I often discuss how The Barbarian and I straddle parenting philosophies and modi operandi, and how that leaves us feeling like we don’t quite belong within any particular group of parents. And this becomes epically apparent whenever I get a wild hair up my ass to join some online parenting group, only lasting a few weeks–or even a few days–before I feel compelled to run away screaming about the asinine absurdity of so many parents and the bizarre things they obsess and lecture about.
And I don’t really know why I keep trying. I guess as a SAHP without many friends and some pretty serious mental health issues, I at least theoretically like the idea of having an online village of support, people I can commiserate with, a place where I can both offer and receive insight and wisdom. On the outside, it seems like a bit of a no-brainer. The interwebs are increasingly a place people turn to for socialization, especially people like me who don’t necessarily play well with others in real life. But I guess I just don’t seem to play well with others anywhere.
And by “don’t play well with others,” I mean that people drive me absolutely batty with their astronomical nonsense and I have a difficult time keeping my mouth shut. But, of course, like so many others, I have found that attempting to illuminate for people their undying absurdity online is pretty fucking pointless, so I instead stew silently until I can’t hack it one minute more, and then I swear off said group–and groups in general.
Until the next time, apparently.
Not like it’s been that many groups, but I really thought this last one was THE ONE. It was started by a woman whose Facebook page I’ve been following for a year or two now, and she’s extremely grounded and authentic and progressive and posts hilarious crap and writes poetry and swears.
You know, my people.
So I was super stoked when she tossed out the idea of creating a private group to offer us a place to reflect and commiserate with one another, and seek and share advice. Basically both a no holds barred and highly respectful environment–a combination I can clearly epically dig–populated by progressive parents attempting to grow and learn and do right by our children, ourselves, our community, and the world.
What’s not to like?
Turns out, LOTS.
Within a day or two, the anti-vaxxers had come out in force, because you just can’t escape anti-vaxxers when it comes to “progressive” parents. Many progressives like to harp on conservatives for their anti-science views in relation to concepts like evolution and climate change, yet when it comes to things like vaccines, organic food, “alternative” medicine, and GMOs, the left is FULL of anti-science positions. It’s frustrating beyond belief, and I have spent many hours debating and attempting to educate people online about these very issues, mostly to no avail, but there have been a few minds changed or at least opened here and there. It’s gratifying, for sure. But the effort and emotion that goes into it is difficult to keep up, and I find myself now mostly avoiding conversations about vaccines especially, because the stupid, IT BURNS.
So knowing it was to be expected, it was fairly easy to just scroll past that noise. But shortly thereafter, a couple of threads were started seeking to discuss whether practicing things like attachment or free-range parenting is considered privileged.
Things went downhill quickly.
Now, for the record, let’s begin with this:
I AM PRIVILEGED.
As I’ve said in the past, only more money and a penis would make me any more privileged than my white, cis, educated, upper middle-class reality already does. And I have no shame in admitting that. It’s not like I chose that reality. But because it was handed to me on something slightly less fancy than a silver platter, I do my best to be aware of said privilege and how it affects my beliefs and actions. It’s something more people should be doing and I encourage precisely that all the damn time.
Now, to add to the record, I practice both attachment and free-range parenting.
Well, that must settle it, then, right? Privileged is clearly abounding. Case closed and all that.
But yeah, not so much.
It quickly became apparent that these threads were designed to allow über-progressives to display their wholly asinine overreaction to the idea of privilege as shameful, something that apparently needs to be admitted and dwelt on at all times, lest we be viewed as not being in touch with our inner privilege.
And this is the problem with so much of the left these days, and is why I have issues with how the concepts of political correctness and inclusivity play out in many self-proclaimed progressive circles. The race to out-progressive each other creates an environment wherein progressive bragging rights become far more important than the actual practices themselves, as well as their effects on our children and families.
For instance, when I pointed out that I didn’t consider the concept of free-range parenting privileged and stated I would practice it regardless of where we lived or how much money we made, it was pointed out to me, in a thoroughly obnoxious, arrogant manner, that I may send my white son out to roam all over town, but would I do the same if I my son was black?
And, of course, this apparently breakthrough progressive point was being made to me by a white chick from New Zealand.
I was forced to admit she had a point that free-range parenting was a choice I was privileged enough to make in some respects, because I’m not afraid to admit when someone points something out I hadn’t considered previously. You know, that whole progress thing. But when she suddenly came back with an out of the blue and totally uncharacteristic to her style thus far smiley face and much kinder words for me, including asking in response to my insistence that I considered it the healthiest choice for my children regardless, “wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could make that choice,” it dawned on me what the whole exchange felt like–like I was Cersei Lannister being commanded to CONFESS! by Septa Unella in order that my heart and soul would feel lightened and I might finally have a sip of water.
