“We Just Want to Keep Our Families Safe…”

I’ve been trying to put this post into words that are politically correct since Friday, but somehow I think I will still fall short in the end, so I’m going to just write and I probably won’t proofread. I’m going to start with this James Baldwin quote and hopefully by the end of the post it’ll all make sense.

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On Friday I got into a bit of a “spat” on our neighborhood listserv and it’s been bothering me all weekend. For a bit of context, I live in an area that is kind of ethnically diverse, but mostly Black and White. The neighborhood is one that was probably in the process of going through gentrification before the housing market crash, so I’d say there are a lot of people who purchased homes in the area thinking that the lower income housing would soon be pushed out. We rent our home, but would considering purchasing one in the area because we like it and it’s close to where Mr. S works.

We moved here a little over three years ago, two months after finding out I was pregnant and a month before we actually tied the knot. At the time we were both living in apartments and neither of us wanted to live in an apartment with a little one. When Sesame was around 6 months, Mr. S encouraged me to find the neighborhood listserv and try to meet some moms in the area because I was lonely and feeling extremely isolated. I did join the listserv and I reached out to the neighborhood association president about contacting other moms in the area. He directed me to his wife and we exchanged two emails with her promising to keep me up to date on local mom events and invites. I never received any invites… It felt like a bit of a slight and I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t because I was Black and she could see that from my gmail profile picture. I remained on the listserv and boy am I glad I did…

Aside from being kept up to date on local things going on, people will message the listserv if their home is broken into or if they see someone “suspicious” in the area. In the two years I’ve been on the listserv, every suspicious person email has been about an African American male or groups of African American males. One time someone sent a message letting us know that we shouldn’t be freaked out if we see an African American man in work vest with a Benz or BMW (can’t remember) because he’s working for the gas company. I rarely respond to these emails, but I couldn’t resist asking why would we be concerned by that seriously?

Okay back to Friday… A neighbor’s home was broken into on late Wednesday night and she informed us of the break-in. ON Thursday she sent a message to the listserv about a young Black man who knocked on her door looking for work, but she thinks he’s just casing the house so they can come back and steal again. My initial reaction was to roll my eyes and think “why would he come back if he got away the first time?” Shortly after that someone else in the neighborhood brought the young man to the first neighbor’s home to introduce him and let them know that yes he’s legit and not trying to break in your home. Well on Friday morning, I checked my email and saw that a third neighbor had asked about his contact information to hire him and said that it was sad that young Black men are considered suspicious all the time. I responded and agreed with her and said that it makes me uncomfortable because hello I have a Black son.

 

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My emotional post after the exchange…

As you can imagine, the post spiraled out of control quickly. The original poster felt like we were calling her racist and wanted us to know that even if he had been white she would’ve sent the message because she was paranoid from their home being broken into. I responded and told her it wasn’t just about her post it’s about EVERY post of someone suspicious being a a young Black man when HELLO we live in an area with a lot of young Black men. Then of course came the “we’re just trying to keep our families safe…” and I lost it. I told them that keeping my son safe will mean not buying a house in this neighborhood because my son is going to be seen as suspicious for doing normal teenage things like WALKING DOWN A STREET AND LOOKING AROUND!!! I also told them that the attitude on the listserv is why I don’t bring my Black son and Black husband to events because the white privilege and racial bias that comes through their messages is disconcerting. For the record, I wasn’t the only one speaking up there were other people including a former neighbor who gave great information on why this view is dangerous, but of course no one listened to her. The original poster even said she thought those responses were “ridiculous.” I’m proud myself for not telling her that I find her concerns about the robber coming back and knocking on her door in broad daylight ridiculous…

The original poster responded to just me in an effort to convince me to come out and maybe set up a play date with our boys. I’m still debating if I’m going to do it because I find it hard to want to socialize with people who dismiss actual scientific research or focus so much on not wanting to be seen as racist that they can’t even discuss some of the problematic things that take place in the world. Mr. S thinks I should do it and maybe I’ll change her view, but yea I’m still on the fence. I love educating people, but sometimes I just want to be a mom with a kid on a play date.

Being a Black woman in America is exhausting, but that’s a post for another time.

