a young age, the superhero outfits containing padded muscles reinforce the idea that to be a superhero a child must be a certain body shape. The length of shorts in the “girls” section compared to the “boys” section are indicative of the ways which girls are sexualised and taught that they should show more of their body to others than boys.

On a practical day to day level, I instil feminist values into my son by making the conscious decision to not label clothes, toys, activities, interests as either for ‘boys’ or for ‘girls’ in the hope that as he grows he applies this to his own personal ethos and perception of others. We discuss the physical differences between males and females under the premise that these differences are neither limitations nor indicators of our gender. For now, they simply serve a practical function and questions are okay. In general myself and my partner reassure that anything he wishes to do is okay, as long as it is not at the expense of others, It’s just as okay to enjoy wearing princess dresses, like pink, paint your nails as much as it is to enjoy playing with dinosaurs, trucks and lego.

I hope that as he grows he will be infinitely more comfortable with who he is, and how he defines masculinity for himself, that he won’t be hung up on how others perceive him or what “they” think he should be, he’s happy being the exact kind of person that he is.

 

Not not being a mum

I have no problem being a mother, it’s not not being a mother which is the hard thing. As soon as you become a parent there is a list of things you are suddenly not allowed to be, its as if you’re not allowed to feel things, to be completely and utterly your own person, your worth as a person does not expand, in many ways, you become 30% you and 70% another person. They are all consuming and fill every part of your mind and space.

I am acutely aware of all the things I’m not doing, the experiences I’m not having, i’ve not been me ever really… Parenthood leaves no room for spontaneity, for flexibility, for suddenly deciding to go on a romantic weekend break and not opening the curtains for 48 hours, for taking evening cookery/creative writing/language courses, just being able to pop to the pub whenever you like without having to pull favours. For not going days without speaking to another adult, being able to work unsociable hours without impacting another persons childhood, walks at midnight aimlessly around a city centre just because you can and want to. Why does being a parent stop you from wanting to do those things, truth be told it doesn’t, why would it? Having a child doesn’t stop you from being you, they change your perspective, enlighten you even! They show you the true meaning of love and sacrifice, but oh truly what a sacrifice it is.

It’s a sacrifice not taken lightly, and it didn’t come without pre-warning, but people tried to tell me, they did, when i first fell pregnant, they tried to tell me what i’d be missing out on, but I was 17 and didn’t really know what I would be missing out on, but now its different, now I do know, well to a greater extent anyway, what I’m truly missing out on, and it’s being me, purely me. In many ways I think I didn’t want to believe what everyone was saying, as if that would somehow make it easier, if I didn’t believe them when they told me what I would be missing out on.

I am not ungrateful or resentful about having Arlo, I want to make that incredibly clear. He is the light of my life but I am more than simply Arlo’s mum, but being a mum doesn’t make the rest of the world disappear. I can see it, I can see my friends spending months travelling to China, Vietnam, India, Japan, Peru, Canada. I see the opportunities and experiences they have, from my bed at 8pm with a packet of Doritos as a sort out another load of washing and clear away the toys and do the washing up. But perhaps the worst part is is that I don’t really see a flicker of empathy, my feelings aren’t questioned because I have Arlo and thats that, I’m not allowed to feel envious of others because that would make me a truly terrible parent, as if by acknowledging my feelings my integrity as a mother is questioned. It however is not, I have faith in myself and in Arlo, and in my ability to parent successfully, but there will always be a part of me that knows how much i’ve missed and that part is worth acknowledging.

I am not 30% of a person and having a child does not stop me from having dreams or ambitions and a certain amount of sadness in my life. I want more than I have now and I still want to do everything I want to do. I want to travel, be spontaneous and inappropriate without being judged for being a bad mother for either doing it or wanting to do it.

I have to believe that it will all happen, that I will get to do all these things when Arlo is grown up, I think I need to because if I didn’t I would maybe have to come to terms with the true limitations of the parenting lifestyle. But on the other hand I couldn’t wait for University, I couldn’t put my dreams on hold then I put a 14 month old into full time nursery possibly against my best interest, so logically I’ve proven that I am not prepared to put Arlo’s needs ahead of my own. But why should I, do we as parents have to put our lives on hold for our children? Is that part of our responsibility? One day, y’know, one day I will have that freedom, as long as I’m rich, don’t have any other children, or a mortgage, and a very very understanding son who gets why his mother needs to  have a belated midlife crisis and disappear for a while sometime in his mid twenties.

Once more unto the breach dear friends!

So the time is approaching once more, for what may well be the final time. I always find the last 2 weeks before Uni begins difficult. You have to focus on the oncoming storm; get the bus/train pass, sort student finance, apply and chase up all the individual grants and pockets of money that helps to keep your head above water, and while your doing this your noticing how much your time is being taken away from the small person who has been your sole focus for the past 3/4 months. I’ve used the time over summer to reconnect with Arlo, it feels like I’m refuelling, soaking up as much time with him as I possibly can in order to make sure I can get through the next intense 8/9 months. I guess that sounds all a bit melodramatic but I am so worried about not being able to properly switch off once I go back, that in some form or another I’ll be caught up in the cycle of researching and reading.

Because this time I am not a fresher, or a second year I am a final year student, the light is beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel. I’ve begun the pre-reading, the discussion and preparation of what will be my dissertation (eek) I can see it all there ready and waiting for it just simply has to be done, physically written and examined.

What’s even more terrifying is the prospect of this journey actually ending, and the realisation that my university bubble is going to pop, granted my university bubble has perhaps more responsibilities than most but it is a bubble, I have long holidays, flexible nursery times and I choose how I spend my days, whether in the library or at home. Studying is difficult but I fear an actual (full time) job will be significantly harder. When I started my Uni my goal was to graduate, in fact even before Arlo when asked what I wanted to do when I grew up I said, go to Uni and stay there. I’ve never had any real idea of what I wanted to do past finishing my degree and now , now that is effectively the oncoming train blocking the light at the end of my tunnel.

I guess also part of me believed that when I fell pregnant I had to somehow give up on my dreams, something I think societally women are told they can’t do. We are chided if we decide to try and continue our careers alongside having children as if our own ambitions are somehow worth less because we have our children to think about. Female politicians, for example, are criticised for being ‘childless’ in pursuit of their careers but then slandered for leaving their children at home in the hand of others while they commute to London and spend Mon-Fri there. Drawing from this I’ve begun to realise that you know what, why should I believe that my academic career has a limitation simply because I have a child, and that pursuing my dreams; of a Masters and PhD with hopes of becoming a lecturer/writer/journalist of some kind. So with that in mind, the Master’s degree application has indeed begun, but it’s been so long since I’ve written a personal statement I have literally no idea where to start but I’m sure it’ll be fine.

The suspense is difficult, the unknowns, I am a worrier by nature, I know I am acutely stronger than I realise and no matter what I will cope, you do don’t you, you just get on with it, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Having said all of that I do love a challenge so here to rising to it, Have faith will conquer!