Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself!

So I didn’t. I’m simply reprinting this great comment here, to share with all and sundry. There is so much to chew on  and a whole lot of insight.  Thank you, commenter Lloyd Gray, whoever and wherever you are! (He wrote this under the post about the mom who let her son walk to soccer and got slammed by the police.)

“There has been a concurrent rise in concerns about automobile crash survival (read: airbags and SUV’s), and municipal water (bottled water being sold in places where what comes out of the tap is not only safer than the bottled stuff, but tastes fine as well) .

“We, as a society, have decided to embrace all fears, and protect against them equally. The issue is twofold: the inability to do reasonable risk assessment on one hand, and the ability to pay for increased levels of vigilance on the other. Where they meet is our current society: people who pay for stuff they don’t need to avoid doing risk assessment, and to avoid upsetting peer standards. The question is, ‘Who benefits?’

“With SUV’s and bottled water, the answer is obvious: corporate interests (with SUV’s, selling high profit, inefficient vehicles; with bottled water, selling something that 10 years ago was essentially free).

“I think Free-ranging your kids is also a feminist issue(and I say this as a man who was a stay at home parent until my son was in grade one). Every one of these articles (that I have seen) has been about a MOTHER allowing her child to do something which someone else decided could put the child at risk. It is about increasing the burden on women: of denying their right, and fitness, to make judgments about their children’s abilities; making supervision of children an onerous full-time occupation(or at least a MORE onerous one). It is about creating artificially high standards as a salve to couples who have two careers and have to pay for care. 

“This is a political issue, and it’s about much more than the security of children. It’s about how our society allocates it’s resources, and about how corporations encourage fears and capitalize on them. It is all the more interesting as we move from a period of unmatched prosperity and uncontrolled consumption to the era of financial uncertainty, peak oil,  and global warming.

“In the 1940’s our parents went through World War 2 and the horrors and deprivations it brought. Genocide, displaced populations(if you’re a European reader), military service and the potential of death or disability, food and gas rationing, and the reduction of access to consumer goods. Yet we are told not to accept the tiny actuarial risk of traveling in a small car or allowing our child to walk to school by himself.

“Over the next few years, the costs of these choices will come into true perspective, and perhaps we’ll see change. To summarize: Free-ranging your child is a political act. It’s green, it’s anti-corporate, and it’s feminist. Those who are against it have an agenda, and I’m pretty certain it’s different from mine (and, with any luck, yours).”

63 Responses

  1. That final statement is so wrong on so many levels.

    I am anti-green, pro-corporate, anti-feminist. And I support benign neglect, which you call “free-range”. As do many other people who think you hippy green anti-corporate feminists are ruining America. It’s actually the hippy green anti-corporate nanny-state attitudes that you all have that contributes to this desire to control every tiny aspect of your kids’ lives.

  2. The previous comment is so odd on so many levels.😉

    Perhaps if we’d stop spending so much time labeling people and playing into the “us versus them” that the politicians like to encourage, we’d see we’re all just people.

    Not hippies.
    Not anti-corporate
    Not nanny-staters
    Not anti-green
    (How do you get to be anti-feminist, btw? that confused me)

    We are just people who should be working together for a better world, not pointing fingers.

    Sigh. Probably won’t happen, will it.

  3. I agree with this post on so many levels…and at a complete loss as to the first commenter. Seriously?

  4. Those who are against FRP may have an agenda that’s merely personal, but I agree with the points that Lloyd raised. Fear-mongering is insidious, and (history shows) has great potential to threaten personal freedoms.

    We need to support each other’s right to make choices, even when we don’t agree with those choices.

  5. I would be a loonie that Mr. Gray is a Canadian.

    No one else (but me, a fellow Canadian) would say “Grade One”.

    Whilst I agree with most of the post, I am also a bit disappointed the comment had to end with politically hot labels. Can’t we just say that being rational about risk and independent of fear-mongering by corporate interests and ignorant peers is wise?

  6. Err… that’s ‘bet’ a loonie. *doh*

  7. I believe the first poster is mostly raging against lumping free-range, green movement, anti-corporate politics and feminism into one lump. The post implies that in order to support free-range you HAVE to support feminists/greenies/anticorporates. Not so.

  8. I agree with pretty much all of Mr. Gray’s points. The total embrace of fear that we as a society seem to have going on right now is a terrible thing. No, we don’t necessarily all have to be green, anti corporate feminists, but I’d be willing to bet that there are a certain number of Free Range Parents out there who are.

    Well written comment!

  9. Perhaps we have to be “helicopters” to justify staying at home with the kids instead of doing a “real” job. Just a thought….

    viv in nz

    ps. I am not a helicopter of any sort except when reading the occasional children’s book.

  10. I realized the other day why other mothers are so worn out with parenting– they feel compelled to play WITH their kids all day long. I love reading books with my kids, I don’t mind pretending to be a character in their imaginative play (while I wash dishes and fold laundry), but playing is THEIR job. My job is to raise interesting kids, which incidentally is less work for the mom. I do this despite not having a TV in our house– and our kids still keep themselves occupied!

  11. I really liked this post. I think it put words to what I’ve been feeling for a while; I love my children fiercely, but I really, equally fiercely do *not* feel that my identity comes from being A Mother. (There. I said it. I do not like being part of Mommy Culture.) Allowing my children to be children and have a life outside of my own is really empowering for our whole family.