 

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So Easy, Even Mommy Can Do It : Shark Lift-away Review

Disclosure: I received a product as compensation for this review. All thoughts are my own. 

Remember when I went to the Type-A Parent Conference? Well one of the sponsors there happened to be Shark and if you’ve ever used a Shark product you know they’re amazing, at least that’s what my husband says. When I first saw the Shark Lift-Away I thought it was just a regular vacuum for carpets and we have hardwood floors, but then I noticed they were demoing the product on hardwood floors as well. I’m not exactly the neatest person and my husband does most of the cleaning (except bathrooms because I’m a stickler about how it’s done), but I knew this vacuum had to be special because duh it works on carpet AND hard wood. I decided to stop and chat for a little while and then I gave them my card. A few weeks ago, I received an email asking if I’d like to try it out and share my thoughts with you guys.

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Since we don’t have carpet we use the hardwood attachment most of the time.

I’ve already mentioned that my husband is bias to Shark products. After we got married and moved into our new house, one of the first things we purchased was a Shark steam mop. I didn’t see the point of it of course, but he insisted and it was at a Sears outlet and on sale, so we got it. That was three years ago and I still don’t know how to work the thing, but he does his magic and keeps the kitchen floor clean enough for a kid to eat off of it (and he does). So, when I told him we were getting this new vacuum that works on hard wood floors he figured it would just be for him to use during his Saturday morning cleaning sessions, and being honest he’ll still use it more than I will, BUT it was new and I wanted to try it first. The floor wasn’t really visibly messy when I first took it out the box, but Sesame quickly helped by tearing up the styrofoam pieces and it made for a quick before and after shot.

Before

Before

 

After

After

I’ll admit I was pretty impressed because I despise sweeping and we do a lot of sweeping with hardwood floors. I decided to try out the upholstery tool and flexible crevice tool on the futon in my office since a certain little person is always leaving crumbs on it, plus all my yarn scraps. It was AMAZING, but I forgot to take a picture. So, that was pretty much my extent of using the Lift-Away for awhile because yea I don’t really clean the floors that often, but Mr. S loved it. I’ve woken up on Saturday or Sunday mornings since it came to hear him cleaning the hallway and living room floors.

He can't believe mommy is actually using the vacuum

He can’t believe mommy is actually using the vacuum

It’s so bad that when I finally decided to pull it out to clean up before putting the tree together I ended up having this conversation with Sesame:

Me: *vacuuming so I can put up the tree*

Sesame: Mommy use da vacuum? *looks at his dad*

Me: Umm yes I can vacuum. Why are you acting surprised?

Sesame: Ha ha dats funny mommy use da vacuum. *starts laughing*

Mr. S: Well… *cracks up laughing*

Clearly I need to start using the vacuum more around here, so I get a little more respect lol. Seriously though it’s so easy to use and so quick that even a creative messy mommy like me can use it.

Here’s what Shark says about the Lift-Away (I bolded the features that I love:

  • Rotator® power nozzle with motorized brush that deep cleans and reaches further under furniture than any other vacuum
  • Powerful LED headlights on the nozzle and handle to improve visibility under furniture or in dark, hard-to-see spaces
  • Fingertip Controls for easy transitions between hard floors, carpet and area rugs
  • Designed with a HEPA filter and Shark’s Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology™ to capture and hold 99.99 percent of dust and allergens
  • Additional features include:
  • Hard Floor Genie™ bare floor attachment picks up large debris and fine dust in one easy step
  • Extra-long 30 foot power cord provides maximum range for cleaning large spaces
  •  Specialized tools to offer versatility in cleaning include a premium pet power brush, upholstery tool, flexible crevice tool and canister caddy 

Do you own a Shark? Which one and do I need to buy it?

Be sure to check out Shark on Facebook and Twitter, and let them know Danielle from Mamademics sent you.

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“Feminists are Made…”: Three Ways I’m Incorporating Feminist Principles into my Parenting

When I first found out I was having a boy, I was very vocal about only receiving gender neutral items. Part of it was me being frugal and considering the possibility of future children, but a large part was me not wanting my kid to come home to sports and NASCAR central. I did not want his first word to be “football” and for him to shun stuffed animals. I did not want gender norms to dictate his life before he even opened his eyes for the first time. At the time I am sure people thought I was just hormonal and freaked out about having a boy, which is certainly a reasonable assumption. Looking back I can see that my prior research on feminism and patriarchy were subconsciously permeating my choices.

