Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Opting In: Having a Child Without Loosing Yourself

I just finished reading the book Opting In: Having a Child Without Loosing Yourself by Amy Richards and decided to share some thoughts about it since it got my feminist mama juices flowing. Let me just start by saying that I am a fan of Amy Richards. I think she has done some amazing work in the feminist community and she has been a role model and spokesperson for my generation of feminists, 3rd wave or 21st century feminists, whatever it is you may want to label us. She has been very outspoken on prominent issues in the movement and in her own life, and has taken her passion and activism for feminism to the pages and has written three books: Manifesta, and Grassroots: A Fieldguide for Feminist Activism, co-authored with Jennifer Baumgardner and her most recent book Opting In: Having a Child Without Loosing Yourself.

This book isn't that new of a book, it was actually published back in 2008. It was a book that I had read a review of it when published and wanted to buy, but put it on one of many book lists that have been lost or forgotten about. Recently while surfing Amazon, I came across this again and decided it was time to purchase it.

This book is an easy read, definitely not full of studies and academic jargon that will make your head spin. In my opinion is was written for new feminists and feminists who are new to motherhood. I say motherhood rather than parenthood because it really is directed toward mothers; even though she discusses issues such as the importance of partnership, letting dads be actively involved and the debate over using the word parenthood rather than motherhood, it is still intended for mothers to read. I also have to say that I believe the book is directed at heterosexual mothers. She touches on issues that may be important to feminist lesbian mothers, however, when discussing the role of partners, she speaks primarily from her own experiences which happen to be with a man and the father of her children. Even though this might be a turn-off for some feminists, I believe that the book would still be a worthy read since she does an excellent job of arguing this idea of "choice" applying to all areas of a womun's life; not just to reproductive rights.

She begins this book by approaching an issue that is difficult for many feminists - how to blend your feminist belief system with your own desires to become a mother. How to come to terms with "how such a political movement that is historically known to free womyn of feminine expressions can support such a personal decision that is seen as the ultimate feminine expression." She uses history, research, personal experiences of her own as well as friends and strangers (who have emailed her at AskAmy on Feminist.com) to demonstrate how motherhood and feminism can co-exist in a womun's life.

As she moves through the book she ties the idea of "choice" into many different topics that it should be applied to such as working vs. staying home, pregnancy & birthing choices and gender issues. She also discusses the history of feminism and motherhood, the truth about our biological clocks, relationships between mothers and daughters, and practicing our politics through parenting.

I could take up a lot space and time writing about this book and my own opinion and experiences as a active, third-wave feminist mom, but I have done some of that in past posts. And I am sure I will do some more writing in the future on how I have struggled with blending these two identities and how I have learned to navigate motherhood from a feminist perspective and how I continue to grow and learn how beautifully these two identities can mesh.

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