Investigating Daddy (response to Renee Randazzo)

Ok so last week I was at Sex::tech with Scarleteen (who I volunteer with) and it’s founder Heather Corinna who gave a speech called “Countering Sexualisation, Supporting Sexual Expression” with Renee Randazzo who might be collaborating with ST in the future. The talk was awesome (Renee’s blogpsot about it) and also resulted in me and Renee connecting on facebook.

Yesterday she asked if I’d proofread a new blogpeice on “Daddy” as a concept in  erotical by queer women, in modern childhood generally and in femnism. My feedback didn’t make it to her in time so instead I’d just reconfigure it as a public response.

Renee is supercool and really appreciated my criticisms! Hopefully this can work together with her piece and  help anyone else who wants to try and navigate the slippery world that investigating “Daddy” takes us to.

Renee’s piece: http://reneerandazzo.com/2012/04/10/daddy/

And my response (it’s addressed to renee directly):

Renee in Daddy: As a curious new (half) lesbian, I decided to do some research into lesbian cultures by reading lesbian erotica….  … there is one theme whose repeated presence in stories of women surprises me: the longing for “Daddy.”

It was really cool to start this piece with erotica… why is daddy hot? etc (there’s something here implied that gay women still need to relate to men, specificially daddies, but also generally)

Something interesting for me about the term daddy is that the person to whom someone is a “daddy” is infantilised, erotically or otherwise. It doesn’t quite happen with father or dad. I think using a trigger like that to get into the childlike play that sex can be is a possibly major factor too, but it kind of makes it clear to me that Daddy is about childhood, not necessarily about adult or teenage relationships to parents, which is consistent with what you’re saying
Renee in Daddy: As a feminist, I feel like admitting I like the word is a betrayal of my dedication to women’s empowerment.
I think it’s really interesting that you feel like Daddy is a betrayal of women’s empowerment. To me it kind of feels to me here it’d be really useful to make this come not necessarily from you “as a feminist” but you yourself navigating life with feminism being one of the many things going on… I’m not sure if this guilt should be coming from the feminist hat you’re putting on or, (from what you’re saying elsewhere in your piece) your own personal experience. Because although you go on to criticise the side of feminism that de-emphasises fatherhood, here it sounds a bit like feminism is the problem, which I’m not sure is what you meant.

In the 4th paragraph I think what you’re doing is pretty important, bringing out the societal barriers to men like your dad being able to get close to their own kids:

You start by talking about the “longing for Daddy in our culture” as a whole… which I think is something I’d be very careful of. Speaking of any culture as a whole is a kind of risky business… but also I don’t think Daddy as an archetype, and how he relates to the Father in castration complex stuff within cultural theory etc etc is something you’re meaning to get into… but I think your poetry on gives you the freedom to get into it in a really cool way (Renee also has some cool poetry that deals with these issues).

Renee in Daddy: (Dad, in case you’re reading this and dear God I hope you’re not, I don’t blame you.)

I really love your bracketed interactions with your dad as a reader… It’s really obvious that you call him Dad and not Daddy (I know eww!)… If you wanted to, there is probably loads of scope to do more with that and have it as a fully fledged device… Also in the brackets you’re hoping he isn’t reading and asking him not to read, but outside the brackets your calling for a more involved and intimate role of fathers. There is so much in that contour/separation/bracket!

Renee in DaddyExamining the “Daddy” phenomenon in this way allows me to move away from the vulnerable and child-like place where the word can bring me and into my comfort zone: feminist theory.

I noticed you calling feminist theory your comfort zone! For me feminism, (perhaps as a man, but not just as a man) is a big part of that vulnerable childlike place… it’s about going back there… it is kind of disruptive and exploits the vulnerabilities of accepting a comfortable narrative about life… to me feminism really undermines things! But for you here you’re talking about finding yourself lost and needing some sort of searchlight to map your way around it… and you know maybe you’re talking about feminist theory being a really handy tool to navigate that space.. but not necessarily a different place?