 

Feminists

 

“Feminists are made, not born. One does not become an advocate of feminist politics simply by having the privilege of having been born female. Like all political positions one becomes a believer in feminist politics through choice and action.” ~bell hooks

If you have been reading Mamademics for a while, you know that I took my doctoral exams during the spring of 2013 shortly after Sesame’s first birthday. Comprehensive exams vary by departments and programs, but my program required coming up with an extensive reading list around my research interests. In my case, this meant black feminism, feminist rhetoric, feminist pedagogy, composition pedagogy, hush harbor rhetoric, and writing center studies. You do the reading and work with your committee to come up with research questions and then spend seven days answering the questions they chose in 10-15 page essays. It’s lots of fun… not really. It was not until I started really delving into my comp exam reading list that it all made sense. My subconscious told me that these things were wrong, and  now it was up to me to turn this into conscious parenting choices. But, how?

1. You are not entitled to a woman’s body

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I am sure this is going to sound silly, but when I was nursing I focused on teaching him that my body wasn’t just his. Yes, I know that for the first 6 months my milk sustains him only, but go with me here. I never allowed him to simply pull my shirt up and or pull my breasts out. Instead, when he was around 4 months we started using the sign for “milk” whenever I nursed him. By the time he was 6 or 7 months he could sign it back. I knew he did not fully understand what words meant or how to express them completely, but it was a start. I nursed Sesame until shortly after his 2nd birthday, so by the time he was 1.5 my husband started chiming in and would say things like “Tell mommy what you want” or “You can’t just pull up mommy’s shirt. Those are her boobies you have to wait a minute.” His reinforcement helped our son see that he just can not “take”what he wants and my body really is just that my body. Now that he is older and can use his words to express what he needs/wants (most of the time) he will say “wanna cuddle mommy” and tries to wait for me to say okay. When he yanks on me I remind him gently that he can not just make mommy go where he wants that he needs to ask nicely and try to be patient. There are definitely times when I just give in and do not bother to reinforce it in the midst of a tantrum that I just want to end, but parenting is a work in progress, right?

I’m sure this seems extreme, but when I think about teaching him to respect women and their bodies this seems like the perfect first lesson. (Ha while writing this he just came over and said “sit in mommy lap, pease?”)

2. No spanking… 

Another thing that we discussed briefly during my pregnancy was our desire not to spank our son. We were both spanked as children and while we understand why our parents chose this method it’s not something we wanted to continue. So, how is that feminist? Well what many people don’t know is that the feminist movement also called attention to the fact that children are often seen as the “property” of parents, which gives adults the “right” to do what they want to them. While studying for my exams I came across two very important passages from bell hooks that solidified my decision on the subject.

The first is taken from Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics

Adult violence against children is a norm in our society. Problematically, for the most part feminist thinkers have never wanted to call attention to the reality that women are often the primary culprits in everyday violence against children simply because they are the primary parental caregivers.  While it was crucial and revolutionary that feminist movement called attention to the fact that male domination in the home often creates an autocracy where men sexually abused children, the fact is that masses of children are daily abused verbally and physically by women and men. (76)

The second is taken from Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black

Children who are the victims of physical abuse–whether one beating or repeated beatings, one violent push or several–whose wounds are inflicted by a loved one, experience an extreme sense of dislocation. The world one has most intimately known, in which one felt relatively safe and secure, has collapsed. Another world has come into being, one filled with terrors, where it is difficult to distinguish between a safe situation and a dangerous one, a gesture of love, and a violent, uncaring gesture. (86)

Both of these texts delve deeper into the ways in which ending the abuse of children help the feminist movement, but I chose these two passages because they were ones that gave me an “aha” moment. I realized that I could not fight to end patriarchy without acknowledging the ways in which women use it as well. How can I teach my son that he is not allowed to use physical force to exert his dominance if I use physical force to exert my dominance when he is a child? Do not get me wrong this is a struggle because spanking is what I know. I’m the older sibling, so I spanked my younger siblings when they didn’t listen to me, but just because you’ve faltered it doesn’t mean you can’t change.

