Feminist Parenting: A Conference Panel Presentation
As someone who is dedicated to feminism, dedicated to the eradication of systems of oppression and relationships of domination, and as a mother who is dedicated to my children, I look around and think
- Does my practice reflect my theory?
- How can I make a difference in my corner of the world?
- In what ways am I complicit in the oppression of others?
- How can I consciously incorporate my values into my everyday actions?
I’m going to begin with a quote from Patty Lather that summarizes my particular approach to feminist research:
"The research process is a powerful place to go for praxis to the extent we can formulate research designs that change people by encouraging self-reflection and a deeper understand of their situations in the world."
In addition to the necessities of attending to the power relations between researcher and researched, placing the researcher’s subjectivity within the research process and creating research that is relevant to our everyday lives, my feminism - my particular ethics - leads me to emphasize the transformative possibilities of feminist research. Transformation can occur at various levels: individual consciousness, individual behavior and social transformation, and my research assumes a synthesis between personal and social change. In particular, I want to begin a conversation with those who have experienced a transformation of consciousness and wish to apply their principles to their behavior.
My research question originates from my personal experiences. As a mother to five year old twins, a partner, a daughter, a sister, a worker, I experience a variety of positions of domination and subordination throughout any given day. Although it’s much easier to recognize those situations in which I am subordinate, it is in the situations in which I hold power that I have the obligation not to abuse it. It’s very easy to discern that the relationship in my life that confers the most power upon me is that of parent/child. It is within this relationship that I can, then, make a significant political impact.
My feminism leads me to be critical of power dynamics in all situations, and reflections led me to the understanding that my parenting practices do not always align with my professed values. Recognizing that I rely on traditional parenting practices that reinforce the domination and subordination of parent/child interactions, I decided to embark on an autoethnography to help me explore why this is and to find ways to alter these patterns in pursuit of more democratic relationships with my children.
Autoethnography, as used here, means simply an autobiographical narrative. In blog form, I compiled journal entries for approximately 4-5 months, which detailed my observations and reflections of my everyday parenting practices. This was interspersed with inspiration from literature and an online parenting course. In addition, I invited a small number of interested, self-identified feminist parents to act as outside observers who read my blog and dialogued with me regarding what aspects of my journaling resonated with them and related to their parenting practices in a variety of contexts.
The key findings of my research are as follows: