sisters of resistance

anti-imperialist pro-vegan radical queer feminist hip-hop & grime revolutionaries.

The case against having children — November 9, 2017

The case against having children

I am a thirty three year old woman with a secure job in a long term relationship with a man seven years my junior. We are both at the start of promising careers, me in education and he in catering and music. We have been together for five solid years, are deeply in love, and live together part of the time with the intention of soon making it full time. Nearly all of the couples we know have children. He is godfather to a bright and beautiful six year old girl, who we see often; we have close friends with one and two year olds, and at family parties there are usually five or six little ones running round and playing in the back garden. We are active in their care, babysitting on request and voluntarily; there is no shortage of interaction with children in our lives. We smile at their sweetness, sigh over their cuteness and giggle along with them at their silliness. We head them off if they are about to hurt themselves, cuddle them when they cry, play with them, speak to them gently, and truly love them. 

And yet. The likelihood that he and I are going to have children of our own is a possibility growing further and further away with each passing year. My rejection of the social script to progress from the stage we are now at, to marriage, and then children, at the expectation of others is a commitment that in my mind is nearly as strong as our commitment to each other. When people ask me, “Do you want kids?” my standard answer is, “It varies…between ‘maybe’ and ‘hell no!’” The older I get the more it has become clear that the conscious choice I have always made to prevent pregnancy has been the right one for me.  

That I have come to this conclusion surprises me as much as it confuses others. Most of my life I have wanted to be someone’s mother. I have daydreamed about what I would name my children, how I would teach them to be good people, what languages they would speak and what family heirlooms I would pass on to them. But as I have come to the realisation that having children is not something that makes sense for me in the immediate or short term future, the rationale has taken shape in my mind. So, I present below the reasons that make up my current case against having children, for reasons other than not liking them, loosely organised into THINGS I WANT and THINGS I DON’T WANT.  

I want to remain the protagonist of my life. I don’t want to have to constantly be thinking about someone who for at least 20 or so years (until I am in my 50s) cannot care for themselves. I do not want to spend my 30s changing diapers and bedsheets for a being that wees and shits all over itself and me. I do not want to have year after year of very little sleep and sore nipples from breastfeeding. I do not want to research the best things to feed toddlers or then latest parenting method; instead I would rather work on my research papers. I do not want to have to go to bed early so I can wake up to wash them, feed them breakfast, and take them to school at 8am. I do not want to move houses so we can be in a better school catchment area. I do not want to clean crayon off the walls or have small items around the house suddenly go missing. I do not want to take a tiny being to expensive places like Disneyland and put all my effort into making them happy when they are young if it will be just a blip in their memory when they grow up.  

I want to spend my money on myself, on gifts for loved ones already living, on traveling and have something saved for retirement. I don’t want to feel obligated to buy the latest toy to make them smile only to have them forget about it a few weeks later. I don’t want to be hassled at the grocery store where the aisle of sweets is strategically placed at a child’s eye level. I don’t want the negative vibes that come from continuously denying the requests of someone I love, minor and ridiculous though they may be.  

I don’t want to raise a child in late capitalism who will be socialised into a generation so far removed from my childhood that I don’t understand their culture, logic and way of thinking. I don’t want to to be disturbed by the music they listen to, the technology they are obsessed with. I don’t want to have to speak in child-friendly language and terminology for days or months or years at a time. I don’t want to have to explain everything, because I would feel that responsibility. I don’t want to have to deal with teen sexting and adolescent porn use and the impact these will undoubtedly have on their self-esteem and sexual development. I want to have adult conversations and I also want to be able to avoid the lies that parents sometimes have to tell. Like that the world will be ok when they grow up, or that I am sure they will find a job and pay off that student loan. I don’t want to raise a child with Western expectations of material pleasure and success without the means to help them actually achieve those objectives. I don’t want to watch my child’s generation be less successful than me, as this is the trend we are currently in and which doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon.  