    By the way, my children can’t wait till they’re big enough to ride the subway on their own, realizing that right now (at age 5) they wouldn’t know what to do. They are learning how to cross the street by themselves, though.🙂

  12. Totally with Mr. Gray until that last sentence. I don’t know how I feel about that one. I also liked Clover’s comment. By golly, it is my job to raise an interesting child, not to entertain her every minute of the day. At 2 it’s a struggle to get DD to understand that, but even now she can amuse herself for 30-45 minutes at time. She also has quite an independent streak already–it should be exciting (and nerve wracking) when she finally gets all the words to express herself.

  13. Yes, I agree completely with this comment, and with some of the ones posted in reply. Obviously the first one is a great example of a troll.

    The one that really struck me was about feeling the need to entertain and play WITH your child/children 24/7. That is so incredibly true. It is a new trend that is very burdensome on mothers, and full of the potential for guilt. So-and-so does such great activities and games with their child, etc…

    I never remember my mom playing with me. She read to me at night, and paid attention to what I was doing, but I don’t ever remember her actually being my playmate. It was up to me to find things to do. I rarely watched tv, and if I did, it was for brief spates, and then it was back outside. I hope I can teach this to my son.

  14. Love the post and comments – esp. re: SUVs. It drives me bananas when people think they “need” an SUV or Minivan as soon as they have one, tiny baby. We’ve been parents for 9 years and have never needed more than a Honda Civic.

    Also love the idea that we don’t need to play with our kids all day long. I love my boy, but no – I don’t want to play trucks, or cars, or hear a second-by-second rundown of the last episode of Clone Wars.

    “You’re a clever boy with a room full of toys” is a Momisms he’s pretty tired of, but it works🙂

  15. It is obvious that the first commenter is NOT a troll. S/he makes some excellent points that ought to be addressed rather than avoided. But the points about not getting too hung on the traditional labels are good, too.

  16. I wish I had gotten to comment first. I was going to make some of the same points that the first commenter made, but in a much less inflammatory way.

    “Free range” as a parenting style is going to have appeal across a very wide social and political spectrum. If you label it as “Christian,” for instance, then you will alienate non-Christian supporters. If you label it as “feminist” or “anti-corporate” you run much the same danger.

    If “Free range” is a movement, count me in. Count me against the media outlets who profit by pumping up fear, and the corporations who profit by selling absurd safety devices. Count me against the lawyers who profit by promoting absurd lawsuits, and the schools who run themselves with lawsuit-avoidance trumping all other considerations. I’m willing to say that if you don’t agree on those points, you’re not really part of the movement.

    But I also have a lot of other, unrelated beliefs–about politics, religion, pizza toppings, college basketball, and why Star Trek is better than Star Wars, just to name a few–which have nothing to do with “Free Range” parenting. I’m not ashamed of those beliefs and I love discussing them, but I would never assert that you have to agree with them to be “Free Range.” I don’t even know if Lenore agrees with them, and it doesn’t really matter.

  17. I really enjoyed that post, but I have a quibble not having to do with free range parenting. Those of us whose parents were in California during WWII know there were displaced populations in the US too, specifically Japanese. Friends disappeared overnight. Smaller scale that in other parts of the world, but still meaningful.

  18. Although I liked some of the post, I agree with creativedestructionblog. I too am VERY anti-green and anti-feminist. Neither have anything to do with raising my children free-range. I also hear that because I claim to be an “Attachment Parent’ that I can’t raise them free-range. Lenore, I hope your blog continues to educate and inform those who don’t really know what it’s all about.

  19. […] Right on! Read the rest. […]

  20. The entire comment is great and I have to say that I agree that free range parenting is, on some levels, feminist, anti-corporate and green. You dont’ HAVE to be those things to practise free range parenting but you might become those things just by doing it. If you don’t buy into the hype around parenting, literally and figuratively, then you might have just done something along those lines listed above.

    Personally I feel that anyone who’s got a bellybutton is a feminist; everyone has a vested interest in making sure that women and girls are treated as full, equal citizens around the globe. When women and girls’ lives improve so does everyone elses. Anyone who wants to see their kid grow up in a world that still has fresh running streams to play in and beaches that aren’t clogged with garbage, or go for a bike ride and spot a wild animal, is ‘green’. And anyone who thinks that the corporations have an increasing stranglehold on the gov’t, media and education should probably become anti-corporate.

    Just my $.02

  21. Hey, anti-feminists: feminists believe that all genders should have equal rights. Different people feel this should mean different things, but I suspect that you’re against particular aspects of the feminist movement rather than “anti-feminist.” At least I hope so. Saying you are anti-feminist means that you do not believe all people should have equal rights, which is as offensive as saying you don’t think people of other races should have the same rights as you- not something most people are willing to say in public. Please be careful with your language if you do not want to be misunderstood.

    I’m with you about free-range parenting transcending moral/ political beliefs, in the same way environmentalism does- I know Republicans and hunters who consciously live much more “greenly” than some liberal vegetarians who are more closely identified with the environmental movement.

  22. Here! Here! (Jen)

  23. Thanks Meadowlark.🙂
    And Sarah too! I was wondering about the anti-feminist thing: I thought to myself “Wait a minute, if someone’s anti feminist, does that mean they support the continued subjugation of women and girls?” That’s a pretty ballsy thing to say, even on the internet.