Renee in DaddyIn homes across America, children are growing up without fathers, or with partially absent fathers, or with fathers who consider their parental role to consist of providing rather than emotional connection.  Mothers, even with our participation in the workforce, are still most often the primary givers of engaged and compassionate nurturing in children’s lives.  Like me, we have to become Superwomen, capable of juggling all of these responsibilities while our children’s fathers are praised to the heavens for “helping around the house” or “babysitting” their own children.

There’s a really cool part where you suggest that absent fathers, unemotional fathering is actually consistent with (feminist[?]) idealised independent mothering. That’s really strong.

(I agree you are a superwoman!)

I think the question that comes up here for me is what the difference really is between motherhood and fatherhood… because I think for a lot of people fathering is a style of parenting, and that the “type” of parental support a man can offer is completely different from a female caregiver… whereas you’ve made clear that the father role for the past number of decades has been distant.

I think what you’ve been talking about is men simply being present and intimately involved in caring for children (and probably their children), I don’t think you’re arguing for the “strong male figure”… but more that the “strong male figure” as well as the independent mother with absent father both emphasise distance from men and both create a disconnect that makes older men feel alien to us (and perhaps isolates them too).

Renee in Daddy: I don’t want to come across as hostile toward men because in all honesty I am not.  My diligent efforts to find and cultivate relationships with good men have been and continue to be successful.  I know men who “get it” and I know wonderfully devoted and attentive fathers.  Thank goodness for those good men I know.  They have restored my faith that we, as a people, are getting closer to that place where we all recognize one another’s humanity with compassion.

I think this paragraph is the only one I’d consider changing quite a bit… you might not even need it! I think perhaps if you think some parts of what you’ve written before or after then seem anti male, it’d be worth just re-wording a few things here and there… whereas acknowledging them like this but then leaving them, might not be getting what you mean across. I think also another unintended effect might have come from using ‘good men’ because although you’re overtly saying that guys don’t suck,  there’s an implication that the reason you say ‘good men’ is to differentiate them from men in general.

Renee in Daddy: Nonetheless, I believe examining the impact of society’s undervaluing of fatherhood is of fundamental importance to the feminist movement and the wellbeing of all people.  I cannot state strongly enough, in fact, that I believe this is the missing piece of the feminist revolution.

I have personal aversion to the feminist revolution (revolutions end, but i want feminism to last forever!), so I’d rather say the “missing piece of the current feminist agenda” or something, but this is a WHOLE ‘nother debate.

Then we get to six feet under “Let’s take the cultural narrative of Six Feet Under, for example…” , six feet under ROCKS. It’s also so perfect for talking about fatherhood in it’s various forms… it starts with the death of a father FFS!

Renee in DaddyBut the fact remains that when pregnancy results from sex, it is most often the woman whose life is forever dramatically altered, and not necessarily the man’s (or at least not to the same extent.)

I think there’s an important section where you say that it is the woman who’s life is forever dramatically altered… I think an off-shoot that adds some complication is that it is also the woman’s body that is often permanently changed (I won’t say dramatically, becuause everyone’s different)… I think men coming to terms with their physical non-inclusion to biological process of pregnancy must have some impact.

Renee in DaddyUntil pregnancy means for men what it means for women (i.e. A LIFETIME OF ENGAGED PARENTHOOD), society will continue to place the responsibility of sexual inhibition squarely on women’s shoulders.

Then there’s an implication that for me is quite powerful that engaged parenthood means sexual inhibition… it could sound like being a good parent means no sex? But I’m thinking that leaving one parent with all the responsibility just means there’s no time for them to get any!

Renee in DaddyGranted, I have moments of resenting how hard I have to work to maintain all that is on my plate.  But those moments are far outnumbered by moments when I realize that having a child makes my life make sense.

