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Another Child Post!

I know I said, back when I first posted on the birth of my child, that I would write about revolutionary parenthood on another blog.  The problem, however, is that this other blog has failed to develop; the other two parents involved, who have more experience than me, haven't yet posted anything.  And since parenthood has now become a massive part of my life, I cannot just pretend that it does not exist.  No, I'm not planning on making these kinds of posts normative here (really, this is mainly just pressure to launch that other blog), but I feel like, in lieu of a proper platform, I should write something about my the importance of raising a child as a communist.

First of all, I feel the need to discuss the problem of raising a child who is nominally a girl (because she has two x chromosomes and because of this will be socialized as "female" and thus will be perceived as "female" until if and when she decides otherwise) in the context of the vestigial ideological determination of patriarchy.  For even if my daughter ends up establishing that she is not a daughter and adopts the identity of a trans man rather than a cis woman, until this possible moment emerges she will be socialized as a she by family members and society as a whole.  And since there are serious and chauvinist problems associated with the gender socialization of perceived female subjects, my child is already facing an uphill battle.

This picture is two months out of date, and she looks differently now,  but I just felt the need to post it due to the communist onesie!

In my initial post about my kid I jokingly complained about the more banal aspects of gender socialization such as the colour pink and girly-girl clothing.  Unfortunately, we have been unable to avoid colourization and now are awash with pink and gendered clothing.  And since we have to be careful with money, as much as we would like to dress our child eternally in gender neutral clothing we are also more than happy to accept free clothing from otherwise well-meaning family members who have so far been providing a wardrobe for our kid––indeed, we haven't bought any clothing for our daughter so far and are admittedly happy to have avoided this expense.

(But thankfully we have also received free clothing from our friends and comrades who have handed down the boy-gendered clothing of their kids and so our child has as many boy overalls as she does girl dresses!  Yay for variety!  Unfortunately, our child is now wearing a pink fun-furry winter cap for her outdoor walks––but this is only because we can't find the brown hat with bear ears that we would otherwise prefer and vanished in the mess that is our house last week.)

So at this point we are less annoyed with the pink (hey, pink is also the radical queer colour) or dresses and skirts (combine them with some other colours and punk neckerchiefs and we've got riot grrl fashion!) than we are with the whole princess/ballerina bullshit.  Economic necessity and exhaustion forces you to sift through the gifts, recognize that it is idealist to hold out against a certain level of socialization in this intensely gendered society, and focus on what is the most essentially virulent aspect of gendered socialization.  And it is not the colours or the general fashion that is the problem––these can be detourned and overcome through clever juxtaposition––but those gifts that specifically promote patriarchal ideology.

I am talking about those gifts hidden within xmas gift bags decorated with Disney princesses so that you know, without peeking under the tissue paper, that your child is being fucked over by some virulent gift designed to undermine her potential as a human subject.  Because under that tissue paper is a fucking doll because you know that girls are expected to be socialized into understanding themselves as mothers as early as possible.  (We were grateful for the clothes, because clothes are necessary, but we made the family member who gave us the doll return it immediately.)  Other toys designed to socialize our child into a demure woman are sure to follow––I am sure that we will eventually receive an e-z-bake oven––so many things designed to transform are child into a "proper" and domesticated woman.

Almost a year ago my partner and her friend inspected and open house when they were out on a walk.  In the boy's room of this marketed house they discovered the possibility of a subject who could become something significant: novels, creative lego sets, and a clear excitement with the world.  In the girl's room they were met with dolls, a lack of books, and nothing more than the display of prettiness––the deformation of the human subject.  The family as at fault insofar as they were uncritically adopting the "common sense" morés of society as a whole; the problem goes deeper because it is a problem foisted upon every parent regardless of their intentions.  Family is already inundating with us with this gendered shit; once school and my daughter's friends at school become involved the problem becomes even more difficult––for how can I easily inform Samiya that it is wrong to want to be a princess and play with barbies when all of her friends are engaging in this practice?  After all, we are social beings and I cannot hope that my influence will trump the influence of her friends.  And I know it is going to be difficult to teach a five or six year old that what she wants is something designed to teach her to be demure, passive, subordinate.

Good lord: I can't even walk into the childrens clothing section of a store without being shocked by the gendered division of fashion.  For the boys: cool clothing that is age appropriate.  For the girls: mini-skirts and heels at the age of one!

Beyond the problem of the vicious genderization my child will face, however, is the problem of child-care and how it affects my organizational life.  Needless to say, I have become a rather dormant political subject since my daughter was born.  My attendance at meetings has been marginal; my agitation has been pitiful; my engagement in campaigns has been non-existent.  Between work and child-care there has been little time to do anything else and I look forward to the day when my daughter is less homebound and can be taken with me to political events.