  24. Okay, I’ll have a cajones to answer why I’m anti-feminist.

    First off, I was a military wife for a decade. That is probably the biggest reason why I’m anti-fem. The women want to shoot in figher planes like the guys, but don’t want to poop in their helmets like the guys. They want to be in submarines like the guys, but don’t want to take community showers like the guys. And we cater to these women who “want their cake and eat it too”. We spent millions in tax dollars to build port-a-potties and private showers for these “equal women”. Ugh. You can’t want to be totally equal but hate a door being opened for you. I love having flowers delivered and doors opened – does that mean that I am below the one that did it? Not in the least.

    I personally agree with equal pay for equal work, and all that mumbo-jumbo. But to me, that’s not feminism. That belief also works with color, age, religion, whatever.

    Too many women scream “feminism” and “equality” when they simply pick and choose what they want to stand up for. And frankly, I love being barefoot and pregnant too.

    So that’s why I’m definitely anti-feminist.

  25. Ditto Kenny Felder.

  26. For me, the feminist issue is at the forefront: Why all the pressure on mothers? I refuse to buy into yet another ridiculous measuring “tool” to assess my “proper” womanhood or lack thereof.

    I think “anti-feminists” believe we feminists are all child-hating, marriage-and-man-hating, ball busting aggressors who are completely irrational. That in and of itself is a sexist attitude: a woman with a voice and a modicum of power in the public sphere is assumed to do the worst with that power. They feel the need to “put her back in her place”. Well, piffle to that. As a happily married, man-loving (just not SEXISM loving) mother, I may not fit the stereotype. But I am certainly a feminist and proud of it.

    I am also pro-capitalist. I like a system where anyone who has a brilliant idea and the spirit to sell that idea can become successful. Corruption does not mean the whole idea is broken, IMO.
    But I am pro-critical thinking. The public’s willingness to be slaves to media and capital interest is, in my eyes, NOT because business or media are inherently evil, but because enough of us don’t exercise our skeptic muscles. We aren’t taught, as a culture, to think critically or skeptically about all the claims floating around us and how relevant they REALLY are. It is harder to rely on your own judgement, though, because *gasp* there’s a chance you could be wrong. Then, you’d have no one to blame but yourself. In our control-obsessed country, this is unacceptable. So we abdicate to the corporations or media and blame them when we make a foolish purchase or believe a scare-mongering report that turned out to be a hoax.

    As for kids, I am pro-independence and pro-imagination. Death of the imagination is probably the worst result I’ve seen personally of parents playing with kids and making sure they never feel boredom. These kids just cannot entertain themselves or think up anything on their own. There’s another, smaller reason I also don’t play with my son constantly: when a child starts to relate to you as playmate rather than adult and mentor, it messes up the balance of power. You’re his playmate, but now you have to put on your authority hat and enforce the rules? I wonder if all this excessive playing with little kids is how the “parents-as-friends” starts. I do try to make sure my son is not cloistered in my house and has access to other kids, and surprise! Free Ranging lets me do that without the mommy-guilt.

  27. Great article. Free Range is about letting kids be kids and adults be adults. Its not about playing or not playing with your kids its about having the freedom to do what you want with the children you are raising to go off and live on their own. Sometimes I play with my grandchildren and sometimes I don’t. My choice. Sometimes we walk to the story together and other times they go alone.

    Life is about calculating risk, not removing them. Let’s as a society lighten up and let parents decide what is best for thier children. Foster Care is proof that the state does a bad job of raising children.

  28. Sandra: So I take it you don’t vote? And that you believe your husband has a right to rape you whenever he wants? And that of course your sons can go to college but your daughters can’t? Do you want to only free range your sons but not your daughters, because you know training women to be good helpmates for their husbands is the most important job of a woman. Oh, and you don’t wear pants, right?

    I think anti-feminists are just laughable, except that they offend me deeply.

    *****

    I think a lot of what Lloyd Gray says applies to pregnancy as well. So much of pregnancy these days is about restricting women’s activities and choices, making the anxious about every single thing they come into contact with, and bullying them into violent and unnecessary procedures (notably, episiotomy). The same anxieties that are foisted on women in pregnancy are foisted on them in parenting, and it’s yet another way to exhaust, overwhelm, and contain women.

    So sayeth Ashley, the 8 months pregnant woman who’s sick of getting lectured by everyone and their mother for doing things like drinking peppermint tea, having the occasional glass of wine, taking prescription medication, walking down the street (exhaust fumes!), and planning a homebirth.

  29. Sorry, Sandra, but how about equality where it DOES matter: rape.

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/03/18/new-statistics-on-military-rape-and-reporting/

    The comments are also very enlightening.

    And in case you’re wondering, I am also a miltary wife. My husband is Army National Guard.

  30. That’s ridiculous to think that I believe men can rape women and girls shouldn’t get an education. Based on those accusations and the blatant ignorance behind them, I’m backing out of the conversation. Clearly your definition of feminism and mine are quite different, but don’t insult me with those ideas of what you think it is. Anti-feminists do NOT believe they must cower in the face of the “big strong man”, for God’s sakes.

    Yes, it IS quite laughable if someone believes those insane thoughts. Lord have mercy.

  31. Sandra, that’s the most illogical argument I’ve ever heard. It’s also *ignorant*. Do some research on what feminism is, and then you can say you’re against it.