When you say, “having a child makes my life make sense”… I start to worry that your wording gets exclusive… what about people who can’t have babies, and people who are really happy not having children, along with your poem, which states it even stronger, I don’t think you mean that people who aren’t parents have lives not worth living! I think you just mean that it’s very rewarding to for you to be engaged with the children you ARE the parents of.

I agree that undervaluing fatherhood may actually be “a spiritual loss for men”… but I think for a lot of us… working out what on earth fatherhood IS or could be is a problem… I think engaged parenting is a really useful term that you use.

You start to describe it a little later on as “authority and love”… which is really interesting, I’m trying to imagine if those to works fit with daddy as well as mummy, for me in the same way. It seems you really are describing them as different when you say you’re unable to fulfill that need, and even say your daughter has a “hole in her heart”.

I think again here, it seems to me really powerful, and you’re discussing something really important, but I think we really need to sort out what the problem really is. I feel like a certain distance from men and being able to trust or feel comfortable in general around men, is a big issue for everyone and so much of it is rooted in the social processes you’re talking about… but I think we’re at danger of falling into calling people broken people from broken homes for not having men there… I think that absence has repercussions but also at the same time so many families have been or could be better off with children becoming apart from one or both of their parents… some of it needed to happen, but the repercussions still need processing. It’s not necessarily the case that we needed our fathers to be more involved (although it also might be) but it is more perhaps the case that we want our kids, or the adults in our lives to benefit from a movement away from this big severance from Daddy and whatever might have made it even necessary.

Renee in DaddyDoes knowing this make me feel less conflicted about the word “Daddy”?  Yes and no.  The word still makes me very uncomfortable because, frankly, I feel a whole lot safer with my armor on.  But at least I can allow myself freedom from feminist guilt now that I understand the word’s power as a symptom of a not-yet-postfeminist society.

… saying that this process has allowed you freedom from feminist guilt. Of course the process might also be described as feminism itself!

I think “i can enjoy it if i want to” is really important and good choice of sentiment with which to end the piece… I forgot we started with erotica! I think the important hints to this are there when you were talking about how non-engaged parenting of men suppresses female sexuality… I think it’d pay off to be explicit about that somewhere in the middle. And saying “this is how it ties it with erotica”.

————————-

And thus ends my feedback!


Students for Good Sex & Relationships (Education)

OK So in standard me fashion, I’ve gone and made another website. S4SRE, inspired by P4SRE(parents for good sex and relationships education) and seemingly the lack of any group who were focused on this for me to get involved with before… feminist groups have been awesome for actually believing in it, but sex education doesn’t seem to be the main focus for a lot of people, whereas for me it totally is.Anyhow, behold!

On Twitter:

On Facebook:

 


Interview: a feminist summer schooling

A few months ago I got interviewed by Cathrine McCabe around the time of the UK Feminista Summerschool, which I wrote a daydream about, for an article submission to Bitch magazine… I was totally delighted, it’ll be a while until it ends up in the magazine as there’s a big backlog of contributions. But Cathrine said it’d be cool if I posted the interview here.

 

1. What prompted you to consider yourself ‘a feminist?’ Why is it important to you?

Hmmmm, I was perhaps 15 when I started using scarleteen.com who definitely have a feminist and sex-positive approach which I found understanding and encouraging. I eventually started volunteering there and so for me feminism became something I felt involved in by growing, discussing and trying to help other people. It felt like we were doings so in a way that contained a healthy, questioning and improving understanding towards sexuality, gender, relationships and politics. It felt like an active way to help us overcome, from our personal lives outwards, the tendency of ours, feminist thought might point at, to have persecuted and controlled women while neglecting men.

The occasions when it is important for me to actually consider myself ‘a feminist’, rather than just someone who is involved with feminism are in fact rare! I think it’s important to me when I want to show my solidarity with feminists, while also there are times where it might change someone’s mind about something to believe that I would feel comfortable calling myself a feminist. Self-identifying as a feminist can also superficially legitimise my opinions  in such a way that makes me feel uncomfortable too. I don’t know if I am anything fundamentally, but I think that’s another kettle of identity fish!