After almost four months of being a parent I am under the impression that any left-wing heterosexual man who is able to keep his involvement in political work the same as it was before becoming a father for the first year of his child's existence is someone who is not approaching child-care in an equitable manner.  Those men who continue organizing in the same manner as they did before their child was born are those men whose parenthood is dependent on the gendered division of labour––fathers who assume that the mothers will do most of the work and can persist as political subjects while their counterparts are relegated to the private sphere.  This is because children take up a fuck of a lot of time, are dependent upon your care every hour of the day, and to practice the same political life in this context is to be someone who has the privilege of a stay-at-home partner or other care-giver: this is a privileged position and it needs to be recognized as such.

It's not that there's a lack of child friendly spaces, just that this early in the game, when my partner is having problems pumping and is always exhausted from feeding our kid and would prefer to stay home or simply spend her out-of-home time on mindless walks and enjoyable trips, I can't really take my kid to a meeting when she needs to feed every two hours and I lack the ability to feed her––and now, after months of breast-feeding, she refuses to take formula.

In any case, what I once understood abstractly I now understand concretely: children usually remove female cadre from political life while male cadre, expecting their female counterparts to do most of the child care, possess the privilege of remaining complete political subjects.  Indeed, Hisila Yami discussed this problem in People's War and Women's Liberation in Nepal: where fathers continued to work for revolution, mothers dropped out of militias and party activity during and after pregnancy because it was assumed that they would be the primary care-givers.  This happens everywhere and now I can understand why it happens having experienced the weight of child-care and, doing my best to be an equal care-giver and not abandon my partner when it is convenient, also experiencing how this act of caring devours my time.  (God I look forward to when she is eating solids and I can just transport her all over the place!)  I have a lot of time at home on the computer but not a lot of time out of the home; I can't just bugger off and, using my inability to feed my daughter as an excuse, leave her while I continue on with an actual life––politically and socially.

Moreover, I want my child to grow up with parents who provide her with a progressive model of gender dynamics and so I need to demonstrate this model in practice.  A dad who talks about gender equity should be a dad who spends as much time as possible sharing domestic work––which obviously has not yet been socialized but, in lieu of a communist revolution, is still relegated to the private sphere.

And now my daughter has woken up and needs to be changed (which is my primary domestic duty since I don't do the feeding) and this gives me the perfect excuse to end this meandering post…


  1. As a long-time reader/lurker/admirer of your anaylsis, and as a parent to two young children myself, I do sincerely hope that that progressive parenting blog does materialize. As a parent I've struggled with a lot of things (namely the socialization fo my children in a capitalist society vs my desire to negate that, intersected by my wife's somewhat more "traditional" values/views) so I'd love to see the development of some thoughtful analysis on truly progressive child rearing.

    On the matter of your limited participation in life beyond work & daughter, I'm not sure that the situation changes much over time. Their needs take on different avatars and unless, as you noted, your partner is full-time parent, your involvement and responsibliltes do not wane much.

    LOVE that onesie!!

    1. Hi Tony. First of all, welcome to commenting instead of admiring/lurking––I hope you will comment/debate more in the future. Secondly, the reason the parenting blog hasn't so far materialized is because I am hoping that a lot of the early posts will be done by the other two fathers who, unlike me (and more like you), have many more years of experience in the progressive fathering department––hopefully this post will make them feel guilty enough to get it up and running, lol.

      Finally, I do not think the situation for the my child's needs will change, more that I will be able to take her with me into organizational spaces when she is no longer entirely dependent on breast-feeding. I do have friends/comrades with children who have been quite successful at incorporating them into their political life though, definitely, this still changes the ways in which they can participate.

    2. Cute baby - love the hammer and sickle logo. My granddaughter was born to my classmate and her partner and I cared for her for a year as a baby while her mother was still in school. Now they've gone back to Asia. I love and miss them, especially my granddaughter, so much. They also care for me and know I'm a life-long working-class feminist, internationalist. They aren't. I showed my friend the Media Education Foundation film on Disney's commercialization of childhood and sexist propaganda. She said she understood, but still liked the Disney characters. They are sweet hard-working people and I can't impose my apparently "radical" views on them and they like me the way I am. They've named me "Fei Yang" for free thinker. It's not for me to say my granddaughter can't sometimes think of herself as a princess or Angelina the ballerina. In fact, if we press them too much it will backfire on us or drive them away. Please don't forget that and give them room to maneuver and even make some bad choices once in a while. You'll all be the better for it. Fei Yang

    3. Thanks for the advice; I think about this a lot. My parents (who are now grandparents) were progressives who gave me room to maneuver and I hope to learn a lot from them, seeing as I ended up as a lefty and not apolitical or conservative. Still, there is always the worry that I will drive my kid to reactionary politics.