  32. I’m still trying to figure out “anti-green.” I’m entirely anti-environmentalist, and anti-over-regulation, and anti-world-control-of-US-policy, and reallyreallyreally anti-spend-tons-of-money-on-new-appliances, but I’m I’m rather in favor of not destroying what we have. I’m in favor of renewable energy, but not because I think the lack of fossil fuels will damage the environments somehow, but because foreign countries that don’t like us much control our supply. I’m in favor of energy efficiency because it costs me less.

    I’m “anti-feminist” but only in the sense that The Modern Feminist Movement bothers me in many ways. I don’t want to be seen as “just as good as a man” because I don’t want to be compared to men. I don’t want to be an acceptable replacement part for a man, I want to be myself, where I am, doing what I’m doing. I don’t want comparable pay to a man, I want comparable pay for what I’m doing. I’m all in favor of paying what the job is worth, not what the person is worth, because most people wind up shortchanged.

    I can’t say if I’m anti or pro corporate . . . I’m anti-corruption, anti-exploitation, and pro-profit.

  33. Sandra, it’s sounds to me like you’ve gotten all your information on feminism from other anti-feminists. In my younger days, being from a rather conservative family, I also believed these rants that my (mostly male, but some female too) family members would fire off. It was very similar: “Damn wommenz want all the rights of men, but still want to be special! Can’t have cake and eat it too, yadda yadda.” They too mentioned irrelevant things like physiological differences resulting in different bathrooming habits, or things about opening doors and flowers.

    However, actually reading up on and educating myself about feminism has turned me completely around. That’s not to say I agree with every feminist out there. in fact. there are some that, other than having feminist tendencies, I have very little in common with. We aren’t a hive-mind. Accepting that women are as varied and individual as men is the first step to feminism.

    There’s only so many times a woman can tolerate not having her mind or judgement afforded the same respect as a man’s, especially if she is vocal about her opinions. Having her appearance (especially if she’s a public figure) be the FIRST thing everyone sees and judges. Dealing with sexual double standards and people telling her how her brain should work and how she should feel.

    There’s only so much I can take.

  34. It sounds to me like Sandra thinks that feminism demands that we make allowances for women that we don’t make for men so they’re comfortable in traditionally men’s space. So far as I’ve seen, that isn’t actually wrong. She also expressed that she actually appreciates some of her feminine attributes, but doesn’t want to be looked down on for such, and has noticed “feminists” doing so.

    I’ll agree. I think that more damage has been done to the feminist movement by demanding that women be given accommodations that men don’t have. It reinforces the idea that we aren’t as “tough” as they are. GI Jane had it right. The only way you’re going to get a man to stop thinking that you’re a girl before you are a whatever-it-is-you’re-trying-to-be is to not accept special accommodations.

    What I do instead of modern feminism is best expressed by my behavior toward doors. I nod politely and say thank you if a man holds the door for me. I nod politely and say thank you if a woman holds the door for me. If I get to the door before another woman, I hold the door. If I get to the door before a man, I hold the door. When I see a door, I do not break stride. I do not slow down so someone else can get it, and I do not speed up to get there first. It is a courtesy not to close a door in someone’s face when you see them approach, and, since most doors open out, in order not to be standing sideways reaching from the inside, I generally let them enter first or I exit first.

    I feel that a woman should get to be as happy about having a baby as a man is; I feel that she should be able to be as frustrated with baby care as a man is, and I feel that she should be able to be as happy about baby care as she wants to be. I don’t see why women’s behavior/abilities/likes/dislikes/attitudes should be pegged to men at all.

    I think it’s cute that a woman can say “I like being pregnant” and “I don’t think women should have different accommodations than men” and “I don’t like it when women act like they deserve things men don’t get” and get asked if she votes because, OBVIOUSLY women . . . aren’t supposed to like being pregnant? Are supposed to demand different things for different sexes? Are supposed to assert the superiority, or delicacy, or women? What?

  35. I don’t get why people who try explaining anti-feminism are so fixated on doors or quaint dating practices like who gets or expects flowers. Honestly, my feminism is concerned with bigger things. The door issue: I hold doors. I accept a door-hold. I don’t care about gender. It’s just about common decency. I also don’t get bent out of shape if anyone doesn’t hold a door. Whatever. It’s a bit rude, but I’m not going to waste my time getting upset over it. It’s really a nonissue.
    You hit a feminist kernel with this:
    “I feel that a woman should get to be as happy about having a baby as a man is; I feel that she should be able to be as frustrated with baby care as a man is, and I feel that she should be able to be as happy about baby care as she wants to be. I don’t see why women’s behavior/abilities/likes/dislikes/attitudes should be pegged to men at all. ”

    Yes, absolutely. The problem is, our culture loves to tell women how they *should* think and feel, especially about motherhood, and use these judgements to gauge the “properness” of a woman. Like your second point about frustration; often, women feel they are NOT able to be as frustrated with motherhood like any human being, but must maintain this eternal, self-sacrificing calm, lest they be chastized. Motherhood is glorified and it is expected that a mother’s identity IS her role as a mother, whereas being a dad is just a part of a man’s life. Because we recognize that men are individuals with many facets, but women are relegated to their roles: sexual object, “strident feminist”, mother, etc.

    (I’m talking in generalites, of course. Please don’t respond “Well, *I’m* not like that!” Of course, some individuals aren’t. What I’m talking about here is a cultural “feel”, an attitude permeating our society. These attitudes allow an undercurrent of hostility toward women, and in this instance, women and mothers who don’t “know their proper place!”)