2. I noticed on twitter you had some misgivings about attending, what were your main concerns, and were they realised?

I think I hesitated when I read the press release. It spoke a lot about inexperienced feminists coming to learn things from more experienced ones. Whereas something of the feminisms I understood says that the new, vulnerable or “inexperienced” have an experience that is of equivalent value. The announcement gave me the impression of having a set plan that it was ready to teach. The the organisers’ Guardian headline before the event summarised this by saying “feminism is back and we want to finish the revolution” whereas feminism for me is largely about leaving things unfinished, not just a request for a fixed number of things, but itself an openness! That I may well differ in my thoughts on ‘sexualisation of youth’, for example, was combined with the thought that I should be a pupil and not differ, but learn. I thought that l might be getting in the way of the feminism that wanted to happen at the summer school.

On one level, I might think this is what was realised. Nesrine Malik’s talk about women in the Arab spring tried to stretch and question a number of popular feminist assumptions about the topic, people’s feedback around me seemed capable of being surprisingly disapproving. They also however commented on the conference’s top-downness which, I guess, ironically, at the same time, shows the other level on which things were much much better. There was a level of debate and questioning that surrounded the many talks that was quietly exciting. The event had attracted people from so many places that the simple personal political joy of just meeting someone who’s at work on the issues important to someone else (me) was more likely and built something that seemed very positive there. I don’t know but I think I had a place in this way.

3. How, in your opinion, can feminists be more inclusive of men, and how did you find the general response to your presence at the Summer School?

That’s almost like asking how we can bring down patriarchy!

I think perhaps doing this in general terms is better, than doing anything specific to include men specifically… It might be better to simply be more open to what might come from our openness and to allow for the complexities that can help us approach the problems of masculinity and of men, among other things, in their/our own time.

Inclusiveness in general seems to me to come from a striving to understand ourselves and the issues effecting people other than ourselves and to allow them a voice. Zine making, punk, DIY, consciousness raising, sex education and non-hierarchy as feminism have created an environment into which a wider diversity of people can not only be included but also can propagate the inclusiveness.

At the summer school people said it was great that I as a man was there. It was nice to feel welcomed in that way. Funnily enough though, feminism as I have experienced it is good for me, it’s not a selfless self-sacrificial rescuer feminism, but a “thank fuck we’re better off thinking this way” feminism. I’m not so much the “knight in shining feminism” that I’m glad not to be, but a bit more of a happy plant nurtured by whatever feminism is feeding me and doing my bit on it’s behalf.

There was a workshop called “How to mobilise men”. As a room we seemed enthusiastic but frustrated. Triple the expected number turned up but we didn’t manage to near offering an understanding into the question we posed. We seem to align feminsm with equality, the right quantities of people with the right quantities of power in all institutions… whereas actually for me what’s more important is just a healthy culture, atmosphere and combination of people that is important.

Something that left me conflicted was being asked to answer questions. I was quoted in a news paper. It seemed that actually this is not a privilege I would necessarily have got if people weren’t looking for a male perspective. I was happy to give mine but I feel like it’s something I need to be careful about in the future.

4. Out of all the workshops you attended, which had the biggest impact on you?

Women Asylum Seekers Together showed their fantastic play “How I became an asylum seeker”. The play described the plight of a woman fleeing violence and finding herself destitute in the uk, alone and lost in a repetitive ritual of beurocracy. The way women acted the systems of their persecutions some how implied that such things are conceivably and readily changeable. It was a wonderful break to experience the play itself as a piece of feminist art. I wish I could express better why I liked it but if you can get a chance to see the play most definitely do (it’s on dvd too)! http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/nov/26/speaking-out-for-change-asylum-seeker 

5. Any criticisms of the event?

I feel I have actually been mostly critical here but I’m not sure I can stress enough how fantastic it was that an event such as this could be attended for free, the entire effort of the organisers was to reach out and contribute something positive to feminist politics… this was in itself an inspiring thing… it had it’s limitations, but it allowed us to meet many people and envision, even critically, ways in which we might respond, and what we might next say or do among the ongoing conversations and evolutions of feminism.