I want to drastically reduce my carbon footprint in a way that I could never do simply by keeping the heat down and the lights off. I want to be able to distribute my love widely and not have it concentrated on one or two precious beings who will then keep my hands full and unable to serve others. I want to follow in the traditions of religious who devoted themselves to their work and to their spiritual practice by not marrying and having a family. I have always been inspired by women of the cloth, as in generations past that would have been the only way for someone like me to have a life of the mind. I understand how much effort it takes to live a life that intentional and for this reason I love that their clothing was referred to as ‘habit.’ If we make our clothing a habit the energy we expend on selecting items of dress and beautifying ourselves is much reduced and there is effort left over for other, more important things. Once children arrive, they become the subjects of ultimate importance, and as such, assume their rightful place in the priority list. If all is as it should be, everything else comes after. Babies are helpless beings who depend on us to satisfy their every need. I associate this relationship of dependency, at least the way we have arranged it in contemporary Western nuclear-family capitalism, with a requirement for selfless, unconditional giving on one hand, and a learned behaviour of demanding and taking on the other. If it was a relationship between adults I would call it abuse, but it is not in a child’s nature to do anything different. This imbalance is enough to drive one to mental illness, as the many mothers with post-natal depression will tell you. Thus, much like nuns once opted for uniform clothing, I choose to be child free in order to preserve energy and sanity for my work in the world.  

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Surviving Heteronormativity  — August 17, 2015

Surviving Heteronormativity 

As a queer feminist cis woman in a relationship with a straight man, I find myself struggling every day against heteronormative patriarchy. It is a toxic cloud that I am holding at bay purely by the strength of my wit and my will. Some days are harder than others. Some oppressive interactions are more subtle while some are more overt. It leaves me feeling like I am teetering upon a tightrope, wondering what will be the element that will cause me to lose my balance, and with it, the independent identity I have worked so hard to cultivate. But through it all, I am learning some important lessons about how to resist and challenge the slow erosion of my independence and suppression of my spirit that is characteristic of what happens to women in heteronormative sexist relationships, and it is these that I wish to share with you today.

Lesson 1. You are in control of yourself.

One of the founding principles of heteronormative capitalist patriarchy is its ability to make women believe that they have no other option than to remain in relationships that leave them feeling unsatisfied at best, and victimised at worst. Once linked to men’s traditional role as financial provider, women are taught that to catch and to keep a man, and eventually, to bear his children, is the epitome of womanhood and the highest expression of femininity. The result of this schooling, even in an era where many women are now the breadwinners of the family, is that we stay with men who are not right for us and put up with behaviour that is selfish, disrespectful and often abusive. The fact that so many men act in these ways, that it is tolerated, normalised, and even becomes an object for comedy, is a sure sign of the sickness that pathologises our society. 

So what can be done to challenge this? We need to learn that at any point, no matter how embedded we are in a bad relationship or an unfair partnership, how long we have been with them, how many kids we have together or what other people will think, we possess within us the ability to resist, say no and to walk away from situations that oppress us. Although it may be difficult to see an alternative or a way out, this is something we can strive for and work towards. We can speak to our partner about our needs and get out if our requests go unheard. We can ask for help in this process if we need it. We do not deserve to be treated badly and we were not meant to suffer in silence, unloved and unappreciated. We must remember that we have choices and that even though we cannot control the actions of others, we can control how we respond to them. And if that response is to remove yourself from a situation, then so be it.

Lesson 2. Retain your independent thought. 

Another holdover from centuries of unbridled capitalist patriarchy is the notion that after marriage, or in the contemporary era, coupledom, man and woman are united and they become one entity. However, what we often fail to discuss is that in a union of people who, in the eyes of society, are not equals to begin with, the thoughts, opinions and beliefs of the person who is higher on the social ladder will undoubtedly win out over those of the person who is lower. We see this manifest in many ways, such as how men often get the final word in decision making (“Let me just check with my husband/I want to do X or Y but my guy doesn’t approve”) or disciplining (“Ask your father/Wait till your father gets home”). It is also apparent in how many women act as mouthpieces for their husband or boyfriend’s opinions. 