  2. The struggle of a politically conscious parent to maintain their daughter's independence and creativity against the intense pressure of gender socialization strikes me as a miniature version of the Marxist struggle in general to make our voices heard. It's hard trying to change people's minds one at a time selling newspapers on the street when millions are simultaneously being brainwashed by capitalist propaganda in the media.

    It can be dispiriting, but ultimately, we have two choices: we can give up, or we can continue to swim against the tide. This is precisely why they call it a class STRUGGLE. The sheer difficulty of the task is what makes it so heroic. We lionize historical figures as heroes because they struggled against overwhelming odds for what they thought was right. Even if success eludes us, I say it's better to be a person of principle standing up for the oppressed than a "savvy" sheep content to go with the flow.

    Happy parenting!

  3. I'm glad to see the onesie, since it got covered in poo before I had a chance to see it before...

    But I'm even more glad to see that the issue of shared parenting and political involvement is being discussed. Even in cases where parenting is as equitable as can be, there are so many factors that make continued involvement in organizing and other work very difficult - namely the physical realities of pregnancy, childbirth, recovery, breastfeeding, exhaustion, etc. I think it's so important to have the conversation about how to make political work more flexible for parents, and to make spaces friendlier for children. I hope the radical parenting blog does take off, and that this kind of discussion does continue - and with men!

    [as a side note, I always feel so conflicted when I see men sharing an equal role, or even taking full responsibility for parenting. I think it's great, but at the same time, I don't like the idea of congratulating them for what I think they should be doing anyways - and for what women have been doing.]

    1. I mainly want to address your side point which, though a side point, is probably the most important thing in your comment. This annoys me as well, and has annoyed me from even before I was a father: people stop guys who are walking their children sometimes (it hasn't happened to be yet, but I've seen it happen to others) and say "you're such a good dad"... But they don't do this for women because, as you say, it assumed that this is what women should be doing from the get-go.

      The problem that I was somewhat complaining about here, then, actually comes from this: left-wing men not doing what they should be doing. They shouldn't be congratulated when they do this, probably, but they should be critiqued when they do not. Then again, the congratulations often happen because it is sadly uncommon… and it should be more common and we as leftists (the onus of burden is on men) need to work to make it common.

      Which is why I want that blog to get up and running because I think it can grapple with these issues from the perspective of men who practice equitable left wing parenting, mainly because this perspective is generally absent and needs to be absent. (And which is why, I hope you're reading this guys who promised to do said blog with me, it better start soon, lol.)

    2. I'm glad you agree - I didn't want you to think I was insulting you! But yes, it is sadly uncommon and needs to happen more.

  4. I remember decades ago a feminist meeting where the baby present was making a slight fuss and the mother started to take the baby to the hall, so that the meeting would not be disrupted (would remain "professional"). I question this.

    Great outfit.

    1. I know this is an extremely old comment and you'll likely never see this. But I have done the same thing with my baby, and in the process got weird looks from people and gestures that i should sit back down, that it was ok for my baby to make noise. But actually one of the things the baby really likes is to be taken for a short walk, it really calms her down and makes us both happier and calmer. I can't concentrate on a presentation anyway if the baby is fussing. I think if people understood that while parents should be welcomed to stay in the room, there are also baby related reasons why taking a walk out in the hall might be necessary or helpful as well

    2. Agreed. There are times when I've had to take my kid out because she's making noise because she *wants* to go for a walk. Also the context of where she's making noise is an issue: in the spaces in which I organize no one is upset or bothered, but if I take her to a care where I plan to work, and she's just being loud in general (and not because she wants to go outside), I get dirty looks. This led to me, last summer, doing my work at a mall in the foodcourt because she could be loud and no one would care or get mad at me because the whole place was loud.

  5. As a younger Communist I highly respect you JMP. I want to grow up to have some of the qualities you have, and I wish you and your family luck in your endeavors.

  6. It's so good to see Samiya on the blog! I congratulate you on your new life as a parent. I am sure that there are rewarding moments despite all of the annoying thoughts about her future as a "girl" in our society.

    One thing that I have been thinking about lately is the bullshit belief that women are more "naturally" nurturing than men, and that women are somehow better equipped to care for children due to an innate maternal instinct. You pointed out that women are pushed into a domestic role from an early age with dolls and stoves, told to share and hug and play quietly...which makes me think about how boys are pushed away from these things and encouraged to deny their emotions, be competitive and athletic, and somehow never get taught how to clean up after themselves (always a mother, girlfriend or wife to do it for them!). I remember a girl friend that I had in school whose dad used to say "Take it like a man!" when she was injured during a sports game. Of course, men don't cry, only women cry. The assumption is also that men don't parent because they cannot manage to care enough about other humans. Have you thought about the reverse sort of challenges that you would have had to face if Samiya had been a boy?