The bloke fantasises in public

I like the walls sausage rolls advert “he can’t express himself because he’s just a bloke really” – now he can.

On the first look, I’m like “ok male stereotype and male=meat cliche, what next”… next, advertising: selling sausage rolls, next a comical pooch in a jewellery box singing and letting us off the hook of sentimentality with the excuse of humour, next a fantasy, a fantasy materialised, that by some surreal intervention we could express the compassion we wish could be exchanged in the mundane and isolated interaction between not-special woman working in a petrol station and a not-special guy buying a sausage roll from her. I find that core although exploited, hidden and distracted from, pretty desirable and somehow maybe reformative.

 


Pro-feminist summer school: its’ own sibling (a daydream)

In London there is a group called the pro-feminist men’s group. Matt McCormack Evans said he attended one of their discussions, then was asked yesterday by an audience member of his workshop “How to mobilise men” whether men-of-feminism are “feminist or only pro-feminist”. When he answered the most visible thread of the question continued in his answer that “feminism is… a movement” therefore “men can also be called feminists”.
But instead of responding to the call it’s also good to look at what else is in that question, the word pro-feminist, and the provision: men…  Those two things are put together… Men and pro-feminist… yet what of pro-feminist women… Can there be pro-feminist women who with pro-feminist men make a pro-feminist movement that is at the same time not necessarily feminism itself, but a sibling which hopes to encourage it? Can it have a conference? The absence of such an idea as pro-feminist women, invites exploration of it somehow. The absence of anything… something suggested as part of a group contributions at the Summer School Consensus Workshop… allows for potential. We were discussing “What makes a good meeting?”.Space is something I find very important and therapeutic. Being intentionally incomplete and unfinished, in say the schedule of an activist group means that a new member can use the un-contested space to try something, and established members can relax and accept the scary unknown of unplanned space not in their control… and the quiet of the space unfilled can be a rest to think, and relate.

The fear of change, the unfamiliar and “the other thing” that will fill a vacancy when change is always inevitable is a staple of a society that suppresses minorities and suppresses those unfamiliar to positions of greater power and autonomy within it.

I see feminist thought as having involved itself in a search to reveal a culture that will not only receive specific changes, but will therefore also necessarily give way to a wholly receptive society, a society comfortable in being unfinished to allow change and to do so indefinitely.

So there is a sort of strangeness in the headline of the guardian article “Feminism is back and we want to finish the revolution, say activists” speaking of UK Feminista founder Kat Banyard.

“Feminism is back and feminism wants to finish feminism”

“Unfinishism is back and it wants to finish itself”,

The conference spoke, even the after-party crammed with a raffle and pub quiz over the loudspeakers, with very pleasing vegan food, finishing my belly… This inevitably and necessarily created smaller gaps, the lunch break, and cracks like the smaller quieter workshops of community groups like WAST Manchester…

The literature and today’s guardian article described the summer school as a school. The idea of a complete feminism plan awaiting dissemination implementation seemed to underlie the metaphors (used with varying degrees of irony) of “teachers”, “students”, “lessons,” “graduates,” and that it would be a place for inexperienced activists to come and learn, and be taught, as an audience… In this there was an absence of the reversal of such a role, of the newness and experience of inexperience being received.

And yet it remained somehow a Feminist event, with feminist literature, and if as Evans says, feminism is a movement and so someone pro-feminist can be feminist by simply moving, then this conference despite being part of the movement, and moving as feminism, can perhaps be pro-feminist… and be pro-unfinished-ism, and so as an encouraging sibling step aside from itself somewhat and in my mind create an absence, a vacancy, a wanting and a space for the receptive feminism/or-whatever that is listening, and is unfinished and happily won’t be and who’s conference I REALLY want to attend… especially if it’s free.