Often the process of mind control takes place through a gradual chipping away at a woman’s independent thought. We enter relationships as individuals with our own ideas and opinions, but over time we may allow those opinions to be set aside in favour of those of the man we love, because we wish to please him. This in itself may be seen as honourable, but only in the context discussed above where your main aim is to keep your man, no matter how pushy or selfish or ungrateful he may be. In reality, it is dangerous and leads to an unhealthy self-denial, the practice of self-silencing and the disappearance of our individuality. Do not let this happen to you. 

Lesson 3. Make space for yourself.

Something that can really help us retain our independent thought, listen to our intuition, articulate and act upon what we need is maintaining our personal space. This is space in both the physical and mental sense. Find some time each day to be alone with yourself, even if it is just a few minutes in the bathroom or a short trip to the store, and be intentional with this time. Bring a small notebook and write down your thoughts, or clear your mind of everyone and everything and just focus on your breath. Repeat a positive affirmation to yourself and remember that in this moment, you are enough. 

Humans are social creatures. Loneliness is one of our greatest fears. But if you learn to be as committed to yourself as you are to your partner, then you will find it enjoyable to spend time working on yourself, developing your interests, pursuing your passions, and doing the things that make you happy.  You can share these things with others if it is appropriate, and you should make and maintain friendships outside of your relationship, both to quell co-dependency and to experience the fulfilment that comes from being yourself and doing the things you want to do, whether or not your partner does them with you. This is key to lasting intimacy and also to maintaining monogamy, if that is the intention for your relationship. The sex and relationship expert Esther Perel has said: “We need multiple connections, multiple attachments. If you start to feel that you have given up too many parts of yourself to be with your partner, then one day you will end up looking for another person in order to reconnect with those lost parts.”

Make space for yourself to think your own thoughts and to see the world from your own point of view. This doesn’t mean shutting down debate or never compromising in a fair way, but really listening to your own feelings, making up your mind for yourself and not putting up with having those thoughts and feelings dismissed or ignored. But in order to make that happen, you have to set the example by not dismissing or ignoring them yourself. You have nothing to fear from being alone. You are complete unto yourself. You were fine before they came into your life, and if one day you break up, you will be fine after they are gone. Anyone who truly loves you will learn to see and respect that, and if they do not, then you’re better off without them. 

Rondeau Redouble — October 14, 2014

Rondeau Redouble

There are so many kinds of awful men –
One can’t avoid them all. She often said
She’d never make the same mistake again;
She always made a new mistake instead.
The chinless type who made her feel ill-bred;
The practised charmer, less than charming when
He talked about the wife and kids and fled –
There are so many kinds of awful men.
The half-crazed hippy, deeply into Zen,
Whose cryptic homilies she came to dread;
The fervent youth who worshipped Tony Benn –
‘One can’t avoid them all,’she often said.
The ageing banker, rich and overfed,
Who held forth on the dollar and then yen –
Though there were many more mistakes ahead,
She’d never make the same mistake again.
The budding poet, scribbling in his den
Odes not to her but to his pussy, Fred;
The drunk who fell asleep at nine or ten –
She always made a new mistake instead.
And so the gambler was at least unwed
And didn’t preach or sneer or wield a pen
Or hoard his wealth or take the Scotch to bed.
She’d lived and learned and lived and learned but then
There are so many kinds

poem by Wendy Cope, b. 1945

20 Questions That Are Better Than “Why Don’t You Have a Boyfriend?” — June 23, 2013

20 Questions That Are Better Than “Why Don’t You Have a Boyfriend?”

Women under patriarchy are too often defined not by their own personal development and accomplishments, but instead by the stage they have reached in the patriarchal, heteronormative narrative of dating, boyfriend, live-in, engaged, married, children. We find that we and our wider circle of female friends are constantly subjected to questions regarding where we are on this timeline. This is a means of judgment and a primary way that others participate in socially pressuring you to conform, by constantly reminding you what is expected.