Holy fucksicles, people. Is this what we’ve come to?
And it only got better in the attachment parenting thread when the practice by Westerners was relegated to fucking “cultural appropriation” of practices from peoples we normally deem “dirty” and “less-than.” That is, of course, until some male “guru” “whitewashes” the practices and serves them to us in “best-selling books.” And that OF COURSE doing things like extended breastfeeding and cosleeping is considered privileged because ONLY people who can afford to have the mother home full-time are able to practice these things.
And this, friends, is the point at which I generally feel a brain aneurysm coming on, fueled by these astoundingly epic displays of vapid, holier-than-thou, ludicrousness in the world of “progressive” parenting.
Did we choose to breastfeed, cosleep, and wear our babies because we read about it in some best-selling book by some white, male, parenting “guru,” while also possessing the ability for me to stay home?
Ummmmmm, no, we did it because that’s the natural way of things for primates and it all seemed an intuitive no-brainer for us, things we’d do regardless of my personal relationship with the established, capitalist economy.
Likewise with free-range parenting. Did we hop aboard the trend when it became a “thing” a few years back?
Ummmmmm, no, we simply rejoiced that it had actually become a “thing,” and proceeded to practice it regardless because it makes the most sense for our children’s healthy development.
And that is really the crux of the issue for me: If we can all agree that practices such as breastfeeding, cosleeping, wearing babies, free-range parenting, and the like, are generally good and healthy things for those involved…
WHY THE FUCK ARE WE EVEN HAVING THIS CONVERSATION?
Seriously, what the monstrous fuck does it matter to my daily practices as a parent if other people are not in a position to choose the same? Does it mean I shouldn’t parent this way simply because others can’t or don’t? Clearly not, if we’re all in agreement with the science that these practices are generally good and healthy, soooooooooo…
I mean, yes, acknowledging privilege is a good thing, but it’s generally promoted as a way to broaden people’s worldview and alter beliefs and practices. But in this situation, who is this helping? Is this helping those less privileged, who don’t have the choice in many instances to practice these things in the first place, precisely the subject of this particular telling? Is this helping those of us Westerners practicing these things simply because they feel intuitive and right and good to us, privileged or otherwise? Is this helping those of other cultures currently practicing these things as a norm without a clue as to how things are done in other countries, not to mention even a working definition of “cultural appropriation?”
Because seriously, how might a rural woman from Kenya feel about knowing Americans breastfeed and cosleep and wear their babies, just like her and her ancestors have done for millennia, things she knows to be good for the healthy development of children? I’d argue she’d be pretty damn stoked for us, no? So if what we privileged Western sorts are choosing to do for our children is actually the best for our children, and is seen as positive by all real and theoretical participants and philosophies, why the everliving FUCK must we still be coerced–by our fellows, no less–into confessing our sins of privilege and displaying publicly our shame?
WHO IS THAT HELPING?
I guess it’s helping the über-progressives feel better about themselves? By literally pretending the historical practices that unite ALL peoples and cultures don’t properly exist except as they’re practiced today in other parts of the world and are, therefore, now stolen by us from cultures much more closely aligned today to that of our Western past?
IS THIS REALLY WHAT WE’RE DOING NOW?
Look, I think the concept of cultural appropriation, like that of various forms of privilege, is a necessary and worthy tool for enlightenment that can ultimately lead to better understanding and respect amongst our myriad cultures and races and classes and religions, the path to eventual social justice for all. But I also think these concepts are being used to further divide us in some very unnecessary respects, and are not contributing to the overall conversation in anything resembling a meaningful way.
But for some on the left, the all-encompassing obsession with political correctness and inclusivity and admission of privilege seems to have become the end-game, instead of a path and tools to something better, which is ostensibly the entire point of being aware of these concepts and how they affect us and others.
And it frustrates me to no end.
So I will continue to encourage all to truly consider how their privilege relates to the beliefs and opinions they hold and the actions they undertake, as I think it’s incredibly important.
But I will also continue to encourage all to not get lost in the righteous trap of using one’s admission of privilege as a platform for condemning others and derailing the conversations that truly matter.
If you’re doing right by yourself, your children, your community, and the world, then I don’t give a flying rat’s ass how you came to be where you currently are.
And no one else should, either.