Tag Archives: Books

The Medium vs. the Message

7 Oct

The other day I was reading a chapter by the translation scholar Luise von Flotow for my PhD. She is one of the bigwigs of feminist translation theory, and her chapter dealt with a German translation of Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology. She wasn’t a big fan of the translation for numerous reasons and noted that the translation was so difficult to read as the result of footnotes and explicated puns that German women formed reading groups in order to read the text together and discuss it.

It is important to note that the translator added all this paratextual material out of her admiration for the book – she wanted its German audience to be able to understand exactly what Mary Daly was saying even if some puns and phrases were difficult to bring across in another language.

While von Flotow acknowledged the translator’s laudable aim to educate women and make it possible for them to read this influential text in their own language, she made a very important point: the translator lost track of the text’s audience. Mothers rarely have the time for regular meetings, to sit down for a couple of hours, and to spend this time deciphering a complicated text. It might be a generalisation, but as someone who has struggled for months now to find time to go to the gym (no excuse), I think it’s true to a large extent. I don’t mean to insinuate that women can’t cope with complicated texts, it’s just that sometimes you need to cook dinner, sort out Dr’s appointments, perhaps it’s someone’s birthday, then a child is unwell… This problem is multiplied when a group of women all need to find time to attend meetings. So texts which can be read quickly are more convenient.

Enter The Internet. Twitter and Facebook were the message-spreading tools of the protesters in Egypt and the rioters in the UK. One of my friends is even writing her MA dissertation on this subject, that’s how effectively they worked. And I would say that is also how they are being used by feminists and mothers: I see breastfeeding advice by trained IBCLC every day on Twitter, birth stories encourage women to attempt a VBAC, or forego an induction; when a mother is prevented from breastfeeding her baby in public, the story is immediately circulated so action can be taken.

Obviously books are still important, and I would love it if there was a feminist mothers’ discussion group in my town! But at the same time, the internet has done a lot for women.

I’m not sure what I mean to say with this post really. Mostly I wanted to bring von Flotow’s realisation to your attention because it is a good point.

Intriguing New Book About Mothering

11 Sep

During our undergraduate days my then-fiancé and I had a tradition of spending one weekday morning every week sitting in our university’s guild of students reading the paper. At lunchtime we would have a pannini (then a novel and highly exciting foodstuff) and then go to our seminars. Nowadays, sadly, I don’t have time to read newspapers, so when I have a minute here and there I catch up with the Guardian on my phone.

That’s how today, while waiting for my soup to warm up, I came across this article about Naomi Stadlen‘s new book. I’d been intrigued by her previous book What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing for a while as it usually comes highly recommended by Mumsnetters and, again, the Guardian. Of course the title is just brilliant, making you wonder if reading the book will finally give you an explanation as to why you feel so knackered all the time.

What I really like about the review of Stadlen’s new book is that the significance of mothering is highlighted while the necessity of a father’s love is also acknowledged. Annalisa Barbieri, who wrote the review, notes the curious popularity of the term ‘parenting’. It might be easy to slide down the slippery slope of generalisations when talking about what mothers are like, what they do, and what they should do compared with fathers. All families are different. But I’m really glad that attention is given to the role which mothering, a mother’s love, plays in a child’s life because while most Western societies have evolved past the nuclear family of a SAHM/WOHD, in my view, mothers still play a special role, and this shouldn’t be forgotten (Stadlen has more detail regarding this on her website). I think I’ll have to order both of these books to find out more.

Reading Recommendations

14 Jul

When I posted this the other day, I really wanted to include more information in case someone suffering from Hyperemesis comes across my blog. One book I am definitely planning to read before my next pregnancy (whenever that will be) is Ashli Foshee-McCall’s Beyond Morning Sickness: Battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum. At over 500 pages this book promises to be very useful to women in a variety of awful situations. According to the table of contents on the author’s website, it includes the author’s own experience with HG in her four pregnancies, and personal stories of several women. There is also an overview of available treatment. The book is aimed at American readers, so not all of it will be possible to put into practice in the UK, and the names of some medications are different here. It was written in consultation with a doctor, and would be, I imagine, a useful tool in convincing UK doctors to work out a reliable treatment plan.