    Why is it so hard to believe that feminism is NOT about making women “superior” to men or making them “like men”. The only thing it wants is to make them “like”….individuals. Real human beings who are taken seriously.

  36. Feminism is a big tent – Erica Jong wrote: “I define a feminist as a self-empowering woman who wishes the same for her sisters. I do not think the term implies a certain sexual orientation, a certain style of dress, or membership in a certain political party. A feminist is merely a woman who refuses to accept the notion that women’s power must come through men.”

    Fascinating post by Lloyd Gray – basically, “follow the money”, and see who benefits from a particular belief.

    Corey, I say grade one and I’m a Canadian as well – never noticed a particular national bias about that term before, however!

  37. Technically, she did say she was anti-feminiST, not anti-feminiSM, or even anti-woman. She just means that she chooses to hate people on the basis of their self-labeling, not on the basis of something they can’t change, like their race. It’s not the same as hating the Basque (I know a guy who just can’t stand them), which would be terrible. They can’t help it that they were born Basque.

    It’s more like being anti-athlete: hard to comprehend, but in the end, charmingly goofy. The way they lump in the guy down the block who hosts pickup soccer games (a self-identified athlete), with Barry Bonds (also a self-identified athlete)… It’s cute, just like when people lump in Amita Patel down the block who votes, drives a car, and decided against an arranged marriage (a self-identified feminist) — with Andrea Dworkin (also a self-identified feminist).

    Feminism, thankfully, is all about recognizing that when God gave out brains, he was uncharitable on a perfectly individual basis, instead of designating arbitrary swaths of people for lightweight treatment.

  38. As the mother of a 10 week old, I’m completely baffled by the way the media etc are feeding my fears. (My favorite– a sticker on the door of the infant-care area in the day care reminding us to “never leave your child alone in a car– not for a minute!”
    I haven’t figured out how they expect me to get stuff in and out of the car yet.

  39. Labeling the Free Range movement as a lefty or feminist thing is a big mistake – look at how the comments have become debates over feminism and other political issues. The only agenda that I believe exists for those who oppose Free Range is fear and ignorance, and of course the profit made from fear and ignorance. I do not necessarily believe this is a plot to hold women down – women tend to be more involved in parenting than men so these issues tend to affect them more.

  40. Honestly, I’m not a feminist. That doesn’t make me anti-feminist. And it’s a little ridiculous to think that someone who does not agree with your point of view automatically must be at the polar opposite end of the issue at hand. Common sense would tell us that things in this world are RARELY, if ever, so black and white.

    As far as the issue at hand is concerned.. free-range parenting, in my opinion, means giving our kids the chance to grow up without being locked up, watched, and protected at every turn. Having someone else make your decisions for you ultimately robs you of the chance to learn how to make your choices yourself, and somewhere along the way, we’ve lost track of that.

    What that has to do with women’s rights and rape.. I’ll never know.

    But the fact remains that I prefer to let my kids make their own choices, learn from their own mistakes, and only strive to teach them the difference between right and wrong.. safe and unsafe.

    I can only guide them down the path of common sense by example, and arguing over whether or not a stranger on the internet believes in allowing the rape and subjugation of women to become accepted parts of our society not only misses the point of this blog, but also provides my kids with an example of how silly people can get over things as simple as words posted anonymously by an unknown source. (were they to see all these comments, anyway… which they likely won’t.)

    Come on, people.. does it really matter if Free-Ranging your kids is a feminist issue or not? The point is the kids and how they’re raised. Not the glass ceiling, or the atrocities (sexual and otherwise) committed against women by uneducated and unenlightened people throughout the world. I’ve never viewed over-protective parents and opposers of the Free-Range-Children’s movement as defilers of women’s rights in any way, shape, or form.

    Let’s get back on topic here, OK?

  41. Sigh. “On topic”? Lenore’s original post brought up feminism, so I don’t see how this discussion is off topic.

    My comments were directed at people who claimed to be anti-feminist and had some misconceptions about what feminism was. Also, who railed about the injustice of women “wanting it both ways”.** I was compelled to respond.

    I never said FR was a feminist issue across the board, but that it is for *me*, for reasons I’ve already stated.

    I’ve noticed Free Rangers here who were attachment parents, and those who were not. I’ve noticed christians, and those who were not. I’ve noticed “greenies”, and those who were not. So, yes, FR appeals to a broad base of people. But I think quashing the expression of ideas that make you uncomfortable isn’t what to do, especially if it doesn’t get personal. In fact, that the movement appeals to so many who are so different otherwise is a testament to the strength of its ideals.

    **A father is never bitterly accused of “wanting it both ways” when he goes back to work after having a baby. I guess it is presumed that there will be a female to take up the role of childcare provider, and there is no detriment to his character for this. And it is presumed that it WILL be the female and not the male. If women must go back to work and leave their child with providers (NOT presumed to be the male parent), she must feel the requisite amount of motherly guilt that society deems appropriate.

    @KarenW: I would argue that women seem to be “better” at parenting simply because they have more practice thrust upon them from the very beginning. When my husband tries to say that I must have some intrinsic parental compass merely because I’m a woman (I don’t; I must learn and fumble like anyone else) I tell him that due to circumstance (his deployment) and cultural forces, I’ve had more practice in some areas.