Living in the Bishtimes

Living Without Labels is an article written when I was 17ish for scarleteen.com (the more than excellent sexual health website established in 1997). It’s about sexual identities and proposing simply that it’s ok not to say “I am gay” or “I am straight” or “I am bisexual” and that not doing so is also a valid option. I actually think the article warrants a sequel that refers to relationships categorisation rather than sexual identity.

My article was linked to and recommended, this week, by @bishtraining who’s ‘Team Bish’ I have recently been recruited to.

When pieces of thought you throw into the internet years ago re-surface and prove they’ve maintained relevance after so long then it’s really something worth enjoying. UK talk on the subject is something specific I cherish too, because at the time I wrote the piece my only access to this kind of conversation was Scarleteen which was based in far away in the USA… I had the impression that there simply wasn’t many people involved on the internet and sex education. This may either have changed or have become more visible thanks to the changes the internet has undergone since.

Bishuk.com as it happens is a very positive uk sex ed for teens website. It manages to combine the DIY accessibility of nu-rave graphics like M.I.A’s myspace with funny and strange sex education videos, and casual while informed articles and information. The whole website is on wordpress. There’s something in that combination that is vitally important. The fact that you can more easily think “I could do that” democratises the educator/learner boundary a little, and means the information is coming from a more believable achievable place.

It was great to get some support for my writings on twitter from Ed For Choicesexedukation (or sex duck, if you will), and Justin aka bish . I think @chellaquint of adventures in menstruating who I’m intervieweing soon for this blog, retweeted it too!

I then got into a discussion with @PalmerAlan who disagreed with my article being valuable, in hindsight it would have been great to have been able to have brought some of that discussion to the comments on a blogpost like this one. But it was nice and jucy on twitter none the less.

Here’s the introduction from Scarleteen, click the title to read the whole thing:

Living without Labels

Whilst looking on the Scarleteen boards I’ve noticed that a recurring problem many people seem to have is trying to define themselves, primarily in terms of their sexuality. This article is about offering the option of not actually defining ourselves and proposes that some people could feel more liberated without designating themselves any category at all, I for one, at least.
For many there is no question of what their sexuality is; “I’m attracted to the opposite sex, therefore I’m straight”. Up until my last year of school, I identified as straight, I was going to sixth-form college and socialising with lots of different friendship groups but there was something bothering me.
What is your sexuality, soldier?!
I remember a specific time when I was in conversation with a group of people who were pretty tight with each other but with whom I had not regularly spent much time, when suddenly my friend of the group asked me a graphic “Would you ever…?” question. It was very sexuality defining and everyone in the group went silent and waited for my answer, I answered “No”, because I was straight ‘of course’, I thought. The conversation changed subject but I remained in troubled thought. I was reminded of being on holiday/vacation, playfully chatting with some girls in the outdoor pool; when they too asked me if I was gay. I was taken very aback and briefly reconsidered my mannerisms then again said no…

A continuation of my great tidings of bish was writing my first thing for bishuk.com, a review of the first of this series of The Sex Education Show on channel 4. Here’s a cartoon to highlight one aspect of my sentiments:

Clicky here to read it:

Living in the bishtimes is very enjoyable…  I could happily do with more!

(There will also be a review of yesterdays sex ed show appearing on bish soon, by another team bish recruit)

Further more, I made these business cards that I’m very happy with.


Jarzaian

Not much of me around here lately is there? This blog was a fun start up! I’ve had a lot on though, I just started my new job as housekeeper at Luton and Dunstable hospital Neonatal intensive care unit.

I’ve moved all my stuff out of my old place in wait of a new house in september.I made myself a personal website: jarzaian.com it’s worth checking up on

I went to london to a prochoice rally, I came away happy that I went, but a little deflated  by some anti-male stuff, I made this banner for it: (and met Justin from bish, we had a great chat)

No major content today because I burnt out on facebook comments. But thanks for checking on this page, if indeed you are!