Kids’ Screen Time is a Feminist Issue

google search trends shows increased volume of searches for kids screen time since 2010

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The new poster child for bad parenting is the parent texting their way through dinner, while the kids do the same.

But let’s get real. When we fret about excess screen time as bad parenting, what we’re really talking about is bad mothering. After all, mothers still do more than three times as much routine child care as fathers do, and almost four times as much solo care, according to a 2011 study by Lyn Craig and Killian Mullan.  When we worry that parents are shirking their duties by relying on an electronic babysitter, we’re really worrying that mothers are putting their own needs alongside, or even ahead of, their kids’ needs.

It’s a worry that rears its head any time someone comes up with a technology that makes mothers’ lives easier. As mothers, we’re supposed to embrace—or at least nobly suffer through—all the challenges that parenting throws at us. We’re supposed to accept having little people at our heels while we’re trying to buy the groceries, make dinner, or go to the bathroom. We’re supposed to accept the exhaustion that comes from working a full day at the office and a second shift at home before falling into bed for an inevitably interrupted sleep. We’re supposed to accept the isolation that comes from raising children in a world that regards a crying child as a crime against restaurant patrons or airplane travellers.

The mother who hands her child a smartphone is taking the easy way out of these challenges. But since so much of parenting consists of situations in which there is no easy way out, I’m deeply grateful when somebody offers me a cheat. I love being able to hand my kid an iPhone in a restaurant so we can go out for dinner on a night when nobody feels like cooking or cleaning up. I love knowing I can get a few quiet minutes for a business call — if I let the kids watch Netflix. I love being able to have an actual conversation with a friend while my kids enjoy their Minecraft time. Steve Jobs may have banned iPhones and iPads for his own kids, but I bet he would have rethought that position if he’d actually spent every day at home with them, instead of off running Apple.

 

Emojis Would Show Women Doing More Than Painting Their Nails

 

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When it comes to emojis, women can be brides or princesses, paint their fingernails, get a haircut and go dancing in a red dress. If those sound like roles determined by the patriarchy, well, it’s not a new complaint.

But it may be changing. Google wants to add 13 emojis to represent women, and their male counterparts, in professional roles.

“Isn’t it time that emoji also reflect the reality that women play a key role in every walk of life and in every profession?” said a proposal from a team of Google employees that was submitted to the Unicode Consortium, which serves as the midwife to new emojis.

The proposed emojis include women in business and health care roles, at factories and on farms, among other things. Google wants the organization to approve them by year’s end, but the process of getting new emojis onto keyboards is a long one during which things can change or be scrapped.

See also: Emoji Feminism

 

Emoji Feminism

Illustration by Tamara Shopsin

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I began to scroll through the emojis on my phone. Yes, there were women’s faces, and tiny women’s bodies. But for the women actually engaged in an activity or profession, there were only archetypes: the flamenco dancer in her red gown, the bride in her flowing veil, the princess in her gold tiara… Where, I wanted to know, was the fierce professor working her way to tenure? Where was the lawyer? The accountant? The surgeon? How was there space for both a bento box and a single fried coconut shrimp, and yet women were restricted to a smattering of tired, beauty-centric roles? This was not a problem for our male emoji brethren. Men were serving on the police force, working construction and being Santa. Meanwhile, on our phones, it was Saturday at the Mall of America — women shopping while men wrote the checks.

Closing the Loop

Carrie Mae Weems

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MAYBE 2013 felt like the beginning of something; around then we began to hear murmurs at the margins of this idea that the selfie might be powerful. It started with young queers and people of color and a realization that perhaps if you could flood the network with something, it would become impossible to ignore. The selfie soon was written of as a “sign of life” — as the ultimate tactic toward #visibility. As we were taught via the likes of Susan Sontag, “photographs furnish evidence.” The image is, or can be, a powerful verifying tool, and with the selfie it seemed that you could continually verify and affirm your very existence on your own terms.

However digital and radical this brand of feminism is marketed as being, in taking up the mantle of second-wave feminist cinematic and visual theory, selfie feminism most unfortunately takes on its baggage as well. Selfie feminism is guilty of extending the violence and ignorance that plagued its forbears. As bell hooks writes in “Ain’t I a Woman,” white feminism has long suffered from “a narcissism so blinding that [it] will not admit two obvious facts: one, that in a capitalist, racist, imperialist state there is no one social status women share as a collective group and second, that the social status of white women has never been like that of black women and men.” Selfie feminism likewise claims a universal female experience located in “the female body.” The artists at the forefront of what the media calls a “movement” and the media itself often fail to note any nuance beyond “female body,” “female form,” “girls,” etc.

Merely presenting an image of a Black woman, no matter how affirmative and positive that image is intended to be, might still serve to reproduce an imbalance in agency.

To consider the specificities of our experiences as black women — the surveillance and ghostly or bodily violences in our histories, our constantly shifting orientations and centers — and really considering them for what they are without whiteness looking over our shoulders — these are the current tasks at hand. O’Grady writes: “To name ourselves rather than be named we must first see ourselves.” Artists like E. Jane and Shawné Michaelain Holloway pick up where Piper leaves off in Food for the Spirit and where O’Grady leaves the door cracked open in Olympia’s Maid. These artists, among numerous others, approach the ruins of the selfie politic with a critical edge that perhaps only black women, femmes, and gender-nonconforming people can bring to it.

 

 

Spare me the selfie school of feminism

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Ask yourself who discloses, to whom and why. It’s simple stuff. If you’re late for work, you explain why the bus was stuck in traffic; your boss doesn’t explain to you. Women always give away too much information. As Lena Dunham has said, oversharing is complex and gendered and society trivialises female experience.

Talking about our “issues” obviously helps others. Sometimes. So does understanding your own history. The idealised nuclear family life that drove so many to depression and valium is what gave rise in the 60s to books like Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, which documented female misery. Each generation creates its own self-loathing. Now it’s binging and purging and self-harm. Young women reinvent the wheels that continue to flatten them.

It’s hard. We record every moment: everything is a hall of mirrors in which the self is reflected back at all times. Does any one of us have the necessary self-esteem? No. We are all flawed, but we are good enough. Do I need all the details of your dysfunction? No. Spare me the confessions and the 500 selfies.

For out there is a world controlled by those who disclose very little about their inner lives. That’s how we live.

 

F**k the High Road: The Upside of Sinking to Their Level

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Don’t feed the trolls: it’s probably the most common refrain in online discussions, especially when dealing with misogynists in feminists conversations. The idea is that the best way to deal with sexists is to starve of them of the attention they’re so clearly desperate for. Besides, we think, why sink to their level?

But the high road is overrated.

…Indeed, one of the questions I’m asked most often by younger feminists is how to emotionally and mentally deal with the incredible amount of hate that gets thrown their way. My advice has usually been not to talk to brick walls—to think of their activist energy as a precious resource and save it. But I’ve never fully taken that advice. Responding to—and making fun of—sexists has always been a part of my feminist work. Not just because it shines a light on misogyny or holds people accountable to their words—but because it’s fun.