  42. I’m sorry, Jennifer. I was under the impression that this blog was about kids and a better way of raising them.

    I should have kept my clearly patriarchal ideas to myself, considering I have no clue how to raise kids ’cause I gots me a dick hanging between mah legs.

    I’ll just go have a beer and scratch my nuts while I consider how best to abuse the women in my life. You ladies go right ahead and discuss how I’m to blame for everything wrong in the world.

    *happily waves goodbye*

  43. Love it! And wow, can’t believe the amount of HUGE comments on this post. I’ll go back and read them later. All I have to say is something simple.
    A friend of mine who wrote about the high expectations of mothers (on her personal blog) and specifically, her, got a comment that said, “Who needs ME time? When we were raising kids, we didn’t EXPECT any ME time!”
    With that said, not only does this poor, exhausted mama feel worse about not being able to keep up, but it just goes to show that that woman has no IDEA what kind of pressure today’s parents have on their back to keep their children in eyesight every second of the day to make sure they’re safe AND do allt he housework, AND she works full time, too! (from home).
    How awful to hear, I;m sending her this guy’s comment!
    PS-have the book finished (loved it! Annoyed my husband by every 10 minutes saying…”Just listen to this one…!”🙂
    Will have a review and link to my blog by the end of the week. Thanks again for the great opportunity!
    Sarah M

  44. While I definitely agree with the original post, I am absolutely shocked to learn (a) pilots poop in their helmets and (b) someone could think Star Trek is better than Star Wars.

  45. I agree that labelling the free-range movement and style of parenting as ANYTHING other than “The free range movement” is divisive and counter-productive. I also agree wholeheartedly with Jennifer in this: “that the movement appeals to so many who are so different otherwise is a testament to the strength of its ideals.” The Free Range Movement is awesome all by itself and that so many people from so many walks of life see that and participate shows that.

  46. @WIll, yup, that’s exactly what I said. Your reading comprehension skills are without peer.

    This *particular* post was politically charged at its inception. And, if you had actually *read* my post, instead of getting defensive about my horrible gynocentric agenda, you would have known that I certainly *don’t* think a vagina gives me any special insights into parenthood.

    @TimmyMac: I too was shocked at the helmet-poop thing! When my husband was in the field, he BMed in a hole in the ground, and then covered it up, like a kitty-cat. One would think going in an expensive, govenment issued helmet would be impractical, because now that helmet will be forever useless *and* you’d have to carry it around with you. (At least, *I’d* never want to wear it again!)

    And, lastly: psht, Star Trek totally owns. /GEEK

  47. “As far as the issue at hand is concerned.. free-range parenting, in my opinion, means giving our kids the chance to grow up without being locked up, watched, and protected at every turn. Having someone else make your decisions for you ultimately robs you of the chance to learn how to make your choices yourself, and somewhere along the way, we’ve lost track of that.

    What that has to do with women’s rights and rape.. I’ll never know.”

    Because free range parenting fosters a sense of independence, which is something that feminists fight for explicitly for women, and which anti-feminists oppose, again explicitly for women.

    Also, the mainstream media/helicopter parents use the threat of rape and child molestation to bully people into becoming terrified helicopter parents.

  48. Karen, Sandra, et al.: I think the best description of feminism is “the radical idea that women are people.”

    I don’t want someone telling me I can’t do something because of my sex. I don’t want someone telling me I must or should do something because of my sex. This is what feminism is explicitly about. The patriarchy privileges masculinity while degrading femininity (long haired men are seen as “pussies” as one very shallow example), and says that women must do one thing and men must do another. That is fundamentally wrong. Feminism fights against coercive gender roles for both sexes, and explicitly for women to have the right to engage in society in exactly the same ways as men.

    By elevating women to the same status as men, men lose their privilege, which is a GOOD thing. Men should not be privileged because of their Y chromosome, they should be taken as individuals, as should women.

    It’s really not that radical or difficult a concept.

    I’ve had people tell me that marriage only works because of gender roles, and that their marriage specifically works because as a woman the wife complements her husband as a man. That’s ridiculous. My marriage works because my husband and I complement each other as PEOPLE. We both have traits that are stereotypically attributed to each gender (we both have very long hair, we both like fashion, we both carry bags everywhere, I have more construction experience and am more comfortable with power tools, I’m less squeamish. He’s more logical and mathy. I majored in history. We’re both incredibly outspoken and opinionated and stubborn. We’re both rather sexual and have about the same number of partners pre-marriage. He’s more modest than I am. etc. etc. etc.). Anti-feminism/traditional patriarchal bullshit looks at the gender and not the person. And that is simply wrong.

  49. I’m sorry to have started a firestorm here!

  50. This is actually quite good discussion and is just lively enough (for me). Your original comment touched a nerve and brought up a lot of good conversation. Obviously not everyone agrees with you but that’s not the point; sometimes just talking about things is good enough.

    The last sentence of your comment makes me curious though; can you clarify how it is that “the hippy green anti-corporate nanny-state attitudes that you (we) all have that contributes to this desire to control every tiny aspect of your (our) kids’ lives.” ? Thanks!

  51. Boy oh boy… ok – first of all, I agree with the post. Second, I read the labeling in the final paragraph as almost a parody of all said labels, and a lesson… that “free-range parenting” shouldn’t even need to be a label – it should simply be common sense. No one should be “for” or “against” it – it should simply be the way of life when having children!

