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10.24.2013

Is feminism destroying the health of our children?

First let me say, this is so not me.  I consider myself a feminist.  I believe girls and women can do ANYTHING they want.  In fact, sometimes I feel sorry for my son because, from my perspective, he is more limited than my daughter.  I do my best to be sure that I do not enforce these limitations on him (boys can't paint their nails, boys can't play with dolls, boys can't wear pink, etc), but no matter what I do they get to him.  He hears it at school, or from well meaning family members.  But that is another post.

Despite my identification as a feminist, this is a thought that has just popped into my brain multiple times over the past few days.  I can't really control it.  So I thought I would flesh it out a little.

In the real food communities, this comes up occasionally, but in the reverse.  We hear frequently statements like "the real food movement (and similarly, the attachment parenting movement) is damaging to the feminist movement."  But why not the reverse?

Lets start at the beginning.  And not just concerning the woman's role in the family, but both parents- what is more important, the well being of the individual or the well being of the entire family?  I completely understand (and often remind others) that without happy, healthy, and functional individuals the whole can not be healthy, but I still prioritize the health of the entire unit over the individual.  There are significant sacrifices that both I and my husband can make, for the good of the whole, while still being healthy and functional individuals. 

Specifically when it comes to both food and parenting styles, the decisions I make directly affect my children's future.  And the very foods that I choose to avoid- the Hamburger Helpers and Kraft Mac-n-Cheeses of the world- were marketed towards women interested in freeing themselves from the shackles of the kitchen.  But what have we done to our children in the process?

Our children are fatter.  They have higher rates of chronic illness.  They get "childhood" illnesses (illnesses that were actually NOT that common in children only 100 years ago) far more frequently.  They have difficulty focusing in school.  Food allergies and intolerances are running rampant.  My children's generation is faced with being the first generation in over 100 years that has a SHORTER life expectancy than the generation before it.  And it is partly because of this desire women have to free themselves.  Free themselves from what, and for what, though?  Free themselves from cooking nutrient dense, healthful meals for our families, so that they can work 60 hours a week?  Free themselves from creating a healthy relationship with food within their family, for the sake of their own personal fulfillment?  I don't really think that's a fair trade, when looking at the good of the whole.

I still say I'm a feminist.  And I don't believe that the responsibility of providing healthy meals falls 100% on the shoulders of the mother- it is a responsibility that should be shared by both parents and even by older children.  If anything good (regarding food and food preparation within the family, obviously lots of good came elsewhere) came from the feminist movement, it is that.  It is now the norm for the man to cook as much, if not more, than the woman in a family.  But I believe we need to move to the next level, at least those of us with children, and get past our selfishness.  We need to decide, as individual couples, how the feeding of the family will be divided to best maintain everyone's health.  And we need to stop focusing on "freeing ourselves" from the shackles of the kitchen and concern ourselves, as parents, with freeing our children from the shackles of chronic disease, poor health, and future infertility.

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