3. Breaking down patriarchy and redefining masculinity

People often mistake the feminist movement as a “movement against men” and that we’re blaming them for all the problems women face. We are not blaming men, but we are saying that men benefit from a system of “patriarchy, sexism, and male domination.” Of course all men do not subscribe to these beliefs, but that does not mean they do not reap the benefits of the privileges that come with being born male. This also means that he will be held to a standard that he may not fit. True discussions on patriarchy and masculinity can not happen with a toddler, but actions can.

Sesame is growing up in a home where he sees both of his parents cook and clean (although Mr. S cleans more than I do). We are making a conscious effort to truly be partners, so that our son will understand that both people maintain the household. Part of doing this also means having to remind my husband when he says something that comes from a place of privilege and not in a condescending manner, but in a we need to work on this together way. It also does not mean I’m perfect because I still have to work on my own gender role expectations as well. For example, not taking on all the nurturing activities simply because I’m the mom. Reminding myself that it’s okay if I’m just too tired to get up in the middle of the and asking my husband to pick up some of the slack.

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In terms of masculinity, we have both agreed as parents that we will not tell him to “be a man.” Simply put, he’s not a man and what does it even mean when we say “be a man.”  All men are not the same and should not be expected to act the same. We won’t tell him that “boys don’t cry.” Instead we let him know it’s okay to be frustrated and have these feelings, but how he acts afterwards is what is important. So, yes you can cry, but no you can’t hit or kick.  Crying will not make you less of a man and exerting your physical strength doesn’t make you more of one. We don’t make a difference between “girl” and “boy” toys. We encourage and praise him when he tries to crochet just like we do when he attempts to get the ball in his basketball hoop. We also do not shy away from publicly showing him doing things that some may consider girl things like crocheting, and if someone makes a disparaging comment we call them out on it.

 

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This does not mean that we are negating the biological differences between men and women. It means that we are nurturing him in a way that allows him to define what being a man means to him, so that masculinity can be redefined.

How does feminism factor into your parenting choices?

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Mind Right Monday–December Goals

Happy Monday! It’s time for another Mind Right Monday link-up hosted by yours truly, Dani from Ok, Dani and Reese from Dear Darrica. Just make a post that includes 1) your GOALS for the week and 2) what you’re GRATEFUL for, and BOOM You’re Done!! Oh and link up your post at the end… (If your post doesn’t meet those two requirements, it will be deleted)

MRM December

First, I can’t believe it’s already the last month of 2014. This year seems like it flew by, so quickly. I’m going to stick with monthly goals because it worked pretty well for me last month. This month’s quote is inspired by a notebook I found in Marshall’s when doing some shopping a few weeks ago with the family. I’m kind of a notebook hoarder and if there are nice quotes I’m all over it. Each notebook serves its own purpose and this one will be for my Raising an Advocate ideas.

This month’s goals:

Get myself back into the academic groove. I’ve gotta get out of this slump (yea I’m still there)

WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!!!

Workout three times a week

Write out my year plan for 2015

Finish organizing the office (this means throwing out more things *sigh*)

Finally add Microsoft Word to our desktop, so I can work in the office more often.

This week I am grateful for…

…my health.

…my family member’s health.

…naps.

…the semester winding down.

 

 

 


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Saving for a Rainy Day or a New Car…

Last week when Mr. S picked me up from work he sighed and said he had bad news. Bad news almost always ends up being an unexpected financial thing, and this time was no different. Our jeep was making a very strange noise and he was worried about driving it. We immediately started talking about what our finances looked like and what we would do if we had to buy a new (to us) car… *gulp* This is totally not the type of conversation I wanted to have right before the Thanksgiving holiday started and definitely not the one I wanted to have with the holidays approaching. I don’t know about you, but it seems like every single time that we start to get ahead something comes up. Having to purchase a new car in the next few months is definitely not what I wanted to do. Not to mention we have great family road trip memories in that jeep… [Read more...]

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