    1. Back when we didn't know anything about the baby's morphology, we did consider what challenges we would face with either a girl or a boy. And you're right, obviously, about how an inverse socialization happens––it's just that, as you know, male socialization also produces a level of privilege and autonomy that female socialization does not. Lorraine Code has written a lot about the different ways of "knowing" produced by gendered socialization and how that knowing that is considered "male" is privileged as knowledge––I've thought a lot about that recently.

  7. I'm also a new parent of a tiny presumably female person. And while I'm glad that you are writing about babies (as it seems to be mostly progressive women parents who get obliged to write about that kind of thing) and not segregating it, at least for now, from your serious 'political' blog, and I sympathize with your not wanting a barrage of pink things as we are having similar problems (like, I wear pink myself but not that puke-inducing pale pink colour that seems to be designated for girl babies) I strongly disagree with you on the question of dolls.

    My parents raised me in the 80s with unisex all the rage, and always insisted that I have many options for toys including dolls as well as lego and transformers. My (male) co parent was raised similarly and had my little ponies and giant dolls as well as typical boy toys. I think this is the better option than rejecting dolls for girls (which is as different issue than rejecting say, Disney branded princess dolls)

    Mainly, I take issue with this statement:

    "In the boy's room of this marketed house they discovered the possibility of a subject who could become something significant: novels, creative lego sets, and a clear excitement with the world. In the girl's room they were met with dolls, a lack of books, and nothing more than the display of prettiness––the deformation of the human subject."

    This statement here implies that lego sets and boy toys, leading presumably to boy careers like construction and engineering are "something significant in the world" whereas dolls, presumably leading to parenting or careers in child are, are NOT significant and represent and "deformation of the human subject". This is a messed up implication. Taking care of children is important, both non alientated child care of babies with whome was has a personal relationship and more alienated jobs in childcare or teaching. To imply otherwise is frankly messed up, especially given what you've earlier noted about the biological differences in heterosexual couples with women bearing the burden of pregnancy and breastfeeding, because then this assumes that women then are biological somewhat pre determined, if they have children, to doing this less 'significant' work disproportionately...

    ok i don't have time to finish or edit this comment as I have to breastfeed my baby which my partner unfortunately can't do... but i really think you should seriously re consider your position on toy dolls.

    (also please change your captcha program as I can't prove i'm a human with the current one)

    1. Thanks for the comments regarding dolls. I don't think lego sets, though, are "boys toys" I just think they are marketed to boys. I also know that there has been an attempt amongst feminist toy designers to overcome this by producing construction toys aimed at girls. The masculinist counterpart of the barbie wouldn't be lego, but something like GI Joe which is also problematic. Your points, though, are salient, though I wasn't implying that childcare wasn't important, just that treating the relegation of women to the private sphere was problematic and toys are gendered to perform this task.

      I don't know how to change my captcha program.

    2. So my lack of reply to your post is indicative of how hard it is to participate in politics of any sort while taking care of an infant. My infant is sleeping currently so I might be able to respond. I could have sworn you said something about dolls i really disagreed with, but apparently you didn't and i was just making up stuff in my sleep deprived mind.

      I would make a distinction between barbies and other dolls however, I would argue that say, realistic looking infant dolls are great and progressive toys for nurturing play for both girls and boys, and barbies are capitalist crap that shouldn't be played with by anyone. I think putting them in the same category is kind of silly. what sort of doll were you given by your family that you rejected?

      However, for me personally if my kid really wants a barbie I'll get her one, as i think that forbidding stuff makes it more attractive. I'll make sure she has some clothes and accessories for being "revolutionary guerilla barbie" though as well as your usual fashion stuff. I often pretended my barbies were spies or mountain climbers or parachutists (although I couldn't get the parachute to work off the balcony goddam it)

    3. I understand about how hard it is to participate in politics. Since the birth of my kid, my activities have been limited to the online world which is obviously limiting… And even when it comes to this blog, I don't put out near as much original input.

      The doll was an aryan-looking princess child doll to be cared for by a queen, or something. And to be clear, I wasn't the one who did the rejecting: the decision was immediately made by my partner who is more touchy than me about these things and, in many ways, my position here is due to an absorption fo her values. But to be clear, I am aware that the pressure for our kid to want what her friends have will mean we will have to capitulate––as you pointed out, making things forbidden does make them more attractive.


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