    As far as feminists go – I will say that I am grateful to the women who were the bra-burning radicals, who hated men and the subjugation of women because if it weren’t for them, I might not have the rights I have now. They were pissed enough to really push for rights and pushed “right now!” (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    I don’t feel the need anymore to burn my bra and such, but I feel the need to see equality between men and women – not to be equal. **A man is not a woman, a woman is not a man, but neither is less than the other.** A woman is no more born with motherhood on the brain than a man is born to be an emotionless sack of flesh – our society has pressed upon us such roles – and only by doing away with those expectations can we get to respecting one another as individuals with strengths and weaknesses. I know many women that wouldn’t think twice about showering with men in a community shower. I know other women that feel that to see chivalry dying is to admit “they” (whoever they are) are trying to make men and women unisex. (And yes, I had an old lady harping to me one day about the downfall of society since women are trying to get rid of their periods [through all the birth control pills that don’t let you have one for 4 months], and through men being less chivalrous]. It was intense…)

    Respect is the thing we need to learn, the word that means more in my mind than equality, since if you respect each sex (and individuals beyond that) as human beings, you garner an equality. If some men understood that women can get just as pissed off about doing menial housework as they do, if some women understood that a man crying is not a show of weakness, if some men understood that just because a woman is physically weaker they don’t have the right to abuse them, if some women understood that because they are counting on men not to hit them it gives them the right to wail away… and yes, these are end-of-the-spectrum examples… but none-the-less…

    It’s about respect. Karen made a great point which is much the same as I feel:
    “What I do instead of modern feminism is best expressed by my behavior toward doors. I nod politely and say thank you if a man holds the door for me. I nod politely and say thank you if a woman holds the door for me. If I get to the door before another woman, I hold the door. If I get to the door before a man, I hold the door. When I see a door, I do not break stride. I do not slow down so someone else can get it, and I do not speed up to get there first. It is a courtesy not to close a door in someone’s face when you see them approach, and, since most doors open out, in order not to be standing sideways reaching from the inside, I generally let them enter first or I exit first.

    I feel that a woman should get to be as happy about having a baby as a man is; I feel that she should be able to be as frustrated with baby care as a man is, and I feel that she should be able to be as happy about baby care as she wants to be. I don’t see why women’s behavior/abilities/likes/dislikes/attitudes should be pegged to men at all. “

  52. Jen: I’m an anarchist, and as such I think people should be allowed to raise their kids however the hell they want. And I think that kids should generally be left free to make their own mistakes, within reason. So I am a fan of this “Free Range Kids” idea.

    These ideas I object to: “environmentalism, anti-corporatism, feminism” etc. are all ways by which people impose their will upon others by force. That, taken to its logical extreme, leads to other people telling me how to run my life and raise my kids. I object to all that. Thus my final sentence.

    I’m sure I could have worded my comment better, but I was offended to be lumped in with environmentalists and feminists. So I responded. If you want to be environmentalists and feminists, feel free, just don’t force me to be one, or call me one, please.

  53. Fair enough, Sameer, and thank you for the clarification.🙂

  54. […] Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself! So I didn’t. I’m simply reprinting this great comment here, to share with all and sundry. There is so much […] […]

  55. I’m not really sure how this became an issue about women in the military, because the original claim was actually quite clear: fearmongering about children (from what they eat to where they play) disproportionately falls on women and serves as a way to keep those who would ordinarily pursue a career caught up in the demands of small children, because it’s really not possible to Be A Mommy in the way that upper middle class mommydom demands and be, you know, a lawyer or a teacher or anything that demands a normal workday. I don’t necessarily see this as a manifestation of patriarchy, because it seems more insidious than that: Mommydom rigorously polices its own for code violations. Pressure to stay home with small children seems primarily to come from women who stay home with small children, who partially justify their own decision on the grounds of safety, making every mother who doesn’t want part of her day to herself feel like she’s putting her kid out in the driveway with a big “Free to Sex Predators” around its neck. Free Range parenting resists this feeling of inferiority, whatever its origins, so yeah, I’d say it’s of particular interest to women who want an existence independent of the demands of child-rearing and domesticity.

  56. Shannon, it sounds like you are implying that those of us who choose to make domesticity our careers feel the need to justify that choice by being overprotective, hence the rise of over-mothering.

    I don’t disagree with everything you say, but that’s just not even close. Perhaps there are some who feel that the need to fill their days at home with excessively being in their kids’ faces, but there are many, many of us who feel no need to find additional justifications for our full-time domestic careers than that we believe it is the proper choice for us and for our families. Most of our mothers and grandmothers managed to be relatively free-range while being full-time in the home, so I’m not sure your novel hypothesis stands up historically, either.

    I could say more but I’ll stop as I doubt it would be helpful to anyone.

  57. Let me just throw this in, though — most of the full-time, homeschooling mothers I know are generally more free-range than the general run of mothers I know. That may be counter-intuitive (especially given many people’s assumptions about homeschooling), but it’s my experience, and I can think of reasons why it makes sense.

  58. My informal observation on the subject is that it is primarily upper middle class mothers who had prior high octane careers but quit who are the anti-free rangers, not the middle and lower middle class homeschoolers, who are usually homeschooling for religious reasons and hence get caught up in other ideas about how children should be raised that conflict with smothering.

    Data on women’s employment and class tends to support at least the first conclusion. The second is more speculative.

