Love is in the air in Playmobil Land and it's time for a polyester bride Valentine's Day post. For those who wish to skip the story portion, children and plastic weddings are mentioned in the beginning...
It's a pretty fancy time right now at our house. Every morning, all of our Playmobil unicorns as well as some princesses line up in rows and my daughter solemnly marries them off like a miniature, Jewish Sun Myung Moon. There are the usual festivities that take place at all weddings or commitment ceremonies. Dancing. Passionate kisses. Sometimes, one of the princess brides falls down in a heap on the play table and moans, "I don't want my wedding to be over. I still need to be a kallah*!" Who wouldn't want to be eternally locked inside the ritual of the unicorn wedding?
The wedding is an affair compiled by three separate Playmobil sets. The princesses come from the Queen's Court. A few brides as well as the carriage that brings them to the massive ceremony is from the Wedding Set. Of course, every wedding needs a good space--one that speaks to the love of the bride and the bride (as well as the other brides and unicorns all being married at the same time by the toddler rabbinate)--and the chosen space is a rustic farm with ducks and chickens and two cows--one who happens to be a "Daddy-Mommy" according to my daughter, a strange hybrid cow that is male but lactates--and a rabbit who shares the same name as my husband. Three sets, two hearts (times 12 additional Playmobil figures), one lavish affair.
I have to be honest, no matter how many times I sit through it, I still get a kick out of watching the wedding. I like listening to her tell the story of their love and watch the brides dance. When the ChickieNob gets excited, she does this thing where she jogs in place, gasping out the story. To be fair, the unicorns love each other so intensely.
Plus, I love that we have raised our kids to be Pat Robertson's worst nightmare. It was a goal of mine to raise them with infinite possibilities and a healthy vision of diversity in the world. And I think the proof of our success is in the Daddy-Mommy-male-lactating cow as well as the mass wedding. Her world is really large right now and it will get smaller with time, but I'm glad she's starting with an infinite space to whittle down rather than a small stump of creativity.
We were at the toy store and I offered to buy them each a new Playmobil set. New guests for the wedding. My son ditched the Playmobil to get himself a tiny model of a Mini Cooper--his favourite car of the week--adding that it could help drive guests to the wedding. My daughter latched onto the "housework" set, a smiling plastic woman with her hair back in a pony tail that comes with an ironing board, iron, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, and laundry basket. The ChickieNob rarely attaches herself to anything and usually walks through toy stores without asking to take anything home. But this time, she sat down on the floor, hugging the set to her chest and quietly insisted that she could. not. leave. without. it.
She cared about it a lot so I bought her the set. This set came on the heels of the last Playmobil purchase, the mommy-and-baby set with changing table and stroller and tiny bottles and teddy bears. Her little mother walks her baby back and forth in front of the dollhouse, pausing only to feed her other child. It's an idyllic 50's life.
Josh was horrified when he came home and saw the second purchase. "This girl isn't going to have a feminist bone in her body."
These are the things my daughter loves without prompting: weddings, brides, flower girls, ball gowns, princesses, brooms, swifters, vacuums (as long as they're not on), dresses, stockings, party shoes, high heels, nail polish, necklaces, and clean laundry.
It brought up the idea of feminism--what is feminism and is it anti-feminist to want to do laundry and iron and stay home with a child? Is thumbing your nose at the hard work of your female predecessors to choose the life they specifically fought to get you out of the ultimate anti-feminist statement?
And his admonishment brought up my own insecurities in the choices I made--things I have been thinking about since reading Peggy Orenstein's brilliant Waiting for Daisy, which brings thoughts concerning feminism to a head. Am I setting a good example for my daughter in terms of being a powerful, positive woman? Am I working too much on one end? What does it say about me after all of my education and strong female role-models and women's studies classes that my greatest desire was to be a stay-at-home mum and fold the laundry? I take such a large portion of my self-worth in the job I do within the home--cleaning, cooking, raising the kids.
But, at the same time, in keeping completely honest, when I left work to become a stay-at-home mum, I also missed the structure and purpose that work brought to my life. For someone who didn't care about career, I became somewhat depressed when my day was exactly what I wished for--diapers, binkies, and bottles. I started setting up projects for myself. I purchased a culinary textbook and worked through all of the lessons. I planted a garden. I started volunteering and joined boards. And then I took on freelance work from home and started tutoring a few hours a week and wrote the blog and researched the book.
And somewhere along the way, all of these small things came together to essentially be a job. A career cobbled together from sustainable living and board functions, but a career nonetheless that gave structure to my day and gave me something to talk about with Josh that extended beyond the kids. Because when I talk about the book, I am talking about my ideas and my beliefs and how I see the world and when I only spoke about the kids, I was only speaking about others. If that makes any sense.
But, in the same breath, I have never worked as hard on my career as I have to reach motherhood. Nor have I had the commitment to career as I have had to motherhood. Walking away from my career brought about a modicum of discomfort, but death seemed like the only viable (hmmm...perhaps not the correct word to couple with death) option to a lack of motherhood. Motherhood--reaching a stage of parenting--was my career choice in a sense, even if this career does not bring with it the respect or acknowledgment that my other jobs bring.
There are writers and philosophers who believe the term anti-feminist is used solely to silence any debate within the topic and remove voices that may call into question a rigid view of feminism. There are others who would look at my life and scoff at calling myself a feminist, reminding me that the ability to choose is not the definition of feminism. But those latter people always make me feel as if choices are being taken away from me--except this time by women instead of by men. And the former group make me feel as if this argument works too broadly and dismisses the idea that there does need to be a definition or everything becomes feminism.
I was watching the Colbert Report this week and Eleanor Holmes Norton (I love this woman so much--she needs to run for president) was speaking about her support of Barack Obama. Colbert questioned why she wasn't supporting Clinton and Norton said something to the effect of "I'm a feminist and I'm a civil rights activist...I went with the best candidate." Meaning, the impulse is, as a feminist, that one should support women. Her pause in the middle of the sentence made me believe that she probably struggled with this decision as well as how the decision affects her own definition of feminism. Is she a feminist if she doesn't give her vote to the woman?
Obviously, a person should support the best candidate, but is that one of the impulses of feminism--to elect a female president simply as support to women, getting women in office. Back in 1992, Dianne Feinstein had the famous quote: "Two percent may be good for fat in milk but it's bad for women in the United States Senate." And no, that was too big a discrepancy in terms of male to female senators. But at the same time, is it the best person for the job or are women expected to want to elect other women? Can a man represent a woman just as well as a woman? Is it anti-feminist to not support the first woman seriously being considered for president?
Can you tell that I struggled with this question myself?
What is feminism to you? Is it possible to want to be an eternal bride or mother and be a feminist? Is it possible to want to forgo career or does a woman need to be autonomous to be a feminist? Is motherhood a job or simply a default lack of position?
* The Hebrew word for bride.