Finn Mackay is a feminist activist who doesn’t fit into society’s assumed gender codes. Her partner carried and gave birth to their son, now almost 2 years old. In her guest blog Finn explores her experience of motherhood as a lesbian parent. In this installment Finn contends with gender stereotyping at playgroups
Finn’s blog: finnmackay.wordpress.com
I realised early on in this parenting journey that my suspicions and concerns about myself and my capabilities were well-founded. Indeed, as I had feared, I am much more of a cat person than a baby person. I just do not have the patience and passion required. I did not lack self-esteem or a sense of life’s purpose before-baby, and I do not find either of those enriched or awakened post-baby. Perhaps they have even declined, as the academic and political activities that used to fill my spare time have had to fall by the wayside in favour of sleeping and doing the laundry. I cannot get excited about latchkey boards and I spend too much time wondering why Pando in Bing appears to have no parents and no trousers. Walking into draughty halls full of waddling toddlers makes me want to poke my own eyes out with a plastic safety spoon, and this overwhelming feeling is not dissipated by the promise of a cup of tea and a bourbon at half time.
To add to my woes, as an othermother at these groups, fellow parents are often unsure as to who or what I am. It probably doesn’t help that I look much younger than I actually am and don’t fit gendered codes about what a woman should look like, never having identified or presented as feminine. Unlike some lesbian parents, I’ve never had to have those awkward conversations about bleeding nipples or night feeds and pretend I know what women are talking about as they assume biological motherhood onto everyone within sniffing distance of a nappy. Usually I end up on the margins of these groups, and I don’t think this is due to homophobia as such, at least not with any intent or consciousness. I think it is a widespread and common response to gender difference. That response is to freeze, and in that frozen stasis is how we remain as we stiffly navigate what are really quite intimate moments, sitting in circles, sharing a mat or beanbag for various baby activities, singing together. This means that I am not questioned about our son in the same way that Rosie is.
When I am with him I dress my son in clothes that I like, and my partner does the same. It turns out that I have much more conservative and gender normative tastes than she does. However, this does not mean that when we are out together he resembles a child soldier, or a marine. His blonde hair is long at the back, he has plenty of pink clothes and animals feature more heavily than diggers or cars. I have active and healthy disrespect for the sexed territories of clothing and toys in shops and I buy him things from both sections or aisles – it is really outrageous that baby clothes are segregated like this in the first place. Because of this, he is routinely read as a girl. What we have noticed is that people rarely comment on this misreading with me, but they do feel able to challenge Rosie, to the point she finds it quite inhibiting and uncomfortable. This has been a bit of an insight for her, because that discomfort is how I have experienced many of my daily interactions for most of my life, as I’m directed to the wrong toilets, given funny looks buying sanitary products or referred to as ‘mate’ by the bus driver.
Finn Mackay can be reached via her twitter account: @Finn_Mackay
Finn is looking for participants for a reasearch project into Lesbian/Queer Masculinities. To find out more and get involved go to: https://lesbianqueermasculinities.wordpress.com/
Tune in next month when Finn looks in more depth at the assumptions and sexist attitudes directed at her partner Rosie, because she looks more 'normal'.