The same author has also written a children’s book: Mama Has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (But Only for a While), which seems like such a good idea for Hyperemesis sufferers who also have to worry about older children.

I can’t recommend the HER Foundation enough, it really is a useful resource, albeit aimed at an American readership. Though the Blooming Awful website (similar to the HER Foundation, but in the UK) seems to have shut down, there still seems to be a Yahoo Group.

What is Feminist Mothering?

19 Apr

I am working on Blue Milk’s 10 Questions about Feminist Mothering at the moment, but my responses keep getting longer and longer, so that I’m considering posting each response as a separate post here and sending her short summaries in order not to clutter up her (brilliant) blog.

Here is my take on some of the more fundamental questions:

What makes your mothering feminist?  

My parenting is informed by feminism, which means that I try to be aware of ways in which little girls and boys are treated differently and how educators might try to shape my daughter’s life in ways which differ from how they would guide a boy. Toys are sometimes just toys, but if a girl is encouraged to dress up as a princess, play with dolls and even make-up and receives a toy iron for Christmas while her brother gets to dress up as a fireman, play with meccano and receives a doctors kit, surely they are both sent a very specific message.

I don’t tend to ‘girliefy’ my daughter, in fact most of the time I don’t even think of her in a particularly gendered way, which has really surprised me. She is just a child who has interests and likes to explore new things. She can pretend to be a princess if she wants to when she is older, but I will make sure to read her Mary Hoffman‘s Princess Grace about a princess who doesn’t just sit around wearing pink dresses while waiting for a prince to do lots of exciting things and rescue her.

In addition, I think that the types of relationships you model to your children can also play a part in how they see gender role divisions. If daddy makes all the decisions and mummy has more of a care-taker role, this is probably likely to influence the children’s behaviour in their own relationships later on.

How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s?

A non-feminist mother might not start from a position of thinking that the world is inherently biased against women and that the balance needs to be redressed constantly through everyday choices. I see feminist mothers as people who generally question most things, and when I think of the people I know who are definitely not feminists (by their own admission), they don’t tend to evaluate what goes on around them quite so much. But I don’t know if it’s possible to generalise in this way.

How does feminism impact upon your parenting?

I’m not sure about how feminist my parenting is at the moment, I tend to think that it might matter more when my daughter gets older and differences in expected behaviour become more pronounced. What I do pay attention to, as I have a background in literature and linguistics, is the representation of characters in books. So for example, in my daughter’s Ladybird touchy feely book of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it is Daddy Bear who is mentioned first, and he decides that the porridge is too hot and that the bears will go for a walk. In our version, Mummy Bear is always mentioned first, and she makes the porridge and walk-related choices. I don’t know if this will make any kind of difference, but – why not do it anyway? My daughter’s current favourite book is Peepo. But it’s about a little boy, and she’s a girl, so in order to fight against the generic masculine and to prevent my daughter from feeling excluded from the male-dominated literary canon, I read Peepo as if it were about a little girl:

Here’s a little baby,

one, two, three,

stands in her cot,

what does she see?

Of course, this becomes difficult towards the end of the book because of the rhyme scheme:

He sees the landing mirror

with its rainbow rim

and a mother with a baby

just like him.

Her doesn’t rhyme with ‘rim’, so what to do? I haven’t been able to come up with a mirror-related word which rhymes with ‘her’. Then it crossed my mind that I could simply read ‘rim’ and ‘her’ anyway because the slight jarring of the break in the rhyme scheme would make it obvious that something is going on and prompt people to think. It probably won’t be noticeable for children, but it’s entertaining for the person reading the book, and when you have to read it several times a day every day, that counts for something.

In addition to this, I also plan to cut my daughter’s hair soon so that she does not have to wear hairclips all the time to keep her hair out of her eyes because it is just so much more practical that way. She’s only two years old, she doesn’t need accessories that take her attention away from exploring the world.

In conclusion, I suppose I would say that feminist mothering, in my case, means giving my daughter freedom to be herself and showing her that she is a fully valid member of society.