    As for the historical aspect, over-mothering doesn’t merely require lots of time: it also requires a social justification. The problem with your comment, SheWhoPicksUpToys, is that you’re not thinking about the philosophical/social/intellectual history of the 20th century. Our grandmothers didn’t need an internal justification to stay home, because they had an external one: the government told women after the war that it was unpatriotic to work (the men needed the jobs). This wasn’t hard to do, because there were already plenty of ideas about women’s work and the general unsuitability of it floating around in the zeitgeist, leftovers from the Victorian period. Come the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s, women woke up and realized that they could and perhaps should pursue lucrative, stimulating, *adult* work that didn’t involve diapering and building pillow forts. (Furthermore, worsening economic conditions made it desirable to have a second income.) But economic prosperity in the 80s and 90s made it easy for women to draw upon some of the more old-fashioned ideas of femininity and motherhood that were, inexplicably, still bopping around to quit their jobs. They were primarily upper middle class women who married upper middle class men, who could afford to live on a single income. But some of the values of feminism still remained–including the one that had some nasty things to say about women who didn’t choose to exercise their mental faculties or who chose to live dependent on a man–and another justification was required. I’d argue that children became that justification, the social raison d’etre, for this particular class of women to stay home. As I said in my original comment, it’s no longer patriarchy, as it was after World War II when the government told women to stay home for their countries; it’s a social pressure exerted on women by other women, coming entirely from inside the institution of motherhood and therefore desperately seeking to survive, despite significant challenges. It’s sad on a couple of levels. The first is that upper middle class women are generally the most educated and potentially have the most to offer to this world by way of new medicines, books, and ideas; instead, they’re at home, painting exquisitely realistic sunflowers on paper plates for four-year-olds to demolish with their brownies in five seconds, as Judith Warner famously puts it. The second is that, unlike more obvious manifestations of social control, this one exercises an insidious power, one that sounds an awful lot like your girlfriend talking to you over martinis and chocolate cake. (Often, it is.) Social pressures are easier to resist when they seem to come from something external (men, the government, whoever). It’s quite easy to just conclude that your girlfriend knows more about kids than you do and blithely quit your job and become a drudge because Whatsoever Will Little Madison Do if She Has a Question About Butterflies and Can’t Immediately Reach Mommy to Ask It? And What If She Needs a Diorama for Class Tomorrow? And What if Riding the Bus is Too Demeaning and Mummy Needs to Take Her to School Every Single Day? And that, my friends, is how you end up without a life.

  59. “Data on women’s employment and class tends to support at least the first conclusion.”

    I’m curious as to which data you’re talking about. I didn’t realize the sociology and/or psychology of free-ranging had already been analyzed that way. (Though I could see it as a topic for lots of good dissertations yet to come.)

  60. “Our grandmothers didn’t need an internal justification to stay home, because they had an external one: the government told women after the war that it was unpatriotic to work (the men needed the jobs). This wasn’t hard to do, because there were already plenty of ideas about women’s work and the general unsuitability of it floating around in the zeitgeist, leftovers from the Victorian period.?”

    You’re excluding the possibility that those “external” justifications were actually the same as their “internal” ones — i.e., that regardless of whether society was impelling them to stay home, they would have wanted to anyway. FWIW, my grandmother was actually raising her kids during the Great Depression, and when economics permitted (which wasn’t most of the time) she was more than happy to be keeping the home.

  61. And also FWIW, a lot of the middle and lower middle class women I know who are home with their kids don’t homeschool. It’s more a matter of: keeping a home and raising a kid add up to a fulltime job, so why shouldn’t I do it instead of paying a bunch of other people to do it, AND get to be with my kids?

  62. As the writer of the original post, I am fascinated by the way this has played out. My original comment was about how all our child-rearing actions have political and commercial consequences, and that we vote with our feet. However, a great many commenters balk at the suggestion that anything they do could be interpreted as “leftish”, or that actions can have alternate and contradictory political explanations (Using a Hummer to take 6 people on an expedition to research global warming on a glacier is probably green…or is it?). It is possible for someone on the right to do something environmentally sound, and it is possible for someone on the left to do something supporting the corporate structure. In both cases, they may have made a pragmatic choice to do the least harm in view of their political beliefs (It’s only a LITTLE Hummer…). To deny an alternate explanation of our slips, however, is not politics: it is religion. Many of the comments seem to be about self-justification, and the denial of alternate explanations or categorization (“It is what I say it is,not what it could be interpreted as, and you… well, you’re wrong.. and mean… and…wrong”). What can I say? We all have to live with our self image. Partisan dogma has been the dominant language of American politics for nearly thirty years, and it’s hard to change deeply ingrained habits. I read a great quote this morning, which sums up my thoughts on the issue: (the quote is from a designer named Jack Schulze) “No one cares about what you think, unless you do what you think. No one cares what you do, unless you think about what you do. No one ever really cares what you say.”
    (http://www.kickerstudio.com/blog/2009/05/six-questions-from-kicker-jack-schulze/) Which is how I feel. I don’t care how you self-identify, and I don’t care how you self-justify. I care about where the dollars are spent and the choices are made. Especially the hard choices and the ones that embarrass you. And the ones that require you to make common cause with those you think you could not possibly have anything in common with. Because change lies in that direction.

  63. Perhaps we have to be “helicopters” to justify staying at home with the kids instead of doing a “real” job. Just a thought….

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