Dancing dads

nofairMy daughter is a performer and can’t get on stage enough. I have attended many a recital and seen more than a few ‘dancing dads’. Recital organizers will sometimes ask dancers’ dads if they want to learn an easy routine and perform it in the recital to add a bit of comedy. These acts are cute and show a dad’s involvement, cool. But, there’s always a but.

These dances operate with a man/woman binary, right away excluding families living outside of cis heteronormativity. It also sends the message that dads are the fun ones. Listen, I am totally fun. I am a fucking hoot. I get jealous that as a mom I don’t get to let loose. I am not allowed to be comfortable enough with my body to look foolish. I am expected to move gracefully and with ease. People would more likely evaluate the size of my belly before cheering me on. It is assumed that as a ‘good mother’ I am already involved, I don’t need any prodding. There is this assumption that when fathers parent it is a treat to be celebrated and rewarded. It is assumed that Dad will be goofy and mess it up, leaving a mess for Mom, which she will merrily clean up. This isn’t good messaging. Also, men dancing are supposed to be hilarious because dancing is girly and frivolous, that’s really not good messaging.

What if the dancing dads act is open to everyone? Would it be assumed to be a mom’s job? Would it add more labour for Mom and take away a socially acceptable way to join in for Dad? This issue is a symptom of gender binaries and patriarchal motherhood.

Back to how I am not allowed to be hilarious. You know, the real meat of this issue. Comedian Louis CK, an affluent white man, gets on stage, calls his kid a ‘cunt’, and is showered in approval and cash. If I did that I would not be a ‘good mother’. If I did that there would be a fucking petition going around and perhaps an awareness raising hashtag. I just want to swear and be asked to dance.

I write other stuff too! Check out HillaryDiMenna.com

Patriarchal, Empowering, and Feminist Mothering

different mothering types

In lecture on February 22, my Mothering and Motherhood professor Andrea O’Reilly said empowered mothering is better for children. She also says that empowered motherhood is mothering in disloyalty to patriarchal culture. On March 14, in tutorial, we discussed the differences between patriarchal, empowering, and feminist mothering.

Patriarchal motherhood is defined by men and is oppressive to women, inherent to patriarchal systems. This kind of motherhood not only defines what mothering is, but a woman’s identity. Throughout the year we have discussed how when talking about women and mothering, it seems completely acceptable to use “woman” and “mother” interchangeably. This is the language we know because we have learned under the patriarchy. A woman with children is not only a mother, and women without children are not “barren” or defined as “childless.” Yet, this labeling and setting expectations to meet these assigned labels is how patriarchal motherhood functions. Making “woman” and “mother” synonymous is also trans gender exclusionary.

Empowering motherhood works against patriarchal motherhood. It allows women to define mothering. Single mothers, low-income mothers, women of colour, queer mothering, communal mothering, any mothering that challenges the white, middle-class, heteronormative, Standard American Family structure is empowering motherhood. Empowered mothering, as discussed March 14, is not necessarily a purposefully feminist act. As well, activism is not required to be involved with empowered mothering. However, as O’Reilly says in the February lecture, empowered mothers tend to be political activists.

Feminist mothering is similar to empowered mothering, and is part of empowered mothering, but it is still a different category. Feminist mothering is especially different from patriarchal mothering. As discussed in the March tutorial feminist perspective theory is the understanding of what is not patriarchal. This type of mothering is activism by nature, recognizing that the personal is the political. Feminist mothering challenges gender inequality. In addition to re-defining gender roles, if not abolishing them completely, feminist mothering introduces thought that challenges intersectional forms of oppression like racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, etc.

Empowered mothering puts the power in the hands of the mother, instead of the patriarchy. This empowerment is better for a mother’s health. This good health extends further to their children.

I write other stuff too! Check out HillaryDiMenna.com!