If you reject these questions or are not making what is deemed as the right progress, you are punished, othered, and excluded for your non-participation. In patriarchal society, single women are pathologized, especially as they get older. In contrast, being in a long-term relationship with a man is seen as “success.” But just being in a relationship doesn’t mean you are doing well.

In addition to being too personal for most people to be asking you, questions such as the below:

  • Are you dating?
  • Do you have a boyfriend?
  • Do you live together?
  • Are you engaged?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have any children? Do you want to have children?
  • When do you want to/are you going to have children?

are NOT IMPORTANT. They are irrelevant and useless as measures of how well you are doing in your life. The only reason anyone would ask you these questions is so they can assess and judge you against heteronormative, patriarchal criteria. They also use your answers to compare themselves against you and justify their own lives and actions.

Rejecting the intrusive list of questions above, we have created a list of 20 questions we can ask ourselves to assess our well-being. This type of self-evaluation is feminist, non-heteronormative, and has a balanced view of our relationships with ourselves and others, partner or partners, rather than basing all of our worth and well-being on a single intimate partner.

For the sake of coherence and convenience, we have sorted the questions into 4 categories: Relationship with Self, Relationships with Others, Space and Time. If you find yourself answering “no” to any of these questions, we encourage you to focus attention on these areas and take steps towards a healthier and happier you.

RELATIONSHIP WITH SELF

1. Are you happy?

2. Do you feel fulfilled?

3. Are you eating/sleeping well? Do you get enough exercise and fresh air?

4. What are the areas of your life in which you are challenging yourself to grow?

5. Are there any habits or patterns you would like to change?

RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS

6. Do the significant people in your life treat you with respect?

7. Do you feel free to make your own choices?

8. How are your relationships with family and/or friends?

9. Do you know when it is appropriate or necessary to put up boundaries with particular people?

10. Do you have the capability and know-how to put those boundaries up and hold them?

SPACE

11. Are you comfortable and satisfied with your living situation?

12. Do the environments you inhabit make you feel alert and clear-headed/restful and peaceful?

13. Do you have a low-stress strategy for dealing with mess, clutter, and household chores?

14. What can you do to make your environment or surroundings better reflect you/your personality?

15. What can you do to make your environment more refreshing or relaxing?

TIME

16. Do you make some time for yourself every day?

17. Can you be spontaneous with your plans and decisions?

18. Are you spending enough quality time with family and/or friends?

19. When you are feeling highly stressed, pressured and overworked, do you take the time to address your needs?

20. Are you able to say “no” in order to avoid overcommitment?

Are you sick of being defined by your relationship status? What are some better ways you can evaluate your well-being? Any suggestions or additions to this list, please leave them in the comments below.

— April 4, 2013

how challenging the notion that “silence is sexy” can help us learn to seek consent.

Queer Guess Code

movie-date

A woman once told me pointedly something that has stayed with me to this day.  We were kissing.  Lying on the cold wood floor, my hand traveled across her stomach and she whispered, “I think we should take it slow.”  I agreed immediately.  Before moving in to kiss her again, I said, “Just tell me when to stop.”

This, I thought, was considerate.  Respectful.  Sexy.  But she quickly corrected my mistake.  Pulling away from me, her face took on a serious expression and the words she spoke illuminated a misunderstanding I had long nurtured, even as I knew myself to be a thoughtful feminist with much respect for other women.

In essence, what she said was, “Women are not given enough opportunities to say ‘yes.'”

Oh, I thought.  Huh.  What a wonderfully radical idea.  But I mean, isn’t it strange that this idea is so radical?  Women saying yes.  It’s…

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